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Selling information and downloadable books via the Internet is one of the hottest ways to make money at the moment.  But what are the magic ingredients that go into making a successful information product? I am frequently asked this question, so I thought I would have a swift roundup of the essential things you need to consider if you want to write an e-book...

Stick to non-fiction

People still think that to be a successful author you have to write a bestselling novel -- we've all heard of the phenomenal success of books like Harry Potter -- but the reality is that most fiction writers make very little from their books.  Most don't actually earn anything!

So, forget fiction if you want to make money.  Write that novel by all means but think of it as a hobby.  To make money from writing, you have to write a book that delivers a benefit or solves a problem for its readers.

Convey a benefit

Just like selling any other product or service, your customers will want to know ‘what's in it for them’.  You have to convince people that your book will show them how to improve their lives in some way -- how to make more money, how to lose weight, learn a new skill and so on.  Without a clear benefit, you are highly unlikely to sell your information product, so bear this in mind before you even begin to write.

Make your book different

We are inundated with information these days and now, with the Internet, much of it is available for free -- so how do you make money by selling a book in this competitive environment?  You have to make it different.  In other words, you have to have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition), just like you would with any other product or business.

Think about a popular subject such as ‘how to lose weight’.  There must be thousands of books on this subject but the successful ones have a twist to the story that makes them a bit different – your book also has to be different and unique.  You have to find a gap in the market -- something that is missing from all the other books available out there.  A gap that you can exploit with your book...

Use the Internet and your local libraries and bookshops to research the market.  See what books are already available on a particular subject and find ways to improve them or provide information that is missing. Think of a different angle.

Write about what you know

To write a book effectively, you should really write about something you know about.  Apart from the hard work involved in researching a new subject, you will have lots of personal insights into a subject you are familiar with -- say your professional occupation or a hobby.  You might be a financial adviser and be able to write about the best way to save money or get a mortgage, or you may be an enthusiastic fisherman with some great tips on catching the biggest fish!

We all have our own unique experiences of life, which can be used to create useful content for a book.  You may have experience of making money from home, losing weight and getting fit, bringing up children or trading successfully in stocks and bonds Find something within your own experience to write about and you will find it much easier to create a useful book that will sell successfully.

Create useful content

Once you have found a subject to write about you must make sure that you impart information that is useful.  It's all very well to add in some interesting background to the subject and jazz it up with some photos or illustrations, but the core of the book should provide useful information that will help somebody to actually achieve something.  You need to show people how they can take action, and tell them what they need to do, step-by-step in order to achieve the benefits -- whether it is making money, losing weight, or whatever...

In other words, the content of your book has to deliver on its promises if it is to be successful.

Provide a strong sales message

When your book is complete, you have to sell it and your sales message can make or break your success.  Plenty of mediocre books have sold thousands of copies thanks to some brilliant sales copy -- and plenty more brilliant books have failed to sell because of mediocre sales copy.

To create an outstanding marketing message, you have to hammer home the benefits to the reader.  You have to create a spin, or perceived benefit, and paint a powerful picture of what life would be like for your prospective customer if only they had the information provided in your book...

Sell effectively

The best way to sell your e-book and make money immediately is to set up joint ventures with people who have relevant and appropriate lists of customers.  Let's say you wrote a book about your fishing tips, you could source companies on the Internet who are selling fishing gear, fishing holidays and so on and offer them a 50-50, or even a 60-40 (in their favour) split on the profits, if they will offer your book to their list.  This is a great low-cost way to market your products.

You could even source your joint-venture partners before you even write the book -- that way you are writing for a targeted market.