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Interview with Michael Hopkins of Ebook Times

By Cort McCadden
Feb 1, 2006

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Cort: Today we have Michael Hopkins, founder of the very popular Ebook Times web site that I have thoroughly enjoyed and used. I know that you are one of the new "hotshots" in Internet Marketing; however I would like to know what you did before your Net involvement. When was this? What got you interested in the Net?

Michael: I was born in 1969 growing up near Galway in the west of Ireland.

I tried to study Computer Systems at the University of Limerick before realizing that my brain couldn't cope with all that logic mathematics. I took European Studies instead. (A wishy-washy course that does a little bit of everything (history, psychology, business studies, etc., etc. It was ideal for those that don't know what they want to do with their lives and don't want to work too hard trying to find out :-)

After college (1993) I was hired by an Irish company who sent me to Mönchengladbach, Germany to sell spare parts to sand and gravel suppliers. Exciting stuff indeed.

Did that (poorly) for 5 years.

In 1998, I moved to France with my French girlfriend. This was when the whole dot-com excitement was peaking. We both got hired by a 'start up' that wanted to make a software program to help parents keep a PC-based record of the family's medical history. Our job was to write up the text in the software - Nathalie would do it in French and I would translate to English.

Shortly after joining them, they presented us with a copy of FrontPage 98 and asked us to build them a website.

We had never even been on the Internet at that stage so we really started from zero. Within a week we were bitten by the Internet bug and we haven't looked back since.

The ‘start up’ never really started up so we moved on. We tried a number of different projects all of which fizzled out. We had a web design business for local companies. It was difficult and unrewarding (in both work enjoyment and financial terms). We built a tourism portal for the region we live in. It was a great website, but it didn't "know" how to make any money.

That was the crux of our problem in fact. We knew how to build websites but we didn't know how to make money with them.

It was the year 2000 and our last project had failed. Our families and friends were becoming increasingly concerned that our dreams of making money online were not going to be realized. The pressure to go out and get a 'real job' was growing.

That's when I stumbled upon the concept of information publishing. Little light bulbs started flashing all over the place. Suddenly I knew what to do. All I had to do now was figure out how to do it and then just do it.

Being the kind of guy who learns best by practice (and mistakes), I started building the business before I really knew what the business would be. I bought the domain name bizzydays.com and intended to make an information site aimed at those wishing to start a home business. Original, huh?

It's funny (and a little embarrassing to look back on it). I bought one of those collections of public domain reports - you know the ones: How to Make $4000 a Day Watching TV, How to Profit in Flea Marketing…. (I still had a LOT to learn). I figured I'd use some of these reports as content for my home biz site. Of course, I realized pretty quickly that so much of the stuff was poorly written and/or out-dated.

So, I decided to create some content of my own. I began writing a tutorial on how to start an online business. Seeing as I didn't really know how to do this successfully myself, this proved a difficult but rewarding project. The content of that tutorial became the basic building blocks that my "Step-by-Step Guide to Success on the Internet" was originally built upon.

BizzyDays.com has since evolved to become a sort of portal for all our main products as well as providing resources related to Ebook publishing and some broader aspects of online business. It's also our main sign-up vehicle for our newsletter Ebook Times.

We've added a lot of other strings to our bow over the past few years. At the moment we have around 40 domain names - some with websites up and running, some just to promote a product or service and some that are still waiting on the wings for their chance to go 'live' (as soon as I get around to it…). Among our own products, the bestsellers are Dynamic Popup Generator, The Original Total Resale Package and the "Success" guide mentioned above.

The business wasn't an overnight success. We worked hard for a year before we started to see much return. We still had a lot of the basics to learn and there wasn't quite the proliferation of marketing ebooks and tools available then that there is now. It took a lot of persistence and determination to get the ball rolling. Once it started to roll, however, there was no stopping it.


Cort: What a GREAT story with lessons for all of us! Did you see the value of Email Marketing almost immediately after it appeared? What made you get involved with Email Marketing?

Michael: Yes and no. Yes, I saw the potential in email marketing as soon as I heard about it. But, no, I didn’t start enjoying the real value of it for quite some time.

When I started the newsletter I decided that I wasn’t going to do what other marketers were doing. Instead of sending emails all the time promoting this, that and the other, I was going to send just one email per month that contained good-quality information, one or two promotions (with affiliate links) and a few good-quality freebies to download.

This proved to be a MASSIVE mistake – and it’s a mistake I continued with for two years before I finally recognized it and fixed it.

You see, the problem with this monthly ‘all-in-one’ approach is that you’re getting a small percentage of the potential return on your promotions. If they’re hidden somewhere in the middle of your monthly issue then you’re going to get a limited response. If you want to get a big response, you need to send your top promotions out in a dedicated email.

When I finally awoke from my slumber and realized what I was missing out on, I started sending occasional in-between emails that specifically promoted one product or service. Suddenly the money started to pour in. The money really is in the list but it took me two years to figure out how to get the lid off.

Nowadays, Ebook Times strikes a balance between good content and good promotions. The result is a strong relationship with my subscribers and consistently good response rates to my emailings.


Cort: We all know that here in the States Congress is trying to get tough with Spammers. Do you think that they have gone far enough? If not, what should they do? Do you think that there will ever be an INTERNATIONAL Spam Law? If so, would you be in favour or opposed. Why?

