Episode 23 – Writing Ebooks with Brian G. Johnson

Brian dropped additional nuggets of sales and marketing goodness in the EXTENDED Interview. Be sure to click here to access all of our great extended interviews, transcripts and more within our Insider's Club.

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My name is Brian G. Johnson and for more than a decade now I have been making money online by leveraging a number of programs and systems that have allowed me to quit my day job as a professional chef.

Ever since I could remember, I have been driven to do my own thing. That is, to work for myself and to not be required to answer to a boss. Thanks to Internet marketing that came true in October of 2003 when I was able go full time online. The driving force that motivates me more than anything else is freedom rather than money and that, I am guessing, is why you’re here reading this bio.

Podcast Transcription

Brian Basilico: Welcome, everybody to the Bacon Podcast and I am beyond super pumped because I've got this incredible guest for you guys today. His name is Brian G. Johnson and he is the author of an upcoming book and if you're listening to this after February, then it's a book that you have to go get. I've got an advanced copy, it rocks. He is not only the author of the Trust Funnel, but he is a purveyor of Pixiedust.

How are you doing today, Brian?

Brian G. Johnson: Yes, baby. I am doing good. I am excited, I love what I do and I think that we can share some real ideas, Brian, that will help people move forward. I'm stoked, man.

Brian B: Well, I'm as pumped as you are. Man, thanks for joining us today. Let's start out by finding about who you are and tell us about how you went from being a catering manager for General Mills in 2002 to becoming an online mogul.

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Brian J: Here is the thing, Brian. I was actually a chef and I was a chef for about 18 years. I worked at hotels, country clubs, I did work at General Mills, I was in charge of the catering department and before that, I had a dream. I dreamed of having impact; I dreamed of doing something that truly matter; I dreamed of living an exciting light and quite honestly what grabbed my attention was this thought of working for yourself. I can remember being a young child in grade school, sitting in school and I heard about all these things I could d like I could be a doctor, “Well, I don't really want my hands in somebody's stomach, so no.” I thought, “Well, I could be an attorney.” And I thought, “Well, I don't want to wear a suit and tie.” Then I heard about again, working for yourself and I thought, “I want to make my own rules, I want to live that exciting epic life.” That just lead me down this path of failure; and failure, and it was all around entrepreneurship.

I tried the MLM, I tried the different systems, and I sold the soap and the pills and the potions through network marketing companies and what happened in 1999? I heard about the internet. I just knew it was going to change the game, and I started kind of playing around. I played around and I wasn't really serious for a year or two, and by the time I got to 2002, I got serious, and I just had this epiphany. I'm like, “This internet thing is coming on hard. It's gaining traction.” And this is back in 2002. Look at it now. I just knew it was going to be pivotal. I just slowed down, and I said, “Do it. Get serious. Figure it out because you can live that life that you dreamed about when you're a child.” And I focused on SEO, I focused on affiliate programs, and I made it happen, baby. I started driving crazy traffic, and once I learned SEO, I started going commercial, and I started launching websites, and selling posters, and cooking utensils and all kinds of products. That's how I escaped the day job 12 years ago – a long time.

Brian B: Yes. I always say that I think this inter-web thing is going to stick around a little while.

So one of the things that you're really big into now is ebooks. Not everybody understands what an ebook is. Can you explain what an ebook is?

Brian J: Yes. And ebook is literally just a very simple digital file that anyone can download and it allows them to read. They can read an ebook on a device like a Kindle. You might consider a PDF file to be an ebook. You could open up a PDF again on an iPad, or maybe on a browser, on your computer and you could read a book that someone else had written and what's really awesome is that not only can you sell these things, and you can distribute them, and you can use these ebooks for a number of different ways. But ultimately you can make money and Amazon happens to sell a whole kagillion of them all the time.

I kind of took it upon myself to really try to figure out how Amazon was selling these books into not so much think about the ebook, but think about the kind of ebooks that were selling in Amazon and how I could leverage that, because what I'm always interested in, Brian, again, when I got started with ebooks, it wasn't so much about, “I want to be an author.” It's, “I want to drive traffic” so I can convert that traffic and make money. If people are looking for books, it's already a product and that's what lead me down the path of ebooks.

Brian B: Totally cool. Writing an ebook – I do a blog, I never thought of myself as a writer, I never even thought of myself as an author until I finally did one like you. It's a process, but why should we be writing ebooks? What does that do for us in our business? How does that work?

