“The world moves, and ideas that were once good are not always good.” – Dwight David Eisenhower
Expenditures on information and information products account for over half of this country’s economy. That’s roughly $5 trillion!
Why so much? Americans have an unquenchable thirst for information. We crave information to make us healthier … wealthier … more beautiful. But most of all, we want information so we can show others how much we know.
So how much money do you think you could make by publishing some of that information yourself?
It can be done … and I’m proof. I’ve developed a highly successful publishing business selling information that people want. The key is to develop an information product that people not only want to buy but want to continue to buy (or renew). This isn’t hard – if you understand the following 7 Qualities of Successful Information Product Development.
Quality #1: Is the Idea Interesting?
The first person an idea has to interest is you. If you pick ideas that interest you, researching and writing about them will be fun. Of course, your ideas have to be truly interesting to your reader too.
For example, my first retail publishing idea in the early 1970s was to help U.S. investors understand how to invest globally. The idea was sound and remained very interesting to a lot of people for a long time.
On the other hand, look at collectibles. There will always be a collectibles market – yet many collectibles are in vogue (and, therefore, interesting) only briefly.
If, for example, you had a publication about Beanie Babies back when they were in vogue, you could have done well with it. Today, that publication would fall on its face.
Fads offer attractive publishing opportunities, but they don’t last. Publications about fundamentally interesting topics survive.
Quality #2: Is the Idea Legal and Ethical?
I once got a sales letter from somebody who said that – for $12 – he could tell me how I could mail First-Class letters for only 3 cents. Indeed, the stamp on his envelope was 3 cents.
This seemed interesting, since I spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on postage. And though it was too good to be true, I sent in my $12.
A few days later, I got one photocopied page telling me how to do it. The page claimed that, as a business, the Post Office had made an offer to send my mail at the current rate. And it claimed that, as a businessman, I could counteroffer by putting a 3-cent stamp on my letters instead. If the Post Office mailed my letters, that meant they accepted my offer.
The idea was to simply mail all your letters with a 3-cent stamp, because most of them would get through. And the idea was neither legal nor ethical.
The Postal Service’s Revenue Protection Department operates by spot inspection, true enough. So, yes, many of those 3-cent letters would get through. But anyone mailing lots of them could expect to be investigated by the U.S. government. So, in the long run, it wouldn’t have been profitable. The fines (not to mention prison time) for these kinds of actions are very heavy.
Quality #3: Is the Idea Attractive?
Your idea has to attract first-time buyers. It doesn’t have to be pretty or pleasant, but it must attract. And to attract, it must appeal to emotions in some way. The emotions can be good, bad, or even ugly. For example, one ad that worked very well started with this: “I’m mad as heck at the government for cheating us – here’s how to get even.”
It’s not a pretty idea. But it’s certainly attractive.
To succeed in the long term, the publication you’re selling must hold your reader’s interest. But initially, it’s the attractiveness of your idea that gets potential readers to drop everything, read your sales story, and buy.
Quality #4: Is the Idea Usable?
Your idea has to fill some need for your reader. This is vital to gaining repeat customers for your publication.
Let’s say you’re selling a golf publication. In that case, you could make it useful to your reader simply by making it entertaining. Or you could help him get lower golf scores (pride). Or show times at various courses when greens fees are reduced (savings).
Quality #5: Is the Idea Understandable?
A Brief History of Time was a New York Times best-seller for over a year. It was called one of the most-purchased/least-read books of all time. The author’s next books – all of them about quantum science – didn’t sell well. They were just too complicated.
Ask yourself: Is my information understandable for my target market? As the example of A Brief History of Time illustrates, being interesting can sell a book. But if it’s not understandable, you won’t build repeat business.
Quality #6: Is the Idea Timely?
A successful publication is tuned to the times. Being too far ahead is just as bad as being too far behind.
I failed to understand this in the mid-70s when I was writing about investing internationally. I’d lived abroad for nearly a decade, so the idea seemed obvious to me. However, it ran contrary to public thought. Twenty years later, most U.S. investors were ready for it – and today, it is so common that local stockbrokers give free talks on the subject.
Now that I understand the importance of timeliness, I change, update, and innovate my publications constantly.
Quality #7: Is the Idea Salable?
You can have the timeliest, most usable, most interesting and easy-to-apply idea in the world. But if you cannot sell it, you won’t make money. Defining your market and deciding how to sell your idea correctly is an integral part of the creation of an information product.
I learned this lesson while pioneering the idea of investing abroad. As I said, my idea was right … but ahead of its time. Because I was out of sync with most American investors, my original marketing plan failed.
I couldn’t sell that product until I (1) identified the small percentage of Americans who were interested in it and (2) really understood what motivated them. This process is crucial to information-publishing success.
In this case, I found that though I had marketed across the country to all professions and religions, a large percentage of my original readers were Jewish, Southern, or chiropractors – groups that tend to have less trust in the establishment. Once I understood that all three of these groups perceived that the establishment had been, at one time or another, biased against them, I was able to zero in and focus my marketing efforts.
[Ed. Note: Gary Scott is being shy when he says he developed “a highly successful publishing business.” He’s currently sitting on top of a multimillion-dollar publishing empire. Learn more about how YOU can build a rewarding self-publishing business. ]