A Ridiculously Simple Way to Get More Revenue and Build Your Audience

image of recycle icon

Here’s something you might not know about your audience: They’re willing to pay for something that’s available for free.

Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Given the option between paying nothing and paying, let’s say, a dollar for the same product, some people voluntarily choose the paid version.

Yeah. I know.  

But it’s true. In fact, that’s exactly what recently happened to a colleague of mine. He’d been playing around with creating and publishing ebooks on Kindle, and just for fun he packaged one of his lengthier and more popular blog posts as an ebook.

He didn’t launch the ebook. He didn’t draw much attention to it. He crafted a great title, stuck a 99 cent price tag on it, and threw it up on his site just for the heck of it.

That lengthier, popular blog post? It’s still on his blog. Available free of charge, right in the archive. You could Google it right now and find it.

So why on earth would people pay money for the ebook version, for the exact same content in another format? Two reasons …

A new audience: Many of the Kindle buyers aren’t aware that this content is available free on his blog, and it sounds interesting enough to pay for. They’re an entirely new audience … which, incidentally, means they’re worth a lot more than that .99.

Convenience: Even for those who already read the blog and remember the post, they don’t want to have to go looking to find it again.

They want it right now, and in an easy-to-read format. They like being able to take it on a plane or to the dentist’s office. The convenience alone is worth a dollar to them.

That means if you’ve ever created content that someone found useful, interesting, or funny enough to read again, odds are pretty good that it’s worth a dollar for them to be able to lay their hands on it easily.

What does this mean for the creation of paid products?

There’s been a lot written lately about content recycling.

Compiling some of your best, most related work together into a single guide is a great strategy, and you can probably create a worthy information product by doing so.

It’s not going to be effortless, though.

You’ll need to create new material to fill in the gaps. You’ll have to smooth out the flow, and edit and refine the piece so it comes together logically. You’ll have to package and launch the product when it’s all done.  

Or, you can use what you already have going for you.

The problem of “free”

A little while ago, many blogs considered offering paid content, but the backlash from readers was intense. Readers didn’t want to pay for content from a resource they’d come to think of as free.

This was annoying for bloggers, but understandable from the reader’s point of view. It’d be a bit like if the public restroom at your local park suddenly started charging a quarter for you to use it.

Does it inconvenience you much? No. Is it worth the quarter when your toddler is dancing from foot to foot? You bet.

But you used to be able to use that restroom any time you pleased, no charge, and it’s not fun to have to pay for something that used to be free. And if there’s another public restroom two doors over that doesn’t charge a quarter, you’re going to use that one.

So most bloggers kept offering free content for that reason. Change is hard, there’s lots of resistance, and most blogs didn’t want to give readers a barrier to becoming fans of their work.

Reasonable. But you know where readers are used to paying for content?

On the Amazon Kindle store and in Apple’s iBookstore.

Because the same content that isn’t worth a dollar to read on your blog is completely worth it to own in ebook form.

Is it really that easy?

It is, but with a few caveats.

First, you’ll have to get familiar with Amazon’s rules (including some rules on which publishing program you can use if your content appears free in another venue). The easiest way to do that is to read this comprehensive article on Kindle publishing.

The second is probably the more important point to keep in mind. My colleague’s original post got a lot of traffic. It had a compelling title. It was great content and motivated the heck out of everyone who read it. So when he put it in ebook form, people loved it even when they had no idea who he was.

You can’t just slap up any old post on Kindle. You need to use your best content. Use content that’s inherently valuable.

For example, if you have a post about how to choose a quality ecommerce shopping cart for your site, and you know it’s stellar, go right ahead. Put that up there. People will buy it, because some of the people who go to Amazon look specifically for ebooks on just that.

Could they find the same information on your blog? Yes. Yes, they could. But that’s not where they’re looking.

And who are you to tell them they’re looking in the wrong place?

Make the most of these new readers

Be smart about this. Don’t settle for .99 — use the new format to build your audience.

Put a bio at the end of your ebook. Put in a link to your blog (or even better, to a really good autoresponder). If they like what you’ve written in the ebook, they’re going to like the rest of your content. At best, you’ll get new readers, conversions, and clients out of the deal.

