A few months ago, I stumbled across the idea of creating online publications, sometimes called ‘flipbooks’, to promote my real estate business, my sellers listings, and publish market updates.
There are several features and benefits to creating flipbooks that interested me, including the ability to convert an already existing PDF, adding links, audio and video into those PDF’s and then being able to display them across all devices easily and beautifully.
Yes, I’ve been blogging for over a decade, and creating a blog post is pretty simple. But it also comes with limitations to the format. Unless you’re well versed in css, html language and other nerdy skills, your blog posts will always look the same. Of course, you could hire someone to customize your posts, but I prefer to do these things myself, and as you will see, creating online flipbooks is simple, beautiful and very effective.
Some ideas of what kind of publications a real estate agent might create are:
- High-Quality Listing Brochures
- General Real Estate Market Updates
- Neighbourhood Market Reports
- Marketing Brochures for their real estate services
Here is an example of an online newsletter
Searching for a flipbook creator
I started by googling terms like : creating online publications, converting PDF’s to html5, converting a PDF to flipbook, etc, and soon found a list of a few likely competitors. These included names like
I’ve learned that if I’m seeking something cost-effective (ie: cheap) avoid the “AD” spots at the top of the results. Issuu is one provider that consistently comes up in top Ad-spots, and true to form, is prohibitively expensive for smaller, one-person entrepreneurs such as individual real estate agents.
Over the next couple of months, I sampled, tested and even purchased short term membership or subscriptions to a variety of these flipbook creators, and in the process learned a lot. For example, one of them showed examples of what the finished publication would look like on a mobile device. Sounds very helpful, but when the newest mobile phone example they give is an I-Phone 6, (ca 2014), it makes me wonder if they’re still working on the platform.
I also discovered that the pricing varies widely, but lets look at some of the more common features we are hoping to find for our purposes.
Links and PDF to Html5 conversion
Pretty much ALL of the flipbook creators offer these very basic but important features. Your PDF will be converted into html5 language which is visible and searchable by google. If your PDF contains active links, they will be maintained in the conversion process, so that your finished online publication has the same links already embedded.
In addition, you can add new links, sometimes called ‘hot spots’ into the publication at just about any location. Some of them, such as fliphtml5, even have ready made graphics that you can add anywhere in the publication, such as buttons, ‘click here’ icons, etc.
Thruout this article, the words ‘online publication’, and ‘e-books’ and ‘flipbooks’ will be used and are meant to be interchangeable. In other words, we are always talking about the finished product of an online book, catalog, brochure or other publication.
Embedding Audio and Video
Again, pretty much all of these providers allow you to add audios and videos into the publications. Some even have the added benefit of allowing you to set the media to ‘autoplay’ as soon as the page is opened by the reader.
This is really nice. Imagine a potential client reading thru your “Las Vegas Housing Market Report” and arriving at page 9, which has some nice colorful graphs, but no text.
If you’ve embedded an audio file and set it to auto-play, the ‘reader’ of your publication will then be treated to your voice, explaining what they are looking at.
This auto-play feature is not available in ALL providers, but I’ve found work-arounds by hosting the audio and video files in certain places that provide this feature externally.
So far, these features (audio, video embeds, links and html5 conversion) are pretty important, and fairly universal. The next features are super-fun, effective and not so universal.
It took me a little while to stumble across this feature, and even longer to comprehend it’s powerful benefits. This feature allows the creator (you) to embed a large variety of items right into the publication. Just think about possible applications for this:
- Embed google maps
- Embed external quizzes and polls
- Embed your own (or other) listings
- Embed local event schedules
- Embed ANYTHING with an i-frame (keeping in mind copyright laws etc)
For us real estate agents, the implications are super powerful. For example, if you have a luxury listing brochure, you can embed a local map right into it. Add the aforementioned audio and video features, and your brochure becomes something far superior to that of your competitors.
Only a few providers have this feature, and it comes at a premium. I really liked FlipSnack, but this feature required their Business-Level Plan at $79 per month.
