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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.

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Top Marketing Blogs Worth Reading

February 10th, 2011 . by Peggy

The Power 150 from AdAgeAd Age does a daily rank of the world’s 150 top marketing blogs. Here are my faves off that list, and why.

The daily list is at: http://adage.com/power150/. I read several of them regularly, although I don’t read any of them daily. My list of favourites – in the order they are found on the AdAge list – includes;

- Seth’s Blog: Seth Godin, the sexiest head in marketing, has daily blog posts that are short, to-the-point, and don’t waste time. Inspirational.

- Chris Brogan: Also sexy, but different. I’ve heard Brogan speak at various conferences, and he’s a real, down-to-earth guy with stuff that works. Simple.

- CopyBlogger: Brian Clark talks about words that sell, and why. He’s a WordPress advocate, and his posts are uncomplicated and explanatory. Interesting.

- JohnChow.com: I love him for so much more than being Canadian. John is a racehorse in the world of marketing; sleek and fast. Aggressive.

- ShoeMoney.com: Love this guy’s backstory. A real Basement Techie, all grown up. An eager and hardworking guy with great advice. Funny.

- ProBlogger.net: Darren Rowse has plenty of guest bloggers on his site, all about blogging for money. Specific and technical. Aussie.

- JoelComm.com: If you want to learn about how to use ClickBank or AdSense, this is the guy. Believable and trustworthy. Sensible.

- ChrisG.com: Garrett’s generous new media and WordPress blog fills a gap that others have missed. Smart, understandable, and practical. Clever.

I’m sure there are others just as worthy, but these are the guys on that list that I read regularly. I notice that Michelle MacPhearson’s blog and Frank Kern’s variety of crazy sites have missed the list entirely, which is a real shame. Both are also great folks worth following.

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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.

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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)

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I’m speaking at the Editors’ Association of Canada on Sept. 25th

September 8th, 2010 . by Peggy

I’ll be speaking with the other two Book Broads on Sept. 25th for the Editor’s Association of Canada (Editors.ca), about Creating and Editing Social Content, from 10am to 4pm at SFU’s Harbour Centre Campus, in downtown Vancouver. George Plumley, the Author of WordPress 24 Hour Trainer will be joining us to talk about WordPress, the world’s most widely-used blogging platform and content management system. (And the platform upon which this blog you’re reading is built.)

The focus of our talk is about creating that which really drives social media: CONTENT. Without loyalty to platform, we’ll talk about various platforms and their advantages and disadvantages, including blogging, FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many many others. We’ll send you away with some fast tools that you can put to use right away, and of course, some chocolate.

Early Bird pricing ends Sept. 14th, $100 for Members of the EAC, and $160 for non-Members. Click here to register.

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I’m Speaking at Northern Voice This Weekend #nv10

May 5th, 2010 . by Peggy

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

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

Topics we’ll cover include;

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

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

Hope to see you all there!

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Open Source Software for Writers

November 4th, 2009 . by Peggy

Writer’s tools are extremely expensive, especially in terms of software. Here’s a great list of free open-source software designed just for writers.

First, lets define exactly what open source software really means. The term “open-source” comes from the idea that the source code of the software is revealed to the public, unlike Microdaft where everything is super-duper secret. (Or at least, so they think.) When the source code of a piece of software is available to anyone, it means that anyone in the software community can use it – within certain very loose guidelines – to create new software, create add-ons, refine the program, and so on. The one major caveat: they cannot take this free source code and sell it for a direct profit.

Does that mean it’s free? Well, sort of. There’s a strong code of ethics in the open-source community, and almost nobody abuses the grass-roots system that has grown up around this concept. Most people who contribute to open-source projects make their living by consulting, designing, supporting, and doing other things alongside the product of the open-source project, not the project itself.

However, this same code suggests that if there’s a donation button, and you’re happy with the software, then by all means, buy the programmer a virtual coffee. Realize that programmers of open-source software make only marginally more than your average freelance writer. Yep – a couple of bucks wouldn’t hurt either of you.

The website osalt.com has a massive database of open-source software for almost any purpose. (Be aware that they also offer downloads of commercial software – scroll past that to get to the free stuff.) But here are some of my personal recommendations for writers;

- OpenOffice, an alternative to Microserf Office. I have not used any MSO products for several years – this does more than MSO ever will, and looks almost identical. Virtually no learning curve, except for some exceptionally cool new stuff. Imagine this: free, does more, and fewer crashes. I once used this to layout an entire book for print, which I’ll talk about in a future blog post.

