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How to Sell an Ebook on Your Website and Generate Passive Income

If you want to learn how to sell an ebook on your website and actually make money using proven techniques, then you’ve landed in the right place. I wrote my first ebook in 2012, and it’s still making me a few thousand dollars in passive income every year.

In this final part of this three-part ebook series, I’m going to share the various methods I’ve used over the years to keep my sales on autopilot.

I can’t guarantee that you’re going to have the same success that I’ve had, but if you apply these techniques, you will significantly move the odds in your favor.

✍️ Part 1 and 2 ebook series:

This is part three of a three-part series on writing, distributing, and selling an ebook.

Go to part one if you need help with writing and editing your ebook.

Go to part two if you need help with picking a distribution platform, setting up a website, and choosing a payment processor.

If you’re ready to start earning some money from your ebook, then let’s get started.


How to design your website using the principles of influence

If there’s one bit of homework that I’d give you as an adjunct to this guide, it’s to read Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. A really good friend of mine, who happens to be a successful sales consultant, gifted me the book many years ago. It influenced (pardon the pun) my own approach a great deal and forms the backbone of the strategies I’m going to cover in this section.

Here’s an ultra-abbreviated description of the six principles:

  • Reciprocity: People feel obligated to return favors or concessions.
  • Commitment and consistency: Once people commit to what they think, say, or do, they are more likely to honor that commitment.
  • Social proof: People tend to do things that they see other people are doing.
  • Authority: People tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts.
  • Liking: People are easily persuaded by other people they like.
  • Scarcity: Perceived scarcity will generate demand; people are more likely to value items and opportunities that are scarce.

Now, let’s look at how I’ve used these in real life – and how you can, too!

Reciprocity

If you’ve read the first part of this article series, then you’ll recall that I began by talking about the importance of creating quality content that adds value to other people’s lives.

This is the reciprocity principle in action.

You should provide so much valuable content for free that not only will people trust that what’s behind your paywall is equally (if not more) valuable, but they should feel borderline obligated to buy your ebook for everything you’ve already given them for free.

I’m not saying to guilt-trip people on your website. But if you improve their lives in a massive way for absolutely nothing and that evokes some sort of subconscious emotion in them to reward your efforts by helping themselves to your premium content, then that’s a win-win.

That’s exactly what I’ve done on my website. There are tons of blog posts and an extensive FAQ section that gives readers a real inside look at the program I went through (and that they’re preparing for).

If they want to go a layer deeper, then they will naturally segue to buying my ebook. If they aren’t 100% convinced but are convinced enough to click on one of my money pages (i.e., the pages right before a sales checkout), then I hit them with a few more elements to push them over the edge. I’ll discuss those later on.

💡 Pro tip: Use a tool like LowFruits to check what people are searching for on Google about your topic and what is showing up in Google’s PAA (people also ask) boxes. Then create an FAQ page that provides short, concise answers to those same PAA questions. If it’s a heavier topic, then write an entire blog post about it.

LowFruits dashboard.

Commitment and consistency

The way I implement commitment and consistency is by employing a free WordPress plugin called HD Quiz. It’s obvious by its name what this plugin does.

I used it to create a knowledge check quiz, which I filled with questions having to do with the types of information that my audience needs to know in order to succeed in the program they’re getting ready for.

If they make it through the entire quiz, then they get a message. The message is different based on if they pass or fail, but it does include one crucial detail that is the same:

Buy my ebook.

Quiz template results text in HD Quiz showing that regardless of result, the quiz taker is encouraged to buy my ebook.

If they fail the quiz, then the motivation to buy the book is probably a bit stronger. But regardless of result, the fact that they committed to answering every question on the quiz demonstrates a pattern of consistency. They are invested to a certain degree, and that makes them more likely to buy.


Social proof

Implementing social proof is a no-brainer and showcasing positive testimonials is one of the easiest ways to convince people to buy your ebook.

If a potential customer is at the stage where they are looking at your testimonials, then they are somewhere in between thinking about and being close to buying. The testimonials serve to reassure and influence them by demonstrating the value and credibility of your ebook through the positive experiences of others.

As soon as I got about five or six testimonials from people who had purchased my ebook, I created a page to showcase them. I also added the testimonials page to the main navigation menu of my website:

The testimonials page on my website.

Having said that, it’s important to note that you don’t necessarily need to have a dedicated testimonials page to take advantage of social proof.

When you’re first starting out and you only have one or two testimonials, then creating an entire page won’t make sense. Instead, you can strategically place your testimonials near your most convincing calls to action. This will hopefully entice readers over the final mental hump and get you more sales.


Authority

In my case, I demonstrate my authority mainly through images and an About page where I share my backstory of how I got into the program and what motivated me to write the ebook. The reason the images work well is because they show me in the uniform of the organization that runs the program. In addition, there are other images that demonstrate me participating in well-known events that are part of the program:

Demonstrating authority through images that show my direct experience with the subject matter.

These clearly signal to my audience that I’ve gone through it and can speak on it from firsthand experience.


