Columns > Published on September 14th, 2016

What $100 Of eBook Marketing Advice Is Really Worth

I had a windfall. If $100 counts as a windfall. I'm not sure what the exact definition of "windfall" is, but for me, it's any amount I'd stay overnight in a haunted mansion to get. $100 is WELL within that boundary.

And because I'm bad with money, I decided to "invest" this $100 windfall into eBooks that contain advice about marketing and selling eBooks. I know, it's a stupid idea. But haven't you ever thought that maybe, just maybe there are a few tricks that would boost sales? I know I have. It's the same desperation exhibited when you Google "key to happiness" and look through more than 3 pages of results. You think maybe, just maybe, some hidden gem is out there somewhere.


[one of the books I bought told me to use more hashtags]

There were two goals in mind here:

When you hear the words "Passive Income Stream" I want you to picture those words coming out of the mouth of an unholy baby created by sexual congress between Matthew Lesko, the re-animated corpse of Billy Mays, and someone from Mary Kay who has one of those pink Cadillacs.

1. Sell more of my dumb eBooks.

2. Find out just how much $100 of advice was REALLY worth.

The Purchase

In total, I bought 33 books. That's what $100 gets you in this case. In fact, I don't think I quite spent the full hundo. It was just too hard to find enough titles to bring me up to that number, if you can believe it.

Titles were selected by the highly scientific process of typing "eBook marketing" into Amazon, finding some books, clicking on them, and then following the chain of "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..."

The Plan

The plan for this column was to go through these books, pick out the good advice and apply it. Then be rich. Rich as hell. And THEN I would tell you about it, we'd be rich together, and everything would be rad.

Garbage and Shit: Where The Plan Went Horribly Wrong

It turns out that almost all of the books I purchased are garbage and shit. Which means that, instead of writing about the great lessons I applied, I'm going to spend most of this column talking about why these books are garbage and shit. But take heart, I DO have a few recommendations, near the end, of books that actually had some goodness to them, not to mention a few pieces of helpful advice.

But the bad news is that the vast majority of what I read was garbage and shit, and a lot of them exhibited the same bad behaviors. Such as...

Numbers In The Titles!

Let's start with the titles.

A LARGE portion of these books have some kind of number in the title. 50 ways to do this, 63 ways to do that. And this titling scheme has turned into an escalating battle. Sure, I could buy a book titled Your First 1,000 Copies, but why waste time on that when I could buy HOW I SOLD 80,000 BOOKS? Not only is 80,000 more than 1,000, it's in all caps. That shows belief. And gumption!

One book would promise 5 secrets, the next promised 33, and the one after that promised 69 (that's not just a cute number I made up. Blame Hans Zimmerman for Marketing: Small Business Marketing - 69 Marketing Tips to Boost Your Profits 40% to 125%).

The First Taste Is Free

If you're looking for a good way to burn some time before you shuffle off to the grave, and you want to make sure you do NOTHING productive in this time, my recommendation is to read the first 10% of a bunch of eBook marketing books.

Without fail, the first 10% of these books consists of quotes about why the book is so great and lead-up by the author about everything you're going to learn.

Imagine if Stephen King's Christine started like, "Oh, man. You are gonna be soooo scared. Pee first. Pee now. Because if you don't the pee is still going to happen, but it's going to be involuntary."

This intro style isn't without purpose. The authors are taking advantage of Amazon's "Look inside" feature by allowing us a peek inside the book, but neglecting to reveal any actual content. Wouldn't want to give out all the great secrets for free, after all.

I'm going to tell you the biggest secret: If a book had valuable advice, the author could afford to give away 10% of that advice for free. 


After you read a couple of these, it becomes pretty clear that these writers haven't written a whole lot since high school, and they're still married to the 5-paragraph format: Tell them what you're going to tell them, Point #1, Point #2, Point #3, Conclude by telling them what you already told them. And then hit the Fruitopia machine on your way to chemistry class. You earned it.

