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How to Profit from Giving Your eBook Away For Free

January 17, 2015

You’ve just finished writing a shiny new eBook, and you’re super excited to release it to the world. There are tons of different ways to release an eBook, but when you boil it down, there are really only two options.

  • Sell it for money.
  • Give it away for free.

As a writer who’s invested a significant amount of time researching and writer this eBook, it’s really difficult to consider giving it away for free. I, myself have struggled with this concept because it goes against everything we’re taught. You should be rewarded for your time. Why should readers be able to access your hard-earned research and work for free? In this article, I’m going to show you how to make money from giving your eBook away for free!

Building Your Authority

In the modern world of SEO, authority sites have much more sway than niche sites. How do you build an authority site? You write a lot of unique and epic content on a specific topic. Once people realize you know what you’re talking about, they’ll start linking and sharing your content. At some point, people will associate your blog with that specific topic. Congratulations, you’ve built an authority site.

As I said earlier, building an authority site requires unique and epic content. If you’ve written an eBook on a topic, why wouldn’t you want to share that content on your blog? If you’ve done a good job researching and writing, you may have dozens or even hundreds of pages of awesome content at your disposal. Google loves real and unique content. If you publish your eBook as separate posts for each chapter or sub-topic, Google will love your blog.

I’m going to be transparent with all of you here. I’m a keyboard programmer for Broadway shows and national tours, and I just recently finished up my first eBook a week ago. It’s about Apple MainStage, and how I use that software in my work. The target audience consists of music directors, keyboardists, and keyboard programmers who want to learn more about the program. It wasn’t easy to write, and it’s taken up a few months of my life. After I finished writing it, I started thinking about distribution methods. I was selfish and wanted to sell each copy for $29. I didn’t see the bigger picture. I slept on it for a few days, and came up with this alternate plan.

  • I would release a chapter a week for free on my blog.
  • Each chapter would have a newsletter signup form.
  • At the end of the free release, a paid version would be made available.
  • The paid version will include extra video content and a discount for relevant scripts covered in the eBook.

Do you see why releasing the eBook content makes sense now? Making awesome content available for public consumption means more SEO points from Google. Better rankings means more people will see the content. More people seeing the content means more sales. The idea here is to present the reader with a lot of great information, but not all of it. In my situation, a reader might decide that the extra video content and the script discount is worth $29. It’s a great way to market my scripts, which range in price from $29-$149.

What’s the other solution? A reader purchases the eBook and video content for $29. Why would a reader do that though? I do have a good amount of authority in this particular topic, but that doesn’t overcome the fact that people love free things. Also, $29 isn’t exactly in the “oh, it’s cheap…I’ll just buy it” price range. By charging full price for the eBook, I would lose out on inevitable SEO gains, which means less exposure in search engines. Less visibility in Google means less potential customers, which translates into sadness.

Affiliate & Ad Income

Many popular affiliate programs (e.g. Amazon Affiliates) do not allow affiliate links in eBooks. It’s also impossible to embed something like a Google AdSense block into an eBook. By publishing your eBook as a product, you’re losing out on potential affiliate and ad revenue. This is especially important for my eBook because I promote quite a few pieces of audio gear ranging from $29 to $3499. It’s also important to remember that you receive a commission on any product that is bought through an Amazon affiliate link within 24 hours.

If you’re releasing amazing content on your blog for free, no one’s going to complain about a few unobtrusive ads and affiliate links. You’ve provided a great resource for public use. It’s okay to want to monetize that by placing ads on the page (as long as it’s not too spammy). Not releasing the eBook for free means you lose out on all this potential affiliate and ad income.

When you have great content available for free on the Internet, people will remember EXACTLY where it is. Multiple visits from the same person isn’t only possibly, it’s the norm. This translates into a higher chance of your affiliate links or ads being clicked. Releasing your eBook for free as separate blog posts really opens up a whole bunch of otherwise nonexistent revenue streams.

Promoting Another Product

Consider using your eBook to promote another product of yours. A few months ago, I started a project, with my good friend Tom Xi, called SynthWorks. We’ve written a few scripts that help keyboard programmers make better use of their time. A task that used to take two minutes now takes ten seconds. We knew it was a great product, but how could we show and convince people this? We made YouTube videos and shared it with our friends on Facebook and Twitter, but we just weren’t ranking well in Google for these two reasons.

  • Another company (unrelated industry) already had the same name.
  • We used a .NYC domain name.
  • I didn’t have time to work on SEO all day due to other commitments.

Going back to the eBook plan. The paid version will include the eBook content, extra videos, and a discount towards any of our scripts. These scripts are also heavily featured in the eBook, and people will be able to see how it can increase their productivity and save them time. In this situation, the eBook is being used to market another product. Think of it like this… If a reader pays $29, he or she is really only purchasing the extra videos and scripts because the eBook content is already available for free. So, I’m really only using the eBook content to lead readers to my script.

Conclusion

In summary, giving away your eBook content away for free is a good idea for the following reasons…

  • Unique and epic content leads to better SEO and authority.
  • More mailing list signups.
  • Affiliate and ad revenue.
  • Free promotion for another product or service.

Obviously this model doesn’t work for all situations. If your eBook is priced less than $2.99, there’s really no point because it’s so cheap. For higher priced eBooks, this might be a good solution. Making money from giving away an eBook away for free might seem like a backwards model, but it can definitely lead to more profits in the longterm. Be sure to leave a comment if you have any thoughts or concerns!


Questions?

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