In an age of information, content is a product just like any other. And as a content creator, there is nothing wrong if you decide to make some money off it. Good content is rare and totally worthy of being paid for.
One of the best ways to monetize your content is to pack it as a PDF you can sell online. Why? How? We’ll explain in this article and share some tips on making profit with your PDF content.
Why Sell PDFs Online?
For starters, PDF is the most common format, so whichever device your readers prefer, they will always be able to access your content. And as it’s so popular, there are many ways to put your PDF out there, market, and sell it.
If you aren’t used to selling your content yet, you may feel a bit anxious about the entire idea. But as we’ve stated earlier, content is a product. And one that takes a lot of creativity, knowledge, time, and effort. Even if you hire a designer who helps you with the visuals, you are the author sharing your unique experience. So, though you might not feel like your content costs anything, chances are it does. And when you pack it into a beautiful document that will bring value to your audience, there’s nothing wrong with getting paid for it.
How to create a compelling PDF document
PDFs are great because they’re extremely easy to create with Adobe Acrobat DC, MS Word, Canva, or even Google Slides. You can prepare a PDF file from scratch and edit it, or make, say, a Google doc and export it to PDF later. Almost any design tool has an option to save your file as a PDF, so you don’t have to acquire any special software or skills.
That being said, the better your PDF looks and feels, the easier it is to justify its price and delight your readers. So it pays off to invest in a good design:
- large, readable fonts that will be easy to read on a small screen,
- clear document structure and navigation,
- engaging images.
Plus, make sure the text in your PDF is selectable and not an image. That will help preserve readability when zoomed in and give your PDF an SEO boost.
12 Types of PDF Content You Can Sell
That’s the best part about selling PDFs online—you can pack almost any content as a PDF effortlessly. The sky is your limit when it comes to creating and selling downloadable PDF content. Here’s a short list of what you can sell as a PDF:
- Industry reports
- How-to guides
- Catalogs with exclusive deals
- DIY patterns
- Courses and worksheets
- Handbooks and manuals
If you’re a designer, you can also make and sell different kinds of editable templates people can use as ready mockups for their content:
- Marketing (magazines, brochures, guides)
- Business (resumes, proposals, presentations)
- Personal (invitations, greeting cards)
Where to Sell Your PDF Online
There are several options if you want to sell your PDFs. Some are applicable to any type of content, others are content-specific.
#1 Online platform
Selling your PDFs via an online platform has both advantages and drawbacks. The first and most obvious perk is that you can capitalize on the platform’s popularity, and use some of its marketing and promotion services. You’re also bringing your content to where potential readers can discover and obtain it in a familiar way. As a result, you will gain wider recognition and will be able to make more money off your PDFs faster. Beware of the competition though! You will need to make your PDF stand out in order for it to draw the desired attention.
A downside of selling your PDF in a marketplace is that you will need to pay a commission on your sales, and the price of your PDF may be limited by the platform’s terms of usage—so you will have to carefully calculate the costs and potential profits before putting your PDF out there.
For B2B content, as well as fiction and non-fiction books, it makes sense to choose Apple Books or Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon, or PublishDrive to publish to Google Play Books. Templates can be sold at marketplaces such as Creative Market, while the best place for craft patterns is Etsy.
Usually, the process of adding your PDF to an online platform is pretty straightforward. But even if you have never done this before, there are numerous guides on how to prepare your PDF book for self-publishing and put it on a platform you prefer. Please keep in mind that you might need to convert your PDF to another format in order to comply with the platform’s requirements.
#2 Your website
If you’ve never sold anything online, doing it all by yourself on your website may seem intimidating, but actually there’s nothing to fear. Your own website is in fact the best place to sell your downloadable PDF. All you need to do is connect it to a payment processing company, such as Paypal or Stripe, and you’ll sell your PDFs without any third parties or limitations.
This is a great option if you put a lot of effort into promoting your brand and website and get a lot of traffic. Then people will discover your content anyway and you will be able to save on marketing, set your own price, and maximize your profits. Plus, there is no competition on your website and you can give your PDF content all the attention it deserves.
