How to Design a Book Cover on Elance (Part 4 of “How to Write a Kindle Book”)

I wrote a Kindle eBook.

This is part 4 of a multi-part series that explains the entire process I went through to write and publish it. Click the following links for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

After writing and editing your eBook, the next step is to design a professional cover for it.

 

Designing the Cover – Approach

When I first decided to write a book, I wanted to get validation from prospective readers that they really wanted to read it. So I created a quick cover by hiring a designer for $5 on Fiverr. Here was the result.

Virtual Teams Book Cover from Fiverr

Fiverr Cover

I wrote more about the details of how I designed the cover on Fiverr in part 2 of this series.

This was just a quick and dirty cover to get things going, but I wanted to design a much more professional cover for my final version of the book.

 

Why create a professional cover when a cheap one will do?

A lot of kindle authors think spending money on a professional cover is a waste of money. Their philosophy is that what matters most is the content of the book and that everything else is secondary.

Some of those kindle authors are quite successful, so they do have a point. You really can save a bit of money and just use a $5 cover designed by a freelance designer at Fiverr.

However, I see it differently.

To me, a professional cover is your chance at a solid first impression.

People make split decisions when they’re browsing online and they might skip out on your book just based on a lackluster cover.

I know because I’m one of those folks.

I don’t care if a book has 50+ positive reviews; if the cover looks like it was put together in Microsoft Word, I’m going to assume that the content might be subpar at best. I might be unfairly judging that book, but it’s just how I make quick decisions, and I’m sure other folks think the same way.

Plus, designing a nice looking cover will also help you market the book to other sites down the line. For example, blogs that might feature your book will have a higher chance of accepting it when they see a professional looking cover as opposed to a cheap one. That’s because they also worry about their brand, and if they feature something that might come off as spammy, it might hurt their own image.

Moreover, I really believe that the money you spend on a great cover now will pay off down the line – especially in the long run when Amazon markets your book for you.

 

How much will it cost for a professional cover?

Based on what I’ve researched about current rates, I think a professional-looking cover should cost you between $250 and $350.

This price range is for the front cover only (i.e. no back cover or spine design which might cost more). A front cover is what you only need anyway for a Kindle eBook.

You might find designers that can design great covers for less than that (around $150 to $200), but you might be taking a slight risk because that’s on the lower end. Of course, you can surely find designers who would charge you much more than that range, but I really don’t think that’s necessary.

 

Options for Designing a Professional Cover

There are two main options to design a professional looking cover:

Option 1: Crowdsource it

Crowdsourcing is a method where you submit your design request to a large group of designers, who in turn submit designs for you.

In this option, you upload your request for a book cover (called a design brief) to the site and set the price you want to pay. You then start getting design samples from different designers and you pick a winner.

Some companies that offer crowdsourcing services include:

 

Option 2: Hire a single freelance designer

Hiring a freelancer is where you give the task to a single designer, and have that person work on the design for you. Those freelancers typically have their portfolios of previous work published online, so you get to see their previous designs and decide if you like their style.

In this option, you upload your request to a marketplace and designers bid on a price. You then select a designer that you like and award them the job. Only after you award the job to the designer will you start getting design samples.

Some sites that offer freelance services include

 

The option I selected

I went with Option 2 and hired a freelance designer directly. I felt more comfortable interacting directly with a single person than dealing with multiple designers or options. This was just a matter of personal preference.

I also went with Elance because I used them for editing my book and was already comfortable with their process.

 

How to Write a Good Description for your Book Cover job on Elance (with a sample description)

Having a good description for your book cover job is really important so that you avoid any misunderstandings.

You need to upload a crystal-clear project description for the design you want to get done. You need to explain exactly what you want and what you don’t want right upfront because it’ll help you filter out any designers early on. This will also save you a lot of headaches down the line.

I would also recommend that you include links to book covers that you like so that you can show the prospective designer what you’re looking for in terms of style.

Here’s the book description job that I posted on Elance (feel free to steal it!)

Job Title

eBook Cover Design for Amazon Kindle

Type of work needed

Design & Multimedia > Page & Book Design

Job Description

I need an eBook cover for an Amazon Kindle book that I’m writing.

This will be a one-page front cover job (i.e., no spine or back cover) that adheres to Kindle’s format guidelines.

For example, the cover should be 2820 pixels on the shortest side and 4500 pixels on the longest side (you can read all the guidelines here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2J0TRG6OPX0VM)

Here’s the text that I’d like to appear on the cover

Title: Influencing Virtual Teams
Subtitle: 17 Tactics That Get Things Done with Your Remote Employees
Author Name: Hassan Osman

I’d really like the cover text and illustration to be a combination of red and black (with a white background) because those are the colors of my blog.

Here are samples of covers I like:

http://www.amazon.com/Difference-one-page-reimagining-reinventing-marketing-ebook/dp/B00I8W7HYO/
http://www.amazon.com/Write-Sell-Your-Damn-Book-ebook/dp/B00HTQEDZ6/
http://www.amazon.com/Everything-I-Know-Paul-Jarvis-ebook/dp/B00GRBIFH6/

As you can see, I like simple designs with a focus on a nice font and illustration (nothing too busy with a lot of illustrations or text). My ebook will be for IT managers in large organizations who manage virtual teams across the world.

I would also like the title of the ebook to be readable even when the cover is resized down to 90 pixels (because that’s the size of the thumbnails when readers browse around in the marketplace).

