How a blogger sold $72,000 in ebooks over a 3-day period

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In 2014, Alexis Grant embarked on an experiment to monetize her audience. Nine months earlier, she’d launched The Write Life, a blog geared toward writers who want to make a living from their craft, and she thought the blog’s readers would benefit from a bundle of ebooks and online courses designed specifically for writers.

Grant ended up bundling over $700 worth of products and selling the bundle for $79. To increase urgency, she limited the sale to a three-day period. She also enlisted the help of other bloggers and online influencers to help push the sale, paying them an affiliate fee for every user they converted.

That first year, she generated $34,000. The next year she increased that figure to $72,000. This year she plans to sell another bundle and hopes to generate up to $74,000 in sales. I recently interviewed Grant about how she came up with the idea for the bundle, how she recruits content creators, and why she partnered with affiliates rather than just selling it to her own audience. 

So tell me how you first got the idea for the bundle

We ran this bundle for the first time in 2014, nine months after I launched The Write Life. Honestly, I can't remember how we came up with it at the time, but I probably saw someone else doing it and wanted to apply it to our niche.

This will be our fourth time running it. I wanted to come back to it for a few reasons 1) It's a great revenue-driver and brand-builder 2) It combines the parts of business I really enjoy, like marketing, metrics, and networking, and 3) I think the timing is good because of COVID; people need ways to make more income and we can provide value in helping them do that.

What's the appeal behind it? Is it that it's a relatively quick sale and you don't have to put a lot of effort in creating the content you're actually selling?

While the sale itself only lasts three days, it takes weeks of preparation, so I wouldn't say it's a quick/easy sale. But I like that it leverages the community we've built over the years, both the people who follow the brand directly, and the other companies/people we've gotten to know in the space who sell as affiliates. The other appeal for me personally is that we don't have to create our own product, although we've included one of our ebooks in the bundle in the past. Instead, the value is in getting all these people together and knowing how to organize the offer so it's a win-win-win, for our community, our affiliates, and us.

How do you go about planning what you want to actually include in the bundle, and what's the process of reaching out to content creators to convince them it's worth their time?

This is the first step, it's what we're doing now actually. We focus on a few factors when deciding what/who to include in the bundle:

1) Value for writers. Which courses, ebooks, tools or other products will help them the most in growing their freelance writing career? 

2) Diversity of products. We look to have a variety of products. Some overlap, but we don't want to include a bunch of courses on the exact same topic. For example, the theme this year is freelance writing, so in an ideal world we'll have a course or ebook or two on how to grow your freelance writing career, then surround that with other products, say a way to learn SEO, how to get clients, an editing tool, etc.

3) Diversity of creators. This one can be tough, but it's worth the extra effort; we try to include products from creators with different backgrounds and perspectives.

4) How big a following the product creator brings. This is important because it's how we get the word out about the bundle. Sometimes there are products we really want to include that won't bring an audience. It's OK to have a few of those, we just need both. I'd say this is the component that I've seen others overlook the first time they've run this type of sale. If all your product creators are unknowns, they won't bring sales to the bundle. 

In terms of reaching out to creators, we lean on a few pieces:

1) Relationships. Ideally these are people we've worked with already or we can get a warm into to. If we know them already, they know us and trust we'll do a good job that reflects positively on them. This is key. If you want to run this type of sale, network strategically ahead of time.

2) Our brand. We're known in the writing space as a reputable brand that has a big following. That helps.

3) We outline really clearly that this will be a win for the partner financially, and a win for their audience. We also go out of their way to be super organized and make it really easy to participate.

What platform do you use to sell the bundle?

In the past we've combined our website (on WordPress) with e-junkie. 

E-junkie is super simple to use and cheap, just $5-18/month depending on which tier you need (size of your files). However, I know there are better tools in this space now that I'd like to check out ahead of the sale this year (i.e. Gumroad). Because we're only delivering files that point users toward other people's platforms, we don't need anything fancy. Some of the courses in the bundle, for example, might be on Teachable, but we don't have to be on Teachable to offer it.

I also like ejunkie because it's really easy to track affiliate sales. 

The Write Life has a pretty large email list and audience you sell to. But you also use what you refer to as "affiliates" to help sell the bundle. What are affiliates and how do you recruit them?

Affiliates are companies/people who sell the bundle to their audience and get a cut of the profit.

For this year's sale, we'll offer the bundle at $99. Affiliates get 20% when they sell to their audience, so about $20 per sale. (Affiliates who have a product in the bundle get 40%.)

Getting them on board comes back to the same set of guidelines I shared re: recruiting companies to include their product in the bundle. It's mostly about relationships and reputation. If it's someone new we haven't worked with before, we also let them know how we make it easy for them to participate and share some success metrics from our previous sales, when affiliates earned thousands of dollars. 

At the front of this, of course, is a super valuable bundle their audience will genuinely appreciate. Separately, the items in the bundle usually retail for around $1,500, and buyers get them all for $99 during those three days.

Do affiliates count for the majority of sales? What's the portion of sales coming from The Write Life community vs affiliates? 

Good question. I'd have to look at dashboards for previous sales to answer it specifically, but generally I can tell you two things:

1) YES affiliates matter. Volume here matters a lot, it's one of the driving forces of the sale.

2) However, when we sell to our own community, we keep 100% of the profit. So in an ideal world, more of the sales would come from our community.

I believe in the past we've seen 100-150 buys from our own community, and hundreds from affiliates. So we really need a combo to make it work.

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Simon Owens is a tech and media journalist living in Washington, DC. Follow him on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn. Email him at simonowens@gmail.com. For a full bio, go here.