Information at What Price? Exploring fee-based e-content
In pursuit of a paid model for content, many businesses offer newsletters for a fee or ebooks. These models offer pros and cons. Some organizations send out two newsletters: fee and free. The free version has the basic, watered-down contents found in the fee version to entice readers into wanting more and paying for it. But is it worth the time and energy to do this?
Ebooks are also a way for businesses to make money. But do they sell when it’s been proven that people prefer reading printed copy to electronic text? Read on to hear from several experts in the field about what people are willing to pay for and whether or not offering fee-based content is right for your organization.
<strong>Too much information!</strong>
Considering there are so many free newsletters and information out there, why should readers shell out the dough for these premium newsletters? Reading online is harder on the eyes because of the light emitted from the monitor. People overcome this by printing out the newsletter.
I can’t hazard a guess on how many free newsletters are out there. So why would a person pay for a fee-based newsletter? Jenna Glatzer, editor-in-chief of AbsoluteWrite.com, says, “You have to offer something different and better than what the free newsletters are doing. Personally, I wouldn’t pay for newsletters that are just for entertainment, but I do have paid subscriptions to a handful of newsletters that are specific to my line of work and appropriate for my level (not beginner). A paid newsletter that has all the same sorts of free-reprint articles that all the other sites have won’t work. You must find a corner of the market that no one has claimed yet and be the most reliable source of information on it.”
Joan Stewart, publisher of The Publicity Hound, started her subscription newsletter seven years ago, long before there was as much information on the Internet as there is today. She says, “Content must be king. If you can supply good content that can’t be found elsewhere, and it’s well-written and easy to read, and leads readers in other directions where they can find even more info than they could possibly need, you will keep your customers happy.
“If I had it to do over again, I would have never started my subscription newsletter. It started as an 8-page print newsletter, but the postage and printing costs were killing me,” she says. “About two years ago, I reverted from a print newsletter to a PDF document. It’s in the same format, but it’s now emailed to customers. My free ezine, The Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week, is still far more profitable, several hundredfold, than the subscription newsletter.”
<strong>Charging for ebooks</strong>
Considering there are no printing and paper costs to the publisher for ebooks, how can they charge as much as they do for them? Higher prices equal higher perceived value. However, I’ve seen many ebooks cost more than a paperback, and the content isn’t always better quality than print. Yet, they sell.
What justifies the higher cost of ebooks when there are no printing costs involved with them? Christopher Knight, publisher of Ezine-Tips, says, “What justifies the higher cost of ebooks when there are no printing costs involved with them? Christopher Knight, publisher of Ezine-Tips, says, ‘That would be a fallacy in perception logic because the printing cost is not relevant to the market perception of a paperback versus an ebook. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that some people even value an ebook as higher value than a paperback because they can take their data with them on a personal notebook computer, whereas it’s hard to travel with a pile of paperback books.'”
Glatzer points out that whether a piece is written in print or ebook format, it is the same amount of work for the writer. “Of course, ebooks have a smaller market, so the problem is that if the ebook is priced very low, it won’t be worth it for the writer to spend the time writing and promoting the book.”
If it is worth it, however, ebooks provide many benefits to those who download them: The readers aren’t taxed, don’t incur shipping costs and don’t need gas money to go to the bookstore. As soon as people buy your ebook, they instantly download it and have it in their “e-hands.”
Stewart says, “The biggest justification is that the information is immediate. If a customer wants information NOW, they can get it NOW, and they’re often willing to pay the hefty price. My ebook, How to Be a Kick-Butt Publicity Hound, sells for $97. The most I could expect to get for the same book in hardcover is about $25. Another justification for the higher priced ebooks is that live links in the ebooks take visitors directly to Web sites with related content.”
<strong>E-format versus print format</strong>
Research on ebooks indicates people still prefer paper over ebooks. What’s the point of pursuing ebooks and fee-based newsletters? Glatzer shares her experience.
“I’ve written two ebooks and 14 print books, so that shows you where my bread and butter comes from. However, I had my newsletter first. It was thriving, yet I had nothing to sell my readers. I was barely breaking even with advertising costs and often paying hosting fees out of pocket. I’d received so many letters from readers asking for advice about how to do what I had done — make a living writing for magazines — and finally decided to write a book about it. I knew I had a built-in audience among my subscribers. The ebook sold well, but my goal was to take it to print. When a publisher made an offer on it, I took it out of circulation as an e-book and expanded it for the print publisher. That became Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer, and the print book has far outsold the ebook.
