Jose Gonzalez contributed a guest article on dealing with relationships and how that can impact your business. He was so impressed and inspired by the feedback he received from that article, he went out and wrote a 100 page e-book on the subject.
In the article below Jose breaks down how he created his book in two weeks, how he published and distributed it, and how you can come up with ideas and test them for your own e-book…
Recently I guest-posted an article on Enterpreneur’s Journey titled How To Keep Your Business Going During A Relationship Breakdown.
Less than two weeks later, that same article became a 100 plus page e-book, professionally packaged and available for sale online as a digital product at LuLu.com.
The whole thing happened almost entirely by accident. There was no plan for an e-book. In fact, far from it: the article was an opportunity for me to share a bad experience with others who might be going through the same thing, to explain what I did in order to solve a very real problem so that they could apply the same methodology.
That’s as far as I got in terms of ‘planning’, because that was the plan.
It was only after the article was published, when I saw and read the feedback from you all, that it occurred to me to create an e-book based on the article.
In hindsight, you could say that I was shortsighted. However, I prefer to think that I learned a new way of testing a market very quickly – without a product – to see if people actually want the product, thus increasing the potential for success.
With so many advertising channels on the net, you can test any idea easily and extremely fast using PPC or even posting on a blog, like I did.
But this is only the first part of the strategy. You still need to create an actual product – your e-book – once you hit upon an idea that tests well, and this is an entirely different process in itself… one that requires a systematic approach: a development cycle.
Creating a system requires a little experience (to figure out what works and what doesn’t) and a little tweaking (to make things run smoothly and efficiently).
Alternatively, you can always find somebody who figured out a system, and copy what they do.
In this article I’m going to talk you through my entire process, from idea to finished product – including the tools I use – to create something worthwhile very fast, get it online and start selling. You can use this system to quickly package your information into ready-to-sell products, with the potential of creating a passive income for the rest of your life.
First of all, you need a plan… so here’s mine
Once you decide that there is enough demand for your information, it’s time to get to work on your e-book.
There are probably tons of guides out there about writing and selling e-books online. I wasn’t fortunate enough to come across anything useful when I started out, four years ago, so I did things the old-fashioned way and put the pieces together with a lot of trial and error until I had a process that I could replicate over and over again.
And here it is…
The things you need
- an idea
- a market
- a test
- the right tools for the job
Coming up with an idea that sells
Coming up with a good idea is easier than most people believe. How easy or how hard you make this process is down to your mindset and where you look for ideas.
The first bit of good news is that your mindset is something you can change very quickly and easily. The second bit of good news is that you really don’t have to look far for ideas, because you already have everything you need to get started inside your head.
First, let’s deal with the mindset
Somebody said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Somebody else said, once a [fill the blank] always a [fill the blank].
The above statements are both indicative of one thing: mindset. The truth is that thoughts change people.
I once bought a pair of boots in a market stall from a man who was blind for an entire week after a golf ball hit him on the back of the head. He told me how up until then, he’d led a selfish and reckless life, causing much grief to those around him. His voice filled with emotion when he told me how he will never take anything for granted again, and about the unshakably deep respect he now has for blind people and how he can’t do enough for them.
Upsetting, shocking, harrowing and near-death experiences change people, but good experiences also change people. It’s the way we think about those experiences that changes us.
One thing you’re already very good at is thinking. So think your way to a better mindset.
Finding a good idea is easy. Creating your e-book from an idea is easy.
That’s it. Think it, and then start doing it. The experience of doing it will change the way you think about it forever.
Next, let’s deal with the idea
When it comes to how-to e-books, ideas are stories, recollections of an event, of something that happened, with a beginning a middle and an end.
Essentially, your how-to e-book is a packaged experience.
You have stories to tell, based on your own experiences and your own thoughts. Things have happened to you, and those things carry lessons within them. Telling yourself that you can’t come up with an idea is the same as telling yourself that nothing has ever happened to you.
Think of any experience that you solved, or that taught you a lesson. Therein, you have potential material for your e-book, because almost everything that you’ve experienced has happened, is happening or will happen to somebody else.
If you managed to solve a particular problem, deal with a situation better – or differently – than most people, or you made a series of bad decisions that just made things worse for you, then you have a story that people want to hear; you have information that other people may be willing to buy from you.
