Creating a viral ebook does not need to be a complex or difficult project. In fact, if you already have written material, it can be a very quick and easy task to do.
Let’s start out defining what a viral ebook is and what needs to be included. A viral ebook is usually a PDF file containing enough valuable content that people want to pass it on to others. Most of the time, it also contains a marketing message that inspires people to come to your website and take some action, such as signing up for your mailing list, or buying one or more of your products. This marketing message isn’t as important when your only goal is to get your message out there, but when you want to accomplish more, then this marketing message becomes more important.
In short, a viral ebook is a package that includes both content and marketing, and is presented in a way that people want to pass it on to others.
What Viral Ebooks Can Do For You
Viral ebooks accomplish several things for you. First, they introduce you to a larger audience. Many times, your name and your message will reach far across the Internet in places you never could have found on your own. When you consider the cost of advertising, this is an incredible result, sometimes worth millions.
The second thing viral ebooks do for you is they help to establish your credibility and expertise. When people have a chance to try out some of your material, and get a feel for your style and the quality of your ideas, they are much more likely to trust you and respect your suggestions. Of course, this depends on the quality of your information and the way you present it. If people can’t understand you, or if your ideas don’t work, then viral ebooks will just speed up the process of people finding out. Luckily, if this were the case, the viral ebook wouldn’t be passed around as much, and the damage would be limited to the few who actually read it. In effect, there is a tremendous upside, and not much downside to this.
Another thing viral ebooks do for you is that they can be a great way to promote partners without cluttering up your website. You’ve most likely seen websites that have banners all over the place, making it very hard to find what you’re looking for. Other websites have so many articles that you can spend all day reading without ever discovering what the website sells. (Guess what this does to the sales on that site?)
In my own experience, having too much content on a website can completely kill sales on that site. After several rounds of tests, I eventually concluded that a sales site cannot have any content that does not persuade a potential customer to make a purchase. Content sites are great for attracting lots of visitors, at which point you can sell advertising. Otherwise, it’s not a good idea to put a lot of content on a website where you want to sell products (or services). The only exception to this rule is a site that offers product reviews, which eventually lead the visitor to make a purchase elsewhere, such as through an affiliate program which pays you a commission on sales resulting from your referrals.
In fact, viral ebooks can help you make money without ever having a website of your own. You just need to know where to upload them and get the process started.
What to put in a viral ebook
Okay, so now we know some of what viral ebooks can do for you. Let’s take a look at what needs to be included.
Obviously, you need to include enough valuable content so people will pass it on to others. How much content do you need? Not much, actually. 10-15 pages can be enough if the information is well presented and demonstrates an idea that can be put to immediate use. One of the basic principles here is that a successful viral ebook has enough valuable content that people would be willing to pay money to get it.
How much is too much content? This depends a great deal on what you intend to accomplish with your viral ebook. If all you care about is getting your message out there or establishing your reputation as an expert, then include everything as long as the reader will not be confused by the sheer quantity of material or the way it’s presented.
Finding the dividing line between enough content and too much content can be as much an art as it is a science. If your intention is to have readers of your viral ebook come back to your website and either join your mailing list or buy your products, then the reader must finish the ebook with the feeling that you have more to offer them. In short, you give them enough to whet their appetite, but not enough to satiate their hunger. There are 2 main ways to do this.
One way is aptly described as, “tell them WHAT to do, but not HOW to do it”. With this approach, you may tell your readers that they need to make a closer connection to their spiritual source of inspiration, and that once they make that connection, many new ideas will come to solve whatever problem they may face. However, the book never tells how to make that connection, which is reserved for those who purchase your paid product.
The other major formula is to give them both the WHAT and the HOW for one small task, but direct them to your paid products for solutions to the other pieces of the puzzle. With this approach, you may explain how to find the limiting beliefs behind a specific issue, explaining both the importance of doing so as well as the processes for doing so, but direct them to your paid products to find the information regarding how to change those beliefs.
There’s a 3rd approach too. You can give away an overview of everything, and sell the details. This is the approach I tend to use most often.
Either way, you present some good information, but you hold something back.
How do you determine what content to include? A number of Internet Marketers teach that you want to give away your BEST material, and there are some logical reasons for doing this. First, your perception of what your best stuff is and what your audience sees as your best stuff doesn’t always match. For a long time, I considered the idea of “Master Beliefs” to be my best stuff, since I understood the power they represent. However, many of my readers couldn’t fathom how to make use of this concept, and while they understood it had power, they were more interested in the practical processes for changing beliefs.
Along a similar line, if you give away your high-level content, most of your readers won’t be ready to use it, and will be more interested in your beginner’s guides. In this, it’s kind of like a young boy who watches a master martial artist doing extremely complex kicks and flips. He’s not ready to learn those moves, but he becomes motivated to start learning the basics. You may know people who were motivated to learn yoga the same way, by seeing a master doing complex postures.