“The second was a niche book for greeting card writers and artists. It contained market info for just that field, so it was such a specialized book that I didn’t go after conventional publishers for it. Plus, the time factor was crucial: contact info changes so often that I wanted to get the book out ASAP, and I wanted to be able to update it when needed. I briefly had it out as a print-on-demand book, but I took it off the market as soon as it became dated and just continued selling it as an ebook.
“Since then, I’ve stuck to conventional publishing and just a few giveaway ebooks for publicity. But I think the market for ebooks is decent if you have a specialized topic and a built-in audience.”
Based on Glatzer’s experience, when you have a free newsletter, you already have an audience … unless you try to sell a book on home makeovers to your audience that subscribes to your pets newsletter!
Ebooks have an advantage over print in that their content is up-to-date and piping hot. If something changes, it’s quick and easy to modify the ebook and put the new version up for sale. The publishing process for printed books can be a lengthy one.
Time can impact content depending on the topic. Some industries such as sports and history have experienced little or no change in over a decade, while others like technology are moving at megahertz speed.
By the time an author of a book related to software writes it, and the publisher prints it, a new version of the software is available, rendering the brand-new book outdated. However, many users don’t upgrade every version, as this stings the cash flow. Often, tips and steps given in books covering earlier versions of software are applicable to the newer version.
Knight suggests selling in both formats (print and ebook); that way all your bases are covered and you reach more channels for the same product.
<strong>eContent = lower quality?</strong>
M.J. Rose, Wired columnist and author of both print and electronic books, has commented that people thought she wasn’t a real author when she published her ebook. For some, ebooks are “bottom-feeders” in the world of publishing. They see such content as lower quality and without prestige.
I have a folder of all the books I’ve collected through reviewer duties and as free downloads. I haven’t read 10 percent of them. However, it could be a different story when you pay for an ebook. Knowing that you bought the book might force you to read it. But then again, I have shelves of printed books that I have yet to read.
Why would I want to buy ebooks and let them rot on my hard drive where I naturally save them after downloading them? Same reason for printed books? I don’t think so, because you can see and touch them. It’s easier to scan printed pages than to scroll electronic books.
Most of the fee-based newsletters I’ve seen have a free newsletter distributed by the same people. Organizations use the free newsletter to entice readers into subscribing to the fee-based newsletter. Like Glatzer says, you’re establishing credibility with your audience through the free newsletter, and when they see another offering from you, they might jump at it. Glatzer publishes Absolute Write, free Absolute Markets and Absolute Markets Premium Edition newsletters. Free Absolute Markets comes out every other week and the premium edition comes out in between those issues.
Glatzer explains the difference between the free and premium editions. The free markets contains a small sampling, about 10 markets covering mainly magazine-related work plus contest listings or an article in alternating issues. The premium edition has many jobs and lists markets for various types of writing including international markets. It also includes interviews with magazine editors and an in-depth look at a high profile magazine on a monthly basis. She also lists calls for writers from editors who know her and those calls won’t be found anywhere else online.
Glatzer decided to offer the fee-based newsletter because there wasn’t anything like the Absolute Markets Premium Edition with its 50 pages of markets. She believed that a $15 fee for a yearly subscription more than pays itself if writers land one assignment from the newsletter’s resources. Furthermore, it saves the writers’ time spent searching for job listings. In determining what to charge, Glatzer and her colleagues researched what publishers charged for similar newsletters in other fields such as casting calls for actors.
In determining how much to charge for her fee-based newsletter, Stewart asked herself, “How much would I be willing to pay?” The Publicity Hound, her eight-paged, bi-monthly, fee-based subscription newsletter costs $9 per issue or $49.95 for a one-year subscription (six issues) and has more single-copy buyers than subscribers.
<strong>Selling ebooks and fee-based newsletters</strong>
If you decide to sell ebooks and newsletters for a fee, Glatzer recommends getting lots of reviews and interviews for ebooks. For newsletters, she says, “I think you need to establish credibility by offering free samples first. Make it easy for people to subscribe by offering multiple payment options.”
