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How to Think Like a Successful eBook Author

June 5th, 2012 . by Peggy

 


Rodin's The ThinkerBecoming successful in any field often requires a shift in thinking. Here are some of the shifts that I myself experienced, and that I continue to witness in clients and other successful eBook creators.

1. Stop thinking of yourself as an Author.

Authors are amazing, creative, driven, and professional people. However, as the motivated creator of an eBook trying to crash into what might be a crowded niche, you need to shift yourself from almost all traditional thinking, and quickly.

My own fantasy of what it meant to be an Author was probably like that of many people: the Author as an introvert creative, working from behind a leather-topped desk in a quiet study, the oak-paneled walls lined with books, and a dog stretched out on a thick carpet at my feet. Occasionally, I would fetch myself a whisky from the mini-bar in the corner, or gaze out at my ocean view for inspiration. My publisher would take care of everything, and send me fat checks once a month, all because I was gifting the world with the gold that came out of my brain.

Yeah, that’s pretty far from my reality. Instead, after a rowdy morning of getting the kidlet off to school and taking something out of the freezer for dinner, I whip through Starbucks on my way to an office that I share with a crowd of marketing types. I then run down my whiteboards and address whomever is screaming the loudest. I eat lunch while typing or talking on the phone, scramble to meet deadlines, meet with new and existing clients about 3 times a week, test out new technologies or tools, write blog posts like this one, plan and execute official launch dates for ebooks or new information products, setup affiliate marketing data for the products of myself and clients, and then when that’s all done, dinner’s over and the kidlet asleep, I do a bit more market research to try to find the next niche that I can exploit to the max.

While I’m not in that luxury den, I must say that I find this much more rewarding. NO, this is NOT a life of luxury, but it is fulfilling. I love marketing. I love technology. And I especially love the freedom that I have to keep reinventing myself and my work over and over again. The reality is that successful fiction Authors (versus me as a product creator) do a lot of the same things I do, all day, every day. They might call themselves something other than an information marketer, but really, that’s what all of us are. Once our false expectations fade about the exotic life of an Author, we discover that this, being a marketer with a sort of literary bent, is actually way more fun.

2. Get into a tech groove.

Let’s face it: books mean technology. Even if you are writing for print in the most traditional sense, with a publisher and (perhaps) even an advance, you’re still in a technology-run business. There is simply no working around that. The time of Authors being lumped in with lawyers and real-estate agents for their lack of tech knowledge has passed. Content creators must now at least understand, and hopefully fully control, all aspects of their content distribution.

At the very least, all Authors must get used to the basics;

  • Writing on a computer, using appropriate word-processing software. 
  • Creating eBook content using a standard word-processor. 
  • Using social media. 
  • Blogging or creating other web content. 
  • Deploying and managing their content (and things like reviews) on popular eBook platforms like Kindle or Nook, etc.
  • Linking to places where people can buy the books, and making them easily accessible.
  • Managing a mailing list properly.

The more advanced techy types will take it to the next level;

  • Setting up a shopping cart on your website to sell books and eBooks. 
  • Formatting your own eBook uploads.
  •  Managing your own blog platform, on WordPress. 
  • Setting up things like feeds for your blog or website.
  • Tracking visitors to your blog or website, to see where your visitors are coming from.

And then there are the ones that really exploit the technology that makes money;

  • Conducting webinars or teleseminars. 
  • Using web video conferencing for lectures or virtual signings. 
  • Managing an ongoing affiliate marketing program.
  • Managing digital ad campaigns to sell books or eBooks.
  • Using podcasting to gain recognition and drive traffic.

If you know you’re stuck in the first paragraph, or less, at least know what you need to delegate to the techy types – and how to explain to them what you want.

3. Stop waiting.

The slowness of the literary industry is improving, but it is still its Achilles heel. Independent product creators must work faster in order to meet demand and build market share. In my observation over many years, the idea for a novel does not get better if it steeps for a few years. Instead, it gets neglected. It’s not just about writing every day, which is also essential, but about setting up a production schedule. This allows you to move from one completed project to the next, without losing your momentum or enthusiasm or joy for the content. In the case of non-fiction, there’s often a window of opportunity that is fleeting and small. You either grab it, or you miss it. Speed of production is the way to make money.

