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

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.

join the discussion

The 5 Most Stupid Things People Do With Their eBook Business

June 8th, 2011 . by Peggy

I’ve often said that it is our duty as entrepreneurial publishers to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Like our Mothers in the 1960′s and 1970′s, we are paving the road for those who come after us. If we make eBooks and entrepreneurial publishing look cheap, unprofessional, or just plain awful, what are we doing to the next generation?

Here are the mistakes I see all the time that make me crazy.

1. We seek out the ugliest possible cover design.

Please, I’m begging you, hire a designer. A professional. A person that has done this before. A person with training. Have them do a few different samples (not complete designs) and run them past your creative circle. Remember, you’re looking for readability, a graphic theme that clearly states the book’s intent, and no half-faded images. And remember, NO CREEPY FONTS. I will find you.

2. We don’t make use of affiliate marketing.

These things don’t sell themselves, people. I always endorse a self-operated affiliate program first, but if your book is on Amazon, set yourself up as an Amazon affiliate. Using their simple automated system, create banner ads and other affiliate links for your own products. Push these links out through your Twitter stream, your Facebook page, your podcasts, your iTunes content, your blog, your charitable fundraising connections, your reviews, your classes, your signage, on your business cards, your newsletter, etc. Be a little pushy. (But not too much.) Create a URL that you can promote that links directly to a page with your own products. (See the next post for how to do that.)

3. We think we’re going to make $120,000 a month.

Around these parts, here on Vancouver Island, there was a story about a woman in Cedar, BC, that did over $120k per month in nothing but Kindle eBooks. While I doubt the truth of that, even if it was the case, she doesn’t do that in her sleep. She’s working – probably really, really hard. Or at least, really, really consistently. She runs it like a business, which means she has specific things she does over and over again, and on a predictable basis. She meets deadlines and hires help. And, we’re not talking about one eBook. We’re probably talking about hundreds – possibly thousands. So, until you’ve gone through the ramp-up phase, don’t expect to be buying anything more than a Friday night round at the pub with eBook revenue.

4. We don’t get off our high horse.

I not too proud to know I’m not a literary giant. I make my money writing marketing stuff, for the most part. I’m a small fish in a massive ocean, but I work it. I have no qualms about promoting my stuff when it’s appropriate (vs. when I would just be harassing people).I consider most of what I do as a writer is marketing work, not great writing. No, my mom doesn’t think I do a very good job on some of it. But I know that I’m meeting the objectives of my clients. I don’t write romances or the next Great Gatsby or children’s lit, because although that sort of lit comes into my house on a daily basis, I have no illusions about myself as some great fiction writer or novelist. Yes, it would be nice to make my living doing that, but I still have the screenplays in the bottom drawer, and the novel that I peck away at when I can. It’s more like an extremely enjoyable hobby. And even if I did ever offer anything like that for sale, I wouldn’t have any snobbery about where I placed ads, or where I was “represented”. I’m here to sell. Show me the money.

5. We don’t write another book.

I have recently completed eBook number 155. That sounds like a lot. I can tell you, it feels like even more. Many of them probably don’t get read, like, ever. But I am not offended by this. They are often given away as free reports or client gifts. Remember the volume principle: one book makes $1 a day. Ten books make $10 a day. And so on. The eBook business is a template business – you do the same thing over and over again. There is an expression in the book business: the second book takes 1/10th of the time to create and makes you 10 times the money. In eBooks, it might be 100 times the money.

Plus, I now have a reputation. I can write almost anything, because what I am is a good Technical Writer – I specialize in breaking down complex topics and making them easy to understand. I’ve proven my template, and it works to meet my clients’ objectives. They won’t always pay for originality, but they will pay for what makes them money.

Topics that I’ve researched and then written include WWII weaponry, high-speed Italian cars, and ancient Egyptian enbalming techniques. But most of it is things like how you can buy stocks, how to get a mortgage as a single mother with no money, how you can sell a business in Illinois, how you can buy a house in Mexico, how you can amalgamate all your debts with a second mortgage, how to start a business in Nevada, and other incredibly dry topics that make my hands shake when I think about them. But, it’s about continuity. I get the work regularly because I’ve done it before.

The eBook business is about business – not always about literature. It’s about creating a community about your book. It’s about connecting through your marketing, not just pushing, pushing, and pushing. We all make mistakes – I discover new ones every day that I’m making – but taking things in perspective helps me stay grounded and keep working. “Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing…”

join the discussion