Dear reader, I would not have believed it if I hadn’t done it for myself. You can actually write an ebook without actually doing the writing. Because of an interesting legal twist, you can hire a writer, and then when the writer is finished, you own the complete copyright to the work. If it sounds too good to be true, it almost is!
But there’s something else that’s almost too good to be true: having an ebook written doesn’t cost near what it costs to have a hard cover book written. It’s actually pretty affordable for someone who plans to recoup their money with ebook sales.
One more almost-too-good-to-be-true fact: ebooks often sell for the same price that a traditional, hold-it-in-your-hand, book would sell for!
No writing, no problem!
Let me tell you a little about my story. As the Internet began taking over the world, dollar signs flashed almost constantly in the back of my mind. I did some research to see who was making money from this evolution. I ran across import companies, search engines, web-site-development/hosting companies, and auction sites. That was a year ago. Now, more than ever, the Internet is starting to define business. People are actually paying for and downloading songs for their listening pleasure. People are researching, planning, and booking entire vacations online. People who love information are inhaling the Internet. Information is everywhere.
Of course that presents a bit of a dilemma. Information overload. Part of the problem with researching the Internet is the information you glean during your surfing is highly if not completely unorganized. You do a Google search. You notice there are thousands of pages relevant to your search terms. So, you narrow your search by adding a word or two. Now you’re down to several hundred pages. And you start clicking on them, one after the other.
On to the next problem of up-popping popups. Darn those things. By the time you close all the windows, you may have very well forgotten why you sat down at the computer in the first place.
Even on sites without pop ups, you really don’t know what exactly you’re going to get or whether or not the source is reliable. So, the Internet is like a feast with some of the options being spoiled. Yuck! But the buffet is intriguing, so most of us tend to return to try our luck again and again.
Anyway, all this got me to thinking, what about ebooks? Yeah, sure, you can read Charles Dickens on a computer, but I’m talking about ebooks that teach, in a nonfiction sort of way. If I could put a few good ebooks on the web, then maybe people who wanted to learn about a topic could read an entire book from a reputable source online.
So I tried it. And guess what? At first I didn’t have much success. But I dusted myself off, studied, tried again, tried again, and tried again. Eventually, through trial and error mostly, I stumbled on a formula that worked!
This book was born well after all of that, but I think it’s high time I share my experience. There’s plenty of room on the Internet for everyone. Climb aboard!
It couldn’t be easier to select a topic for an ebook. People are hungry for information, and people are looking to the Internet to feed their hunger. After you’ve read this chapter, you will feel confident enough to choose your own topic, or you can literally pull your ebook topic directly from this ebook and use it! How’s that for a deal?
Observe what’s going on around you
If you’re smart enough to read this book, you’re smart enough to look around you and determine what interests you and those around you. Think of what problems you’ve recently solved, and what kinds of problems others have had and solved. Any problem that has been solved in your world could easily be the subject of your next book. People love to read how other have solved a problem that they currently have.
So, brainstorm a list of problems in your life and in the lives of those around you. Your friend Bob lost his job? Your sister’s child had chicken pox? How did they cope or find solutions? While you’re at it, start another list of unsolved problems evident in your corner of the world. Write down problems you wish you had solved. Aha! These are subjects that people will really be interested in! How to lose the last ten pounds. The truth about UFOs. The straightest path to becoming a millionaire. From your personal corner, your step-granddaughter is pregnant at age 14? Your grocery bill is double what it used to be? Your roof leaks? These are problems waiting for ebook solutions!
These unsolved problems would also be great ebook topics. Remember, you don’t have to know the solution, just the topic. You’re going to get someone else to do the research and write the book for you. You will not actually be writing one word.
Spend a few minutes Googling
The Internet is a great way to find out what people are looking for at any given moment. You can search for almost anything. Google™ is a popular search engine you can use, or you can try any of the others like Yahoo!® or Mamma.com. Type in phrases like “top concerns of Americans,” “best-selling nonfiction topics,” or “popular how-to manuals.” Common worries of 2005.
And while you’re on the Internet…
Find out the most popular nonfiction books from the New York Times bestseller list, Amazon, and a Google search for ebooks. Your findings will tell you exactly what book subjects people are buying right now.
Try this. Go to www.amazon.com. From the tabbed menu running along the top of the Amazon home page, click “Top Sellers.”
I did this one day in September 2005 and found a Harry Potter book, several other fiction books, and titles such as Natural cures “they” won’t tell you about, How what you wear can change your life, How to profit from the demise of the dollar, and The official SAT study guide. I’ve paraphrased to some degree, but you get the idea.
