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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.

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10 Things Authors Should Know About QR Codes

December 23rd, 2011 . by Peggy

I’ve spent the last year working with a firm here in the US, doing research and application development related to the use of QR codes for marketing. As a writer, I’m always on the lookout for how everything I encounter relates to information marketing, and I’ve summarized here some points that Authors in particular should find stimulating.

1. You can’t ignore it for much longer.

As tablets and smartphones capable of scanning QR codes expand to fill more than 53% of the mobile market, you have yet another avenue through which to connect to readers. If you have a book going to print in the next few weeks or months, be sure to put a QR code on the cover. If you haven’t yet decided to what you want that code to link, have no fear: just link it to a page on your current domain, such as mybook.com/qr. Then, when your’e ready, place the content at that URL.

2. Elevate your QR content.

In my don’t-call-it-humble opinion, the biggest mistake that seems to be made with QR codes overall is that they are only used to link to existing content that can be found any old way, regardless of whether someone has the code or not. Reward QR users with something extra-special, such as a video message from you that is not directly linked to from any other part of your blog, or a secondary version of your book trailer. Think of it as more than just an easy way to funnel people into what you already have.

3. Realize that most people will look at your stuff on a phone, not necessarily a tablet.

If you link to a video, be sure that it formats for a cell phone appropriately. (YouTube.com can link to an unlisted video and adjust automatically, no matter what viewers use to see it.) If you link to a page on a website, be sure it’s not a gigantic graphic, text formatted as images, etc., that will all look awful on a phone.  Make all text re-flowable, and all images self-adjusting.

4. Don’t have just one code.

Let’s assume that you’ve integrated QR codes as part of your wholistic marketing strategy. That should mean that you have a code on your business card that links to your “About me” page on your blog, and one on your book cover that links directly to information about the book itself, more in the series, extra information about the same vein of content, or perhaps an invitation to receive special extra content, one on your posters advertising book signings might link to an intro to the book, you as an author, and confirmed details about the event itself, with an easy link to put that event into their calendar. Each code can be context-sensitive and detailed.

5. Don’t expect people to buy your book from a QR code.

But do expect them to want to learn more about you, the book, your other titles, etc. If this is the first time they’re hearing about you, be sure you woo them appropriately first. As per #4, one of the codes in your arsenal should lead directly to a buy-it-now page, but be sure to offer more than that up front.

6. Don’t isolate the code.

Be sure that the code is presented in a way that lets the user know what to expect when they scan it – are they going to a contact page about you? Then be sure to tell them that. Are they going to buy tickets to your event? Are they going to see some exclusive content? A video? Be sure to give them a headsup, so that they are not only more interested in scanning, but also not worried about being spammed, getting a virus from a disreputable vendor, etc.

7. Expect more from your scanners.

It might not be a far-off assumption that people who own a smartphone and know enough to use a QR code are in that sweet spot group of consumers: 25-45 year olds with disposable income and a higher education. They might want complex content, that is well thought-out and implemented. Chances are, they will reward those extra efforts you make to entertain and challenge them with more money spent on your stuff. Give more to get more.

8. Don’t link directly to a file download.

Since users might access this from a phone, they are going to hate it if they scan a code only to see a PDF trying to suck up their entire data plan inside 2 minutes. Link to a page first, and give them an option.

9. Include social info on QR landing pages.

Once people scan the code, make it extremely easy for them to share what they’ve discovered, by including “Tweet this” and “Share on Facebook” links on that page.

10. Think in terms of space, not just time.

Mobile users might find it helpful to have a QR code perform an automatic checkin for a location on Yelp or Foursquare. Reward event attendees with a code that will help them earn Foursquare “Swarm” badges and other location or event-specific happenings.

BONUS – 11. Be sure to follow up.

Once someone has scanned your code, it’s easy enough to use any number of systems (afflink) to invite them to sign up for your list or enter their mobile number to keep up to date on future happenings. Not all will take advantage of this, but the 5% that do will be loyal enough to be worth communicating with in future.

 

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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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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.

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7 Essential Viral Video Marketing Tips

February 3rd, 2010 . by Peggy

Don’t spend valuable time creating your viral marketing video until you examine these simple-but-important tips. All of them are FREE, but essential.

If you’ve heard about video marketing, but are unsure how to really hit the streets with it, all that we’re talking about is creating a small video that helps to generate awareness and enthusiasm around your book, ebook, or other product. You can easily create videos yourself, or hire the pros to do it for you. The video is then distributed through social media channels like YouTube (and other video outlets), FaceBook, Twitter, on blogs, etc. The idea is to use the video as an automated sales device, driving buyers back directly to you or your retailers. You can read an earlier article I wrote about this subject by clicking here.