4. Keep producing.

If all you have in you is one novel a year, please be sure you have another job. (But don’t stop writing that one novel, either!) One product does not a company make. But, one product can a market open. What I mean by this is that you can do a lot of work to launch one product into the market, and once you open that door, you then capitalize on that by creating more products to fill the market space you have created. Once you have your spearhead product created, be sure to follow it up right away with a companion product, or a sequel, or a study guide, or a series of implementation exercises, or a new edition, or, or, etc. As the expression goes, the second eBook takes 1/10th of the work, and makes you 10 times the money.

5. Template what works.

If I were to consider selling my business, I know that the part that would be assessed for the greatest value would be my templates. I have systems up the ying/yang. Spreadsheets for processes, lists for checking off, template documents with fill-in-the-blanks, step-by-step guides for myself and for clients, pre-formatted documents for creating everything from class handouts to new eBooks, etc. etc. This is where your real value in a business lies: in its systems. This is true of almost every company. McDonald’s is nothing without its templated systems for everything from food processing and handling, to uniforms for employees, to how to scrub a toilet. Templates are what allow success to repeat. I rarely do anything more than once, because in everything I create or do, I look for a way to be able to do it again without any extra work. Yes, I have a lot of wall charts. Yes, I keep a pile of post-it notes in my bathroom magazine rack. Yes, that makes me look like a major geek. But I know that if I want to look professional, I need to save time, and templating is the only way I know to do that effectively.

The moment I let go of the unrealistic fantasy was the moment my company was born. I found real joy in offering something of value to a market that wanted it. I love sharing this with consulting clients, and watching them make the same shift and get real. No, I don’t have an ocean view (especially here in Las Vegas!) but I do have constant inspiration.

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The 5 Most Stupid Things People Do With Their eBook Business

June 8th, 2011 . by Peggy

I’ve often said that it is our duty as entrepreneurial publishers to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Like our Mothers in the 1960′s and 1970′s, we are paving the road for those who come after us. If we make eBooks and entrepreneurial publishing look cheap, unprofessional, or just plain awful, what are we doing to the next generation?

Here are the mistakes I see all the time that make me crazy.

1. We seek out the ugliest possible cover design.

Please, I’m begging you, hire a designer. A professional. A person that has done this before. A person with training. Have them do a few different samples (not complete designs) and run them past your creative circle. Remember, you’re looking for readability, a graphic theme that clearly states the book’s intent, and no half-faded images. And remember, NO CREEPY FONTS. I will find you.

2. We don’t make use of affiliate marketing.

These things don’t sell themselves, people. I always endorse a self-operated affiliate program first, but if your book is on Amazon, set yourself up as an Amazon affiliate. Using their simple automated system, create banner ads and other affiliate links for your own products. Push these links out through your Twitter stream, your Facebook page, your podcasts, your iTunes content, your blog, your charitable fundraising connections, your reviews, your classes, your signage, on your business cards, your newsletter, etc. Be a little pushy. (But not too much.) Create a URL that you can promote that links directly to a page with your own products. (See the next post for how to do that.)

3. We think we’re going to make $120,000 a month.

Around these parts, here on Vancouver Island, there was a story about a woman in Cedar, BC, that did over $120k per month in nothing but Kindle eBooks. While I doubt the truth of that, even if it was the case, she doesn’t do that in her sleep. She’s working – probably really, really hard. Or at least, really, really consistently. She runs it like a business, which means she has specific things she does over and over again, and on a predictable basis. She meets deadlines and hires help. And, we’re not talking about one eBook. We’re probably talking about hundreds – possibly thousands. So, until you’ve gone through the ramp-up phase, don’t expect to be buying anything more than a Friday night round at the pub with eBook revenue.