Here’s what I learned just from spending a few minutes on Amazon that day. People are reading good fiction from already-best selling authors (Da Vinci Code, the Harry Potter series, and others). Secondly, Amazon buyers, buying over the Internet, are interested in nonfiction topics such as improving their lives and making more money. For these books, just about any author will do, even virtual unknowns or people who went to prison for lying to the American public.
And that quick visit only confirmed that the straightest route to ebook profits is in the nonfiction ebook market. This is for a number of reasons. Fiction readers tend to like to curl up in a chair with an actual book. Some of them attend book clubs where the physical books are brought around someone’s kitchen table with wine and cheese. Fiction readers tend to purchase from authors they’re already familiar with. Fiction can be more difficult to write and deliver well. Also, many of the classics in fiction are available as free ebooks. A reader interested in fiction could just download those. So stick with nonfiction unless you’re feeling particularly bold and experimental.
Here is some more good news, and if you didn’t already know this then you are going to be smiling big. Drum roll please… ideas are not copyrighted, therefore any idea you see, hear, or read anywhere anytime, is yours to use for an ebook! You can create books around the same ideas that are covered in the Amazon best seller list, and turnaround and create an ebook on the exact same subject!
Now, copyright law does protect the way ideas are expressed, so you want to make sure your hired author does not plagiarize or copy book text outright. And you cannot use the title word for word either. But there’s nothing stopping you from creating another book or ebook that covers the same subject with a different voice. It’s all as completely legal and guilt-free as nonfat Haagen Dazs. This is why looking at bestseller lists is a great way to get topic ideas.
Digging a little deeper
There are groups of people who are willing to buy nonfiction ebooks: hobbyists. At any given time, these people are looking for ways to spend their money on their hobbies. Their passion is your financial gain.
What avid hobbyists want will always make great ebook material. Note that I did not say what hobbyists need. You may have certain opinions on what exactly certain people should need or should read. But those are not necessarily good topics for immediate ebook profit. Those topics may be areas for you to dabble in at your leisure. However, if you want to make money at this, find out what niche groups want, and hit those groups with your ebook.
Find hobbyists and niche groups by searching the web for “popular hobbies,” “enthusiasts,” or “what America is buying.” Or, you can search specifically for forums and discussion groups for hobbyists. In the forums, people talk with each other to share ideas with one another. Often, they will exchange testimonials for equipment, upcoming events, and books.
One popular site where hobbyists go to talk to one another online is Yahoo!. Check it out. Go to www.yahoo.com. Click “groups.” On the groups page you’ll see a list of categories such as Business & finance, and Religion. For demonstration purposes, click on “Games.”
On the games screen, game subcategories are listed followed by numbers. The numbers indicate how many discussion forums are available for that subcategory. These numbers reveal a lot. Notice how “role playing games,” and “video & computer games” have factors of ten or in some cases factors of 100 more forums than other subcategories. “Wargaming” and “paintball” don’t even come close, although those categories are much more discussion-laden than “horseshoe pitching.”
For fun, one day I continued selecting subcategories until I arrived at a list of over a thousand (yes a thousand) discussion groups on Yahoo having to do with vampire role playing. Here’s how I got there: Games>>Role Playing Games>>Live Action>> World of Darkness>>Vampire: The Masquerade.
Some of the forums are open to new members, and you can join to read what everyone’s discussing. Once in the forum, you can review discussion threads from today, yesterday, or a year ago. Don’t go back too far if you want to find out the hottest possible ebook topics. You can participate in discussions if you like. FYI, do not drop into a discussion group just to market an ebook; hobbyists consider this spam and will drop you from the group.
When you read and/or participate, you’ll find out what this group is buying. All you have to do is skim to find out what questions they are asking each other about products or traveling or information. What they are interested in buying is a key piece of information because passionate consumers love to research before they buy. This is an immediate ebook market. Create a book on how to select the best this or that on the market, related to the current wants of the enthusiasts.
Enthusiasts come in all shapes and sizes. Think brides-to-be, golfers, whitewater rafters, people who collect vintage baseball cards, wine connoisseurs, gardeners, frequent vacationers, video gamers, and parents who put their children into private tutoring, ballet, and violin lessons before age 3.
There are some hobbies that seem to continually attract enthusiasts, like playing golf, watching football, restoring old cars, and listening to music. These are classics. Then there are some hobbies that seem to come and go in waves, such as Red Hat Societies participation, snow boarding, or line dancing. Pick either a classic hobby or a fluctuating hobby in its peak season for your best odds.
