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I Made It: How Joanna Wiebe created a massively successful ebook on stellar messaging

Discover Joanna Wiebe’s creative process for writing a comprehensive ebook, plus how she keeps her creative work relevant and actionable.

January 3, 2020 by Cyn Meyer

They say you can make anything by writing -- C.S. Lewis said that, anyway. 

But if you’re not a prolific author, and instead, a creator who wants to get your work out into the world for your audience to consume, what’s the best way to compose your offer messaging?

And how do you write copy that resonates with your audience? 

Whether it’s your sales page, unique value proposition, call-to-action button, or headline, using the right word choice is tricky.

But there’s at least one pro who can help with that -- and she can do it on your schedule, too.  

Who? Joanna Wiebe, of course, the copywriting queen and founder of Copyhackers, one of the world’s most popular copywriting blogs. 

We had the pleasure of sitting with Joanna in our third episode of I Made It, a podcast for creators who are ready to take action, where she walks us through the creative process that went into making her Where Stellar Messages Come From ebook.

If you’re an entrepreneur or solopreneur who’s itching to create profitable digital products, you’ll glean something useful from Joanna’s insights today for sure.  

As usual, we have to start this story at the beginning: how Joanna fell into entrepreneurship. And “fell” really is the operative word here. 

How Joanna fell into entrepreneurship and created an ebook

Joanna’s journey into entrepreneurship and writing an ebook didn’t start off intentionally. 

In fact, she was working for Intuit back in 2010 and planned on staying at the company until she “accidentally quit”.

The gist of her accidental resignation is: 

Joanna practiced writing an “I quit” email to her manager as a venting mechanism any time she felt flustered with her manager. Then, one Friday afternoon, instead of the usual deleting of the email, she sent it by mistake. (She may or may not have had a glass of wine that afternoon, she notes.)

But that’s not how she fell into entrepreneurship. It was her natural inclination to help other entrepreneurs successfully write copy for their websites.  

Because Joanna was so efficient at whipping up landing pages for Intuit, she had extra time to kill, which she used perusing entrepreneurial sites.

While exploring one such site, Hacker News, Joanna came across a small business owner who needed help with his new website. She sent him a deck full of messaging and copy ideas, which he thanked her for publicly in an article on the platform.

This is when Joanna received a flood of requests to help other entrepreneurs with their website positioning and copywriting. She committed to helping 10 people with their sites for free. 

Her plate was full with those 10 projects, so she had to start saying “no” to folks, which is when someone suggested she create an ebook as a way to help people at scale.

Not a bad idea, right?

Joanna thought so, too, and -- voila -- the idea for her ebook, Where Stellar Messages Come From, was born. 

Joanna decided to package up her knowledge into an ebook format and use her 10 pro bono projects as case study examples to back up her teachings. 

“It was all based on actually trying things out and then learning from those,” she shares. “And then teaching what we'd learned to people in a book.”

While coming up with her digital download idea was a speedy process, creating Joanna’s comprehensive ebook was another story. Like all excellent creative works, it took a lot of effort, which brings us to Joanna’s writing process.  

Joanna’s writing process

Joanna developed a writing process while she was in university that she continues to use today, which consists of three main parts. 

The first is to start with research. To create her ebook she reviewed other relevant literature to see where the gaps were and then continued to research some more. 

From there, Joanna organized her findings into an outline form and drafted her writing (the second step).

“I took all of this research and just started organizing it and seeing what fell out of it . . . and then just drafted it from that outline form into what turned into,” Joanna explains. “I think it was 250 pages by the time [I was finished with the draft].”

There’s definitely no skimping on content when it comes to writing her drafts. 

Joanna’s final step is to go through the editing process, a practice that most creators find tedious. Joanna, however, enjoys editing and geeking out on grammar, syntax, and sentence structures.

For her, “editing is where everything turns cool.” It’s where her creation takes shape and really comes together.

Even if it means massive changes and parting with writing that she worked hard on and doesn’t want to waste, Joanna still embraces this part of the process. 

