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I recently finished and launched my first ebook; Cycling through France – a comprehensive guide to planning and executing a cycling trip to France for leisure, the Tour de France or L’Etape Du Tour (you read about our fun and games in 2009 here).
After about 5 months live, and recovering my costs (USD400 for Paul’s excellent services), I thought I’d write about the successful and not-so-successful parts of how I did this.
Although I knew that I should probably develop a readership first, I thought that perhaps I could make this work anyway.
It’s obvious to me now, that the critical key is to develop trust – to be a trust agent – and give away stuff for the benefit of others. Then, and some may view this as formulaic and maybe cynical (I don’t, if it’s done right), you have a well developed fan base who you can present the fruit of your toils with. Chris Brogan does a great job and talking about he has done this, you should check his book out.
I tried to reverse engineer this, so in effect I was “cold-calling” first-time visitors. Not a recipe for overwhelming success, irrespective of how good the product is.
Here we Go!
My steps for launching an ebook are as follows (ignoring the fact that you probably ought to have a fanbase and a history of building trust, which these days a lot of the time means giving away stuff for nothing).
Step 1: Psychology – understand making money is OK!!
Lots of people will call “sellout” if you try and make money on the Internet. Uh, what? To anyone making a viable income off the Net, I say, “GOOD STUFF”. I suppose it would be
easy for an established readership to make that call. Chris Brogan asked his readers to do this after many years of helping people for nothing (read more here, here, here, and here).
Johnny B Truant has a relevant post here, which you REALLY must read, to understand why you owe it to yourself to try and make money online (or more accurately, by doing what you love). I could write thousands of words on why you owe it to yourself to do so, but this post concentrates on making the ebook.
This step is crucial.
Step 2: Workout what You’re Good At
For me this means; “what can I add value to, and be passionate about”. I LOVE cycling, and I’m a travel logistics monster. After I travelled to France in 2009 for Le Tour and L’Etape du Tour, I knew there was space for a well-written and researched good that took a lot of pain and research out of getting you and your bike to France. I simply took my passion (cycling) and applied my high standards for travel logistics to my trip to backtest my thoughts and find the gaps.
Loads of people – smart people – will tell you you should look at the intended market and see if anyone else is doing it. Depending on how precocious and arrogant (aka self confident) you are, you might want to tackle the market anyway.
So, ask yourself:
- What do I love talking about and doing?
- What do I know a LOT about?
- What can I confidently talk about?
- What do I want to help others achieve, do etc?
There’s your blueprint.
I wanted people to plan a hassle-free trip to France to cycle and follow Le Tour.
Step 3: Pre-reading
Buy this and read it; it’s by Dave Navarro. You will not regret it (I bought it after my launch – Oh, the wisdom I wish I’d had before hand).
I am a business book monster (I just ordered 45 titles or around USD800 worth of entrepreneurial, marketing and business books from Amazon) and can unequivocally tell you that there are a few books you should read before you do this (and in fact, you should read them before you start a business). These are small outlays in the scheme of things and I promise you that if you are interested in making money doing stuff you love, you will LOVE these books. Some of them have changed my mindset and life forever.
- Linchpin, by Seth – one of the best books I’ve ever read, period. Changed the way I think of myself, do business, carry myself at work. It’s a complete game changer.
- Rework, by 37signals. Again, an utter, utter gamechanger. Buy this book. NOW!
- Purple Cow: Seth Godin is a really, really smart guy. If you have a limited budget, and could only buy one book, this is the one. This changed everything for me.
- Mavericks at Work: changed the way I looked at business, and how I worked in a business environment.
- Funky Business: will change the way you look at business, and yourself. The first business book I ever read.
- Blue Ocean Strategy: will change the way you look at doing business and will save you a lot of hassle.
- Buyology: provides you insight into why we buy what we do.
- New Pioneers: Another game changer on people challenging the status quo.
My Amazon astore has loads more, but these are probably the best to start with.
Brian has a good post at Copyblogger.com.
I even wrote an post about it here – how to publish a 40 page ebook in 7 hours.
Step 5: Pre-launch Promo
Here’s a rough plan for promo-ing this:
- Make the announcement of the impending ebook (be sure you can follow through on this commitment).
- Ask your readers to Tweet the announcement, Facebook the announcement and so on.
- Get an aweber account which will allow you to manage subscribers and communications.
- Add Ultimate Footer Ad and link to an Aweber campaign (if you don’t know how to do this, drop a comment below and I will try and help). Aweber will help you collect subscribers and even put them in different “campaigns”.
The UFA pop up might be seen as annoying so use with caution.
It would be a good idea to offer people the chance to drive some affiliate sales. I recommend ejunkie for managing affiliates, and sales for that matter.
