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How to harness the power of ebooks

The underlying drive behind the Internet is the speed at which information can be retrieved -- especially at little or no cost. People can literally find out pretty much anything about anything at the simple click of a mouse. They are more informed, more educated and certainly more sophisticated than ever before.

Time, however, is becoming a scarcer commodity. People don't have the time to search the Internet in order to find the kinds of information that they really want, let alone the time to read it once they have found that for which they are looking. In short, time is money. And this is especially true for those who pay for their Internet connection by the minute or hour.

And in their attempts to retrieve that information, most people will have to swim through an ocean of commercial messages that are now drowning the web. As a result, finding useful, relevant information -- that is not overtly promotional or misleading -- has become a challenging process.

A mentor once told me, "Implication is more powerful than specification." It is more effective to imply one's superiority than it is to outright state it, in other words. Thus, self-serving information often found in fancy brochures, glitzy websites, blaring banners, and blatantly promotional email messages certainly counter that notion let alone turn people off.

However, there is a solution. A recent trend that is masterfully amalgamating all of the above important points -- i.e., speed, economy, and implication -- is in electronic self-publishing. Why are electronic books (or "ebooks," as they are often called) taking the Internet by storm? And why are they also becoming an essential marketing ingredient?

The Benefits of Publishing Your Own Ebook

The cost of publishing and delivering an ebook is assumed by no one -- neither the publisher nor the reader. There's no postage, no waiting, no handling, no printing, and no hassles involved. Best of all, people can download it almost instantly, or ask for it through an autoresponder and receive it within a matter of seconds. In short, the delivery is instantaneous.

While producing one may incur some costs (such as the cost of a software program that compiles your ebook), it is very little compared to its physical version. You only need one copy. There's no need to mass-produce your book and pay for the printing and distribution, let alone the physical storage space it requires -- you may have to pay once but only once.

Self-publishing is on the rise. And since the web is a major player in today's "information revolution," ebooks play active roles in helping self-publishers to profit from it -- also known as "infoproducts." Even non-publishers jump on the bandwagon and create their own ebooks in order to use them as promotional tools, traffic generators, lead generators or back-end products.

If you want an ebook, there's no need to visit a bookstore or to wait for it to arrive in the mail. Access is quick -- almost instantaneous in most cases. And there's no need to read it online or bookmark the site on which it appears, with the possibility that it will be forgotten somehow. It remains on the recipient's computer and can be read at his or her own pace.

Self-publishing also helps would-be writers and information marketers to avoid many of the inconvenient hoops through which one must go in order to get published in the real world. There's no need to send a manuscript to some publishing house in the hope that it will at least be considered, or to have a literary agent promote your book idea for a commission.

Ebooks Are Powerful Promotional Tools

It is also safe to say that people will need to visit your website in order to retrieve the free, valuable information that you offer. And by the same token they are given the opportunity to surf your site -- especially since they can read your book at a later time. In that case, give a URL that they must visit in order to download the book instead of the book by itself.

If you have a brochure or media kit, it can also be converted into an ebook and thus carry more weight. Since "implication is more powerful than specification," ebooks that act as brochures or catalogues will be read more like educational tools instead of self-serving, promotional ads. And consequently, they will communicate your expertise more effectively.

If you use a multi-step marketing process (as discussed in my own ebook, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," which can be downloaded for free at http://SuccessDoctor.com/free/), ebooks can also become powerful lead generators. People who ask for your book are in fact qualifying themselves beforehand. They are leads of higher quality, as they are far more interested than those who you would have otherwise only assumed that are.

If you do use your ebook as a lead generator, don't offer it directly to your visitors. Capture their information beforehand. Use a form on your site in order for these leads to identify themselves to you. Simultaneously, you can ask them if they wish to be added to your mailing list (such as your ezine) or do so in the subsequent "thank you" page.

More important, an ebook is an effective viral marketing tool, either by itself or in concert with others. By giving away the book for free you can also give the recipients the permission to distribute your book freely among their own subscribers, visitors, affiliates, and clients.

