Humanus Feed
Obsessed with books, eBooks, marketing, & chocolate.

10 Things to Know Before You Write an eBook

July 25th, 2012 . by Peggy

My number one question of all time is, “How do I start writing an eBook?” Here are my top 10 recommendations.

1. Don’t buy any software or services.

Part of the reason I do what I do is to demonstrate to Authors that they really, really can do this all by themselves. As you’ll see as you get to know me, the approach I recommend is actually very simple. Besides, one of the biggest concerns you should have as you build your eBook business is to avoid creating dependencies. In the eBook business, those who build on a foundation of frugality are the ones that win in the long run. The only exceptions are an editor (non-negotiable, in my view), possibly a tech like me, and possibly a graphic designer for your cover. Otherwise, any halfway tech-savvy marketer really can do this from their kitchen table.

2. Start writing in a basic word-processor.

This is not the time to try to learn anything new. Your focus needs to be creating spectacular content. Avoid the distraction of fancy software by using something with which you’re already familiar. For most writers, that’s still MS Word. My fave happens to be OpenOffice, which is – you guessed it – FREE. It looks a lot like MS Word, and in fact, can open, edit, and save files right back to the MS Word .doc format. Just don’t go out and buy a new computer or think that you need to upgrade. Ironically, I actually spend more time for my eBook clients stripping out the hidden codes and back-end gunk from fancy software, than designing the actual eBook itself. I really do. And it’s a pain. Use what you already have and things will turn out much better in the end.

3. Don’t forget to do your research.

Before you move much farther past the beginning of your outline, be sure that you do some basic keyword research. This is how you find out if the book is even worth writing, because if there isn’t a market for it, why write it? Or, can it be tweaked into something that is marketable? Can you discover an opportunity that you didn’t know existed? Is the idea ahead of it’s time? Behind the times? Right at exactly the right time? I find that in about two hours of some basic – and fun – research, I can learn more than I could ten years ago in 6 weeks of work.

4. Don’t lose momentum.

When that muse appears, RIDE HER, ride her HARD, into the sunset. Your family’s opinion of your late-night writing sessions shouldn’t be allowed to phase you. So what if you drink a little more coffee or eat a few popsicles: just get ‘er done. If you’re in the mood to write, drop everything else. Don’t ignore inspriation, or you’ll bore of it quickly, and then it will never get written. (That boredom is the number ONE stumbling block I see in clients.)

5. Involve yourself in the book’s community.

By this I mean that if you’re writing a steampunk novel, by all means, join a steampunk society and go to the meetings. Business books mean getting out to networking meetings, and setting yourself up for speaking gigs. Poker books mean you should be playing daily, as part of some sort of group. Think of yourself as sitting in the center of a massive web. Look for opportunities to expand beyond your local geographic area, such as joining organizations that have expansion chapters, like Rotary clubs. And that’s just the (so-called) “real world”. Be certain that everyone in the online community related to your topic knows who you are. This is where social media comes in, as a way to easily integrate yourself and let people know about you. Very importantly, you should buy an eBook that is grounded in your community, perhaps the most well-known, and read it in the format in which you think you will publish. (Ie., if you’re aiming for a Kindle eBook, buy a Kindle version and read it that way, to familiarize yourself with the format. It’s surprising how many Authors come to me for help, yet they’ve never bought or read an eBook themselves.)

6. Buy the domain name, and secure social media ID’s in the name of your eBook.

If you haven’t hear me say this before, you need to buy the exact domain name of your eBook’s title. If the .com isn’t available, re-title the book. Setup a basic WordPress blog at that location and start making regular entries as you write, to build traffic to your site. Even if you never plan to write a single blog post or post a single tweet, at least buy or reserve the title, and your Author name, so that nobody else gets them, as yes, people will look for you by your Author name, the title of the eBook, and under any pseudonyms you have.

