Why most online products fail

Why Most eBooks & Online Products Fail (& How to Actually Succeed)

Why most online products failYou poured your heart and soul into creating an eBook. You put in the hours, you created your best work, and you went through the trouble of learning how to publish your own book. You planned, designed, edited, and finally launched. And now… your eBook isn’t selling.

This is a reality that sadly, the VAST majority of people experience when publishing an online product.

I’m not going to lie to you – launching a product online is not for the faint of heart. It requires you to step out of your comfort zone, learn things that you may never have thought you’d have to (Pricing strategy? Sales page creation? Email campaigns, huh?)

But there are a few key mistakes that many people make that you can avoid off the bat. Avoid these five mistakes and you are going to start out heads and shoulders in front of the majority. This way, when it does come time to launch, you’ll be ready to have a true success on your hands.

#1 – You didn’t write for your audience.

When setting out to create an eBook, the first and foremost thing you need to do is figure out who your audience is and what problems they are searching for answers to.

Because, if you aren’t writing in a way that your audience understands, they simply aren’t going to want to read what you have to say.

How to avoid this problem: Research and answer the following questions:

  • What does your ideal reader look like? What’s their age and demographics? Are they a parent? What kind of house do they live in? What do they do in their spare time? Really get a solid idea of exactly who you’re writing for.
  • What are their problems that they are willing to pay you to solve? Maybe you’re a fitness coach, and you want to write about healthy dieting. Are they really looking for a new diet, or are they looking to feel comfortable in their own body? Or, maybe they want more energy so they can spend more time with their family. Really dig deep to figure out the root pains so that you can address these in your eBook. Go out and ask!

Be careful with the “go out and ask” part, though. This does NOT mean go ask your parents and best friend what they think. Unless of course, you best friend is within your ideal market! Go to the people that are actually going to be purchasing you product, and figure out what they are looking for.

The second half of writing for your audience is making sure that you’re taking them through a transformation with your book. From the beginning of your writing process, I want you to ask yourself: what change are my readers looking to experience, and how are my readers going to be changed by the end of this book? 

#2 – You wrote about something that nobody cares about.

This point really goes back to the last one. If you do the research and make sure you understand what your audience is looking to read, this is an easy one to avoid.

However, if you fail to do the right research and find out whether or not your target audience will be interested in reading what you’ve got to say, you may sadly find that your eBook gains no customers.

How to avoid this problem: Outline your ideas and test them with some current clients to make sure that they’re well received. Check out our article on testing your ideas to see how.

It is SO important that your product AS SPECIFIC AS POSSIBLE. There are endless amounts of generic self-help programs and fitness regiments. Thousands of marketing manuals and cooking guides.

But if you can get SUPER specific and find one question that your audience has, you can solve that problem with your book and find yourself gaining far more customers than you would writing for everyone and anyone.

Hint: Are there any questions that you get again and again from clients and readers? This is where to start. If you can create a guide or program to answers on of these questions in detail, you’re going to be 100 steps ahead.

#3 – You charged the wrong amount for your book.

Pricing an eBook can be a bit tricky, since the product is purely digital. It’s important to do a little bit of research to figure out the right price point for your book.

If your eBook is a short read, you will definitely need to price your book on the low end. Many people charge as low as $0.99 cents for a simple eBook, and anywhere up to $9.99 for a more in-depth book.

On the other hand, if your book is workbook style and meant to result in a major transformation for the reader, you can charge a much higher price. I’ve seen books cost anywhere from $29 to $99 for this type of information.

How to avoid this problem:  It really comes down to figuring out what your specific readers are willing to pay.

  • Contact a few of your favorite clients and asking them for an honest opinion on how much they’d be willing to pay for your eBook. Explain the concepts featured in the book and what they achieve by reading it.
  • Poll your readers. Giving them a quick outline of the concepts and benefits, offer several price ranges that you have in mind (ex: $1-$2, $3-$5, $6-$9, $10+) and ask them to anonymously choose.

#4 – You didn’t do any pre-launch marketing.

A big mistake that many of us make (I sure was guilty of this one, and it took me several times to learn the same lesson!) is assuming that if we make something, people will come and read or buy it.

This is unfortunately very, very untrue. Of course, if you already have a large audience built up on a blog or mailing list, it’s going to be a whole lot easier to simply launch a book and have readers find it.

However, no matter what your audience size, it is ALWAYS smart to do some marketing before-hand to build excitement and let readers know what’s about to come.

Nathan Barry is a graphic designer who sold over $11,500 of his eBook, The App Design Handbook, on the very first day of launching. In under a year, this book brought in over $100,000. The good news for the rest of us is that Nathan started selling eBooks with a relatively small audience.

He did, however, do quite a bit of pre-launch marketing, including 5 guest posts, selling to his email lists, and asking friends to send out a tweet. (Read about Nathan’s full launch strategy here). (He also put a lot of thought into his pricing strategy.) This proves that you don’t need a huge following to make money with eBooks, but you DO need to put in the work to promote it.

How to avoid this problem:  Plan ahead and build hype! Here’s a few ideas:

  • Create a private Facebook group of super-interested fans to spill sneak-peeks to and ask for advice. Check out our full article on how to use Facebook groups for marketing, here.
  • Post excerpts from your book to your blog, Facebook page, or email list. Get readers interested by giving them some of the best pages of your book, and letting them know that there is more to come with the launch of the full eBook.
  • Publish articles on your blog and as a guest blogger on other sites that are related to the topics found in your eBook. At the end, relate the article back to your book, with a link to sign-up for your email list to learn more about the eBook.

#5 – You didn’t get any book reviews.

If you’re publishing your eBook on Amazon or any other major retailer site, or even simply on your own site, it’s important to get some of your fans to leave you reviews right as your eBook launches.

On sites like Amazon, the more reviews you receive, the higher your book is pushed in the rankings. If you can get your book to rank on a best-seller list, your potential sales can multiply.

On your own site, you can use reviews as testimonials on your eBook’s sales page. Testimonials that discuss how the book helped the reader solve their problems can go a long way in increasing your credibility and book sales.

How to avoid this problem:  Create a plan to get reviews before the book launch. Some ways you can do this:

  • Email 25-50 of your clients or audience members and offer them a free, advance copy of your book. Ask that in return for a free copy of the book, they leave an honest review on the website of choice.
  • Create an eBook giveaway on your website of Facebook page. Again, request that winners leave a review after they finish reading the book.


These are just some of the top mistakes that many first-time book creators make. Of course, low book sales can result from any number of factors, but these are a few that you can avoid with the right amount of research and preparation.

Question for you: Can you think of any other big mistakes that would keep a book from selling well?



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Meg Sylvia

Meg Sylvia is the Founder & Creative Director of Artful Publications. She is a marketing and graphic design strategist with a sharp focus on online product creation. She helps bloggers & digital entrepreneurs launch beautiful, successful eBooks and online products of their own.
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About The Author

Meg Sylvia

Meg Sylvia is the Founder & Creative Director of Artful Publications. She is a marketing and graphic design strategist with a sharp focus on online product creation. She helps bloggers & digital entrepreneurs launch beautiful, successful eBooks and online products of their own.