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

July 2nd, 2012 . by Peggy

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

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

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

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

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

2. You must be committed to your niche.

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

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

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

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

3. The money is in affiliate marketing.

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

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

4. It can be extremely boring.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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How to Think Like a Successful eBook Author

June 5th, 2012 . by Peggy

 


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

1. Stop thinking of yourself as an Author.

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

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

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

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

2. Get into a tech groove.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Stop waiting.

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

4. Keep producing.

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

5. Template what works.

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

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

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eBook Creators of Las Vegas

November 2nd, 2011 . by Peggy

eBook Group Meets Monthly in Las VegasLas Vegas is an exciting town for musicians, performers, and artists of all types. But there’s one gap: writers. While there are several large writing groups in the area, I noticed that there doesn’t seem to be much support for eBook creators. So, I started a local group here that will meet a couple of times a month and provide coaching and support.

Why not join us? You can register for the group in general, and specific meetings at: http://www.meetup.com/eBook-Creators-of-Las-Vegas/. I sure hope you’ll come out to a meeting!

(Super secret spoiler: I’ve also got a new audio product on the way that I’ll be sharing with Members of this group first…)

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Blog World Expo Video Wrap-Up

November 3rd, 2009 . by Peggy

Here’s my short video spilling some of the great items I found on the show floor (figuratively, not literally…) at Blog World Expo 2009.

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Journalists Vs. Bloggers: The Smackdown

October 16th, 2009 . by Peggy

Here’s a clip I took today during this morning’s keynote at BlogWorld, “The Death and Rebirth of Journalism”, with a panel consisting of (from left to right) Joanna Drake Earl (Current TV COO), Don Lemon (CNN News Host), Jay Rosen (Journalism Prof at NYU and Blogger), and Hugh Hewitt (Radio host and lawyer). The panel was moderated by  Brian Solis (Principal of FutureWorks).

In this video, Don Lemon is describing his feelings about social media vs. big media.

I should note that Mr. Lemon took a few major checks against the boards this morning at this panel discussion, and in my personal opinion, while some of them were rather tough, some of them were deserved. There were some heated moments when I turned my head to see if there were any security guards in the room. Being that I was sitting in the very front row, not 10 feet away from these panelists, I admit at times I felt rather uncomfortable, uncertain how far people might exercise their obviously strong feelings.

The essential points from the Blogger community amount to that they find traditional media to be slow, cumbersome, incomplete, and not without a certain amount of unjustified self-assurance that comes across as arrogance. The traditional media claims not to feel threatened by social media, and furthermore, they want to work with social media to form a more “horizontal” system of news gathering and distribution, rather than a “vertical” one. “Let us in the loop,..” they ask. (This particular comment inflamed the Bloggers in the audience, who felt that they were being asked to do the “dirty work” of data-gathering for journalists, rather than being treated like equals.)

Another heated point related to the issue of fact-checking. While it’s true that the gatekeepers of traditional media make judgements about what to report based on what they feel will be of greater interest to their viewers (read=have greated ad-selling potential), they also perform an essential task when reporting on events: fact-checking.

Lemon openly stated that of course the system could not be perfect, and it was simply not possible to fact-check every single bit of information before it makes the airwaves. Bloggers however, want it understood that while there are some “bad apples” who perpetuate misinformation, perhaps maliciously or more often simply out of ignorance, most bloggers consider themselves ethical enough to want only to report that which can be substantiated and which they know to be true and accurate.

The debate will doubtless rage on for decades more, but this was a very interesting event for me to witness. As I said, heated moments, which made for stimulating and thought-provoking conversation for the rest of the day.

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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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My First Day at BlogWorldExpo

September 20th, 2008 . by Peggy

Well, it’s a day of combined impressions. Firstly, this show is not nearly as big as I had anticipated. But secondly, it’s more meaningful for me than I had ever imagined.

Frankly, I can’t understand why a topic with an obvious application to almost every business on the planet can only book 62 booths into a trade show. However, the conference schedule and speaker roundup is 29 pages of the show schedule booklet. The sessions were what seemed to be more valuable to most of the attendees, including myself.

Of the three sessions that I attended today, the most valuable was the “Making Money with with Podcasts” session, which was a panel discussion with three hosts including JB Glossinger of MorningCoach.com.

Glossinger has much in common with my own finance guru, Mr. H, who is constantly telling me to “…just get it done now – stop thinking so hard.” Glossinger truthfully introduced himself as “different” after hearing the other two panelists speak about their own success by explaining that he’s “…not a marketing expert…”, nor does he want to “…make you think I know everything about business…” But, he’s got a very clear understanding of two key areas of online business: speed and guts.

In the early days of his business, Glossinger knew that he wasn’t doing everything right, but he knew that podcasting was a great vehicle, and that he needed to just keep doing it to gain an audience. He knew that he had to be consistent in his offerings, and he knew that he had to keep his promise to delivery a 15-minute daily morning podcast. When he started, nobody knew who he was, but he had the guts to keep going. Now, he’s a well-known speaker and trainer in not only the field of personal coaching, but also in the field of online business. He’s a bit confrontational, and I just loved that.

What’s equally interesting about Glossinger is that his income model is not based on what seems to feed most podcasters, which is banner ads, ClickBank, and (low-)paying content creation. Instead, Glossinger uses his free podcasts to build his profile, build his traffic and subscriber base, sell items off his site, increase his bookings for speaking, and fill his classes with people who already understand what they are there to learn. Yup, I’m on my way there.

More updates tomorrow, Sunday evening, plus some video that I shot today and will add to tomorrow.

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The 6-Hour Blog Class Has Changed Dates

August 21st, 2008 . by Peggy

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

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

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

The other two classes will remain the same:

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

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

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

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American Sabbatical

February 7th, 2008 . by Peggy

I’m thinking quite seriously of spending about 3 months in Las Vegas. I love my Canadian home very much, but let’s face it: it’s cold and wet. I need to dry out. (Some might suggest that LV is the last place anyone should go to “dry out”, but I’m not rich enough to drink my way through that town.)

Does anyone take a sabbatical in America? Mexico seems to be the destination of choice for writers and musicians looking for objectivity. But I’ll still need to run my business from wherever I am, which means reasonable access to technology, international flights, and decent Chinese takeout. Vegas sounds like the perfect solution.

Nothing is real in Vegas anyway. Even the air in the casinos is so pumped up with extra oxygen that it’s no longer really air – it’s a feel-good mixture that enhances your dice-tossing skills. Where else can you eat pie for breakfast, ride a roller coaster before lunch (not after it), and wear an evening gown to business meetings? I’ll tell you – nowhere but Sin City, baby.

Besides, to a Canadian, everything in America is super-sized and attractively unnatural. Preachers dress like movie stars, and movie stars dress like prostitutes. The President thinks he’s a cowboy. Citizens buy carbon credits to make up for all the disposable items they use. I mean, you’ve got to love a country that puts glitter in deodorant.

I don’t even have to make it all the way to Vegas – I hear there’s a little place just over the Nevada border where you can buy a steak dinner for just $1.49. Now, doesn’t that sound like an unreal deal to you?

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