How to create eBooks that sell like hot churros with caramel sauce

It's no secret that I am probably the world's biggest fan of eBooks. I mean, I design them for a living and love it every day! So I do have a unique insight into what makes one eBook succeed more than another. I'd love to share the common themes I've observed among successful eBook authors here with you today.

1. They have a loyal readership (i.e. superfans!)

What better way to give your eBook the chance of success than to launch it to a crowd who can't wait to get their hands on it? Nurturing your audience by consistently offering them value and genuinely interacting with them means when it comes time for you to release your paid product, they'll be itching to buy. Yes, a bigger audience does convert to more sales: that is just maths. But don't be discouraged: you don't need a huge readership to have a successful launch. Just a devoted one.

2. They involve their audience in the process

People love to feel important and like their opinion matters. So ask your tribe what they want. Give them the choice to vote on the eBook topic, different title options, or different covers. Give them sneak peeks during the writing, design and launch processes. Let them behind the scenes. If they feel like they had a part in your product, they will be more attached and proud of the outcome, which can translate to sales. 

3. They listen to their audience & implement their ideas

Following on from tip 2, don't just ask for their opinion - use that info to create the eBook your readers are asking for! You have an incredible resource at your fingertips - use their responses as market research and craft your product around it. 

4. They make it look as good as possible

Packaging matters, and digital products are no different. The most successful eBooks I've seen have been beautifully designed. Great design speaks to the right audience, draws more eyes to your message, gets shared (regrammed, repinned) more, sparks more conversation and referrals, and leads to more sales. If you can afford it, hire a designer - for the entire project, or just the cover and promotional graphics - or have a go at DIY. It's worth it.

5. They create a sense of urgency

Host an exclusive presale, early bird discount, or limited edition bonus to cultivate a sense of urgency. Often when we come across things we like the look of online, we think 'I'll come back to that later' but as we all know, we forget to come back! By creating a limited time offer, it entices readers to click 'buy now'.

6. They have a sexy sales page

Sales pages don't need to be epically long-winded or involved; especially for an eBook. But they do need to be attractive, informative and give a clear list of the benefits of your eBook. How will it help them? What problem is it going to solve? Why will their life be improved after reading it? A sneak peek of a few inside pages helps too. And make sure there is a crystal clear BUY NOW button (or two).

7.  They proactively get the word out

Send advance copies to people in similar fields to you in return for some testimonials (great social proof for your sales page!). Offer yourself for interviews on other sites and blogs. Create a helpful blog post series, and offer to guess post for others. Ask your blogging friends to mention it in their social media. If you are ready to take it up a notch, create an affiliate program so more people will talk about your eBook (for a nice cash incentive). Also, don't let this effort end on launch day - successful eBook authors keep up the promotions into the future.


I hope this list has been helpful!

Keen to learn more about creating and designing your own eBook?

Check out the free video training series here and more about my online course, Pen Polish & Publish here.

Got questions about eBooks? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below and I will make sure to answer them.

Alana xo

P.S. Here is an actual recipe for churros with caramel sauce. You're welcome.

What's the one thing you can implement right now? (A Problogger Conference wrap up)

I just got home from a weekend on the fabulous Gold Coast, attending Problogger 2015. To sum up: it was awesome. I didn't have expectations - in fact, I've been so busy with client work that I packed just hours before it began and had no recollection which sessions I'd even registered for. Flying by the seat of my pants is kind of my signature style.

I was lucky enough to travel with my friends Carly and Emma, which made the experience infinitely more fun and comfortable considering my introverted tendencies (in stark contrast to AwesomenessFest 2014, which I attended alone and found quite confronting).

It was hosted at the RACV Royal Pines resort - gorgeous venue, amazing staff, and the incredible FOOD served cannot be understated!