Brian J: First off, let's stop and analyze what we really want. What do we want? Let's start there. For me the answer is pretty simple. I want money and in order to get money, there's really two core critical things I need to do. I need to drive traffic and I need to convert that into an action. Now, if that's the case, I'm always trying to figure out about once a year how I'm going to continue to drive traffic and convert it. About two or three years ago, I just said, “This is the year that I'm going to learn Kindle and Kindle marketing so I can move forward and take advantage of Amazon.”

Because Amazon, their whole job is to sell products and ebooks sell at a rate that's ridiculous. I knew if I could publish, not only could I just publish to Amazon, but I could rank in Google because if you search for “smoothie recipes for weight loss book,” you'll actually find a book of mine that's made me thousands of dollars. That's a book that took a few weeks to create and I outsourced it. The thing I like about ebooks is that number one, it doesn't have to be hard, it doesn't have to be challenging; number two, we can piggyback off the marketing machine that is Amazon that will allow us to drive traffic – which is critical and convert that traffic into a sale or an action so we can make the money and then live happily ever after.

Brian B: That's awesome. I love that. I guess if you could write an ebook, what do you write an ebook about? I'm into all kinds of things. We're both dog lovers, I love golf, but I'm an online marketer. What would I write an ebook about that people would actually pay for and want to use?

Brian J: Again, this is really a great question and I think the thing where we want to start is we want to think about not ourselves and not what we bring to the table. We'll address that as we move forward, but I always start with, “Who are these people that are buying the books?” Try to figure out what they want and then give it to them. So with that, I might go and I might browse around the Amazon Kindle store and see the books that are selling well and in doing so, I might see that diet books are selling left and right, or health and fitness, or marketing books, or how to use photography – all of these subjects are wildly popular and lots of people buy digital ebooks.

Now, what I do is I look for something that I am knowledgeable about, I look for something that I'm passionate about. So for me, I've got a culinary degree. The idea of creating a book about smoothie recipes is a walk in the park. The good news is that people buy them by the truckload. It's not technically challenging again. That's another thing I always try to do is I want to let people know that I think one of the things that is a stumbling block for people, Brian, is they close themselves off to opportunity because they don't fully look at how they can say yes to an opportunity. If you say, “Hey, Kindle marketing.” Someone might go, “I don't have any desire to write. I'm done.” Instead, think, “How can I do that so I can get the money?”

Now, that's the kind of question I started asking myself and after I started having quite a lot of success with Kindle, I started trying to figure out how to make it really easy for people that are brand new, and this is where I've landed today because I've thought about ebooks for three years now, but in the beginning, I had to figure it out. Again, what I would really encourage people with their marketing endeavors is I'm cool if you don't want to write. I'm cool if you don't want to put yourself on video. I'm cool if you don't want to do a lot of things, but don't say no to good opportunities. Figure out how to say yes especially if you're trying to get the money and there's a lot of good money in self publishing.

Brian B: Awesome stuff, Brian and I got to ask you, we're writing these ebooks, but what are some of the key components that people need to know about in order to make an ebook successful?

Brian J: Really great stuff. One of the things to think about is that in ebook, it's really just one piece of the marketing puzzle and you can use an ebook to link to a website. You can use an ebook to build your list. You can use an ebook to make an affiliate sale, to make your own sale for your own product, or maybe to drive a lead for a realtor business, or maybe you've got a site about health and fitness. If you're struggling to get traffic, well, you can rank on Google all day long and you can funnel all that in, you can link it to your website to build your list, to build your brand and to really take things to the next level and allow yourself to build momentum and to truly a marketing machine.

First off is to make sure you're publishing in a demographic where there are lots of buyers like I just talked about. You can identify those groups by just going into the Amazon Kindle's store and looking at the categories and identifying the categories. They have a lot of best-selling books. Right? If we look at the Amazon bestseller's rank, anything below 15,000 is really good and that's great indication that those books are selling. That's step one, so the first thing I do is I make sure there's buyers before a single word is written, before a single cent is spent on a cover, or maybe I'm going to pay someone to write content. I make sure that there are buyers.