7. Start building an eMail list.

Please do NOT simply add people to your email program’s personal address book. Besides the fact that this doesn’t work, it happens to be illegal. (I’ll shortly have a revised version of my Cheat Sheet about this topic, which will explain all of this in detail.) Instead, use a free or low-cost account at MailChimp, aWeber, 1ShoppingCart, or even ConstantContact.com to manage this. It not only allows you to build a legal double-opt-in list, but also to offer things like free stuff when people sign up, and have really attractive-looking templates for your content. List-building will become a permanent, ongoing activity in your business. The sooner you start, the better.

8. Design the cover.

This might sound premature, but actually, it’s quite important. The sooner you can start talking about your upcoming eBook, the better. You’ll need to put an image of the cover on an information page on your blog, perhaps on your business cards, and of course, on social media. I have also printed out poster-size versions of it and put it on my vision board to inspire me to get it done more quickly. Or to brag.

9. Start looking for an editor.

You may need one of any of a variety of types of editing, from style and content editing, to simple copy editing, which is really mostly grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. The earlier you can form a relationship with this person, the better. As I said above, it’s a non-negotiable. The book must be edited at some point, and it’s probably a lot less expensive than you think. Objectivity is key – do NOT hire a friend or a family member. Besides ensuring basic writing ability, ignore any degrees on the wall. The most important thing about this editor is that you trust them. If you don’t, find someone else.

10. Write a proper marketing plan.

I don’t mean a series of unrealized ideas, but an actual written plan. I don’t mean a business plan, either, but a very specific marketing plan. And no, this doesn’t need to be more than a page. It must simply be concrete. (Concrete does not mean inflexible, by the way.) I use MindMeister.com, which is actually a mind-mapping tool, to create what ends up looking more like an infographic than a marketing plan. This allows me to change it when needed, and I can block out specific tasks that I need to complete in a certain order to make things move along. It also looks pretty darn sexy when printed out and posted on the wall.

While this is obviously not an exhaustive list, I think it covers the most important points. You’ll note that most of this is about setting up marketing tools for down the road, not actually about the writing. This surprises most of my clients that I don’t tell them how to write, or that I don’t start talking about how to use formatting for the manuscript. This is because all of that is secondary to your ability to sell it. Anything in the formatting can be fixed, modified, or more likely, is inconsequential anyway. What I want most for you is to realize the benefit of making these strategic choices up-front.

join the discussion

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.

join the discussion

What To Do When Your eBook Isn’t Selling

June 14th, 2012 . by Peggy

Here are some tips not just from me, but from other Authors or creators of information products.

1. Write a second eBook.

Yeah, I know, this sounds completely counter-intuitive, but this one really does work. Why? Think “inbound links”. In terms of discoverability, the effect can be magnified many times. (Think SEO benefits.) This is a great place to expand in greater detail or to focus on one particular topic area. Every sales book I’ve ever read talks about this in some way, and yes, it has personally worked for me. It’s given me credibility as a topical expert, and has gotten me speaking gigs, where I ultimately sold more books.

2. Check that you’re being really, truly visible.

If you’re not always on the move, producing more content, the market will know. It’s a wheel that takes a lot to get rolling, and if you stop pushing it, the momentum you’ve built can only take it so much farther without you. Are you blogging? It creates more traffic to your sales page. Using social media? Twitter is free and works on any smartphone. Talking about your eBook somehow, to someone, every single day? Are you doing speaking? All of this is what’s known as “working it”, and that’s the real job of an Author – not writing. Never underestimate the power of a t-shirt with your domain name on it. I’ve gotten at least a half-dozen clients a year from that alone.

3. Revise it.

I’ve had one book that’s had three titles and four covers. Admittedly, they were not all great, but when sales have not been as expected, I take it down, revise it, put on a new cover, or change the platform. (Ie., if it’s not selling well as a PDF, try moving it to the Kindle format. Fresh market, new links, etc.) This is exploiting the most advantageous aspect of an eBook: it’s not carved in stone. It’s a living document that you can re-upload at any time. (Watch your version tracking, in a hidden spot in each book’s copyright page that tags it v.1.0, v.1.1, etc.)