When you submit your bid, please let me know a bit about your process (e.g., what you’ll be providing in terms of cover design samples and how many iterations are included in the price).

Thank you!

Desired Skills

Cover Design, Graphic Design, Adobe InDesign, eBooks

As you can tell, my description was explicit and to the point. I explained what platform my book was going to be published on (Amazon Kindle), and I included the link for the guidelines.

I also specified the colors I’d like to see, included a few links for books I liked, and asked the designers to send me a description of how the process works.

That last request – about how the process worked – served two purposes:

  1. I was actually interested in understanding the process they were following and how many iterations were included in the price so I don’t get disappointed down the line
  2. Most importantly, I wanted to make sure that the designers actually read my entire description. I wanted to make sure that they went through the instructions carefully (I rejected any bid that didn’t answer that question because I assumed the designers were sloppy)

 

Side note: One thing I missed in my job description

For the next book I’ll write, one thing I would add is to explicitly ask the designer what final design files will be included as part of the price. This was something I missed in this book’s description. Although it wasn’t a big issue, I found out later on that the original files cannot be included because of some legal issues around original content and elements. I was fine with that, but I would have preferred to know that upfront just in case.

 

The Next Step: Private or Open to the public

On Elance, you have one of two options after writing a job description: Public or Private. You can either choose to publicize the job to ANY designer on Elance (i.e. open it up to the public), or you can keep your job description private and invite select designers that you choose.

  • Keeping it public: The advantage of a public job description is that you’ll get more bids on your project. The disadvantage is that you’ll get lower quality designers that you would have to sift through.
  • Keeping it private: The advantage of a private job description is that you’ll get higher quality bids on your project because you only invite who you like. The disadvantage is that you’ll have to do more research upfront to select those designers. Plus, you’ll not always get a bid from every person you invite, so you have to account for that.

I opted to keep the job description private and get higher quality bids. Again, this is just personal preference, but both of those options would work.

 

Awarding the job

After inviting around 16 designers that I liked, I got proposals from around 5 of them (4 declined due to their workload, and 7 never responded), and the bids ranged between $110 and $400. I selected someone in the middle range of that (around $300).

In less than a week, and after a few back and forth emails to get clarification on my requirements, the designer sent me the following design samples.

All cover samples for Influencing Virtual Teams

There were two that I really liked, so I posted them on my Facebook page and sent an email to my list asking them to vote on which one they liked the most.

1 or 2 Influencing Virtual Teams Cover

The majority voted for design 1, so that’s what I selected.

However, for the folks that chose design 2, most of them did so because they liked the striking red color in the graphic, and I agreed with that.

So I asked the designer to use cover 1 as the main design, and to add some red color to the graphic.

This was the final result.

Notice that the connecting dots in the final version changed to red.

Final version of book cover

 

Creating a 3D cover from the 2D version

Although the freelance designer from Elance did provide me with a 3D version of the cover, I preferred to use BoxShotKing to do one myself because I had more control over the orientation of the book and the look and feel of it.

It took me less than 90 seconds to make the following 3D version of my book from the 2D version.

 

Final Version of book cover - 3D

BoxShotKing is not free, but I highly recommend it because it will pay for itself when you want to make any modifications later on.

For example, after my ebook hit the #1 bestseller list, I used BoxShotKing to update the cover to include the best seller badge on the book. It would have cost me a lot more money to hire a designer to do that for me.

Click here to learn more about how BoxShotKing can help you design 3D covers (aff link)

 

Next Step

The next step after designing a professional cover is to upload your finished kindle book to the Amazon KDP portal, set a date for publication, and start your marketing efforts.

I’ll explain all that in my next post (so make sure you sign up in the top right corner if you haven’t already to get notified once that post is out).

Cheers,

Hassan

How to Write an Amazon Kindle eBook – Part 3 (Writing and Editing)

I’m writing a Kindle eBook. (Update: the book is now published on Amazon here)

This is part 3 of a multi-part series that explains the entire process I’m going through. Click here for Part 1 and click here for Part 2.

After choosing a title for the eBook and starting your marketing efforts, the next step is to write and edit your eBook.

 

Writing the eBook – Approach

I’m a slow writer.

When I first started out writing the book, “slow” was an understatement.

I kept procrastinating because I felt overwhelmed.

Staring at a blank screen wasn’t fun.

However, I did two things that helped me write.

First, I decided I’m not writing a book.

Instead, I approached it as if I’m writing a series of emails to a friend who I wanted to help out with managing their team. This removed the psychological barrier of intimidation.

The second thing was that I leveraged content that I had already produced.

I had my blog posts on The Couch Manager blog, the emails I sent out to my newsletter subscribers, and the content of my Managing & Influencing Virtual Teams course.

I took some of the best content from all those 3 sources and used them as a starting point for my book.

 

Writing the eBook – Tools

I used both Scrivener and Microsoft Word to write the book.

I could have used Microsoft Word on its own, but I had heard so many good things about Scrivener that I wanted to give it a try.

Apparently, most best-selling authors, including Tim Ferriss, rely heavily on Scrivener because it has amazing features that makes it much easier to write.

I couldn’t agree more.

Scrivener was so easy to use and had some absolutely phenomenal functions. I don’t think I’ll ever write another book without it. The best feature was that I could easily move different chapters around and consolidate others through the corkboard function. Plus, having a “bird’s eye” view of my book chapters in the margin gave me satisfying feeling of control.

