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5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Wrote My First eBook

July 2nd, 2012 . by Peggy

I’m about to complete my part in eBook number 170. Here’s what I wish I’d known before I started this journey.

1. You will need to write much more than you thought.

Alice might be in Wonderland - but she's not in over her head.

I knew that I’d probably want to write more than just one eBook, in fact, I could imagine dozens that I wanted to create, but deep in my heart, I didn’t really think I’d get to be part of this many. While I’ve certainly not created all 170 alone (about 1/3 of them I did alone – the rest were collaborative efforts with some incredible people) from that first one, I gave myself permission to not do it if I didn’t feel like it. That was not realistic. It was also not professional. I recently said to someone who had just gotten through number 1, “That’s great – now do 7-10 more by the end of the summer.” She was not enthused.

The reality is that eBook success is exponential. This is a volume business. While each item that you create might be a wonderful success, it might also be a horrible failure. Long-term success depends on producing timeless content with a long life span, and creating enough content that you’re known for a body of work rather than one or two products. Besides, a pattern is easy to replicate – only the first eBook is a learning experience.

2. You must be committed to your niche.

Over and freakingover again, I say, know your keywords.

The most expensive part of any business is customer acquisition. (Aka, sales.) Once you get a client under your wing, it’s much cheaper to sell more of the same sort of stuff to the same person, than it is to get new customers. That means that you really need to know your audience, and their needs, from day 1. This is most easily discovered through keyword research. Then your job becomes very simple: just create more of that which your niche desires. Otherwise, you find yourself constantly in a state of experimentation and newness. Your niche is your reader family. Take them unto your bosom. They are actually pretty easy to feed – if they want spaghetti every night, then for heaven’s sake, give it to them.

It took me a few years to get really good at doing keyword research. In the meantime, I did a lot of guessing, and wrote a lot of lovely content that didn’t sell. Spare thyself this agony. I’ve shared the basics here in this free eBook: Keyword Cheat Sheet, now in version 4.2. Costs you nothing to both download and use.

Don’t forget you can also serve multiple niches. I write under 11 different pseudonyms (some for clients, and confidential) and each of those serves a completely different niche. I’m sure there’s crossover, but a pseudonym is like a sign that says to readers, “Hey, remember that stuff you liked? There more of it right here.”

3. The money is in affiliate marketing.

While it’s true that things like SEO and social media are extremely important, affiliate marketing allows me to leverage the networks of others. (I had heard that expression for years before I knew what they were talking about.) By making small payouts for each referral, and making it easily trackable, it means that if I just focus on creating really great stuff, I can make other people confident in recommending it.

Affiliate marketing is a fairly broad term that has a number of different meanings, but essentially, eBookers can use it to track payouts to others who help them sell more books. There is no limit to the number of affiliates you can have, or how creative you can get with it. Watch for more help with this topic from me in coming months, in things like classes and eBooks.

4. It can be extremely boring.

I admit there have been days when I feel like if I spend one more minute looking at a monitor, I’ll claw my own eyes out. To top it off, for a little over 5 years, I worked from home in a beautiful but isolated area, a small gulf island off the west coast of Canada. This meant that if it weren’t for the dog, there were days when I wouldn’t open my front door. If I were to do it again, I’d make sure that I worked in a shared office space of some kind, like I do now, and networked in the real world more, like I do now, and lived in a city or more populated area, like I do now, in Las Vegas.

Besides the lifestyle issues, I now know it wasn’t good for my writing. Isolation is often seen as a requirement of Authors, and while I’ve seen the benefits of that sometimes, I can now see that I lacked objectivity about my business in general, and certainly about writing. It definitely makes for better non-fiction writing to be part of a team, where I’m not working exclusively on my own agenda. Being able to think like a reader, instead of like a writer, is an important skill for writers of all types.

5. The ramp-up time took a lot longer than I thought it would.

Partly because I was a noob, and partly because I was unfocused, it took me a long time to learn what I really needed to get done in what period of time. The original audience that I assumed existed, it turned out, didn’t exist at all. At first, I ignored the ghost writing market. (Stupid.) I didn’t write any fiction because I assumed it wouldn’t have a market. (Also, incredibly stupid.) I chose prices that were both too high and too low. (Stupid, and unresearched.) I agonized over the little things, which it turned out was a waste of my time. I took forever to figure out that I needed to partner with others to create cool products and services.

While I still struggle with typical self-employment issues, like setting aside time for my own projects versus that of clients, I now realize that the instant success that I thought was coming was a joke. I ignored the concept of critical mass, and it took until my own product number four before many people noticed my product number one. This took over 2 years, and in the meantime, instead of recognizing that this was all part of a normal development cycle, I called myself a failure.