4. Create parallel content.

By parallel content, I mean creating content that is not exactly what is in your eBook, but that is very clearly and closely aligned to it. If your eBook is about weight loss, create a low-cal recipe blog. Make a few cooking videos for YouTube with links to buy the eBook. (Video is so simple now that it really is inexcusable to not do this for such a visually-oriented subject.) If you’re talking about how to be a great consultant, write a few articles about how to manage your billing and accounting. Thinking with empathy about the needs of your audience will clue you into topics of interest very quickly.

5. Solicit some reviews.

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of review exchanges out there – just Google “book review exchange”. (The concept is, “I’ll review your eBook positively if you review mine.”) They are typically no cost, and can mean anything from an Amazon Kindle review to an actual interview or blog post. I’ve heard one very successful Author suggest that you should aim for a few more each month. Again, this is actually about creating more inbound links to your content, ie., SEO benefits.

6. Examine your metadata.

Metadata is all the stuff you don’t see, but your computer does. For example, when you upload your eBook to Kindle, you are asked for keywords related to your eBook, and to choose a category, name all the contributors, write a description, and more. Did you actually do all of that? Does it need refreshing? Did you add keywords and check the page title and so on when you built your blog or website? Did you max it out? Hidden stuff mixed with quality visible stuff is what attracts traffic.

7. Setup an affiliate marketing program.

This takes a little more effort, but once setup, can be a virtual money machine. (Again, I have an upcoming Cheat Sheet about this. Watch my announcement list or the Facebook Page for details.) Essentially, offering to pay other website owners or list owners for marketing your eBook can be extremely cost-effective, and can be done almost indefinitely. You can listen to an audio about this topic that I recorded here: http://funnygirlmarketing.com/ (Once you sign up, check out week 3′s recording. It’s free.)

8. Examine your consistency.

By this I mean not just consistency in how often you do certain actions, like a certain number of tweets per week or writing a blog post each Tuesday, but also consistency in your messaging. Have you been sending mixed messages to your audience? Are you known for certain catch phrases? Do you use them often enough? Do you clearly align your objectives for each chapter with the messaging for the entire eBook? Does your blog also reflect that same mission and attitude? Do you practice what you preach? Do you slip? (We all do – don’t knock yourself up over that. Just get back on track.)

9. Check the usability of your shopping cart.

This is one of those stupid things that we might assume is working, but perhaps isn’t working all that smoothly from the viewpoint of the buyer. It’s amazing what can cause a consumer to abandon a shopping cart. I’m not talking about system failure, but instead, how easy and obvious things are. I have a “filter” person that I ask to test all things like this for me – my Mother. If it passes the Mom Usability Test, it’s good enough for the general public. It has often surprised me what things can trip people up. Sometimes it’s the location of a button, or the words actually on the button, or the colour of the button. It’s crazy.

10. Check your Klout.

Klout.com is an impartial way to know and gauge how you’re doing in the world of social media. Examine your rating, the details and explanation, and compare yourself to others in your business. For those lower on the scale than yourself, watch for the up-and-comers. For those higher on the scale than yourself, what can you learn from them? What can you emulate?

In my experience, for my own books and those of my clients, it’s often the little things that make the biggest difference. This list is a starting point that may lead you down side roads that you had not considered. Testing things scientifically is important: make one change at a time, and watch the results. And of course, everything is worth testing.

join the discussion

When eBook Choices Seem Overwhelming

June 11th, 2012 . by Peggy

Stuck in a revolving door of confusion about eBooks?Stuck in a revolving door of confusion when it comes to various technologies around eBooks? You’re not the only one.

Knowing your options may seem like you’re opening a can of worms, but actually, I find that most of the choices in eBooks really boil down to just a few questions.