At worst, you’ll get a bit of money for the hard work you poured into creating the content. And I’m sure you deserve that.

About the Author: Want to learn how to write content that people would pay money for? Check out Damn Fine Words, the writing course for business owners brought to you by the infamous James Chartrand of Men with Pens. You’ll learn exactly what you need to know so you can write effective content that gets you results.

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  1. This is a very interesting concept, one that I’ve been tossing around in my head for some time. I’ve even experimented with a few examples like this with some success. My price point was around $2.99 – $4.95, and a few copies were sold over time like that on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    However, my constant concern is – what happens when everyone discovers they can do this, and the market becomes flooded with new paid micro-content like this? I don’t see Amazon being able to police or edit the eBooks that are for sale too much, so there’s sure to be a LOT of very sub-standard books out there, diluting the rest to the point where it makes it less than valuable for the reader overall.

    That could negatively impact the reader’s experience in the store, or cause them to revert to looking for all the free stuff they know is out there. It may have required effort to find before, but now that effort is balanced out by the effort of hunting through the paid material to find the good nuggets.

    Just wondering where this all might go. I’m sure the truth, as ever, will be stranger than fiction.

    • Like everything we do online, we just have to keep paying attention. If the clutter gets too bad on Amazon, try something else. This is a great moment to jump in, because the overwhelming wave hasn’t happened yet, especially with nonfiction.

      There’s a fair amount of not-that-great inexpensive fiction on Amazon, and the review system does seem to work well to let readers pick the best stuff.

      • I’m with Sonia on this one – the strong survive, and the wanna-bes… well, they try and eventually don’t get many results. Good writing that’s engaging and interesting will always be popular.

        And Brian once said it well: When they zig, you zag. There’s always a way to be different and stand out from increasing competition.

        • Totally. And strong doesn’t just mean strong writing. There are thousands of amazing writers languishing below millionth place in the Amazon charts. It means strong marketing, too, to get those books sold.

  2. It’s funny how, not only have I been thinking about doing this, but also I’ve bought content like this too.

    Kindle was the first place I thought about publishing, but if you can find marketplaces that aren’t oversatured, you can succeed too. For exampled, the BlackBerry PlayBook app world has lots of room for content like that, I’ve bought bad content because it’s just so limited, so I can only imagine if you had great content packaged, you could easily charge 0.99$ to 2.99$ and get tons of buyers and new exposure. It can be time consuming to learn of the rules for each marketplace but I would suggest trying it for each place once and then keep going with the ones that work best for you.

  3. James,

    This is re-packaging at its best… Great idea to ‘reverse engineer’ old, good blog posts and turn them into paid lead-gen products.

    I guess it worked for 37 signals, so why can’t it work for the rest of us, eh?

    It sure took awhile to the kindle format to catch on, but I think those of us in information marketing have got a whole new playground for people that like instant gratification.

    It just saves the step between e-book downloading and printing it out or uploading it to some device. I’m excited to see how the next year or so pans out with just about everyone and their mother jumping on the Kindle bandwagon.

    There’s sure to be a TON of ‘junque,’ but the good stuff is gonna get in front of a lot more people.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

    • I think repackaging is important. Just the other day I found a series I’d written on my blog, eons ago, and realized… why let that go to waste? It was GOOD material. Breathing new life into it for a new audience is just smart business :)

      • That’s exactly what Sean Platt did, except backwards. He wrote Writing Online, published it on Amazon. Then he used content from the book to create an AMAZING 30-day ecourse on Ghostwriter Dad.

  4. Thanks James for this great idea.
    I started blogging to get myself “out there” as I set myself up as an independent. I have now been posting for more than a year and had in fact started compiling my website content into an E-Book before reading that I should make it several, otherwise I had nothing left to sell afterwards!
    Thanks for proposing this other way of monetising my hours of content writing.
    Let’s hope it is as easy as you make it sound!