This also helped me boil down the number of tactics from 27 to 17 because I started to notice some overlap among the different tactics from the initial list.

So the sub-title ended up changing to “17 Tactics That Get Things Done with Your Remote Employees.

Here’s a screenshot from Scrivener while I was writing my book. The margin on the left helped tremendously in assessing the flow of the chapter titles.

 

Scrivener

 

After I was done writing the book, I used the export feature in Scrivener to create an MS Word file.

I did that for 2 reasons:

  1. I wanted to hire an editor to edit the book, and most editors are already familiar with Microsoft Word
  2. Amazon accepts Microsoft Word (.doc) files to their Kindle Direct Publishing platform, and I wanted to prepare it for the Kindle format anyway.

The total length of the book was a little over 10,000 words.

 

Editing the eBook

The next step was to hire an editor for the book.

I went on Elance and submitted a proposal so that different freelance editors could submit their bids.

A few days later, I started getting different quotes from editors.

The quote fees ranged between $150 and $550.

I then picked an editor who I was impressed with (that cost me somewhere in the middle of that range), and within a week, I had a freshly polished book that was ready for publication.

The editor was awesome – he went back and forth with me on a couple of questions that I had, and actually suggested a few modifications for the tactic titles. He even helped prepare the formatting for uploading to Amazon, which saved me some time.

Most importantly, he also suggested I modify the title of my eBook, which is something I didn’t expect.

 

Modifying the Title of the eBook

The original title I chose for the book was:

Influencing Virtual Teams: 17 Tactics That Get Things Done with Your Remote Employees.”

However, my editor’s suggestion was to change the title to:

Motivating Virtual Teams: 17 Tactics That Will Inspire Your Remote Employees to Excel”

Hi justification was that the word “influencing” was a bit vague and that the word “motivating” was stronger. He also thought that “inspire…employees to excel” would be a better phrase choice than “get things done with employees.”

This made me re-think the title, even though I was pretty much set on it. The title is, of course, a very important part of the book – it’s the two second pitch that makes people interested in it and eventually buy it – and I didn’t want to take this potential modification lightly.

So to help out with the decision, I simply asked my friends on Facebook and readers on my blog which title they thought was better. I also ran two ads on Facebook with the different titles to see which had a higher click-through rate.

The results were as follows:

  • The majority of my friends and most of my readers chose the newer  title: “Motivating Virtual Teams” over the original one
  • The Facebook ads were split at nearly 50-50 with the click through-rate, meaning both of them worked.

So technically, the “Motivating” title won because my friends & readers chose it.

However, after sleeping on the decision for a couple of days, I didn’t feel very comfortable changing the title.

That’s because I already had people who signed up to my email list who were interested in the original title (check out Part 1 to see how I did that).

Plus, even though “motivating” and “influencing” could be considered synonymous in some aspects, the reality is that they are different topics.

In other words, it was going to be a different book, and I didn’t want to go back and change the content to reflect the “motivating” aspect of virtual teams.

So I decided to stick to the original title and move forward with it.

 

Next Step

The next step after writing the book and editing it is to design a professional cover.

I actually hired an elance designer to do that – which I’ll tell you all about in my next post.

Cheers,

Hassan

P.S. – That post is now out. Click here to read it.

How to Write an Amazon Kindle eBook – Part 2 (Title + Squeeze Page)

I’m writing a Kindle ebook. (Update: the book is now published on Amazon here)

This is part 2 of a multi-part series that explains the entire process I’m going through. Click here for Part 1.

After deciding on the reason behind writing the book (to gain credibility & authority and to learn about online publishing), and the platform I want to publish on (exclusively on Amazon KDP), the next step is to decide on a title and start your marketing efforts.

 

Choosing a Title for the ebook

The title I chose for the book is “Influencing Virtual Teams: 27 Tactics That Get Things Done with Your Remote Employees.”

Frankly, I didn’t spend much time on coming up with this title. It was based on the title of my online course (Managing and Influencing Virtual Teams), and the number “27” was just a quick estimate of how many tips I can provide.

I also wanted both an informative and a catchy title that explains exactly what managers would be gaining from reading the book.

As I mentioned in my previous post, if my primary objective was to make money, I would approach writing the title in a totally different way.

I would basically start searching for the best-ranking and highest-selling books on Amazon’s Kindle marketplace (in the virtual teams and project management niche), then analyze what keywords those books use in both the title and the book description.

I would also use Google’s Keyword Tool to find out keyword volume figures, and use the combination of that with the Amazon information to come up with a title and subtitle that are keyword-heavy so that the book ranks high on the list of searches.

However, because my primary objective is not to make money, but rather to gain credibility and authority in this space, my title was not based on any of that.

Just a quick side note here:

I don’t think “making money” as a primary objective of writing a Kindle ebook is a bad thing at all. In fact, this might be my next mini-project after publishing this book.

However, I just think this objective is so commonly abused, that it has created a lot of junk ebooks online – and a lot of plagiarized ones as well.

So if making money is your objective, then make sure you’re providing your readers more use value than you’re getting in cash value before you hit that publish button.

The next step after coming up with a title is to market your book.

 

Why You Should Market your eBook before Writing It

There are 2 reasons why you should market your ebook before you start writing it:

First, you’ll gain validation on your idea. If no one is interested in your book now, then no one will be interested in it later. So if you don’t get enough traction, you might as well stop writing the book while it’s still early and you haven’t invested a lot of time or energy in creating it.