Michael: I’ve decided not to worry about the spam issue too much. I think it’s a fact of Internet life that we just have to live with. I do my best to make my emails as ‘send able’ as possible and the extent of my effort stops there. I’m a bit worried by the concept of developing international laws related to the Internet.

While it’s certain that international legislation could go a long way towards protecting people from some of the darker sides of the Internet, I’d be concerned about where the line would be drawn. If we’re not careful, we could end up with some sort of international commission whose job is to devise laws related to the Internet.

Tim Berners Lee saved the Net from becoming the property of big business – I’d hate to think that it could fall under the control of an international body that may not always have the best interests of the general population in mind. I don’t mean to sound paranoid – but I think it’s a realistic concern.


Cort: What are your feelings about Plain vs. HTML Email Marketing? What about the Audio and Visual Email?

Michael: Personally, I use a mixed approach. All my emails go out in plain text format. However, emails that focus on content always invite users to click a link to read the content online. This allows me to discuss any subject without being afraid to include keywords that trigger the spam filters. If I’m concerned that a particular email might have trouble getting through the spam filters, I’ll follow it up the next day with a very short ‘in case you missed it email’.

I’ve been meaning to test a few emails in HTML to see how well it works, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. It’s on my ever expanding ‘to do’ list.


Cort: What have been your biggest successes in your business and why? Failures? What would you do differently if you could do things over?

Michael: I don’t know if can pinpoint any particular successes. Sure, there were some emails that produced great results but, overall, success has been growing on me gradually rather than thrust upon me. If you see what I mean.

We certainly had a few lean years before things took off -- money was really tight. So just being able to buy things as we want them and need them is something that gives me a lot of satisfaction. (And with three kids under 5, you need a good income :-).

Another thing that represents a level of success, for me, is being able to count some of the biggest names in Internet marketing among my customers and JV partners, including Jim Daniels, Mike Filsaime, Marlon Sanders and Michael Rasmussen.

As regards what I would do differently?

That’s an easy one… I would start really engaging on a regular basis with my subscribers – rather than spending two years on the slow lane.


Cort: What would be your advice to Internet newbies concerning Email Marketing?

Michael: Get started working with your list right away! Even if you’ve only got 17 subscribers, prepare an email and send it. It’s a good habit to develop, and now is the right time to become comfortable and acquainted with the process. By the time your list has really grown, broadcasting your newsletter will be second nature to you and you’ll be making a very nice income.

Mix good content with good promotions. Content can be all sorts of things. It can be articles you write yourself or it can be articles written by others. It can be a good download that’s relevant to your list or it can be a small gem of information that’s covered in a single paragraph.

Subscribe to your competitors’ lists and watch carefully what they’re doing. The moment you see something that’s perfect for your list, jump on it. If it’s a product to promote, become an affiliate and get started. If you want an even better response, contact the seller and see if you can arrange a time-limited discount for your subscribers. Make it a 3-day promotion and send a reminder email when there are just 24 hours remaining.

Avoid using cookie-cutter emails provided by sellers. Write your promotions up in your own words – they will have greater impact and you’ll stand out (and look less silly) when dozens of other emails with the exact same messages start arriving in your subscribers’ inboxes.

Contact your list quite often, but not TOO often. Personally, I’d say no more than twice a week on average. My average is 4 – 8 times per month. I don’t have specific deadlines to send an email. I wait until something comes along and then go with it.

Use a little bit of your ‘real life’ in your newsletter, but use it sparingly – unless you run an ezine for car buyers, your subscribers don’t need to know that your mother-in-law just bought a Volvo.

Be sure to use subscriber bonuses to attract sign-ups, but make those bonuses useful and relevant. The best ‘headline’ bonus is one that’s ONLY available to your subscribers. Think about putting together an Ebook with this in mind – and make it useful and worthwhile to your target market so that their relationship with you gets off to the best possible start. Don’t include bonuses just because you CAN. Include bonuses because they’re WORTH it. Including a bonus that has no relevance to your targeted subscriber may only negatively impact on your image.

Again, don’t sit on your hands THINKING about getting started, grab your mouse and just do it!

Cort: Michael those are AWESOME tips for us to use and I plan to use them myself ASAP especially the one about the competitors’ lists! Now I know that you have a Special for our subscribers.

Michael: Yes I do. I’m happy to offer a steep discount of my Dynamic Popup Generator software to my fellow DEMC subscribers.

Whatever you think about them personally, there’s no denying that popups are a VERY effective tool when it comes to attracting more subscribers to your email list.

With Dynamic Popup Generator (DPG) you’ll be able to create almost any kind of popup under the sun – including highly-effective, unblockable DHTML popups.

DPG is already one of the most advanced popup generators available and, once version 3.0 is released in the coming weeks, it will be unrivalled in terms of features and user-friendliness.

And, seeing as all future versions are available free to existing owners, this is your chance to secure your copy at a fraction of its true value.

Just click this link now to access the private discount page for DEMC subscribers:

http://bizzydays.com/x.cgi?a=r&id=1&aid=1288&p=42&h=1


###
Cort McCadden is the co-founder of a new AV/TV production company called Avmagination that will be specializing in producing HDDVD – High Definition DVD – for “edu-entertainment” info products like his soon to be released Barter Wealth.

You can reach him at cort@avmagination.com and visit the website at http://www.usprepared.com to be on his mailing list to receive his newly updated FREE Ebook Survival Manual for the Third Millennium.

In this ebook you will find preparation for hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc. Cort is a recognized authority on survival and has made appearances on Art Bell Coast to Coast.



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