3 Easy Ways to Get Ideas for Nonfiction Ebooks

3 Easy Ways to Get Ideas for Nonfiction Ebooks

I’ve been advising my students to “write short” when it comes to ebooks; this means writing short stories, and short nonfiction ebooks. A short ebook at $2.99 is an easy sale. A longer ebook is a much harder sale at $9.99, especially for a new author.

If you’re wondering how long your short ebooks could be, I suggest around 20 pages. Since the concept of “pages” is meaningless in ebook terms, around 5,000 words – the length of a couple of articles.

Writers have asked how to get lot of ideas for ebooks you can write quickly. We cover that in detail in Sizzling Success from Short Reports and Short Stories, but here are three of my favorite ways.

1. News Websites: Become a News Junkie.

I’m a news junkie. I spend way too much time browsing news websites each day, but it does have a benefit. You learn to spot trends, and see what people are talking about. Once you get into the habit, you can spot dozens of ideas for short ebooks in a few minutes.

You can just browse news stories, or you can enter a broad topic. I used to write a lot about weight loss, so I entered that into the search query field in Google News.

get ideas from news websites

Here’s the key: don’t bother clicking through to the stories. It’s distracting. You just want a broad sense of what’s new today. So, in the above image, you can see “woman says her weight loss photos were stolen.”

Excellent. (Not for the woman, obviously…) You could certainly write a short ebook on weight loss photos: how taking snaps of yourself daily in a weight loss journal is an effective way to stay on track with a weight loss diet, or similar.

Think broadly when you brainstorm. How about a nonfiction ebook on how to look great in wedding or other special-event photos?

2. Amazon: Look at the Top 100 Bestsellers in Nonfiction.

If it’s in Amazon’s Top 100, in any category, it’s selling a LOT. So cast your eyes over what people want to learn more about today: Amazon’s top 100, paid and free.

get ideas from Amazon

Again, don’t bother clicking through: focus on the book’s titles. You just need a kickoff point for your own brainstorming, so you can come up with great ideas.

3. Pinterest: Images Stimulate Your Creative Mind.

I adore Pinterest. It’s an amazing site, particularly if you’re hunting for ideas. Check out the Popular category; that’s what’s trending on Pinterest right now.

get ideas from Pinterest

OK, maybe you don’t want to write about bow ties, or candles, or popsicles. :-) Or maybe you do. Scroll down the page. Let yourself muse about what people need, that you could write about.

There’s always something new on Pinterest. You’re sure to find topics you’d enjoy covering in a nonfiction ebook.

So, there you have it. Three easy ways to get great ideas for nonfiction ebooks. Happy idea hunting. :-)

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, too.

New In Evernote for Mac: Natural Language Search Makes Searching Easy

New In Evernote for Mac: Natural Language Search Makes Searching Easy

Are you an Evernote user? If you use Evernote daily, all day, on all your devices as I do, you’ll love the new Natural Language Search feature.

Natural Language Search is in the latest beta of Evernote: 5.5 for Mac.

Evernote says of this new feature:

Find what you want in the most natural way ever. Search your notes by place (“Tokyo”), file contents (“Documents” or “Images”), date ranges and more. This feature is currently available in English only.

Searches to try:

“created last week”

“notes with PDFs”

“notes from Paris”


If you’ve chosen to download beta releases, and you’re on a Mac, download this latest version now.

To download betas on your Mac, go to Preferences, Software Update and check the “update to beta versions when available” box.

I tried several Natural Language Searches; they’re excellent. They save you time. If you use Evernote to track your work, you can quickly assess how much work you did on a project today, yesterday, last week, or last month.

Easy Natural Language Searches to try.

Evernote search

Track what you did this week

If you know you created a note yesterday, or sometime this week, you can enter “this week” into search. You’re offered notes you created this week. You can also choose what those notes contained: web clippings, documents, specific text, and so on.

Evernote search

Collect today’s notes

I create lots of “tables of content” notes to organize projects, so a “today” search is useful. I can collect all the notes I made for a project, and create a table of contents note, with a few clicks.

Evernote search

Find documents quickly

If you’re using Evernote to organize documents, you can quickly find specific documents you’ve added to Evernote.

Natural Language Search makes Evernote even easier to use than it already is. It’s available now, if you’re a Mac user. Give it a try.

 Writing a book? Try book coaching. Not only will you get your book done more quickly, you’ll also get help with sales and promotion.

, and on Twitter: @angee

Copywriting Hooks: 5 Easy and Fast Ways to Fish for Sales

Copywriting Hooks: 5 Easy and Fast Ways to Fish for Sales

Copywriting hooks are mysterious. They come to you like lightning strikes, usually when you’re engrossed with research.

It’s many years since I read Donald Westlake’s novel The Hook, but I remember the opening scenes. They made me laugh, and I identified with the main character.

Sadly, there’s no Kindle edition of The Hook yet, so forgive me if my memory of the book is faulty. An aside to Westlake’s publisher – why no digital editions? You’d think it a no-brainer. Westlake has many devoted fans, even five years after his death.

Sorry about that, end of digression.

In the opening scenes of The Hook, the protagonist, mid-list author Wayne Prentice, is trying to come up with the hook for his next book. He’s worried, because his books aren’t selling. His only option might be to create yet another name under which to write. Finding the hook for his new book obsesses him.

Those scenes immediately resonated with me, because unless a copywriter can come up with the hook for a project, he’s got nothing. You can list features and benefits until your eyeballs bleed; it’s all useless until you get your hook.

Research is the only way to find a hook. I call it “the click” – the lightning strike from heaven.

