Creating Information Products
Random Thoughts relating to creating how to’s in formats other than books
Random Thoughts relating to creating how to’s in formats other than books
The book industry has changed. Irrevocably.
It used to be such a simple industry. There were major publishers, small press publishers and vanity publishers. On the other side there were major writers (with a writing contract), minor writers (at least they had a publisher) and indie writers. When a writer found a publisher they left the indie lifestyle and became ‘Major’ (or ‘Minor’) writers. Indie writers were the go-it-alone types and were forced to deal with the vanity presses. Occasionally they could find a small press that would work with them or they created their own out of desperation.
Then came on-demand printing. And the book world changed. When the eBook took off the change was cemented and the whole pigeon-hole world came tumbling down.
The truth is that the only difference between the indie writer and the major writer is that major writers have an investor to fund their writing. That’s really what a modern major publisher does. They put up the cash (called an advance) and then collect the income as the book sells. When the book sells above the advance amount the publisher pays more royalties. When the book sells less, the publisher claws back the advance.
In today’s world, the lines are blurred.
An indie writer can publish a book under their own name without a publishing brand. They can do this by handling the entire process on their own. They can publish using outsourced specialists (book designers and cover designers). Or they can use a publishing consultant. These people can handle the process of converting the manuscript into a published book. They arrange any specialists needed.
An indie writer can create their own publishing brand. The options for publishing remain the same — in fact the only difference is in perception. Readers believe that the writer is published (even if it is a small press) and the perceived value increases.
An indie writer can also use a publishing consultant’s brand. This is similar to using a small press. But the relationship is different. The publishing consultant, naturally enough, will require a basic level of quality. They also take a small percentage of the royalties for the use of their name. However, they don’t fund the writer and can provide a mix of services from full production to none. There are two big advantage with this method. The first is that the indie writer will increase the perceived value in the same way as using their own publishing brand does. However, it will appear that they are using a larger brand and so will gain more perceived value. More importantly, they will share promotion with other writers. As we all know, the more books you have, the more books you sell. By cross promoting, you can use others’ books to sell your own. Plus it is more likely that the publishing consultant will have a book in major promotion in any given month. Something that is hard to do for an indie writer.
And of course, the old methods still exist. And indie writer can still deal with a vanity press.
Making a choice between the three methods requires the indie writer to take a long term view. Do you want to remain an indie writer or do you wish to write for one of the major publishers? Do you want to publish multiple books or only one or two? Does it matter to you if your readers value your opinions more or less? Will sharing promotion with other indie writers help your book achieve your goals?
Whatever method you choose, prepare for a wild ride.
Simply put, a learning creator is anyone who intentionally creates an environment and an opportunity for an individual to learn a new skill or new knowledge. This information can be communicated in any medium. However, the most common media are books, live presentation, video and audio. A writer, a blogger, a course presenter, a facilitator of learning.
Every once in a while, I will get someone who asks if my courses have certificates with them. Frighteningly enough, these queries are usually in reference to my free courses. My typical response is that if you need a certificate for the course, you’ve missed the point of the course.
So what is the point of a certificate and should you have one?
Certificates provide two major functions. First and foremost they reward the student for putting up with the course material. Secondly they prove to others that the student has completed the course of study.
So should your information product come with a certificate?
The answer is complex and a matter of balance. And frankly, it depends on the nature of the information product.
If the student needs to prove to others that the course has been completed successfully, then yes there should be a certificate. For example, train the trainer and licensing type courses should come with a certificate. This allows the student to advertise that they are in fact, qualified to teach the course.
If you wish to reward the student for completing the course then a certificate should be provided. Live courses of a day, a week or more almost always should have a certificate at the end.
However, your learning content should be a reward in and of itself. After all, your students are taking the course in order to obtain the skill or knowledge contained in the content. As a learning content or information product designer, a large part of your job needs to be identification of your student’s learning needs. Otherwise, your product is not going to sell — even if it is provided for free. And it will never be well received because it won’t leave your students satisfied.
Making this even more interesting, a certificate is easily devalued. Unless you can prove that the student completed the whole course and learned from that course, your certificate has no real value. It won’t be long before people realize they can get the certificate without actually ingesting the learning. And it won’t be much longer for people to stop believing your certificate means anything.
Certificates are an easily created, inexpensive acknowledgement of the effort involved in learning. They are a motivator and cheap pat on the head. But unless you use them wisely, they will cause more problems that they will solve.
Okay, a bit of writing as a business for you today …
My guess is that it couldn’t be more appropriate … Europe rejected the new copyright treaty on Independence Day (July 4, 2012). In many ways, this represents Europe declaring its independence from U.S. influence on copyright law.