4. We don’t get off our high horse.

I not too proud to know I’m not a literary giant. I make my money writing marketing stuff, for the most part. I’m a small fish in a massive ocean, but I work it. I have no qualms about promoting my stuff when it’s appropriate (vs. when I would just be harassing people).I consider most of what I do as a writer is marketing work, not great writing. No, my mom doesn’t think I do a very good job on some of it. But I know that I’m meeting the objectives of my clients. I don’t write romances or the next Great Gatsby or children’s lit, because although that sort of lit comes into my house on a daily basis, I have no illusions about myself as some great fiction writer or novelist. Yes, it would be nice to make my living doing that, but I still have the screenplays in the bottom drawer, and the novel that I peck away at when I can. It’s more like an extremely enjoyable hobby. And even if I did ever offer anything like that for sale, I wouldn’t have any snobbery about where I placed ads, or where I was “represented”. I’m here to sell. Show me the money.

5. We don’t write another book.

I have recently completed eBook number 155. That sounds like a lot. I can tell you, it feels like even more. Many of them probably don’t get read, like, ever. But I am not offended by this. They are often given away as free reports or client gifts. Remember the volume principle: one book makes $1 a day. Ten books make $10 a day. And so on. The eBook business is a template business – you do the same thing over and over again. There is an expression in the book business: the second book takes 1/10th of the time to create and makes you 10 times the money. In eBooks, it might be 100 times the money.

Plus, I now have a reputation. I can write almost anything, because what I am is a good Technical Writer – I specialize in breaking down complex topics and making them easy to understand. I’ve proven my template, and it works to meet my clients’ objectives. They won’t always pay for originality, but they will pay for what makes them money.

Topics that I’ve researched and then written include WWII weaponry, high-speed Italian cars, and ancient Egyptian enbalming techniques. But most of it is things like how you can buy stocks, how to get a mortgage as a single mother with no money, how you can sell a business in Illinois, how you can buy a house in Mexico, how you can amalgamate all your debts with a second mortgage, how to start a business in Nevada, and other incredibly dry topics that make my hands shake when I think about them. But, it’s about continuity. I get the work regularly because I’ve done it before.

The eBook business is about business – not always about literature. It’s about creating a community about your book. It’s about connecting through your marketing, not just pushing, pushing, and pushing. We all make mistakes – I discover new ones every day that I’m making – but taking things in perspective helps me stay grounded and keep working. “Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing…”

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The Word On The Street – Here I Come!

September 14th, 2010 . by Peggy

I’m super proud to be speaking at this year’s The Word On The Street Festival in Vancouver, BC. On Sunday, September 26th, the other two Book Broads and I will be hosting a FREE panel titled “Build it and they will come – NAH!” It’s all about book marketing, publicity, and generally being in people’s faces.

The description of our talk goes something like this: “Many writers assume once the book is complete, it will sell itself, right? Wrong. No matter the method of publication — traditionally published, entrepreneurially published, or electronically published — the onus of promotion falls on the author. The Book Broads offer practical advice for writers (published or not) to raise their profiles, extend their reach and build their fan base.
Join Angela Crocker, Kimberly Plumley, and Peggy Richardson as they take the sting out of the overwhelming prospect of media interviews, blog posts, Facebook updates, podcasting, and so much more.”

Queue up early! We start at 1:45pm downstairs in the Peter Kaye room of the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. (Yeah, that building that looks like the Roman Colloseum.)

See you there!

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I’m Speaking at Northern Voice This Weekend #nv10

May 5th, 2010 . by Peggy

I’ll be speaking at Northern Voice (#nv10) this weekend in Vancouver, Canada. This is the Canadian personal blogging and social media conference that’s now in its’ sixth year, and is being held at the Life Sciences Centre out at UBC.

I’m very proud to be co-presenting with Angela Crocker and Kim Plumley as The Book Broads. The title of our talk is “Flog Your Blog“, which is all about how to turn your blog into a book. The talk is scheduled for 1:45pm on Saturday May 8th, in room 1510. (That’s a bigger room than we were originally scheduled to use.)