The lifespan of eBooks can be just as long, if not longer than printed books. They are subject to update and regular revision, as they’re not burdened by the overhead of a stock of books. This means that you can spend a lot longer ramping up an audience, building your list, your reader base, and your discoverability. It’s worth it, and it’s normal. Savour it as part of the journey.


So when I take my daughter into my lap, and explain to her what it takes to be a good eBook creator, (and those of you who know me know that I do this often…) I talk to her about technology, commitment, and taking the dog for a twice-daily walk. At six years old, she already has a plan to write a series of books about cats and Barbie. Next week, we’re doing the keyword research about that.

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NaNoWriMo Nanaimo!

October 31st, 2010 . by Peggy

I’m proud to be sponsoring several events in Nanaimo, BC throughout November, and into December, for the international NaNoWriMo competition.

If you’re in the Nanaimo, BC area, please come out and join us for one of the events listed here, at Meetup.com.

We’d love to meet you!

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Life Lessons From World of Warcraft (WOW)

April 23rd, 2010 . by Peggy

I’ve recently started playing WOW for the first time, which makes me a pretty late bloomer as Gamers go. But it’s interesting what I’ve learned while playing.

For those of you not initiated, Warcraft is the world’s largest online game community, with roughly 11 million players worldwide. For a modest $15-ish dollars a month, you can create a fantasy character (or multiple characters) that allows you to run around a rather sophisticated world called Azeroth. With several continents and types of environments, Azeroth is a somewhat bronze-age style universe with an exciting array of weapons, magical people and places, and really great outfits. Players can interact with each other, even players that may live a great distance from you in the real world.

I’m still what’s considered a casual player. I play about 3-4 times a week for as much as a couple of hours at a time. If someone had asked me 6 months ago if I had a spare 6 hours a week, I would have laughed and stated a firm “no”. But since like most players, I typically log in sometime between 10pm and 4 am, it seems I’ve found the time.

I started playing as a sort of experiment, part of my self-challenge to try new things and test my brain’s ability to create new neuron pathways. I was surprised then I enjoyed it, and further surprised when I realized I was learning new things about myself as a writer and as a person, simply by playing the game. Such as…

Patience

I will never be a level 80 character. But, I’ve discovered I’m happy being a level 20. A person as competitive as myself should be anxious to ‘level up’, as they say. But really, the number next to my name is no longer important. I had no idea when I started now long it would take to become proficient at this game, because I had no previous gaming experience, and I had no idea how sophisticated gaming had become. Now, I see other level 1 characters standing in the street, their players presumably checking their maps or reading the manual, and I realize how much I’ve learned. But I know why I’m here – it’s to relax and enjoy the game, not the win or lose.

I Need A Lifebar in My 3d World

The little gauge that hovers over the head of my character tells me vital stats about myself and about others with whom I interact in the game. I need one of these in real life, but instead of how much life my character has left, it will rack up my calories consumed so far in a day. I need the secondary mana bar to track how much room I have left on my credit card. A little “duel” symbol will appear every time I’m wrestling my child into her school clothes, and a little “zzz” will appear anytime I’m tired and sit down for a quiet few minutes, so that no-one will bother me. Other people will have their names hover over their heads, so that I’m no longer embarrassed by not being able to remember names at networking events. In reality, I’m developing little tricks for myself to improve my self-organization and memory.

I Like Flinging Fireballs At Things

Sometimes, being aggressive and taking sides is OK. I’ve held back releasing a few essays and articles because I’m worried that my position on a less-popular side of the fence might not win friends and influence people. Instead, I now think it might be OK to be a little controversial, and not try to please everyone. Holding back makes for very boring blog posts.

I’m a little bit Alliance, and a little bit Horde

Sometimes good and bad is not black and white. I have characters in both factions, and I play them approximately equally. They both have advantages and disadvantages. My primary Alliance (traditional good guys) character is a huntress, and my primary Horde (traditional bad guys) character is a Mage, which is a magician/priestess-type role. I’ve never encountered a character from either faction that didn’t play with honour. And being challenged to a duel by a massive and high-ranking Horde character is very flattering. Especially when it’s done politely. In my 3d world, I’m trying to be slower to judge, and to let myself be open to possibilities I had not previously considered.

People Can Surprise You

I can’t believe who else plays this game. The genteel and very ladylike mother of one of my Authors surprised me by offering to help with a game problem that I posted on my FaceBook profile. Turns out she has multiple level 80 characters. Her son tells me, “Oh yeah – Mom’ll take you down.” Who knew?