How to Make Your PDF More Sellable
PDF is a fantastic tool to share your knowledge with the world in exchange for some money, but to make your efforts really pay off you’ll want your document to stand out. Plus, while PDF may be the most common format, it doesn’t work that well with small screens and some readers. So, depending on your content, there are different ways to make it more attractive to your potential customers:
#1 Convert your PDF to another digital format
Offering a different format instead or alongside your PDF will make your content available to a wider audience, as many people prefer e-readers to reading in a browser.
If you publish ebooks, choose .epub or .kindle—it’s a simple, but effective way to make your content easier to consume.
B2B content, such as magazines, brochures, or catalogs, can be turned into flipbooks from your PDFs. Flipbook is a digital format which makes your content resemble a real-life copy, and offers a better reading experience with additional navigation options and interactive features. Here’s what your PDF may look like as a flipbook:
Flipbook is a great way to present your content if you’re selling it via your own website—just place the flipbook behind a paywall as you would do with a PDF, it’s that simple! And if you’re worried about content protection, many flipbook tools offer privacy options. For example, FlippingBook lets you protect your PDFs with a password, disable options to share, print, and download. And as the for content you want to keep limited to your website, such as course materials, you can publish it as a protected embed that won’t work anywhere outside of your domain.
#2 Brand your content
Even if you don’t run a business, giving your PDF materials a nice clean design and distinctive branding will help with both selling and promotion. Branding will make your content instantly recognizable and memorable, and will link the content back to you—so your audience will know where to get back to for more valuable information.
#3 Make your PDFs interactive
In an era of digital experiences, ‘interactive’ means ‘engaging’. Even some physical books offer interactivity now in forms of dedicated apps or complementing websites. Adding interactive elements to your PDF will definitely add value to it, too, and thanks to modern technologies it’s easier than ever before.
Flipbook apps like FlippingBook let you embed videos, links, and GIFs right on the pages of your PDF. This makes exploring your content fun and offers numerous possibilities for improving it. Are you making guides or patterns? Add short video snippets to illustrate the crafting process better. Showcase the products in the catalog, add pop-up images if you’re publishing magazines. Or, animate the graphs and diagrams in the reports to give them a more polished look—the sky is your limit.
How to Market Your PDF
No matter where you are selling your PDF content—on a platform or via your website, you will need to promote it to succeed. Here are some ideas to help you get started with marketing:
- Social media: Instagram, Facebook, etc. It’s even better if you’re a blogger, but even if not, you can always invest a bit into a paid promotion campaign to boost your brand awareness.
- Email marketing. Maybe you’re already sending out newsletters and useful content—don’t be shy to market paid content as well. If people trust your expertise, they will be happy to support your products.
- Collaboration with other content creators. This may be fun as well as rewarding. You can cross-promote your content and help your audience discover an amazing new creator. It’s a win-win!
- Competitions and give-aways. People love activities and free stuff! Even a small event or a creative assignment can work miracles in expanding your audience and engaging it in an easy, unconventional way. It will help promote your PDF, too, of course!
Bonus tip: How to Sell your PDF as a Flipbook on Shopify
You can easily sell your PDF on Shopify as a downloadable product—there’s nothing wild about that. However, if you want to bring maximum value to your clients by turning PDFs into interactive flipbooks, there’s a way to sell them on Shopify, too.
To do that, you will need three things:
Once you’ve set up the apps, you can add the link to your flipbook to your Shopify account to turn it into a digital product. The trick is to make the flipbook only available to your paid customers. It is possible thanks to FlippingBook’s protected embed feature: only the client who clicks the link on the product page in your Shopify account will be able to view the flipbook. Even if they share the direct link to the flipbook with someone else, the link won’t work. Here’s the detailed guide on how to sell your flipbooks on Shopify if you wish to learn more.
Selling your PDFs might seem complicated at first but it’s really easy once you get the hang of it. You’ve already done the hard part—made valuable content worth sharing. The rest is just a matter of working on a design a bit and choosing the right tools to help you along the way. Good luck!