Unfortunately, you don’t have the time to do in-depth research for most projects. That’s when you need some tricks you can use to create hooks. Let’s look at five.

1. Piggyback on something in the news.

This can be a brilliant strategy. You can piggyback on anything in the news that’s even vaguely related to your product.

Blockbuster movies are useful, as are the big launches of major products. Several years ago a diet pill was released to much fanfare. If you were selling things in the weight loss area, you could piggyback onto the hype.

A couple of things to watch with news hooks…

News-related copy loses its punch when the news gets old.

Night turns to day, and news becomes old news, faster than you’d think. So never use a news hook for a marketing campaign which will be around for a while.

Consider unintended consequences.

What happens if the movie is a dud? Or the product launch is a disaster? Things can and do go wrong, so be cautious.

2. Intrigue, or arouse curiosity.

“All the world’s gold came from collisions of dead stars, scientists say” – who knew? Almost no one, so I used this weird fact when I wrote copy for a jewelry chain over a decade ago. It worked brilliantly.

I call this the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not hook. Come up with something intriguing, which suits the product, and you’re good to go.

3. Promise an experience.

Steve Jobs did it with the iPad. He called it “magical and revolutionary”:

“iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO.

You can’t do this with every product; but if you can promise an experience, you’ve got your hook.

4. “… (something) or it’s free.”

Domino’s Pizza no longer offers its “30 minutes or it’s free” guarantee, but if you can make an offer like this with your product, it’s a fantastic hook.

Tip: if everyone’s making a free offer, it’s no longer a hook. This happened with ebooks.

Initially, offering an ebook free for a few days was a real sales driver. By mid–2012, it stopped being useful as a hook.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t make “free” work for your product. It just means you’ll need to give “free” a twist. Brainstorm.

5. Investigate Maslow’s pyramid of needs: sex sells.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can inspire all the hooks you’ll ever need.

Look at the physiological needs at the base of the pyramid. They’re all primal needs. An example: FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt; they trade on basic survival needs. That said, I suggest that you steer clear of negativity in your copy. Negativity can hurt you – remember unintended consequences in our first tip, “news”.

Sex is a primal need, so it sells. Brainstorm; you can usually find a way to create a primal-needs hook for a product.

Summing up: you’ve now got five ways to create hooks for your copywriting projects. Nothing beats in-depth research. When you don’t have the luxury to do that, these tricks will help you to create hooks which make sales.

Need help? You can contact me for help with a copywriting project any time.


, and on Twitter: @angee

Blogger Confidential: 5 Secret Strategies for Creating Valuable Content

Strategies for Creating Valuable Content

You’re a blogger. You create content. Every day. Although you enjoy it, you feel as if your inspiration’s squeezing out of you, like the juice from an orange. What happens when there’s no juice left?

Let’s get juiced up, with inspiration infusions, so that you can keep blogging, and creating valuable content for your audience.

1. Mine your depths: stir your subconscious with free writing

When you’re writing, your subconscious mind is much more powerful than your conscious mind. “Ray Bradbury often said that conscious thought is poisonous to the creative process”: when you think too much, you’re juicing the orange down to the pith.

Over-thinking is dangerous. Take five minutes to free write. In free writing, you simply write, without taking your fingers from the keyboard until a timer sounds. Free writing gets rid of surface thoughts, and stirs your subconscious.

Bloggers give up on free writing because they expect publishable content from it. That’s unlikely. While free writing usually produces junk, it stirs your subconscious in the process. Then, inspiration bubbles up, and you’ll soon be creating valuable content.

2. Know your readers: get inspiration from demographics

Your blog’s audience knows what it wants, so it’s your best source of blog content. Create a poll. Ask your blog’s readers about their challenges. Then think about what their intentions are.

While this is useful, you can go beyond this. Demographics can help. What magazines does your audience read? You may have a self-help blog. Your audience reads Oprah.com. Go to Quantcast, and enter “oprah.com” into the search query field.

Check the Demographics in the right sidebar: the audience is 88% female. Then check Lifestyle at the bottom of the sidebar, and you’ll get an overview of what the audience also likes.

Are you inspired by what you just learned? I’ll bet you are – go and create some valuable content.

3. Know your industry: follow the news (and have an opinion)

You’re a blogger. You need to know what’s happening in the industry you’re covering, and beyond. If you’re a self-help blogger, you might check Google News for inspiration.

Today Google News linked to a Guardian article on Malala Yousafzai, who might win the Nobel Peace Prize:

When a Taliban gunman boarded a school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley last year, he shouted out one question. “Who is Malala?”

Google News can provide great hooks for valuable content.

4. Know your values: trust yourself

Sometime, somewhere someone will hate what you created on your blog, and that’s OK. You’re a blogger: a publisher. People will misunderstand what you write, and may even deliberately twist your words to suit an agenda.

Your values are your shield. Think about your values. Write them down.

Buffer has a wonderful slide deck on their culture. Slide 5 reveals 8 Buffer Values, which include: “always choose positivity and happiness” – great values for any blogger.

When you know your values, you can trust yourself to create valuable content for your audience no matter what.

5. Ensure that every day in every way you’re learning (and getting better)

What will you learn today? Blogs are voracious. You need to keep learning. Commit to learning something new.  I spent a couple of years learning PR. These days, I take online courses regularly. While some are directly helpful in blogging, many are not.

You can learn just for the joy of learning. That joy translates into inspiration… and that inspiration creates valuable content.

Inspiration’s essential for bloggers. Use these five secret strategies to get inspired, and your blog’s readers will benefit from your content.
, and on Twitter: @angee