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Who Else Wants to Sell More Ebooks?

Posted By Darren Rowse 1st of July 2011 Other Income Streams 0 Comments

This morning I was doing some reports on eBbook sales over the last few years and it struck me how much difference there can be in terms of numbers of sales from one ebook to the next—even ebooks sold on the same blog.

On dPS we have now launched six photography ebooks (and have another about to launch) and the variation in sales numbers is quite amazing.

Transcending Travel

Of course there are many factors that come into play that could determine an ebook’s success, including:

  • marketing
  • timing of release
  • price
  • cover design
  • author’s profile
  • and many, many other factors

However there’s one factor that I’m coming to see is extremely important (at least in my experience)—topic.

Of course that’s a pretty obvious thing, but not all topics are equal and even those that you think might be most appealing to people are not always going to succeed.

One illustration of this point are two great ebooks that we’ve launched in the last year or so. They were both written by the same author, and released to the same audience, at the same price, with much the same marketing strategy, and even similar sales copy—yet the results were quite different.

The ebooks were:

Which one do you think sold more?

I’ll tell you in a moment.

Both ebooks were written by Mitchell Kanashkevich and their quality was fantastic. Both were beautifully designed, very practical, and full of useful information.

The travel one launched first and we were a little unsure whether it was too niche-focused or not. While most people do travel and take trips, it’s something that most people only do occasionally.

On the other hand, color was a topic we identified as something every photographer really, really needed to know about and understand. It impacts every image a photographer takes, and understanding it can make a massive difference to the outcome of a shot.

Comparing the topics in this way we fully expected the color ebook to outsell the travel one, however, as you may have guessed, this was not to be.

Both ebooks performed well and were profitable but the travel photography one saw almost double the sales of the color ebook during its launch.

Now there could be a number of factors at play here, but as we’ve analyzed the results, one of the things we’ve realized is that while we thought that the color ebook should have been more useful to more photographers, it was somehow less tangible than the travel ebook.

While important, the topic of color was perhaps too wide and general in its focus to actually drive as many sales as we’d expected.

On the other hand, the travel ebook was narrower in focus, but it was going to lead those who bought it to see results in a specific area of their life. It would solve a specific problem that they faced—disappointing travel images.

We have since tweaked the marketing on the color ebook and have seen a rise in sales, but the two launches reminded us that not all topics are created equal.

That’s not to say that we won’t do more ebooks on topics like color, but we’re certainly looking for topics that solve specific, felt needs, too.

The other thing that this has taught us is to think more about marketing our ebooks even before they’ve been written. While we don’t want our marketing team to determine the content of a resource or to compromise the integrity of the authorship process, we’ve realized that if the author has been involved in talking about marketing even before they start writing, they’re more likely to produce something that is not only helpful but will also be easier to sell.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Ahh, my guess was right :)

  2. Wow that’s an interesting phenomenon. I think it has a lot to do with our need for instant gratification too. When we get into a topic at first we look for the specific techniques, the magic pills. It often takes years for a person commited to something to realise that the general principles are more valueable.

  3. I’m actually getting rid of my ebooks, shutting down commenting on http://www.vagobond.com and closing my email list. Sounds crazy, right? Maybe it is…maybe it’s not.


      • I feel like the internet is changing too fast to keep doing the same things as everyone else Graham. I’d love to sell more e-books and to make $20k but the strategies that everyone else is using haven’t really been working for me. So, I’m dumping a lot and going to the corps of what interests me – a lively interactive community of friends. Maybe it’s all a mistake…but somehow I don’t think so.

  4. Quite an interesting result, I would have definitely expected the book on color to outsell the travel guide, but as you said not all topics are created equal.

  5. I like the first one, too, and guessed correctly. I think alliteration works well with capturing one’s attention. I’m in the process of creating an ebook for surviving grad school for mental health professionals. Glad I read this, as I toyed with titles and content, and the swath was too wide. Time to narrow the focus.

    I have a question, and would appreciate anyone’s input:

    ~Do you think it’s better to advertise your ebook as an “ebook,” or does “guide” “manifesto” (<–never liked that one, sounds a bit narcissistic), or some other title sell better?


  6. Really nice tipes. And because I am interested in photography I would like to buy that book. Any way, I think this small guide is going to help a lot of internet marketers. Thank you for your post Darren!

  7. Hey this is really nice, i was trying to make an ebook and this will help me !! Thank you Darren!!

    I found a way to make money online too.


  8. Really interesting results Darren – I understand what you’re saying about starting the book promotion early on, and I understand the actual launch process … but it would be really helpful if you (or someone) could write about how to go about promoting a book that’s still in the works to begin building interest – especially how far ahead of launch to begin. Thanks!

  9. Honestly, I guessed the first one would sell better. However, I’m glad you shared this analysis. It’ll Will be very helpful..

  10. I know this is off-topic a little, but wanted to ask anyway. Is an ebook better than a printed book? Does selling a Kindle version make it more like a book or is it still an ebook? I’m talking about a full length book, not 30-60 page “guides”. What do you think?

    I’m asking because I’m writing a 300 page (approx) book under the coaching of Warren Whitlock (of Twitter Revolution) and we’re torn between waiting to go through a publisher (long process) or distribute through Amazon as a Kindle version or some combination. Will it make any difference in building my authority? my sales? or does the marketing control sales and format is immaterial?

    You can follow our struggle through this process on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Angies-Social-Media-Marketing-Book/141040895970567. Please comment there with your answers.

    We’re also hosting a “Name That Book” contest, if you can help us find a title — there are lots of prizes for the winners and all entrants get a copy of the book.

  11. Good analysis… though honestly the first thing to stick out to me was the “sexiness” of the subject. Everybody has romanticized ideals of travel that make it a topic most want to read more about (to dream!) while colours, on the other hand, sound like something that I can look up in tutorials online. While I am sure photographers will have their own take, as an average consumer (and avid traveler who knows his way around a Nikon SLR), the travel book was infinitely more appealing right off the bat.

  12. I thought the color ebook had the better looking cover and thought that would be the one that sold the most copies. I guess this is why testing is so important.

  13. Thanks for this insight. I am currently playing around with the idea of writing an eBook. This has helped give me a slightly new look at it and ignited my dream a bit more.

  14. You always know how to get me to think outside of the box – Here I was all ready to write a general ebook, and now I’m thinking of switching it up to be more ‘niche-focused’. And you know what? Being more niche-focused may be more interesting for my readers, but it’s also more motivating for me because I’ve found a whole new angle to write the book from! It’s lit a little fire under me… I WANT to write this ebook now, whereas before it seemed like a bit of a chore, as if I were biting off more than I could chew. So, I’m off now, pondering my new nichey ebook. Thanks!

  15. People romanticize the idea of “seeing the world” or “hitting the beach”, and investing in a book on travel photography invokes the same warm fuzzies that folks associate with travel itself. Even if they’d get more utility out of the color book, psychological association is a huge factor in marketing and sales – I may have even learned that here ;) It’s a valuable lesson to keep in mind though for every project, from ebook launches to blog post. Thanks for the insight.

  16. What were the actual sales numbers. Saying one sold double is not statistically meaningful (doesn’t mean much) if one sold $20 worth and the other sold $40.

  17. I guessed correctly!
    I’m about mid-way through my ebook and I’ve been telling my followers & viewers it’s coming out soon. It makes me meet my deadline and creates some “buzz.”

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