You don’t even have to be the hero of the story: if you got into debt and lost everything, then your story can be a warning to others. Write a what not to do e-book.
Choosing the right market
Your story is your e-book; the people who want to hear it are your market.
The potential for profit depends mostly on how desperate your market is to solve their problem (in other words, how badly they want your information). The more desperate people are to solve a problem, the better chance you have of succeeding with the right product.
It’s always useful to remind yourself that people don’t crave your product because it’s great. At the start of the buying cycle, you’re the only one who thinks your product is great. Your target audience wants to solve their problems, not to improve your bank account.
Think about your experiences and categorize them in terms of how useful the solutions or the lessons that you learned are, or may be, to somebody else with the same problem. Be realistic and detached: don’t tell yourself that your information is gold dust just because you’re the one delivering it.
For example, imagine that you figured out how to use every single feature on your Sony Ericsson mobile phone. That may be useful to you, but you have to accept that almost everybody who has the same mobile phone (or even a different type of phone!) is not interested in becoming a power-user. They’re happy to just figure out how to make calls, send texts, take photos and play music. They’re not even interested in enhancing these features: the defaults are good enough.
In this case, your e-book wouldn’t be an attractive investment for most people, except perhaps for an extremely small fraction of Sony Ericsson mobile phone users.
If on the other hand you suffered from acne as a teenager and you discovered a way to keep it under control… how many acne sufferers do you think would be interested in learning your information right now?
The key is desperation and urgency. They have to want the information, and they have to want it now.
Don’t confuse something useful with something needed
If you discovered a way to get over your fear of heights, I would be interested in hearing your story.
However, I’m not desperate to solve this. The reason I’m not desperate is because knowing that I don’t handle heights particularly well, I avoid heights.
And so does everybody else who doesn’t like heights: there’s simply no need to walk a tightrope if this makes you nauseous. This means myself and the rest of the vertigo sufferers are not really that desperate for your information. We’re merely interested, and that’s not a buying trigger.
There may be some people out there who fall to pieces whenever they climb a two step ladder: those people are on the extreme side of the market, and they’re much more likely to buy. But like the Sony Ericsson power-user wannabes, these people make up a very small fraction, probably too small to support a business venture or to make it worthwhile in terms of potential earnings.
Make sure your market spends money
When considering a niche (a small, targeted market) make sure the audience is desperate and willing to spend to solve their problem.
For instance, if you target the DIY PC market (those people who like to put their own PCs together and talk about ‘the old days’ when the entry-level RAM was 32 Mb) you’ll probably find that most of these people are not big spenders. They go to computer fairs and buy used hardware and trade parts with each other because part of the thrill is building a PC from any bits you can get your hands on (ahem, I did this for years, so I write from experience).
Can you change the angle?
If you come to the conclusion that your market is not profitable, before you give up and go back to the drawing board, look for ways to tweak things so that the idea fits the market (the need) and not the other way around.
For instance, instead of targeting people who suffer from heights, target people who have a fear of flying. You’re drawing from the same well of experience; you’re just repackaging the information to fit a more profitable market made up of people who are far more interested in solving their problem.
Similarly, instead of targeting the DIY PC market, target gamers. Again, you’re drawing from the same knowledge; you’re just repackaging the information to fit a more profitable market made up of people who are very keen to spend money on the latest hardware to improve their gaming experience.
The key is to narrow your focus as much as you can to fill a very specific urgent need. Tell me you’ll fix my fear of heights and I’ll try to fit you in next Tuesday. Tell me you’ll fix my fear of flying and I’ll drag you to Starbucks whilst I cancel the rest of my afternoon appointments.
A word about niches
When I dismiss some markets in the previous examples as potentially ‘too small’ I’m taking into account the fact that whilst you need to target a niche, the niche needs to be profitable.
Having said this, don’t be put off by the size of the niche. A very targeted niche is your chance to be King of a very small pond, rather than a small fish in a huge sea. Targeting as many people as you can with one singe product is not wise. Chances are the product will not solve a specific issue, and that means that it won’t be important enough to consider by the people you’re targeting.
