Selling Business Ebooks: Aaron Wall reveals his secrets

In his SEO blog SEO expert Aaron Wall gives an in-depth rundown on how to monetize your ebook. He talks about how the label as ebook author might actually hurt him in the long run:

Ebooks, by and large, are perceived to be of low quality because most are of low quality. If that wasn’t bad enough, Google made a blog post essentially voting against ebooks, grouping ebook sites amongst sites that may merit a low quality score. While the strength of my blog and brand means that Google is not likely to ban my business model, their indictment of the ebook field as a whole, and their power over the web, indicate that there is great risk is staying branded as an ebook author/ publisher.

(By quality, I think Wall is referring not to content quality but SEO value according to google’s algorithm).

He noticed that more video has increased ebook sales:

When I first started publishing how to videos to this site my sales doubled. And I thought it was maybe an anomaly. So I tested it again and again. Almost every time I published video content to this site my sales doubled, which is my customers and prospective customers telling me they prefer that content format more than what I was traditionally publishing.

In his article he mentions that 12,000 people bought his $79 PDF ebook off his site (you can do the math). I’ve paid and downloaded the no-DRM ebook; It’s well-organized and well-written and current, but the information is hardly earth-shattering or something you couldn’t find in the blogosphere. But I appreciate the fact that Wall updates the information on a semi-regular basis (old SEO information is useless). Also, Aaron Wall offers a 90 day guarantee which is reassuring to someone on the fence about buying.

(I read the ebook by converting the PDF into mobipocket and reading it on the Cybook. There are minor layout and graphic problems, but for the most part it is perfectly readable).

Business ebooks belong in a totally different category (they are mainly extensions of an established consulting service), but his first-person account is instructive. For example, Wall is pleasantly indifferent to pirated copies available on torrents or outdated editions available for sale in China; he says, “it is hard to put all that transferable knowledge in one book. And I would rather have one great product than many watered down ones.”

Wall has shown that it’s possible for a single individual to handle all the backend stuff of writing something, converting it into an ebook, updating it, creating a promotional site and continuing to deliver value through SEO tools, tutorials and blogposts. For the time being, at least, he’s doing perfectly fine without having to partner with Random House or O’Reilly.

Wall’s book on SEO and Internet marketing seems to undermine Marie Campbell’s contention that ebooks require a lower price point to take off.

Now here’s the $64,000 question: which of his “lessons learned” apply to “plain Jane” nonbusiness ebooks?

5 Comments on Selling Business Ebooks: Aaron Wall reveals his secrets

  1. Thanks for the mention and the great post Robert.

    From my perspective there are 4 pieces to this part

    >(By quality, I think Wall is referring not to content quality but SEO value according to google’s algorithm).

    1.) In internet marketing a lot of the information is garbage. Affiliate marketing ebooks with watered down information and chuck full of affiliate links to upsell you into 50 different products you don’t need. Some merchants even give affiliates ebooks to promote their products, and the ebook is nothing more than a salesletter in disguise.
    2.) Even if some of the ebooks in group 1 contained some amount of basic truth to them, they are rarely updated. As the field becomes more about preselling an experienc, building trust, establishing relationshps, and getting word of mouth coverage, some internet marketing products are still telling you to use blog spam or forum spam or that AdoWords is simple, easy, and free money.
    3.) I put 10,0000+ hours of work into building up my blog, studying the field of SEO, and helping people via email. That allows me to create a sustainable product that keeps selling. Many internet marketing based business models for information products are marketed via hollow hype and don’t have any content to back them up.
    4.) Since it is so easy to clone someone’s look and feel, and because there are few internet marketing websites selling ebooks with a backdrop of useful information, many people sell books on how to do topic x long before they knew how to do topic x and long before they had much experience in topic x. Honestly the first copy of my book was nowhere near as good as it could have been, but I thought it was great back then with the knowledge that I then had.

  2. I almost forgot this last one
    .5) Since the people who share information for free typically have higher perceived value, and since video is often seen as a higher value medium, … the people who leverage those 2 will be able to charge more. Since Google’s ads (and many other types of ad buys and affiliate partnerships) are based on market efficiency, the person with the better business model keeps winning affiliates and exposure at the expense of the thinner sites using more traditional models. And the person charging more gets higher quality customers. Plus look how cheap most books are compared the their quality (as I think this limits how much you can charge for ebooks, at least to some extent). Amazing life-changing books can be bought for $15 on Amazon.com. In that environment it gets hard to charge $500 for an ebook, but you could charge $500 for a video training system.

  3. One effect of ebooks and digitalization might be authors trying to create a “growing book” rather than a new book every few years (especially when its value grows with updates). I’m thinking of Bolles’ What Color is my Parachute, which has a new edition each year –and golly gee, each year’s edition has genuine differences from previous editions (although in the last few years, the editions have not changed as much).

  4. >(although in the last few years, the editions have not changed as much)

    That is the part where the book container / model starts to fall apart when compared to subscription based business models.

  5. I’m a fan of ebooks that are written correctly. I’m not a fan of ebooks that are written just for advertising and promotional purposes.

    As a personal mentor to home business owners and multi-level marketers, I find that the best ebooks are best studied as a group with shared input and feedback. Our group, for example, is currently studying The Master Key System.

    People are getting more out of that because memory retention is better when active discussion takes place!

    Thanks for a great blog!

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