Joan Stewart promotes articles in the fee-based newsletter in almost every issue of the free ezine. She also uses auto responder messages for people who buy single copies. About a week after the purchase, they receive a message thanking them for their order and asking if they would like to subscribe. Stewart shares her list of what works and what doesn’t work when selling ebooks and fee-based newsletters:
<li>The product must be content-rich.</li>
<li>It must include lots of links to other resources.</li>
<li>Even if it includes hotlinks to other products, it must cover topics that readers would be interested in.</li>
<li>The product must be top-quality, which means free of typos, and it must be easy to read. (16-point type for ebooks.) </li>
<b>What doesn’t work</b>:
<li> Information that’s outdated. Special reports and ebooks must be updated at least once a year. I have a special report called “Fly High with Publicity in In-flight Magazines.” It includes contact info for 30 in-flight magazines. It’s a real pain to update this annually, but readers will jump down my throat if I don’t.</li>
<li> Products that are little more than sales pitches for other things the author sells (consulting services, etc.).</li>
<li>Products that don’t promise what they deliver.</li>
<li>Lousy customer service. Buyers expect a human being to reply to their email messages or answer the phone if they have problems downloading the product, or other concerns. I have bought ebooks from some well-known Internet marketers who refuse to return my phone calls when I call them for help. I no longer buy from those people. </li>
Steer clear of joining discussion groups solely for spamming the list about your ebook or newsletters. “It irritates the heck out of people,” Glatzer says.
She promotes her fee-based newsletter through advertising in other writing-related ezines and some paid Google ads; she also advertises it in her own free newsletters, and she sponsors writing contests and conferences in exchange for newsletter mentions. Glatzer says, “We do a lot of promotion for the site and all newsletters in general; people subscribe to our free newsletters for a while, so they can determine we’re worth the bucks!”
Fee-based newsletters are out there and won’t go away soon. Authors churn out ebooks every day in spite of data supporting that people heavily prefer print over electronic versions. Ebooks prices continue to equal or surpass printed books.
Knight ends the discussion. “The best will survive and rise to the top as they always naturally do, while those who don’t step up to the plate and innovate like mad will get left in the digital dust.” Amen.
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Why Write an eBook?
It’s not true that everything that has been said has already been written. Since that unfortunate axiom came into use, the whole universe has changed. Technology has changed, ideas have changed, and the mindsets of entire nations have changed.
The fact is that this is the perfect time to write an ebook. What the publishing industry needs are people who can tap into the world as it is today – innovative thinkers who can make the leap into the new millennium and figure out how to solve old problems in a new way. Ebooks are a new and powerful tool for original thinkers with fresh ideas to disseminate information to the millions of people who are struggling to figure out how to do a plethora of different things.
Let’s say you already have a brilliant idea, and the knowledge to back it up that will enable you to write an exceptional ebook. You may be sitting at your computer staring at a blank screen wondering, “Why? Why should I go through all the trouble of writing my ebook when it’s so impossible to get anything published these days?
Well, let me assure you that publishing an ebook is entirely different than publishing a book in print. Let’s look at the specifics of how the print and cyber publishing industry differ, and the many reasons why you should take the plunge and get your fingers tapping across those keyboards!
Submitting a print book to conventional publishing houses or to agents is similar to wearing a hair shirt 24/7. No matter how good your book actually is, or how many critique services and mentor writers have told you that “you’ve got what it takes,” your submitted manuscript keeps coming back to you as if it is a boomerang instead of a valuable mine of information.
Perhaps, in desperation, you’ve checked out self-publishing and found out just how expensive a venture it can be. Most “vanity presses” require minimal print runs of at least 500 copies, and even that amount will cost you thousands of dollars. Some presses’ minimal run starts at 1,000 to 2,000 copies. And that’s just for the printing and binding. Add in distribution, shipping, and promotional costs and – well, you do the math. Even if you wanted to go this route, you may not have that kind of money to risk.
Let’s say you already have an Internet business with a quality website and a quality product. An ebook is one of the most powerful ways to promote your business while educating people with the knowledge you already possess as a business owner of a specific product or service.
For example, let’s say that you’ve spent the last twenty-five years growing and training bonsai trees, and now you’re ready to share your knowledge and experience. An ebook is the perfect way to reach the largest audience of bonsai enthusiasts.
