As somebody who runs an Internet business, I’m always interested in learning how others make money online. What really excites me is to hear how one person, with a lot of hard work and determination, builds an online business that generates a full time income. And that brings me to an eBook called The Truth About Six Pack Abs.
As you might guess from the title, the book is about how to develop a tight mid-section. As somebody with low back problems, working on my core muscles is a regular part of my physical therapy, so I purchased this eBook over the weekend. I’ll talk a little about the book in a minute, but the focus of this article is about the business behind the book.
Meet Michael Geary
The author of this eBook is Michael Geary. Michael is a certified nutrition specialist and a certified personal trainer. He developed the first version of his book in 2005, and it’s generated a full time income for him since about 2007. So guess how much he makes from the sale of his eBook and related products.
Well, about two years into selling his book, he earned $50,000 a year. Now that seems like a lot of money, and it is. But keep in mind it took him two years working like a dog to get to that point. I have no doubt there were plenty of times he felt like giving up. I know there were times early on when I felt like giving up. At the beginning of most online businesses, you’ll invest a lot of time with little financial return.
You won’t believe what happened starting in year three for Michael. His income jumped to $3.6 million, then to $6 million, and today he makes $11 million per year! Can you imagine making nearly $1 million a month from an eBook? You can read more about his story on Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Work Week blog.
It’s Not All Peaches and Cream
Needless to say, the results Michael Geary has enjoyed are not typical. More importantly, the first time you launch your own product, there’s a good chance it will flop. This weekend I was reading a story from Martin (of Studenomics fame) who published a guest post over at The Financial Blogger called Do You Want to Blog Full-Time? Here’s a Reality Check That Nobody Else Will Give You.
Martin describes how he launched an eBook of his own. As you’ll read in his article, the results have not been so good. I mention Martin’s case study for a very important reason, which I’ll get to at the end of this article.
So now on to why 6-Pack Abs has been so successful.
How to Launch a Successful eBook
So what are the ingredients of a profitable information product? More specifically, what has 6-Pack Abs done (and not done) to reach 7-figures in revenue?
Pick the right topic: While there are plenty of topics you can choose for an information product, there are also a lot of topics that will limit your money-making potential right from the start. In the case of 6-pack Abs, it appeals to both genders, people of all ages, and is not country specific. In fact, Michael Geary has a Spanish version of his book.
Most importantly, the eBook should solve a problem that your market really cares about. For example, I’ve often thought about selling an eBook on how to make money blogging. I know many bloggers who struggle to make even $1,000 a month, let alone a full time income. Now this market would not be nearly as a big as the market for 6-pack abs, but it is a market full of passionate bloggers.
Produce a great eBook: 6-Pack Abs is a serious book. It’s 152 pages long and covers everything from nutrition to workouts. It includes pictures of the exercises Michael recommends, and meal plans to follow his nutritional suggestions. It no doubt took months of research and writing.
Writing a great eBook is important for a lot of reasons, but I’ll mention two. First, you should offer your customers an unconditional right to return the product for a full refund. All products sold through ClickBank (more about ClickBank in a minute) must offer a 60-day refund. You don’t want unhappy customers. If they don’t like the product, they should be able to return it. And a great product will have a low return rate.
Second, you want your customers to tell their friends and family how great the eBook is. Customers can be the best source of marketing. If you produce a poor quality product, word eventually gets out.
But as important as producing a great eBook is, remember one thing–the best eBook in the world, by itself, will not be successful. In fact, writing the eBook is about 5% of the total effort that goes into a successful informational product. Marketing the eBook is a critical component, which we’ll turn to now.
You need a website: I’ve seen many bloggers launch an eBook on their blog, but nowhere else. Certainly marketing the book on their blogs, particularly if the two are related, is a smart idea. But if you are serious about promoting your book, it needs its own website, too. The good news is that building a blog or website is easy.
A separate website allows you to focus entirely on the book, tweak the site in ways that would be difficult with a more general blog, and market the book more effectively. As an example, we’ll look at two important marketing strategies that Michael used to propel his success, both of which require a website.
1. Affiliate Marketing: If you’re not familiar with this concept, affiliate marketing is simply paying others a commission when they sell your product. In the case of an informational product, you can use a service like ClickBank to track all the traffic affiliate sites send you, the sales that traffic generates, and the commissions your affiliates earned.
One strategy that Michael employed was to pay his affiliates 75% of the sales price. That may seem like he’s giving away all his profits, but keep in mind that he’s selling an eBook. Once you’ve written the book, there are no more product development costs. So he can pay out 75% commissions and still make a nice profit.
2. Paid Search: Paid search involves using services like Google’s Adwords program to drive traffic to your site. Depending on what you’re selling and how much traffic you want to drive, the cost can range from hundreds to literally millions of dollars. Obviously you’ll want to work within your budget and start off slowly. But paid search is a great way to quickly test your product and marketing materials.
There’s a ton to learn about both affiliate marketing and paid search. And a lot of learning comes from experimenting. But there is one free source of information that is instructive at two levels. The free source is 6-Pack Abs affiliate page. You can sign up for free to Michael’s affiliate email newsletter on the page.
As I said, this newsletter is instructive at two levels. First, the newsletters I’ve received so far have been packed with great marketing ideas. I don’t plan to market his product because I write about personal finance, but the ideas he discusses can be applied to anything online. Second, it shows you just how much Michael wants his affiliates to succeed. He’s spent a lot of time creating content to help his affiliates. And of course, the more they sell, the more he makes. But if you get his newsletter, you’ll see why I say that the eBook itself is just 5% of the work.
Don’t buy an eBook on how to launch an eBook: Yes, there are eBooks on how to launch a successful eBook, but I wouldn’t recommend them. It’s not that there aren’t some good ones out there. But what you really want to see is an insanely successful eBook. If it happens to be about writing eBooks, fine. But in my case, I bought 6-Pack Abs not just for the content, but also to get a glimpse into how a successful eBook operation works.
And I learned a lot. Of course, I got to see the eBook, which I wanted for the content anyway. But I also got to see the landing pages he created for the sales cycle, the email he sends after a sale, the additional products he cross-sells with the eBook (e.g., meal plans), and the newsletters he sends out to subscribers (he has about 680,000 of them!). To me, this information was far more valuable that an eBook about eBooks.
This has been a long article; far longer than I anticipated. But I have one other piece of advice that I alluded to earlier–prepare to fail. If your goal is a full-time income, don’t expect to achieve that on your first launch. In fact, your first launch may be a complete failure. Michael Geary worked for two hard years to get to $50,000. It didn’t happen overnight. Setting this expectation upfront is important, otherwise it’s very easy to get discouraged.
As always, if you have any tips on creating a successful informational product, please leave a comment below. And if you want incredible abs or just want to see what a $1 million a month eBook looks like, check out Michael Geary’s The Truth About Six Pack Abs.
Published or updated November 8, 2011.