The problem is that these few choices have been inflated and repackaged a million ways. When various companies start inventing their own words to use for the same things, nobody knows what the heck is going on.

Once you know what to look for, it’s easy to pigeonhole options when they present themselves, and know if a new choice is something you really need to consider, or if it’s overrated or unneccessary.

Here are the questions I hear about the most in my presentations and workshops.

1) Do I need to create a PDF or an ePub?

This is really the biggie. Everything else falls into place based on this. For more information on each of the platforms, and how to make the choice based on your content type, read this previous blog post from me.

2) Do I need to hire an “eBook Publishing Company”?

This category of company invented itself a couple of years ago. Are they capitalizing on the confusion by charging outrageous prices for stuff that most people can do themselves? In most cases, absolutely. (However, there are some that I’m testing and that I may recommend in future.)  The built-in systems inside Amazon Kindle, for example, enable any non-techie to do it all by themselves. Anybody who can type an MS Word document can publish on Kindle. For more information about how to actually do this stuff yourself, sign up for my mailing list. I’ve got new video classes coming online very soon.

3) Do I need an Editor?

A resounding YES. For me this is not negotiable. In almost 170 eBooks, I’ve met exactly two writers who did not require the services of an editor. Two. Neither you nor I are one of those two. Find someone qualified you can work with, and just make the best deal you can. Try this database of freelance editors to start.

4) Do I need to hire someone to typeset my eBook?

If you are creating something that you want people to buy and read on Amazon Kindle, no, you certainly do not, as that’s not how Kindle works. (If you don’t know this already, it means you need to buy an eBook on Kindle and read it, to familiarize yourself with the platform. You can read an Amazon Kindle eBook for free using your computer, your phone, or your iPad or other tablet – you do not need to buy a Kindle device, or even pay money for an eBook for that matter.)

However, if you’re creating something that should be printed out and written in, or that contains many illustrations or tables or charts, or that must be seen in colour to make sense, then yes, you may want to consider hiring a designer to lay it out as a PDF for you. This means it’s more likely that you’re going to sell it off your own website, rather than on a platform like Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and etc. (Please, I beg of you, don’t simply type up an MS Word document and use that to create your PDF for download. It looks like crap.)

5) Do I need to hire a cover designer?

Unless you have some reasonable graphic design skills, yes, a professionally-designed eBook cover is totally worth the money. Don’t try to buy software and learn it as you create a homemade-looking cover design – too frustrating. You can certainly get a really attractive cover designed for you for about $200 – $500 USD. There are some great people overseas. (Or, hire me. It doesn’t matter – just be sure it looks slick.) I’ve written about eBook cover design guidelines here. You can share that previous link with your graphic designer.

6) Do I need a website devoted entirely to this eBook?

Perhaps not. What every book does need, however, is a landing page. If you already have a WordPress site, that means just adding another page to your current site, one that is totally devoted to selling your eBook, without distraction, alternative navigation, or outbound links. This page is where you’ll direct web traffic to “land” when they respond to things like your social media links, any ads you have to sell your eBook, or from other websites and blogs.

Let us say that you are a chef, and you’ve written a cookbook. The cookbook is a PDF, which means that it’s loaded with colour photos, lists of ingredients, and indented instructions. You want to sell this off your own website, and use it to build your profile. The best way to accomplish this would be to devote one landing page on your site to just selling the eBook. From that page, create a really HUGE and obvious link in the top right corner that says “Order my copy NOW!”, and make that button go directly into the shopping cart experience.

That sales page does NOT need to be independent of your website. In fact, it will work better if it’s not, as it reduces maintenance for you, as well as being able to easily capture traffic from the rest of your website.

7) How do I start writing? What should I use to type it?