Ebooks will not only promote your business – they will help you make a name for yourself and your company, and establish you as an expert in your field. You may even find that you have enough to say to warrant a series of ebooks. Specific businesses are complicated and often require the different aspects to be divided in order for the reader to get the full story.
Perhaps your goals are more finely tuned in terms of the ebook scene. You may want to build a whole business around writing and publishing ebooks. Essentially, you want to start an e-business. You are thinking of setting up a website to promote and market your ebooks. Maybe you’re even thinking of producing an ezine.
One of the most prevalent reasons people read ebooks is to find information about how to turn their Internet businesses into a profit-making machine. And these people are looking to the writers of ebooks to provide them with new ideas and strategies because writers of ebooks are usually people who understand the new cyberspace world we now live in. Ebook writers are experts in Internet marketing campaigns and the strategies of promoting and distributing ebooks. The cyberspace community needs its ebooks to be successful so that more and more ebooks will be written.
You may want to create affiliate programs that will also market your ebook. Affiliates can be people or businesses worldwide that will all be working to sell your ebooks. Think about this? Do you see a formula for success here?
Figure out what your subject matter is, and then narrow it down. Your goal is to aim for specificity. Research what’s out there already, and try to find a void that your ebook might fill.
What about an ebook about a wedding cake business? Or an ebook about caring for elderly pets? How about the fine points of collecting ancient pottery?
You don’t have to have three masters degrees to write about your subject. People need advice that is easy to read and easily understood. Parents need advice for dealing with their teenagers. College students need to learn good study skills – quickly. The possibilities are endless.
After you’ve writtten your ebook
Getting your ebook out is going to be your focus once you’ve finished writing it, just as it is with print books. People will hesitate to buy any book from an author they’ve never heard of. Wouldn’t you?
The answer is simple: give it away! You will see profits in the form of promoting your own business and getting your name out. You will find affiliates who will ask you to place their links within your ebook, and these affiliates will in turn go out and make your name known. Almost every single famous ebook author has started out this way.
Another powerful tool to attract people to your ebook is to make it interactive. Invent something for them to do within the book rather than just producing pages that contain static text. Let your readers fill out questionnaires, forms, even crossword puzzles geared to testing their knowledge on a particular subject. Have your readers hit a link that will allow them to recommend your book to their friends and associates. Or include an actual order form so at the end of their reading journey, they can eagerly buy your product.
When people interact with books, they become a part of the world of that book. The fact is just as true for books in print as it is for ebooks.
That’s why ebooks are so essential. Not only do they provide a forum for people to learn and make sense of their own thoughts, but they can also serve to promote your business at the same time.
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Network Marketing Home Business
Many people that think operating a business from home is glamorous, exciting, and filled with freedoms that you can never experience if you work for someone else. Without the obligations that come from reporting to an employer everyday and they then think the money is easily acquired. This article will look at both the positives and negatives of owning a home-based business.
An important part of working from home is letting others know you have a business and this is done through networking. Network marketing is not always easy for everyone. There are individuals who are very natural at talking with others and find it quite easy to be in a room full of strangers and talk about what they have to offer. Then there are those terrified of the idea of network marketing and would prefer to stay home and pay someone else to do this portion of the business for them. Network marketing does not have to be a horrible experience for you and you do not have to have a panic attack at the thought of attending one. When you prepare for network marketing and do not go in with your eyes closed, you will find that it will make an enormous difference in the productivity of your business. Network marketing can be beneficial in building a plethora of resources and contacts that you can have at your fingertips to propel your business forward.
Decide in advance how many people you want to talk to and do just that. If it is your first time, you may only want to talk to three people. Although once you are there, you will probably find yourself relaxing and notice that you came home with more than three contacts. Do not forget the business cards of the people you meet. In the excitement, you may forget their names. It is a good idea to jot down some relevant information on the back of the card to help you remember why or why not you like that particular contact.
In order for your home business to be successful, you have to make your presence known. You can do this through advertising and word-of-mouth. However, staying inside your protective home and never letting anyone know whom you are will not generate many clients or bring an increase in your profits. Go out, have coffee, and talk to others about your services. Walk into businesses that you think will profit from your services and let them know what you have to offer. If you have children in school, you can offer your services to the PTA or other groups that your child may be involved. Do not discount your sphere of influences because it is from this circle that your business will grow.
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