Another reason for giving away your best material is because your readers will see it and think, “WOW! If they’re giving this stuff away for free, the stuff they sell must be FANTASTIC!” For a long time, I wondered how I could give away my best stuff and still impress those who purchased my paid products. Eban Pagan finally explained the concept to me when he pointed out that the paid content should go into more depth on all of your material, and what will impress your customers will be the depth in which you cover the ideas, not just the ideas themselves.
Okay, now that you have an idea of what content to include, what else goes into a viral ebook? Remember the basic formula — content + marketing. You want to include a marketing message that will get readers back to your website. This can be an offer for a special bonus, a description of what you sell on your site, or it could be an overview of what they will find on your site, such as articles, blog postings, or resources. Including a resource section in your viral ebook (for websites and products related to the topic of the ebook) can be a great way to promote multiple things in a single ebook. You have to make sure that each resource is described persuasively so people want to go check them out.
Some authors include full sales letters in viral ebooks. This can be good when the sales letter is written in a non-pushy style, like the rest of your content, or like a news story. This is how I like to write my sales letters anyways, and this style can be quite effective. The more your sales piece is seen as content, the more of a response you’ll get when using it in a viral ebook. Of course, magazines and newspapers continue to sell ad space, so even blatant advertising in a viral ebook can produce some results.
Many authors will include an “About the Author” page in their viral ebooks. This accomplishes a few things. First, it makes sure that everyone reading that ebook sees your name, photo, and a list of credentials. This builds your reputation in the public eye. Second, this page can serve as a resource for more information. Readers know that if they like the viral ebook, they’ll probably like the author’s other material, and will use this page to find more. Even without a sales piece, the author page can lead people to buy more of your stuff if they like the content in the ebook. A third thing you can do with this page is to give some of your background story, and build a relationship with your readers. Many people want to know personal details about their favorite authors, and while this may not help sell your products directly, it can help to attract loyal readers.
So far, we have covered what content to put in a viral ebook, the marketing message, and the author page. One more thing needs to be included. Some motivation for the reader to pass it on to others. Good content by itself will encourage some readers to pass on your ebook, but there needs to be greater incentives to get more people passing it around.
LOTS of people are motivated by money, and if passing out your ebook can earn money for your readers, many of them will jump on the opportunity. There are 2 basic ways to help your readers earn money from distributing your ebook.
The first way is to put a price on the ebook and let those who buy it become resellers. This way, a reader of the book knows that they can sell the ebook for the same price they paid for it and not only make back the money they spent for it, but can make a lot more. The disadvantage to this method is that unless you’re already known in the marketplace, many people won’t buy your ebook because they don’t know who you are. Obviously, this can be overcome to some degree by a good sales letter, but isn’t the best way to release your first viral ebook. (Note, this is a mistake I made with my ebook, “Keys To Power Prosperity”. I should have released a free ebook first, then followed up with a paid “resale rights” ebook.)
The 2nd way to allow your readers to earn money by distributing your ebook is to have an affiliate program where you pay commissions to people who refer sales to you. (If you don’t know what this is, there’s plenty of information online to explain it to you, and I’ll cover it later.) When you have a 2-tier affiliate program, you can attract even more people who will help you distribute your ebook, even if they don’t understand the value of what you have to offer. The reason why having an affiliate program motivates people to distribute your ebook is because your ebook can be “branded” with your affiliate’s codes, and sales can be tracked back to which version of the ebook (and which affiliate gave it away) so you can pay a commission (a percentage of the sale) to the responsible affiliate.
Obviously, there are some technical details related to setting up an affiliate program and branding a viral ebook for your affiliates. We will cover those details later when I go over the technical aspects of setting up your online business.
Money isn’t the only reason people will pass out your viral ebook. Some will do it simply because they like you, or like your message. To encourage more of these people to pass along your viral ebook, you’ll want to mention it. At the end of your content, just tell the reader that you depend on people passing around the ebook and they can do their part to improve the world by giving the ebook away to at least 3 other people. By asking folks to pass it on, you’ll get a wider distribution than if you just leave it up to their own inclinations.
Some people like the “chain letter” concept, where your ebook tells people that their wish will be granted if they pass it on to 10 others. Personally, I don’t like this concept, but I felt I should mention it for completeness.
Tips On Organizing Your Content
A viral ebook can be put together in a day if you already have appropriate content to use. This content could come from one or more of your paid products (such as a book), or it could come from a collection of articles you’ve written. In fact, it can come from articles written by other people as long as you have their permission to publish them. (Hint: most articles listed on article directory sites include permission to publish in a wide variety of formats. You just have to include the authors “resource box” at the end of the article, which gives them credit for the article and helps them promote themselves to a wider audience. You’ll find many of my articles in various article directory site for exactly this reason.)