Just use whatever you are most comfortable using. These days, everything can be exported and imported. Most people still write in MS Word, which is just fine, no matter how you plan to ultimately output your eBook. (I happen to prefer the free software Open Office over Microsoft products, but as I say, it doesn’t matter.) It helps a great deal to reduce the amount of formatting you use, and keep it as simple as possible, to avoid having to make adjustments to the manuscript later on. Whether you plan to release it as a PDF or as an ePub, as in, Kindle, etc., MS Word (or Open Office) is still a perfectly good way to start out.
Don’t worry at all at this stage about things like spacing, designing the layout of things on the page, or especially fonts. This seems to get asked all the time, and yet, at the first stage, this is absolutely the wrong thing on which to focus. Instead, worry about your marketing plan, your outline, and finding any images you wish to include, again, no matter which type of eBook you plan to create.

While this is not an exhaustive list, this certainly covers the most common questions I hear. The key is to simply not worry about the details too early in the process. The bigger question of things like your marketing plan and your keyword research are still the most important first steps.

join the discussion

Writing for eBooks vs. Writing for Paper Publication

May 25th, 2011 . by Peggy

Someone recently asked me, “Is there a difference in writing style between eBooks and paper publications?” Yes, and it can be quite dramatic.

People buy eBooks for completely different reasons than they purchase paper books. Again, it comes down to knowing your audience and their needs.

Let me share with you the top three reasons that people have specifically stated or demonstrated to me about why they might choose an eBook over a paper book. All of these cases apply to only my own work with non-fiction.

1. They want the information right away. Like, yesterday. They search online first for the content, find a resource, like a blog that tells them things they like to hear, and then find out that the blog Author also has an eBook available for download.

2. They don’t have time to read that much. I’ve heard more than once that people have a perception of paper-bound books occasionally being too deeply explorative of topics. They just want the facts. They don’t want to know the backstory – it won’t change how they use the information or how they make decisions.

3. They just don’t want more “stuff” in their lives. An eBook on their phone, iPad or other digital device is more or less invisible. It doesn’t require storage and is always in their back pocket. They can make notes or send paragraphs to others via email or even Facebook.

So if we know all of these things about our reader, how can we imagine that they want to read an eBook?

- uncomplicated, unburdened writing
- plain language, not a lot of buzzwords
- straight-to-the-point explanations
- external references will work easily (like web links for more info or your bibliography)
- high-level exploration of the topic, unless it’s specifically stated that yours is an in-depth work
- written in a lighter, more entertaining style
- consider modularizing content into self-contained sections that make sense on their own, allowing readers to make choices about how they choose to read the content, perhaps just one mini-chapter at a time
- use clear headings and sub-headings
- use consistent organization, conventions, and glossaries that interlink to your main content
- be sure that your chapter headings and subheadings links work properly, allowing people to hop around to parts of the content clearly
- make sure that your sales copy clearly represents what readers will receive
- use standardized platforms and technologies with the widest appeal and compatibility (watch out for the use of Flash on Apple devices, for example)
- offer them follow up content that meshes with your first book or offering

In closing, let me offer you a single caution: don’t make assumptions that your eBook readers are young hipsters, and can understand euphemisms and slang. Lighter and more entertaining doesn’t mean using cultural references or inside jokes that may be missed by a 55+ crowd.

join the discussion

eBook Landing Page Mistakes

January 29th, 2011 . by Peggy

Image from Copyblogger.com

This is a great post from Copyblogger, which if you don’t already read, you should be. Founder Brian Clark is a real smartie, and he’s always got great stuff.

When he talks in #2 about not using a standard page from within WordPress, don’t forget that you can remove the sidebars from any WordPress page and still use that as a landing page. I do it all the time, and it’s very simple to have a theme designer help you with a few brief keyboard strokes that will simply create another page template.

Brian often has clever and brief tips that are extremely useful, and you can follow him on Twitter as @copyblogger.

join the discussion

eBook Authors Must Read This Post

January 25th, 2011 . by Peggy

If you are trying to sell ebooks to mobile readers (and who isn’t?) you must read this post by blogger Piotr Kowalczyc. The entire post is written in bullet points, with exact instructions on how to sell more ebooks to mobile phone readers.

