In this article Daniel Scocco answers to a question by Jana:
Where does a blogger draw the line between putting up free content versus releasing an eBook? I’m all about an informative blog with great articles…but an eBook seems to be a good revenue point. So, should an eBook have exclusive information in it that you don’t share on your blog? Or is the value of an eBook found in it being an edited and formatted compendium of your blog?
Considering that Jana talks about revenues, in this article we will cover only paid books that are created (mainly) with the purpose of generating money for the author. In other words, we will not cover the cases where someone writes a free eBook to promote his website, to build an email list, to offer a bonus to RSS subscribers and so on.
The first question that one needs to answer is the following: is my blog established as an authority in its niche, or am I established as an expert in this niche?
Notice that the two parts of this question do not walk together necessarily. One can have an authority blog or website without being a well known expert. Consider Sitepoint.com for example, they are one of the most respected resources for webmasters on the Internet, and yet the site is not associated with any particular person (but rather with a group of authors).
The opposite can happen as well. Muhammad Saleem is a social media guru, and yet his personal blog is not very well known. This is because his strategy involves mostly guest appearances on high profile blogs, as well as on the direct interaction with the communities of the various social bookmarking sites on the web.
Now going back to our initial question, if you answer is no, you probably should keep putting free and quality content out there.
Do not think about this free content as money left on the table, but rather as an investment.
Whenever you create free and high quality content, and publish it on your blog (or on other blogs and websites), you are both building your credibility and making prospects enter your sales funnel. That is, they are getting in contact with your material and ideas, and over the time they will become more inclined to take that relationship to another level (by purchasing your eBook, for instance).
If, on the other hand, you think that your blog or your person already have enough credibility to get an eBook on the market, then you have three main possibilities as far as the origin of the content is concerned.
1. Blog into book
The first possibility is to use completely the content that is already published on the blog. As Jana correctly pointed out in her question, there are many people out there willing to spend money into freely available information that comes edited and formatted.
This editing and formating, and the fact that the information will be contained in a single, easily searcheable document, will probably save people time. And time, is money (sorry for the cliché).
The advantage of this method is obvious: the content is already written, so the author will just need to gather, edit and format it. The downside is that you won’t be able to charge a lot (else people would just go to the trouble of finding the information themselves).
Leo Babauta had a good success with this strategy. He turned his most popular articles into an eBook titled “Handbook for Life,” and started selling it for $6.95.
2. Almost unique
The second possibility is to use some of the free content on your blog, and then to build on top of that to create a more complete and appealing eBook. This is the strategy that I used on my eBook.
It was a natural process, and it all started with a single post. The post was titled “The 7 Characteristics of Good Domain Names,” and it attracted a large amount of comments, links and traffic.
The buzz that it generated was a signal that people were interested on the topic. After a small research on the web I discovered that there was no eBook focusing completely on “how to find domain names,” therefore I decided to write it.
That initial post became the first chapter of the eBook. The rest was unique.
3. Completely unique
Finally, you can also write an eBook from scratch. It might even cover points that you wrote about in the past, but you would need to rewrite them under the framework of an actual book and not of a blog post.
The obvious downside of this strategy is that it will take much more time than the other two. The advantage is that all your current readers and prospects are potential buyers. Even the ones that have been reading your blog for a long time will have a reason to the eBook. It comes with fresh content, after all.
There are no rules defining how much content you should give for free, and how much content you should charge for. The first corner-stone is to establish your blog or yourself as an authority in its niche, and from there, depending on your availability of time, you should decide what kind of eBook you want to publish, if at all.
Another interesting question is the following: are ongoing training programs the new eBooks? But this is for another article!