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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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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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When eBook Choices Seem Overwhelming

June 11th, 2012 . by Peggy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) Do I need an Editor?

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

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

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

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

5) Do I need to hire a cover designer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Title Your eBook

May 1st, 2012 . by Peggy

Here are some great tips for choosing a title for your book or eBook. Done carefully, the correct title can really help ensure the success of your project. Or not.

The title of your eBook should start with your goals and keyword research. Regarding non-fiction eBooks, the title must accomplish the following things;

Your title must directly relate to your keyword research. Read this document to help you with that.

You must be able to purchase the exact URL for the title. For example, if your title is How To Train Your Pet Monkey To Vacuum Your House, you must be able to purchase HowToTrainYourPetMonkeyToVacuumYourHouse.com. (Speaking of which, just how much does a pet monkey cost these days?) If you can’t get the exact title, yes, I would seriously reconsider re-titling the eBook. That domain name should point directly to a sales and information page about the eBook itself.

The title should clearly demonstrate to readers what they will discover in this eBook. Don’t use crazy slang, phrases that you invent, or other non-intuitive language. Be clear. If this is about how to get girls by becoming a great DJ, then please title it, How To Get Girls By Becoming A Great DJ. Since I’m old, and female, I don’t even know what the “street” title could be for that, but you get what I mean.

It should ideally be less than 32 characters. So, the monkey example doesn’t fit that, but Keyword Cheat Sheet does. (Although yes, that slightly violates the hard consonant rule, below.)

It must be easy to understand and speak. Try to include hard consonants that make it easy to hear and understand when spoken over background noise, or when someone has an accent, like us Canadians from Vancooooover.

You must be able to visualize others in a series. If you can share things like title text portions or other imagery among a series of books, you have a greater chance of achieving cross-marketing between your own products.

Don’t include digits or numbers. People never know whether to write the digit or spell it out. If you must include digits, buy all the related domains, such as 7monkeys.com, as well as sevenmonkeys.com.

Once you have chosen your title, lock it in by actually buying the domain within the hour. If you have spent hours searching if certain domain names are available, and then you walk away and don’t purchase the one you want immediately, you might lose it. This is because many domain registration services have automated systems that spy on your searches, and then if you don’t buy the good ones, they will. And, they do this quickly. You are doing the difficult imaginative work for them, and they can easily capitalize on good domain names by trying to resell them using their automated systems.

Don’t forget to also buy your Author name domain as fast as possible. It is one of the great agonies of my life that I do not own PeggyRichardson.com – I was too late to grab it after I searched to see if it was available. I do own PeggyRichardson.ca, however. (Which brings you to this blog.) That way, you can use your own name or that of your eBook to drive traffic, because as I always say, YOU are the product, not the eBook.

Just for fun, try using the Lulu.com title scorer to see if your eBook is destined to be a bestseller. This is about as scientific as astrology for eBooks, but it can be great at eBook parties. (Yeah, I do that. Whatever.) You can also play The Titling Game by trying out the wackiest titles you can, and see what is the highest score. You just never know what might make you famous: http://www.lulu.com/titlescorer/index.php.

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18 Book Promotion Tips

April 24th, 2012 . by Peggy

Check out this list of 18 ways to promote your self-published (or traditionally-published) book or ebook.

1. Create a blog.

If you still don’t believe in the power of blogs for book marketing, check out this article by Nancy Hendrickson: http://ezinearticles.com/?Why-Authors-Need-to-Blog,-Even-If-No-One-Is-Reading&id=797505. Remember that the blog is not in addition to your website, it IS your website.

2. Write on the blog.

It sounds like 3+ times per week is the magic number to build traffic. Although, some Authors disagree, such as John Locke, who says that blogging more than once per month is a bad idea. Read his book How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! to find out why.

3. Build your list.

I use 1shoppingcart.com and MailChimp.com to do this, but you can also use aWeber.com and any number of other services. Build a list of people interested in your product up to a year before it’s released, and you’ve got pre-sales, my friend. Hint: all the social media stuff you hear about is really about building your list. Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.

4. Use podcasts.

I have a face made for radio, and I work it: check out the OLD podcasts I’ve created at BlogTalkRadio.com. Download ‘em, trade ‘em with your friends. I also do mobile interviews with two headsets on my laptop, and record them as .mp3′s for regular release on this blog. Use Audacity (it’s free!) to record, edit, and output high-quality .mp3′s. As easy as a VCR.

5. Offer a free downloadable sample chapter of your book.

When people sign up for your email list, give them something nice in return, such as a free chapter in .PDF form. Ask the Artist who typeset your print book to deliver this as part of their package of services to you, so that you can be sure to deliver the download in the same attractive layout. Or, be sure that you offer a sample chapter of your eBooks on Kindle. One way or another, let them try out your stuff.

6. Create a simple and clear landing page.

The idea here is to create a special page on your blog that is designed only to sell the book – that’s it. Make sure that people can easily and quickly “get” who you are, even if this is their first taste of what you have to offer. Place attractive “buy it now” buttons that leap directly to your shopping cart in highly visible locations. If they want to know more, give them links back to your regular blog, which also has easy “buy it now” buttons in highly-visible locations.

