An Unsuccessful E-Book Launch Analysis – My Suggestions

I recently read a case study of an e-book launch gone wrong. If you haven’t read it, check it out – it’s an excellent read.

Blogging Reality Check

I read Martin’s book and I thought it was pretty good. That said, I wasn’t surprised that sales were not very good.

Here are my thoughts on what I thought Martin did well, why I don’t think it sold very well, some mistakes that were made and some suggestions for Martin.

Things that Martin did well

Quality – The book is quite good. Layout and presentation are excellent. Nuff said. Books don’t sell on quality – if there is a demand for a topic and the quality is half decent, it should sell.

Promotion – Martin did a ton of guest posts around the blogosphere and did a decent job getting the word out. He also set up an affiliate program which helped. He should continue with promotional efforts and look for different audiences. The book is geared towards financial beginners and most people who read financial blogs already know the basics.

Execution – His execution on this project was excellent. He accomplished a huge amount of work and the final result is of high quality.

Sales research – Martin spent a ton of time researching sales tactics and while they might not have paid off on this book (yet), that information is quite valuable and can pay dividends long into the future. It wasn’t a waste of time.

Why I think the book hasn’t sold very well

Lack of demand – If you have a product and try your hardest to sell it and it doesn’t sell – clearly there is a lack of demand from that audience. You can try to look for new audiences, but it’s possible that there just isn’t any demand for your product. Or not enough to economically justify finding new customers.

Too much competition – Most financial books seem to fall into two categories –

  1. Specific – A book that deals with one narrow topic such as RESPs or Roth IRAs.
  2. General – A general book might talk about all personal finance topics – examples would be the Wealthy Barber, David Bach (Latte factor) etc or about a broad segment ie investing or debt reduction.

I would categorize Martin’s book in the “general” category. Yes, it’s not as general as the Wealthy Barber, but the debt category is fairly general.

This means that he has too much competition – There are too many big name gurus in the general personal finance area and it is too difficult for an unknown person to make much of a mark. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it’s very difficult – and if you fail, you will fail big.

Some mistakes that were made

Book is too general and has too much competition – In my opinion, the book topic and title were not good choices – more in the “suggestions” section below.

Over-relying on the “launch” – The big launch day is a fairly recent and over-hyped phenomenon on the internet. Block buster movies hype the opening weekend sales, but in the end they tally all the sales – not just that first weekend.

There is nothing wrong with trying to start with a bang, but you have to consider that your launch efforts might take a while to see any results.  I don’t think Martin made a mistake with his launch, but rather he was expecting too much.

Didn’t create a real “e-” and “paper” book – Anyone can create a pdf and call it an e-book. The more work you do to get your book onto more legitimate channels – the better off your book will appear.

Some suggestions for Martin

My suggestions revolve around two areas – changing the focus of the content and creating more sales medium (or sales channels).


I hate the title “Completely Conquer Credit” – It’s catchy, it’s cool, and it doesn’t mean a damn thing. He doesn’t mention debt or credit cards or student loans which are the relevant terms for someone in their 20’s who is in debt.

My suggestion is to change the focus of the book to only deal with how to reduce and eliminate debt.

Part of this book covers how to avoid debt. This is a good topic, but unfortunately nobody buys books on how to avoid debt. Either a person avoids debt on their own or they wait until they are drowning in debt and only then are they willing to pay $17 for a life jacket.

I would remove any reference to avoiding debt. Assume that the only people willing to buy this book are drowning in debt and need help.

The title should be changed to something a lot more accurate and to the point:

  • How to kill your debt
  • How to eliminate your student loans
  • How to be debt-free before you turn 30
  • How to crush your debt

A debt-reduction book will still face a lot of competition, but at least if the book is a bit more specific and focused, it should have a better chance.

Increase Sales Channels

There is an e-book revolution going on, but it’s mostly in cheap fiction. Most people still read print books and if you want to have a legitimate book – get a print version.

I hired someone to do my book – she charged $175 for the cover and formatting. You can sign up with Amazon CreateSpace for free and get your book on Amazon.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t sell a single book off Amazon, having that print book available is huge with the media and will give you a lot of credibility.


Get the book on Kindle and perhaps some of the other formats as well. Kindle is the best known in the US (I think) and I would start there.

American/Canadian thing

This might be a plan B, but I would consider turning the book into a Canadian book – or come out with a Canadian version. It is a heck of a lot easier to get media attention in Canada compared to the United States – there is just too much competition there.

Lastly – a word about failures

I know Martin can’t be happy with the results of his book and in the end, it might get shelved as he moves onto other projects. Don’t forget – failure is part of winning.

Steve Jobs went out (literally) on the top of his game. But Apple wasn’t always as popular as it is now. I remember a long period of time in the 80’s when it appeared that Apple was going to fade away and be taken over by a stronger brand. Steve Jobs himself was booted out of the company in 1985.

Look how that turned out.


11 Responses to “An Unsuccessful E-Book Launch Analysis – My Suggestions”

  1. Mike Piper says:

    Aside from bloggers, I’m not sure I know a single person who’s paid money for a pdf. But nearly everyone I know has bought books from Amazon.