(And by the way, this is precisely what I do every day. Trust me. It definitely does sell more ebooks.) I might add, that you can use your own affiliate link (Amazon calls these “Associates” when referring traffic to your own books. He also gives great points on using hashtags on Twitter.

Here are the first few lines of the post, just to whet your appetite:

“If you are a self-publisher actively using social media to find readers and draw their attention to your books (probably published in an electronic form), this post is for you.

I’d like to share a simple way to make your e-book available for instant purchase by mobile phone users. As you’ll see – it’s very easy.”

Good luck!

join the discussion

BookCamp and Social Media Camp Weekend

October 4th, 2010 . by Peggy

This past weekend, I attended two events. Friday was #bcvan10, or BookCamp Vancouver, and Sunday was #smcv10, or Social Media Camp Victoria. Both events made quite an impression on me.

Here’s a bulleted list of what I learned at Social Media Camp and BookCamp. (I’m too tired to turn my notes into prose.)

  1. I need to leave the house more often. (So much for the glamorous benefits of being self-employed.)
  2. Book publishers are trying really hard to succeed in the area of eBooks. Some are fighting the ePub revolution tooth and nail, but many houses are working to convert entire back catalogues to ePub format. The problem is, they’re spending far, far too much money to do it. Their methodology for this needs serious re-examination.
  3. Social media ROI is measurable after all – it’s not just about karma. Correlating the relationship between tweets and visits to my blog is easy. Visits to my blog has a direct relationship to new client intake. (But don’t mess with karma, regardless.)
  4. I’m not the only one who wants to know the real people behind my social media connections. People can build a certain amount of trust online, and that’s accomplished best with video (I know that from personal experience – nobody said it this weekend) but meeting people in the real world is what closes the deal.
  5. My personal understanding of the way SEO and social media work together was not fantasy – it was bang on. (Blog post or white paper forthcoming.)
  6. I think I’m going to re-issue a number of the eBooks I’ve created under various pseudonyms with my real name slapped on the front. Re-brand, re-market.
  7. People trying to self-publish fiction need a whole new way of connecting and doing business. I hope that some of the people I met on Friday at BookCamp have a chance soon to attend Social Media Camp. Everyone in that business is either lost, frustrated, or slowly going broke. It’s crazy. Non-fiction has it much easier, but there’s a reason I don’t do fiction. It’s just sooooo hard.
  8. It was very encouraging on Friday to hear that so many people are on the eBook bandwagon. I had serious concerns about being the naughty eBook girl in a room full of hardcover lovers. (Which I still am, by the way.) But instead, I felt encouraged and optimistic about the relationship between eBooks and traditional publishing houses, for the very first time. Many companies might survive, including ones that only a year ago had self-prophesied their doom.
  9. I need to be much more consistent about my own application of social media. My Klout rating had dropped to *6* from 24. But, after today, it’s now up to 35. @meganberry was right – it’s not about the number of followers.
  10. This is going to be a crazy next three months.

And one more thing: #11. Affiliate marketing is still the big pothole that I see missing from both the book marketing picture and the social media picture. (Document of some sort forthcoming.)

Cool people I met, connected with, or otherwise admire from this weekend:

- http://twitter.com/unmarketing (Scott Stratten, Keynote at #SMCV10)
- http://twitter.com/julien (Julien Smith, Keynote at #SMCV10)
- http://twitter.com/jmaxsfu (John Maxwell, Professor at SFU, co-organizer of #bcvan10, eBook advocate)
- http://twitter.com/justyn (Justyn Howard, Speaker at #SMCV10)
- http://twitter.com/brendonjwilson (Speaker at #bcvan10)
- http://twitter.com/raincoaster (Lorraine Murphy, Speaker at #SMCV10)
-  http://twitter.com/Kathleen_Fraser (Speaker at #bcvan10 and Mpubber)
- http://twitter.com/stitchtowhere (Cynara Geissler, Speaker with Kathleen at #bcvan10)
- http://twitter.com/seancranbury (Host of Books on the Radio, guy with camera, co-organizer of #bcvan10, Mpubber)
- http://twitter.com/daveohoots (Marketing Dude for Hootsuite.com and Speaker at #smcv10)
http://twitter.com/tpholmes (co-organizer of #smcv10)
- http://twitter.com/meganberry (Marketing Manager for Klout.com and Speaker at #smcv10)
- http://twitter.com/somisguided (Monique Trottier, Social Media chick and consultant, co-organizer of #bcvan10)

