When I first started blogging in 2010, the travel blogging scene looked very different to how it looks now. It’s neither better or worse in my opinion, just different. I never would have thought that I would write my own guidebook, that I would be putting together ideas constantly into books or courses or any other digital product.
Yet here I am, about to tell you why I think it’s the absolute best thing I’ve ever done for my business, for my blog, for my income, and for my reputation as a Mexico City writer.
Why I Created an eBook
When I first moved to Mexico City, there was one guide book on Amazon that was specifically about Mexico City. It hadn’t been updated for several years, but I bought it anyway. It was a good guidebook. I used it a lot when we first arrived, but it lacked a lot of my favorite things: cocktail and craft beer bar options; boutique hotel options; best taco stands around the city; and general food options for more mid and high-range restaurants around the city.
That information didn’t really exist on the Internet either (a lot has changed in the three years since I moved to Mexico City). So I decided that I would put all of the things that I love about Mexico City.
How many times have you bought a guide book only to discover that several of the places you’ve picked out is no longer in business or that they’ve moved to a new location? I wanted to create a living guidebook that I could update constantly, that was never “out-of-date.”
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all altruistic. While I love helping people explore Mexico City, I also had at the back of my mind that this would be a great passive income earner.
I knew that creating it would be hard work, and it was. I worked on this book almost every day for about 8 months before I was totally happy with it. I wanted it to be the best resource out there and the most up-to-date resource out there. But I also wanted to create a sales funnel that would work and sell this book for me while I was on the beach in Puerto Vallarta (spoiler alert, that’s exactly what it is now).
Why You Might Want to Create an Ebook
You might have different reasons for creating a guidebook, but in my experience, the number one reason most bloggers create products like ebooks are to create some passive income for yourself.
Blogging is changing and growing as an industry so much and I truly believe the best way forward is to OWN your income. By this I mean, any products you create, be it ebooks or courses or some other digital product, is completely yours. Besides a few costs for upkeep or email programs, every penny of what you earn is yours. That’s some pretty powerful stuff.
It also means that you are in control of your income – something many beginner and intermediate bloggers aren’t.
Ad revenue is great. It’s completely passive and as long as you are creating top-notch content for social media and Google, then you can continue to increase your views, and in turn, increase your ad revenue. But you don’t get to control what your RPM is. You might have a fantastic December, but then come January, your ad revenue is cut in half even though you are actually getting more traffic.
You need to be able to make steadier income if you want this to be your full-time earner. For me, that means having more streams of income and more control over them, too.
Coming Up with eBook Ideas
For me, creating a Mexico City guidebook was a natural product. I have been writing about Mexico City on my blog for the last two and a half years. I receive a lot of traffic and emails from people who want to know more about Mexico City. I live here, I write about Mexico City for Lonely Planet, I post photos and answer questions about it on Social Media. I knew that I had built up the audience enough to be able to sell a product like this.
I know not all travel bloggers have the same straight-forward content. Not everyone writes predominantly about one place.
So you need to dig deeper. Look at your Google Analytics to see exactly what your most popular content is. Think about what extra value you could add on those topics that you don’t already cover on your blog. Perhaps you can write about packing hacks, backpacking Europe, saving money to travel, budget travel tips, how to get points on credit cards. The possibilities are endless, you just need to look hard enough and answer a question that people are asking, and do it better than anyone else is.
Things I Did Right with My Ebook
One of the best things I did was to start collecting people’s email addresses well before the guidebook came out. On all of my blog posts about Mexico City, I had two email signups, one at the top and one at the bottom. It wasn’t anything special. I simply told people that if they are planning a trip to Mexico City they should sign up for my Mexico City emails which include tons of free content about planning their trip.
If they signed up, they were then put into a category on my CMS (I use and love Convertkit) which triggered a series of automated emails. Each email was about something different: safety in Mexico City, the best neighborhoods in Mexico City, things to do in Mexico City, and so on.
Before my book launched, I had just over 1,000 people on that particular email list. When I released the book, a quarter of those people purchased the book straight away. It was amazing.
