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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: (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. 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 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.

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Best Book Trailer Video I’ve Seen Yet…

December 5th, 2009 . by Peggy

I’m dying to know more about the animation process behind this video from the New Zealand Book Council. “Bringing books to life”, indeed.

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A Great Story About Motivation

August 31st, 2009 . by Peggy

I love this video from starring Daniel Pink, titled “The Surprising Science of Motivation”. This has made me re-think the way I motivate myself to write a certain amount each day. In addition, his illustration of “The Candle Problem” has many applications, and I’m sure you’ll see yourself in at least part of this video.

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Every Author Needs a Video Book Trailer

June 1st, 2009 . by Peggy

Here are my tips for creating your best book or eBook video trailer to promote your product on video sites like YouTube, and places like Twitter or FaceBook.

The job of the video book trailer is the same as that of a movie trailer: give them a taste, but keep them wanting more. It should accurately reflect the content of your book, but not give away the farm.

Perhaps most importantly, this video should be able to be distributed all on its own: if people see nothing about your book but the trailer, they should know (1) what your book will do for them, (2) how much it is, and (3) where to buy it or find out more. This way, you can distribute the video almost any way, through any media, and it will do the same job.

As a sales tool, I won’t bore you again here with my now-familiar rant about video being the most powerful communication medium, how anybody can do it in their basement, and how the cost-benefit ratio of all online marketing tools is highest with video.

Let’s skip to the tips.

- At the very top of the cheap-and-simple scale, you can always cobble together video clips using Windows Movie Maker, now part of basic Windows. Mac fans have numerous choices, but the objective here is to use whatever allows you to get it out the door the fastest.

- Focus on benefits, rather than features. (Yeah, I know you’ve head me lecture about that before, too.) Will the book tell them how to shave minutes off their best marathon run time? Will it teach them how to drug-proof their kids? Will it give them an advantage when they apply for their next job? It’s not about “how to”, but rather about “you can have this too”.

- Keep it under 2 minutes. Longer than that and you lose them.

- Put a ghost image of your URL on every screen, either in the bottom corner or across the bottom. Just make sure you don’t block the view of stuff on-screen. If you can’t put a ghost image, be sure to clearly display the URL at the beginning, somewhere in the middle, and again clearly at the end.

- Include a copyright statement as the last screen with your company and the year.

- Enhance the mood using cool music, appropriate tempo and pace, and additional stock video if need be. ( now offers video as well as still photographs.)

- Use video of YOURSELF talking, as per an interview format. If need be, get someone to sit to the side of the camera and ask you questions from off-screen. This is really important, because it enables readers to connect and build (virtual) trust with you as a source for information. You might feel silly, but just get your hair done and get in front of that camera. It will be over soon, I promise. (Just be sure to get enough raw footage that you have plenty to choose from. If you don’t like it, you can always leave it on the cutting room floor.)

- Do not use crazy special effects unless your book is about crazy special effects.

- Don’t just accept the defaults in whatever editing program you are using, whether it be Windows Movie Maker or Final Cut. Question everything for quality, appropriateness, and clarity. Fonts, fade-ins, credits, etc.

- When in doubt, be subtle.

- For background music, I’ve been using for some time now. Good selection, and you are guaranteed not to be sued.

- Use humour – but don’t let it be too dry. An audience will really warm up to you if you let out your funny side.

- Upload the video to YouTube for easy distribution and natural traffic. Yet again, your early keyword research comes in handy here, as you can plug in your pre-determined keywords around the video, and double-whammy your SEO work. Google LOVES a well-catalogued YouTube video. There are many other sites that will help you distribute your video, but YouTube is a great place to start.

And finally, be sure to test it on at least 8 people. Make sure these are people of all ages and backgrounds, and not necessarily in your market. Even if they don’t understand certain buzzwords, the video should have enough generic appeal so that everyone can “get” you immediately.

A friend of mine, Sheri K. Hoff, inspired me to write this blog post when she recently released her own video trailer. Her book, The Keys to Living Joyfully, is selling briskly not only because it’s a great book, but because Sheri has taken personal responsibility for getting it out there.

Sheri made this trailer herself, and I’m thrilled that she took the bull by the horns and got this out the door. And yes, that beautiful dancer is her daughter. Good for you, Sheri!

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Another Great Video Example

March 15th, 2009 . by Peggy

Yet another example of how great documentation happens without huge budgets, but with tremendous character and impact.

Besides my fascination with alternative uses of waste computer parts, I’m thrilled to see computer “garbage” have an application in the applied arts. This video is short and to the point, and clearly demonstrates all necessary steps without complicated language. It’s very easy to think of ways almost any business could use this sort of media to build a loyal audience.

