No matter what business you are in, you should be considering value-add eProdcuts as part of your marketing strategy. It could be a saleable item to position your brand as an expert in the market, or a free content upgrade given in exchange for an email address. There’s an entire world of eBooks, workbooks, guides, checklists and course on the market now, consider how it could work for your business.
Below is an outline of how I wrote and launched my first eBook. Followed by some lessons I’ve learnt since then launching a total of six successful products and bundles. I’ve used content upgrades with my audience, sold eBooks and built eWorkbooks off the back of workshops I’ve conducted. So here it is team, the who, what, when, where and how that make up my experience. Enjoy!
My eBook story
When I pressed send launching my first eBook, The Budget Fashionista Workbook, I was sure no one would buy it. The blog post series had been successful, but the idea of an eProduct was still new to me. I was sure that the sales I would see were those from my friends and few family members who read my blog. To say my expectations were low but my (secret) hopes were slightly higher would sum it up.
But I’d done it. I’d taken the posts from my blog series, modified them, made them into an eBook, hired a legendary designer (hey Amanda!) and got it set up for sale. A heck of a process, let me tell you. You can’t argue with that for progress. This was a test run after all. I had big plans for another bigger, all original content product and wanted to test the eBook waters.
Curled into the corner of my couch, buy my eBook emailed sent, laptop balancing on the flat, wide armrest, I was chatting with my husband when I saw an email come in. Then another one. Oh god, people are unsubscribing, I thought. They were fleeing my list. I knew they would hate me selling them a book of posts I’d already published on the blog. This is bad. Sooooo bad. Darn it.
I was sure of one thing, I’d annoyed them… Them being my entire newsletter subscriber group of 150 people at the time. Now they were all going to quit the list, tell the interwebs what a jerk I am and I’d still have sold no eBooks. Awesome. I should never have decided to sell this stupid eBook.
It turns out when the drama and worst case scenario moment (moments? hmmm) had passed that I was wrong. When I checked, the emails were sales. Notifications from Paypal of payments being deposited into my account. By the time I checked, I had 15. It was after 8 pm at night, I wasn’t even sure there was going to be anyone out there to read the email which typically would land in their inbox of a Saturday morning. Success!
For days afterwards, leading up to the official launch of the eBook on my site, the sales ticked over. The email notifications would pop up, and I would stare at them in awe. What the heck? How did this even happen? I had a goal of selling 50 books which I considered to be optimistically high. I’d sold 75 before they came off the early bird discount. Within the month of that first email, I sold close to 500.
But how, right? I had no huge list. My blog had a good following but nothing major. I knew people were interested, but I genuinely didn’t believe that people would pay to buy the content I’d already posted (though altered for the eBook format) on the blog. I had moderate success on my hands, and to this day, it continues to outsell my other eProducts on a day-to-day basis.
So what worked, what didn’t, and what the heck did I stumble across that first time? I’m glad you asked, let’s go into it from start to finish.
Planning your eBook
The place most people get stuck with their first eProduct is in the planning. I mean, I’ve been there, I have one eBook that has now been in the planning stage for 4 years. It’s too long. Get a general guideline for what you want to cover (use them as chapter guides) and move your butt into the writing phase.
Something I’ve learnt is that if there are not enough headers for your planning stage, there’s probably not enough content for an entire book. Believe me, been there and there’s nothing like trying to force content out of stone here. Make it a blog post. Clearly, it’s relevant to your readers, so take that outline and make it work for you.
When I’m planning a new, idea, I do it with pens and paper. I throw everything on the page and see what sticks. From there I head to a document in Page (or Word) and lay it out. I take the main ideas, the guts of the book (or course or whatever it is you’re making) and I start to plot how it’s going to flow from introduction through to acknowledgements at the end.
Want the hot tip about this planning out part? Make notes under each of the headers of ideas to cover. This will save you coming back later and thinking to yourself, what the heck does “People love Watermelon” mean in an eBook about sales tactics and marketing…”. I’m THAT person, pages and pages of vague notes I can’t decipher later. I’ve tried to change, to keep better notes and memos as I go. Save yourself, make detailed notes and keep adding to them until a whole post, a whole book or a whole course shows up.
Writing your eBook
If you are writing or have written an eBook, you need to read this article by Sarah of xoSarah about why people didn’t buy what you are selling. Even if you’ve never released a single product, you are going to want to read this one. The point Sarah raises about it not being FOR someone is so critical to your success being able to sell your product. When your product throws the net too wide, no one REALLY wants it. And unless people really want it, unless it’s going to make a difference in their life and they can see that, then you won’t get a sale. Read the post, you’ll be glad you did.