They were receiving free content about Mexico City. It wasn’t just free though, it is was genuinely helpful. After only a few emails, they trust that I know what I’m talking about, so they are more likely to part with some money to see what else I have to say about Mexico City.
The best thing about this, though, isn’t the initial sales. It’s the fact that I now tell people about my book in those emails. People continue to sign up for the emails and without me having to do anything, people continue to buy my book.
Things I Did Wrong with My Ebook
I initially only sold my book on my website using a service called Gumroad. I wanted to be in total control of the copyright and I thought that putting it on Amazon would be too hard.
This is totally wrong. I could have been selling my book on both platforms all along. Not only that, I could have been selling it in paperback all along, something a lot of people prefer.
I recently released the book as a paperback on Amazon and within only a few days, I made it onto the first page of the search for “Mexico City guidebook.” I’ve been consistently selling copies every single day and I’m actually getting new readers from it. People who never would have found me are now reading my blog because they found my book on Amazon.
I also don’t think I talked about my book enough before I sold it and I know that I didn’t create a bit enough buzz around it once it was published. I think if I had perhaps started with a sale or created some more urgency around buying it (an idea I’m playing with now that the book is actually live). If people only have a certain amount of time to get the book at a discounted rate, they are far more likely to buy it, even if the discount is only a few dollars.
How to Make an eBook
Making an ebook is so much simpler than I ever thought. Your first step should really be to write up all of the content. I did this in a simple Word document. This is where I wrote and edited. I wanted to make sure all of the written content was perfect before I moved onto making it visually appealing.
If you just want to sell your book as a PDF on Gumroad you can continue to use Word if you have it. I actually prefer Pages on Mac because it is a lot easier to move things around, add photos, and to manipulate it without things dropping onto the next page. If you don’t have Pages, Microsoft Powerpoint is also a good place to create an eBook.
If you plan on using Amazon, it is similarly very simple. All you have to do is create an account on Kindle Direct Publishing (which you can link to a pre-existing Amazon account if you already have one). Once you register, it will walk you through how to create a book for Kindle and how to create a printed paperback copy of your book. The best way is to use their Kindle Create program. It’s easy to download and you will know exactly what your book is going to look like.
It’s worth noting that it is much more profitable to print your book in black and white. I would have loved to print my book in color. There are maps of every neighborhood which look a lot better in color. I have photos in the PDF version that I had to take out because they just didn’t look right in black and white. However, the profit margin of a color book is SO, so small. Just something to keep in mind as you are designing your book.
Should You Publish on Amazon?
This is a question I weighed up a lot. I thought initially that if I was selling my book on Amazon, that I wouldn’t be able to sell it elsewhere. This is not true. You can opt to sell your book on both Amazon and elsewhere, as long as you notify Amazon during the signup process. You will receive a slightly lower royalty, but it was still a decent amount in my opinion.
For me, there’s no reason not to. Amazon is the second largest search engine in the world (after Google). If you are writing a book that you want to grow your reach with, then Amazon is an amazing place to be.
One thing to note is that if you are going to sell your book in several places, the price is something to take into consideration. The most you can sell your book for on Kindle is $9.99. Perhaps you want to have your book available in print on Amazon and digitally on your blog.
Either way, I really think Amazon is a fantastic way to open up new revenue streams and to grow your audience, too.
How to Promote Your eBook
Like I mentioned above, the most successful promotions of my book have been through my email list. It is incredibly targeted because the people who sign up to my email list want to receive more information about Mexico City. The guidebook is a great solution for many people who perhaps hadn’t thought about looking on Amazon or weren’t happy with what was available there.
Other ways that I’ve found successful for promoting my book are Facebook Ads and directly to me Instagram followers. Every few weeks I’ll add it as a swipe-up option in my Instagram stories to let new followers know that it exists. This has been a great way to get new buyers.
As for Facebook ads, I still have a lot to learn, but there is so much potential to reach people who want your product. Facebook has a scary amount of information about its users and you can use that very information to target people who want to buy your ebook. This video is very helpful, but I don’t recommend signing up for his emails because it’s all a bit too pushy and salesy (although it may be a good idea to see what you do and don’t like about sales funnels this way).
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