Topics we’ll cover include;

- traditional publishing vs. self-publishing
- how to tell if your blog is a good candidate for publishing
- examples of bloggers who’ve successfully turned their blogs into books
- what *not* to do to turn your blog into a book
- how to use social media in conjunction with traditional publicity to help market your book
- how to choose the right options for various types of publishing
- eBooks vs. print books (and other options you may not have considered)
- how to market your book long before it’s published
- what the real job of a successful Author is
- your first, second and third steps to get it happening

I’ll be following up this session with my workshop on June 19th in Langley (near Vancouver, Canada), the eBook Jumpstart: http://ebookjumpstartlangley.eventbrite.com/.

Hope to see you all there!

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New Speaking Topics!

June 22nd, 2009 . by Peggy

I’ve just updated my website with a new tab labeled “Speaking”, and there you’ll find my revised speaking topics for the rest of 2009.

Short Talks:

1) Using Online Marketing to Get Attention for Your Brick-and-Mortar Business

2) What is “Social Media Marketing” and How to Use it for Greatest Effectiveness

3) Tapping the Potential of Digital and Paper-Based Publishing for Small Business

Long Talks (1.5 hours or less)

1) eBooks – The Next Generation

2) You’ve Written an eBook – Now What?

I’ll be traveling quite a bit this summer, and offering these talks to various organizations in Canada and the USA. If you’d like to book me for a lecture or talk, please call me toll-free at 1-866-907-4084, please drop me a line at info@humanuspublishing.com.

I also really enjoy creating fresh material tailored to the needs of your organization. If you don’t see a topic listed that you’re interested in, just ask. I may already have it in my archives. Some of my additional topics include;

- PodCasting (What It Is, and How Anyone Can Do It)
- Affiliate Marketing for Authors
- Building Your (e)Book Business
- Market Research for Your Book in 1 Hour or Less
- How to Create Your (e)Book From Scratch
- Using You Tube to Market Your (e)Book with Video
- … and more

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Teaching Our Children to be Writers

September 16th, 2008 . by Peggy

Teaching children to be writers teaches children to be readers. My clever 2-year-old hopped up the other day into her little recycled school desk, grabbed my desk calculator, and slammed it down on the desktop like a notebook computer. A moment later I heard her little fingers tickling the keys. When I asked her what she was doing, she smartly told me that she was “writing stories”.

Children can write stories as soon as they can hear them. There is a publishing program for children based in Virgina called “Book in a Day”, which was founded (and still run) by Kwame Alexander, who serves as the President.

As per the BookInADay.com site, “…Alexander has worked as a literacy trainer, creative writing teacher, poet-in-the-schools, and writer-in-residence. As an author, he has written eleven books, including Do The Write Thing: Seven Steps to Publishing Success. As a publishing professional, he has published more than 100 authors. Though Book-in-a-Day is a relatively new program, it is an extension of more than fifteen years of his literacy, literary, and publishing work. ‘Our goal is to tap into students’ emotional intelligences, connect with them in a powerful way. By publishing student work, we can open those doors,’ says Alexander.”

The BookInADay model can be used in any school or group for children, thanks to the documentation developed by the program. “In Book-in-a-Day, students learn how to write a wellcrafted poem, or piece of prose, and how to publish their own work for public consumption. This writing and publishing program is built on the belief that students become avid readers and writers when they assume complete responsibility for becoming authors. When students see the fruit of their labor and the response from readers, a permanent reading/writing connection is made that will transform the way they view and appreciate language and literature.”

As soon as my Dolly is able, I plan to use a POD like Lulu to help her publish her own book. In fact, I think she already understands the concept, because when a new book comes into my office, she always asks, “Mine?”

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Editor On The Road Again…

September 7th, 2008 . by Peggy

I’m going to be out of my regular office from Tuesday, September 9th, through about November 10th, 2008. All of my regular phone numbers, email addresses, and instant message contact info will still work, but you may find that you will be asked to leave voice mail more often than reaching me in person.

Where am I going, you ask? I’ll be in Langley, BC until September 14th, and then on a working sabbatical in Las Vegas Nevada (not a vacation – I swear), with some side trips to visit family in SoCal. Don’t worry – all my regular clients will still be hearing from me regularly as per our appointments previously scheduled.

