bookmark_borderHow A Free Ebook Can Boost Your Business (And How to Get Started with Topic Ideas)

Nearly all traditionally-published authors put out electronic copies of their work these days, and the market for ebook-only indie novelists has also skyrocketed in recent years. Ebooks offer an ultra-convenient way to get excellent modern fiction into many more hands, but writing an ebook and giving it away for free can be a brilliant marketing strategy for almost any business, too. 

Regardless of your business’ core mission, its field, and its size, a free ebook can build your profile, your credibility, and your customer base. 

How can businesses make money from free ebooks?

Your brand may be a solo endeavor — perhaps you are a blogger, a freelance editor, a life coach, or a plumber — or you may own a small to mid-sized online or brick-and-mortar business. As long as you learn how to market your ebook, you are tapping into a whole new way to bring in customers. Someone who is genuinely interested what you have to say will happily download your free ebook and walk away from the experience feeling like they’ve learned something useful. As they remember your ebook, they’ll also engrave the name of your brand into their minds. 

Not only can a well-written free ebook build your credibility as a business, giving away a free ebook is an awesome marketing tool. As you connect with people you already know are interested in your business — because they were willing to share their email address to gain access to your valuable guide — you will easily be able to inform them about future offers and promotions. In addition, don’t forget that you’ll actually be able to embed links to specific pages on your website throughout the ebook, sending customers straight where you want them!

Although writing an ebook and polishing it to perfection should be somewhat of an investment (you’re going for quality, after all!), businesses can realistically expect to cash in on a free ebook giveaway down the line.

What should your free ebook be about?

The most memorable free ebooks meet a genuine need or solve a real problem — for your particular customer base. When you start brainstorming how to write an ebook, you’ll want to be familiar with your target audience. If in doubt, you can even simply ask your existing customers or followers for ideas and feedback. 

These tried-and-tested formats will help you get off to a good start:

  • How-to guides will never get old, as long as they teach something valuable. The possibilities are almost endless, from “how to repair your own sink” to “how to get started as a freelance writer” or “how to sew your own baby carrier”. 
  • Must-know ebooks tackle topics like “10 things you should before you go camping”, “essential ingredients for a close mother-son relationship”, or “25 things every man needs to know to grow an epic mustache”. They promise a solid grasp on the basics, allowing readers to dive in. 
  • Best-of ebooks are list-based guides that teach your audience how to make the most of something they really want or need. Think “the best tools for beginning DIY enthusiasts”, “the best ways to build a professional website”, or “the best exercises to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome”.
  • If you want to entice your readers with a little mystery, you might choose an ebook that promises “the truth about” something or shares “little-known trade secrets”. “The truth about caring for a relative with dementia”, or “an insider’s guide to the insurance industry” would be two examples. 

Almost everything else out there boils down to some variation of these formats. These ebook recipes work because they truly help your audience — but only, and here’s the caveat, if you understand their needs intimately. 

What boxes should your free ebook tick?

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the basics of ebooks, and you’ve cooked up a riveting topic that’s sure to be a winner with your current and future base, you’ll need to make sure that the text itself isn’t just neatly organized into sections that make sense, but it’s also been edited professionally. Some very short ebooks, especially those high in visual content, are as short as 2,500 words. Many text-based ebooks, while still succinct, will at least reach the 10,000 word mark. 

Your ebook should have a gripping, well-thought out title and a professionally-designed cover that looks great in full size as well as in the thumbnail. 

As a business, you probably already know more about how to market an ebook than most aspiring fiction authors do, but the importance of this step can’t be underestimated. Get your ebook everywhere, with the help of email promotions, social media, and other marketing campaigns, and prepare your strategy to make that happen well before you publish. 

bookmark_border5 Writing Contests in 2019 with Real Cash Prizes

One of the things that you might be looking for if you are thinking about entering some writing contests and 2019 is contest that have actual cash prizes attached to them. There are a lot of writing contests out there that offer prizes that are not cash. Some of them include being published in a publication that is sponsoring the contest and others might include gift cards or discounts. But if you want cold hard cash as a prize, fire up some nice book writing software like Squibler or Scrivener and check out these writing contests.

The Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition

This contest is sponsored by the granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway. This contest is been going on for more than 35 years and it offers three eight $1500 cash prizes for first place and then $50 for second place in third place winners. To be eligible, you have to write an original and unpublished work of fiction that is no more than 3500 words long (no fanfiction!). There is a five dollars admission fee and you can submit for the next year’s contest at any time.

Colorado State University’s Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction

This one is organized by the Colorado State University Center for literary publishing. You do not have to be in the US to be eligible for this contest. The winner of the contest gets $2000 as well as publication in the Colorado review. In order to be eligible, your story must be at least 2500 words and be no more than 12,500 words. It also must be fiction. The contest opens sometime in the late fall or winter of the year.

The Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition

Each year, this contest happens again disliking it has been doing for more than 85 years. Writers digest is one of the most well-known and well-respected magazines for writers out there. This is a contest that has a ton of entrants, but also has a lot of winners. There will be 500 total winners chosen with the top prize of the contest at $5000 plus a paid trip to the writers digest annual conference. First place in a category will be $1000, second place will be $500, their place will be for $250, $100 will be for fourth place and $50 will be awarded to fifth-place. Sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th will also get $25 each. The word counts vary depending on which category you intercede want to go check their website for details.

The Roswell Award

The Roswell Award is a contest for science-fiction stories with the top prize of $500. Stories have to be 1500 words or less. You also get $250 for second place showing and $100 for third place.

Nelson Algren Short Story Award

Another great contest that you may want to consider is this one that is presented by the Chicago Tribune. The grand prize winner for this contest gets $3500 and the remaining four finalists get $1000 each. Runners-up get $500. Stories must be fiction, unpublished and no more than 8000 words.

bookmark_borderWhere to Look for a Good Ghostwriter

If you need a good ghostwriter, then you are not alone. Hiring ghostwriters has become an extremely common practice ever since the self-publishing market opened up to anyone who can learn how to format a book and higher out services like cover creation. It is made some people with no writing talent extremely wealthy while others make a very good part-time living from their publishing efforts that supplements their regular income. But where do you find one of these ghostwriters when you need one? That’s exactly what we’re going to discuss in this article.

Craigslist: Craigslist is a good place to find ghostwriters if you know what to look for. Most of the time, you will have to post an advertisement yourself. There is not a lot of ghostwriting advertising on Craigslist. This is mainly due to the services section being so full. However, the writing gigs section is almost always empty or close to it. That means that advertising for a ghostwriter there could have great results.

Kindle Boards: Kboards is a forum where Kindle readers come together to discuss books in devices and where Amazon Kindle writers can meet to share strategies and advertise to each other. There is a special section on the forum where you can create an advertisement for just about any book related business that you can think of whether that be editing, cover creation or ghostwriting. There are usually enough people looking for ghostwriters to snag a few clients and you can bump up your thread about once a month so that new people see it.

Professional Services Forums: You may also want to look on the forums that are part of professional services and associations. One example is the Horror Writers of America or HWA. The difference between finding ghostwriters using this resource and finding them using something like Craigslist is that writers who are a member of a professional association will generally charge quite a bit more than those who are not. They may have worked on bestsellers in the past and have a track record of providing the highest quality novels and nonfiction books available. Many of them may be well-known journalists or authors themselves.

Writing Services: Writing services like E-Lance can sometimes be good resources for ghostwriters as well. They may have ghostwriters already advertised on the site or you may have to post an ad yourself. Unfortunately, many of these sites are relatively expensive because you are paying both the site owners and the ghostwriter at the same time.

The most important thing that you want to do with hiring a ghostwriter is to make sure that you vet them properly. This means that you should look at any samples that they have available to make sure that they have writing talent, ensure that they’re going to keep any books they right for you private and find out what they charge. You can also determine how long the writing process will take and set up any other contract terms that need to be addressed.

bookmark_borderPlotting a Middle-Grade or Chapter Book

When it comes to plotting a middle grade or chapter book, there are a few things that you want to keep in mind. People that are new to writing for children often think that they need to create a plot that gives moral lessons as often as it entertains. This is definitely not the case. You don’t want to preach to your readers. You want to entertain them. If you can remember this one simple rule, there isn’t a whole lot else to keep in mind when it comes to plotting. If your readers continue turning the page then you have done your job as an author. However, let’s also look at some of the other factors so that you have a full and well-rounded idea of how you can outline a novel for children.