The other provider I really liked was Yumpu, a european company who offered a lot of great features. However i-framing was NOT one of them, not even at the $107 per month plan. (Don’t panic, the provider I settled on comes in a lot cheaper than any of these…… but please read on)
Custom URL for your flipbook
Only a few provide the ability for you to use your own URL. Yumpu is one which does this, again in its $107 dollar per month plan. This allows the user to create their own subdomain, so that instead of yumpu.com/april-market-report, you will see this
The subdomain (in this case ‘news’), is of course completely up to YOU to chose. The point is that any and all traffic is counted under YOUR domain, not the flipbook creator. Add to this the benefits of branding, and you can see that this feature is quite important.
Limits on Publication numbers
These flipbook platforms usually charge a monthly fee for their services, but some come with an additional limitation. I’ve found a couple which only allow you to have 3 or 4 publications at ONE TIME. This does not really work for real estate agents, who might wish to publish a few Listing Brochures, at the same as as a monthly market update, neighbourhood reports and other items.
Some providers offer google analytics integration, which will allow you to see where your traffic is coming from. Helpful of course, but not available in all flipbooks.
And the Winner is…….
As I tried, sampled, evaluated and tested the various providers, a few good ones really impressed.
Flipsnack’s customer service was exemplary. My initial email was answered within an hour, and follow up questions were always treated with speed and courtesy. Plus they offered the i-frame option, but NOT the custom url option, unless I wanted to spend $200 per month instead of the $79 Bus. Plan. (US dollars…..so around a grand Canadian….j.k.)
Yumpu stood out for the ‘numbers of opens’. For someone who publishes blog posts that get a hundred views, having an online magazine achieve 4,000 opens in a month is pretty impressive. However, since google analytics integration was never achieved, I can’t verify if those are accurate. Even if they are, WHERE are those readers? Having several thousand europeans reading my local market report is not as helpful as you might think.
Plus YUMPU offered the custom url option, but NOT the i-framing, and at $107 was one of the more expensive offerings.
So I was about to make a selection between these two, knowing I’d have sacrifice something in the process. Happily I tried to search on google one more time and stumbled across what would turn out to be my eventual choice, SimpleBooklet.
The reason they never came up before is 2 fold…. for one, they are a relatively new company and for the other, spend nothing in advertising or promoting themselves. So when I ‘discovered’ them, I couldn’t believe my luck as they provided nearly everything I ever wanted, at a reasonable price. I asked them for an affiliate link, here it is
Here is what SimpleBooklet provides
Only two pricing plans, really. There is the PRO plan for a mere $9.99 per month (if purchased as part of a one-year plan). It contains everything that follows, but is limited to 3 publications. Additional publications can be added at 50cents each..
Or you can go right to the Business Plan at $39.99 per month, which allows you to sell your publications, lock them securely, and have up to 200 online magazines at one time. Here are all the features included:
- Links and Html5 conversion
- Audio and Video embedding
- Full i-frame object embedding
- Your own Custom url
- Google analytics
- 200 publications for the Business Plan
- Super customer service via text or email
In other words, all of the things I had been finding piecemeal in other providers, were being offered at less than half the cost with Simplebooklet.com
But it gets even better. They provide a full suite of social media sharing options, SEO customization, and video creation.
For example, you can, at the touch of a button, create a short video promo of EACH publication.
Like This one here (I added my own voice over, which is NOT included in the automatic video creation by simplebooklet)
You can of course, embed the publication in your own blog, or share it online easily to facebook twitter, pinterest etc.
To help with SEO, you can add a title, description and meta data to each publication.
BONUS 1: Your Own Bookcase Collection
Organize your publications into ‘Collections’ and display/promote them as a single unit, like this
Bonus 2: Chat box for client feedback
At the bottom of each publication, your reader can hit the chat feature and it will send you an email from them. A very nice easy way for any potential customer to reach you, while they are reading your magazine.
One thing that SimpleBooklet is reportedly working on is the ability to auto-play audio and video embeds.
In the end, the only issue I have is their name: it’s misleading, in a good way. There really is nothing ‘simple’ about these booklets, other than perhaps the amount of work it takes to create one. You end up with a full-featured, online publication that really wows your clients and potential customers.
And here is a Pro-Tip for you. Add your publications as “Products’ into your Google My Business Profile. Its easy, and gives your profile an added visual component. Clients can click on these and go directly to your monthly neighbourhood updates, or listing brochures.
Again here is the affiliate link, which will pay me a one time fee if you should chose to try this platforminstall our iOS App. For your Android Devices, click here to install our Android App. Check my videos on Youtube