100,000 sounds like a pretty good number of downloads for an eBook, don’t you think?
One. Hundred. Thousand. And counting.
That’s the number of downloads my first free eBook reached earlier this year. Would you like to know how to get that many downloads or more for your next eBook?
Let me first explain what “going viral” means to me.
Viral means to have people care enough about your work to share it.
Is that what you want?
If so, then I’ve got some news for you.
There’s no secret formula to creating a viral eBook.
Here’s what matters
The most important elements to creating a free eBook that goes viral are to make it relevant and unique, something that stands out.
What I am talking about is writing a book that matters.
And by matters I mean people who read it will tie an emotional value to it, relate to it, i.e. that it is relevant to their situation or life and it peaks their interest.
The higher the emotional value the more likely it is that they will talk about it, share it and refer others to your blog for similar content.
Your eBook doesn’t have to be superbly written (although it helps), many eBooks that have gone viral aren’t (this drives elitists crazy), and the same goes for songs and other media as well. As long as it expresses an idea that you are passionate about sharing with others, the writing does not need to be technically perfect.
It must matter to you
It’s about creating something that truly matters to you first!
I’m sure you’ve been told countless times to write for your reader, to make it about them and I agree.
But if you are not passionate and do not care about the subject then do not expect your readers to care either. This one point alone is what confuses so many people who thought they wrote the next “Idea Virus”.
Consider for a moment something that truly matters to you. It might be wonderful and fun or it might be terrifying, but whatever it is, you are passionate about it.
I bet you just thought of something, and if that idea scares you a little, that’s good. It’s a start.
It’s the emotional connection we are looking for and if it excites you and even frightens you a little, then you’re probably closer than you think to an idea that has the possibility of going viral (or at least worthy enough that people will remember who wrote it).
Once you have the idea the key is to put your own personal spin on it or perhaps teach something about a concept from your own unique perspective.
So here’s the tip I have for you about creating something with the highest likelihood of going viral:
Create an eBook that people will care about after they’ve read it.
If you can do that one thing, the odds of it going viral increases considerably.
You can write that eBook. I know you can and I would love to read it.
It’s about you, not just the reader
But keep in mind that the key is for you to care about it first. This guarantees nothing, of course. But it does give you the greatest opportunity.
What do you care about? What do you like to read about, research, or study in your spare time? What is so much on your mind that you cannot wait to write about it in your journal just to see where it will lead or what you will have to say?
Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say.
Let’s get back to my first eBook. 100,000 is an enormous number of downloads.
However, I was freaking terrified of total unmitigated rejection when I released it to the public.
Oh boy, let me tell you, I was petrified that no one would care, much less read and share it.
It took me months before I was brave enough to check back with the websites where I had uploaded it and when I did, I was shocked and amazed.
Below is a screen shot of only one site. (I mean, gee wiz, I didn’t even have a professional cover and it had over 40,000 downloads already.)
How did this happen?
1) I wrote about something I deeply care about.
2) I listened to my subscribers and realized there were several issues that were quite common amongst us.
3) I noticed we like to make fun of ourselves in relation to the subject, but at the time it was too taboo to make fun of it so it was kind of an inside joke among my readers and me.
4) I understood I needed to lighten up about my struggles and what better way to do that than to write about them with a light-hearted twist of humor. No one had done that yet with my subject matter and certainly not written a book and given it away for free.
5) Hold my breath and ship.
So let’s break this down:
1) Passionate about the subject.
2) Found relationships between the subject, myself and my readers.
3) Did what no one else had done before by creating a humorous book about the subject and giving it away.
4) I shipped, uploading it to every site I could find that would allow free downloads, including peer to peer, social networks and even Usenet. I can verify clicks on most sites, but I have no idea how many people emailed it or downloaded it from sharing networks.
5) It wasn’t do or die. I had no idea if anyone would download and read it, but I wanted to put it out there to see what would happen. A bonus to all of this is that now humor is being used more often to teach people about ADHD and how to manage the symptoms, which is a testament to taking a risk that I thought was worth taking.
Advantages of a free eBook
1) Generosity is appreciated and it feels good.
2) If it goes viral so does your name and what you are about.
3) You reach more people by having something which is easy to share (see 2).
4) Most authors are afraid of giving something away for free, they want to be paid for their work (and put food on the table). That’s understandable, but in today’s marketplace that puts them at a disadvantage because people like to sample who you are and what you are about. An eBook provides that.
5) If you want, you can write an extended edition and sell it later. You can even sell the free eBook if you want. Bootleggers uploaded my free eBook to Amazon and it became a bestseller. It took some work, but I got Amazon to take it down! That was eyeopening.
*10 Things I Hate about ADHD is no longer available for download on any of the sites I uploaded it to (only peer to peer or Usenet, once they are on those it’s out of your control). Several years have passed since I first published it and I have since decided to write an extended edition that will be published to Kindle, hopefully next year. With my latest free eBook “Good Enough” becoming so popular I may eventually write an extended edition of that, too.
I’ve published over a half dozen free eBooks and each time I worry about the latest not being good enough. Somewhere inside I find the will to publish anyway, because what I write about matters so much to me that if no one else cares, well, at least I do.
As it turns out, when I write about something I care about deeply, I’m actually writing for a lot of other people, too.
Now it is your turn
So tell us, what idea do you have for a viral eBook? Share in the comments.