- WordPress, the blogging platform that this blog you’re reading is based upon. (This is different from WordPress.com, which is when you use it on a public server, which I do not generally endorse for writers.) I’m talking about WordPress.org, which offers the version that you can download and install on almost any webhost. A zany array of plugins and graphical themes are also available at WordPress.org/extend/.

- XMind, a mind-mapping application that can be used not only to distill your writing ideas, but also to map out characters, plot lines, and even help you figure out who the murderer is.

- PDF995, which although not really an open-source project, it is still free and very reliable. Even though you’ve read in other posts what a fan I am of Adobe products, I still use this for creating most of my PDF documents from typed documents, because it’s lighter and faster than the real thing. This version displays ads each time you use it, but you could just slap down the $10 and not see the ads.

- Celtx (pronounced “Kel-tix”) offers an alternative to the writer’s plague of crazy pieces of paper in every room of your house. Designed as a pre-production and planning tool for screenwriting and similar story-based art forms, it’s very useful for writers. Think of this as a digital binder, collecting your ideas and storyboards, not to mention the actual script, all in one place. Great collaboration tools for more than one contributor.

And for Writers Who Podcast…

- My beloved Audacity, the program that I use to record and edit almost all my audio podcasts. Easy to use, with cool built-in effects and a very forgiving undo button. Even the kids will love this.

- I recently discovered The Levelator, a dandy yet tiny application with big benefits for any podcaster. Smooths out levels and jumpy volume levels. This saves me hours of work.

If you can find a way to give back to the open-source community, please do so by donation or by promotion. It will keep writers in software for a long time coming.

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Going to BlogWorldExpo.com

October 10th, 2009 . by Peggy

I’m heading to Blog World Expo again this year for some educational fun. Speakers this year include Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan, and Chad Vader.

OK, I admit I’m most excited about seeing Chad, the internet video sensation created by Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda. Everyone’s favourite grocery store night manager, Chad has captured more than my own heart. (Even George Lucas gave it his thumbs up.) My main mission at the Expo this year is to go to sessions about podcasting, and the brains behind Chad Vader’s viral video success are two that I wish to pick, if only from a safe distance, down there, in the audience. Perhaps I can sit next to Chad’s girlfriend Clarissa.

What’s your own podcasting mission for your enterprise? Lately, I’ve become more bipolar in my own approach, as I created a more polished set of videos for TheBookBroads.com’s YouTube channel, and yet streamlining my “joie de le moment” approach for certain cell-phone generated video content. (Soon to be released.) There are advantages to each approach, and I enjoy doing both.

I will be interviewed and interviewing all weekend at the show, October 15th through the 17th, from the show floor and various locations around Las Vegas. You’ll find any new videos at the Wizard of eBooks’ new YouTube channel at YouTube.com/wizardofebooks.

I’ll be happy to do my best to honour any special requests for specific blog or podcasting-related info from the show made via email, Twitter, or comments on this blog.

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The New Wizard of eBooks

September 3rd, 2009 . by Peggy

You’ll notice that I’m no longer primarily referring to myself as Humanus Publishing, but now by my nickname, the Wizard of eBooks.

In practical terms, this does mean some changes. Our mission is now more closely focused on creating, editing, and marketing what we call “next generation” books and eBooks. I’m also going to indulge myself in more professional podcasting in the form of interviews and corporate messaging, and coaching for WordPress (the blogging platform on which this site is built), both of which have been particular passions of mine for some time now. You’ll notice that both of these will be featured shortly on my Services page, which is the next thing on my long list to be re-vamped.

We still hold a special place on our bookshelves for the Self-Published Author: a symbol of independence, and the new wave that is sweeping the publishing industry. If you were worried that we had forgotten about you, please don’t! But perhaps we should change the term to be “self-empowered” – if you’d like to know what that feels like, give us a call toll-free at 1-866-907-4084.

May I say Thanks to my wonderful clients, friends, and mentors for all of your assistance as I make this shift. I’m extremely grateful for your honesty, your knowledge, and your faith in our alliance.

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New Speaking Topics!

June 22nd, 2009 . by Peggy

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

Short Talks:

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

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

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

Long Talks (1.5 hours or less)

1) eBooks – The Next Generation

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

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

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

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

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