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Buying a Self-Published Ebook? 4 Things to Look for Before You Purchase

The article Real Authors and the Paradox of Desktop Publishing inspired a spirited discussion on self-publishing.

I’ve self-published quite a few ebooks, with plans for many more. The author writes in the aforementioned post, “There’s a lot of crap content out there. Anyone can invest in a program or two, buy a few stock photos or clip art and throw something together.” And he’s right.

So this post got me to thinking about what to look for if you’re going to purchase an ebook from a self-published author. As both a writer and purchaser of self-published ebooks, following are four things I look for before I hit the “buy now” button.

1. Author Experience: My non-fiction ebooks* are all about freelance writing, small business and marketing, and all are written from first-hand experience because I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993; I’ve owned several small businesses (online and off) and got into internet marketing this year (2008).

So, this is the first thing I look for from a self-published author, ie, do they have experience in what they’re writing about.

I find that most books written and published via traditional publishers have a lot of fluff or expect you to follow the “rules” so to speak. Many self-published authors have managed to find a success formula without doing this (this is why they are self publishers) and share that experience in an ebook.

And, this is one of the main reasons I write and buy self-published ebooks. The author has experienced success on their own terms, which was learned from first-hand experience.

Ebook Marketing Tip: One of the most effective marketing methods I’ve used is the ebook giveaway, eg, sign up to my newsletter and get a free ebook.

*Update Oct 2016: I write fiction too; primarily romance novellas.

2. Author Background: This piggybacks on the above. I like to know a little about an author’s professional background. This is important to me because it clues me in as to their motivation for self-publishing – and their depth of experience. It tells me a lot about how they approach their subject matter.

As an example, I’ve been in publishing since 1987. I’ve owned an editorial staffing agency and have been a freelancer. So I know the ins and outs of freelance writing from an employer’s view, and from an employee’s (independent contractor’s/freelancer’s) view.

When I write, I bring all of that experience to bear on the subject matter. I can lay out scenarios, predict outcomes and suggest solutions because I have a depth of knowledge on freelance writing that only comes from having worked in publishing/editorial for many years.

3. Author Website: You can tell a lot about a self-publisher from their website. Following are three things I look for in a self-published author’s site/blog:

(i) Site Content: As in, is there a repository of informational articles on the subject matter of the ebook I’m thinking about buying? Is it written by the author of the ebook, or are the articles pulled from sources like article directories? Is there a blog? Is it updated regularly, or was the last post three months ago? Are first-hand stories recounted, or is the information very general?

All of this lets me know how well the author knows his/her subject matter.

(ii) Affiliate Programs: Affiliate programs in and of themselves are not a problem. But, if an author’s website is filled with affiliate programs and almost nothing else – especially when they are unrelated to the subject matter of the ebook I’m thinking of purchasing – then I’m wary.

If I’m considering purchasing a self-published ebook on freelance writing for example, I’d expect to see affiliate programs for things like ebook cover and/or logo design, web hosting companies (we all need websites), email marketing software and yes, even other ebooks on freelance writing.

Unrelated ads make me pause – because it makes me feel as if the seller is just trying to make money, not sell me a product that they really know about or believe in.

(iii) Site Updates: As I mentioned above, I look at how often the author’s site is updated. It doesn’t have to be daily, or even every other day. If a site is not updated at least two or three times a month though (or on a set, publicized schedule if it’s less), then I dig a little deeper; eg, are they on vacation, is the site currently being redesigned, has there been a personal matter the author is handling, etc.

My rationale for looking at how often a site is updated stems from the fact that self-published authors — who are actively engaged in what they write about — run a business. Businesses don’t stay “closed” (eg, are not updated regularly) for very long – not if they are legitimate.

4. Google: One of the last things I do is run a Google search of the author’s name. It’s amazing what you can find out about a person by just doing a simple Google search. Mainly, I’m looking to see if they’ve been around a while.

Can what is on their website be backed up by other stuff that appears on the web? Have they written and submitted content to sites like Business2Community or Medium? Have they guest posted, been mentioned, or discussed on other blogs in their niche?

All of this lends legitimacy to their “author status.”

Why Buying from Self-Publishers Is the Best Way to Get Information (IMO)

Self-publishing is becoming more and more mainstream. And as a self-published author, I know that the information received in ebooks can be some of the most effective, direct, hard-hitting information you will ever find.

