In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 6 different topics from the benefit of a narrow niche to the fact that people take writing a book too seriously.
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DPP010: The Forgotten Benefit of a Narrow Niche, Why Writing a Book Isn’t a Big Deal, and 4 More Ideas
Welcome to episode 10 of the Digital Publishing Podcast, and yes! We’re in now the double digits! The Digital Publishing Podcast, which you can find online at digitalpublishingpodcast.com, is the podcast arm of TheBacklight.com.
I’m Tristan Higbee, recording today on the lovely island of Cozumel, Mexico. This show is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, from blogging to ebooks to membership sites and more. Also covered are things related to internet business and online marketing. Stick around till the end of the podcast and I’ll mention my picks for this week’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers.
I’d like to give huge thanks to the people that have gone into iTunes and left reviews and rated the show, and since the podcast is new, I’d REALLY appreciate it if you would do the same.
Ok! I’ve got 6 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.
Topic #1: A forgotten benefit of a narrow niche
I’ve said before that I’ve tried a bunch of times to start a travel blog, and each time I tried I ended up quitting because I didn’t like blogging about traveling. I love to travel, but I don’t like writing about it. Then last week I got it into my head to start another travel blog that focuses on one narrow aspect of traveling.
Before I start any new project online, I always think about how I’ll be able to promote it. Creating the content is the easy part; it’s getting people to find the content that is the hard part. As I was thinking about this, I ran across one of the main benefits of a narrow niche, and it’s a benefit that most of us don’t think of when starting something new. Here it is: When you’ve got a narrow niche, you’ve got nearly unlimited guest post ideas.
I’ll explain what I mean here. Let’s say the travel blog I want to start is all about the best footwear for travelers. This would include socks, shoes, boots, sandals, etc. Guest posting is one of the best—if not THE best—way to grow a blog and get traffic to it. The problem you experience with writing a bunch of guest posts, though, is that it might be hard for you to part with some of those ideas. You might be able to come up with a handful of ideas for guest posts, but it’s hard to come up with a ton, because you still want to write about some things on your own blog. This is where the narrow niche has a huge advantage.
On a “normal” travel blog, I’d write about travel tips. I’d write about experiences I’ve had in various places around the world. I’d write about travel gear. But on a site that’s just about travel footwear, I’m not going to write about any of those things. I’m only going to be writing about footwear, and the result is that I can write about all those other things, the tips, experiences, and gear, on other blogs in the form of guest posts. You’ve got the whole broad range of topics that your niche covers to choose from when writing guest posts.
When you know exactly the kind of thing you want to publish on your blog, you also know exactly the kinds of things that would be a great fit for other blogs, because it’s just the “everything else” of your niche. You’ve taken the most difficult part of blogging—getting traffic to your blog—and removed a giant hurdle in front of it.
Topic #2: Writing a book isn’t a big deal
It’s 2013. It’s a new year and as a result, I’ve been reading and hearing a ton of people talk about what they’d like to accomplish in the next year. One thing that I’ve heard several people mention is that they want to publish a book or ebook this year. (And I’m going to be using the terms book and ebook interchangeably here.) A lot of these people have been working on the book for months or even years, but THIS, 2013, this will be the year to finish the thing.
I think these people are taking it too seriously. A book doesn’t have to be a huge, big deal. I’ve written 38 Kindle books and a ton of PDF ebooks. Just get a book out there. It doesn’t have to be the total sum of all of the knowledge the universe can contain on a certain subject.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make sure the product that you come out with is great. That’s something you definitely should be doing. But the longer you put it off or the longer you work on it, the bigger it all becomes in your head. It’s kind of like dating. If you haven’t asked anyone out on a date in the last three years, asking someone out is scary and a big deal. But if you asked out 3 different people in the last month, you won’t think twice about asking out the next person you’re interested in.
Once you’ve written a book, you’ll realize that it’s really not a difficult thing to do.
Some of my bestselling ebooks have one thing in common. They’re big lists. One is called 101 Rock Climbing Tips and Tricks, another is 101 Blogging Tips, and another is The 138 Best Chrome Extensions. These types of books are not difficult to write if you know what you’re talking about. Sit down and brainstorm a list of 101 topics or ideas. Then write a handful of paragraphs about each idea and bam, you’re done. This is a great approach for a book because it has a finite end. Once you reach 100 or 101 or whatever number you’re going for, you can stop.
If the book doesn’t do well, at least you haven’t wasted two years of your life on it. You can chalk it up to experience and move on to the next idea.
And of course, this principle of “the more you do it, the easier it becomes” can be applied to everything else a writer has to do online, from starting a blog to dealing with social media to figuring out how to format an ebook, so there are a lot of benefits to just getting a book out there and moving on to the next one.
Will 101 Rock Climbing Tips and Tricks make it onto the New York Times bestseller list? No. But neither will a climbing book that took me three years to write.
