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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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Why I Love Rotary

June 26th, 2009 . by Peggy

pegspaulharrisLast night, my old Rotary Club in Langley surprised me with an unanticipated accolade – I’m now a Paul Harris Fellow.

The Paul Harris Award is the highest award given worldwide in Rotary, and my club chose to bestow this honour on me in recognition of my contributions to the club website, and the website of another special Rotary event. I was one of three honourees, along with my friend and fellow Member Fred Clark and new club Member Ana Sawatzky, whom I don’t know yet, but she sure has great taste in shoes.

As per the Rotary website, “The Paul Harris Society is named after Paul P. Harris, founder of Rotary International. Paul Harris formed the world’s first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago, on 23 February 1905. His intention was to recapture in a professional club the same friendly spirit he had felt in the small towns of his youth. Today, Paul Harris
Society contributions to The Rotary Foundation support a wide range of humanitarian grants and educational programs that enable Rotarians to bring hope and promote international understanding throughout the world.”

If you are looking for a fulfilling volunteer opportunity, I strongly encourage you to examine your local Rotary Club. Rotary has had a profound impact on my life, and is even responsible for introducing me to my husband of 17 years, as we were introduced by someone in his Rotaract club at the time. Rotary has been not only the most significant and rewarding volunteer opportunity I’ve ever had, but has been a second family for me. I found myself overwhelmed with emotion several times last evening, as I looked around and saw so many friends that we miss so very much since moving to the gulf islands. I only managed to keep it together due to great conversation and fun company. (And, two glasses of wine didn’t hurt.)

To the Members of The Rotary Club of Langley Sunrise, in Langley BC, Canada, thank you so very much for this honour. Please know that I am extremely grateful, and that this award moves me to not just continue, but to expand my involvement within Rotary International.

Sincerely,

-peggy

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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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Jeri’s Giving Away Scholarships!

May 4th, 2008 . by Peggy

Jeri-Lyn McCrea, the Author of Words in Action, has offered to fund scholarships through a partnership with Rotary. It works like this: any Rotary club worldwide can place an attractive ad banner on their website that directs people back to a custom web page, where anyone can buy the book. When a book is purchased through this link, our system calculates a payment of $5 per book for that club. Simple.

Does your Rotary club want to sign up for this program? Click here to apply. The qualifications are that your club must be able to cash a check in US dollars, and you must direct the funds back to a scholarship that meets Jeri’s specifications.

Jeri explains… “To align with Rotary values, and those of my book, this scholarship would benefit students who exemplify the characteristics of action, effort, determination, courage and dedication. Therefore, using the existing Instructor jury process already in place by many of the local Rotary clubs, the scholarship would be given to the student who displays the best consistent effort toward his or her future goals. It is not necessary for this student to achieve a high GPA. It is only necessary that this student applies their best, consistent effort.”

For more information, or to apply for a scholarship in your area, call me at 1-866-907-4084.

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