in Entrepreneurship

This summer I wrote an ebook about learning the basics of SEO keyword research. I’ve learned some lessons, and I will do some things differently next time.

Don’t Do These 4 Things Writing Your Ebook

1. Short-Term Thinking

Writing a book, even a short ebook, is not easy. It takes energy, mental and emotional, to create the book. Launching your book requires you to face your fears and place your work out in the world where it will be either ignored or evaluated. It’s not a pleasant task, but the reward that comes when someone is willing to place a value, even a few dollars, on something you’ve created is worth it all. Don’t get me wrong, I want everything I do make money. But starting out, it’s best to work like you expect immense success and launch with low expectations initially. The process takes time and perseverance. If you expect something easy and quick you will give up before you launch. Think long-term. Persistence pays off.

Don't forget to write

“Don’t forget to write” by János Balázs

2. Just Writing a Book

Unless you are already a recognized author with fans awaiting your next book (and if you are, why are you reading this?) you will not have a large audience ready to snap up what you write. When you launch, your friends will support you by buying a few copies (thanks guys!), and then you will need to explore more ways to generate publicity for your book.

Ideas are abundant in this world. If you want to spend some time on Google, you can find resources to learn almost anything for free. Convincing someone to buy your carefully crafted book will usually take some clever marketing and personal connections.

3. Not Knowing Your Audience

This is a big problem to overcome. I write for people who want to start things, and for business owners who want to improve their marketing. That’s as far as I’ve been able to go in identifying my audience. I also have several friends who are my mental stand-ins for my larger group of readers. As I’m writing I picture one of them reading what I produce and try to tailor my content to suit them. Over time, I hope to get a clearer picture of my audience.

One simple approach to identifying an audience is to write for a particular profession or to discuss the challenge of using a specific tool. For example, I could have written a book for the Search-Savvy Blogger or for the Search-Savvy WordPress Blogger if I wanted to get even more specific. When you write for a specific audience, a large part of your marketing task is done for you. Specific audiences hang out in groups, read specific blogs and have identifiable needs. Go where they are, find out their needs, and offer a solution in writing. Then, market your book by telling them what you’ve done.

4. Pricing Too Low

The ideal price to generate income for an ebook is, according to Amazon, $4.99. This is cheap enough to be easily affordable (less than a fast-food meal). And, it’s not so cheap as to be considered of little value. I initially priced my book too low, at $2.97. I have since raised the price to $4.97. This gives some margin to spend on marketing.

It seems to me that you have three basic options when pricing your book. What you choose to do will depend on your goals. If what you want to do is to get exposure with your first book, give it away on Smashwords and Amazon.  But it’s tough to pay the light bill with exposure. I’m not saying it’s always a mistake to give away an ebook, but just don’t bother charging anything between $0 and $4.99.

You can price your ebooks higher. Joanna Wiebe of CopyHackers prices her ebooks as high $48.99. I enjoy her work, and her books are worth the price. But it’s not because they’re long, elegant, or entertaining. They are valuable because she knows her audience, tech startups, and she provides valuable answers and advice to meet their specific needs.

Promotion Tactics That May Work for You

I’m new to being an author, so I’m open to suggestions from you about how I can spread the word about my book. The tactics I’ve used so far are:

  1. Word of mouth. My friends have generously bought my book and told others about it.
  2. Broad distribution. I distributed my ebook through Smashwords, which hits a number of independent booksellers as well as Barnes & Noble. I also distributed it through Kindle Direct Publishing to Amazon.
  3. Online promotion. I often mention the book on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I have built a simple landing page for the book that offers a sample of the book in return for your email address. My blog also makes the same offer. I am testing a Google Adwords campaign. However, with a cheap ebook, there is not much margin for paid advertising.
  4. Offline promotion. I made a simple business card that I will begin passing out to interested people. It features the book cover and some promotional copy along with a QR code that links to the book landing page. I am also offering in-person SEO consulting in the Memphis metro area to increase awareness about the book and understand what additional products I can create.

    I’m using an unusual business card to get some offline interest in my ebook.

A Quick Take-Away

  • Being an author is a long-term, labor intensive project. Be ready to pay the price.
  • Know your audience. Write for them, and solve a problem. Get to the point.
  • Either give away your book to increase your profile in the community or price it in a way that shows its value. Don’t mess around with pennies.
  • Try whatever makes sense. Know that you will fail. Often. But if you continue, (I say this in faith) success will come.