But onto the most useful information: what I learned from the excellent speakers. Here are my favourite learnings, picked from my #PBevent notebook:

 

Darren Rowse (the Problogger himself)

  • How are you? The wellbeing of your blog/business is intrinsically linked to the wellbeing of you.
  • Make sure input (reading, relaxing, listening to Podcasts, having a mentor/s) is equal to or greater than output (blogging, serving clients and providing value).
  • If you're in a good place physically and mentally, you can help others more, and are in a better place to withstand difficulty and criticism.
  • Refocus on your WHY. Your why gives you direction, provides motivation and helps in decision making.
How you spend your time gets you to your destination. ~ Darren Rowse
  • Analyse how you spend your time. Run it through your filter of 'WHY'.
  • Design your ideal schedule (and take into account your personality type). Many of us 'dreamers' would prefer a big white space to do whatever we feel like, rather than a rigid schedule. But that is unproductive.
  • Develop systems to make everything easier.
We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. ~ Jim Rohn.

Jadah Sellner (Simple Green Smoothies)

  • Say your dreams out loud. Take imperfect action (we all start at zero). Put it out there (your dream) and let the world decide!
The idea that spreads the widest, wins. ~ Jason Silva
  • Decide what you want to be known for, then be fanatical and focused. Talk about it consistently. The riches are in the niches.
  • Focus on your ideal client. Put her on your vision board. Give her a name. Make her feel as though you are writing specifically for her.
  • Social Media: add value where people are already hanging out! Jadah posts full recipes on Instagram and other platforms, doesn't expect readers to click through to her blog.
  • Opt-in offer: make it more valuable than someone else's paid offer! Make it a no-brainer for people to sign up.
  • Once they have participated in your opt-in product, and experienced their desired results, think: what would their logical next step be? This is where your paid products come in.
  • ASK your community: what are you struggling with right now?
Start moving people to action, rather than pushing people to products. ~ Jadah Sellner.
  • Nurture your fans. Express more of who you are. You can't automate connection!
  • Focus on how great do you make people feel - rather than how great do you feel.
  • Focus on serving your community over building it.

 

Nat Kringoudas (on creating successful e-products)

  • Nat's first eBook, Fertilise Yourself, has sold over 25k copies at $20 each - made back her investment of $5k (in eBook design, editing and marketing) in the first two days of sales.
  • Hire the best editor and designer you can afford.
  • Not sure where to look? Check out other eBooks you love and enquire about the designer/team involved.
  • Best thing about digitally producing your own e-products is that there's no middle-man - all profits are your own.
  • Try packaging products together or offering a digital bonus to boost sales.
  • Dream big and ask someone you admire to write your eBook foreword!

 

Heather Armstrong (Dooce - on dealing with criticism)

  • Don't seek it out! Stop reading the negative comments. 
Of course it's fine to delete. You are not stifling 'free speech'. Don't allow people to visit your 'home' and poop on the carpet. ~ Heather Armstrong.
  • Honour that the criticism hurts. Don't ignore it or go numb. That vulnerability is why you can connect to your readers.
  • Find the humanity in your enemy. They are hurting too. Extend your metaphorical hand across the table to them and the conflict will end.

 

Carly and Christina (Smaggle and HairRomance - on productivity)

  • Make a commitment to your blog. Affirm why it's important and who you are helping.
  • Wishes aren't goals. Make your goals attainable and map out a strategy.
  • Create calendars and plans - more routine = more creativity. More planning = less stress.
Pre-plan your blog content. Doing it at the last minute robs your creativity. ~ Smaggle.
  • Batch everything! Blog posts, emails, social media scheduling, sourcing images, admin etc.
Know your best hours to work. A task that takes you an hour in the morning could take you 3 in the evening. ~ Smaggle / HairRomance.
  • Don't sit down at the computer to blog without an idea. You could use that time more wisely.
  • Make a list of 100 blog post ideas. 
  • If you work for yourself and control your own days, use timers to segment them for higher productivity.
  • Use analytics to check what is working - then do more of that and ditch the rest.
The Internet is 90% consumers, 9% sharers and just 1% creators. ~ Smaggle / HairRomance.