Liking

Getting your audience to like you is perhaps a bit more nuanced than some of the other principles of influence. In some ways, it’s also the outcome of how you apply them. For example, if you lead with a lot of free, valuable content to target the reciprocity principle, a byproduct of that is going to be that people are also probably going to like you. At least to some extent.

Beyond that, you can showcase your personality in various ways – either through your writing or through other forms of media (e.g., videos).

It’s worth noting that you will also encounter people who will not like you – and that’s not a bad thing. I’m serious. The day you get your first hater is a signal that you’re doing something right. It might feel counterintuitive, but a hater is nothing more than a sign of your influence. Haters don’t come out of the woodwork to hate irrelevant people. It’s the opposite. I mention that to keep in mind that liking is a two-sided coin and both sides are good. Smile at the haters and keep it moving.


Scarcity

This is one of the most overused sales techniques on the internet, and it’s because it’s effective.

There are a couple of ways you can go about it, with the two most common methods being:

  • Scarcity of quantity: Highlighting limited availability, such as “only a few items left,” to prompt quick action.
  • Scarcity of time: Including time-sensitive elements, like “offer ends soon,” and incorporating flash sales, which are short, high-discount sales events.

You might think that these only work for physical products, given that they have a finite quantity, but people use them even with ebooks and other digital products. It makes no logical sense whatsoever, but it’s done, and it works.

Personally, I can’t bring myself to advertise a fake, artificial quantity of ebooks that, in reality, can be downloaded infinitely many times. Instead, the way I use the principle of scarcity is by focusing more on time.

To give you an example, one thing I do is put coupon codes on some of my money pages. The way I position them, though, is that I hint that the offer could disappear at any moment. For people who are on the fence, this can push them over the edge into buyer’s territory.

In practice, it’s unlikely that I’m going to remove the coupon codes because I barely spend any time on the site anymore. I mainly have it up because it still helps a lot of people get ready for the program. And of course, the ebook makes me passive income, which I’m not going to complain about.


How to leverage emotions in your writing

Writing good blog posts is an art, but there’s also a bit of science involved as well. Maybe not science exactly, but more like a psychological trick. This is no different than the idea behind using the principles of influence I just discussed. In terms of blog posts, first and foremost, any post you write should be informative and deliver on what you’re promising in the title and in the introduction.

That’s a given.

But for certain posts, particularly those that have a good chance of leading to a sale, it’s smart to take emotion into account when you’re writing.

For my ebook, the primary emotions that drive most of my audience are:

  • Anxiety, which can also be categorized as a form of fear
  • Intrigue, because a lot of what I share is “insider information” that feels “forbidden”
  • Urgency, because many of my readers are under time constraints to learn the information

So in certain articles, I play up those emotions to increase conversions. For example, to target urgency, I have an article devoted to “last-minute preparation.”

The key thing is that I do it in a natural way where the emotions are authentic.

Like if I share something that would be difficult to know in any other way besides attending the program I’m talking about, then that heightens the intrigue factor.

But this isn’t some kind of manipulation where I introduce an emotional element that isn’t already there.

I just use certain trigger words to heighten it – a “stoking of the fire,” if you will.


Learn emotional trigger words

To help you follow the process I described above, I recommend checking out Tony Flores’s book, Emotional Trigger Words. He reviews 18 different emotions and gives you a template on which words to use to elicit those emotions from your readers.

After you familiarize yourself with it, you can start applying the knowledge to your own posts. Ask yourself what primary emotions are motivating readers to come to your website.

Then apply that same analysis to individual blog posts. Try to really drill down to only one primary emotion – max two. Once you identify it, use Mr. Flores’s book to get your list of words that match it. Then go through your text and look for opportunities where you can naturally insert the words. This could be done via substitution or rephrasing things slightly.

The table of contents of a book called "Emotional Trigger Words."
Credit: Emotional Trigger Words by Tony Flores

Whatever makes the most sense and isn’t going to drastically distort the post.

For the final step, go to the very end of the post and think about how you can present your ebook as a solution to either alleviate the emotion (if it’s negative) or increase it (if it’s positive).

And remember: Don’t introduce fake emotions for the sake of making a sale.


Optimize money page elements

For this particular section, I’m going to drill down to what I specifically do on my “money pages.” These are the pages where I really make a hard pitch to get readers to buy.

Many (maybe even most) people like to have only one main page that functions as the “conversion page.” I take a more unconventional approach and have several. I originally did it this way as my own variation on the traditional A/B split test. The goal was to see which of the money pages would have the highest conversion rates. However, as time went on and as I switched my focus to working on other projects, I left everything as is.

With that said, below are the main elements I’ve used successfully on these pages. I ordered them loosely based on how universally applicable they are.

Refund option

If you truly have a high-quality ebook, then I don’t see any scenario in which you shouldn’t have a refund policy.

First off, it increases confidence in your book. Your soon-to-be customer is more likely to smash that buy button if they know they can get their money back should they be disappointed in your offering.

Second, it’s just good business practice.