Washing-up gloves target everybody in general but are not important to most people. On the other hand (no pun intended) gloves that relieve dermatitis (I don’t know if these exist: I just made this up) would be a very targeted product, solving the problem of a very specific person who is highly likely to be keen – or even desperate, depending on the severity of their condition – to buy.
Test before you get started
Most people start with an idea, create an e-book around the idea, then try to sell it, missing out the market test entirely.
The reason most people take this approach is because they fall in love with their idea; they believe it’s a ‘winner’. They forget to consider that the market for this idea may already be flooded with similar products that deliver the same result, or worse, that the target audience has no real desire to acquire the idea in the first place.
I fell into this trap several times. In my case, I was fortunate enough to strike it lucky with some e-books, but not so fortunate with others. Looking back, this is not a good approach to create an information publishing business, or even just a profitable e-book. It can be hard to separate yourself from too many consecutive failures. It’s far easier to come undone by it all and give up before you strike gold.
Testing stops you from wasting time on developing and launching the wrong products, and helps you to focus on creating products that have a better chance of success.
Remember that testing your idea online is actually the easiest part of the process: publish and wait for feedback. Use forums, blogs and any other platform where your potential audience can be found. Just get your information in front of your audience, then wait, watch the reaction and gauge the level of need. Remember the two magic ingredients: desperation and urgency. I need it and I want it now.
So test first, however small, and wait for feedback that indicates that there is a potential demand for your information.
Then start work on your e-book.
How to create your information product very quickly
There is one magic ingredient that drives you to do something to the best of your ability, to provide excellence, to push yourself beyond what you thought possible.
That magic ingredient is desire.
Whether it’s desire for more income, desire for a better life, desire for status or desire to help somebody, the things that you can achieve under any other emotion pale into insignificance when compared to what you can achieve when you really want to achieve it.
Burning desire is intertwined with urgent desperation. It’s the same feeling, inverted. If you’re dying to write it, and they’re dying to read it, you have the magic combination. The rest is a question of reaching your market and meeting expectations by delivering excellence.
In my case, just like my original article was an opportunity for me to share one of my experiences and help others, my e-book was a second opportunity to help even more people, in much more detail, and thus more effectively.
Money in itself is not a good motivator. It’s not about being noble, but rather about having a reason. Money is a means, a tool; it’s packaged experience. You exchange it for experiences.
If money is your only motivator, then you’re probably not fully connected with your product. On the other hand, if you truly care about the information you deliver, then you’re emotionally connected, and the output is always going to be your very best.
The guy at the 7-11 works for money. The artist paints out of passion, and makes money in the process (well, if marketing is in place).
More passion = better product = more money (at least potentially). It’s a good equation to go by.
The bottom line is that you’d be wiser to really care about your work, because this will likely show in the finished product.
In Internet Marketing they say: always write about something you know and are passionate about. You can’t fake passion, and your audience isn’t stupid.
Savvy marketers can sell products they know nothing about and do well, but we’re talking about how-to e-books here. We’re talking about delivering your experiences, so you’ve no choice but to be connected, because it’s your story.
If money was your only motive, change your mindset (it’s a 3 second decision). Do it because if you care you’ll produce your best work ever each and every time.
Once you have something you care about to write about, do this…
Forget everything you ever read about writing and try this:
- Think about your story every chance you get. Flesh it out in your mind.
- Set some time aside, sit down quietly and come up with the titles (the skeleton) for your story.
Now leave it. Forget about it and get on with other things. You’re done.
Your mind is already at work on your story.
- Set some time aside, sit down quietly, read your first title and start writing.
- Don’t stop.
- Don’t edit.
- Don’t correct.
- Just write.
- Aim to do 1 chapter (title) a day.
Day 3 – Final day
- Keep writing.
- When you get to the end, leave your work alone for a couple of days.
- A couple of days or so later, find some quiet time to work in and start editing.
- Edit your work once, twice at most.
When you stop to edit your work as you write, you interrupt your flow and you invariably get stuck in the nitty-gritty. Creativity doesn’t have grammatical rules. Worry about that only at the editing stage.
Here are some Power Tips to help you with the above:
- Keep your titles down to about 10 or so.
- Create subtitles within the main titles if you need to have guides. Aim to keep these to around 4 at most.
- Tell your story in your head as if you were talking to your best friend – as if you’re helping out somebody you care about. Hear what you say, and write it.