USB Pottery Wheel – video powered by Metacafe

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What a How-To Video Should Be

December 9th, 2008 . by Peggy

Check out this how-to video I just found on YouTube. The next time I catch myself harping about production quality, I’ll remember this “little video that could”.

This video author has created a small and stylish video to tell the world what she does in her spare time – she weaves placemats using an ancient and simple method. Creating something completely mundane might be the last thing you’d imagine being used as an example for quality documentation, but this video moved me. Watch her face as she shows you the flashcards. She’s mysterious, and perhaps somewhat sad, and you want to know what the end of the story will be.

Quality documentation (such as training materials) should all;

- be easily accessed
- be easily understood
- use careful and spare choices of words and language
- be visual rather than theoretical no matter what the subject
- create a storyline to emphasize the learning potential
- engage the reader / viewer on an emotional level
- make use of all new media tools available
- address an appropriate level of detail for the audience
- make the uninteresting parts interesting
- give opportunity for feedback
- be easy enough to produce that we can afford to create more

… and do it all with style.

Have 5:57 minutes of fun while you learn something new, below.

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Concrete and New Media

September 24th, 2008 . by Peggy

The next time a client tells me they’re not sure that blogging, social media marketing, and new media will work for their company, I want them to watch this video.

Bruce is not ashamed to stand in a booth at BlogWorldExpo and beg people to blog about him and his company. It apparently worked, because his booth was swarmed by people. In fact, I’m extremely proud to say that just as I was putting away my own video equipment form this interview, the anchorman from the local newscast in Las Vegas dropped in the booth to beg for a short interview. (Gee, did I get in before you guys? Awww, that’s too bad.)

What I was late on was finding out about the concrete company’s product, because it might have save me about 10k on the construction of my new house. Oh well: next time.

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The Power of YouTube (again) and Why Johnny Lee is Sexy

April 12th, 2008 . by Peggy

Sexy is as sexy does. Johnny Lee* has done an awful lot with a $40 piece of hardware. That makes him hotter than anybody else on YouTube. [Here's a link to Johnny's Blog, where you can even help his projects. See right under the photo in the right-hand column.]

Check out what Johnny put in his videos: hacks for Wii remotes, the latest Nintendo technology. The remote has an infra-red camera built into it. The video below shows just two of his fantastic discoveries that make use of the remote only – not the entire Wii system. He has written software that allows this device to be corrupted into something much greater than the sum of its parts.

Yes, the hacks are brilliant. But what I really find hot is how he recognized the power of YouTube to get the word out, and he angled himself extremely well in his approach.

He succeeded because first, he had fantastic keyword power. (Wii? Even a gameophobe like me has seen the thing in action and been wildly impressed.)

Second, he had something truly worthwhile and powerful to show.

Third, he asked for NO MONEY.

And fourth, he’s got magnetism – he’s a natural in front of the camera because he’s not rehearsed or contrived. Johnny is naturally sexy.

Can any of us do all of these things and get the same number of hits? Let’s take an example using my own business.

  1. Keyword power. OK, obviously using keyword strings like “sell more books” is not cutting the mustard. So, let’s think benefits. If you write a successful book, you will be rich and famous. (Perhaps.) You may be able to charge more for your current services. (Sounds great.) You will gain greater respect, receive universal validation, and be able to launch an entirely new sub-career and business for yourself. (Now you’re talking.) And, your children will think you are cool. (Bingo! Sold to the bidder with the book in hand.)
  2. Something really worthwhile. What’s something related to books that will make your kids think you are cool and that’s really worthwhile? How about a system to sell a lot of books online? (Not bad. Keep going.) How about being able to sell them without any real work involved? (I’m listening.) How about being able to sell them to people using only their cell phones? (Another ball out of the park!)
  3. Ask for no money. For an entrepreneur, this is a tough one. What if we just said we’d ask for no money up front? (That I can live with!)
  4. Be magnetic. The key here is to not try too hard. I’m serious about my business, which is creating and selling great books for my clients, not making videos. A certain level of professionalism is required, but if it looks like it came out of DreamWorks, it may actually cost me credibility. Better to go for character, rather than false smoothness.

So where does that leave me? OK, I need to create a little video on YouTube that comes from the angle of “How to sell your books and market on the internet for higher profits with less work and using mobile-friendly browsing.” Short title, “Sell anything via a cell phone”.

I’d watch that. Report coming soon – our affiliate system is now live, and I’ll test the shopping cart using my own cell phone next week. Now that WILL be sexy!

* I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this is the same Johnny who invented something else I loved, the Poorman’s Steadycam. Help a student out and buy a cool video accessory from him!

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