Humanus Feed
Obsessed with books, eBooks, marketing, & chocolate.

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.

join the discussion

Video Marketing Tips For Small Biz

April 10th, 2010 . by Peggy

I’ve been saying for some time now that if you don’t start to take video seriously as a major marketing/educational medium, you and your book or other business are toast.

In this article on Biznik.com, Contributor Michael Shuett (who works with a video production company in Washington State) clearly states it yet again. “Being without a professional video will soon be equivalent to not having a website; it will be as necessary as it used to be to have a listing in the Yellow Pages.”

Shuett offers statistics from the Unica State of Marketing 2010 study, which clearly demonstrates that most organizations intend to use video (especially in mobile social media content) this year as part of their marketing strategies. We have known for some time that search results always favour video content over any other content, including text, blog updates, and even audio.

The big obstacle for most of us? We freak out when someone suggests that we should be on camera. I also have a face made for radio, but I still get up there and do video regularly. Consider these options for freaked-out video creators;

  • Narrate A Slide Show: This is the least threatening and easiest way to start with video. If you do any sort of speaking or teaching, a good first video exercise might be to take one of your training sessions and simply narrate it while you flip through your slides. This way, only your voice is present, and people will see your presentation, not your face. You can use a variety of tools to create this, including Jing (free) and/or Camtasia (not so free).
  • Prioritize Audio Quality: Use a good quality microphone – sound quality is essential. You can get away with crappy lighting and bad photography if people can still hear your message, but if they can’t hear you, they stop watching. A headset is my preference, and seems to get the best results, partly because it’s maintained at a steady distance from my mouth at all times and doesn’t move around. However, I recognize that this can make you look like you’re trying to launch a space shuttle. If you’d prefer a handheld (and there are cases where I prefer a handheld – see a future post about that) you can get away with a surprisingly affordable one. I paid about $160 US for my headset a couple of years ago (here’s a link to something similar – very comfortable, as I wear these a lot) and about $35 for my handheld (including shipping) on eBay. Test everything before you start shooting. (Best tip: be sure the microphone switch is turned to the ‘on’ position. No joke – I’ve done it.)
  • Do It Yourself: Although Shuett suggests that video should be professionally-produced or nothing, I must say that I disagree. Video created on-the-fly with a gritty home-grown quality can provoke a better response than professional quality. I mean really, who trusts a script? (You can always tell when it’s a script and someone’s reading from a cue card.) It’s so easy to just sit in front of your webcam and make a fast recording. I’ve even created video while driving. (Safely and legally, I swear.) Homegrown is better than nothing.
  • Use YouTube’s Natural SEO Benefits: The overwhelming majority of video viewed on the web these days is still ultimately hosted on YouTube.com. When uploading a video there, you’ll be prompted with a variety of fields, including one specifically for keywords. (Be sure to do your keyword research up front.) Don’t neglect all these other fields – fill them out completely! People don’t necessarily have to find your very own website to discover you. Simply searching YouTube will help them find your video, and this will lead them back to your site, because of course, your URL is clearly present there for them to click on.
  • Don’t Edit: After the first few years dealing with editing video, I’m now really a one-take sort of girl. If I mess up seriously, I’ll re-take it, but I hate chopping in second cameras, voiceovers, etc. What a drag, and a delay to posting. I just shoot and post. I will vaguely outline what I want to say verbally before turning on the camera, but I rarely even write it down anymore. If you know your stuff, it comes easily anyway.
  • Be Funny: This is synonymous with being real, keeping it loose, etc. Boring = viewers who leave. Funny = believability. If you’re not naturally funny, don’t try to fake it, but keep it friendly at least.

Recently, for the first time, I was recognized in a crowd at a business event, because people had seen me on video. They already trusted me and my company, because they had seen me talk about their subject, and they knew my style. I’ve always said, if a fat chick in her late 30′s isn’t credible these days, who is? It’s the one thing I have going for me. (Along with good teeth.) Find out what you’ve got going for you, and use it on video.

join the discussion