Step 6: GO, GO, GO!
Here’s how to smash the ebook out:
- You need a quiet place.
- Outline your contents then get started.
- DO NOT STOP.
- Use Writeroom or similar Windows program (Notepad) and write in a frenzy.
- Knock off easy stuff first: I started on a long haul flight from Frankfurt to Melbourne and got the easy content done in about 14 hours. En-route in Bangkok, I added another 10 pages, then more on the flight from BKK to Melbourne. When you hit a wall, don’t prevaricate – add a place holder (same advice for links or stuff you need to check up on) and keep going. SMASH IT.
- When you’ve done as much as you can without further research, you’ve almost cut the first draft.
- Start adding researched and reference content.
- Finalise your first draft and get some friends to read it.
- Feedback, clean up, iterate, edit, etc. Rinse, wash, repeat.
- Get Blazonfire to do the presentation, if you want something that looks AMAZING. I used them for Cycling Through France, and one of the main bits of feedback has been how great it presents.
- Get someone to check spelling, grammar, then finish. Don’t procrastinate and prevaricate. Get it done, get it out there. Send to Blazonfire and wait.
- BOOM! You’re done.
This was the hardest part for me, I know deep down that my guide is worth $49 or more, but I only ended up charging $19 (that’s AUD) for it. Bargain? You be the judge.
Chris Guillebeau has a great post on this topic here.
Basically you need to charge enough such that you are rewarded for your efforts, and so as to not price the product too cheaply (thus making it look cheap), but not too expensive it scares people off.
I think the ideal situation is to position your product lower, and then move it higher, over time, in small increments. For instance, at launch, you might like to position your ebook at $19 for a limited time. Be honest, tell people it will go up eventually, and you’ll give everyone fair warning. The fact that it will increase might bring forward demand a little bit. In time, you can increase your product to say, $24, or more, and maybe throw in a free low-cost bonus.
Step 9: The cover and Admin
I used Black Belt Covers to generate the ebook sprite. This is an affiliate link, but I promise you for $37 it is WELL worth it. Check it out.
Part of Blazonfire’s remit was a cover, so I was lucky (also lucky I managed to snap that photo of the pros on Stage 16 into Bourg St Maurice). Dave Navarro also recommends someone here.
Upload to ejunkie and test some free downloads. I used pdf stamping so that each purchase had a small transaction ID and the buyer’s name printed on the ebook.
10. Sales page
The sales page (and mine is far from perfect) is very important. When I purchased Dave Navarro’s “Launch the **** out of your ebook” part of the deal was an appraisal of the sales page and copy. I also highly recommend using Dave’s services for that.
Dave suggested I disable all widgets, all comments, any social widgets (Facebook etc) and solely concentrate on providing the reader a distraction free, compelling reason to read to the end, where obviously you’re wanting them to buy.
I added an Amazon Buy Now button to build trust (Amazon is trusted). Read more here on why you might do this.
I just used Chris Pearson’s Thesis theme and used hooks to remove a lot of unnecessary stuff.
Step 11. The Launch Proper
Hopefully you’ve warmed your fans up and people have been busy Tweeting this and so on, you’re ready to start launch hype, along the lines of “launching XX time on YY date”.
Because of my shocking wisdom, you’ll also have setup ejunkie (or equivalent) affiliate schemes to allow your affiliates to help drive sales.
On the go-date, enable/load/etc your product and announce it on your site/blog, making sure it has prominence on the site, as well as a button/image linking back to the sales page. I favour linking to the sales page from say a sidebar image, to give people a chance to read about it. Creating a sales page also gives your affiliates something to link to, which avoids the need for them to do any selling, beyond a post about it or link to it.
I launched my Cycling Through France Guide with a free preview/download of the first half dozen pages so people could at least have a look at it.
I wish I’d followed my own advice above, and built a list and trust first. However, I just wanted to get the product out, so that was the compromise.
I used downtime in the airplane to get most of this done, and Ms Project Heresy was very understanding on giving me space to keep working on this out after work at night.
I used Write Room on my Macbook for raw writing. No distractions, lots of productivity. Whenever I hit a wall, I just added a placeholder in square brackets with a few words to guide my follow up.
The only thing I’d change from this whole thing is spend a year building up content and readers, which would have made the launch much more effective. Everything else I talked about above, apart from the list-building, I did anyway, so I think the lack of a fanbase is the only gap.
However, given I am going to France for Le Tour and L’Etape again in 2010, I’ll be doing another guide, but concentrating on the Pyrenees. This may end up being bundled with the main ebook as a bonus.
There’s a lot of scope to improve from here, including implementing some exciting ideas to engage readers and get their input.
I’d be interested in your feedback as to where I could have improved this launch.
Here are some more links of interest.