join the discussion

Google Alerts For Small Biz

April 12th, 2010 . by Peggy

Before undertaking any marketing or product creation activity, be sure to setup some free Google Alerts on your business. You may be shocked at what you can discover.

Google Alerts is a free tool provided by Google. The Google search engine is constantly indexing new content all over the web, including content that is directly about you, your company, your name, your competition, your industry, etc. Essentially, this service alerts you by email when any of your chosen key words or phrases appear in their gigantic index of fresh content on the web.

Google Alerts makes fast work of;

- monitoring your brand

- gauging the success of your current marketing efforts

- researching the visibility of key figures/companies in your industry

- watching out for new trends in your market

- being the first to know of major news in a specific area (and then being the first one to re-break that  to your own sub-market!)

Note that Alerts are not a report that people are searching for you – it just means that you’ve been indexed. When people search for those same words and phrases in the Google search engine, only the content that has been indexed will appear in the search results. If you have a website to promote, being indexed is a very good thing – it means your content is easily available to those searching for you.

Google Alerts is selective, in that it will only alert you of fresh content, or rather, content that has recently come to the attention of the index. The more often you update your content, the more you will appear in Google Alerts for the key words and phrases contained in your content. Google’s index prioritizes content with certain characteristics, such as video over text content, and content from sources that are reliably updated on a regular basis. This is part of what forms the mystery of “who gets ranked highest” on Google search results. You can also choose to only find content from blogs, news, video, or other options. (I always choose ‘comprehensive’ so I hear about everything.)

Let’s say that you’ve already performed a good keyword exercise for your business, so you know what words and phrases you want to be associated with. By entering of them into Google as an Alert, you will be notified by email when any fresh content comes up with those words.

I’d also be sure to add;

- your company name,

- your very own name,

- the city or location of your business,

- the names of your competition,

- any applicable industry terms, even if they’re not in your list of marketing keywords because they’re considered “buzzwords” or “insider talk”

Small business can especially benefit from Alerts, because it can be used to filter quite a bit of content very quickly, leaving only local or other highly-specific content available for you.

Before developing any sort of product, try entering some keywords related to the project into Alerts, as part of your product and market research. Monitor it for a couple of weeks and see what comes up. Witness what people are talking about, what their needs are in your niche, and if you have any competition. Is this a busy market? Are people really talking about your niche? Are they using alternate language to talk about you and your niche? Do you need to shift your focus to meet their needs?

Another important discrimination to make is where the conversations are already happening. We all know that rather than trying to get customers to come to us, we should find where the customers already are, and go to them in their own backyard. Alerts can help significantly with this, as it will make a distinction between Twitter entries, FaceBook comments or groups, bloggers talking about the product, news outlets, or other locations. Is one happening more often than another? If there are plenty of bloggers talking about your niche, but no news outlets, then publicize your product by approaching bloggers rather than approaching traditional media. If people are tweeting about your niche, but nothing’s happening elsewhere, don’t bother to write articles – get tweeting!

Overall, Google Alerts is more than just about knowing who’s talking about you; it’s also about knowing what they’re saying, and where, so that you can jump in and join the conversation.