A big market on the Internet is the 20-30 set. Here’s what they are doing right now, according to one survey. They’re snowboarding, wakeboarding, traveling, camping, listening to music, taking photographs. They’re drinking gourmet coffee, rock climbing, playing guitar, camping, dancing, looking for online love, shopping for computers and other electronics, attending sports events, studying the Bible, exercising, trying to find jobs, and watching movies. Any one of these subjects would make a great ebook with a buying market standing by.
How-to’s and hot topics
There is almost no limit whatsoever on the marketability of how-to books. Everyone wants an instruction manual, advice, and encouragement that they can do anything they read a how-to book for. Anything you know how to do, anything you’ve ever wanted to learn, or anything that’s teachable at all, can become a how-to ebook.
How-to books for hobbyists are a good way to go, and this overlaps with the discussion above. A hobby how-to ebook could be anything from how to build a home from hay bales to how to play Texas Hold ‘Em to how to understand Shakespeare.
One book publisher knows how hungry we are for how-to information, and has created a whole series of “Dummies” books around the market. Further, there are other similar book series’, and all of them are doing quite well! “The Everything” series, “Idiot’s Guide” series and others are all cashing in on the how-to phenomenon.
You could cash in by creating ebooks on any or all subjects covered in any of those series’. Go to www.dummies.com, and check out their list of titles. Pick one you like, and move full speed ahead!
Remember that even though the books have “Dummies” in the title, that the books are as popular as they are because the readers are not treated like dummies at all. The authors cater to a person who wants to find out the easiest way to do something without too much tangential discussion. When you have your ebook written and when you choose a title, make sure you are appealing to a reader’s smarts! If you use words like stupid, dumb, or hopeless in the title, make sure that it is clear that the meaning would not extend to insulting the individual reader.
Ebooks, because of their brevity and because they are marketed primarily on the Internet can target smaller audiences. You don’t have to write a universal book like How to use a computer (which may not be interesting enough to sell anyway in this decade). Ebooks can cover more specific territory. Knowing this, you can 1) create your ebook in a specific way for a specific niche readership, and 2) create additional ebooks for different facets of the same subject, and sell each one separately!
Say you’ve decided to write an ebook on fishing. (FYI, this is one of those hobbies where enthusiasts are willing to spend money!). You could create “How to Catch Freshwater Trout,” “How to Tie Your Own Flies,” or “How to Plan a Successful Deep Sea Fishing Trip.” Almost anything related to the hobby can become a separate ebook depending on how much detail you include. Clearly, “How to put on waders,” probably wouldn’t be a great choice (though some would say it’s impossible to underestimate today’s consumer), because you would have to strain to fill up 60 to 100 pages on such a simple topic. You get the idea. The topic would need to be, in most cases, book worthy. Use good judgment.
Then, life itself requires instructions, as we know from “Life’s Little Instruction Book.” So, life also qualifies as a good how-to book topic. There are numerous subtopics, and you’ll never run out of ideas. Here are a few examples:
· “How to ensure your child gets an A+ in math”
· “How to have a successful garage sale”
· “How to organize your home office”
And while we’re on the subject of how-to books, I’d like to make one quick point. The titles of these ebooks do not need to be incredibly clever. Be sure the words “How to” are the first part of the title, and the rest should tell exactly what the ebook is about.
For example, which of these three titles would be best?
1. “How to have a successful garage sale.”
2. “One weekend away from a cleaner house”
3. “How to sell your old shoes for a profit”
Although numbers 2 and 3 are clever, a little punchy, and correspond with the ebook content, I would still recommend using title number 1. “How to have a successful garage sale” sums it up pretty well and will catch the eye of an Internet surfer who is interested in putting together a garage sale and needs a how-to manual.
Anyway, back to the point. Any phase of life, way of coping with life, or large or small thing about life can be the subject of a how-to book.
Perhaps sixteen year old girls don’t want to look younger, but from that point on, and for most of the population in Western society, looking young is a common desire. Everybody wants to find the fountain of youth, whether it be in a pill bottle, a special diet, surgery, or an ebook.
An ebook about staying or appearing young in the face of growing old will have a solid future. Here are some title ideas, and I’m sure you can come up with a truckload more.
· “Drop ten years and ten pounds in ten days”
· “How to look 28 forever”
· “100 ways to look younger”
· “Grocery store products that will help you look younger”
· “Look 30 again without surgery”
· “How to live to be 100″
This topic is red hot. Botox, surgery, chemical peels, lasers, diets, acupuncture, electronic pulses, mega vitamins, prescription teas, thigh cream, and teeth whiteners are being purchased by baby boomers, the elderly, and even women as young as 20 ! No one wants to look a day older than they have to.