Will there be a few bad apples that abuse the policy so they can get your book “for free?” Sure. Does this happen often? Based on my experience, it’s rare. I’ve had it happen and it was frustrating, but I’d say this was less than 1% of my sales.

In my case, refunds are a built-in feature of ClickBank, which is the payment processor I use to sell my ebook. But I take it a step further and I offer an additional refund on top of the ClickBank one. My refund is structured in such a way as to vouch for how much of a difference purchasing my ebook will make in the lives of my customers. You can read it for yourself below, but basically, I tell them that if they don’t graduate from the program successfully, then they can request a refund.

My ebook refund policy.

I’ve been doing this since 2012, and I have yet to receive a single refund request from someone who did not graduate from the program. I’m also going to assume that the pass rate of my customers is 100%. Cocky? Maybe. But I genuinely believe it.


Screenshots from inside the ebook

I’m not sure if I borrowed this idea from Amazon.com originally or if they were even doing this back in 2012, but they do it now and it works!

By giving your potential customers a sneak preview of the actual content inside your ebook, it validates that your book is real.

It also lets them start reading. This is more powerful than you might think. It’s even more powerful if you design it to end at a cliffhanger moment. In other words, make the free text lead up to some big reveal that comes on the next page, but cut it right there. That creates a huge incentive to buy.

You should also include a screenshot of the table of contents. This will effectively serve as an elevator pitch for your book. If the person is wondering what exactly they’ll be getting, the table of contents will clear that up.


Free bonus contingent upon purchase

The program that my ebook helps people with happens to be both physically demanding and mentally demanding. My paid book helps with the latter, but I also created a free ebook that assists with the former.

The way I position the deal is that if a person buys my ebook and fills out a personalized assessment where they include the receipt number of their purchase, then I’ll send them the other book for free.

The free ebook offer I use to increase sales.

Both books are equally valuable in their own way, but the reason I only charge for one of them is because the information in the paid one is a lot more exclusive and hard to get. The free ebook, while very useful, isn’t the only option that someone can use to get in better shape. It’s definitely a nice added value bonus though, and I’m sure that it increases my overall conversion rate.


Personalized assessment

As you can see above, I use the personalized assessment in conjunction with the free ebook offer to add even more value for my customers. I mainly did it because I felt that it would be the best way to help them. It just so happens that going about it this way also taps into several of the principles of influence, which in turn increases conversion rates. These include:

  • Commitment and consistency: The act of filling out the assessment form is not all that different from completing the quiz mentioned earlier. It demonstrates a pattern of commitment.
  • Authority: By positioning myself as a licensed, skilled, and experienced fitness professional (which I was at the time), my assessment of their abilities was more valuable than if some random gym bro was giving them “bro science” advice.

You don’t absolutely need to do something like this when you market your ebook, but if it makes sense, then go for it.


How to incorporate video content into your sales strategy

For the final section of this guide, I’m going to share how I used videos to create content that drove more traffic to my website (and sometimes even got me immediate sales).

My goals when making these videos were two-fold:

First, I wanted to augment some of the information that I already had on my site, and second, I wanted to create unique content that was better suited for video. In light of that, here are the types of videos I ended up making:

  • Study guide: I created a flash card video with concepts that are important for my audience. This was my way of generating more upfront value, but in a video format.
  • Q&A: I started doing these after the channel had gained some traction and people were leaving me questions in the comments. I took those questions and answered them on video.
Some of the videos on my YouTube channel that I used to help drive traffic back to my site and increase my ebook sales.
  • Personal interview: This was like a video version of the About page on my site, but more powerful because in a video you can let your personality shine more.
  • Showcasing my expertise: I mainly did these to bring up my credentials for the free ebook offer. I knew that my strength, skill, and endurance were way above those of the average person going into this program, which meant that people watching would be more likely to want to take my advice.
Getting comments on my YouTube channel from prospective buyers.

At the time that I began making these videos, YouTube was the main video platform that everyone was on so I focused almost exclusively on that. In today’s environment, you have more options. Although YouTube is still huge and arguably still the top choice, there are other competitors like Rumble that you can consider.


Final bit of advice

My very first ClickBank check that I received after selling my first few ebooks.
The first check I ever got for my ebook sales. The amount was small, but the perspective shift was enormous.

I covered a lot of ground here. Not only here, but in the first two articles of this series as well. If you’re just getting started, it can feel a little overwhelming.

I get it. I’m not going to lie and say you can snap your fingers and make the passive income start flowing. It takes work, and it takes patience. You also need to have thick skin and be persistent in achieving your goal. Learn and adjust your strategies as needed. All of this is advice I’m sure you’ve probably heard before, but that’s exactly what it takes.

It’s not easy, but let me tell you something:

When you sell that first ebook on your website, it changes your perspective on what’s possible.

And how do you get that first sale?

The simplest answer lies at the end of the first section of the first article of this series. Let’s end this by going back full circle:

Your starting point has to be the end recipient, not your wallet. Focus on producing quality content for your audience, and the money will eventually come.

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