Now once I've done that, I go on to step two and I create a title for the book based on what people are searching for in that subject. Let me give you an example. Let's say I identify that people are really interested in health and weight loss. I see there's a lot of books that are selling on health and weight loss, now I need to narrow it down and come up with a specific title. I search through the different books in this category and I might see a few books about smoothies. And I think, “Huh, I've seen a couple of books already about smoothies, maybe I'll create my own smoothie book.” So then what I do is I simply pay attention to the keywords people are searching in Amazon and I create a title based on keywords that are most popular. Literally, you can go to the Amazon search bar, you can select “Kindle books” and you can put in the primary keyword that you think you might want to create a book about, and then Amazon will give you lots of great suggestion. Then I always create a title for my book around a primary keyword phrase. That's step two.

But what I'm doing is that really, I'm identifying again what the market wants. I've already identified a general group of buyers, now I'm going to take it down to the next level and I'm going to create a title based on what they're already searching for. That's step two. Now step three is the cover. Once they lay on the page, just by following steps one and two, I'm probably already driving more traffic than most authors because I'm paying attention to demographics, I'm paying attention to keywords and in step three I'm going to create a cover that looks really professional. What I've come to learn, Brian, is that I shouldn't create a cover at all. It's just not the best use of my time. I can go to Fiverr and hire maybe two or three different people and pay them each $5 and get three different book covers, and I can get a great professional cover, I'll spend $15 – so not spending a ton of money and then I've got a cover that looks great.

Now I want to give the listeners a few tips on a great cover. Number one, create a single cover. Do not use a white background for your cover because the Amazon website background is white. If you create a white cover, the book goes away. Focus on the keywords that you're going to use in your title. If you're going to create a smoothie book like I did, make sure that the phrase “smoothie recipes” is in big text if that's what you're going to target. If you're going to create a book about building six-pack abs, then I would really focus on six-pack abs in the cover. The wordage, it should be bold, it should be easy to read and so on.

Furthermore, create and design a cover that is simple. Don't try to jam too much on there. Don't have multiple pictures, different fonts – have contrasting colors. A light background and dark text, or dark background and light text. Now if you do these things, you're going to come up with a great cover and you can give specific information to the designers that you hire at Fiverr, and you're going to outsource it that you can use. That's going to increase your sales because what happens is people are going to be looking for books, they're going to be typing in keywords and then they're going to see a cover that was created, that reflects those keywords. The book is professionally made and all that you've spent so far is maybe $15.

Now step number four is getting great reviews for your book. The thing I want to really stress with everybody is that anytime you provide any sort of compensation for a review of your book, you're breaking the terms of service – and I don't want you to do that because this is such a wonderful opportunity. The last thing you want to do is get started in making money and then Amazon kicks you out. Now, I see a lot of people and they'll all write a review for your book, “If you write a review for my book” and you don't need to do that. Instead, what you can do is you can leverage free download days and if you structure a download in a right kind of way, you can actually get your book downloaded hundreds of times, maybe even thousands of times and then some of those people will come back and review your book without you asking, without you breaking the terms of service.

Now, there's no reason why you can't go on Facebook and say, “Hey, I've got a new book that's coming out and it's going to be free for a few days. I'd love to get some reviews. Thank you for considering that.” You're not really compensating anybody, you're just saying, “Hey, I've got a book. I'm looking for reviews. I'd appreciate if you provided a review for me. Now step five is like how I create books. There's a lot of different methods that I use. There's always new ones coming available – I shared a little bit about childrens books. They're different methods, but step five is generally some of the different methods I use to create books; and the last step is I suggest people focus on Amazon and develop selling books through the Amazon platform first.

One of the things I mentioned, Brian, was that I like to try to keep it simple, I like to focus on what's most important. Unfortunately in internet marketing, we can get mixed up with all there is to do, with all the opportunity and all that means is a whole bunch of stuff to learn. What's sad is it's not all equal. Case and point, you could try to spend time learning how to format for Smashwords, get your book up on iTunes, you could get your books listed on the Nook, you could do this and that, you could get a physical book – my thinking is if you can't make it on Amazon, which is the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to ecommerce, period, you're not going to make it anywhere. And when you sign up on Amazon, you can join a program called KDP Select.

Now when you join KDP Select, you're basically giving them exclusive rights to sell your book for 90 days. In exchange, what they'll do for you is you can use certain promotions. One of the promotions is three days. This is really helpful. You can actually price your book at say $2.99 and then you can give your book away for a five-day period for free. Now what this means is you can go to Facebook, you can email a list, you can tell your friends and family, you can let people know that your book is available for free and people like to bargain. If it's normally $3 or $2.99 and it's free, you're going to get a fair amount of downloads. Again, that can help supercharge the sales in the Amazon Kindle store and the reason is simple, because Amazon just like Google, has an algorithm. And Amazon, their whole focus is to sell stuff. Their algorithm pays attention to what people do on the Amazon site.