  5. This is exactly what I did recently with my new book (Attract and Feed a Hungry Crowd), and it’s been working really well. You’re right tho — you can’t just slap old blog posts together and upload it to Kindle. It DOES need to rock and be presented in a quality way if you want people to take you seriously (and possibly buy more/other stuff from you later). Just think: For thousands of readers who download your book (or buy the print version), this is your first introduction to them — and first impressions are crazy-important. It goes beyond the extra $$ you make from book sales. Books are business cards for bigger (more expensive) purchases!

  6. Thanks James. This is sound advice coming from an extremely successful blogger.

    The problem is that a beginner author is totally unknown, so why would people buy from him or her? The first time publisher also need to do a lot of email marketing over and above the fact that the book is available on Amazon. However, in my case I haven’t yet grown a large mailing list of opt-in subscribers, so its a catch 22 situation. Without a substantial number of blog followers or a large mailing list, it seems I’m screwed.

    • Well, here’s a thought: Who knows you’re NOT famous? Who knows you’re just starting out?

      Only you. When people land on your book’s page, they don’t know if you’re some superstar they just haven’t heard of yet or whether you hopped online yesterday… that is, unless you flat out tell them. (And why would you?)

      Here’s another thought: When I browse through Amazon’s huge numbers of books and ebooks, I really have no idea who’s big and who’s new to it. I don’t really care, either – if I’m looking for a book on ‘content strategy’, for example, I search and see what comes up.

      There are some visual cues, like the number of reviews or a hot-looking cover that might influence my buying decision somewhat, but generally speaking, I’m looking for other clues that this might be a good buy:

      Does this interest me?
      Is it relevant to what I was looking for?
      Does the write-up summary of the book sound like what I need?

      Interest, relevance and solution… that’s the hat trick of engagement, right? ;)

    • Pieter kindle is actually the best place for a new author anywhere else you would need people to know you. With kindle all you need is amazon and its review system and of course some great content. Most of the kindle books I have purchased are not from known authors. Actually some of the better books are from authors who are not know.

      Take a look at some of the book in the top 100 they are from first time authors.

    • On top of what James said, publishing a book boost your credibility. So once you’re published (and that includes self-published), people are more likely to sign up to your list.

  7. Brilliant idea.

    There’s been a lot of commotion about Kindle being a new medium for bloggers, but until now I felt like I didn’t have the time to start creating new content. But re-purposing “old stuff” is a heck of a lot easier than writing new material -even if I have to rework the new material by adding pictures, more content, and spend time formatting.”

    This is also much better: built-in audience, built-in marketing (“customers who viewed/bought this item also viewed/bought..”) are hard to beat at 99 cents a pop. This is even better than the latest trend to give stuff away free, because I think people tend to be suspicious about the free stuff.

  8. Great post! Love the practical advice and real life examples. I’m a sucker for Kindle books, but not in a bad way, I just like the convenient package of a Kindle book, and the benefits of being able to highlight and make notes right within Kindle. Not to mention you can link multimedia to a digital version of a book – Like a YouTube video or audio track. You got me thinking!! Now, if I could just WRITE – LOL. (Yes, I know there’s help for that on Kindle too!)

  9. This article is brilliant! We’ve all heard about re-purposing content. However, the way James talked about one traffic source type (e-reader devices) made the topic refreshingly clear. It sparked a lot of thoughts on what to produce, how, and where. Thanks for this post!

  10. Hmmm. Super interesting idea, and perhaps just the experiment I’m looking for this week. I’ve been toying with a short ebook idea for one of my side-project blogs, but avoiding it because I figured I needed all new content…now you’ve got me thinking, maybe not so much. There’s a specific post that gets a bunch of traffic from google searches and would make a rad little instructional ebook. Ok, I’ve talked myself into this now. Time to create an experimental ebook of recycled content…FOR SCIENCE!

  11. “Could they find the same information on your blog? Yes. Yes, they could. But that’s not where they’re looking.
    And who are you to tell them they’re looking in the wrong place?”
    You make a good point! I’ve dealt with many site owners that are worried all that free content would actually devalue their services, but if it’s packaged in the right way to the right audience it can actually benefit your site!