Topic #3: The offline world
I remember living in a time when no one had the internet, but I’m still very much a member of the internet generation. I think of the internet as the be-all, cure-all for anything you can possibly imagine, and while that’s largely true, the offline world still has a lot to offer for digital publishers
The other day I was reading an author bio on Amazon, and it mentioned that the author was involved with local writer groups and book clubs. I was immediately impressed by how smart this is. As easy as it is to connect with people online, the quality of the interactions you can have with people offline is second to none. There’s no replacement for face-to-face interaction, and this is coming from someone who is an introvert and very much enjoys being alone.
But who do you think is more likely to leave a favorable review of your book or tell other people about your website: the people you have book club with and that you went to lunch with last week, or the person whose blog you wrote a guest post for and whose blog post you commented on and retweeted?
As amazing as the internet is, it’s still no substitute for in-person interaction. Start a local book club. It could definitely be a niche book club for whatever your niche is. I would have loved to go to a rock climbing book club back when I was still in the States. Or start a regular group or club. If you blog about knitting or have an ebook about knitting, start a knitting group that gets together once a week or every two weeks or once a month. Go to Meetup.com and see if there are any local meetups for your niche or for writers in general.
Not only will this type of offline interaction be great as far as promoting yourself and your product (whatever that may be), but it’ll just be fun and you’ll make new friends, and that of course can lead to even more opportunities and great experiences further on down the line.
Topic #4: Enough with the analogies
I used to be a big fan of using analogies in blog posts. And by “analogy” I mean writing a blog post that’s like “5 Business Lessons I Learned from Mountain Climbing.” It’s comparing one thing to another thing.
One of my most popular early blog posts on TheBacklight.com was even a step-by-step guide on writing analogies. But as more time passes, the more I realize how crappy analogy-based blog posts usually are. They obscure the real meaning of what you’re trying to say behind an obvious, tenuous, superficial connection. If you have a good idea, you don’t need to shroud it in an analogy. Just come out with the idea.
Take a step back and look at it objectively. Let’s say that “Keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll make it to the top” is one of the business lessons you learned from mountain climbing. While sure, you could say that that statement can ring true for both mountain climbing and business, is there anyone that doesn’t already understand that? And is there anyone who reads that that will not fail in business now that they know the same principle is true in mountain climbing? Or when you were on the mountain and you realized, “Hey! This is like business!”, did that really have any lasting affect on your own business? I think that the answer to all of these questions is NO.
I read an analogy post on Copyblogger last week and really didn’t like it. It was called Email Marketing: How to Master the Campaign Platform of Kings. How to master email marketing? Sure, I’ll read that article. That’s something I’m interested in. The problem is that the writer kept beating that king angle to death. He talked about Game of Thrones and Alexander the Great, and then threw in Artistotle and President Obama for good emasure. As much as I want to know how to master email marketing—and I’ve admitted in the past that that’s one of my weak points—I couldn’t read the article. I just don’t give a crap about how email marketing lessons can be learned from Game of Thrones or Aristotle. I felt that the author was trying to be too clever and as a result, he lost my interest.
Do analogies have a place anywhere in digital publishing? Yes. I think that they can make great bases for a book. All of Seth Godin’s books are based on analogies. Purple Cow. The Dip. Poke the Box. All of these are analogies for things related to business or marketing. But the value here is that the analogy is more than just skin deep. You find real data and case studies behind those analogies, and it’s the data and case studies that have an impact and make a difference. It’s not the idea of a literal purple cow that anyone cares about. That’s not the lightbulb. Analogies are great marketing hooks that draw people in, but they always need to be backed up by substance. That’s something that most people writing those analogy posts don’t do.
Topic #5: Medium overload
Most of us are probably familiar with the terms “information overload” and “analysis by paralysis.” Information overload is putting off action because you’re too busy learning about stuff, and analysis by paralysis is putting off action because you’re thinking about things too much.
I think a lot of digital publishers suffer from medium overload, which is kind of the foil to information overload. Instead of struggling because there’s too much information coming at us, we struggle because there’s too much information coming out of us. We spread ourselves too thin by trying to be in too many places. Do you REALLY need to have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, AND Tumblr? Do you really need to be producing blog posts, podcast episodes, videos, screencasts, AND infographics? Do people really need to follow you on all of those other social media sites plus YouTube, Vimeo, StumbleUpon, Quora, Instagram, Yahoo Answers, AND 20 more social networking sites no one has ever heard of?
There are too many different mediums and outlets for one person to handle. If you try to do it all, you’ll fail or burnout sooner or later. And worse than that, the time you spend dealing with the mediums that don’t do you much good or that you don’t like is time spent away from the ones that really work well for you. I actually just removed the Google+ and Facebook page buttons from the sidebar at TheBacklight.com because I don’t particularly like Google+ and Facebook. I don’t want to spend any time there, and I don’t really want other people to follow me on those platforms where I don’t provide any value, especially if they choose to follow me on someplace like Google+ instead of on Twitter.
