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9. Selling Information Products Online


But not everyone comes online with an idea in hand. In this chapter and the next, I’m going to look at two kinds of product you can create and sell online: info products and software programs.

Let’s start with information products.

On the web, information products mean ebooks. These are books that are downloaded from the web (like this one) and are usually aimed at niche markets. It costs a lot of money to make a print book and if the market is small, few publishing companies are going to bother with the risk and the expense. Ebooks cost little more than the time it takes to write them.

And anyone can write an ebook! You don’t have to be John Grisham or the world’s leading expert to write a book. Everyone knows  something that other people don’t know, whether it’s how to fix a TV or how to tell the difference between a Fish Crow and a Northwestern Crow. You don’t even need to write it yourself. If you’ve got an idea for a book, simply find yourself a ghostwriter, tell them what’s on your mind and get them to write it for you.

9.1 Finding a Writer

If you don’t want to do the writing yourself, finding a writer for your ebook is easy. Finding a good writer though is the tricky part. A lot of people think they have what it takes to win the Pulitzer if someone would just give them a chance, but even most college graduates have a hard time constructing a sentence, let alone writing a complete book. And you don’t want any old book. You want a book your readers will enjoy reading in a style that speaks to them.

If you’ve already hired someone to write your newsletters for you, they’re probably going to be the first person to ask. Every time you hire a new writer, you’re taking a risk. You’ll have no idea how talented they are, how much they know about your industry or how well they can write in the style you need. A writer you already work with does know about your industry and you know how they write.

If you don’t have anyone on call though, is a good place to search. Again, check the portfolios carefully and pay attention  to people’s feedback. Elance encourages its clients to review the work of the people they hire. These are great indicators that will help you determine the reliability and skill of a writer you’re thinking of hiring.

One little tip for hiring writers on Elance is not to pay too much attention to the amount of work the writer has done in the recent past (another little piece of info Elance gives you). You don’t want to hire someone who’s too stressed to give your book the attention it needs, and just because someone’s new to Elance, or doesn’t use it very much, doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot of experience. They might have a lot of clients outside of Elance.

In short, you want to find someone who can show you an ebook they’ve already written, ideally on the subject and with the style of writing you are looking for.

Once you’ve made the hire, it’s important to remember that you’re paying someone to do the writing not the thinking. It will be up to you to supply the writer with all the information he needs to get the job done. The more you help the writer with the ideas you want in the book, the greater the chance you’ll get the final product you want.

And finally, don’t be surprised if the writer demands that you stump up some cash in advance. On Elance, a deposit of as much as 50% isn’t uncommon. This is a result of all the unscrupulous buyers  who have bought services and not bothered to pay the bill. Too many writers have been stung in the past and most of the more established ones will want to see at least some cash to know you’re trustworthy. There’s often room to negotiate the deposit though, and you can sometimes use milestones to lessen the risk on both sides.

9.2 What Can You Write About?

In essence, there are four categories of books. Of course there are a plethora of subcategories in each of these main categories, but the main ones are:

9.2.1 Pleasure Books

Usually fiction: novels, short stories, poems, romances, sci-fi, historical, adventure and humor are the most popular, but they’re all hard to sell online. Most people prefer to buy fiction in stores.

9.2.2 Inspirational Books

Spiritual books, devotional writings, uplifting life-experiences, Biblical or other religious writings, stories from the heart, or life-changing principles. This is another tough market to sell to online.

9.2.3 Study Books

There is a constant need for reference material both for business and academic use. This could cover everything from supplementary reading for school kids to advanced math tutoring for university students. Do you know something others don’t?

9.2.4 How-To Books

“Do-it-yourself” and self-improvement books. Straightforward approaches, pictures and analogies that teach everything from archery to amateur zoology.

Although all these types of books sell, the how-to-books and guides are by far the best sellers on the web. You don’t have to be massively original here. The most profitable books are those that offer a slightly new take on a topic with proven popularity. There’s no point in picking a subject that only interests you and your best pals.

I’ve found that these are the ten most popular and most profitable topics for “how-to” ebooks.

  • Making money.
  • Saving money.
  • Saving time.
  • Saving effort.
  • Building a more comfortable life.
  • Achieving greater success.
  • Solving a problem.
  • Increasing knowledge.
  • Attaining better health.
  • Gaining information.

Those are pretty general, and clearly you’re going to have to generate ideas that focus on a particular topic. A book entitled “Making Money” isn’t going to sell many copies; a book entitled “Making Millions in Your Pajamas” will.

When you’re looking for a topic, first make sure it’s a subject that you do actually have some knowledge about. Otherwise, make sure you hire a writer who does.

If you’ve found a subject that no one else has touched, or even come close to touching, it’s unlikely that anyone will want to read it. The reason that there are millions of romances on bookshelves (and almost all of them the same) is that publishers know they sell. And like you, they’re interested in making money not breaking new ground.