  12. There is a problem with this: Amazon has been steadily removing titles that contain content freely available on the web. And at least one of those authors only had an *excerpt* available on her own site, not the full work. (Amazon did reinstate her title eventually.)

  13. Great post.

    As someone who is in the process of writing a book, reading helpful tips like this is really useful and will probably save me hours. More similar posts would be great too. ;-)

  14. Hi James,

    This is great advice, but I’m wondering if it’s more appropriate for a seasoned blogger, or at least someone with a larger following? I’ve only bet at this for eight months, but am already thinking about repurposing some content. I also have several major posts in the works and an ebook that might just help a peep or two out.

    I would love to place that on Amazon, but am just wondering if it’s worth the effort of a relative unknown author / beginner / blogging freshman, um sophomore? Maybe I’ll just get the courage to jump on in thanks to you.

    I recently listened to interviews regarding this. Jim Kukral and Julien Smith, two people who seem to know what they are doing ;)

    Thanks!

  15. Very interesting. I currently have 2 books in Amazon’s KDP program and asked Amazon support to clarify how much of the content I could use for previews without crossing the line of the KDP exclusive agrement. They told me no more than 10% of the book – which is plenty for a preview.

    • Do you mean you have 2 books in the Select program? KDP is regular platform and doesn’t require exclusivity. Select does (90 days per title submitted).

      The people who’ve complained about having books blocked due to the ‘freely available content’ have included both Select and regular KDP titles.

  16. Wow, think I blew a gasket on this one. Mind boggling how new avenues continue to pop up. Thanks for the ideas, I’m always a fan of repurposing–especially when it’s sweat and work already invested!

  17. I wonder if it’s the price that drives people to buy that .99c book..? Or, does the word ‘free’ becomes overrated these days that’s synonymous to cheap/no value at all? Perhaps, this is why people still buy ebooks.. because when they pay for something, regardless of the price, they feel they have something more valuable? I’m just making assumptions.

  18. Hey James,

    thanks for a really great and well written article – I like the analogy.

    Though I agree with you entirely I agree mainly on the point of convenience (e.g. taking the ebook on a plane) which makes me wonder about the other point you make about the ignorance of the free version in the blog post – do you think it’s better to be up front about the fact that the same info is available for free or not to mention that at all?

    thanks & best wishes,
    Alan

  19. Excellent article, thank you! I have lots of ineresting content on my website which is forgotten. No one reads it, but it is really valuable. So am going to create a few ebooks – free or paid ones and distribute them.

  20. James, You got me going on this choice beef.article. As a long time book coach, I always suggest turning blog posts into a short ebook. You do need to use transitions that work though, not just a list of blog titles and articles. Peope will complain if not enough meat, even in 99 cent books. .

    This tip may help: Gather your testimonials before you post the book. Offer the free book to your list or to influentals in exchange for testimonials. They do matter, and keep promoting everywhere.

    • Thanks for that tip, Judy!

      I have been considering putting posts together as an e-book or hard copy for my chalet guests to use – a lot less messy than having leaflets lying about and something they can use as a basis to begin to plan their holiday schedules to make the most of their time. I could get testimonials from them, maybe?

  21. Thanks James for this amazing post. This is a great idea worth emulating. Well, why not? Recycling content from your own blog, that is. Anyway it’s your own work and if people are going to buy it, then great!

  22. I love this idea. I have a series of posts that I did no my website that I think would convert to a small e-book very well. Thanks for the great ideas and information.

  23. I’m wondering while we’re talking posts (which is an excellent idea and you were my inspiration for a post last night btw) couldn’t a person do the same with say a series of articles they’ve written? Years ago, and as the right things seem to be “timeless” online, one article in particular I wrote was picked up by a major online newsletter. I had no clue where the flood of new clients was coming from until I asked. I tracked it down and lo and behold.

    That aside, what do you think of using articles? Reworked perhaps in more of a “blog style” of writing and you’d not only have new, great content, but an additional resource to pull ideas from for even more posts (depending, of course, on the number of articles one has published).

  24. Looking forward to reading more. Great article post.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

  25. This is brilliant! Having a new group of audience and charge them for it.