Health is a concern to anyone who is growing old or ill or faced illness with a loved one or wants more energy or, basically, everybody. Health ebooks are a good investment for you to make. And doctors don’t have to be the authors. Anyone with any credentials, or no crendetials at all, can write books on health. Just be sure you don’t claim to be a doctor if you’re not one.
Here are some health topics you can hit at this moment in time and be almost guaranteed immediate interest, readership, and sales!
Disease prevention and cure. As our baby boomer population ages, most will be afflicted with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, or some other malady. Give these people some hope. Create an ebook on how to cope, how to find the best practitioners, how to avoid disease triggers, or cures American doctors are unaware of.
Natural remedies. People are curious about alternatives to standard medicine, and are anxious to try herbal, natural, or holistic treatments. Create a book on any disease that covers alternative cures. For example, “How to Treat Lymphoma, Naturally.” Or, you could just address natural supplements in general, “The best natural remedies for common ailments,” or “Holistic health.”
Diet. What we eat is always a hot topic. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of diet fads currently out there. Pick any one of them for an ebook. Then there’s obesity, general health, and also diet supplements like vitamins. Think “How to equip your kitchen for macrobiotic dieting.” Or, “Eat to cure cancer.”
Never has so much travel been available to so many. People today want to get in touch with the people they love. They want to experience different parts of the world. See exotic things. Be entertained. Also, because, especially in America, adults sometimes work well more than 40 hours a week, people need really good vacations. They’re doing their research to make sure that they will really enjoy their precious few weeks off each year.
Here are some topics for you: how to trade frequent flyer miles, how to keep airport security off your back, how to travel on a dime and get change, and how to keep your children happy on long car trips.
Beyond the how-to’s, there is plenty of room for books like, the best amusement parks for your money, top 100 campgrounds, things you must see and do in Utah before you die, and free things to do when visiting Washington, D.C.
Get the idea? The good thing about creating travel ebooks is that you may already know a lot about a place that other people may be interested in visiting. Makes it easy!
Money makes the world go around (well that and the earth’s axis and planetary forces), and so it would make sense that ebooks would abound on the topic of money. They do, but the market is nowhere near saturated. There’s always room for more. From getting rich to just saving money day-to-day, people are always interested in how-to books related to money. Ideas below:
· “How to feed your family on less than $40 a week”
· “How to get free stuff”
· “How to pay almost no taxes”
· “How to buy a retirement home for no money down”
· “How to be richer than your parents”
· “How to buy cars at auction”
· “How to start a financial management business”
In these days, although fewer and fewer are attending churches, more and more are flocking to purchase self-help books. Self-help books are leaping off shelves at brick and mortar bookstores. People want to feel that if they read a self-help book, they have all the power to change their lives. Whether or not this is true is moot. Changing your life, soul searching, and helping thyself, are all great ebook topics.
As much as ever before, people want to know how to find peace with their pasts, how to be creative or spiritual in a consuming society, and how to find true love. There is no end to how-to books you could create in the category of self-help, or life enrichment. Here are a few more ideas here:
· How to marry for life
· How to unbreak your heart
· How to stay sane in a crazy world
· How to meditate
A few more topics bound to explode
These are fiery hot topics that are sure to be on the rise. You can pull any one of these to use for your first ebook. Then come back and pull another topic for your next ebook.
Using the latest electronics. We are a society obsessed with having the latest and greatest technology. Do an ebook on iPods, email/camera cell phones, wireless Internet, digital TV, or any combination of these items.
Home improvement. There’s so much of a craze in this area that do-it-yourself (DIY) stores are on every corner of major cities. If you haven’t been to a Home Depot or Lowe’s lately, then you are one of the few. Sure, apartment dwellers and young students aren’t in this market, but people with homes and money to afford them are in this market. In fact, some cable TV services offer entire channels dedicated to home improvement.
Especially of current interest are in-home automation systems. DIY home improvers are eager to learn about and buy things that will make their home lives more relaxing, high-tech, or fun. Create a book to teach them how to make their lights come on for them before they get home from their jobs, or how to press a button to adjust window blinds, music, or temperature. Or how Bill Gates’ house works. Or how to add automation to an existing home, or how to build-in automation when a house is constructed.
