We recently shared some ideas on how to create and offer free downloads to build your tribe. If you’re looking for a way to make your worthy message work a little harder for you, read on to learn more about how authors can create and sell downloadable digital assets to generate revenue and bolster marketing efforts.

The beauty of creating and selling digital assets is that these tend to be projects that are a bit time-intensive to develop, but once launched, serve as an ongoing passive revenue stream. This means we’re talking about projects that are one-and-done — once you create them, with a few exceptions, you won’t be required to spend any more of your valuable time to make your hard work pay off. So let’s cover some of the most popular paid digital downloads.

types of paid digital downloads

Most of these assets are delivered to the buyers in the form of an electronic document, video, or audio file that is easily downloaded.
short electronic guides, whitepapers or how-to’s.  This digital asset is typically delivered as a PDF file and ranges from 10 up to more than 100 pages. For paid pieces, pay attention to design quality — if you aren’t familiar with graphic design programs such as inDesign, then you might consider hiring a designer. Since you’ll be charging for this piece, make sure you’re pulling together great value!

eBook of cutting room floor material
Got any extra material that was culled from your book during the editing process that you still love and have the right to use? Pull it together into a finished format and offer as a companion piece to your upcoming book.

companion workbooks, journals, or planners
If your area of expertise is in self-help or a subject where prescriptive-style content is appreciated, then consider a workbook, journal, planner, or some other participatory type of offering that will get your readers super-engaged with your book.

Depending on what rights you retain to your work, consider publishing an audiobook version of your book to offer for sale via Audible or from your own website.

guided meditation, lecture series or other audio downloads
If an audiobook version of your book isn’t possible, then consider another type of sound recording. Options like a recorded lecture or meditation series can be sold from your site, while more ambitious projects like companion books or collections of material can be produced through ACX in the same way that any other audiobook is produced.

VIP subscription-based content
If you love creating fresh, new content, then consider offering a paid subscription to VIP, member-only content. This could include weekly reports, newsletters, forums, crowdfunding, project-based support, and other exclusive options.

online courses
While not typically just a ‘digital download,’ if your area of expertise lends itself to extended study, consider developing an online course. Lesson work can be delivered via third-party software meant for online classes and made up of web-based, PDF downloads, audio/video recordings, and often some sort of group or one-on-one component.
why offer paid downloads?


why do this?

Now that you have an idea of what to develop for sale, let’s explore why to develop paid assets.

As with writing and releasing a new book, part of the challenge of launching a successful paid digital download is creating it, and part of the challenge is marketing it — making sure the right people hear about your work and buy it. Each type of digital asset can contribute to your platform and body of work, and each author and thought-leader has a specific style and type of business that works best.

Here are a few of the most common goals in developing digital assets for sale:

develop a major revenue stream
If you’ve been focused on building a platform and following, then creating digital assets might be a great way to generate a significant source of revenue and free up your time! If you’ve got an extensive mailing list of people who love everything you send, then it might be time to focus on giving your fans access to more of your great work.

self-supporting ad funnel
Still working on list building? Consider using a paid offering as a way to create a self-sustaining strategy to get more of the right people on your email list for little to no cost to you. In this approach, create two digital assets, one that you can offer for free and promote via a Facebook advertising campaign; and one that is a paid offering related to the free offering. The goal is to promote your free offering and then suggest the paid offering as a ‘next step’ for the people who opted in for the free offering. At the end of your campaign, you will have tons of new people on your list who are interested in your work while sales of your secondary, paid, offering cover the total cost of the ad campaign.

build credibility and perception of value
Premium pricing strategy is based on the human tendency to perceive value based on cost to the exclusion of all else. By creating a paid offering, you are subtly guiding your followers to perceive your work as ‘more valuable’ than all the other, free, offerings in your niche.

offer a multi-price point marketing funnel and client journey
Related to the previous point, depending on your overall business model, it’s often a good idea to offer your work at various price points so that your ideal audience is able to engage with you at increasing levels of financial commitment. For authors who provide high-end one-on-one services, it’s a great strategy to include entry-level (free-$200), mid-level ($100-$2000), and higher level ($2000 and up) offerings.

how to sell digital downloads

It’s a good idea to decide how you will offer your paid digital asset for sale, collect payment and deliver the download reasonably early in the process. For simple PDF downloads, there are a lot of easy to implement options that you can offer straight from a WordPress website. For more complicated downloads, audio, and time-based offerings like courses and subscriptions, your chosen e-commerce platform might impact your design decisions and file types.

Here are a few popular e-commerce options for various types of downloads.

simple PDFs, audio, and video downloads
Paypal is a familiar platform, ingrained in the way many buy, sell, and send money online. The most straightforward way to sell a download on a WordPress website is via Paypal. Setup is easy — create a Paypal ‘button’ under the ‘Business Setup’ option. You can set the cost and other details in PayPal, then copy the code/link to your website. The customer receives the download via a post-purchase redirected link to a page on your website where you have placed the digital asset for easy download. While simple and inexpensive (the only fee is the Paypal transaction fee), this process can cause problems with customers who get confused during the purchase process and are unable to download the item.

WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin to create and host an online shop on any self-hosted WordPress website. It’s easy to install and works with Paypal, Square, and Stripe. The benefit of using WooCommerce is better access to purchaser information and better delivery of the item to the purchaser via email. The downside of WooCommerce is that it can be a little challenging to get everything to look nice without a bit of extra coding knowledge, so keep that in mind if this seems the right route for you.

third-party/non-Wordpress platforms to sell digital assets
Shopify is a popular standalone platform for e-commerce that includes the capability to create full websites with multiple pages, email signup options, and even a blog — although many choose to have a WordPress site for the blog and other pages and a Shopify site to sell physical and/or digital products. Shopify charges a base monthly fee of around $30, and there are a variety of free themes as well as more robust paid themes that cost between $100 and $200.

Gumroad is a fully stand-alone platform that we’re including due to its ease of use, a lower starting monthly subscription rate compared to Shopify, and the ability to offer a wide variety of types of digital downloads, including rentals, subscriptions, and more. Gumroad also offers a very easy way to offer ‘pay what you will’ pricing, which is a great way to test out the market if you’re unsure what to charge for your digital asset.
selling eBooks and audiobooks
Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) is an easy way to self-publish electronic books with additional options for print-on-demand physical books via Createspace. KDP allows for direct upload of your eBook file and for direct sales via the Amazon platform.

ACX is a great platform that allows authors and rights-holders to connect with experienced voice actors and produce an audiobook that can be offered for sale via Audible, iTunes, and Google Play. Share the revenue with your voice actor for a low-cost entry to audiobook sales.
courses and subscriptions
Teachable is a standalone platform, similar to Shopify in that it offers the ability to build a full website and operates on a subscription-based model. Teachable focuses exclusively on online course development with special features to deliver content all at once, at the student’s own pace or on a pre-determined schedule. As with Shopify, while you can choose to use Shopify as your only website platform, many choose to host a website via WordPress and use Teachable for online courses only.

Patreon is a unique service that allows creators, authors, podcasters and other content creators to offer a subscription model for superfans to pay a small amount to support new content, usually in return for VIP members-only access. Authors use Patreon in a variety of creative ways to support new and ongoing projects. Most Patreon subscriptions are at a low dollar amount (less than $10).

So what’s your plan for offering paid digital content? Do you have another book in the wings ready to go? Love the idea of creating a companion planner for your upcoming book? Let us know in the comments!

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Digital Downloads as a Revenue-Generating Marketing Tool | The Worthy Marketing Group Blog