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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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10 Things Authors Should Know About QR Codes

December 23rd, 2011 . by Peggy

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

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

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

2. Elevate your QR content.

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

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

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

4. Don’t have just one code.

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

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

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

6. Don’t isolate the code.

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

7. Expect more from your scanners.

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

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

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

9. Include social info on QR landing pages.

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

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

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

BONUS – 11. Be sure to follow up.

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


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Book launches are useless.

May 17th, 2011 . by Peggy

Rather than launch a book, why not launch an online community? A way to poke fun at ourselves? A volunteer campaign? A wacky public stunt? A fundraising effort? A regular podcast about the key issues of your book? Awareness around a cause? A free tool that saves people time or money? An interview with someone that inspired you?
Why do the usual? Like, ever?

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Keyword Research – Download This

April 8th, 2010 . by Peggy

This is the revised version, April 2012.

Keyword research is so very important that I want to highlight this tip sheet for my readers. Please download this free PDF for a fast introduction to the why and how.

I recently gave a talk for the Nanaimo Women’s Business Network here on Vancouver Island, and for the Ladies Who Launch in Vancouver, and we talked about keyword research quite at bit more than I had intended to. I suppose I really am an Uber-Geek, because I actually enjoy doing keyword research. Seriously. This is how I spend my evenings while all of you are out dancing at the local pub.

You should do a basic keyword research exercise (30 mins to 2 hours) before you do any of the following;

  • write a book
  • even think about writing a book
  • decide on the final title for your book
  • design the cover for your book
  • create a company logo
  • setup your website
  • create business cards or brochures or advertising
  • write a business plan (especially this!)
  • create a blog post
  • put anything on social media sites
  • create a podcast
  • revise any of the above

I’m not trying to freak you out – I’m just trying to make it clear how important this is. The document is free, so please feel free to re-distribute it to friends.

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Book Launches, New Releases, and Affiliate Programs – Oh My!

April 12th, 2008 . by Peggy

What a weekend it has been for Humanus Publishing! A launch party for one of my authors, a new release from another of my authors, and the rollout of our new affiliate program, all in the last 4 days!

Sunday was the launch party for The Freshman FlyFisher, (ISBN 978-0-978-3292-1-1) by Rick Passek of Surrey, BC. Rick held his launch event at the Little Campbell Hatchery at the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club on 184th in Surrey. What a huge success for all involved! Rick not only sold plenty of books, but made numerous contacts related to promoting family outdoor events in the Surrey area. We are grateful to the Rotary Club of Cloverdale BC, for their wonderful management of the food concession stand, and to the City of Surrey for their support. As always, Rick was a real star, and was cool as a cuke from Friday morning’s appearance on Breakfast Television on City TV, to his interview on CBC Radio’s BC Almanac Friday afternoon, right through Sunday’s festivities. My favourite moment was little 6-year old Gracie’s fishing lesson on Breakfast Television Friday morning. She picked up the fine art of casting in a matter of minutes, due at least in part to Rick’s careful tutelage. Good going, Rick!

Another one of my authors, the lovely Jeri-Lyn McCrea, is the author of Words in Action – A Journal to Inspire Change, (ISBN 978-0-9809325-0-8) which is scheduled for release on April 25th. I saw the first copies back from the printer’s on Saturday, and boy, do they look fantastic!! The matte-coated hardcover is sooooo soft in the hand, and the pages look truly inspiring. I’m really excited about this journal (I guess we should stop referring to it as a “book”), because it breaks entirely new ground in the area of motivation and self-improvement titles. Jeri is so right when she talks about people “figuring it out for themselves”, and not looking to others to “complete their lives or tell them what to do”. Her journal is a book you ultimately write for yourself, and get a little burst of energy and motivation every day. Setting goals and making up your mind to achieve them – that’s what Words in Action is all about. Watch this blog for more info about events coming soon to the Langley and Surrey areas.

The cherry on the cake of this weekend was our new Humanus Publishing Affiliate Program. I started this project a few weeks ago to solve the problems of one author’s quest to market their product online, and it has now snowballed into something that can be used by any self-publishing author who wants to sell their books direct to consumers over the internet. Authors want to be freed of the hassle and overhead of online sales in order to keep writing, and this system means that they do not need to put up any money up front to make that happen. It’s cheap, fast, and keeps writers doing what they should be doing – writing. I hope that this system will expand into something resembling a marketing co-op for self-publishing authors, while continuing to align itself with the values of Humanus Publishing. If you know of a publisher who wants to sell their products through our program, you can earn money by referring them. Simply email me and let’s find a way to make it happen.

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Social Network Marketing Example: James Bond as Meme

March 20th, 2008 . by Peggy

Here’s a great example of getting bloggers and other online social media users to talk about your new product – otherwise known as a “meme”. This is social network marketing at its best.

Being such a huge fan of the James Bond films (Brosnan was my favourite, until the last one…), I was thrilled to see a teaser (embedded below) for Quantum of Solace, the new Bond movie currently being filmed in various locations.