Second, you will have a prospective list of people who are willing to buy the book once it’s out. Even if those folks don’t end up buying, you’ll at least know that this topic is something that interests them and you can market your second or third book to them down the line.

 

How to Market your eBook before Writing it: Create a Squeeze Page

A squeeze page is a simple landing webpage that asks people for their email address so they can opt-in to get notified once the book is out.

Click here to see how mine looks like (and feel free to sign up!)

You need three things to create a squeeze page: a cover for your ebook, an email marketing service (to collect the emails), and the squeeze page itself.

Let’s start with the exciting part.

 

#1: Designing a Cover for your eBook

Creating a cover for your ebook is important because people react more favorably toward something which is visual.

Technically, you don’t need a cover at this stage, but it will help tremendously in everything from the number of signups that you get, to other marketing efforts which we’ll get into later.

One thing to keep in mind is that the cover you create at this point does not need to be the final cover design you’ll settle on.

In fact, mine will definitely change because the title will probably be different and I also want to design a more professional cover when the book is actually published.

Here’s how I created my own cover.

Step 1: Hire a designer on Fiverr

Fiverr is an awesome marketplace to find freelancers who would offer services for only $5.

I hired mine in under 10 minutes by signing up to a free account, searching for a freelancer by punching “book cover design” in the search box, and choosing one who had a high positive rating.

I then gave the designer some ideas about the general style that I wanted to see, and had a cover ready in 4 days.

Here’s the designer I used to create my ebook cover for only $5.

And here’s how the cover looked like after I got it back from him.

Virtual Teams Book Cover 2D

My Book Cover in 2D

Step 2: Create a 3D book cover

The next step is to create a 3D cover from the 2D version. This is an optional step, but I like to make a 3D cover because it creates a more professional looking image for visual impact. You can also hire someone on Fiverr to design a 3D cover for you for $5, but I use an online service called BoxShotKing (aff link).

This is a more expensive paid service (around $60 for 6 months), but because it allows me to do unlimited creations and modifications on ebook covers, as well as other great graphics (without using Adobe Photoshop), it is totally worth it to me.

Here’s how the final cover looked like after I used BoxShotKing.

Virtual Teams Book Cover 3D

My Book Cover in 3D

Now that you’re done with the cover, the next thing is to set up your email marketing service.

 

#2: Setting up Email Marketing Service

An email marketing service is used to collect your prospective readers’ email addresses.

This is the cornerstone of your entire marketing effort because the more people you get on your email list, the bigger the audience of your book will be once you publish it.

You can also use your email list as a great way to build trust and a relationship with your audience.

For my own email marketing service, I use what most power bloggers use: AWeber.

AWeber has excellent deliverability rates (meaning a high number of emails will actually reach your subscribers) as well as amazing customer service. They also give you some impressive stats.

That’s why I use AWeber on both of my blogs – The Part-Time Webpreneur and The Couch Manager.

AWeber is not very cheap – you pay like $1 for the first month, and then $19 for every month after that, but it is TOTALLY worth it.

However, if you don’t’ want to pay that much, at least initially, you can use another service which is free up to the first 2,000 subscribers called MailChimp.

After setting up your email marketing service, the next thing is to create a squeeze page.

 

#3: Create a Squeeze Page for your Book

There are hundreds of ways to create a squeeze page.

You can create one yourself from scratch and host it on your blog (free but painful), or you can use a service like LeadPages (aff link) which is a paid service but super easy to use.

A big benefit of using LeadPages is that you don’t even need to have a blog (you can host your squeeze page on their servers), and they even pre-fill some workable text for you than you can easily replace.

I’ve used (and still do use) a lot of squeeze page services, including Premise, but LeadPages is hands-down one of the best and simplest out there, so I highly recommend it.

The other advantage of using LeadPages is that it works beautifully with AWeber. You create a form on AWeber, and it automatically appears in LeadPages once you link those accounts.

I took me less than 4 minutes to create my squeeze page.

The LeadPages template I have used for my own squeeze page is shown below. I just uploaded my own 3D cover that I created, changed the text that they have, and linked my AWeber account. It was as simple as that.

LeadPages Screenshot Book Template

LeadPages Template

 

My Final Squeeze Page

My Final Squeeze Page

Conclusion

To recap, after you decide on a title for your book, create a squeeze page by designing a book cover (using Fiverr and BoxShotKing), signing up to an email marketing service (using AWeber) and setting up a squeeze page (using LeadPages).

I know this all seems like it will take you a bit of time (and money) to invest into, but it will pay off down the line once you have your book out.

The next step is to advertise the link to your squeeze page so that people sign up. Publish it anywhere you can – on your Facebook status update, in an email blast to your colleagues, on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

I also added a widget in the right column of my blog directing readers to the squeeze page, and I wrote a blog post that I’m writing a book (even asking people for help in spreading the word about it if they’re interested).

Here’s how the widget looks like.

Screen Capture Virtual Teams Book Widget

 

Next Steps

The next step after all of this is to basically finish writing the book and have it professionally edited. This process is going a bit faster than I originally expected because of a couple of things I’m doing.

I’ll tell you what those are in my next post (make sure you sign up in the top right corner if you haven’t already to get notified once that post is out).

Cheers,

Hassan

P.S. I need your advice.

Which title seems more like a book you’d pick up?

1 or 2?