1. Display the URL on every single frame. Any simple video editing software (yes, including Windows Movie Maker) will allow you to do this in one way or another such as a simple band across the bottom of every frame that displays the URL where people can go to purchase the book.

2.Be sure you have a landing page in place before you release the video. It’s no use inviting traffic unless you have a place to drive that traffic. Simply driving traffic to your standard website is not enough – be sure that you create a page or mini-site especially designed to sell your book.

3. Keep it short and sweet. Videos with long, useless intros or dragging scenes that frustrate the viewer are wasted screen time. Chop them out. The entire video should be less than 90 seconds, and 30 seconds is ideal.

4. Include the techy stuff. In the book universe, people need to know stuff like page count, ISBN, distributors, etc. A teeny splash page at the end is enough to convey this clearly. All products have some sort of techy details, like pricing, style and size choices, etc. Be sure to give the basics for interested potential buyers.

5. Take into account multiple audiences. Authors need to direct the video at not just readers, but also booksellers, reviewers, librarians, etc. These may have many of the same needs, but including a few different details to address each of these viewers is important. This can be done carefully without diversifying too much.

6. Use humour. Who wants to watch a boring, dry, video? Unless your video is about the stress of bankruptcy or the death of a loved one, there’s always a way to use a gentle hand with a bit of a smile. Your goal is to keep them watching until the end. (And in the case of death or bankruptcy, the smile comes from the relief you provide.)

7. Don’t neglect the metadata fields. In YouTube (98% of all viral web videos are distributed by YouTube*) there are fields that you can add a description, keywords, and other behind-the-scenes stuff that gets picked up by the search engines. This is what makes the video viral – it gets found when people search. Do your keyword research and get that stuff nailed down before you even start creating the video.

See a future article very soon about keyword research, which should be the first thing you do before you even think about creating your video.

* See this additional article for similar stats and info.

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Best Book Trailer Video I’ve Seen Yet…

December 5th, 2009 . by Peggy

I’m dying to know more about the animation process behind this video from the New Zealand Book Council. “Bringing books to life”, indeed.

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What I Learned from Chad Vader

October 16th, 2009 . by Peggy

Peggy with Aaron Yonda and Matt SloanHere I am posing in a very fuzzy picture with Aaron Yonda (left) and Matt Sloan, the creators of Chad Vader, the viral YouTube sensation. Sloan and Yonda’s creation is housed through their company and website, BlameSociety.net.

I was eager to hear these two speak for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I was extremely curious about what sort of brain could imagine a world where Darth Vader’s doppelganger is the night manager at a small grocery store in the middle of suburban America. But more importantly, I wanted to know how they did it – the real nuts and bolts.

The answer is surprisingly simple: they had an idea, found some friends to help them create it, put it up on YouTube, and then did plenty of unsophisticated marketing to get traffic to the video. It has now grown to the point where both of them can make a living at this, and although they are very frank about the fact that they’re not yet millionaires, they are also clearly excited by the attention from the film and television industries. Their next project will be one of many they currently have on the go, all of which will be bigger, but still retain the wacky edginess that is their trademark grass-roots approach loved by millions. (Yes, millions.)

Just like many internet video geeks, I have a bottom drawer full of screenplays, idea files, magazine and newspaper clippings, sketches and outlines. Coming up with the ideas is not hard for most of us, but figuring out a way to make money from the ideas is often difficult, and what Sloan and Yonda clearly demonstrated for me today is that it does not need to be difficult. We only imagine it must be.

Like most internet content, the way to make money by giving stuff away is through affiliate marketing, which is driven by traffic. Most of BlameSociety’s revenue still comes from the ads that overlay their YouTube videos. They increased their traffic by approaching other video creators and offering to partner, trade services, trade traffic, and so on. They identified key players and then wrote them personal emails asking to do things like add trailers for their videos to the backend of the other producer’s videos. They used every trick on YouTube’s cheat sheet. They created parodies of current YouTube “hits”, and then capitalized on sideways traffic. They maxed out all the basic avenues – they didn’t invent crazy systems, use cutting-edge new video distribution services, or even host their videos on any other service except YouTube. They committed to a single path, and worked it baby, worked it.