Notice the handy little button at the lower right corner of the screen, labeled “Link/Embed”? This code allows you to quickly share this content with anyone you choose, and in a multitude of ways, thereby increasing your page views exponentially. The link/embed feature travels with the video, as you can see. And they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on…

The only question left for me is whether or not Daniel Craig appears sans trousers again in the new film. Yummy.

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The Difference Between an ISBN, Bar Code, and UPC Code

March 17th, 2008 . by Peggy

Why might you possibly need a UPC code plus an ISBN code for your book product? Read on to find out. This seems to be a confusing thing, when it’s actually quite simple. It’s all about using each term correctly, rather than interchangeably.

An ISBN number stands for International Standard Book Number, and when you are assigned one for your book product, each number is totally unique. A modern ISBN has 13 digits, as of January 2007. Embedded in each number is a code that identifies your country, you as a publisher, and the unique publication. (See a future post for nerdy details.)

There is one ISBN governing body for this entire planet, and each country has an agency devoted to administering it for their country. In Canada, this is Library and Archives Canada – an office in our Federal Government, and in the USA, along with a few other countries, it is run by an organization called Bowker.

A bar code is really a computer font. When you enter a series of numbers and convert them to this font, it appears as a series of lines of varying widths (or dots, or whatever – this technology had matured recently) which can then be read by a computer with the appropriate hardware, a bar code scanner.

An ISBN can be used to create a scannable bar code for your book, making it uniquely identifiable to booksellers who subscribe to the ISBN database. Your ISBN is a totally unique number, making it very easy to convert to a totally unique bar code using the special font.

A UPC code, or Universal Product Code, is a type of bar code, but the core number which is used to create the scannable code is derived from an entirely different source than the ISBN number. A UPC code has 12 digits rather than 13, and is grouped into two sections of 6 digits each. There is one large UPC organization that tracks and issues all the codes for the USA, called the G1-USA. They are part of the G1 organization worldwide, who also has a representative in Canada.

Why have a UPC code plus a bar code on your book? If your book is a product with wide appeal, and is likely to be sold outside of bookstores in venues like giftshops or consumer stores, a UPC code guarantees that any retailer can scan your book successfully. Not all retailers can scan an ISBN bar code, because there are more digits, and they may not have the ISBN database to relate it to.

So to sum up, both ISBN scannable codes and UPC scannable codes are types of bar codes. An ISBN is only assigned to a book or similar product, while a UPC code can be assigned to a book or virtually any product that is meant to be scanned in a retail store. My recommendation to clients is typically that they have both on the back of their books, in order to maximize market expansion options.

AND, always make sure you TEST your bar code before your book goes to press to make sure it scans properly! Your printer may offer to do this for you.

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Why WordPress is so Fantabulous

February 7th, 2008 . by Peggy

I’ve become something of a WordPress addict. I don’t shop for shoes any longer – I collect WordPress plugins. The thrill is the same, because it’s about finding something cool that solves a problem. And so far, I haven’t had a problem that there isn’t a WordPress plugin for.

Right now, you’re reading a web page that is built on a WordPress platform. WP is handy-dandy software that you install on your web server, and then you manage your entire website based on it. It’s free (because it’s open source), it’s easy for both techies and non-techies alike to use, and most importantly, it works.

If you’re worried about control over how your website will look and act, fear no more. If it’s good enough for the Ford Motor Company, it’s good enough for me. The link in the previous sentence hops to a portion of the Ford series of websites related to autoshows, which I would suggest is a fairly major part of their marketing efforts. The advantages gained here by Ford are that of anyone with a WP site, which are many, but the majority of them are;

  • very fast setup: be ready to insert basic content within minutes
  • totally customizable, and easily changed at any time, all without having to re-enter ANY of your core content
  • easily update your content to keep your site fresh anytime (and therefore more appealing to search engines)
  • self-managed: no need to bug your web designer for every little thing you need changed on your site
  • accumulate and maintain an email list that you can use for marketing
  • watch stats on who is visiting your site, how often, and what they’re doing while they are there
  • sell products (like books), tickets, and information directly off your website
  • easily manage multiple contributors (columnists) to your site’s content
  • host videos and podcasts in a library accessible at any time to any user

Many consider WordPress to be a blogging platform, but clearly, it has evolved beyond these roots in the trenches. Blogging platforms are the blue-bloods of server software, because they must stand up to intensely competitive efforts to funnel traffic. Managing a website on WP is like driving in Los Angeles: if you can do it there, you can do it anywhere.

All this, and I haven’t even mentioned the best part about WordPress: It’s cheaper than shoes.

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Interview with Rick Passek

January 19th, 2008 . by Peggy

Rick is the author of the upcoming book The Freshman Fly Fisher, with which I was very pleased to edit and assist him. I managed to corner Rick today to ask him about the marketing development and other aspects of his book project. He was extremely forthcoming, and this 25-minute video podcast is our complete interview. If you’re a writer who’s been wondering what the process is like to actually get your book out into the market, this is a great interview to encourage you. (Providing you ignore the cell phone that rang in the background about 1/3 of the way into our chat. Oh well – live and learn…) Rick also talks about the book and fishing and general, which is a great example of how he is able to show real passion for his subject: the key to his sales strategy.

Rick is pre-selling copies of Freshman at If you order before February 1st, he’ll pay the shipping.

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