(1) Influencing Virtual Teams: 27 Tactics That Get Things Done with Your Remote Employees

(2) Motivating Virtual Teams: 27 Tactics That Will Inspire Your Remote Employees to Excel

Comment below and let me know.

I’m considering changing the title I came up with.

Feel free to reply with just “1” or “2.”

P.P.S. Part 3 is now out.

 

How to Write an Amazon Kindle eBook – Part 1

I’m writing a Kindle ebook. (Update: the book is now published on Amazon here)

Well, supposedly I am.

Every time I sit down to write something, I end up staring at my screen and doing nothing.

I keep finding excuses not to write.

Like having to check Facebook every 17 seconds.

I suffer when I write blog posts as well. But writing a book is different because it feels like it’s more important.

To help myself out, I wrote this post instead.

Maybe explaining my progress would help make me feel a bit more accountable and I stop procrastinating.

I also wanted to document the process of writing a Kindle book so that you get the chance to tag along in case you’re interested in writing your own book one day.

Let’s start with the most important question first.

 

Why even write a book?

There are many reasons to write a book.

Some people write to make money. Others write to establish themselves as experts.

Others write as a way to “upsell” more expensive products or services down the line.

And others write to spread a message they believe in.

All those are good reasons.

I guess most people would say they write because of “all of the above.”

It’s always a bit of everything.

However, understanding which one of those reasons is most important to you will help determine the direction you’ll take.

For example, if the main reason you want to write a book is to make money, then the best strategy is to go to Amazon.com, analyze the keywords and books that are in demand, decide on a topic related to those keywords, write a 20 page ebook (by outsourcing it), then uploading it to the Kindle marketplace.

I’m not a big fan of this strategy because of several reasons. The main one being that you’ll hurt your personal brand in the long run if the quality you provide isn’t top notch. I also think Amazon will eventually penalize those types of books.

However, at the moment, people are making a ton of money from this strategy. They write 10 or 20 short Kindle ebooks and sell them at $2.99 each.

If that’s what you’re interested in, then keep in mind that everything from your book’s topic & title (which should be keyword heavy so users can find it), to its cover design will be determined based on that objective.

In my case, that’s not the strategy I’m pursuing.

 

The Reason Why I’m Writing a Book

I actually have two.

My primary reason is to establish credibility and authority in the virtual teams and project management space.

I’ve already created a course about virtual teams, but I think writing a book will help me reach an audience that I couldn’t reach with the higher price point of my course.

The second reason is to learn about the whole Amazon Kindle publishing process. I’m very interested in online publishing, and I’m approaching writing my book as a small pilot project to learn about Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) platform.

Do I care about making money from the book?

Of course I do. But the money will come later.

As a matter of fact, I think I’m going to lose money on my book initially (after I spend money on editing, cover design, formatting, etc.).

I’ll be sharing all those numbers in my future posts, so stay tuned.

For now, let’s answer another important question: Where to publish the book?

 

Publishing on Your Own Platform Vs. Another Platform

In general terms, there are two main options to publish and sell an ebook.

  • Option 1: On your own platform (like a blog)
  • Option 2: On another platform (like Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Nook, etc.).

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each

Option 1

With option 1 (your own platform), the advantage is that you’ll have more control over everything – from formatting the book to pricing it to designing the sales page.

The disadvantage is that it’s a lot more work to write the book and market it. Plus, your audience is going to be limited to one distribution channel, which is your own blog or website. This means that not a lot of people are going to see it unless you spend a lot of money (and/or time) on marketing it.

Side note: If you’re interested in learning how to publish an ebook on your own platform, I’ve actually created a short 5 minute YouTube video that explains how in  3 easy steps. Click here to watch it.

Option 2

With option 2 (publishing on another platform), the advantage is that you’ll be tapping into an already-established marketplace. There are literally millions of readers who are primed and ready to buy your ebook on those channels.

The disadvantage, however, is that you’re bound by the requirements of those platforms, which can be restricting. You’re also going to get a smaller cut of the price of the book than you would if you published on your own.

I decided to go with option 2 because I can reach a wider audience with my book. Plus, I’ve already published my first ebook using option 1, and I’d like to experiment with something new.

You might be asking, couldn’t I do both option 1 and option 2?

The answer is yes, but there is a caveat, so read on.

 

Which Platform Should You Choose?

If you decided to go with option 2, you now have to decide which platform to go with.

Here are just a few you can choose from:

Technically, you can choose all of them, which means you’ll get even more exposure for your book. The more platforms you publish your book on, the bigger the audience that will see it, which typically translates to higher sales.

However, the drawback is that you will have to format the book according to each one of these platform’s requirements, which could be a pain. If you decide to go with all of those platforms, you can also publish on your own platform as well.

Here’s where the caveat comes in.

If you choose to publish ONLY on Amazon’s KDP platform, you’ll have the advantage of enrolling in something called Amazon KDP Select.

KDP Select is a program that offers you higher ebook royalties in some international countries, better promotional deals (like giving your ebook away for free for 5 days during every 90-day period), and greater exposure in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (where Amazon Prime members can borrow it for free). You can learn more about KDP Select by clicking here.

Of course, publishing exclusively with Amazon means that you’re not allowed to publish anywhere else.

No Apple iBooks. No Nook. No personal blog. Not even as a free giveaway to your email list.

So you’ll be giving up on all of the other platforms for this exclusive deal.

This is definitely a sacrifice.

For me, however, KDP Select makes a lot of sense. Here are 3 reasons why.

