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Not Every Ebook is a Success, But it’s Always a Lesson

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

Ebooks have played a vital part in my business for all three of the years I have been operating. From free offers to successful products, these handy publications enabled me to earn quite a bit of money in three years, as well as grow an audience of over 11,700 members.

What I’d like to do for you today is go through a history of the ebooks I’ve written, and explain what I’ve learned along the way. My hope is that you will learn from my mistakes and failures as well as enjoy the experience of sharing in my story.

Ebook case study 1: $2030 in one day

My first ebook was written about World of Warcraft gold (the in-game currency for players) and how to make as much of it as possible, as quickly as possible. The ebook benefited from being sold to a highly receptive audience that I’d spent months building a relationship with.

Having only 500 subscribers made me nervous, but I went forward with writing the book and publishing it anyway. To my pleasant surprise, the ebook made over two thousand dollars in the first twenty four hours. I was absolutely ecstatic.

Why was it so successful? I didn’t know it at the time, but I had done quite a lot of things right throughout the process of creating, selling, and advertising my new ebook.

I used media that was perfect for gamers within my product, namely diagrams, audio casts and videos. This ensured that readers would absolutely love the product once they purchased it. I always find it interesting how people assume ebooks have to be … well … books! The “ebook” wasn’t just a .pdf file, it was actually a series of web pages that you needed to have paid for in order to visit. Being unconventional was one of the primary reasons for the success of the ebook.

The content itself was straightforward, easy to use and incredibly useful. I had worried that maybe I wasn’t writing enough, but as the sales poured in I soon realized that this was exactly what gamers were looking for: easy strategies that anyone could follow and be successful with. That’s what I was selling; solutions to their problems. Who wants a long-winded solution anyway?

To improve the number of successful sales, I used a huge number of websites, social media outlets, and forums to sell and/or advertise my ebook. I didn’t simply write “buy this now to be successful!” Rather, I took the time to engage members of these sites in conversation about similar topics. Eventually, someone would ask for more information, or if I had a website. That’s when I would promote my ebook, and it worked amazingly well. All those people who were reading the conversation but not contributing ended up buying the ebook, not just the few involved directly.

This is a life lesson for selling anything online: don’t try to sell outright. Instead, focus on answering questions. If your ebook is the answer, then you can feel confident recommending it within the discussion!

Ebook case study 2: Freebies for subscribers

Getting more subscribers to my autoresponder email sequence was very important to me throughout the process of building up my business. To increase the influx of new subscribers, I created an incentive to sign up: a short ebook broken up into seven emails. Each of these seven emails contained a very specific piece of information, and discussed how this could help readers succeed. These were an incredibly big hit to the tune of +220% new signups per day; once again, I made use of an unconventional way to share an ebook.

Free ebooks are one of the simplest ways to test how good an ebook writer you are. Splitting up the ebook into a series of emails is also a great way to distribute it, especially if you aren’t sure if your audience would want to download something from your site. This is particularly true if you are dealing with a group of users who are afraid to download anything online.

Ebook case study 3: A flop

Not all of my ebooks were amazing success stories. One in particular was my first book about making money online: The Why People Course. I chose to forget everything I did right with the past two ebooks and try something new.

It’s okay to try new things, but not at the expense of the lessons you learned in the past. I simply wrote up a very long peice (105 pages) on everything I knew regarding running a business online. There was no table of contents, just three gigantic sections of information. It was, to be frank, completely overwhelming for readers. Since I didn’t focus enough on any one area, many readers said that they felt the information was great but far too spread out to be truly useful. That’s not to say I am disgusted with the book, it’s actually pretty good in terms of content, but it’s nowhere near focused and organized enough.

Unfortunately, I also tried to really sell this book instead of engaging others in conversation about related topics. I told them to just go buy it and see for themselves, instead of proving the value I could bring through discussions and debate. I was a salesman instead of a friend recommending a successful product.

Why didn’t I write in such a way that the information was concise and immediately useful like my previous ebooks? Why didn’t I take advantage of unconventional methods for selling the book like I did in the past? For one, I fell victim to the lie that you have to do things a certain way in order to be successful selling an ebook. Because the niche was new to me, I felt that what I had learned in other niches was no longer true. I see this in the words of many of my readers who move to the make-money-online niche from either offline sales or similar businesses to my own. It’s not a good mindset to get stuck in.