Good ebook authors cut out the fluff and get right to the point, which is why buying from self-publishers is the best way to get information in my opinion. If you want to know how to do “x”, find someone who’s done it/are doing it – and wrote an ebook about it. Then simply follow their advice.

And this is the power of self-publishing – if it’s gotten from the right source. Visit the Inkwell Editorial bookstore for links to all of my self-published titles.

Wanna Publish an Ebook? Here’s a Valuable Tip. Make it an immediate download. My ebook sales jumped when I signed up with e-Junkie, which allows buyers to immediately download the ebooks they buy.

P.S.: Make Money Writing Romance

This is one of my most popular self-published ebooks. To date, I’ve written over 40 romance novellas. Here’s one of my most in-depth posts on the subject.

Read more.

5 Reasons Freelance Writing Websites & Blogs Don’t Make Money on Ads

Advice for Advertising on Freelance Writing Websites

Last month, for perhaps the first time since I started writing ebooks, I started to place ads to promote them – small ads on popular freelance writing sites.

On quite a few sites I ran across, I wanted to place an ad, but hated where the ads were placed, so I didn’t. I think a lot of website owners who are seeking to monetize their sites via ads are losing out.

As a potential advertiser, here a few things that would make me advertise with you – and a few others that turned me off.
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Read here how I routinely make $250+/day as an SEO writer – and you can too!
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Things that Make Me Want to Spend Money to Advertise On A Site & Some That Don’t

1. Ad Placement: Many webmasters bury ads or give them inappropriate placement. For example, on some popular freelance writing blogs, I saw ads that were placed below the “About”, “Feeds” Categories” and “Archives sections.

If I’m spending money with a site I want my ad to be as prominent as possible. To me, this signals that you think your “Categories” section is more important than my ad.

The reason I was turned off when I saw this is that many sites have quite an extensive “Categories” section. This means in some cases that ads are near the bottom quarter of the page where it’s less likely to be seen. 

So, if you’re seeking advertiser, give them the most prominent placement possible; after all, it’s what they’re paying for.

2. Traffic Generation Stats: I ran across one site that said something to the effect of “we’re growing; take advantage of low ad rates now.” But, there were no hard and fast stats.

Don’t make advertisers search for your traffic generation stats. If you’re seeking ad dollars, the most important reason advertisers are considering advertising with you is your traffic generation.

Many webmasters try to monetize their sites too soon – ie, when their traffic levels are not high enough to justify seeking advertisers. What should this standard be? I don’t know, every niche is different.

As for freelance writing sites, I did some poking around to find out traffic levels of some of the most popular sites to see how they all compared. And, you know what, even wildly popular freelance writing sites don’t get as much traffic as one would think.  I’m not naming names because I don’t want to offend. But a couple of the most popular sites I checked get between 3K-10K/day.

I was surprised because I expected much more. Makes me feel good about the 1,000+ visitors/day my site gets.

Want to get a good handle on the traffic a site generates. Mosey on over to StatBrain.com. And, thanks to Paula Mooney over at PaulaMooney.blogspot.com for turning me on to StatBrain.com.

FYI, in case you’re interested in this kind of stuff, I get lots of helpful tech hints from Paula’s blog. She’s an online entrepreneur who was a techie in the corporate world. A non-techie myself, her occasional tips and hints come in handy.

3. Advertise Button: One major pet peeve I had with some blogs/websites who marketed for ad dollars is that they made it hard to find the information on their site.

This bowled me over. I mean, if I want somebody to buy something from me, the least I’m going to do is make it easy to find out what the requirements are. A simple universal “Advertise,” or “Advertise with Us” button will do.

4. Announce My Ad: Finally, one thing I would like to have seen more of is something along the lines of “Please Visit Our Sponsors” category.

While this is paid-for advertising and people will ignore it, many won’t. It calls attention to the fact that, “Hey, there are some products/services here that might interest you.”

5. Explaining Rate: A few websites/blogs I visited made it hard to understand exactly what their rate was. I hate it when things are explained in terms of “CPM” or “Ad Units.”

While this is standard Madison Avenue ad agency jargon, many don’t understand the jargon. I’ve been in publishing forever and should understand this terminology, but it still confuses me and I have to stop and figure it out. In most cases, this just seems ostentatious and unnecessary. A simple $30 for $30 days will do.

One of my sisters majored in Advertising & Communications at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and one of the rules of advertising she learned was, “If you confuse the customer, you lose the sale.” Sage advice.