Shayne Tilley (on making better sales pages)

  • Easiest way to create a successful sales page is to copy the format of another successful sales page.
  • Focus on the benefits of what you're selling, then the features.
  • Make it as simple as possible: simple layout with one call to action.
  • A/B test everything.
  • Half the people that click 'buy now' will not go through with a sale! The top reasons why are: huge forms to fill in, payment page is not compatible with their device, unappealing payment methods, bad error handling, 'hidden' fees, or a voucher code box.

I hope that some of these gems gleaned from Problogger 2015 have been helpful to you! I learned a lot, ate a lot, and met some of my business and blogging idols - so fun!

Darren Rowse finished the conference by encouraging us to choose just one thing from everything we've learned to work on for the months ahead. I'd love to encourage you to do the same - what one thing will you choose to implement?

Alana xo

5 Ways to Boost Your Instagram Following!

Instagram is by far the most popular platform for Raspberry Magazine. Yes, it's a place to look at gorgeous food flatlays and travel porn, but it's also a legit business tool that can be used to connect with your tribe, encourage engagement, and make money in your business.

With a following of around 1150 on my personal account and 2450+ on my Raspberry Magazine account, I am certainly not the queen of Instagram (just yet) but I sure do have a delightful group of savvy women interacting with me daily, and it's growing at a steady rate. Here are five tips I've learned so far:

1. Get clear on your signature style. 
We post interesting excerpts from the magazine, inspirational office-scapes (including nomadic laptop lifestyles), and drool-worthy work snacks. Our signature colours are black, white and bold pink. Following this tried and true formula on most days means our followers know what to expect and our feed looks lovely and well-curated. It also makes it much easier to plan content!

2. Create shareable content.
Having people share your content is one of the best ways to gain more followers. So, create and feature easily shareable images. We take quotes from each magazine issue and place them on pretty backgrounds - more often than not, the interviewee quoted will share it on their feed! We use Photoshop to do this, but you can use PicMonkey, Canva, or any number of smart phone apps to place text over images.

3. Use hashtags - carefully.
Some people love hashtags, some people hate them, some people don't understand them (hey mum!). But they can be useful - if you use them wisely. Use them to track a brand or movement (such as #raspberrymagazine or #perfectlyimperfectVG), a place, or specific attributes. I recommend staying away from the usual vague suspects e.g. #love #freedom #workingfromhome - you'll just attract spam and the wrong kind of followers.

4. Be an active participant.
Ask questions. Comment on photos. Leave lots of likes. Respond to comments on your own images. Just like a real life room full of people, the more you make contact, the more friends you'll make!

5. Be strategic about where you direct traffic.
Instagram works differently to other platforms - there's no immediately clickable links, and people are generally not inclined to click away when they're having a leisurely scroll. So don't ask often, and when you do ask, be super duper clear: "Click the link in my profile!"

Make your profile link work hard for you - direct it to a dedicated opt-in page (my first preference), your latest blog post or specific product for sale. Bonus points: use a site like bit.ly for a link you can track (stats for the win!)

How To Host A Business Mastermind Retreat

How to host a business mastermind retreat

I’ve just returned from a women’s business mastermind retreat. Seven of us, all with online businesses in various genres, drove or flew from our various home towns to meet up on the Sunshine Coast and nut out our business plans together.

It was such a valuable experience that I wanted to share with you what we did, how we did it, and tips you can use to host your very own business mastermind retreat.

What is a business mastermind?

A mastermind is a group of people who come together to brainstorm or “mastermind” each other’s businesses, ideas and sometimes personal lives.

The primary purpose is to support, encourage, challenge and hold each other accountable. This might be a temporary arrangement – for example, for a weekend retreat – or a longer term one, where the participants connect regularly over a year or more.  The longer term groups are better for facilitating deeper connections and building trust, as well as truly getting to know the other participant’s businesses and goals.

In my case, we had been part of a Facebook group for more than six months, but this was the first time we all connected in person!

Why go to the effort of holding a retreat when we are regularly in contact online? Honestly, there is just no comparison in the surface level chats of Facebook, and the real-time, in-person conversations of face-to-face connection. It was the best thing our group could have done.