 

3 Reasons Why I’m Publishing Exclusively on Amazon

Here’s why I’m publishing only with Amazon KDP and enrolling in KDP Select:

#1: It’s Amazon

Amazon is by far the number 1 company in terms of ebook sales. So I’ll be partnering with the best platform in the world to sell my book. It has the biggest audience, and everyone is already familiar with its services. I can’t go wrong with that.

#2: Anyone can read the ebook

I will still reach readers on the other platforms. That’s because publishing on the Kindle platform does not mean that readers only with a Kindle device can read the book. This is a common misconception. Readers who have an iPhone, an iPad, an android phone, or even just a laptop can still read my book by downloading the free Kindle App on those devices. In other words, anyone can read a Kindle ebook.

#3: I have limited time

I’m a part-time webpreneur. I have a full time job, and I don’t have a lot of time (or money) to spend on formatting the book in so many different formats. I also don’t have the energy or patience to worry about marketing the links to all those platforms, maintaining the different ebook versions and keeping track of everything. Maybe if I was a full-time author, I’d do that. But as a side project, I just don’t have the time.

In short, I’m going with Kindle Select because it’s my 80/20 play. This is going to be my 20% of actions that will bring me 80% of the results.

I might be wrong with this strategy, but the great thing is that I can easily fix this later on if I change my mind. I can simply decide to un-enroll in KDP Select in the future (Amazon lets you do that) and publish on all the other platforms as well.

For now, I have to focus on writing my book.

Maybe after I check Facebook.

Cheers,

Hassan

P.S. – If you want to tag along and learn more about my book writing process, scroll to the top of this page and sign up with your email in the top right corner.

P.P.S. – Here’s a picture of the ebook cover. It is definitely going to change. I’ll tell you why in my next post (I’ll also explain how to create one yourself).

hardbackcoverstanding370

 

P.P.P.S.Part 2 is now out

How I Made $2,100 from an Online Course before Creating It (Part 4: Gather Feedback & Analyze It)

Several months ago, I made $2,100 by selling my online course before spending a single dime or minute creating it. This is part 4 of a series of posts that show you how I did it. Check out Part 1: What you NeedPart 2: Pick an Idea, and Part 3: Survey & Freebie.

The next step after surveying people about their main pain points and creating a free resource for them is to gather feedback and analyze it.

 

Gathering Feedback

The purpose of getting feedback is to learn what people think about your free resource – the short video, report, or ebook that you already created (in my case, it was an ebook about Time Zone Meeting Coordination).

In this step, you want to understand whether you really solved their main problem and if you could improve on your ebook.

Here are a few questions you could ask:

  • What did you like most about the ebook?
  • How do you think it could be improved?
  • What else would you like to see?

Wait for a few days before asking those questions so that you give your readers enough time to go through the material.

I typically set my AWeber email autoresponder to go out 3 days after they download the ebook.

While you’re waiting on feedback, continue surveying people and listening on social media about the problems your audience is facing.

Document everything (I mean EVERYTHING).

I kept a Microsoft Word document and just copy/pasted every single tweet, comment, and email message I received.

Here’s just a portion of the notes I gathered.

Some of my notes

Those notes proved to be invaluable later.

In fact, I still refer to them when I’m brainstorming new products that I want to come up with.

 

Analyze Feedback

After you gather feedback about your freebie and the problems your target market is facing, your next step is to analyze all the responses.

This step is about understanding what people really want at a high level.

Look through all your answers for common patterns, and start categorizing the pain points into separate themes.

The idea here is to group problem areas together and give them separate category names.

Analyzing feedback is not going to be easy. Your head is going to hurt because you have to think really hard about what people actually want.

There are going to be patterns that don’t make sense, and others that are going to overlap.

That’s ok.

You can always change things around later.

However, it’s important that you spend a lot of time on this step because it will be the foundation of your online course.

If things get too frustrating, then sleep on the analysis for few days and get back to your notes with a fresh mind later.

 

My Analysis

During my own analysis of the feedback I received about virtual teams, I came up with list of around 6 or 8 high-level buckets of pain points, which included:

  1. Problems with online meetings
  2. Trust/ Accountability with team members
  3. Lack of Face-to-Face discussions
  4. Communication issues
  5. Technology tools for collaboration
  6. Cultural problems
  7. One-offs

The last bucket, “one-offs” was used to throw in anything that didn’t fit into any of the other categories.

I then grouped all the comments and replies I received as bullet points under each those buckets to help me see the patterns of problems within those categories.

For example, under the “Problems with online meetings” bucket, I had some of the following responses documented:

  • How do you keep attendance high?
  • Punctuality, when participants are late, especially if it is customer facing and the customer is on time
  • Agenda is presented but the meeting carried off on a tangent.
  • Handling the projects in different timezones

Note that I kept the wording of the responses exactly as I received them because it’s important to use the same language your audience uses when you want to sell them something later.

 

Optional – Redo Part 3: Survey & Freebie

After you’re done with your analysis, an optional step is to redo part 3 of this series of posts which is about developing another survey based on your analysis, and creating another freebie.

Click here to read how to implement Part 3: Survey & Feedback

In short, you pick one category from your analysis and you’ll go back to your audience to ask them even deeper questions about what they want and what problems they’re facing within that category.

You’ll then create another free resource for them that will provide even more value.

