Five questions to help career practitioners produce ebooks

During the 2013 national conference of the Career Development Association of Australia I presented a workshop titled How to write and sell ebooks that support clients and grow your business. The aim of this workshop was to pass on knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years so that career professionals could short-cut the ebook process and start sharing their wisdom with the wider community.

The workshop raised many questions to consider. Here are five of them.

1. Why are you writing an ebook?

Three reasons come to mind. To build credibility as a professional, someone what knows what they are talking about and has valuable knowledge to share. To position yourself within a certain niche, whether that be a target market and/or topic. To generate income. While unlikely to become a millionaire tomorrow, value-packed ebooks can generate a steady flow of income.

2. Who will write your ebook?

The prospect of writing an ebook can be daunting, particularly if you mistakenly think it has to be similar to a hard copy book, and be several hundred pages in length. It doesn’t. An ebook could be a report of less than twenty pages. Nevertheless, coming up with twenty pages of original text could still be a mountainous obstacle. While writing your ebook from start to finish based on new material that you thought of, is an option, there are other ways to go about writing an ebook. You could:

  • Use a ghost writer and still have your name identified as the author.
  • Edit a series of articles written by other people.
  • Write material based on summarising or commenting on what others have written. For example, summarising the impact of a range of research reports; identifying the implications of a government report for a range of people.
3. What is your niche?

There is little value in being all things to all people. Your chances of generating income and building credibility are much greater if you position yourself as serving a particular niche, and then drill down deep into that niche, so you become an expert, a specialist, or, to use the current jargon, a thought leader.

Your niche could be a target market: a student group; parents; expo exhibitors; small business; graduates; graduate employers; Indigenous Australians; people with disability; mature age workers; pre-retirees.

Your niche could be a subject area relevant to your target market: career expos; choosing tertiary courses; apprenticeships and trades; the engineering profession; job searching; labour market information.

You can then cross reference your target market and subject area to identify potential ebooks. For example, if your target market is parents and you wish to help them solve a range of problems associated with supporting their children with career decisions, you list of potential ebook titles might be:

  • What to do when your child asks for career advice
  • What to do when your teenager/undergraduate/graduate asks for career advice
  • Why you shouldn’t ask your child ‘What will you do when you grow up?’
  • What to ask when checking your child’s school career service
  • Ten ways your child picks up information about careers
  • How to prepare your child’s visit to a career expo
  • How to talk to your child about your career
  • Five reasons why you should attend a career expo
  • How to judge if your child’s school offers sound career advice

Notice that these titles are quite specific. You are not aiming to tell all in one ebook.

Whatever your niche, your ebook must offer value-rich content.

4. Is your ebook free or for sale?

There are good reasons to offer an ebook free of charge. You can use it as a marketing tool to raise your profile and build credibility. If you wish to sell your ebook, decide your price based on the value offered. Just because some ebooks are offered for less than $10.00, doesn’t mean you have to. If you offer your target market useful information that they are willing to pay for, you can choose an appropriate price that reflects this value and takes account of the costs involved in producing your ebook.

5. How will you market and distribute your ebook?

There are many ways to reach your target market without incurring costs: your website, email signature, blog, ezine, social media, media releases.

Any promotional material your write must focus on benefits for your reader. It is easy to identify the features of your ebook. What the buyer is interested in is how that feature is going to benefit them. For example:  An ebook with ten ideas on how to build visibility at a career expo – that is a feature. A benefit focus would be to explain that the ideas build credibility and generate referrals.

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.