For better or worse, these are the things that stood out to me as I actively went to spend some ad dollars. If your ad sales are not what you think they should be, perhaps some of the reasons listed here are why.

Read more.

5 Reasons Freelance Writing Websites & Blogs Don’t Make Money on Ads

Last month, for perhaps the first time since I started writing ebooks, I started to place ads to promote them – small ads on popular freelance writing sites.

On quite a few sites I ran across, I wanted to place an ad, but hated where the ads were placed, so I didn’t. I think a lot of website owners who are seeking to monetize their sites via ads are losing out.

As a potential advertiser, here a few things that would make me advertise with you – and a few others that turned me off.

Things that Make Me Want to Spend Money to Advertise On A Site & Some That Don’t

1. Ad Placement: Many webmasters bury ads or give them inappropriate placement. For example, on some popular freelance writing blogs, I saw ads that were placed below the “About”, “Feeds” Categories” and “Archives sections.

If I’m spending money with a site I want my ad to be as prominent as possible. To me, this signals that you think your “Categories” section is more important than my ad.

The reason I was turned off when I saw this is that many sites have quite an extensive “Categories” section. This means in some cases that ads are near the bottom quarter of the page where it’s less likely to be seen. 

So, if you’re seeking advertiser, give them the most prominent placement possible; after all, it’s what they’re paying for.

2. Traffic Generation Stats: I ran across one site that said something to the effect of “we’re growing; take advantage of low ad rates now.” But, there were no hard and fast stats.

Don’t make advertisers search for your traffic generation stats. If you’re seeking ad dollars, the most important reason advertisers are considering advertising with you is your traffic generation.

Many webmasters try to monetize their sites too soon – ie, when their traffic levels are not high enough to justify seeking advertisers. What should this standard be? I don’t know, every niche is different.

As for freelance writing sites, I did some poking around to find out traffic levels of some of the most popular sites to see how they all compared. And, you know what, even wildly popular freelance writing sites don’t get as much traffic as one would think.  I’m not naming names because I don’t want to offend. But a couple of the most popular sites I checked get between 3K-10K/day.

I was surprised because I expected much more. Makes me feel good about the 1,000+ visitors/day my site gets.

Want to get a good handle on the traffic a site generates. Mosey on over to StatBrain.com. And, thanks to Paula Mooney over at PaulaMooney.blogspot.com for turning me on to StatBrain.com.

FYI, in case you’re interested in this kind of stuff, I get lots of helpful tech hints from Paula’s blog. She’s an online entrepreneur who was a techie in the corporate world. A non-techie myself, her occasional tips and hints come in handy.

3. Advertise Button: One major pet peeve I had with some blogs/websites who marketed for ad dollars is that they made it hard to find the information on their site.

This bowled me over. I mean, if I want somebody to buy something from me, the least I’m going to do is make it easy to find out what the requirements are. A simple universal “Advertise,” or “Advertise with Us” button will do.

4. Announce My Ad: Finally, one thing I would like to have seen more of is something along the lines of “Please Visit Our Sponsors” category.

While this is paid-for advertising and people will ignore it, many won’t. It calls attention to the fact that, “Hey, there are some products/services here that might interest you.”

5. Explaining Rate: A few websites/blogs I visited made it hard to understand exactly what their rate was. I hate it when things are explained in terms of “CPM” or “Ad Units.”

While this is standard Madison Avenue ad agency jargon, many don’t understand the jargon. I’ve been in publishing forever and should understand this terminology, but it still confuses me and I have to stop and figure it out. In most cases, this just seems ostentatious and unnecessary. A simple $30 for $30 days will do.

One of my sisters majored in Advertising & Communications at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and one of the rules of advertising she learned was, “If you confuse the customer, you lose the sale.” Sage advice.

For better or worse, these are the things that stood out to me as I actively went to spend some ad dollars. If your ad sales are not what you think they should be, perhaps some of the reasons listed here are why.

Read more.

Freelance Writers: How to Use Technology to Make Real Money Online

[Want to start a successful career as a freelance writer?]

I’ve dubbed November Freelance Writer Technology Month. What’s this all about? …

Read more.

Article Marketing: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About It

Results of a 30-day Article Marketing Experiment

An E-Book Excerpt
[See all Inkwell Editorial Work-from-Home Titles Here]

Following are my findings from a month-long article marketing case study (conducted from October 18, 2006 through November 18, 2006). It is 41 pages long.

