Could I ask you a quick question?

I am trying to determine what obstacles stop people from starting an online business. I will use the results to try to tailor my posts to address these issues.

So, if you could  please take a few seconds to answer this quick poll I would be most grateful.

Thanks…

5 top tips for Kindle authors

Here are a few tips that I have picked up whilst publishing my books to Kindle:

  1. Choose your niche and keywords carefully. Many people will say to write about your passions or hobbies and whilst I agree that this is very nice, if it isn’t a profitable niche do you really want to bother? Niche selection is vital to your success so use due diligence and research it effectively before putting pen to paper. When you have selected your niche, research the keywords that will be best to target for that particular niche. Remember that competition is good as it shows that the keyword has potential.
  2. Get a good cover. A good cover (as well as a good title which was discussed here) is critical to your success and will have a measurable impact on your sales. By all means try to design one yourself if you have access to high converting templates but it is much easier to got to Fiverr.com and get someone to do this for you for $5. Pick a few covers from successful books in your niche and have them come up with a similar design. Get a few done and test to see which is the most successful.
  3. Write a full product description. I see this one a lot; the author has a great cover and a great title but the book description is only a couple of line long. You should approach this as a sales letter and write it accordingly; use bullet points to clarify key benefits to the reader. I think that some people just write a few lines hoping the “Look Inside” feature will hook the potential customer but in my experience they will only get that far if you hook them first!
  4. Don’t under-price your book. It is very tempting to price your book low to get more sales yet this means that the royalties you get will probably drop from 70% to 35% which will drastically reduce your profits, but this also devalues the effort you have put in to your book. If you have applied the points above most people are willing to pay a fair price. What is that price? Well it depends on your niche (look at the price of your competition and adjust accordingly. It is fine to launch the book with a low price, then to have a promotion via KDP Select as part of a launch strategy but don’t be tempted to keep it low. Again, test certain price points and try to find the sweet spot to maximise profits.
  5. Don’t be afraid to outsource. There are things which we all don’t like doing or are not very good at doing. If you can, think about outsourcing these tasks to places such as Odesk, Elance or Fiverr. Remember that selling any type of product is a numbers game so the more books you have in the Kindle store the more money you will likely make (obviously not at the expense of high quality material). If you look around you could probably have an eBook written and a cover designed for around $150. Personally I would use any profits from my books to reinvest into outsourcing my next projects as it frees you up to do niche/keyword research whilst your next book is being written. This can be a daunting step for newcomers but try to think of yourself as a publisher rather than an author and look to expand your business and maximise your profits.

The possibility of earning a passive income on Kindle is real and just needs a strategic approach. Like anything persistence is the key. Stick with it and you WILL succeed.

The importance of your book title

The title of your book can make a big difference to your sales, especially on Amazon. When people are shopping on Amazon they do so in 2 ways; by category and search.

Think about it; Amazon is a glorified search engine and you should treat it as such when researching your book title.

It is important to pick the right categories to put your book into – you only get to pick 2 on Amazon. However this is only half the story as the shopper may not be sure what category to search for so then they will do a search looking for relevant keywords.

This is why it is vital to make your book titles as keyword rich as possible. Put yourself into the shoppers position; what words would you be searching for? You can pick up to 7 keywords on Amazon that your book will rank for so choose carefully.

One more advanced strategy is to try to find a category that is loosely related to your book but has very little competition and a hungry market. This may allow your book to rank very highly in this category i.e. page 1 of a search so you will get more eyes on your book and hopefully more sales.

Of course the next thing to consider is the cover but that is another story…

Becoming a publisher

Well I have nearly finished my 4th book and am on a roll. I like the idea of being an author and getting creative BUT am now looking at taking this to the next level and becoming a publisher rather than a writer.

As you are no doubt aware; more books = more sales = more profit so I am really looking to start cranking out more books in the future and to start outsourcing to maximise my time.

This is a big step but unless you make the effort to change nothing will!!

And remember this:

“In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take”

The power of “why?”

Why. Such a small word but it can have amazing power when setting goals and objectives to move your business forward. Children ask it all the time throughout their development but as adults we seem to be a bit apprehensive. Perhaps it is admitting our own ignorance that holds us back, but your business will thank you for asking it. You should be continuously asking “why?” during all stages of your business development  and keep asking it until you are able to visualise the simplest solution to the question.

Just take a look at this to see what I mean:

Your main problem is that your business isn’t making you enough money. Why?

Maybe you’re not selling enough products or services. Why?

Maybe you haven’t got enough customers. Why?

Because you are not capturing their names on an email list. And here is your solution – try to capture the email address of as many visitors to your site as possible to build your list of prospective customers.