I'll tell you, if you follow these six steps, you will publish books that sell. I've actually published three bestselling books, I've had numerous students publish bestselling books, I've generated thousands of dollars, I've done list building because I've mentioned my website, I've gained notoriety for my own brand, people see me, they see the products that I'm coming out with, they might download a book of mine and then they want to know more so they find my website and so on. Again, it's not just so much about being an author, it's about leveraging the opportunity that Amazon is providing and doing it in a way that really takes a look at what do we need to do to make sales and make money.

Brian B: Wow! That's an incredible system, man and that makes so much sense.

Brian, in your estimation, what are some of the most common mistakes you see people making when they're trying to publish ebooks up on Amazon?

Brian J: Imagine doing all the work, creating a great book, publishing and then let's just say you earn $50 a month. You're like, “Okay, I'll do another one.” But imagine if you actually got a couple of covers done, they were professional, they look beautiful and instead of $50, you earned $400 a month. All the highly successful people are just like anybody else, just they have tried harder, longer and they figured it out. The first cover I came out with for my smoothie book was hideous. It was made by my assistant and she like to play around on Photoshop, but our chops were not there. I thought, “I want to hone this to a razor-sharp edge. Let's try some new covers and let's do a KDP promotion behind it.” I was amazed, I launched the same book with a new cover that went by my guidelines that I laid out and my sales went from 200-300 a month, to 500, 600, 700, 900 a month. They tripled. My sales tripled. So make sure you've got a great-looking cover. You can get it done very cheaply.

Brian B: So how do people do that? You write this ebook. How do they drive traffic back to their website?

Brian J: Yes. How do you do it? It's really not that hard and one of the things that I've done in my ebooks is that I'll start off and I'll create a table of contents. If it's realtors, I might have like you're selling a house, or a piece of property, dealing with clients, setting up appointments and then as I'm going through the ebook and addressing these bullet points, and creating the content, once in a while I might say, “By the way, I've got a website that on that website, I've listed an additional article or a video” and I loved it to go to the video because at that point, they've already got text content and they're reading a book, and I might break something technically down. Like “Hey, go to my website and I want to show you exactly how I do this in this video.” Then literally to add a link into an ebook is really very simple. You just take the raw URL, which is the address http:etceteraetcetera, you link to your website and that becomes a hyperlink that someone can access from their ereader device and it will open up your webpage.

Then what I do is I have that video in the article or the article itself, and then in the middle of the article – and this is a great tip – in the middle of the article, I'll have a, “By the way, do you want an extra free awesome thing? If you do, please add your name and email below, and I'll make sure to send you a free course, a free case study, additional training videos.” And this works so well because number one, they're already digging your ebook. They click the link because they're enjoying the content you've created. Now, they're on your website and you're providing more value and by including a call to action in the middle of the article rather than just having like an optin at the top of a sidebar, people are really going to notice it because people don't notice optins and sidebars. It's like off to the side. People are there for the meat, for the content.

So by adding a call to action, by asking people to add their name and email, they'll do just that and they're on your list and you could contact them again and again and this is a powerful way to move forward and get great results that are lasting results.

Brian B: Brian, that was some incredible, incredible content and thank you so much for sharing that. But I also understand that you have a system that helps guide people through these processes with little bit more detail. Can you talk about it?

Brian J: Absolutely. I have a program that really is just lots of these ideas and strategies and I walk people through. You can watch the videos, you can see me doing these steps. It's called Kindle Ritual. I think there's probably like 50 videos walking you through how to structure your book, how to link your book, best practices, how to create the content for your book, different methods, marketing of your book, how to leverage promotions – the whole ball of wax, pretty awesome.

Brian B: Love that. So if people want to get a hold of you, what's the best way to get in touch with you, Brian?

Brian J: Absolutely. They can find lots of great information, Marketingeasystreet.com. So, thanks for the opportunity, Brian. It was a pleasure.

Brian B: Brian, man, this was an awesome, awesome interview. I've been looking forward to this for so long and man, you've got so much great stuff. I really appreciate it, I know my audience is going to appreciate it. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Brian J: Hey, Brian, cheers, baby. Stay golden, pony boy.

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