If you want to see if this form of marketing is worth your while, this info can help. If you determine that article marketing is something you want to invest in, get the ebook, What Is Article Marketing? A Simple Tutorial from an Article Marketing Pro Who’s Written Over 1,000 Articles.

x-click-but22 $.99 cents (Instant Download)

THE DETAILS – WHY I CONDUCTED THE STUDY

As an overworked freelancer, my goal was to create more passive income.

A little history: I’ve been in publishing since 1987, and have been a freelancer since 1993.  I kind of took freelancing as it came those first few years, never relying on it as my primary source of income.

Inkwell Editorial was formed in 1996 as an editorial outsource firm. The smartest thing I did as a manager was add staffing/recruiting to Inkwell’s list of services. That really got the company over the hump, as placement fees ranged from a low of 3K on up to around 12K.

NOTE: In general staffing fees are much higher, but in editorial, salaries are low, so recruiting fees are below what you’d make in another arena, eg, tech.

A handful of placements a year and a few temps on assignment, coupled with my freelance income provided me a very nice living.

Then came 9/11. The arena in which I staffed (editorial) crashed. Ad agencies and publishers cut back their output because no one was spending on ad campaigns, so no need to hire copy editors, creative directors, graphic designers, etc.

However, during the time we offered on-site temps, I built up a pretty good roster of clients and now get most of my work via referral.

Present Day: Having been a freelancer since 1993, I’ve reached the point where I want to “touch” projects less. So, my goal going into next year is to create more passive income. My hope is that within a couple of years, I can get by on just my product sales alone. Having reached 40, I want to work less and play more.

Now, on to the details!

NOTE: This e-book consists of a series of blog posts, a Q&A session and conclusions drawn from the experiment overall. I hope you find it useful.

WHAT DID THE STUDY CONSIST OF?

My goal was to submit one article a day for 30 days (excluding weekends) to 25 top-rated directories.

How did I choose which directories to submit to? I used their PR and Alexa rankings. What are PR and Alexa rankings.

What is a PR Ranking? What is an Alexa Rank?

PR Rank: First, PR stands for page rank. Impact-Direct.com defines page rank as:

A method developed and patented by Stanford University and Larry Page [cofounder of Google] to rank search engine results. Page Rank gives a unique ranking to every page on the internet. The ranking number is based on the number of quality inbound links pointing at a page and is represented on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the optimal rank.

In the article, “What Is Page Rank?” by Kimberly Bodane, she describes why page rank is important, as well as what you can do to improve yours.

You’ll also find a detailed article on problogger.net (“Google Page Rank Explained”) with helpful feedback from other readers. This is the link: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2005/07/16/google-page-rank-explained/

Alexa Rank: An article published by e3Server.com on thehostingnews.com, What is Alexa Ranking, describes Alexa rankings as “a very powerful tool of viewing and comparing web site traffic for one site to the rest of the web.”

Read full article here: http://www.thehostingnews.com/art-what-is-alexa-ranking.html

The lower the ranking, the better. Sites that rank 100,000 or lower are considered extremely popular.

To learn more, type “alexa ranking” in the search engine of your choice and do some reading. You’ll be able to get a full understanding by reading a few articles of detailed information.

To find out your site’s PR, go here: http://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php

To find out your site’s Alexa’s ranking: Go here: http://www.Alexa.com.

Case Study Notes: I missed 3 days submitting. I also added and deleted approximately 4 directories from the list as I went along. Why? Because they either went offline (in one case), were not uploading articles in a timely manner, and/or were not suitable for the type of article I had written that day.

Overall, though, I consistently submitted and was able to glean some good findings, which will be discussed later.

x-click-but22 $.99 cents (Instant Download)

RE the free offer: This e-book was originally offered free to subscribers who signed up in December (2006). Their feedback helped to shape the info included.

Read more.

How to Really Make a Living as an Editorial Freelancer

The following is an excerpt of this ebook, along with a complete Table of Contents.

In 2001, I started to receive a flood of inquiries about editorial freelancing. Accustomed to the occasional inquiry, the pace picked up and has yet to slow down as of this writing. What started the whole thing? The dot-com implosion, which began in 2000, put the media and publishing industries in trouble well before 9/11. …

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Advice from Successful Freelancers: How They Built Their Careers & How You Can Too!

Publisher Note: Almost all of the freelancers who were initially interviewed for this ebook were still in business when I checked up on them 7 years later. So, they must be doing something right, no?…

Read more.