Once you have narrowed down your potential solutions it will be much quicker and easier to implement them and see your business grow. Don’t try to guess – just ask yourself – “why?”

This may seem simple and it is, but don’t underestimate its power. It just forces you to treat each problem in a logical way until you find the best solution.

Try it for yourself and see what happens and if it can help you remove any constraints on your own business.

This can also work in your everyday life too. So I urge you to unleash your inner child and start asking “why?” And see your business grow as a result…

The importance of setting goals and identifying potential obstacles.

Get used to setting goals

Goal setting is an important aspect of any business, in fact any facet of life, because if you ever want to achieve anything, you need to have a target to aim for to judge your progress.

And whatever happens in your life, don’t let it distract you from your goal. It may take longer than originally intended but you WILL reach your goal in the end. Keep reminding yourself why you want to reach your goal and believe that you can achieve it!!

Have I missed the opportunity?

It is never too late to start aiming for a goal in life or business although we may have to overcome years of dogma to unshackle that belief.

There are many instances of people who didn’t achieve their goals till later in life (Winston Churchill became Prime Minister in his 60s, Colonel Sanders discovered KFC at 65, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury tales aged 54-61).

So the point is, stick with it. There are so many people who start out with high aspirations and if they come a little off track they give up. This is one of the major differences between successful people and the rest – they do not give up and always maintain self belief. Try to take a small step each day to work towards your goal and you will get there.

Just remember that success comes one step at a time and the trick is to identify those steps and tackle them in a sensible and effective way.

Overcoming obstacles

First of all write down any potential obstacles that you can think of. Some people are a bit afraid of doing this but they cannot be ignored and if you write them down in a particular way they may become less intimidating and perhaps even inspiring.

So, at the top of a piece of paper write down your goal, then below that write down the obstacles. Then write down possible solutions next to the obstacles.

This can be quite empowering by revealing that although these obstacles may be very real, there are a number of solutions to overcoming them. And some of these solutions may be able to be put into practice immediately. This can really give you clarity and a sense of progression as you break down the obstacles and cross them off your list. But you must make a conscious decision to do this, so do not put this off and remember:

The time for action is now…

The importance of researching your niche

When you finally decide to take the plunge and enter the world of the internet entrepreneur, you need to decide on a product or service you wish to offer. It is best to start with something you are knowledgeable about as this will make it a lot easier for you. Once you have decided on a product or service you need to determine whether there is any demand in that particular niche or whether it will be a waste of time.

This is one of the most common mistakes newcomers make – they decide on a product that would be of interest to them but do not conduct any market research and then become disillusioned if there is little interest.

It is vital to determine the demand in your particular niche before you start, and, if there is little opportunity, to change course and try something else. There are numerous ways to research your potential niche.

Surveys and polls

This is one of the best ways to conduct your research. Ask your potential customers what THEY want, what influences their buying decisions, and what they may like and/or dislike about the current market options. This way you can tailor your product or service to meet their needs. Two way dialogue is critical with potential customers.

You can post questions and polls on your blog or website or send to your email list. This also encourages customer interaction and will gain their trust so they will be more likely to consider purchasing your product.

Use tools like Survey Monkey or Poll Daddy to conduct your own surveys and polls and act on the results to maximise the earning potential of your niche.

Keyword research

Search engine data can help you determine the demand for specific keywords or phrases pertinent to your niche.  Do a search for your product as a potential customer and if that search is very popular it means that there is a healthy market worth pursuing. But it also means that their may be a lot of competition for that particular phrase as competitors optimise their own websites to capture these customers.

Is there any way you can drill down further into a sub-niche which may be more profitable? If so try doing a search for this and if it is still popular but less so than the original search then this means that there is still a healthy market but there is likely to be less competition.

Use Google AdWords.  It is a great free keyword research tool specific to Google which is by far the most popular search engine used. Type in your keyword and evaluate the results to target your niche appropriately.

Another great tool is Google Trends. This allows you to investigate keywords and you get a graphical representation of historical data which will show you its popularity over the last several years. It also allows you to see demographic data which shows you the places that are most likely to search for that keyword/phrase.

You could also use Google Insight to investigate search trends by category, seasonality, geographical distribution or properties.

Check out the competition

Take time to investigate the competition and to develop your unique selling proposition to make you stand out from the rest. You can use this information to target your strengths against their weaknesses. The internet has made it very easy to investigate your potential competitors. Look at the product or service they supply, their pricing strategy, and customer service. You could even sign up to any newsletter they supply and use their own strategies against them. Be bold and this could give you the edge that persuades a customer to spend their money with you rather than them.