The book earned very little and I went back to the drawing board.

Ebook case study 4: Re-focused

Black Sheep is my newest ebook and, I think, one of the best I’ve written. It combines traditional book writing methods with the new age of online concepts. I concisely define what it is I want to teach my buyers (critical thinking and decision making skills in order to improve their online businesses) and keep the book focused on only the information that will achieve this goal. Instead of 105 pages of fluff, I have less than 40 pages of actually useful and powerful information.

I’m still learning to write in the make money online niche and am nowhere near as successful with it as I have been in the gaming niche. However, I hope to continue to go back to what worked in game writing and apply the same concepts to writing for online marketers.

The next ebook I write will probably be for either making money online or a new gaming blog I’m starting about the Diablo 3 franchise. In either case, I will be going back to using outside the box methods for presenting the information within my next ebook, all the while remaining as concise as possible.

These are the lessons I have learned from successfully and not so successfully writing ebooks. What have you learned? Have you not tried to write an EBook yet?

Chris is a self proclaimed expert at showing bloggers how they can get traffic, build communities, make money online and be successful. You can find out more at The Traffic Blogger.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this i am actually thinking of writing an ebook my self but still scared to do so but waiting until i reach a certain amount of post to tackle the ebook writing. One question is there a formula to writing an ebook?

    • Hi Andrae! One of my friends sent me this link (http://www.onespoonatatime.com/how-to-write-an-ebook-the-outline-and-bundle-method) when I asked that same question. His answers are that writing an eBook is as simple as writing a handful of article posts. Let mevknow what you think :)

      • Don’t write an ebook you intend to sell by writing the equivalent of a bunch of posts. Ebook buyers expect organized information that leads them incrementally closer to their goals. Posts are usually disjointed and not connected enough to be placed in an ebook. Not saying it can’t work but I really advise writing chapters instead of posts. They are subtly different.

        If you want to go the route of combining posts, use that as a starting point or as your freebie to attract new subscribers.

      • Thanks for the reply guys @ Aisha i read the article in the link and it put everything in perspective on how to go about writing an ebook. @Chris will keep that in mind when writing and planning the ebook

  2. This is great information. You have had a bit more experience with ebooks, so it is good to know what you have tried and what worked and didn’t work for you. I have written 2 ebooks myself, although I would not call them successful. I am working on a 3rd. I figure each time I am learning something else I need to know to help move me closer to success.
    Bernice
    So you want to write an ebook? Where to begin

  3. Tammy says:

    Yes I agree with your point. Even if it is the cheapest and most affordable find, people will always tend to settle on freebies.

  4. I am actually in the process of writing an eBook, however, it’s not as cut and dry as I was hoping it would be. Basically because I feel like I should be sharing EVERYTHING I know to make it worthwhile and worth it’s salt in cash. Reading this article tells me that I should just keep it simple and stick to the practical and comprehensive format my readers love.

  5. SUV Stu says:

    Nice post Chris, interesting to see the hits and misses of your launches. Do you think the competition had anything to do with your results? I’d imagine there are plenty of online business books available, whereas depending on your timing you might have instantly had the WoW gold authority guide.

  6. CEO says:

    Great post Chris, I look forward to applying some of the lessons
    from this post on my first ebook. It’s a self development ebook and I hope it becomes
    a huge success.

  7. Blog Rehab says:

    Chris, that’s a great idea to break up the ebook into separate free emails, especially if your market isn’t used to downloading info from websites. If you only have one ebook close to being ready to launch, would you just distribute a chapter or two free to see the response? Or do you think it’s worth it in terms of goodwill and building the list to give it all away in separate emails, and then come up with other content (or repackage what you have) to sell a little later?

  8. Naphtali says:

    Writing an e-book is an easy task, it only depends on how you look at it.

  9. James Greg says:

    Chris, its quite strange how a gaming expert could think of getting involved in daily life topics. Gaming is a huge market I think probably the biggest if you count the software market. However you tried your skills in other regions that is good, to be well aware of reality.

    The article is sincere and to the point, I’m still confused that what is better a book or an e-book. Although the concept is similar yet I fell they differ in some aspect (what that is even I couldn’t make up). I think writing an ebook is not so difficult but marketing your product to the right audience is what hits the bulls eye.

    Everyone learns through experience and it’s truly great you shared your experiences so others would be spared the time and failure what we have learned from your post.

