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Prove It With A Mini-Site

By Bob McElwain
Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Have you ever known something was true? Deep down in your gut where it matters most? Something everybody around you also knows? Have you been there, yet something deep inside just won't buy it? Well, I'm in that fix right now. I have been for years.

Ebook fiction won't sell. I know it's so. And so do most. Likely you do as well. Folks curl up in a chair, sprawl on the couch, lounge in the bath tub, and so forth to read fiction. Hey, this is the way it is! Still ...

You see I love fiction. I love to read it. And I loved writing it for many years. (I even sold a novel, "Fatal Games," Pageant Press, 1989) And I'd love to write another tale. But I don't want to pay the price to print it. With a minimum order of a thousand copies at $4-$5/copy? So maybe an ebook. Maybe.

I've been saying this ever since I first heard ebooks. But I have never tried one. Now I'm going to do it. The risk?

About 40 hours and 40 bucks. I've a dandy tale ready to go. Sure, all may go down the drain. In which case, I'll really know. But there's that outside chance, like the 40-1 long shot in the race, that at least *some* people *will* read fiction in the ebook format.

Next Stop? http//GoTo.Com

I'll hunt up the keyword suggestion tool at http//GoTo.Com. I'll enter some obvious choices. "Male fiction" and "male adventure," for these are the catagories into which the tale fits.

There's no telling how much time this will take, because I've simply got to find keywords actually being entered. Then select from those entered most often the ones that are as close to the above as I can find. This is a critcal step, for there's no point optimizing a page for keywords nobody uses.

Then it's off to Google to enter my keywords there. I'll be looking at counts of pages that come up on each phrase, hoping to find some low. Those with the highest counts at GoTo (Demand), and lowest counts at Google (Supply) will become the set of keywords I'll use.

Building Site Content

Here's where the time may fly. It takes a while to figure what to write about. Topics that work well with the keyword phrases selected. The home page will be the sales presentation, with the major content that blurb you see on the backs of some paperbacks in bookstores. Something to hook the reader into wanting to read the book.

I haven't a fixed idea about actual content. Maybe something of the task of writing in the male adventure genre. Some more about why it is no longer being published. I can't say until I have those keywords.

The object here is to have all pages point directly to male adventure or male fiction, thus creating a small theme site, currently popular with some search engines.

The catch is that it's tough to write an optimized page for the search engines that also works well with visitors. But it's got to happen. And it can take time.

The Launch

I'll upload the pages, double check them, then head for the search engines. Next, I'll get on about serious business, and wait a time. It takes a while these days to get listed.

I may take a crack at the pay-per-click search engines, just to get hits more quickly. But to play this game seriously, you need hard data on hits versus sales.

Something Different

I'm going to use an approach that again is not supposed to work with fiction. However, it works great with How To titles, so I'll give it a try.

I'll let visitors download the book and read the first 50 to 60 pages or so. They will order only if interested in reading the rest of it.

Checking And Testing

With the above, the site purpose becomes very simple: Generate a download of the book. This is a lot easier to achieve than actually closing the sale. Given any hits at all, the effectiveness of the site in getting this job done will be easy to measure.

Of course the bottom line is, 1) Will anybody be interested? And 2), if so, will anybody buy? That last one is going to be a cliff hanger for a time.

What Next?

Given sales, I'll know 1) # of hits to get a download, #2) # of downloads to get a sale. Thus I'll know the value of a hit. Sure, it will be soft data; you can't be sure until counts get into the thousands. But hey, if $100/month seems likely, with upside potential, here's what I'll do.

Launch More Sites

I have five other manuscripts that are equally good. So I'll put them up as described above. If results are equally good, I'll build a central site, still themed, to which the original sites are satelites. Then ...

Watch My Dust

I'll open the site to other quality work, perferably in genres no longer published. There are a lot of people like myself around who have written good tales that never made it into print.

If It Works

I'll be into a site that cost many hundreds of hours to put together, particularly when you add in some scheme for deciding upon new titles to offer and converting them to ebooks. Dollar costs might be more than $4000. But it will be a winner, for I will have demonstrated at every step along the way that there are enough people who will read ebook fiction to make it fly.

An Unwarranted Risk If Built From Scratch

In the paragraph above, I consider a fuzzy view of the future, one that may not come about. But look at the difference in risk of time and dollars. To build the above, then finally accept failure a year out would be a disaster.

But with the minimal risks in putting together that first mini-site, hey, this is going to be fun. I can easily afford a little time and a few bucks. And what if it pays off?

So What About You?

What crazy idea do you have down deep inside that makes people chuckle or laugh every time you bring it up?

However wild it may be, no matter how many scoff at it, risk a little time and a few bucks. You may be able to demonstrate you were right after all. And you'll be on your way to success.

And if it flops? No problem. Just try an even crazier idea. Keep it up, and you'll find gold. Lots of it.


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