The most exciting part of this trip is that I’m going to have an opportunity to break out of some stale routines, refresh my own writing, and inject some energy into ongoing projects. All of this involves stuff that will benefit all my current and future clients and projects. I’m especially looking forward to attending BlogWorldExpo 2008 in Las Vegas, from September 19th to 21st. I promise to make some video podcasts from the show, so watch this space for interesting stuff!

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Back to Writing School – Book Recommendations

September 2nd, 2008 . by Peggy

Here are three books that every author, fiction or non, should have in their library. And, at least one of them may not be what you expect.

If a grammar reference could have sex appeal, this would be the book. The Elements of Style is the definitive reference for writers of any type. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I carry this around in my purse. Makes for great reading during your lunch, in the ladies, in a taxi, etc. I don’t care how nerdy this makes me sound. At least I’ll know that I’m using proper sentence structure as I defend that accusation. The 50th Anniversary Edition is now on the way, and the illustrated version has become a cultural icon. You can even download it as an audio book. I’m not sure I could sleep at night if I didn’t know where my copy was.

This next one will seem a bit strange to some, because I’m primarily a non-fiction writer, and I’m about to recommend a book about screenwriting. But Robert McKee’s STORY is based on making content appealing, easily understood, have good flow, timing, and yes, also about using the dreaded plot diagram. All of these still apply, whether you are writing for business, a cookbook, or an instruction manual. Plus, it’s just a great read. This book is also the source of the beautiful quote, “…the story arts have become humanity’s prime source of inspiration, as it seeks to order chaos and gain insight into life.” Good reading no matter what.

The third book is my 12th-grade English text book, Adventures in English Literature, which I sinfully stole from the shelves of my Catholic school on the last day of class. I loved that class, and I loved my instructor, Mrs. Hargreaves. Her genuine love of literature, English and otherwise, was contagious (at least to myself) and I knew I’d use that book over and over again. In the end, I was billed for my missing book, so between that and a few minutes in the confession booth, my debt to society has been paid. It was worth the cost of an over-priced textbook, because it’s amazing how often I use it to look up a poet, their life story, and a summary of their work in 300 words or less. It’s still faster than Google. Authors all the way from Chaucer to modern poets still living are profiled, along with introductory material about each era and the current events that shaped the work of each writer. It’s an extremely useful cultural reference, along with a handy way to confirm the accuracy of quotes and source material. It’s amazing how many current works reference stuff in this volume.

OK, there’s one more, and it’s a recent addition. Teach Yourself Copywriting, by the modest J. Jonathan Gabay, who doesn’t even have his name on the cover, is a tight little volume about writing words that sell stuff. You’ve all heard me say it a million times, “every organization is a sales organization”, and this book is a great summary of how to craft words that tell people about your organization. Clear, to the point, and with extremely useful illustrations and diagrams, this book just doesn’t waste time. Gabay starts from the right place, the mind of the buyer, and ends in the very same spot. A great reminder of what motivates people, how to get them to understand things quickly, and how using fewer well-chosen words is always more powerful than many words used casually. Very enjoyable to read cover to cover.

Enjoy your back to school reading!

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The 6-Hour Blog Class Has Changed Dates

August 21st, 2008 . by Peggy

Due to some unavoidable conflicts (that’s the publishing game, I guess!) two of my blog classes have been moved to new dates.

The Langley BC class that was scheduled for Sept. 6th is now on November 8th, which is still a Saturday. The location is still in the Coast Hotel and Convention Centre on the Fraser Hwy. (What nice people they are to help me out with these last-minute changes!)

The Las Vegas, Nevada Class that was scheduled for Sept. 22nd is now on January 10th, 2009, which is a Saturday instead of a Monday. (People seem to prefer Saturdays.) The location for this date will be confirmed shortly.

The other two classes will remain the same:

Surrey, BC, on October 27th, which is the Monday after the Surrey Writer’s Festival. The location for this date will also be confirmed shortly.

And Nanaimo, BC, on October 29th, which is a Wednesday. This class will be held at the lovely new Vancouver Island Conference Centre in downtown old Nanaimo. If you haven’t seen this building going up, you’re going to be amazed – it’s totally world-class.

Thanks to all registrants who were kind enough not to complain when I changed the classes. There will be extra chocolate in it for you…

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