Identity theft prevention. Especially because ebooks are marketed on the Internet, this is a great topic. This is because people who purchase over the Internet are concerned that their credit card numbers will not be seen by others or misused in any way. Even away from the computer though, consumers are on-edge about identity theft. Today, people are shredding their receipts, removing their personal information from the face of their checks, and cautiously covering themselves when they type in passwords at public terminals or ATMs. Microchips are being installed on ID cards. People are worried. Tap into this with an ebook!
Safety. Along the same lines as worrying about identity theft, people are worried about their safety from other things like crime, chemical warfare attack, and natural disasters. Watch the evening news tonight, and you will be able to list at least twenty things that people are afraid of. When you talk about safety, you are speaking their language. Titles along the lines of be prepared for any natural disaster would go over well, as would those like never be a crime victim again, how to defend yourself in a parking lot, or prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
How-to manuals for any new product recently on the market. This harks back to the Dummies series but takes it one step further. Target your ebook to people who want to buy the most current commercially available item. How to use the new model John Deere tractor. You will be sure that no one else has a book like yours, and you can say so in your sales pitch.
How to survive any phase of life. People face numerous demons and battles as they live their lives. For many, when they’re in need, they’ll be reaching out for help. Support groups, private therapy, being with friends, starting over – these are all solid topics for an ebook. You could also reach out specifically to certain people needing emotional assistance. How to get through the terrible two’s. How to cope with a cancer diagnosis. Living with your own shortcomings. How to live with someone who is dying. Surviving high school. Any of these will do.
Anything to do with pets. People are pampering their pets more than ever before. Some pets are treated better than people. It’s the people who spend small fortunes on their pets that will also be willing to pay good money for an ebook that gives them ideas on how to treat their animals even more royally than they already do.
Write books on how to pamper your parakeet, homemade meals for picky dogs, where the pet spas are, how to train your kids to be cat-friendly, million dollar homes for mutts, which animals make the best pets, or pet psychology.
Traveling mixed with the subjects above. Not only are people traveling like crazy, but they want to customize their itineraries and their methods of travel with their hobbies and lifestyles. Try a few of these on for size: where to dine around the globe and still stay on a low-carb diet plan. Hotels with the best exercise facilities. How to travel exquisitely with large dogs. Crime-proof your campsite. Be creative. There’s a market here.
Using the Internet to meet people. As I said, the craze is upon us. Everyone’s online, and sometimes folks spend more time chatting with Internet buddies than they do talking face to face with actual friends. I know I’ve been guilty of this one myself. Anyway, along with the advent of the World Wide Web, came people who need a little help figuring out how to get where they want to get. They want to find like-minded people, find a date, find love, find support.
There’s a huge ebook market for hooking people up with people online. Here are just a few things that could be covered: speed dating online, virtual music jams, taking online classes, hooking up with people who share your hobby, and finding online support groups. Any of these and more are of interest to people who wish to get maximum benefit from their ability, thanks to the Internet, to network with people in the farthest reaches of the world. In fact one of the appeals with online communing is that distance does not matter. Help these people in foreign lands find each other with an ebook.
Topics of special interest to women. The facts don’t lie. Women dominate the Internet, and they spend or influence spending of 80 cents for every dollar changing hands. What women want has never been so important to business owners and authors.
Certain topics appeal particularly to the female set. These include beauty, health, decorating, emotional support, and life enrichment. Women do a few things, generally, that men don’t. They play bunko, wear make-up, and talk for hours to their girlfriends on the phone. They send more greeting cards, prepare more casseroles, and vacuum more often than men. They eat more salads and go shopping more often for clothes. They get more pedicures and love to dance more than the average man.
There are two things to keep in mind with regards to women and ebooks. If you want to attract a female market, you need to write about a topic that women like to read about, and you want to make the title friendly towards women.
Here’s a female-oriented subject and title: Where to find great shopping bargains in Taos. And here’s a male subject: Where to catch the most fish in Taos.
Here’s a female-friendly title (same as above): Where to find great shopping bargains in Taos. And here’s a male-friendly title on the same subject: Keep your money in your pocket in Taos. See the difference? Know your market, and if you need to choose between one or the other, you’re safe going with the women’s title.
Sex. People don’t need to sneak out of bookstores with erotic books in their hands anymore, and they know it. They are looking on the Internet for sex materials, toys, and books. The Internet is private, individuals can take their sweet time, and indeed they can surf with or without a lover sharing their chair. There’s been a recent ebook success entitled Orgasms for two. There is room for more similar ebooks. On the subject of sex, this is one case where a fiction book may also do the trick. You could create erotic short stories or a how-to-have-great-sex ebook. Either ebook would entice adults interested in this category (and incidentally, most adults are indeed interested in this category).