You may have noticed that I’ve been posting a little bit less frequently this month, and that I’ve been going out a little bit less frequently as well, citing a mysterious “project” that I’m working on. Things have been going well with the project and I’m ready to share a few more details.
This started as a result of a phone conversation with my friend AngieDawn a few weeks back. Angie has been investigating ways to start businesses online. We talked for over an hour, and I realized it was something I ought to look into as well. At one point she asked, “Have you ever thought about writing an e-book?” After I got off the phone I realized I already had written an e-book. Back in 1999, when I was still teaching at the University of Memphis, I wrote a book for college students on how to improve their grades by cultivating positive relationships with their professors.
However, in 1999, there was no proven method for selling e-books online, and at about 50-70 pages the book was too short to be published in print form. So it sat on my hard drive in computer purgatory for 7 years.
My conversation with Angie revived the idea. I realized now that I didn’t need to sell the book – I could give it away for free on the Web, and make money through ad links on the site, as an affiliate for Amazon.com, Shop.com and other online retailers. For example, on the chapter about improving grades on papers, I could put links to books on writing and grammar. So I registered a domain name (which I’ll reveal in a couple of weeks) and began work on proofreading and formatting the chapters.
Now, the next issue I faced was: Once I get the book written, how do I drive traffic to the site? It takes a while to build a following. With the Spring semester ending in early May, I want to get a lot of people to the site quickly. But how could I do that, without spending a pile of money on advertising?
At that point I realized something: I already have a built-in audience. About 9 years ago, I created an online grade calculator for my students to use. I got tired of watching students obsess over their grades, spending hours trying to figure out what they needed to make on their remaining tests/quizzes/final exam to get the grade they wanted, given how they had done so far during the semester. So I created the calculator to do the math for them. It’s been online for so many years that it already has a following. That’s why I put a tracker on it a couple of weeks ago. On Monday of this week it drew 242 hits, double the traffic this blog gets. I suspect that the grade calculator’s traffic is much more seasonal than this blog: Around the end of April I bet it will be getting 400-500 hits a day, dropping to a tenth of that by mid-June.
So, I’m going to move the grade calculator to the new site, to provide a built-in audience for the e-book. I’m also going to give it a new look – let’s face it, the calculator as it is now looks like it was built in 1997. Time for a facelift.
Another thing I’m going to do is have forums on the site, where students and teachers can post their own tips for getting better grades. This will do two things: 1) It could provide additional material for future chapters or a second book (with credit to be given where appropriate), and 2) it will make the site sticky – it will make people come back to visit again and again.
I’m also going to have an online college bookstore, where students can buy books about college, test prep guides, caffeinated mints, and other items of interest to that audience. Again, I’ll use affiliate links to do this. Tonight after work I’m going on a field trip to Tiger Bookstore to get a better idea of what college students buy.
That’s the plan for now – if you have ideas or suggestions I’d love to hear them. E-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other news: The weekend is coming up – St. Patrick’s Day weekend. That means I’ll be on Beale Street for the Raising of the Goat and the Blessing of the Kegs tomorrow night. In case you’re not familiar with this tradition, Silky has this goat. He puts it on a platform with a hot babe. They raise the platform up in the air and people applaud and drink and the hot babe throws beads to the crowd and the goat eats hay and poops all over the platform. I’m not exactly sure what this has to do with St. Patrick’s Day.
Saturday I’ll be back on Beale for the St. Patrick’s Day parade. It starts at 4 PM but I recommend getting there at 3 to stake out a good spot on the street. Fellow blogger Kat and her breasts will be there, riding the Ptolemy Krewe float, and Kat has promised to throw me some choice beads. I have an entire closet shelf full of beads from previous parades, so I’m going for quality over quantity this year.
I may take some pics of the parade and do a photo album. GoDaddy’s servers have built-in photo album capabilities – all I have to do is upload the pics, rather than spend hours resizing and linking as I did with previous photo albums. So, now that they’re hosting my site I’m anxious to try this feature out.
And, of course, Sunday I’ll wrap up the weekend with the usual drunken brunch festivities at Sleep Out Louie’s.
Still looking for an invitation to Google Analytics… I guess my time has run out for finding an NCAA tournament pool to participate in, since games start today. (1) Memphis plays (16) Oral Roberts at 1:50 PM Central tomorrow. Unfortunately I’ll be sitting in a cubicle and won’t be able to watch the game on TV. March Madness days should be declared national holidays in my opinion.
Speaking of cubicles, time to go do some sitting now…