I hope this has given you a few ideas about researching your niche and how important it is to do this before you produce your product or service. Conduct it thoroughly, target a great niche and milk it dry! Good hunting…

Are you monitoring your website performance?

I really hope you are is the answer!

Every business needs to know how well they are performing and this is the premise behind exit surveys, customer feedback requests and suggestion boxes. If you don’t monitor customer feedback or your stock, expenses and revenue your business can quickly go downhill and you may be caught completely unaware.
There are several key areas you should be monitoring on your website(s) and they generally fall into two categories, namely traffic or server performance related. Here are some of the things you should be monitoring:

Monitoring your traffic

Traffic totals. You really need to know how much traffic your website is generating. As has been said before, more traffic equals more sales so if the trend is heading down, you know you MUST find out why and act as soon as possible.
Referrals. As well as knowing how much traffic your website is generating, you also need to know where they are coming from. Is a particular article or blog post generating more traffic? If so you can target your promotions more tightly to take advantage of this valuable information.
Searches. How are people finding your website and what keywords are working well for you? You may be surprised by what you find! I have had people visit my site with really obscure searches but if these keywords were relevant to my niche this information would have led me to properly optimise the page to generate even more traffic.
Number of pages viewed per visit. Are people only visiting one page per visit? If this is the case you need to work on convincing them to visit more pages, especially those that contain your promotions and are going to make you some cash!
Which pages are being visited? If you put something on your site that other webmasters are linking to and sending a lot of traffic your way make the most if it! Put some sales copy on that page to entice visitors to take a look at the rest of your site.

Monitoring website performance

Web forms. Do they all work? Sounds obvious but you may be surprised at the amount of websites that have non-functional forms. A good website monitoring service can help you keep an eye on this as the last thing you want is to have lost hundreds or even thousands of subscribers because a sign-up form stopped functioning!
E-commerce and Shopping carts. As with forms make sure that your cart is working as intended. Slow and complicated shopping carts can lose you a lot of sales so make sure that yours is functioning properly. The website monitoring service mentioned above can also monitor this for you.
Download speed. Take the time to clear your cache and test your pages. Are any images too large? If you think so, then compress them or remove them altogether. Always keep in mind that some people will not have your ultra powerful pc and will be on a much slower connection than you are so try to optimise your site with this in mind.  

Server speed. Do you have any problems with server speed? Once again this may not be a problem where you are but what about the other side of the world? Global website monitoring can alert you to any global connection problems, so you can take it up with your web hosting service.
Server accessibility. The majority of web hosts promise 99% accessibility but is that realistic and who monitors them? It has been estimated that in fact 75% of inaccessibility is not on the hosting server, but rather on the Internet’s backbone network and in global routing. If you are having any problems a global website monitoring service can help identify the problem, so that you can work with your web hosting provider to resolve it before you lose too many sales.

Are you having fun? I sincerely hope so because if you’re not having fun you won’t do your best and will then become disillusioned due to a lack of results – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Honestly, there is no point spending your time doing something that doesn’t interest you. Web mastering should be fun, enjoy it…

Three simple rules to virtually guarantee business success

Having your own online business is a very enticing idea for the would-be entrepreneur. The common belief is that these are easy to set up and are a fast track to untold wealth.

However online businesses need to be approached the same way as any other business or it will fall flat. Yes, it may be easy to set up a free blog, or very cheap website, but you must develop good content and drive traffic to your site and this takes work!

I think that everybody is guilty of this misconception to some degree and it is how you deal with it that will inevitably determine your success or failure.

Sometimes it isn’t what you are doing but rather what you aren’t doing that affects your success. When you realise that you aren’t doing something that perhaps you should, it can have a great impact on your results.

There are three rules that I follow in my business and these apply to both on and offline business opportunities.

The first rule is to acquire knowledge. You MUST learn about your business and any product or service you are developing. You must become the expert that people will turn to in order to help them. The acquisition of knowledge is life-long and should be exciting for you. You learn about the business, product development, marketing and customer service. As your knowledge grows so does your confidence. And remember you need to learn before you earn.

The second rule is to determine your capital investment. This is important as you do not want to make life too uncomfortable (especially in the early days) or you will be more likely to quit. Try to use money that you won’t miss – difficult I know at the moment!! Look at low-cost or free ways to start your business. Blogs and a forum in your niche are a great way to start building your online presence and developing your reputation as a subject expert, and they are free. You may not be investing money, but you are investing time. It is also a good way to test the water to see if there is a market for your particular product or service before you commit.

