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The Ping-Pong Marketing Program: Double Your Book’s Life and Income with a Digital Appendix

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It used to be that once you’d printed a fact in a book, that was it. Right or wrong, it sat there in several thousand copies staring back forever. If you wrote about a cutting-edge topic, huge chunks of the book were outdated in months. And if you wanted to update the facts in the book, or sell more or current information about them, it meant another printing (or several), each to suffer that same fate again.

The worth of the book took a related vertical dive. After a year or two, its sales curve looked like Pike’s Peak–descending.

Bless the digital revolution. If you keep your information in e-book format, you can both change its text daily and tell buyers about related digital wonders almost as soon as they are posted.

Yet most people still buy books on paper, so how can you provide these advantages with that format?

By creating a digital appendix that augments multimedia Ping-Pong selling.

This Way to the Web

This is best explained through an example, so let me draw on my new book, out in August 2004, called Publishing Magic: How to Create Your Own Empire Through Niche Marketing and Niche Publishing.

An ink-on-paper book, Publishing Magic includes basic information that is unlikely to change much. It’s full of step-by-step processes, rationales, dimensions, and other essential data–the hard-core stuff one expects from the title.

With one significant variation: an item or two in each chapter (usually a box, table, or chart) is mentioned and explained in the text but actually appears in an Adobe Acrobat or Word digital appendix that resides on a Web-site section created for this book. The reader is given the link. The obvious advantages? The item can be downloaded and modified digitally, and there are no size limitations.

What might that item be? Well, one of the chapters discusses reports, explaining in detail what they look like, their contents, their usual length and format, how to find related reports, how to promote reports and extend them into series, how reports differ in print and digital formats, and more. For this chapter, the digital appendix might include an inside page of a sample report to use as a style guide. Using the same layout, footnote sizing and placement, subtitling, font variations, and perhaps header and footer, readers can simply replace the substance in the download with their own copy. (Since this is a show-and-tell article, see www.gordonburgett.com/digappen1.htm.)

Digital items for this chapter might also include a half-dozen sample report covers, a sample summary or information request form asking what other report topics a buyer might purchase, or a questionnaire about the item itself with instructions for filling it out, e-mailing it back, and getting it onto the Web site’s topic bulletin board.

Almost every chapter of this ink-on-paper book also has at least one additional item in the digital appendix–key “extra” information that enhances the worth of the book and, where appropriate, increases buyer-seller dialog and information exchange.

The digital appendix is where “bonus updates” appear too, either in the sections for the most relevant chapters or in a special section of their own, with their dates of issuance. You can keep a book current with six-month or annual digital appendix updates, which can increase the value of the core book.

And when–after, say, three to five years–it’s time for a new edition of the ink-on-paper book, to begin the cycle again, how would you alert buyers? With an announcement in the digital appendix, of course.

From Ping to Pong

Specific add-ons can make this multimedia approach potentially far more lucrative.

For obvious reasons, each digital item must be accompanied by an explanation of where it came from so an interested user can obtain more information. But if the people using the appendix have already bought the book, they know that. At best, the explanation will help only the friends they told or an occasional roving Web wanderer.

So you switch your focus. You widely publicize the digital appendix and the “free and current” add-on copy and updates, so anybody with any interest at all in your topic will drop in and look, even download parts of that appendix, and also tell all their friends. If they or those friends like that flash, they will likely hit the order link to buy the mother lode.

You have at least two choices. If an item in the appendix is specific to a niche, you use your promotional materials to tell those in that select group how to find it free–and give them a full list of the 10 to 20 other items also in the digital appendix when they click on the link you provided. Or you just direct people to the full appendix pot of gold and let them sort out the nuggets.

In the footer information at the bottom of each digital appendix page, you refer visitors to your book with a link that gets them the book’s cover, basic ABI information, an annotated table of contents, and another link for ordering.

This is also where you link visitors to anything else you’d like them to know:

    • Does your main Web site reveal marvels that the book and appendix only hint at? Better give them that address and link.
    • Do you provide a free newsletter related to this topic? Urge them to click and subscribe.
    • Do you have other products they’d profit by knowing about? Link info here.
    • Can they hear you speak somewhere soon about the topic, or buy an audio- or videocassette of some earlier public appearance? Tell them what to do.
    • Do you consult, coach, or teach? Give them full details.
    • And shouldn’t they know your e-mail address, phone, and bio?

I call this Ping-Pong selling. So far we’ve pinged and ponged from a book to the Web site and back. But we’ve left out a third ping–appropriately, special reports.

More Moves

The book, locked on paper, is no help in keeping its readers informed about new, extended information. So if you create new products, like reports, that continue to expand the readers’ knowledge, the digital appendix gives you a way to make people aware of those reports. (Your imagination will add other information dissemination possibilities too.)

You can simply create a “New! Special Report!” linked box on every page in the appendix, with the report’s title and some descriptive copy that leads to another link that accesses everything prospective buyers should know about that report, including its contents, author (a short bio and perhaps a picture), unique features, and cost–all linking, again, to that red-hot order form. (Want to see what that might look like? Check: www.gordonburgett.com/digappen2.htm).

Or you can e-mail information about the new report to every person who has agreed to receive information about your new products. (They can give that permission at another digital appendix link.)

What do you do if someone wants one or more of your digital items in print? Perhaps what Dan Poynter does for his digital reports: charge the cost of the report plus $4 more to produce it in print form, then add shipping and tax.

Clever minds will see a dozen more ways to use a digital appendix and Ping-Pong selling. Some may harrumph at the suggestion of such a mixed-media marriage, especially since its bliss is so blatantly profitable. But it sure beats sawing down trees just to keep needed information up to date.

Gordon Burgett has published 1,700 freelance articles and 27 books, and has spoken professionally more than 2,000 times. Since 1982 he has owned Communication Unlimited, which offers products about niche publishing. To get in touch, go to www.gordonburgett.com.

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