I recommend sticking to these power tips to keep your writing feet firmly on the ground. Don’t try to impress your audience or spend your time trying to convince them of how great you are. Try instead to help them as you would help a friend. In other words, keep the BS out of the message.
The tools of the trade
Here’s what I use to create and publish my books:
Tools to write your book
– Writer (from Open Office).
This is free software. It’s made by Sun Microsystems, it’s simpler and less feature-rich than MS Word (the ‘standard’) and works just fine. It even opens MS Word documents. But more importantly, Writer has a Export to PDF function which is a fantastic feature.
– Having said this, if you already have MS Word and you prefer to write with this, stick to what you’re comfortable with.
Somewhere to publish your books to and sell from
– lulu.com – this too is free. This is a printer on demand. Create an account, upload your document and you’re done. You get a page for your book plus a shopping cart, and nothing to set up: lulu handle the sale and the delivery, send you a check quarterly for all your sales and take a tiny cut for their effort. But more importantly, with lulu you retain all the copyright to your work. This is key. I’ve looked at dozens of print on demand services over the years and lulu is the only one I’ve seen that doesn’t attempt to steal your copyright in any way. I’ve been using them for years now and I have only praise for them.
A cover for your book
You can create a cover for your e-book from the templates available in lulu. These are very plain but they’ll get you started.
For a professional touch however, look in the lulu forum once you sign up and you’ll find dozens upon dozens of book cover artists. Most of them are very affordable. You can also search for book cover artists in elance.com
Alternatively, you can easily find some e-book cover creating software online and do this yourself. I do recommend using a graphic designer, even if you decide to use software to create the cover from the image yourself.
Pricing your product
When it comes to pricing, look at your competition (if you have any) to get an idea or a starting point. Try to use the magic numbers, such as:
You can also borrow from the supermarket standard .95 and .99 and come up with prices like:
Pricing a product can be a test in itself, and will be affected by the quality of your product, uniqueness and market value (desperation and urgency) competition and even current market conditions. Don’t get too caught up in all the variables; just price quickly and be prepared to tweak.
Tapping into your market
When your product is ready, you need to entice your audience to buy by giving them a taste of the experience your product will deliver, or by taking away the risk from the buyer (by offering a money back guarantee).
I personally take the first approach. The key here is to give MASSIVE value for FREE before the sale.
This often sounds counter-intuitive, but the market dictates what’s what, and this is the way of things right now.
Internet Marketing evolves fast. For a long time, online sales letters that mentioned a product’s features worked fine. With competition however, the game always changes. If there’s competition in a market, sellers needed to change something about their approach in order to differentiate themselves.
This is how the freebie was born.
Generally, you can get your hands on a free report or a sample of the product in exchange for your e-mail address. It’s the e-book version of ‘trialware’.
The bottom line is, you’re probably going to have a tough time convincing your audience that your information is what they need. Consumers are spoiled by choice, so you’re going to have to go a bit further and give them something of real value; something that allows your target audience to TEST your information, the quality and the worth of it.
If you manage to give value, your prospects will trust you, and it’s this change in the relationship that creates a potential sale. With trust you have your prospects’ full attention; they’ll listen to you, because they have a problem they want to solve, and you just demonstrated that you can solve it.
And that’s it! That’s my full product development cycle in a nutshell!
- test your idea in your target market (create a free report and spread it)
- if the reaction is good, get to work
- think about your story often
- sit down and put together the skeleton of your story (titles)
- take a break (1 day or so)
- sit down and write. Just write.
- take a break (2 days or so)
- edit your story.
- create a lulu account
- upload your story
- create a free report (or use the first chapter in your e-book)
- give it away for free
- ask for the sale at the end of it
One last word about desire: doing things for the right reason
Finding something you’re truly passionate to write about is not always obvious, and your first choice is not always your last choice. Expect to make mistakes, and try to work only with ideas you’re connected to emotionally – not just for the money.
Money is a side-effect of excellence. Focus on producing an excellent product. If you hit the market at the right moment, money will find its way to you.
But don’t worry too much if it doesn’t. Just try again.
At the end of the day, your best work can change peoples’ lives for the better. That’s powerful.
Nothing will make you feel more pride and a complement than receiving an e-mail from a complete stranger, saying…