So what does this mean for writers?
The ACTA copyright treaties represent the latest agreement between the countries of the world as to what their own copyright legislation is supposed to be. In effect, it is the target that each will attempt to force their own legislation into.
For writers this means that this treaty represents the rights and protections that they will have around the world. Of course, local legislation takes time to catch up and laws are often broken but that’s the theory in any case.
So this is bad, right?
Well, no. You see the main problem is that the ACTA proposal was negotiated in secret and was heavily influenced by U.S. interests. This is frightening, given that even the U.S. judicial system has begun to push back on those self-same interests.
Like much of the recent U.S. copyright legislation, it is heavily slanted in favour of the large corporate publisher. Content creators and small publishers (admittedly such as TrainingNOW) are the losers. Perhaps not as much as the users and purchasers of our courses and writings, but any gains are the result of targeting overkill (aka collateral damage) rather than intent.
For the writer and self/small publisher, this treaty represents a distinct problem in the areas of research and in product ownership.
However, as in any change in legislation, you have a responsibility to yourself to read the legislation and come to your own conclusions. And since this is a treaty (rather than legislation), it is also incumbent on you to ensure that you are familiar with legislation in your own country.
As for me — I’m glad the EEC voted it down. I only wish Canada had shown the same wisdom.
Okay, I know I’m supposed to be keeping this blog up to date … I also know I’ve been doing a really bad job of it lately. But there’s a reason.
In the past two weeks TrainingNOW has published two books. TrainingNOW is the publishing arm of LearningCreators.com. You can find it at http://www.trainingnow.ca.
One is “101 Limericks about Public Speaking” which has just been converted to Kindle format. This was actually published as a trade paperback some time ago. We have resisted publishing it in Kindle format because the Kindle (and other eBook readers) can’t really do the illustrations justice. However, we’ve finally bitten the bullet so to speak and released it in Kindle format. Unfortunately, that meant rejigging all the illustrations and reformatting the layout (several times!) to get the best quality.
The other book involved a great deal more work. (And trust me 101 Limericks was a pain).
“How to Blog for Money: 9 Strategies to Get Your Blog Earning Money Online and Off” is the first of
our ( well, mine really) books on blogging. 192 pages long in print format, it is now available on the Kindle and will soon be available in trade paperback. In fact, I sent off the files yesterday and should be ordering the proofs tomorrow. (Don’t hold your breath — it takes a month to get the proofs). We also created a video course on the subject but the editing is taking longer than expected (which is why I converted the script to a book). You can find more information on this topic in our other blog http://www.howtoblogmoney.com aka The Bobblehead Blogger.
So that’s why I’ve been falling behind lately — I’ve written a new eBook, a new course and reformatted an old print book. Oh and I also edited a 100 page website for a client. All in a matter of weeks.
Take that Timothy Ferriss!
(BTW Trade paperback is the large paperback size of 6×9 inches not the pocketbook size).
Well it’s Father’s Day once again. Time for reminiscing about fathers and the past. As you may know, my own father passed away shortly over a year ago. Father’s day was always a big day for us. A chance to thank my parents for everything they did for us (Mom got her own day but you know how things go).
But my daughter’s birthday and Father’s day are typically celebrated on the same day. So in my own home, Father’s day has been little more than a hurried “Happy Father’s day” as we rushed to arrange parties and fixin’s.
This year is different. We celebrated my daughter’s birthday last weekend and this weekend she’s off to go shopping with her aunt. So I’m sitting here, relaxing and thinking about Fathers and everything they give to us.
My own Father was an entrepreneur. As was his Father and his Father before that. All the way back to Thomas (great-great-) who left Wales (and maybe Ireland) behind to take his business to the new world. Maybe even before that. I’ve spoken before of how I learned to be an entrepreneur at my great-grandfather’s knee. And it seems to be something that is absorbed. (My brother and one sister are both entrepreneurs as am I).
My Father (and grandfather and great-grandfather) taught me to think and be an entrepreneur. My university taught me to be a businessman. The two together gave me a good base for all my entrepreneurial endeavours including freelance writing and training. And as frustrated as I get with the life, I hope my children will become entrepreneurs as they grow.
The sad reality is that we can no longer rely on a job. The big corporations have walked away from their responsibilities. Mutual respect and loyalty is a thing of the past. Just when wisdom is earned, and the joy of sharing is realized, the new corporation decides that they can no longer afford you. The current economic reality makes that trend even worse. Companies no longer dumbsize — now they disintegrate, all in the name of pleasing analysts who have no stake in the company.
The age of the entrepreneur is on us. Unfortunately, even entrepreneurship has its difficulties.