I reflect that much of what I’ve witnessed on this trip relates to taking a single brilliant idea to the max. What happens when a great idea is really given the full chance it deserves? Is given resources? Is given freedom?

I mean seriously, if someone pitched an idea to you about dressing up as Darth Vader in a rented costume and making videos at night in the local grocery store, would you really be ready to leap at that at first soundbite?

And yet, break it down: it was almost risk-free, in the sense that they made the videos themselves on a shoestring budget. There was no corporate boss or overhead to please, so by doing what they themselves thought was funny, they at least had fun making it. They learned lessons as they went. I see that as a no-possible-loss situation.

P.S. Sloan and Yonda treated us to the world premiere of episode 9 of Season 2 this afternoon. It’s the second-to-last episode planned, and trust me, you’re going to love it!

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Great (And Bad) Video Book Trailers

June 30th, 2009 . by Peggy

I’m being interviewed on July 2nd by Sheri Kaye Hoff, regarding eBooks and the video trailers to sell them. I’ve compiled a list of good and bad examples of video book trailers to make a few of my points clear.

Love, Stargirl


This one was the winner of the 2007 Teen Book Video Awards. (Like, if there’s an award, we should all make sure this is top on our priority list for book marketing, right?) Even though this example comes from a highly-niched fiction market, the comments still apply for business and non-fiction books.

Things I like about this one:
- extremely involving sequence, tone, etc. to draw in the watcher
- cool imagery appeals to the designated audience; in this case, teen girls
- a little weird and makes good use of “creepy” element
- it’s well-edited and looks very Hollywood-quality (essential here to foster the fantasy, but not essential in every case)
- kudos to them for finding an appropriate contest to enter and gain additional publicity

Things I think could be done better:
- more visibility of a URL or book title throughout production
- a clickable purchase link at the end (YouTube allows you to do a lot of custom stuff with a bit of research – see a future post about how to manipulate YouTube)
- I don’t see this in a lot of other locations, distributed on blogs, etc., which means somebody didn’t do the legwork

Duma Key


You may be surprised that this is my least favourite video of the bunch, and not just because this is a Stephen King cookie-cutter product: blood and gore, etc., etc. Loyal readers like my husband love this stuff, and the video gives them what they want. This is also the shortest – only just over 30 seconds.

Things I like about this one:
- short and to-the-point
- high-contrast graphic imagery makes it easy to see on the smallest of screens, like iPods, etc.
- the book graphic at the end makes it clear what’s being sold, as this is still new for many readers
- release date stated clearly at the end

Things I think could be done better:
- again, no direct link for ordering (Like, haven’t any of these people heard of affiliate programs?)
- perhaps this is too “corporate”, in the sense that it is rather predictable: a new author may consider taking bigger risks to gain an audience
- the imagery is somewhat disjointed, in that there is no “story” to this video – it’s just a bunch of scary stuff with a splash of blood, with nothing to involve the reader and link to something in their own lives (this is really about “features” vs. “benefits” again)

Nineteen Minutes

This video for popular Author Jodi Picoult was produced by AuthorBytes.com, a company that specializes in this type of media – and it shows. I’ve never read any of Picoult’s work because I thought it was something I wouldn’t be interested in. I think I may have been wrong.

Things I like about this one:
- the Author herself narrates the entire video, and there are photos of her periodically that help readers connect with her
- the shock value of the commentary is quite powerful, demonstrating contrast that I suspect will also be present in the Author’s work
- the commentary asks us to think of ourselves in perspective of the book’s subject matter
- the accompanying copy (“Details” in YouTube) is well-composed and easy for bloggers and others to use
- the narration and imagery reference other works by the same Author that have been highly successful and are easily recognized
- this doesn’t need full-motion video throughout to make the message work, and still images are used extremely well
- all the technical gunk is there at the end, such as ISBN number, cover format, page count, etc. which means this video is not just useful for consumers – it’s also very useful for booksellers and other markets

Things I think could be done better:
- again, no direct purchase link (How many times do I need to say this?)
- could be a lot shorter and still tell the story well
- the “clock” intro at the beginning drags a fair bit
- the music selection is not appropriate or powerful, and a better choice would make all the difference in the world
- this has 36k views and yet no comments, so perhaps a few “plants” would attract more viewers, and this may also signify a lack of effort to distribute and make use of this valuable resource

I’m really looking forward to our conference call about eBooks and video book trailers on Thursday, July 2nd, 2009. Click to Author Sheri Kaye Hoff’s page to register for this free call. Hear you there!

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