Creating a special Google Docs resource for educators

Google Docs resource for educatorsWhen Google Drive and Docs In 30 Minutes was first introduced more than two years ago, almost immediately I noticed an interesting trend in the traffic logs to the product website. Lots of visitors were coming from schools and school districts all over the country. Then, I started getting huge bulk orders for the books from my two print distributors, CreateSpace and LSI. Emails from some teachers confirmed that their schools had ordered the books as K-12 teacher training for Google Drive for Education. In this post, I am going to discuss the creation of several new products intended to serve teachers, curriculum managers, school administrators, and educational IT professionals who are interested in providing a Google Drive/Google Docs training resource for their schools.

First off, I would like to note that Google Drive and Docs In 30 Minutes is not only about Google Drive and Google Docs. It covers the other programs in the suite, including Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Forms, and Google Drawings, as well as collaboration and other features. It is the top-selling In 30 Minutes guide, and I just released a revised and expanded 2nd edition.

That said, Google Docs for students is the top draw for K-12 educators. Primary school students are not likely to need spreadsheets or presentation software. In many school districts, starting in 3rd or 4th grade, students begin to practice typing and composition. Google Docs provides an excellent platform to practice, and its collaborative nature also allows teachers to check progress and make comments. For teachers who are new to Google Docs and are using the educators’ version of Google Drive, a book that’s like Google Docs for Dummies (but much shorter) provides an excellent starting point.

A request for a special Google Docs resource for educators

My first thought was to create bulk ordering options for educators at a steep discount. That was easy enough to do. But then I got an interesting request from a teacher:

I also want to know if your would be willing to offer a license for people to have access to it at our school. You see, there are about 150 people learning about Google drive. Maybe 30 of them are English speakers. The school might consider getting a license for people to view the .PDF, but individuals probably won’t want to shell out $4.99 since they see it as something that the school is making them do.

This was an interesting thought. How about offering an affordable license that any teacher or staff member could access on their computers, tablets, or Kindle? I put together a simple license, priced it attractively, and let it fly. The teacher recommended it to his school, and then I started getting other sales.

This month, to coincide with the release of the 2nd edition of Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes, I updated the license to include two versions: A single-edition license as well as an educational license subscription, which will provide regular updates to the text of the books as well as extra materials such as videos. You can see the descriptions and prices on the dedicated Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes page for education.

 

 

 

 

 

Repurposing ebook content on blogs

One underutilized tactic for marketing how-to guides involves repurposing ebook content on blogs. This is not the same as giving away free chapters, which is common in the fiction world, or republishing excerpts of biographies, which sometimes appear in magazines or the Wall Street Journal. While both of those approaches are valuable marketing tools, they are mainly intended to introduce the title or author to a wider audience. By contrast, the main purpose of repurposing ebook content on blogs is to help people solve specific problems — which may help them see value in the rest of the how-to guide.

Let me give you an example. My second In 30 Minutes title about Google Drive is about 15,000 words long. It’s aimed at beginners just getting started with Google’s free online office suite. It contains everything from basic setup to sections on using Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, storage, collaboration, and other functions and features within the suite.

I realized that some of the ebook subsections could stand on their own as blog posts. For instance, “What Is Google Drive” became its own page on the official product website. It’s a common question among new users searching the Web for information, and may lead to some of them considering the ebook or paperback versions of the guide. Similarly, I took a few other 200-400 word bits (example: “How to revert to an old version of a Google Drive file”) and used them for a book promotion taking place on ITworld.com.

Why repurposing ebook content online is a good marketing tactic

This type of ebook content repurposed as blogs posts should not be viewed as “giving away the farm”. It’s only a small percentage of the total ebook content. Further, as I noted earlier, it can help new users solve a problem while seeing value in buying the rest of the ebook.

Example of repurposing ebook content: What is Google Drive?

(This tactic, incidentally, aligns well with the online content marketing advice given by author Derek Slater in his recent In 30 Minutes guide).

Promoting eBook manuals with videos

Every Friday afternoon for the past month, I have been setting aside 90 minutes to create a few new videos to promote my ebook manuals for Dropbox, Google Drive, and Excel. Here are some recent titles:

Google Analytics Video Tutorial: Three Things You Must Monitor
How To Convert CSV Files In Excel
How to convert Excel files to Google Drive
How to export a PDF using Google Drive’s free spreadsheet program, Google Sheets

When I wrote the books, I saw this type of video — short clips on very specific topics — as supplementary material that added extra value for readers.