Again, this step is entirely optional. However, if you decide to do it, you’ll achieve a few things:

  • You’ll further prove to your audience that you are an expert in that domain
  • You’ll show them that if you’re willing to provide that much value for free (two free resources instead of one), then your paid stuff is going to be a lot more valuable
  • You’ll have more information about your audience (market research) that’ll help even further in developing your course

You can then use that second freebie as your new “bribe” to get people on your email list so that you’ll have more potential customers down the line.

 

What I Did

In my case, I picked the “Communication issues” bucket and focused on that with my subscribers.

I asked detailed questions on LinkedIn, my email list and Twitter about the communication issues they were facing with their virtual teams and why they were facing them.

I then created a second freebie, which was a series of videos (a total of around 35 minutes) called “3 Best practices for effective communication,” and posted that on my blog as my new bribe to get people on my email list.

The responses to that second freebie were actually better than the ones I got for my free ebook, which was awesome.

In fact, that video series is still on my blog and brings me in tens of new subscribers every month.

Click here to check out how the video series sign-up page looks like.

An added benefit of those videos was that they gave my audience a flavor of my style in teaching a course.

I also still had my first freebie (the ebook) which I used as a bonus for my paid course later on.

 

The Next Step

The next step after gathering feedback and analyzing it is to create an outline for your course and to set a price for it.

In my upcoming post, I’ll be discussing that step in detail, so make sure you sign up in the top right corner to receive an email notification when I publish it.

Cheers!

Hassan

P.S. Do you have any questions about conducting your feedback and analysis? Let me know in the comments below!

The Only Word That Matters for Success (Stallone knew it when he was a kid)

Sylvester StalloneThat word is grit.

When you have a specific goal, that’s the only word that matters.

Everything else is secondary.

Grit means having both the passion and the motivation to achieve your objective – even when you’re faced with every possible hurdle thrown at you.

Sylvester Stallone’s goal when he was a kid was to be in the movie business. That was it.

Nothing was going to stop him from getting there. And he did.

But his road to success was anything but easy.

He was thrown out 1,500 times from agency offices.

He just kept getting “no” after “no” after “no.”

He was called “stupid looking” and that he couldn’t be in the movie business because he talked out of the side of his mouth.

He was also broke – he barely had any money to eat while living on the streets of New York City.

But he persevered. And he got there.

He had grit.

“Rocky” was the first movie ever that broke the $200,000,000 mark.

It was the movie that launched Stallone’s career into stardom.

The story of how he managed to get the deal for Rocky is incredibly inspirational.

If you’ve ever doubted yourself about achieving what you really wanted in business or in life, then watch this video.

It’s a short 9 minute video about the story of how Stallone made it, as told by Tony Robbins.

Click play below to watch it.

Trust me, it’ll make your day.

Cheers,

Hassan

P.S. The sound is a bit grainy, and the video is composed mainly of still pictures from Stallone’s movies, but all that doesn’t matter because Tony Robbins is a fantastic storyteller and the content is so powerful.

You Should be Paid More Than You Think – A Lesson from Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso - Photo credit: flickr

Pablo Picasso – Photo credit: flickr

Pablo Picasso was one arrogant human being.

But the guy knew what he was worth.

In the early 1900s, a lady was walking down a street in France when she noticed him painting on the sidewalk.

“Aren’t you Pablo Picasso?” she asked.

“Indeed I am” he replied, without even looking at her.

“Would you paint a portrait of me for a fair price?”

“Of course,” he said, still not looking at her. “Have a seat.”

A few seconds later, he handed her one of his typical abstract paintings.

“This is great!” she said as she stood up.

“That’ll be 5,000 Francs” he said in a confident tone.

“5,000 Francs?! But this took you only 30 seconds!”

Picasso stopped what he was doing, slowly looked up at her, and said:

“It took me 30 years to paint that in 30 seconds”

Remember that sentence the next time you’re charging for your own work.

Cheers,

Hassan

P.S. – In the real version of the story, Picasso was probably nicer to the lady. I don’t know. I made up the conversation. The story itself is true though.

P.P.S. – He was probably not an arrogant person as well. I just assumed he was after reading this quote from him: “My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.”

Is this the best you can do?

Henry Kissinger

Photo credit: flickr

 

Henry Kissinger was a highly prominent politician.

He was also known for being an uber-perfectionist, especially when it came to writing speeches.

He believed every single word in a speech counted, and didn’t consider one done until it was revised 20 times.

He also demanded the same level of perfection from his staff and colleagues.

Here’s the story of Ambassador Winston Lord handing Kissinger a report:

One oft-told tale about Kissinger…involved a report that Winston Lord had worked on for days.

After giving it to Kissinger, he got it back with the notation “Is this the best you can do?”

Lord rewrote and polished and finally resubmitted it; back it came with the same curt question.

After redrafting it one more time–and once again getting the same question from Kissinger–Lord snapped, “Damn it, yes, it’s the best I can do.”

To which Kissinger replied: “Fine, then I guess I’ll read it this time.”

From Walter Isaacson’s book “Kissinger: A Biography

I first heard this story 10 years ago when I was at a conference in Michigan and the lesson has stuck with me ever since.

I think we all inherently put self-inflicted psychological barriers on doing our best work. This is probably why some experienced body builders still need a training coach to keep pushing them to lift heavier .

But most times, those psychological barriers are fake. They can be broken, or at least raised to a higher level.

So the next time you’re doing work that matters, think of Kissinger’s face and words.

This Is Not For You

This Is NOT For You

“This is not for you.”