“It’s where you can read through an entire manuscript and realize this whole section could be cut and the book wouldn’t suffer even a little,” she explains. “And then you cut it and part of you dies but you get stronger . . . [as you] reshape things.” 

Where does her positive attitude come from? 

Joanna remembers to enjoy the actual creating process rather than the outcome.

“Getting in there, getting lost, and coming out exhausted -- six hours later thinking it was an hour later -- that's always going to be my favorite part,” she reflects. “Even if nobody cares in the end, it was still awesome and you still really liked doing it.” 

However, while Joanna enjoys getting lost in her creative flow, she keeps her content up-to-date by taking into consideration the most important part of any creative work -- the audience. Which, in Joanna’s case, is her audience of beta readers.   

How Joanna used beta readers to shape her second edition

To keep her ebook relevant to her audience, Joanna bounced ideas off a group of beta readers before updating and releasing her second edition.

Her beta readers consisted of people in the startup community who had previously reached out to her asking for help and other entrepreneurs in her network who were running startups.

By asking for their feedback after reading her first edition ebook, Joanna was able to discover “whether [her second edition] would hit the mark or not.” 

What came of her beta-reader feedback? Two updates.

The first big change that came from her beta readers was the size of her ebook. Her audience told her it was too long to read, so she broke it into four smaller ebooks.

The second major update to her ebook is based on the idea of making it more action-oriented. Her audience consumed the content but didn’t know what to do with it. 

So, Joanna added a page at the beginning of her ebook that explicitly explains what readers will be able to do by the end of the book. 

“We wanted to make sure that everybody knew that once you read this, you'll be able to walk away and actually know how to write a headline, or know how to write a button and when to change your button copy, and things like that,” she explains.

Making her ebook actionable is something that differentiates Joanna’s work -- and brand -- from the rest. “Everything we do at Copyhackers is actionable,” she claims.

“A lot of people have really great theory,” she describes. “There's a lot of information, a lot of knowledge on what to do, but very little practical abilities at that point.”

What’s more, Joanna even added an interactive element to her sales page ebook to keep her audience accountable for taking action.

“At the end [and] at different points throughout, we had you go sign in online and say what you're going to do next, so you would have that form of commitment,” she reveals.

It’s important for Joanna to push her readers beyond simply consuming theory. She wants her ebooks to help readers “prioritize actually doing that work and figure out what they should do.”

Because when it comes to taking action, there are enough hurdles to bypass, like overcoming imposter syndrome. Feeling like her work won’t be as good as the other pros out there is something that’s currently blocking Joanna from her next creative work.

“I keep letting other people's great work get in the way of me doing what might be my next great thing,” she admits.

Which is why she’s so focused on creating actionable work. As far as taking action after reading her ebooks, Joanna’s parting advice is to do it with integrity and respect.  

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Joanna’s parting words of wisdom

When it comes to writing, Joanna believes it’s important to have integrity and respect your audience’s intelligence. 

“I most enjoy reading things when the author has a certain level of respect for my intelligence,” she explains.

In other words, don’t fool your audience and write copy that tricks them into something irrelevant. 

For instance, the purpose of a headline is to grab your audience’s attention. But, if you grab their attention and your offer isn’t relevant, that’s a problem -- and misuse of the writing tools.

“If you’re going to use the tools to manipulate people, I’m not writing the book for you,” Joanna clarifies. 

On the other hand, if you’re using the information to create and promote good products, that’s why she wrote her ebooks. 

Joanna explains, “If you're somebody who wants to do good things with the product that you're putting out there for an audience that you respect, then hopefully that's where the tools will be useful for you.” 

(If you want another useful tool, Podia’s all-in-one platform makes selling your digital products a cinch. See for yourself using this free 14-day trial).

To access Joanna’s useful tools, download her ebook, Where Stellar Messages Come From.

For more great tips from pro creators like Joanna, sign up for our free, exclusive email list, where we’ll deliver a link to every episode straight to your inbox.