I don’t really believe in advertising as a valid, long-term monetizing strategy for a blog. There are more cons than pros, if you take the time to really look at it. Yet, many bloggers are rushing towards advertising and fill up their blog real estate with tons of banners and then dumbly wait for money to pour in.
Advertising has a very low entry point, all you need is some traffic and traffic building is relatively cheap, that’s true. But advertising also have a very, very low output: you need incredibly high amounts of traffic to make a decent amount of money. I won’t talk about the pros and cons of advertising as a blog monetizing strategy in this post. What I am going to talk about is my blog monetizing strategy for 2010.
First of all, let me tell you that I intend to make a huge change in my blog revenue in 2010. And by huge I mean huge, period. Second, I intend to make this happen by increasing my throughput. Delivering more value. This extra value may be contained in the form and the structure of this blog or it may be just an extension of the blog. Precisely, I’m going to build my own line of information products.
In the first 3 months of the year (including January, which is gone) I will create a series of ebooks. After that I may try a line of podcasts and/or video. If talking to a microphone is not at all unusual for me (I worked as a radio host for more than 7 years) doing some vlogging is certainly something intriguing. Which for me translates into “I have to do this”.
The very first items of my information products line are already out and they have been out for at least 2 weeks now. If you’re reading my blog on the web (as opposed to being an RSS subscriber) you noticed some changes. To make a long story short: during January, I already wrote 4 new books and also published them on Amazon. I won’t describe them now, I will let you download the free previews, if you want. Word of caution: there is one book which doesn’t have an associated ebook version and that would be The Productivity Trap (Amazon affiliate link).
Now let’s move on the “why” part of this decision.
Why Selling My Own Information Products
Because it’s more suited to my own lifestyle, to be honest. And because I find it much more appropriate to the whole concept of blogging as a business. A highly successful blogger should focus on increasing his throughput and deliver more of his personal experience, rather than relying on external, adjacent businesses, like advertising or affiliate marketing. I have nothing against that, and as a matter of fact I’m doing pretty well on affiliate marketing, I just came to a point where I want to do more. And here’s why:
1. Bigger Input
If I will build my own series of information products I will have greater control over the audience response. I can see what products are performing well and what products are not. I will see exactly what parts of my efforts are making the biggest impact. And adjust. We will grow together.
2. Better Connectivity
I will get in touch faster and deeper with my readers. Each of their responses will help me provide more value. Or, if I’m on the wrong path, I could be warned earlier. Anyway, creating more value on top of an already existing layer will streamline the existing communication.
3. Better Return
Let’s face it: in advertising, you’re the last layer from a huge pile. Each layer on this pile is retaining something of the value you deserve. At some level, this is understandable and I have nothing against it, as I already said it. I just choose to minimize this pile and keep fewer layers of interaction.
How I Did It
I started to write. Ok, it was a little bit more than that. 🙂 Before sitting at a table and write, I tried to find the answers to 3 simple questions:
1. What Are You Going To Write About?
Not that I don’t have a gazillion topics ready to be extracted from my brain in the form of a readable ebook. It wasn’t the lack of topics, on the contrary, it was the prioritizing and selling strategy. What exactly would be the most fit and useful range of topics for my audience? And then it hit me: since I already have a lot of topics covered in this very blog, why not just run a content analysis and see which type of content performed better than the other?
I think the technical term for this is “crowd-tested”. Selecting topics which were already doing great in terms of traffic, comments and social media exposure. That’s one of the biggest advantages of a blog. You get all the interaction with your readers and deliver your message to a live audience, ready to validate or invalidate it. Oh, and in the process you do have a lot of fun too. Well, to keep a long story short, I chose to write ebooks based on the most popular posts I had in the last year.
2. How Much Do You Want To Write On Top Of These Posts?
I was fortunate enough to have a previous experience on this: my first ebook. It took me about 2 months of on and off writing to get that done. But it was like 90% new content. And, to be honest, it really felt like huge.
So I decided this time I will only go for 60% new content on top of the blog posts. That would lower the pages number, but this is not necessarily something bad. On the contrary. My aim is to provide easy to use and to re-use information. I’m not writing a philosophy manual. If I would write something like this, I would make revenue plans not for a year but maybe for 50. Or even 150 ;-).
Now, one would argue that you can’t write tons of good, easy to read, appealing books just by using crowd-tested blog posts, and I would very much agree with that. I have more than 350 personal development articles on this blog now but I won’t go for more than 10-15 good books using only the best of the best.