Tip: It’s ideal if participants are at similar levels in their businesses – for example, all solo businesswomen, or at similar income levels.

Planning the retreat

Once your group has agreed to have a retreat, survey everyone to find the right dates and location. With multiple heavy schedules to balance, this is a really tricky part. Sometimes one or two people just can’t make it, and you have to go with when the majority are available.

We decided to book a large beach house through airbnb. There was plenty of beds, multiple lounge areas for our group sessions and enough room to split off into pairs or just to have some quiet time. It was a great choice for us! You could book a hotel room, conference room, yoga studio, or host it at someone’s home.

For food, we pooled money and one of the lovely ladies went grocery shopping for the house.  It was a smart move because we could power through our brainstorming sessions with plenty of snacks and meals on hand.

Structuring the retreat

Mastermind retreats without structure do not work. Heed my warnings on this! It just turns into a fun-filled weekend away with the girls: which, while totally awesome, is not productive. People will miss out on getting the advice they need and will be disappointed.

If nobody is interested in taking the lead, it could be worth asking a third party (a friend, coach or assistant) to tag along and play the boss.

Here are a few ideas for sessions within your retreat structure:

The Hotseat

I recommend you start your retreat with hotseat sessions. A hotseat just means that one person has the floor for an allotted amount of time (choose this based on how many people you need to rotate through, and how long everyone wants to keep working for in a given day), and can discuss whatever they want within this time. Prepare beforehand by writing down a few things that have you stuck, or new ideas you’re thinking of implementing, and use your hotseat time wisely.

When it comes to your turn, offer a quick run down of your business as it stands, where you’d like to go, and present your first problem to the group. They will offer feedback, ideas, alternatives and encouragement. Try to record the session on your phone or take notes to keep track of things. Once that topic is resolved, move onto your next item.

Many people find this the most valuable part of the retreat (I did)! We spent 45 minutes per person, with lunch break factored in, and worked from 8:30am to 4:30pm.

Tip: Make sure you actually time the hotseat sessions. It’s so important to make sure the retreat runs smoothly and you’re not working into the night! Offer a ten-minute warning to the hotseat participant so they get a chance to air any remaining concerns.

Working on your business values

This is a valuable exercise to get clarity around your purpose, direction and what you consider most important in your business and life. Use a model such as Danielle LaPorte’s The Desire Map to determine a list of core values (ideally, 3-5) that drive you and encapsulate where you want to go.

Help each other by discussing your own core values, suggesting concepts or words to other participants, and talking about how you can bring those values to life through your businesses.

Hosting How-To Sessions

Take advantage of the various skill sets that participants bring to the retreat by offering each person a chance to teach a class. It could be on topics like graphic design, writing effective newsletters, SEO, accounting, hosting a workshop, social media strategy, mindset: you name it! Everyone knows something that could be of use to others.

1:1 Assistance Sessions

Similar to the how-to sessions, you may want to offer your services to the group on a one-on-one basis. Perhaps schedule a two-hour window where you are available share your expertise, and participants can come along with questions or problems to work through together.

Group Website Critiques

If you’re feeling game, get everyone to bring their laptops and take turns viewing each other’s websites. Offer honest first impressions and insights on what you think the person is offering based on their homepage. Is it clear? Strategic? Confusing? Obvious what to do next?

When it comes to our own stuff, we’ve usually got blinkers on. This is an excellent opportunity to find out what people outside your niche think when they land on your website.

Fun

Last but certainly not least, you can have a little fun! Organise dinner at a local restaurant, a pyjama party, day trips, a yoga class or a few adult beverages to wind down in the evening. Then revel in the fact you’ve created a life where this is what you call work! ;) 

Following Up

Make a plan for the weeks and months following the retreat to ensure you follow through on goals made during those planning sessions. Use a weekly check in via Skype, phone or online forum (like Facebook) to track each other's progress and hold each other accountable. You'll be making incredible progress in no time!


My online course, Pen, Polish and Publish is now OPEN! If you're curious about creating a PDF eBook, click over to check it out for yourself!

*Desire Map link is affiliate.