Do You Need A Business Plan to Sell eBooks Online?


In order to address the question of whether or not a business plan is needed in order to sell ebooks online, we must first determine if ebook sales can be considered a business, an entrepreneurship or just something you do on the side to make a few extra bucks for your nights out with the boys/girls.

Another point we should touch on is the interchangeable uses of business and entrepreneurship. There is very little difference between the two terms based on the usage of each term. Since every entrepreneur is technically a small business person and entrepreneurship is simply the act of being an entrepreneur, then it follows that a small business can at any time be referred to as an entrepreneurship and vice versa.

That having been said, it is an accepted principle that every small business is launched with the goal – or objective, if you like – of achieving certain levels of monetary success, notwithstanding the service it provides to the local community. Entrepreneurs want to succeed at their particular crafts and therefore should have a clear idea of what it takes to succeed. Most successful business owners will tell you however, that whatever that idea is, it must be in written form.

Success online depends on having a plan, or more specifically a business plan. Very often, aspiring Web entrepreneurs contact a designer with a burning passion to have a new website designed, built and launched. FAST! But success takes more than waking up bug-eyed in the wee hours of the morning with the brainstorm of the century. You need to outline and complete a real business plan and make adjustments before the official launch.

Mentioned earlier was selling ebooks online and if it is to be a serious endeavor then it has to be considered an online eBook business, in which case the aspiring entrepreneur will have to provide enough information to satisfy the requirements of a business plan writer or to fill in the blanks of a pre-printed BP form. Thinking through the questions and answers is a vital step towards developing a good business plan. For example:

  • Do you have a company?
  • Do you have a logo for your company?
  • If no logo, what color scheme do you like?
  • How many products (eBooks) will you offer?
  • Are they all written and ready to go?
  • Do you have cover art for your books?
  • What system of e-commerce do you intend to use?
  • Will you offer just pdf or exe formats, or both?
  • Do you have the domain, plus registration and hosting?
  • Do you have a projected launch date scheduled?
  • How many affiliate products do you have to offer?
  • Etc.

Defining what you do, your market, and how you intend to be different are vital considerations for starting your online ebook business. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

For an eBook online business, the competition is fierce and filled with some shady characters. When you begin the process of planning before jumping in, consider your image first and then answer “How will I establish credibility in the early going?”. Weave this into your business plan and you should do well. Don’t act before thinking or you may be perceived as just another online marketeer.

In summary

Your image comes first – It is recommended that you have a stunning set of graphics for your corporate image to make a favorable first impression. Hire a pro if it’s in your budget.

Credibility is a close second – Although it does take time to build a solid reputation in your marketplace, you can help yourself in this area by soliciting opinions from trusted people to give honest feedback about first impression and how credible they think you are.

And of course your Plan must guide your operating activities – If you can’t hire a financial/accounting pro to write your business plan, I’m sure there are Outlines or templates for creating a business plan availble free online. Get one. Use it. Be flexible, and change as you go.

A final word. I know that many startup online entrepreneurs neglect creating a business plan. Selling eBooks online without physical inventory except bits and bytes seems so easy that you will be tempted to just dive in to a ebook sales opportunity with both feet and not give the plan a second thought. But keep this thought in mind: Your chances for success will improve tremendously with a real business plan.

A Key Stat For Web Entrepreneurship Is The Conversion Rate


Is the Conversion Rate (CR) really the key stat for a website? It is when you are paying for clicks. The conversion rate is a similar stat to ROI (return On Investment) though not exactly the same, since one (ROI) stat has to do with money in your pocket after advertising expenses and the other (CR) focuses more on the efficiency with which you convert clicks to sales.

We can safely conclude therefore, that when you pay for clicks, the conversion rate is really the only measure that counts in determining your website theme and message. The thing about conversion rates, though, is they can change quite dramatically with things like the website design, sales copy, products on the front page, range of products, product descriptions, gurantees, pricing, ease of payment and such things. In short there are many things you can do to get conversions up.

One of the unique features of any Web business is that you can make a change, measure the result and if it doesn’t work, you can change it back. You’re constantly trying new things to see if it affects your figures. There is a danger that you can change too many things too quickly in which case you might find it difficult to gauge the results of different factors. Sand if you’re going to be tweaking and testing make sure to not do it during busy seasons like the Christmas holidays.

You can experimented with was pricing over a 30 day period. If you’re not getting any clicks, you should reduce your initial price and compare the results. If this does not increase your conversion rate then pricing may not be the problem. Or you may want to compare your hottest product with one that is not so hot by using the exact sales page and message. If sales fall on the hot product then you know the sales page, the message or both must be changed.

You can also experiment with your sales copy by making your “money back guarantee” more prominent. This way when people visit your site, credibility would not be the thing that they become concerned about. You can also put the address at the page top so that people know you are easy to physically track down, and put the Visa and Mastercard symbols near the top for legitamcy. These are all areas you can tweak in order to affect conversion rates.

There is a feature in both AdWords and Overture which, once you have inserted a piece of html code into your payment page, it will allow you to track conversion rates by keyword. You’ll need to build enough data for the tracking to make sense, but it allows you to cut out keywords which don’t convert well.

Having said all that, if your product or service is inferior or somehow does not fill a need in your marketplace (something in demand?), there’s probably nothing you can do to improve sales except replacing the product/service. Most sales pages are effective and some are extraordinary (almost works of art…painting a picture with words?), but none of them can perform a magical feat to sell something that is unsellable.

You shouldn’t have a problem with finding a good-to-excellent product to sell, if this is indeed the problem, because there are so many available product sources. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just search for a few of the eCommerce merchants with affiliate programs already in place and you can get started immediately. Whatever your approach to business on the Web, I hope you find the following tidbits helpful:

  • Work with niche products where there is not a major household name supplier (i.e. don’t go into the book business against)
  • Your product/service should be a familiar item in the Internet community (you don’t want to have to create a whole new market by yourself)
  • You must have keywords that people are searching for that can apply to your product/service, but which are not shared with other products (for example “gift baskets” and “oil paintings” are good “gifts” would probably not work)
  • Do a search on Google for the product. If less than 5 advertisers come up on the right hand side, then chances are you can get reasonably priced traffic.
  • Try to avoid a support apparatus to get it working. Things that need technical support are often too problematic. You need a product that is easy to use so that you can sell it and forget it.
  • Make it a habit not to hold or carry stock, especially if you’re working from home which many Web marketers do. At least until you have strong sales and good demand.
  • A final point that you shouldn’t have to wait and learn from your own experience. Try to work with a $50+ margin per product. The cost of attracting customers for paintings or massage chairs is not much higher than the cost of getting customers for gift baskets, although the conversion rates may indeed be lower. It is easier to reach break-even with bigger ticket items.
  • It also helps if your affiliate product is one that you have bought yourself and got interested in and passionate about.


Based on these criteria I have opted to promote and market electronic goods at Amazon.com, Web Hosting at GVO and classified advertising at AdlandPro, among others. One of the constants found in the marketing of anything on the Web is the need to tweak and test and update on an ongoing basis if you are paying for advertising because ultimately, your conversion rates lets you know exactly where you stand.