Who is your eBook talking speaking to? If you don’t know, they won’t know. There is a lot of stuff on the market today, don’t write an eBook for bloggers, write an eBook for bloggers who want to write their 100 page eBook this month including a timeline and worksheet guide. Got it? You need to be specific.
My eBook “Ways to be Happy in Your Skin” was written specifically for my newsletter subscribers. So much so they received it for free. It was all about them, their challenges and their problems as they had told me in my inbox. I knew what I wanted to say to them, and it was a huge success. So much so that it became a ‘for sale’ product in my store so they could share it with their friends.
Get specific on the content. Pick a topic and cover it well. And get specific who NEEDS this information, what your readers are dealing with and how you can make a difference for them. All of that will contribute substantially to your eProduct being successful. So you’ve got that? It’s part planning, and it’s part writing, but that part is essential. Make sure you know who you are writing it for and write it for them alone.
But what about actually writing it? Darren of ProBlogger took time out each day to write his first eBook, as did Brooke of Slow Home. They chipped away at it day by day by day. I’m more of an all or nothing girl. I’ll spend a whole day writing jumping from section to section before running through the entire draft to whip it into shape. So find a process that works for you. Find a way to get those thoughts you are having about your topic onto the page.
Some great suggestions include;
- Dictation – Speak it and have it transcribed for you. This will not only help with getting it all out of your head, but it will help with keeping ‘your voice’ if that something you struggle with.
- Notes and more notes – Instead of sitting down to write an entire book, write notes, use post-its, paper, something like Evernote and just start writing paragraphs, linked or not.
- Talk about it with a friend and record the session – If the topic is something you are passionate about, find an attentive ear and talk it out. Have them ask questions, request more information and take the conversation where it needs to go to cover the topic. Review the recording later (or as about, have it transcribed) and you might just find some content there you hadn’t considered using that is essential.
- Write your butt off – Sometimes what you need to do is just write. Don’t edit, don’t reread, just you and your keyboard tapping away until you have pages and pages of content that need shaping. Then you can edit from there. Just get writing and see what shows up.
I know that will get you started if you’ve been worried about how to do so. With the planning completed and the methods for extracting your information at hand now, there’s just one thing to do regarding getting this thing written… And do you want to know what I think impacts the success of your eProduct? The ONLY thing that matters in the end? You have to actually write it If you don’t ever write it, it will never ever succeed. So get moving.
Designing/Editing your eBook
I have launched products both with and without a designer. So in that sense, you are more than capable or able to do both. For me, the most successful launches and products over time have been the designed ones. They just look the part. But my most recent eBook, my Instagram one, continues to gain momentum and great feedback on the overall design, I did myself. It’s simple, but that style works sometimes.
So, if you decide to use a designer, here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way;
- Get the referral. Ask for a referral to a Designer that has eBook experience or is willing to learn. I find it easier to work with someone who either knows the specialist world of eProducts or is prepared to do a bit of legwork to learn.
- Get a quote. Start contact with your recommended designers by getting a quote and an idea of timeframe and requirements for delivery. Make sure you ask about additional charges or contingencies.
- Work with someone you like. Throughout this process, I’ve always found it easier to ask for changes, make a comment and have the general conversation around my end result with someone I enjoy working with. If you can’t get a good report going through the quote process, is this really someone you want to work in close collaboration with on your product? Probably not.
- Have an idea of what you want. Create a mood board you can share, have any style or brand guides that your blog or businesses use readily available. If you have brand images that you wanted to use, have these available for review by the designer.
- Have your text proofread, checked and finalised ready to go. When you submit your plans to your designer, make sure your text is finalised and ready to go? Not doing this can lead to SO many additional changes and headaches.
And what if you’re not going to use a designer? A lot of the same tips apply regarding your brand images, your style guide and having the text complete. But if you’re going it alone I have some advice for that too;
- Make sure you choose a program that works for you. Anything from InDesign to Canva to Pages or Word will work. BUT can you use it well enough to produce a quality outcome worth your customer’s money?
- Work out what sort of design you like. You probably own a number of eBook, Courses and products, right? Take a look at them now and work out what you like about them, don’t like and what sort of layout or style would work for you.
- Make sure you have the design and layout critiqued by someone who will REALLY tell you if it works or not. Sometimes people are too friendly to us. They know we worked hard and that you’re proud of your efforts, but that’s not helpful here. You want to know if the outcome represents your brand in the best possible way. So find someone who will give it to you straight.