Because my current viral ebook project is meant to help promote my current partners, I will choose to use articles they’ve written that match the overall theme of the viral ebook. (Viral ebooks are best when they have a theme. You really don’t want to package a bunch of random content and call it an ebook.) I’ll also include one or two of my own articles to get some of the exposure as well.
If you’re creating new content for a viral ebook, approach it like any other writing project. Start with a single declaration of what you want the ebook to communicate. What is the central message that will motivate a potential reader to download and read the ebook. What core message will readers want to share with others? This declaration will be the seed to be grown into a full-fledged ebook.
Once you have a central message, create a short outline of what topics will be covered. Start with the top level of your outline, and define 3-5 main sections of your ebook. By approaching the outline process this way, your ebook will be highly organized and your readers will understand exactly what you are communicating. Once you have the top leve of your outline, break each of the main sections into 3-5 smaller sections, and continue until you have enough detail to fill 10-50 pages.
Producing A Winning Ebook
From here, just start writing. Take one point from your outline and write what you know about it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just get it down. You’ll edit later. The main thing is to get your information down. Presentation style will be developed during editing. Here’s another lesson I learned the hard way. I spent nearly a year writing Choose To Believe, trying my best to get the presentation style as perfect as I could as I was wriring it. Didn’t matter. Once I recruited editing help, we found that there were a LOT of improvements that could be made on each and every page – and practically every paragraph. I don’t think about editing any more when writing a first draft.
Write about each of your outline points, and save the introduction for last. In your introduction, you want to be able to tell the reader what they can expect in the rest of the ebook. You won’t really know what that is until you’ve written the rest of the ebook, so you need to save this for last.
Once you have all your points written, put it aside for at least a day. Get some distance from it, so when you come back to it, you can see it with fresh eyes. When you come back to it, read through and make notes about things like missing details, topics out of order, and other block-level things. When you’re done reading through, go back and correct the problems you noticed. Now, read through it again and see if it works better this time. If it seems good, put it aside for another day.
When you come back to it this time, read through and notice the style changes you want to make. Can you make improvements to the way ideas are presented? Can you remove any chance the reader could misunderstand the message you’re communicating? Don’t worry about whether your writing is entertaining or not. Just make sure the message is clear. You can go back through another time later for finer-level style changes.
At some point, you’re going to feel you have perfected your ebook. Now, let someone else read it and give you feedback on how it reads for them. Get a professional editor if you can, one who won’t try to change your style, but will focus on clarity and meaning. You really want to put your best foot forward and make a great first impression. At this point, hire a graphic artist to create a cover graphic for your ebook. Cover graphics will motivate many more people to download your ebook, so it’s highly productive to spend $50 or even $100 to get a quality graphic created for your ebook.
While you’re getting feedback from others, this is also a good time to create your author page and the marketing message that will go into the ebook. We’ll cover how to write a compelling marketing message later, but for now, knowing what to do is good enough.
With content written and edited, an attractive and informative author page, and a compelling marketing message, it’s time to compile it all into a PDF ebook. For this, you can use a variety of tools, but my favorite is OpenOffice software, which is a free alternative to Microsoft’s office suite. The OpenOffice word processor has some wonderful features that make compiling an ebook very easy, including built-in PDF export.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you want the final ebook to look professional. Most ebooks use a standard letter sized paper format, although some use a more traditional book-sized layout. Personally, I started off using letter sized layouts, but now use book sized layouts. It makes it look more like a book, and if I decide to create an actual book, all I have to do is upload it to Lulu.com and order the printed copies.
At this stage of my postings, going into the details of how to do a professional layout is just too much detail. If necessary, I’ll cover that later. For now, there are plenty of good examples on any bookshelf, and there are scores of books on how to do book layouts. It’s also beyond the scope of this quick posting to go into the technical details of setting up an affiliate program and making your viral ebook ‘brandable’ to motivate others to distribute it for you. There are good sources of information on this, particularly from www.ViralPDF.com, which is where I get my software to create brandable viral ebooks.
Distributing Viral Ebooks
By their very nature, viral ebooks encourage distribution by others. Once you get it in the hands of interested readers, they will take care of the rest as long as you’ve done a good job creating it.
You can post a viral ebook to forums that allow such uploads. You can email it to your friends and family. You can send it to your affiliates and partners. There are “free downloads” sites where you can submit your viral ebook. You could create a peer-to-peer “torrent” to appeal to those using such networks to share files. You can create a page on your website offering the ebook to anyone wanting to download it. You can use it as a subscriber gift to encourage people to sign up for yoru mailing list. You can offer it as a bonus for your other products. You can let others offer it as a bonus to their products. You can submit it for use in a wide variety of free giveaway events. There are a HUGE number of possibilities for getting your viral ebook out there and to your readers.