7. Use affiliate marketing.

It was Dan Poynter, self-publishing guru and author of over 100 books who said rightly, “A bookstore is a lousy place to sell a book.” Make online selling your primary sales venue, and the way to do that is with an affiliate program organized through 1shoppingcart.com. (For additional info on how to actually implement this, see my other blog posts or forthcoming Cheat Sheet on the subject.)

8. Read John Kremer’s book, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, Sixth Edition.

I just love this guy.

9. Setup an email signature.

Mine is linked to my RSS feed, so that whenever I send out an email, people can click on a cute little headline bar and read my latest blog posts. At the very least, setup one that links back to your landing page.

10. Tell your Mother about the book.

My Mom is great about bragging about her kids – yours could be your greatest marketing asset. But don’t stop there – the idea is to work your personal connections. It’s amazing who knows who in this world.

11. Expect to give away about 10% of your printed copies, or about 200 copies of your security-protected ebook as promotional copies.

Send these to reviewers in magazines, radio hosts you admire, other authors you admire, industry leaders, teachers, trainers, favourite Bloggers, etc. Just be sure that all promo copies are being given to someone appropriate in your niche – don’t give a cookbook to a political talk show host. Biggest thing to remember here is to empower your promo recipients: give them tools to help you sell, such as a link to leave a review on Amazon, your website, the link to purchase the eBook, and a link where they can signup as your affiliate.

12. Create 3 short talks of 20 minutes or less that concern your book’s topic, and present at local service club meetings.

Find these groups in your local directory, Chamber of Commerce, etc., and ask to speak to the person who organizes speakers for the group. When you present, don’t be too “salesey”, and be sure to give away a free somethingorother, which may not necessarily be your book. (I always give away chocolate, and tactfully leave the book on a nearby table offered for sale.)

13. Partner with another Author.

Don’t think of them as competition. (There is no such thing anymore, anyway.) Instead, if they offer a compatible product or service, you can target new markets together. Perhaps even form a small group of Authors – the more, the merrier!

14. Approach your local independent bookstore.

Small bookshops, rather than large corporate sellers, always appreciate an opener something like, “I’d love to create an event at your store that would draw in more foot traffic…”)

15. Get vinyl letters cut for your car.

Put your domain name (which is exactly the same as your book’s title, right?) on the back or side (or both) of your car. This is so cheap now that everybody should do it for almost any business.

16. Keep the car (above) clean!

17. Don’t hand out business cards – hand out postcards.

This was a great tip given to me years ago by a beloved business mentor. People toss business cards, but they keep attractive postcards that have content of real benefit to them. In addition, you have more space to tell your message, make a special offer, etc.

18. Write articles for eZineArticles.com.

These don’t have to be deep or complicated, but they do have to be good quality. Cap them at about 500 words for greatest readbility, and keep it tight. Read their submission guidelines here: http://ezinearticles.com/editorial-guidelines.html

Want more of these tips? Subscribe to my newsletter and you’ll get this stuff all the time. Click here to subscribe: http://eepurl.com/jQ-lf

 

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Fragmentation of Popular Culture, or “How Authors can Work the Mini-Media”

June 25th, 2008 . by Peggy

I’ve gained new insights in the last year or so about TV, radio and print media, and how they don’t work the way I always thought they did. I’ve also been confused by something I’ve observed via my husband’s internet marketing company, which is a shift away from television advertising by companies that previously relied heavily on commercials and other image-based marketing. These companies are now moving to the web as their primary platform for advertising and product information. They are taking advantage of the interactive nature of the web to educate their consumer, rather than emotionally motivate them to purchase.

Fewer people are watching television, and for those that are, regionalization is a trend that has been accelerating rapidly. Rather than debate why this is happening (there are numerous theories), clever entrepreneurs can take advantage of one of the cascading effects of this: working what I call the “Mini-Media”.

In a recent article at WritersDigest.com, (read it – it’s cool) Mary Curran-Hackett comments about what makes a great interview from both the standpoint of the interviewee and the interviewer. One portion of a paragraph really nailed this question of migrating advertising to the web. Curran-Hackett quotes NPR radio journalist Terry Gross as saying…

“… if you’re a writer or an artist who is being interviewed a lot and you’re asked the same questions and are giving the same answers, you sort of feel like it’s inconceivable—you can’t imagine that everybody on the planet Earth hasn’t heard you answer these questions. But the truth is, most people haven’t. Everyone used to watch the same TV shows and movies and listen to the same Top-40 music. Mass media was the glue that held people together. But now popular culture is fragmented. Everybody isn’t reading the same thing. They’re reading their favorite websites.”

Knowing that your customer is increasingly reading online, rather than watching television, we can focus our publicity efforts to a degree not previously possible. Websites are highly verticalized, and so are the visitors that read them. By identifying specific websites, blogs, discussion forums, and social media sites that tightly relate to our book’s subject matter, we are cutting costs, saving time and energy, and giving our readers more of what they really want.

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