When it comes to character creation, your heroes should be around the same age as the readers that you are targeting or just a couple years older. For example, if you are targeting the book towards seventh and eighth graders, then it is perfectly appropriate to have the protagonist in the book be 12, 13, 14 or even 15. Any older than that and your target audience is going to lose interest. The same goes for younger main characters. However, supporting characters can be pretty much any age.

You also want to make sure that you limit the themes and topics that you introduce. For example, it is perfectly acceptable in the industry to have children with a crush on each other and even a kiss at the end of the book in middle grade fiction. With chapter books, you may want to limit this a little because they are geared towards slightly younger readers. However, complicated topics like drug addiction, sexual abuse, violence and other adult themes should be left out of chapter books and middle grade fiction.

But that does not mean that you talk down to your readers. You always want to assume that your reader is extremely smart. Don’t change words because you think that they may be too hard for your reader. They can always go look it up in the dictionary if they need to.

You also want to make sure that it is your child characters that are moving the plot forward. For example, you don’t want to create a mystery where one of the kid detectives goes to his dad and his dad solves half the case for him. It should always be the kid characters that are moving the plot along. Often, the adults either get in the way or are not helpful at all. If you have any trouble creating it, you might want to look up some IT Consulting Rates.

Plotting for children’s fiction, especially middle grade or chapter books, takes just as much time and effort as plotting for adult readers. You definitely want to put forth your best effort and make sure that every single page is compelling and moves the plot forward so your readers will want to keep reading until the very end.

bookmark_border5 Vital “Don’ts” in a Query Letter

There are certain things that you do not want to do when you write a query letter as well. Like the post on the “Do’s” this is the same whether or not you are talking about sending a query letter to an agent or directly to a publisher. These are definitely things that you want to avoid at all costs because it can kill your query letter and your chances of getting your book seriously considered. Let’s brew up some coffee and take a look at them one by one.

DON’T Be Arrogant

You definitely don’t want to be arrogant when you’re writing your letter. You may think that you have written the best book in the world and that you are the best author in the world; but on both counts you are almost certainly mistaken. Most people fall somewhere in the middle. If you have not been writing very long, then it is likely you fall somewhere in the early middle. Whether you think your book is terrific or terrible, be humble and kind in your query letter

DON’T Include Book Covers, Blurbs or Mock-Ups

If you are sending a query letter, then you should have no book covers or advertisements or any other visual information. The only exception might be that if you are sending a picture book for kids that you have illustrated yourself. In that case though, you can simply mention that you’ve done illustrations yourself and that you are happy to send part or all of the book with the illustrations included.

DON’T Discuss Other Books

Even if you have other books planned, then you should avoid discussing them in your query letter. The only time when this is not the case is when you have written the book that you are currently trying to sell as a cliffhanger for you already have written additional books that are SQL are part of a trilogy with the one you are trying to sell. Publishers and agents definitely want to work with writers who have more books in them, but they want to make sure that your first book is going to sell before discussing any of that.

DON’T Get Too Creative

Try to avoid the temptation of being too creative. Don’t try to use paper that is going to stand out from other query letters – although most queries are done by email these days – and don’t try to write your query letter from the perspective of the character in your book. You want the agent or publisher to know that this came from a professional writer. The fact that you have written a book lets them know that you are creative.

DON’T Waste Agent’s Time Telling Them You Won’t Waste Their Time

One thing that a surprisingly large number of people do is waste an agent’s time by telling them how they won’t waste their time. For example, they will begin each letter with several sentences that look like: “I will keep this short so that I don’t waste your time. I know how busy you must be, especially around the Christmas Season.” All of that can be left out.

For more information on How to Write a Query Letter, check out Reedsy’s post on the topic.