So how do you assess the popularity of your chosen topic? Here’s a simple three-step process:

  • Identify keywords for your book idea.
  • Conduct a search of your keywords to determine how many people are searching for the information you’re putting out.
  • Run your keywords through the search engines and look for the following information:
  • The number of ebooks already available on the subject.
  • The number of paid sponsor ads for the search. This indicates that there is interest on the subject. Otherwise big companies wouldn’t be wasting their marketing budgets to sponsor the searches.

What does all this information tell you? First, it tells you whether there is a market at all; and secondly it tells you whether the market is saturated or not. This is critical info that you need to know before launching a project to write and market a book on the Internet.

9.2.5 Choosing the Right Topic

We discussed earlier the importance of choosing the right topic for your ebook. The Internet is primarily used to communicate, entertain, educate and research. It is thus no wonder that nonperishable, information-intensive products including books, travel guides, and magazine subscriptions are the most popular online products at  present. Content-rich sites, subscription-based sites to advertiser-supported sites focusing on a wide range of topics, have been sprouting all over the Internet.

Ebooks and guides on various subjects have been prospering in the recent past. Anything you can put in a physical book, you can put in an ebook. You can sell just about any content as long as you have an offering that has a market and an ability to get it to your customer. Yes, there are exceptions. In some cases you might be competing with big companies with a large chunk of the market share.

Here are some categories that you may pursue:

Personal Advice, Motivation and Self-Help Sites

There are several sites aimed at the individual — mainly motivational and self-betterment sites. Such sites offer tips, articles, advice and counseling on how to build self-esteem and self-confidence and reduce stress for a happier life. You may also provide great inspirational quotations, inspirational stories, motivational poems, and other resources to motivate and inspire your visitors. It could include psychology tests, IQ tests, emotional intelligence tests and personality tests for self-improvement.

The market for personal advice and counseling is huge. You can provide educational counseling through such sites. Professional advisory information and training is covered in a subsequent category.

Fitness and Health, Diets, Weight Loss Sites

These sites provide complete guides, articles, tips and counseling on proper eating and exercising habits, benefits of diet and exercise, fitness techniques, diet articles and diet tips, weight loss, as well as some of the popular diet plans. They can include tips from fitness experts, reviews of fitness and diet programs, message boards, forums and discussions on health and fitness.

Information of various nutritional and diet supplements, healthy and non-healthy foods can be included. A couple of the popular fitness and health sites are and

Not all these type of sites are comprehensive in nature; most in fact focus on some specific program(s) and try to promote those programs to their members. Members are provided not only great details about some proprietary programs, but also personalized guidance to suit their individual cases. Members are also able to share their experiences. Generally, such sites will also offer privileges and discounts to their members for fitness equipment, nutritional supplements and/or membership at fitness clubs.

Credit Help Sites

This category includes sites offering access to consumer credit history records and related content, for example and Such websites also offer credit counseling and tips as well as credit consolidation services. Articles, guides, and tips for credit improvement are provided as well.

Medical Research Sites

These sites focus on medical issues and/or health insurance. Medical research websites provide an extensive listing of research resources on various diseases and promotion of health through public education. They often include clinical information as well as information about doctors and hospitals in all states. Information on medical ethics and fraud is often provided.

Consultants, paralegal and legal researchers and consumers are amongst those who have interest in such sites.

You might also consider a site that provides information on health and medicine for the general public or for a specific target group, say women, nursing mothers. While there are quite a few sites that offer this type of information free, there is room for those that can provide uniquely targeted information. Alternate and complementary medicine and therapy is another area evoking wide scale interest.

Personal Finance and Investment

These sites offer advice and tips on managing personal finance and investments. These include articles and guides from financial experts and assist in retirement planning. Such sites provide comprehensive information on various investment plans such as investing stocks, mutual funds, bonds, real estate and so on. They also offer advice on taxes.

Launching Your Info product

Once you’ve selected the niche market that you want to build an information business around, it’s time to get to work and create your first info product. If you’ve always thought of yourself as a writer and want to do it yourself, go for it. If you’d rather pay a professional, that’s a good option too. Since online information products are so cheap to distribute, you can probably make your initial investment back once you’ve sold thirty or forty copies of your new info product.

Information products can provide you with an unending stream of revenue. Once you’ve uploaded the book onto your server, set up the website and payment system and launched your marketing campaign, the money pretty much rolls in by itself. There’s no shipping, no inventory, no fiddling about with order sheets. You just keep an eye on the marketing and make sure the visitors keep coming. Put a series of books like this out, combined with the marketing methods discussed in this book and you’re looking at a pretty easy way to make a living.

TIP: If you would like to sell information products in an already identified profitable niche market but don’t want to go through the trouble and expense of doing it all by yourself, I encourage you to sign up for my service here an I will setup everything for you within 24 hours. That way, all you’ll need to do is focus on marketing your site.