The third rule is to develop your marketing plan. You must be systematic with product promotion or you will not target a large enough audience and this will mean low sales. This is probably the most important aspect of your online business, hence why so many people call themselves internet marketing experts and try to capitalise on this status. Devise a plan to capture people’s email addresses, and to push more traffic to your website. More traffic equals more sales, simple. If you use a methodical approach you are much more likely to successfully promote your product or service. And keep learning as there are always new techniques developing in this field and you don’t want to be left behind. 

Follow these three simple rules and you are much more likely to succeed in any business adventure. Now it’s up to you…

Writing your ebook part 8

Following on from my previous post

Marketing your ebook

Felix Dahn wrote: “To write books is easy, it requires only pen and ink and the ever-patient paper . . . But the most difficult task of all that a mortal man (or woman) can embark on is to sell a book.”

This is probably the most crucial step to get your information publishing business going. You will need to spend a lot of time promoting your ebook as it will not sell itself no matter how good it is! Take time to come up with a multi-pronged marketing strategy to attract as much interest as possible.

Here are some great tips to help you promote your information product:

  • Pre-sell. When promoting your ebook you should include pre-launch promotional efforts to start building anticipation. Try writing blog posts related to your topic leading up to the launch. You could try posting a sample chapter of your ebook or give away a free report related to your ebook topic. You could also offer free video clips if appropriate. If you can manage to get potential customers excited about your product before it is available, they will eagerly snap it up when you launch.  
  • Ensure you have a well designed squeeze/landing page for your ebook. This page should clearly describe the benefits and/or problem your ebook will solve. Take the time to write a benefit-rich headline that speaks directly to the reader’s self-interest. This page should ALWAYS have a call to action. This action may be to purchase your e-book, opt-in to your newsletter, subscribe to your blog etc.
  • Testimonials work really well so try to include several in your sales page. This tells visitors that someone other than you found the content of your ebook to be useful. You could give away a few copies to friends and ask for their testimonials for a start.
  • It can pay to give away free copies to bloggers. In return ask them to post a review of your ebook or maybe even post an interview with you about your ebook. This will definitely give your ebook more credibility. It will also mean that your book gets exposed to other bloggers’ audiences and this in turn may provide back links to your ebook landing page.
  • Create a Squidoo lens about your ebook and use it to promote your ebook.
  • If you have a blog (and you really should do) write a post about your ebook on your blog. You will find it much easier to sell an ebook if you have already have a blog and a subscriber base you can sell to.
  • Visit other related blogs and write guest posts on the topic of your ebook. The whole point of this is to expose you to a wider audience and to builds back links to your ebook landing page. It will also lend you credibility as an authority on your chosen subject.
  • Include your ebook in your email signature box. It might read Joe Bloggs, author of “How to…… “.
  • Use Twitter. Make regular tweets about your subject so that people identify you as an expert in that subject-matter. You could also use your blog to send any posts to Twitter and Facebook. Social networking can be a powerful tool but remember that it is all about helping others first, and if you can do that then they’ll want to help you. So don’t just bombard people with tweets about your ebook and make sure that you’re providing value to your followers.
  • Create an affiliate program. This enables others to market the ebook for you. Always offer your affiliates a decent percentage of the commission and supply them with the necessary marketing tools to help them promote your product. Have at least a 125 x 125 banner to offer affiliates, and preferably give them a selection of banners to choose from.
  •  Build a mailing list. This is an absolutely vital step in building your business and you should always be looking at ways to build your list and thus prospective buyers. On average, people need to see a marketing message seven times before they’ll take action and buy your product. One of the best ways is to use a newsletter. Use this to provide your readers with quality information on a regular basis and you build credibility and trust, at the same time keeping your message in front of your audience.
  • Write articles about your topic and submit them to article directories. Three of the best article directories are Ezine Articles, Go Articles, and Article Dashboard. Once again this creates back links and increases credibility. Also, by obtaining all these back links to your website/blog you will rank better in search engines and thus increase traffic.
  • . It may be worth considering publishing excerpts from your ebook. This is basically the equivalent of Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature. Excerpts let people get a feel for your ebook, the quality of your writing, and the type of information they can expect to find inside. You can also create a free “teaser” ebook or report. Make sure your “teaser” provides lots of value and leaves people wanting more. Other things you may wish to consider are; offer tips related to your ebook’s topic, offer a free ecourse, or create a video.
  • Find a Joint Venture Partner. These are basically the big players in your niche and they can really boost your ebook sales. Make sure to give your joint venture partners perks such as exclusive marketing tools and higher commissions than your affiliates.
  • Create urgency with a limited-time offer. You may want to offer your ebook with a 25% discount during the first 60 days after it’s first launched. This will give your offer some urgency and encourage people to act now rather than later.
  • Offer bonuses. This is a great tool – everybody wants something for free! People like to feel that they’re getting a lot of bang for their buck, so always offer a bonus or something extra to anyone who buys your ebook if possible. This could be a free report, another related ebook, free video etc. You could use this in conjunction with a limited-time offer such as only offering the bonuses to “the first 50 people who purchase” in order to encourage quick action. If you do offer a bonus, ensure to monetise it so people are aware that the bonus is valuable (“order now and receive this bonus report, normally £10, for free.”)
  • Think about creating a YouTube video. This can be as simple as you talking about why you wrote the ebook, and what it’s about, or just reading a chapter of your ebook.
  • Does your subject lend itself to a study course? If it does, create a free mini-course about your subject. If you give people valuable information for free, they’ll be much more likely to buy from you.
  • Leave comments on other blogs Find the top blogs related to your subject and leave helpful comments. That way, their visitors are likely to click over to your site to see what else you have to say. And, of course, you’ll be able to direct them to your ebook once they reach your site.
  • Search the internet for groups, forums, and discussion boards that relate to your topic. Once you join these groups, be present and active, but not pushy.
  • Be helpful. Whatever your subject is, always try to be helpful to anyone who is looking for information on your topic. Answer any questions that you can Twitter and forums and regularly participate in discussions. Put the link to your eBook in your signature. Publish useful posts on your blog. Represent yourself as a helpful, knowledgeable, genuine person and members will check you out and find your link.
  • If you have a lot of expertise in the same subject area as your ebook, volunteer to be an expert on sites like AllExperts.com. All the questions you answer will be for free, but you can put your ebook or website link in your profile. Users will check out your profile, see the link to your ebook, and hopefully visit your site.