Last night, I published the Kindle version of Paul and my first book as an entrepreneur and publisher. “101 Limericks about Public Speaking” has been available for some time now. At first in PDF eBook form on our TrainingNOW.ca site and then in print. But now, it’s available in Kindle eBook. And in many ways, it represents the changes that are occurring in the writing business.
When I first started, marketers created systems and wrote them up as eBooks. These sold for highly inflated prices. After all, you were selling a system not a book. And the traditional publishers owned the print book market. You sold an agent who in turn sold the publisher who deigned to print and distribute your book. If you wanted to self-publish, you dealt with a vanity publisher.
Today, all that has changed.
Self-publishing is the rule not the exception. And while print books do sell still and will for some time, the eBook is the way of the future. Booksellers such as Amazon now set the tone and the price. And the big publisher is being squeezed out as the author’s realize they don’t get much from them in the new reality. On the other hand, other Booksellers (such as Apple and its iBookstore) have yet to recognize the changes and still give the publisher the power.
It may seem that I’m pro-Amazon’s and anti-Apple/Kobo/Nook’s stances. But the truth is both are valid. Amazon has recognized the new reality in the writer’s market. And they’ve taken advantage of their size to force their opinions on the publishing world. The Apple/Kobo/Nook camp has been slow to recognize the changes. And they’ve been slow to react. They’ve chosen to give up control to the big publishers.
The truth is in between. There are situations where the price of a book should include the price of the system. And there are situations where the price of the book should be low. The truth is that all four groups need to have input into the price of an eBook — the customer, the bookseller, the publisher and the author. No one group can dominate or the price will shift in their favour at the expense of the others.
Right now, the writing and freelance writing market is on the cusp of change. Where will we be tomorrow? Who knows?
Isn’t being an entrepreneur fun?
One of the characteristics that distinguishes a professional learning content seller from the hacks that infest much of the internet is the quality of their learning products. Their webinars, teleseminars, live course and books are worth investing the time in. And frankly they just look better.
Now I’m not saying they’re perfect. They aren’t. There are a number of reasons that a quality producer may have less than stellar product. What I am saying is that there is a line … and you can tell that the quality producer has at least tried to keep over the line.
But what is quality?
What is it that will keep your audience returning?
After all, you can’t build quality into your products if you don’t know what it is. So in this webinar on our youtube channel we discuss the 5 qualities of a good webinar or teleseminar. It applies equally to a book or live event.
Creating any learning product is an exercise in egotism. Not that bad egotism that is displayed as a form of bragging. But the good egotism where the quality of the product is a direct reflection of the importance of the subject and the pride the creator takes in his or her creation.
Creating a good learning content product is something that every content creator wants!
Webinars and teleseminars are no different from any other learning content product in this. Your ego as creator is directly connected to the quality. After all, you’re putting a little bit of yourself into the creation.
But how do you define a good webinar or teleseminar?
In this video, I’m going to describe five of the qualities that define a good webinar or teleseminar.
1. The content is relevant to the audience. In many ways this is the most important characteristic of quality. Without this quality your webinar won’t be watched or teleseminar listened to. And without that the quality doesn’t really matter. In order to motivate your audience to pay attention you need to focus on one of their motivators. And then your content needs to either solve the problem, show them how to avoid a pain, or show them how to achieve a desired goal. We call this relevance. And without it you have nothing.
2. The content is honest and sincere. Your audience doesn’t necessarily think of your content as honest and sincere. Those are two words you wouldn’t necessarily use about the material you are teaching. However, it is what your audience will say about you. You need to present material that is as correct and believable as you can make it. You need to present information that you believe is correct. And you need to present it from the real desire to help your audience. If you don’t, your audience will know and will react accordingly.
3. The webinar or teleseminar is well-organized. Nothing is more frustrating to your audience than a webinar or teleseminar that goes off into the ether, exploring the outer reaches of irrelevancy. Your webinar or teleseminar must provide organization to the material. After all, that’s what the audience is paying you for — with time if not money. They are expecting you to organize the material so that they understand it.
4. The webinar or teleseminar is designed for the media. Have you ever been to a live PowerPoint seminar where the overheads have 20 tightly packed, far too small points per slide? Bored weren’t you? Did you even bother to stay? Each of the media has its strengths and weaknesses. Each affects the cognitive limits differently. You need to design your webinar or teleseminar to work within the limits imposed by that media. Having too many points on a slide or worse in your teleseminar is a certain way to lose your audience.
