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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.

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Creating A Landing Page For Your eBook

March 4th, 2010 . by Peggy

Creating a special web page to sell your eBook is almost more important than the eBook itself. Here are my top landing page tips for eBooks and many other products.

Let’s define what we’re talking about: the term “landing page” refers to the single-purpose web page where potential buyers “land” when they click on an ad, a link, or a direct URL that invites them to buy your eBook or other product. A landing page can be part of a larger website/blog, or link to one, or not. But it’s just designed to do one thing: sell your book. The science of landing page design and testing is now quite sophisticated, and there are a variety of web resources on the subject. I won’t bother to link to anything here, as one search in Google for “landing page design” will bring a flood of information.

Directing web traffic to a devoted sales page has several advantages over sending users to your standard website;

1) You can direct visitors down a strict path that is engineered to do nothing but close the sale. Don’t underestimate the power of this. Certainly, you may wish to provide links to your main web presence, but good salesmanship suggests staying focused on only need to know information until buyers demonstrate additional interest by clicking or scrolling.

2) If your product takes off and sells like hotcakes, you may end up with an overloaded web server, or coping with some inevitable negative feedback. Insulate your website by keeping it separated, except for hyperlinks if you choose to provide them.

3) You can target sales niches that are outside your normal market, by slightly altering your copywriting, graphics, etc. on this page alone. Make niche buyers feel extra special by speaking directly to their specific problems.

4) You can offer partner companies custom sales pages that enhance a link between your product and someone else’s. This might relate to affiliate marketing relationships, or an important endorsement.

5) THE BEST REASON: You can use a special targeted URL for a landing page, such as TheTitleOfYourBook.com, rather than YourCompanyWebsite.com, which may have no intuitive or similar-sounding relationship to the name of your eBook. I never, ever endorse a client marketing a product for which they do not own the associated .com domain name. Click here to view my tips on how to choose great domain names, and in turn, titling your eBook.

Landing pages and the “science of conversion”, or figuring out what converts browsers into buyers, is an extremely deep topic. But we can explore a few basics here that will help to eliminate any obvious mistakes.

Top Tips for eBook Landing Pages;

1) Make a beautiful, bright and most importantly, clear “Buy it Now” button (BIN button) and put it in several places all over the page. (See below for the 4X4 Rule.) The term “Buy it Now” is obviously not the optimum sales language to use on the actual button, but when we talk about the BIN, this button is what we mean.

2) Use video. Sitting in front of your webcam is better than nothing, but if you have a home video camera, that will do an excellent job. Edit the video as per the tips in my “Video Tips” post.

3) Make sure that all text and images are high-contrast and easy to read. No flaky fonts, no greyish text on patterned backgrounds, etc. Pay attention to the heirarchy of the information you want to convey, and make that in the largest font, then the second-most important info in the second-largest font, etc.

4) Use imagery from your eBook on the website to entice readers with a bite of what’s inside. Don’t give away the farm, but pictures send a message quickly. Use them to tell the story fastest.

Nadine is the Author of “The Groove Mamma Goes Gourmet – Easy Ways to Put the Fun Back Into Entertaining”, a 28-page eBook that I created for her. Nadine created her landing page at GrooveMamma.com herself, and she did it in one evening. She sold 10 copies in the first 48 hours, before the marketing campaign had even begun. The lesson to learn here? SPEED is the name of the game.

The 4X4 Rule:

When designing your landing page, follow the “4X4 Rule”. This rule is about where you place specific items on the web page. This is based on eye-mapping testing, which tells us which parts of a web page get read more often or in priority order, and this is also based on actual split-testing of results on various landing pages.

Divide your space on the landing page into four quadrants, and put the following content in each quadrant:

Top Right: The Desired Action
Whatever you want people to do on this page, put it here. The BIN, the sign-up form, the download, the “vote now” button – whatever.

Top Left: The Story Image
An uncomplicated, clear image of the emotional story that you want buyers to understand right away should be part of some sort of banner that sits here. The photo can be overlayed with the product name or a Big Question, but keep any text really, really simple and easy to understand and read. People need to instantly GET IT and want to be or identify with what they see in the picture.

Bottom Left: The Details
Here is where you type the topics covered in the eBook, the problems addressed, the items included, the extra bonus CD’s, the incredible benefits by reading it, etc. Don’t forget to tell them what a genius you are and why anybody would want to pay to listen to your advice.

Bottom Right: The Endorsements
Here is where you put quotes from happy customers, logos from websites and magazines where your product has been featured, and links to both of those if you choose to add them, which will be super appreciated by those other sites. Be sure to get permission where appropriate.

While this is just a primer, and there is plenty of room for expansion on any part of this article, I hope this breaks the ice for anyone looking to improve their online sales. A landing page is a gateway to a clear and concise method of marketing, with overlap into almost any conceivable industry.
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