The Worst Thing That Can Happen May Not Really Be That Bad

The worst thing that can happen in WOW is that your character dies, usually by being killed by a non-player (automatic / game generated) character or beast that you’re supposedly out to kill. But really, all that happens is that you need to resurrect yourself, using magic or by running back to where your corpse is in the game. That’s it. For low-level characters, there isn’t even a penalty to be resurrected by the “graveyard spirit”. That’s it. You just keep playing. Often, you go back with greater knowledge of your enemy, and can then strike when he’s at his weakest, and win the challenge.

I Need To Check My Compass More Often

I’m an A-type personality, and a planner in my 3d life, and so I also am in-game. But, Azeroth is a large and complicated place. Sometimes I’m not where I think I am. Tracking my quests using a clear and simple system helps me stay on track for my goals. Since beginning to play, I’ve enlarged my white board in my office, and expanded my use of automatic self-organization tools and systems. It helps to be constantly checking my goals and my progress against them.

I’m not saying that playing online games is the solution to all things that ail, but so far, this experiment has been completely fascinating. I hope to continue this indefinitely, though, within certain rules, such as not playing before 8pm, and promising to never fling a frost spike at my husband if he challenges me to a duel.

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That Karrot’s Cake

August 25th, 2009 . by Peggy

Here’s the recipe for the carrot cake that I pictured on Twitter last week. So many of you have asked for this, so I’ll just post it here. What does this have to do with self-publishing, podcasting, writing, online marketing, or anything else that I write about? Once you taste it, you’ll understand.

With thanks to Joan Craven of Craven Communications, my very generous friend in Calgary.

Karrott’s Cake, originally from Enjoy: More Recipes from the Best of Bridge (the yellow one).

1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup corn oil
3 eggs
1 + 1/2 cups flour
2 cups finely grated carrots (I actually put in closer to 3)
1/2 tsp salt
1 + 1/3 tsp baking soda (who wrote this crazy cookbook, anyway??!!??)
1 + 1/2 tsps cinnamon (I used the Poudre Douce from Victorian Epicure and put in a bit more than called for)

The “official” instructions:
Mix oil and sugar, beat well. Add eggs, one at a time and bet after each. Sift dry ingredients and add to egg mixture. Beat all together until well-blended. Fold in raw carrots. Bake one hour at 300~ in greased 9×13 pan.

What I actually did:
I wanted to set this up the night before so that I could throw it together in the AM, so I grated the carrots, and added them to a bowl with all of the other wet ingredients, excluding the sugar, which I put in the fridge overnight. I then put all the dry ingredients into a second bowl, and sifted them through a strainer as I added them. In the morning, I just added the dry to the wet, folded only as long as was necessary to get it wet, dumped it in a pyrex pan sprayed with pam, and went to take my morning shower. By the time I had dressed and made breakfast for our guests, it was time to remove it from the oven. I iced it with bought icing and nobody knew the difference. (Uh, well, at least they didn’t until now.)

Eat well = write well!

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Easy Recipe That’s Too Good Not to Share

May 27th, 2009 . by Peggy

OK – this post has nothing to do with writing, publishing, eBooks, podcasting, social media, or marketing. But, this easy cake recipe is seriously good.

Years ago, my mother used to bake this cake every Easter. She would bake it in a pan shaped like a lamb, smother it in butter icing, and then pat coconut onto it to look like the lamb’s fur. My sister and I loved to pick off the jelly beans that she used for eyes, and my dad would eat the licorice nose. My mother recently gave me the pan, and now I use the pan to make “Kitty Cakes” for my own little girl.

This recipe exactly fills the lamb pan, which was designed to take a standard Betty Crocker cake mix. So, that must mean that this recipe will fit any of those specialty character or shaped pans put out by Wilton Cake products.

Jean’s Special Whipping Cream Cake

(Originally taken From Sphere Magazine March 1975)

1 cup chilled whipping cream
2 whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

- beat cream in chilled bowl until stiff
- in separate bowl, beat eggs and vanilla till light and fluffy
- fold egg mixture into cream
- fold in all remaining ingreds in turn
- pour into a greased bundt pan

Bake at 350~ for 50-60 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto wire rack to finish cooling.

To decorate a bundt-style cake, simply sprinkle w/ powdered sugar.

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s so good, you don’t need to ice it. I figure if I put the effort into a special homemade cake, I don’t have to bother with elaborate decorations. I have made this cake a lemon flavour by adding a tiny amount of artificial lemon flavour and yellow colour. It also tints nicely, because the cake is a nice clear white – not a yellow colour – so it can easily be made an attractive petal pink with just a dot of red food colour.

Have fun blowing out the candles!

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