I intend to freeze this strategy somewhere around book number 15. By that time I hope to gather enough experience and ability to be able to start writing books from the scratch, without the skeleton of a blog post. To be honest, I have 3 book projects (on personal development) that are waiting in my Someday/Maybe folder. Maybe that Someday is sooner than I thought 🙂
3. In What Form Are You Going To Sell Those Ebooks?
That was tricky, but in the end I come up with something really neat. I decided to have both electronic and printed formats. If there’s nothing to be explained about electronic formats (I already did it for my first ebook and I explained a little bit the process in the launch post) I think the printed part of this decision deserves a little bit of an explanation.
I was studying self-publishing platforms for a few months and sometimes during November last year I decided to give a try to CreateSpace.Â The whole process looked clean and also easy to manage. All you have to do is to upload a PDF containing your book and a cover. You get an ISBN number and your own eStore, handling the whole selling process. The book is printed on demand, of course.
After I played a little bit with the site I abandoned the idea. And then, just a few weeks after, I saw that one of my fellow bloggers, Steven Aitchison, started to do exactly that. He published his first book on CreateSpace and… Amazon! Wow. It was like a thunder for me. I knew all the time that CreateSpace was an Amazon company, but for some reason my mind refused to make the connection. Of course! If you self-publish via CreateSpace you can make your book available on Amazon.com too.
And why is that important? you may ask. Why that thunder? Because Amazon gives exactly what you don’t have as a blogger: marketing and a HUGE captive audience (you may have a big community as a blogger, but not a HUGE captive audience).Â It was really enlightening. So, I re-started the whole self-publishing process. The first one was 30 Sentences For A Millionaire Mindset (Amazon affiliate link), just to have a printed peer and then moved on the new ones. Everything was going on smoothly, but something was missing.
And I didn’t know exactly what, until I decided to start a challenge with Steven. We decide to race: whoever will be the first to have 5 books published on Amazon during January, will win. Strangely enough, I won that one. But the February challenge is already on, and we’re targeting 4 new books with that. So it’s complicated. 🙂
I started a challenge not because I wanted to win, in the first place (although the desire to win was there too) but because I wanted to be held accountable. To have somebody who can tell me: I will do it regardless of what you choose to do and I may win this. These types of challenges are a fantastic motivator. At least for me.
If you’re going to follow this monetization strategy, you have to be aware of some of the pitfalls.
First of all: you will write more. Much more. So be sure to put aside some extra time for that, if you’re not a full time blogger. Writing blog posts is one thing, but committing to a book, even if you already have a scaffold for it, will take more energy and focus. Prepare to spend more on this side. The good thing is that books have a bigger inertia than blog posts: they tend to remain alive much more time than a blog post. So the passive income revenue potential is bigger.
Second: It will take some time. It’s not only the approval process for the printed books, this one is relatively manageable, somewhere between 24 and 48 hours. It’s about the extra work you should do AFTER everything is done. You will have some new activities or you’ll have to put more time in activities you already perform, like writing landing pages, communicating with your affiliates (if you already have a network of affiliates) and analyzing market inputs (sales, evolution, etc).
Third: balance it. It will be a huge effort. Be aware! Balance your extra work with some rest or other activities. I did feel a few times the gentle touch of a potential burn out during this month, but hopefully I made it without it.
Now, I know you’re curious about what’s in those ebooks anyway. I can feel it. 🙂 Since you made it till here I can tell you have a genuine interest in them and you could really, really find a use for one or all of my ebooks. So, without further ado, here’s my proposal.
Are you ready?
Ok, let’s do it:
I’m going to give free copies of any of my ebooks in exchange for a review. How does it sounds? Yeah, I heard that 🙂 Oh, and the best part is that you DON’T need to have a blog to get a free copy! Because you can write a review at Amazon.com too. How cool is that? You get a free ebook and all you have to do is to write a review on your blog OR on Amazon.com. Kinda neat, if you ask me :-).
Now let’s get practical. Here’s what you have to do: leave a comment and let me know which ebooks are of interest to you. You can have any of the ebooks, including the flagship of my fleet, 30 Sentences For A millionaire Mindset! If you want, you can have all 4 ebooks (The Productivity Trap [Amazon affiliate link] is available only in printed form, I’m afraid, so that one should be bought directly).
Also, please let me know if you want or not to become an affiliate. Ups, I almost forgot: you can promote and resell my ebooks and you’ll get 50% off of each sale. I could have pick a smaller amount and then try to lure you in with some “extra” discounts up to this number, but I choose to do it upfront: 50% no questions asked. And since the printed versions are on sale on Amazon, you can promote them just as you promote other Amazon books on your site, if you’re an Amazon affiliate.
Ok, after you let me know which ebooks are you interested in, I will email them to you for free. The only thing I ask is to let me know when you’re going to publish the review, where (your blog and/or Amazon) and if you found some value in what I wrote. If you think somebody else would be interested in this giveaway, feel free to spread the word.
I don’t know for how long I’m going to do this, so be sure to act now, because, based on the response I get, this offer may end really soon.