That’s the best response to any negative comment you might ever get.

It applies to your Facebook status updates, your tweets, or your controversial blog posts.

Criticizing is super-easy.

Anyone can write “Who give’s a s***?” on every public statement you’ve ever made, and still have a point.

Disagreeing is ok, but how you disagree is key.

Doing it through name-calling, verbal abuse, or personal attacks is rarely constructive.

Trolls thrive on this.

Shun them out by simply saying “This is not for you”

Works like a charm.

So diplomatic, yet so effective.

It’s like telling people to shut up, but kindly leaving the door open for their future comments if they’re nicer next time.

It’s also quite versatile.

The same phrase addresses one-time trolls as well as close friends who just had a bad day.

As Seth Godin says, the ability to say “This is not for you,” is the foundation for creating something brave and important.

Agreed.

Thank you Seth.

I gave Neville $250. Here’s what I learned.

Neville Medhora

I paid Neville Medhora $250 for one hour of his time.

Neville is an awesome entrepreneur who has created a ton of very successful online courses about everything from starting a business to copywriting (you might know him from AppSumo).

I’ve been following his posts for a while now through his newsletter (subscribe here, it’s free and 100% worth your time), and I actually bought a couple of his courses before.

However, given that I’m now marketing my own course, I wanted his one-on-one consulting advice on how to increase sales through email marketing.

The pic above is of me and him during our Google Hangout. He wrote my name on a piece of paper when I told him I’ll blog about this :)

Here are 3 things I learned from him that will probably help you as well (and save you $250!)

 

#1 Teach ONE THING in every email

On my Couch Manager blog, I have an email list of people who sign up to receive advice about managing virtual teams. The first email my subscribers get after they sign up is a link to free training videos about effective communication.

Then in my follow up emails (which are sent out automatically at pre-determined times), I also share additional tips and techniques about managing virtual teams.

However, after going through a couple of those emails with Neville, I agreed that 1) not all of them are super-helpful, 2) they teach more than one thing (which could get confusing) and 3) some of them sounded a bit “salesy.”

So I changed most of my email messages to basically teach one single thing that is super-helpful to my readers.

My objective was for my subscribers to say “Nice! I learned something really useful from this email today.”

If I didn’t think they will, then I didn’t keep the email.

 

#2 Don’t sell too early (but sell hard when you do)

There are two things I was doing wrong with my email series.

The first is that I mention my course a bit too early in my email follow ups.

The second is that when I do mention it, I mention it casually (as in “hey, check out my course if you found this helpful”).

Neville’s advice was:

  • Don’t sell too early: I should have at least 3 to 4 emails in my follow up series that provide incredible value first
  • When you sell, sell hard: This means that I should give the readers solid reasons about why I think they should buy my course, and how they’re going to benefit from it. Not just casually mention it as if it’s on the sidelines.

He gave me an actual example of what I should write in one of my emails that has a high open rate (the subject of that email is “How ONE WORD can influence your team to get things done”)

Here’s the script he wrote to help me get to a harder sell, which comes after the main part of the email:

….

It’s interesting to know that simply implementing this ONE word in your emails can increase your productivity by such a massive amount.

If you’re interested in REALLY taking your virtual team to the next level, make sure to grab a copy of my course: Managing and Influencing Virtual Teams.  It’s a video instruction course that by the end will free up so much of your time spent doing useless tasks like:

  • Spending 3 ½ hours just SCHEDULING a half hour meeting (useless)
  • Following up with 10 people from 10 different places in the world (confusing)
  • Having to play “email detective” just to find out whose responsibility something was (useless AND confusing)

I invite you to grab the course, find a quiet place to watch, and after just a few of the video modules you can improve your workday.  By “improve” I mean do less of the boring/useless crap you don’t enjoy, and more of the actual work you’d like to get done.

So grab a copy of the training today (most of the time your manager at work will even reimburse you for this)….and become a more efficient manager (and be happier at work) tomorrow.  Here’s the link

By the way, Neville wrote this LIVE on Google Docs as I was talking to him (it was great seeing an experienced copywriter do his magic on the spot).

 

#3 Always have a call to action (using P.S. at the end)

Neville mentioned that if there’s one thing I take from my entire consult with him, it would be that I should always have a call to action at the end of my emails (preferably as a “P.S.”). The call to action could be a simple question asking my readers to give me feedback.

The reasons for a call to action are that:

  1. People sometimes only read the last sentence of an email. So the last line has a high degree of readability.
  2. Having a call to action will help me gauge how effective my emails are. If people respond to an email, then that email is being read. If they don’t, then that email probably needs some re-crafting.
  3. I can gather some good info about my market’s pain points, which I can then create a solution for and share on my email list in the future.

 

So was it worth it?

You might be thinking: was paying Neville $250 for one hour of his time worth it? (this is a big sum of money).

I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.

3 days after I implemented the tips he recommended (the ones I mentioned above, plus a few others we talked about), I made 2 sales from my course.

So I made $294 after spending $250. That’s the fastest return on investment I’ve had in a while. Plus, I’m sure those tips will bring me additional sales in the next few weeks and months, so I’d say it was DEFINITELY worth it.

Hope this helped you as much as it helped me!

Cheers,

Hassan

P.S. The course that Neville was helping me out with is called Managing and Influencing Virtual Teams. Check it out here if this is something you’re interested in.

P.P.S. See how the P.S. worked? 😉