Apart from being overrated, I think that being everywhere is impossible. Be in a handful of places that really work for you and that you really enjoy, and you’ll get more mileage that way. That’s definitely been the case for me.
Topic #6: Giving your ebooks away for free
Someone recently emailed me the following question: “Why do you let people check out your book for free in the Kindle library? Doesn’t that limit your sales?”
So to back up a little bit, I have written and published 38 Kindle books, and I believe all of them are enrolled in Amazon’s KDP Select program. This means that they are part of the Kindle Owners Lending Library, which is the “Kindle library” being referred to in the email. So this lending library thing is for people who are Amazon Prime members, and one of the perks to being an Amazon Prime member is that you can borrow up to one book a month for free, as long as that book is enrolled in the KDP Select program and is therefore eligible to be borrowed. You can keep the book for as long as you want but to download a new one, you have to give the old one back and it’s deleted from your Kindle. Are you with me so far?
Ok, so the person’s email asked me why I chose to let people borrow my book from the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Here’s my response:
“I get around $2 every time someone borrows a book from the Kindle Owners Lending Library, which is also about how much I get from a $2.99 sale (70% of $2.99). So no, it doesn’t limit sales. The way the lending library works is that there’s a fund set up by Amazon. Each month that fund is around $600,000-$700,000 (though there are bonuses occasionally on top of that), and that fund is divided by the total number of library borrows that Amazon experiences. So let’s say the fund is $600,000 for January and there are a total of 300,000 borrows/loans/whatever you want to call them in January. That’s the total number of times that books were borrowed from Amazon in the month of January. That $600,000 divided by that 300,000 number is $2. So if my book is borrowed 100 times in January, I get $200.
Another great thing about making your book available through the lending library is that you can give it away for free for up to 5 days in a 90-day period. It’s a really good way to get reviews and get your book into a lot of people’s hands. And you know how on Amazon there’s the “People who bought this also bought these” section on each product page? When you give your book away and a lot of people download it, it’s as if they bought it, so your book has a better chance of appearing in the “People who bought this also bought these” section. The result is potentially more exposure and sales.”
So that is why I enroll my ebooks in the KDP Select program and let people borrow them for free, because I still get paid, and the ability to make a book totally free occasionally is a huge.
And now it’s time for this episode’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. My pick for this episode’s featured podcast is QUIT! [link] It’s another show from the 5by5 network of podcasts (the other one I’ve mentioned in a previous episode is The Frequency). It’s hosted by Dan Benjamin and a rotating handful of co-hosts. It’s kind of a difficult podcast to explain, but here’s the official iTunes description: “Ever quit a job? Ever redefined yourself within one? Ever started something and won big … or failed? QUIT! is a call-in show helping people sort out their lives, reevaluate their options, kick their crummy jobs, and start something awesome.” So people call in to the show, talk about their work and how they want to quit it to do their own thing or just make the situation they’re in better, and Dan and the co-hosts give advice. But even that isn’t a very good description, so just go listen to a couple episodes. It’s a really entertaining and motivational show, and I think you’ll like it.
My pick for this episode’s featured tool for digital publishers is an iOS app called Fast Analytics [link]. (And I’ll mention what looks like a great Android equivalent in a second). Fast Analytics is a free Google Analytics app. You download the app and enter in your Google account information so that the app can access your Analytics information. Once you’ve done that, all of the sites you have set up in Google Analytics will appear there in a list. When you choose one, today’s stats appear on the screen. It will show you unique visitors, visits, page views, bounce rate, and a couple other things. Swipe to the left and you’ll see the same stats for yesterday. Swipe again for the last 7 days, again for the last 30 days, and again for the last year. You can also view your top referring sources, your most highly-trafficked pages, your top referring keywords, and a few other things for each of those time periods I just mentioned.
This is my pick for this week because I’ve been ignoring my site stats recently. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you do get valuable information when you look at your stats, and having this very nicely-designed app on my phone makes it fast and easy (and honestly, kind of fun) to look at the stats for my various sites.
I don’t have an Android device, but gAnalytics [link] looks like a great analytics app for Android devices. It has about 2,700 ratings in the Google Play store and the average rating is more than 4.5 stars. And it is also free.
Well, that’s all for this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for show notes and links (including links to everything mentioned in this episode) and additional blog posts there at TheBacklight.com that go beyond what I talk about on the podcast. This week’s blog post on The Backlight was titled A Clever Way to Send More Traffic to Your Site from Your Email Newsletter. Please don’t hesitate to email me any question you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out.
You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. And again, since this podcast is new, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed it. Thanks for listening.