  10. Thanks for the insight into your ebook experiences – always nice to hear, so we can learn from others.

  11. Jeff says:

    Chris – great article, case studies are definitely one of the best ways people can learn what works and what doesn’t work when writing an ebook (or producing any how-to information product for that matter)

    Over the last 10-years we have produced more than 20 e-books and information products ranging from $17 to more than $1000 (coaching programs and membership sites). Although every one of these earned a profit, not all were what I would consider “winners” – that would fall into the 12-13 range.

    Over the years one of the most valuable lessons learned and that we teach to others is to pull ideas directly from your market…there are ways to become active in your market and know precisely what it is that they want most. Using this technique increases your probability of winning to nearly 100% (of course you can still goof up on the product itself or on marketing – but at least the concept and positioning is clear)

    From there, making your e-book target a specific desire, pare it down to a simple, usable guide are key aspects of being successful. Look forward to your next ebook.

    Jeff

  12. Guy Hogan says:

    I have an Ebook that can be downloaded from my blog. No one downloads the Ebook; and after reading your article I better understand why no one is downloading the Ebook. I have work to do.

  13. Email ebook (or a 4-5 part course) as a freebie for subscribing: Some readers tend to subscribe, download your freebie, and then unsubscribe. A 4-5 part email course means readers would stay subscribed for at least that much time, which means more time to get them hooked to your content sent through the newsletter!

  14. I love to read about other ebook authors sales experiences, so you’ve provided some good food for thought.

    I have one ebook that I sell for $95 (189 pages) and 7 others that are under the $12 mark. I generate sales on both sides of the fence, but I will say that buyers LOVE the smaller, less expensive ebooks. If a blogger favorably mentions one of my smaller ebooks in a blog post, sales go through the roof. I think I’ll still continue to do one expensive title a year because I love that huge chunk of cash, but for the most part, the cheaper ebooks pay my bills.

  15. Kevin Kerr says:

    Great Point on E-Books. I have one I”m working on right now and this has really helped me to figure out what will make it successful.

  16. Bob Mayer says:

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve found 99% of my fiction that sells are eBooks while for nonfiction it’s split 50-50 between eBook and print. Do you use LSI or Createspace for print? It might generate some strong sales for your books.

  17. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences! Even though we are in the Christian fiction genre, we can still learn from your input.

    I think your point about building relationships first before hitting them up to buy is a good one. And I really like the idea of using an autoresponder for subscribers too. The problem I’m facing is that we have a site with free short stories so we already give away tons of free content. We are also posting a serialized Christian novel a chapter a week. So I need to figure out what else I can use as an incentive for signing up.

    Thanks for your thoughts! Much success with your new ebook.

  18. Thanks for the very informative insight you’ve got from your eBook experience. This reminded me of an eBook that I wrote to sell in partnership with a fellow internet marketer which was supposed to be a “hot niche”, but the book was a flop, even though the info was well researched and the price rather low.

    Sometimes it’s a tough call. Truth is… it’s not because you write a book that it’s going to sell :)

  19. Lela says:

    I have to say that this is a very good article. Your success and failures and the lessons that you learned about each helps to pen point more of what to do and what not to do. It is always great to know what happened to cause a success and what caused a failure because you can repeat the good and avoid the bad.

  20. My publishing company has three books so far and we’ve tried all kinds of stuff to sell/promote, but the one thing that’s helped us a lot is dropping the price to 99 cents for novel (temporary drops). It was good for us to gain new readers not only for the book, but our other books in the company. We’ve also done several goodreads contests and have given away a number of free books. It’s all about experimenting and seeing what works.

  21. Cool story. Good lesson from it… These information will be helpful for my next e-book publish :)

  22. This is great insight, and generous of you to post it but from your own words, you had a “niche”. If you tell these wannabe writers about your scheme they’ll jump on board and flood your “niche” to the point where it won’t even be a niche anymore. Just look at Amanda Hocking and all the struggling ebook writers that jumped onto her scheme of selling the 1st book a series for 99 cents and $2.99 for the rest of the series. They contacted the same book bloggers she mentioned contacting, and wrote in the same genre she wrote in and look: the market is saturated and the book bloggers are swamped and back-up with ebooks.

    I’d advise you not to hand them your secret sauce but let them do their own work and come up with their own unique strategies for their own “individual” successes. This is one group that needs to.