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How Not To Fail

Jessica Barkell

Write! Publish!…Fail!

A lot of people believe that the first step in selling an ebook is writing an ebook. Those people are wrong. The first step in selling an ebook is finding people to buy it.

Sounds backwards, doesn’t it? It’s not.
Let me share with you something I see happen all the time, which no one likes to talk about:

A very brilliant, very talented, very capable writer has a “great idea” for an ebook. They sit down to outline it, spend months writing and re-writing it, they publish the book online, and then all their hopes are dashed by the sound of – *chirp chirp* – crickets.

“Why isn’t anybody buying my book? What should I do? I wrote an amazing book! As Jerry McGuire would say: SHOW ME THE MONEY!”

Do you know what happened? They wrote a book nobody wanted.

Lesson #1:

The first step in selling an ebook, is finding people to buy it.

The truth of the matter is…writing an ebook is time-consuming endeavor. Before you start doing all that work, doesn’t it make sense to go out there and find people who are actually willing to buy your ebook first?

Sounds obvious, I know, but everyone skips this step because we let our egos get in the way of our common sense. We think we already know what people want and how to give it to them – but this is exactly the type of thinking which leads to chirping crickets when you publish.

Do you want crickets?

Or do you want to do the work that gets you paid for all the blood, sweat, and tears you’ll shed creating an amazing ebook? Call me crazy, but I’m guessing it’s the latter. So, I’ll say it again:

If you just sit down and start writing for yourself, you have absolutely no guarantee that anyone else will be interested in what you’re writing.

But if you start with an audience first and find out what they need, want, and are willing to buy – the odds of people buying your book go up a lot.

So, what should you do first?

Choose and research an audience first. Resist the urge to just sit down and write. You’ll thank yourself later when you publish your book to a list of people eagerly waiting to hand you their money. But how?

Market Research (in 30 Minutes or Less)

Now that you understand how important it is to find people who are willing to buy your ebook before you sit down to write it, let’s talk about how to find them.

Let’s say I’m passionate about health and fitness and I’m going to write a book about how to lose weight and achieve optimum health. Specifically I want to talk about nutrition, supplements, and different types of diets.

What unsuccessful authors do:

They sit down at their computer, whip up an outline for the book, and start writing.


You might be an expert on the topic, but this isn’t about you. This is about what your audience needs.

Your audience is where it all starts:

Even if you think you know what they need, you’ll be surprised that just a little market research can go a long way. Within just 30 minutes, you won’t have to guess what people want to read and are willing to pay for – you’ll know. How? Because they’ll tell you.

“But wait, I don’t have an audience.”

Not to worry. You don’t need to be internet famous or have spent years building legions of blog readers to do this. But you do need to go find where your audience lives – online. Where does your audience hang out? What blogs do they read and what internet forums are they actively participating in?

For some of you, this might be really easy because you are a part of your audience. You know what blogs they read, what forums and websites they hang out in because you’re there too. But, in case you’re having trouble, there’s this little thing called Google. Now, go find the top blogs and websites for your audience.

What are you looking for?

First, were you able to find your audience online? If not, you might have a hard time selling any ebooks. Assuming you did, here’s what you need to look for:

  • What are the “hot topics” for your audience? These are blog posts with over 50 comments, forum threads (with a lot of activity), or a post listed in the sidebar as the most popular articles of all time. 
  • What are people confused about? Do you see the same questions over and over again? Even if they are answered correctly, that means it’s still a relevant and confusing topic for newbies. Write it down.
  • What are a few buzzwords, key phrases, acronyms, or industry speak that this audience uses? Write them down. 
  • What are the problems, worries, anxieties, stresses, anger, or any other emotions that you see repeating in the comments or forums?

This is the key to building up your marketing efforts so do not move forward until you’ve done this research!

Do the work. Reap the benefits.

This is critical for everything that follows. Do the work and you’ll get the results you need to be a successful self-published author.

Like this article? Check out the next post in this series about 10-Minute Marketing Tactics for Busy Authors.

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