The 18 Most Potent Things I Learned Writing An Ebook

My book on advanced SEO is finally done. The book’s printed and the PDF is ready. Last week I entered the preorder copies into the shipping fulfillment system . But it’s been an incredibly long slog … if memory serves, I started on this project sometime around fall 2009. October? So it’s now almost 2 full years later! Learn from my experience and hopefully you’ll save time and money.

1) Writing – even with an outline – takes much longer than you expect.

Don’t specify any dates until the PDF is done and/or the print version is printed you’re ready to launch the same day! Then specify a date in the future so you can build up to it with promotional activities.

The reason it’s not enough for the PDF to be done and your book to be printed is because there still remains work to be done on the site at that point. For example, I’m currently running usability tests. I’ve also got to set up split testing before go-live.

2) Editing takes even longer than writing.

This is particularly true if you’re editing existing blog posts into book format. I never thought I could dread writing like I did when it came time to editing my posts. It’s hard to explain why, but it was dreary, tedious work. I thought I’d be done writing it in summer 2010 and that was a flop.

3) Keep all pictures and screenshots.

If you only have them within your Word doc, ppt etc, you’ll be forced to recapture them and so waste time and money. This is particularly true for those printing books, because you need a certain minimum resolution for print, which you lack typically when a pic is in your Word doc.

4) Take preorders.

Write a couple of sample chapters, get folks on an email list by offering the samples free, and see if they’ll buy. This validated my idea and also provided some funding so I wasn’t entirely out of pocket.

5) But don’t take too many preorders.

They are a distraction because people will ask if their book is ready – and it’s only fair. It’s easy to manage with about a dozen preorders like I had, but it can be a little stressful even then.

6) Figure out shipping costs before you offer free shipping.

I assumed Canada would cost the same as the US or thereabouts. Wrong!
7) If you offer free or flat rate shipping, make sure you make foreign orders pay the proper rate.

I got an Australian preorder with a free shipping bit… that shipping charge is gonna hurt my margin. [But I honoured it because of the importance of preorders and the leap of faith the preorder customer took/trust he gave me.]

8) Take the initiative to offer updates to your preorder customers.

It’ll save you answering the same question (where’s my book?) over and over, and they’ll appreciate it.

9) Work with a professional layout artist and pro printers.

It costs a bit more up front, but your margins are better long term, and you get your money’s worth in design. I am working with Malloy printers – a very professional outfit with great support and customer care who answered my innumerable questions with great patience and friendliness – as well as Jacinta Calcut of Image, Graphics and Design whom they referred to me. Jacinta went way above the call of duty to provide a lot of added, extra value and if the ebook looks beautiful, it’s largely thanks to her.

10) Build an email list.

This has been the single most valuable marketing channel to me. Email marketing has gotten me feedback, pre-orders, offers to review the book, usability testers etc.

11) Promote your site via guest posts on blogs.

The conversion rate on blog traffic has been as high as 2x that of Facebook traffic – 37% vs 16%, on book.seoroi.com .  (Feel free to copy the template. I got it from Tim Ash of Site Tuners at Affiliate Summit East 2009; it’s simply headline, bullets, call to action.)

Big kudos to Mike for letting me guest post here and to Ann the SEO Smarty and the SEJ team for always welcoming my posts :).

12) Make sure your graphics sparkle.

I’ve used the services of Angeles Barcelina Jr for a long time now and he’s always prompt and doing good looking work .

13) Google Analytics makes mistakes – sometimes very big ones.

If you get publicity, look at Aweber’s conversion numbers, not Google’s. And Google will mix referral traffic in with direct traffic (e.g. if traffic opens a link in a new tab), so if you see a spike in one, there may be a spike in the other. I know this is true because for weeks I’d only get a couple of signups a day for the book, but then after publicity I’ve had periods of a few days where an extra hundred or so ppl subscribed .

14) Get the link to your squeeze page in early for higher CTR.

People don’t read to the end.

[Conversely, when hosting guest posts, don’t be a cheapass who leaves the author bio to the end of posts so as to minimize traffic ‘loss’. If you’re getting a guest post, nurture the relationship and send them as much traffic as possible – they’ll come back to write again. And they’ll return the favour in other ways.]

15) Get an editor – you’re never objective enough about your own prose.

I worked with Richard Kershaw of Quality Nonsense, whom I’d known online for a while then finally met in the flesh at PubCon 2010 in Las Vegas. He cut out loads of fat and corrected plenty of mistakes. This also helped speed things up – recall that self-editing is SLOOOOOOW.

16) Make an outline / table of contents asap.

Otherwise your writing will wander and you’ll have to cut lots and tie it back together later. partly what i did at the start and it was tough.

17) Don’t allow your preorder title to tie you down as to the book title. It’s a mistake I made n I bet the preorder customers don’t remember the exact title they saw, nor would they mind getting the same book with a slightly different title. Be willing to test this.

18) Build your Minimum Viable Product.

Don’t waste money on mobile landing pages until you first see if you can get mobile traffic! Another expense I took on which will make it harder to achieve breakeven, and yet probably wasn’t worth it.

Have questions, comments? Tweet @GabGoldenberg and I’ll answer as much as I can. And get a free book chapter!

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