Use as many of these tools as possible and you should be getting the best out of your promotion and getting your product in front of as many people as possible. Be aware that it may take 3-6 months for your marketing efforts to start paying off, but patience is a virtue and you will reap what you sow.

Good luck…

I hope that this 8 part series on writing your ebook has been valuable. If it has, please leave me some feedback especially if it has helped or inspired you.

Writing your ebook part 7

Well here we are in 2012. I hope you all had a fantastic break and are ready to make 2012 YOUR year.

Following on from my previous post

Compiling Your Ebook

 Once you have written your ebook in HTML or Word, you will need to compile it. The two most common formats are .pdf and .exe and by far the most popular is .pdf. PDF stands for Portable Document Format and is a distribution format developed by Adobe Corporation to allow electronic information to be transferred between various types of computers. Adobe Acrobat is a full-feature PDF maker although it is very expensive. If you want to read and print a PDF file you will need to have a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available as a free download.

The biggest advantage of .pdf books is that you can read them on any computer, including Macintosh computers. On the other hand, ebooks in .exe format can only be read by Windows users. However, the software that creates these kinds of ebooks can be handy if you want to customise your ebook.

Free PDF Makers

If you don’t want to spend so much money on Adobe Acrobat there are numerous free and very reliable PDF makers available although they may have limited functionality such as; some free PDF makers don’t hyperlink text and some may limit the size of the document that can be converted into a PDF.
I have listed several examples below. Just choose the one that works best for you: copy some of your ebook into a sample document and use this to test how different PDF converters will present your ebook.

2007 Microsoft Office Add-in: Microsoft Save as PDF or XPS

This download allows you to export and save to the PDF and XPS formats if you have Microsoft Office Word 2007. This is what I tend to use as it is quick and easy.

PrimoPDF – Totally Free PDF Creation

Another free download, although the free version does not hyperlink text.

Pdf995

You can download this pdf maker for free and is generally pretty good.

Google Docs

If you create a document on google docs it gives you the option of downloading the document as a PDF although there is a limit to how large the file can be.

Open Office

Open Office is a freeware alternative to Microsoft Office. You can create your document using Open Office and then convert it into a PDF.

 Ebook Compilers

If you don’t want to use a PDF Maker, the alternative is to use an ebook compiler. Most ebook compilers work by compiling an HTML page as an .EXE file. Your choice of compiler will depend on what features you want and how professional you want the product to look. There are not many truly free ebook compilers so if you want to use this option try to make the most of the demos and free trials before making your decision.

Ebooks can also be created as web pages using HTML. You can set up an ebook as a collection of web pages which a customer can view after receiving a password and login code. What this does is turn your ebook into a password protected website.

Now you have written and compiled your ebook.  Well done!

I hope you have found these articles interesting and informative and would value any comments.

Next time we will look at marketing your ebook…