However, after a few weeks of posting the videos to YouTube, I noticed an interesting trend: The blurbs in the videos were driving traffic to the book websites. I assume that the visitors are not people who have already bought the book. Rather, they are people who have searched for these topics in Google or YouTube, and via the links in the blurb and the promos in the video, they end up on my sites. I have recorded at least one sale from a visitor tracked from YouTube who ended up purchasing a PDF. I suspect other video visitors who have come to my site and then gone to Amazon or iTunes have also ended up making a purchase, although it is not possible for me to confirm this.

Right now, the videos don’t take long to produce — typically one hour per video, including recording, editing, and posting online. The time investment seems worth it for now, although I worry about my availability in the months to come as consulting and other ebook responsibilities ramp up.

A new online video tutorial for Google Drive and Docs

(Update) These early YouTube experiments led to the creation of a full Google Docs video course that covers Docs and Drive. It’s about 30 minutes long, and is slicker than the above videos, including on-screen narration and callouts for special features. Check it out!

Google video

Ebook pricing experiment: Lessons learned

Earlier in the summer, I published my second ebook. In some respects, it was similar to my first ebook (a guide for Dropbox). The topic was similar (Google Drive), and it was also a guide aimed at beginning users. But there were some differences, too, including:

  • A different brand: “Rogue Manual” instead of “In 30 Minutes”
  • A different price point: 2x the Dropbox manual.

I learned a very valuable lesson from #2, based on lackluster sales and a very negative piece of feedback I received on Amazon. The price was way too much. This was reflected in practically no sales on Amazon or as a PDF download, and one of the buyers writing a comment that said a book like this should be priced less than $10. I pulled the title from Amazon but will keep it up as a PDF.

Google Drive manualIn the meantime, I have prepared a scaled-down version of the Google Drive guide. It’s being branded “In 30 Minutes” and is using the same lower price point as the Dropbox guide. You can learn more about the title and buy it from the website linked in the sidebar of this blog post.

Ebook #2 hits the virtual shelves

Google Drive manualEarlier this week, my second ebook was published in the Kindle Store and as a paid PDF download (see inset cover). The book explains how to use Google Drive, a very powerful online software suite that includes word processing, spreadsheets, a presentation tool, and online storage. It’s kind of like Google Docs for Dummies … but not quite!

If you visit the product page, you’ll see that the price point is higher than my first book, a Dropbox guide. There are a few reasons for this:

  • The new title is about 1/3 longer, and more comprehensive.
  • It reaches to a more business-focused audience, as the Google Drive suite contains two programs that are seldom used by home users: Spreadsheets (which has similar functionality to Microsoft Excel) and Presentations (which is a bare-bones PowerPoint clone with some neat online functionality thrown in). (Update: Google has since renamed these programs Sheets and Slides, respectively.)
  • I want to test the response rate to higher-priced ebooks.
  • I want to see how high-value affiliate offers work. I’m currently allocating 56% of the $17.99 cover price to affiliates enrolled in my hosting company’s affiliate program. This translates to $10 per affiliate, compared to under $3 per affiliate for the Dropbox manual affiliate program. (Update: I killed the affiliate program. Too much room for abuse as the incentives aren’t aligned with what I want to promote … quality!)

Experimental mode for ebooks

As you can see, I am in experimental mode when it comes to design, pricing, length, and other aspects. The prices and affiliate program percentages will likely change as I figure out what works, and what doesn’t.

In the meantime, stay tuned for book #3! I have also started to consider other topics, ranging from Excel to LinkedIn and even other technical topics. I won’t be the only author, though … the best way to achieve scale is to find other talented authors who know these technologies and have existing audiences through blogs or other writing arrangements.

Dropbox in the rear view mirror, ebook #2 on deck

Dropbox old coverMy first ebook, Dropbox In 30 Minutes, answers the question “What is Dropbox” and gives readers lots of practical tips on how to get the most out of Dropbox. In the first month of its release, sales have been slow but steady.

I have also written a draft of my next book, on Google Docs/Google Drive. Last week, my copy editor gave it a first read-through (in Google’s Documents program, naturally!). This week, I am going to refine the draft, prepare images, and start to put together the Word version, which is used to generate the Kindle and Nook versions.

Having been through the writing and production processes for this book I know what to expect with the new book … and it should go more quickly, as I will know what mistakes to avoid. But I have to admit — dealing with ebook production is unpleasant, compared to blogging and other forms of electronic publishing that use content management systems.

My goal is to have the Word manuscript ready by the end of the week, and do all of the conversion and distribution next weekend. We’ll see how it goes …