Generate Passive Income Through EBooks

Jenna Kutcher 

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December 17, 2018


Passive income streams are my favorite income streams. What would it look like to make money while you slept? Today I have the expert on Ebooks to talk how she and her husband have sold over 100,000 of ‘em to fuel the their business.

I’m so excited to introduce you to one of my mastermind girls: Kelly McNelis. She makes this whole girl boss thing look effortless. Kelly is the wife, mother of five, and crockpot addict behind The Family Freezer. She shares healthy, simple, and budget-friendly recipes and she’s made a living off of selling ebooks online. Now she’s teaching us how to do the same!

Today Kelly is walking us through the A-to-Z of creating an ebook, marketing hacks to ensure your product gets seen (and purchased!), and her best advice if you’re contemplating an ebook venture. Who wants to make money while you sleep?

Her Story

“I took a totally long, random path to get here.”

Kelly’s story begins with grad school, when she added on four extra years of school to earn her PhD in psychology. Her first gig was doing research for the government which she describes as totally boring. She found herself taking long lunches, running errands during work hours, and really, dodging the work she didn’t enjoy. She finally realized that there was no purpose in having a job she didn’t love and paying someone to take care of her children only to avoid the actual work. Kelly started her business not because she wanted to be an entrepreneur, but because she chose not to work at a job she didn’t love.

Kelly took the big plunge into the entrepreneurial life after her mother sent her an article about wellness coaching. The idea made sense — she studied how to motivate people to exercise in her PhD program, and it was always a personal interest of hers. Plus, a coaching role got her out of the boring government job and working for herself. She earned her wellness coach certification, launched a website, formed an LLC, and started blogging recipes and workout tips. It was quickly apparent that Kelly’s audience loved the recipes she shared on her blog. That was the beginning of it all for Kelly.

Her “Embarrassing” Goal

In 2015, Kelly made a New Year’s Resolution to make a full time income from her business and blog. And she said she was embarrassed to talk about her goal! She didn’t have it all figured out. She didn’t know how to make it work. But the secret to Kelly’s success was her determination. This girl got scrappy. Kelly took on random blogging jobs, she guest posted for other people, she shot food photos for other content creators. Fast forward to 2018 and Kelly makes a full time income, supports her family, and lives the lifestyle she always dreamed of… Working just 1-2 hours a day. “I want to work as little as possible and make as much money as I can.”

So if it felt like an embarrassing goal, how did Kelly know it would work? She had a few clues along the way. The very first time she launched a product to her email list she made over $10,000 in one month. It was her first big win leveraging her email list in her business, and it gave her a big boost of confidence in her business and proof of concept that the ebook strategy could work.

The second clue that proved to Kelly her business could work was the day one of her blog posts went viral. Over 1 million people viewed her post in one day and crashed her website. She had residual traffic and sales for the rest of the year. It was enough for Kelly’s husband to quit his job and start focusing on the business with her full time.

How to Pick a Topic

How do you come up with a topic that will sell? Kelly’s advice: “Your topic is what people already love about you.” What are your top 10 blog posts? What content gets the most likes on social media? Create a list of 10 things that people like about you or your brand and find the commonalities between every item on the list. Use those themes to formulate your ideas for ebook topic. When you have three strong contenders for your topic idea, do some heavy Amazon and Google searches for the same topic. Determine how your ebook will be different from what’s already available on the market and fine tune two ideas based on the results. Finally, poll your audience. We’re so close to our own “genius areas” that it’s easy to forget the value of sharing ebooks (or courses or freebies, etc.) on the topic. Do an IG poll, start a comment thread on Facebook, just ASK THE AUDIENCE. It’s the best way to determine what they actually want, and more importantly, what they’ll purchase.

How to Launch Your EBook

After many ebook launches, Kelly still uses the same strategy she employed on day one. Kelly and her husband are big fans of Jeff Walker’s “Launch”. One of the most important steps (and one many people skip) is serving your audience in the pre-launch. Get your audience excited about the approaching launch. Answer questions about the product that handle concerns they have about the product. For example, if you’re launching a fitness product your audience might wonder about it’s intensity, if they need to join a gym, or if they’ll be able to fit the methods into their busy lives. Serve your audience by answering these questions and built anticipation for the ebook. When the product finally launches you’ve already addressed all of their concerns, so everybody is ready to buy. Without pre-launch efforts, you’ll have to work that much harder to make a sale when you finally launch.

Keep Selling

There are plenty of ways to keep selling your product past the launch without being “annoying”. Try creating an ad for your product (sounds so basic right?) but do it! Then include that ad in blogs posts or emails wherever you’re offering free content to your audience. You’re serving your audience with the free content and offering them even more with your ebook for a small purchase price. A lot of Kelly’s viewers land on her website through a blog post via Pinterest, so including the ad in a post ensures that viewer knows from the start that Kelly has an ebook for sale and if they like the free blog, they’ll love the ebook.

More from This Episode

Kelly has sold over 50,000 ebooks, recently launched a membership component to her site, and is now pivoting into teaching others how to create a life fueled by ebook sales. “I desperately want this life for other people,” Kelly said. If you want to hear about Kelly’s new adventure, how you can learn from her years of trial and error in the world of ebooks, the technical requirements for creating your very own ebook (Hint: You already have the tools you need), and more tips for using ebooks to generate passive income, then you’ve got to listen into today’s episode. Just press play on the player above.


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  1. […] really like this podcast episode she has on ebooks, featuring Kelly McNelis.  It’s always inspiring to read about someone who just put […]

  2. […] Here’s an example of how you can use one blog post to create content across multiple platforms. Jenna Kutcher, online educator and podcaster, posted about a podcast interview with Kelly McNelis. […]

  3. Cassie says:

    This podcast was SO inspiring! All of yours are inspiring, ithis one however really stayed with me after listening to it. I love all things graphic design, handmade, diy and find myself giving out a lot of advice to friends, family and on various blogs and forums in areas I am passionate about.
    I discovered your podcast and products a few
    months ago and listen whenever I can and
    recently purchased your Pinterest lab which
    has been fantastic so far!
    I was wondering if there is a website offered to find out more information on the ebook tutorials or if that is something still in the works? If this is mentioned in the podcast and I missed it I apologize.

    Thank you,



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Before you get any further... Hi! I'm Jenna Kutcher!

A small town Minnesota photographer, podcaster, educator and puppy rescuer, my happiest days are spent behind my computer screen sharing my secrets with the world. I'm glad you're here.

I’m an expert at online marketing, a nerd when it comes to the numbers, and my obsession is teaching others how to make a living doing what they love (without it taking over their life). 

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