Promoting your eBook
When it came down to it, being my first launch, and the readership I did, I used a blog post, a newsletter push and a couple of Facebook spots. It was hardly a launch strategy, but given the lead up to the release and the constant reminders, it worked.
In 2017, there are plenty of people who are selling courses and ideas about how to have a successful launch. SO MANY. And there are inclusions such as Webinars, Facebook Ad Strategies, Sales Funnels, and much much much more. Knowing your audience that this is a product that will change something for them is the real secret. I think a good lead in, in whatever format (emails, webinars, promotions, etc.), serves you best in delivering that message.
People need to know what you have and why they should want it. Plain as that.
So, do you know the answer to that? Did you, during the planning stage, work out what you are offering and WHY it’s of value to your customer? I really hope you did. It’s sort of fundamental. But if you didn’t, there’s no better time than now. Brainstorm it. Write down every single reason someone NEEDS this product. Make a list and start to identify (when you’re done) what the common themes are? For my Budget Fashionista Workbook, it was about having great style, doing it on a budget without credit. Simple.
I believe no one knows your audience like you do. No one. And as well as that, no one knows your product like you do. So tell your existing and potential customers why YOU, why THIS product, and then the rest becomes a case of rolling it out. When you hit the sweet spot with that, the promotion is as simple as delivering that message through your channels in the best ways you know how.
Are you great at visual content? Create some amazing images and graphics around your product. If video is your thing, create a coming soon trailer or go live (Facebook or Instagram) to deliver the news. Play to your strengths, get your community involved and don’t be afraid to ask for the share. Be proud of what you’ve created. Give it the best chance to do well.
The mistakes I made (my bad);
- Paypal – I had opened a business Paypal account days before my eBook launched which meant my money was TRAPPED and I was at serious risk of being considered dodgy. I mean, hundreds of small $7 and $9 transactions on a new account are questionable. So if I were in that position again, I would open the account earlier, I would use it for some standard transactions and get the 30 days are you human and are you legit process out of the way. There’s nothing as frustrating as seeing the fruits of your labour sit there in lockdown because you weren’t prepared.
- I underestimated it – I genuinely thought that this was a fruitless exercise. I had plans for a ‘major’ project at a later time and very much treated this as a test project. To this day, it’s still on of my best launches and with its long tail of sales, probably close to one of my best returns. I think you have to prepare for your product to do well, crazy well, and see how it goes. If you’ve put in the time, and you have an audience that is genuinely interested, you never know.
- The edits and changes – Oh lord, this was easily THE WORST thing I did. I used a designer (did I mention that Amanda, you rockstar, haha) and I made SO many changes that were fundamental proof-reading and editing mistakes. This ended up costing me more for the final product but also it was frustrating and a huge time suck. Have your text, get it proof-read and edited BEFORE it goes anywhere near the designer. Yes, you may miss a thing or two that gets picked up later, but it won’t be pages and pages of edits in what should be a completed document. Trust me that will NOT make you popular at all.
The things I did that were outstanding (go me!);
- The lead in – I invited my audience to choose their favourite cover, sharing the photo shoot, take on proof-readers and editors from within the community and even sharing my pain getting it done, my readers felt like this was part of their story too. When I was doing all of that, it wasn’t something I did as a strategy to build interest. I genuinely wanted help. I had no idea what I was doing. Haha. In a lot of ways, I’ve never done this as well in following launches. Note to self, do that better next time.
- The designer – You’ll probably think I’m biased but using Amanda as my designer was perfection. We work well together and communicate well. Essential. I highly recommend spending the money if you have it. Yes, you can use things like Canva or Pages to create a great product, but a designer touch is what takes it to the next level.
- The sales page – My sales page was RIDICULOUSLY simple. It was basically this books is about this, buy it here, and here, and here. Simple. Again, something that I haven’t been able to replicate the success of because I try to add too much and the page has too many distracting reviews and coverage. These things are great, but I highly recommend having a simple, mobile-friendly, “buy now” page that is just that; a buy now page. Have a longer form sales page somewhere else for those that want more information. But keep the DO IT NOW page super simple and fast.
The resources I love:
Ready to give this whole eProduct thing a go? Well, there are some major big guns out there now selling everything from cheap and cheerful eBooks to comprehensive courses and membership sites. Hit the interwebs team, there is loads of information out there if this is something you’re going to implement for your business.
- Free: By Regina – Create a Course
- Free: The Nectar Collective – Knowing Your Product Audience
- Free: Elle and Company – 11 Ways to Create Hype around a New Launch
- Free: xoSarah – Why no one bought what you’re selling (useful for product planning too!)
- Paid: By Regina – Create an Information Product in 3 Days!