Want to witness the power of this first hand? Try setting up an Alert for “Justin Bieber” – you’ll soon see what I’m talking about, whether you want to know about teen pop stars, or not!

join the discussion

Video Marketing Tips For Small Biz

April 10th, 2010 . by Peggy

I’ve been saying for some time now that if you don’t start to take video seriously as a major marketing/educational medium, you and your book or other business are toast.

In this article on Biznik.com, Contributor Michael Shuett (who works with a video production company in Washington State) clearly states it yet again. “Being without a professional video will soon be equivalent to not having a website; it will be as necessary as it used to be to have a listing in the Yellow Pages.”

Shuett offers statistics from the Unica State of Marketing 2010 study, which clearly demonstrates that most organizations intend to use video (especially in mobile social media content) this year as part of their marketing strategies. We have known for some time that search results always favour video content over any other content, including text, blog updates, and even audio.

The big obstacle for most of us? We freak out when someone suggests that we should be on camera. I also have a face made for radio, but I still get up there and do video regularly. Consider these options for freaked-out video creators;

  • Narrate A Slide Show: This is the least threatening and easiest way to start with video. If you do any sort of speaking or teaching, a good first video exercise might be to take one of your training sessions and simply narrate it while you flip through your slides. This way, only your voice is present, and people will see your presentation, not your face. You can use a variety of tools to create this, including Jing (free) and/or Camtasia (not so free).
  • Prioritize Audio Quality: Use a good quality microphone – sound quality is essential. You can get away with crappy lighting and bad photography if people can still hear your message, but if they can’t hear you, they stop watching. A headset is my preference, and seems to get the best results, partly because it’s maintained at a steady distance from my mouth at all times and doesn’t move around. However, I recognize that this can make you look like you’re trying to launch a space shuttle. If you’d prefer a handheld (and there are cases where I prefer a handheld – see a future post about that) you can get away with a surprisingly affordable one. I paid about $160 US for my headset a couple of years ago (here’s a link to something similar – very comfortable, as I wear these a lot) and about $35 for my handheld (including shipping) on eBay. Test everything before you start shooting. (Best tip: be sure the microphone switch is turned to the ‘on’ position. No joke – I’ve done it.)
  • Do It Yourself: Although Shuett suggests that video should be professionally-produced or nothing, I must say that I disagree. Video created on-the-fly with a gritty home-grown quality can provoke a better response than professional quality. I mean really, who trusts a script? (You can always tell when it’s a script and someone’s reading from a cue card.) It’s so easy to just sit in front of your webcam and make a fast recording. I’ve even created video while driving. (Safely and legally, I swear.) Homegrown is better than nothing.
  • Use YouTube’s Natural SEO Benefits: The overwhelming majority of video viewed on the web these days is still ultimately hosted on YouTube.com. When uploading a video there, you’ll be prompted with a variety of fields, including one specifically for keywords. (Be sure to do your keyword research up front.) Don’t neglect all these other fields – fill them out completely! People don’t necessarily have to find your very own website to discover you. Simply searching YouTube will help them find your video, and this will lead them back to your site, because of course, your URL is clearly present there for them to click on.
  • Don’t Edit: After the first few years dealing with editing video, I’m now really a one-take sort of girl. If I mess up seriously, I’ll re-take it, but I hate chopping in second cameras, voiceovers, etc. What a drag, and a delay to posting. I just shoot and post. I will vaguely outline what I want to say verbally before turning on the camera, but I rarely even write it down anymore. If you know your stuff, it comes easily anyway.
  • Be Funny: This is synonymous with being real, keeping it loose, etc. Boring = viewers who leave. Funny = believability. If you’re not naturally funny, don’t try to fake it, but keep it friendly at least.

Recently, for the first time, I was recognized in a crowd at a business event, because people had seen me on video. They already trusted me and my company, because they had seen me talk about their subject, and they knew my style. I’ve always said, if a fat chick in her late 30′s isn’t credible these days, who is? It’s the one thing I have going for me. (Along with good teeth.) Find out what you’ve got going for you, and use it on video.

join the discussion

« Previous Entries