Another example is the fact that ebooks also make great gifts. If you use referral systems such as the one at ../forms/referral.htm, your book could be used as an added incentive for others to use these referral processes on your site. Also, ebooks can be used with contests, surveys, subscriptions, special offers, giveaways and bonuses.

You can easily conduct a survey with your website visitors or ezine subscribers -- especially for marketing research -- and offer the book as a gift for their participation. In fact, it could become a bonus item in order to entice visitors to subscribe to your ezine or affiliate program.

Ebooks as a Source of Income

If you plan on selling your ebook, delivery can be automated and even sales can be put on auto-pilot. Once your customers buy for example, they can be redirected to a special URL where they can download your book, transferred to a password-protected web page that contains your book or receive the ebook in an autoresponder email message (even as an attachment).

For an idea of how you can accomplish this, think of the times that you have come across certain online businesses selling ebooks as part of their portfolio. You may have even stumbled onto some websites that are exclusively dedicated to the sale of self-published materials -- including ebook affiliate programs. A great example is http://bizweb2000.com/prod02.htm.

As a lead generator, selling ebooks can become an even greater qualifier. If a person is willing to pay for the lead generator, chances are higher that he or she will pay for subsequent products or services. Furthermore, ebooks don't have to be sold directly. You can also sell them at wholesale -- in other words you sell licenses, not books (i.e., reprint rights).

You can generate revenue by selling advertising space in your ebook or even use that space for cross-promotional purposes. You can also generate additional revenues through joint ventures by combining your book with the products or services of strategic alliances.

But more important, you can develop your own affiliate program in order to multiply your book sales. Your affiliates are, like sales representatives, helping you to distribute your materials almost effortlessly -- especially since the commission structure can be higher than the norm due to the low (or no) cost of producing your book. You can use tracking programs such as:

Information Sources for Ebooks

Ebook compiling software is one with which you are able to transform your documents (created with either a word processor or HTML editor) into a single, self-executable file. People can simply click on the one file to read your ebook. Sites that offer such compiling programs (at varying prices) include:

Publicity guru Phil Wiley offers a great synopsis and a review of these various programs on his website (see http://www.ozemedia.com/ebooks.htm). But if you want to produce your own ebook at no cost at all, you have two options:

  • Create your ebook in HTML (as you would an ordinary website) and place all the files in one downloadable zipped (e.g., ebook.zip) file;

  • Use KeeBoo (it's freeware) at http://www.keeboo.com (they offer a user-friendly HTML compiler with a nice drag-and- drop feature, an integrated library and URL tracker, a highlighter and a notepad);

  • Or use HTMLDOC (a free PDF file compiler, Adobe's file format, that makes your ebook viewable in browsers on both PC and Macintosh platforms), which can be downloaded at http://www.easysw.com/ .

Once your ebook is ready for distribution or if you plan to conduct a contest where your book is the prize, you can write a news release that announces either your new book or your contest. Then submit your news release to the media, ezine publishers, book reviewers, list moderators and webmasters.

Moreover, you should submit your ebook (or news release announcing your ebook) to the following websites -- sites that exist for the express purpose of offering free stuff or making free contest announcements:

You can also take one or two of your ebook's chapters and use them as teasers, or even convert parts of your book into separate, distinct articles that you can submit to other ezines read by your target market. Conversely, you can take a bunch of your articles and compile them (or articles of others, with the permission of their authors) to compile your ebook.

As for writing a book from scratch, don't rack your brains over it. Just write. Let it flow. Do some research and gather useful information that you can use or on which you can write -- but don't ignore copyright issues, though. Reference your material. Use footnotes, or add a bibliography or a links page at the end. Start with an outline if you think it's necessary.

Once done, you can then edit your book. However, if you still don't feel comfortable with your command of the written word, you can simply find an editor who would be willing to edit your book in exchange for some free exposure (such as with an acknowledgment and link in the ebook). If the editor understands viral marketing, he or she probably won't mind =)

About the author
Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning sales messages into powerful magnets. Get a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," when you subscribe to his free monthly ezine, "The Profit Pill." See http://SuccessDoctor.com/ now!

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