5. The webinar or teleseminar is professionally presented. At first glance this might seem like an onerous quality to impose. After all, being a professional presenter is something that you need to learn over time. But being professional and being perfect aren’t the same thing. There are two elements involved in being professional with your presentation. First, you need to pay attention to the details. How the webinar slides look is important. You don’t want them to be overloaded or under-designed. Second, you need to avoid dumb mistakes. In the case of a webinar, spelling mistakes are an absolute no-no. You need to practice your webinar or teleseminar several times. You can’t afford to show that you are nervous when presenting. And only practice can help you build that level of confidence.
While you’re here please feel free to suggest other topics and let us know what you think of the video.
When I first entered the eBook business, you HAD to publish your own books. (Unless you wanted to go the Clickbank route. ) Prices were high (compared to print books) and learning content providers were known to misrepresent their reports as eBooks. And the major publishers toyed with eBooks but basically considered them as irrelevant.
Then came the Kindle from Amazon and other similar products.
Last year, Amazon tried to force the major publishers to sell their eBooks at much reduced prices. Ultimately, Amazon had to back down. However, they did succeed by introducing the 70% royalty for books under $9.95. Self-publishers and the market did what force, threats and banning couldn’t do.
Unfortunately, other sales outlets aren’t as open-minded as Amazon. Getting Apple, Kobo or Barnes & Noble (the Nook) to carry self-published eBooks is an exercise in frustration — especially if you are from outside the U.S.A. (like TrainingNOW). Simply put, most of the booksellers haven’t gotten the new business model yet.
In any case, the U.S. Justice department has announced that it will investigate the “Cartel” practices of Apple and the big publishers. You can read more about this on ZDNet (part of CBS Interactive) Justice Dept. to sue Apple, other publishers over e-book ‘cartel’ . The European (antitrust) Commission began a similar investigation about three months ago.
It will be interesting to see what the fallout will be.
Since I’m in the “expert” business — in all my businesses — I follow a number of the so-called “gurus”. Unfortunately, some of them seem to know what they are talking about but frankly price their products out of my range. Understandable, they are looking for people who are at the next stage up from me. Cool. I understand that. Fortunately many of them give away a lot of great information.
One of those gurus I follow is a fellow by the name of Frank Kern. He is a master of the live video and his giveaways are always valuable. One of his yearly giveaways is The State of The Internet Address — lots of American xxxx of course but then again it is a pastische of the US President’s State of the Nation address. If you click on the link you’ll open the video up in another window.
Watch it. The information it contains is essentially what I’ve been preaching for years now. But it’s something that a lot of “gurus” seem to ignore. Besides it is a good example of how to work a camera.
BTW — no, I’m not getting anything from this recommendation. (Silly me)! I’m suggesting it because I agree with him. On the other hand, be aware that he is going to be selling at the end.
So what does he have to say in summary?
- To succeed you need to have:
- Technology (least important) (e.g. push button traffic)
- Marketing (not as important as we think)
- A Magic Bullet Product (most important) (i.e. the perfect product to solve your customer’s most important problem)
- Generate leads through advertising (and we always pay for advertising)
- Convert leads into Customers (through good salesmanship)
- Delight your customers
Hope this helps in developing your own bullet product!
One of the problems I have is that I’m often forced to squeeze my time. I’m also an insatiably curious fellow. That’s why I leave research to my business partner. Frankly it plays to my weaknesses — time and terrier learning.
One of the solutions I have found to that problem is to play videos and audios in the background while I write. Or at least put words to pay since I typically have written the piece long before. It saves time, and I learn and work at the same time. For most of my findings the amount of attention I pay to the background is sufficient to learn the material.
Unfortunately, every once in a while I find my self stopping and paying attention to the background “noise”. Even worse sometimes I end up putting my work aside and picking up another page to begin work on an idea that the “noise” has burned into my brain.
That is the nature of this video I found on the TEDxWaterloo site.
One of the core elements of the Content Mapping system is determining what it is your reader wants to read. You never want to bother writing anything that your reader has no interest in. It doesn’t matter what media you choose. In fact, you need to do this no matter what business you are in (it applies outside of the Expert/Information Product/Training business too).
In the full Content Map system, there is a whole process associated with identifying and building upon this. In the Content Map itself, one half of the map is concerned with documenting and communicating that information to your hindbrain.
In the discussions on delivery, I regularly bring up the concept of presenting as though you were conversing with your audience. You want to sound like a conversation around the kitchen table. Or a bar if you’re more comfortable there. Or your living room Chesterfield. You need to talk to your audience in the natural way that you speak with your friends.
It is seldom that I have heard these ideas brought together and spoken of in quite so succinct and well thought out way.
So I present to you The Walrus … (in the much more agreeable and entertaining form of Shelley Ambrose)