    To me, the pdf route seems to create a whole list of obstacles that the Amazon route avoids completely:

    “Pay money for a pdf? Seriously?” — as compared to buying a book, which I’ve done plenty of times.
    Sales resistance resulting from an overtly promotional sales pages — as compared to an Amazon page with simple descriptive information about the book and a handful of honest-sounding, mostly-positive customer reviews.
    Checkout on a site I’ve never heard of (“e-junkie? What does that mean?”) — as compared to a site I’ve purchased from numerous times, where I already have an account and where my credit card info is already saved.

    You have to overcome each of these obstacles for every single sale. Not only that, but you have to do all the selling — as compared to the print/Kindle method where Amazon is entirely responsible for a good portion of the sales.

    You do get a significantly higher profit margin by direct-selling pdfs. But you give up a lot in order to get that extra margin.

  2. Rachelle says:

    Too funny I was thinking about this the other day, about launching an ebook for landlords…then I thought…how many landlords have ebook readers.

    And I’m sorry but you do need to change the title pronto.

    Another little thing I have discovered. If people are into the “positivity movement” kind of pie in the sky crap, they will hate your book. (Just like they will hate mine) It’s a lot easier to sell what people want to believe than a great guide for getting things done. After all a lot of the guide stuff is easy to find and easy to implement.

    Therefore a great title for your book would be… Quick and Easy 100% guaranteed method to spend your way out of debt (only $99.99 🙂

    Yet another point is that no one is an overnight success. No One. There is a learning curve. You see this a lot with “celebrities” take Britney Spears for example. I was a kid when she first burst on the scene. Well she was shaking her booty on the Mickey Mouse club Show when she was 6 freeking years old. Lady GaGa, no one ever heard of her a few years ago, she was singing for years and years before anyone ever heard of her.

    It’s the same thing in every career, in every business. I am self employed. I’ve been in business for myself for 15 years and I’m learning a lot even now. I do well for myself, but I’ve also starved and been broke a lot of that time. One saying that goes around business circles is that most millionaires have gone bankrupt 3 times in their lives before they “hit the jackpot”

    If you don’t learn what to do you learn what not to do!

  3. I am about to launch a new eBook in a few days. I better have some success with it. People fail in life, it happens, the key is to get back up and keep on keeping on.

  4. Mike Holman says:

    @Mike – Great point about the selling website. Everyone has heard of Amazon and likely trusts them with their credit card info.

    @Rachelle – The funny thing is that it’s not much harder or much more expensive to create a print book than it is to create an e-book. Alan Shepard (the God of print-on-demand self-publishing) suggests it might be a good idea to start with an e-book, but if it’s successful, add on a print copy as well.

    I like your suggested title. 🙂 Maybe I should change my book to “How to achieve incredible wealth using your RESP with no effort”. 😉

    @Justin – Good luck.

  5. Thank you very much for this very good post! I’m glad I read it before starting on an e-book. Lack of demand would be my demise as well. Or better said: “Lack of interest from the public.” And I would even add … although they *should* be interested (like they should be interested in Martin’s book!).

    Writing really good information on “debt” (Martin) and “health” (in my case), here you have two people who are honest and try to help with workable and realistic concepts, but the public doesn’t want to know.

    This way, and I think we are not the exceptions as there are many people out there who really, really know, the good information gets lost, in books, e-bocks, websites and blogs and the suffering goes on and on because people will always fall for the “easy way out” as they are not willing to change. This is an age old statement and so we have to live with it.

    I may still write this e-book to simply make sure that there will nobody in the future who says: “I couldn’t find the information!” But I won’t expect to earn money with it, after all, there are other ways on the internet to earn money, if the time for truth and serious change still hasn’t come.

    Thank you again, I’m really so glad I read this article before starting to write my e-book.

  6. Mike Holman says:

    @Antje – I wouldn’t write an ebook that nobody will read. Just put the info on your blog and hope for the best.

    It hard for bloggers and authors to differentiate between writing something they are interested in and something that other people are also interested in as well.

  7. Thank you, Mike, for your answer. You are probably right, just put up a blog and see how successful it is, nowadays a blog can easily converted in a printed book or an e-book.

    I don’t think it’s too hard to differentiate. Google Adwords and many other sources always show what’s trendy and what people are interested in. But there seems to be basic information that people want and they say they want it, i.e. living debt free or living healthy, but don’t want to change or work on the subject.

    But as frustrating as this is at time, especially when you have to listen to the moaning when things have gone pear-shaped, maybe we writers have to adapt more, i.e. write motivational books on “difficult” subjects or invent a game maybe? Thinking …

    Sunny greetings from Spain!

  8. Matt Jabs says:

    My favorite point of this article: if you fall, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again damn it. We’re having decent success with our first ebook (published 9/1/2011), but we learned so through the process that we would’ve considered zero sales a success. Never give up… never freaking give up.

  9. Mike Holman says:

    Great comment Matt. I agree – gotta just keep at it!

  10. Hey Mike,

    great post!

    Quick question; when you do a print copy, Do you have to pay for a minimum impression? how does it work? How much does it cost?