In fact, almost all the chapters within the books are structured this way too, and what you end up with are 5-paragraph essays within a giant 5-paragraph essay. It's like a nesting doll, except instead of being painted to look like smiling ladies, the dolls are painted to look like business book authors who are pointing at you and laughing because you, my friend, are a chump.

Go Get My Printables

So, so many of these have printables available. Business plans, marketing plans, all this crap. Worksheets is what they are. You remember worksheets, those things teachers sent home with you because somehow they couldn't fit a full day of school into a full day of school. And we wonder why American's take their jobs home with them.

The worksheets provide a great metaphor for the experience of reading these books. It feels like you're accomplishing something, but you're not. You're working towards your goal, but not really. You're being productive, but not actually producing content.

You're reading about selling eBooks, but you're not writing or selling any eBooks.

Manufactured Stories

Many marketing books are filled with stupid made-up stories. Let's start with a sample of what I mean. Here's a manufactured story that caught my eye:

At one end of the spectrum, there's Pete the plumber who works sixteen-hour days, weekends, and never takes holidays while barely making enough to keep his head above water.

Hmm. I'm intrigued by this well-named, hardworking, but foolish plumber. Go on...

On the other end of the spectrum there's Joe who runs a plumbing company with twenty plumbers working for him. It seems like his primary business activity is counting the huge sums of money that keep rolling in.

I see. I see. Seems that this Joe's business activity is one I'd like to replicate. Possibly while having my feet on a desk and smoking a cigar.

What happens in these books, you're told a story like that one, then you're told that there are some good reasons Joe is living the high life while Pete is trying to hang himself in the back of his plumbing van using a toilet snake. And by the time all the reasons are explained, we've forgotten that THIS WHOLE STORY IS MADE UP! There IS no Pete. There IS no Joe.

It turns out that, in marketing books, you can just decide something is true or a good idea and then invent a story to illustrate your point. You don't even have to pretend the story/proof is true.

Who In The Hell Is Zig Ziglar?

You can't flip through one of these things without seeing a quote attributed to Zig Ziglar. Who or what is a Zig Ziglar? There's barely any info on his Wikipedia page, and what little there is only confirms my suspicion that he's not a real person.

Fact 1: He was born in "Coffee County." Yeah, that sounds real. Not at all like some dork looking around a room, grasping for a fake location name and seeing a pack of Folgers.

Fact 2: His name is Zig Ziglar, but he was allegedly born Hilary Hinton. Someone call Stan Lee, because somebody has ripped off TWO of his best comic book names.

Passive Income Streams

I don't really even want to go into this. The suggestion of passive income streams, which crops up in a lot of these books, is that there are ways to make money constantly without doing anything, and that selling eBooks is a good way to set this up for yourself. 

When you hear the words "Passive Income Stream" I want you to picture those words coming out of the mouth of an unholy baby created by sexual congress between Matthew Lesko, the re-animated corpse of Billy Mays, and someone from Mary Kay who has one of those pink Cadillacs. It's crap.  

The Dumbest Of The Dumb

Let's do a quick lightning round of the dumbest advice culled from the pages:

If you think the 80/20 rule is exciting, the 64/4 rule will blow your mind. You see, we can apply the 80/20 rule to the rule itself. So we take 80% of 80 and 20% of 20 and end up with the 64/4 rule.

And THEN we could apply the 64/4 rule to the 64/4 rule. Which is when it becomes difficult to focus on the math because I'm so aroused.

When I had my wedding DJ company...

If you want me to stop reading your book and taking your advice immediately, slipping in this phrase is a guarantee that I will comply.

My name is Michael Kawula. I'm the CEO of Social Quant...

It's nice to meet you Mr. Koala, CEO of Social...I feel like I'm going to pronounce that one wrong.

If you have no writing skills or simply hate writing, you can hire a ghostwriter to draft the book per your instructions and notes/outline.

If anyone is willing to ghostwrite my novel about an arcade that's about to be bought out by evil businessmen in order to build condos, and the only way to save the business is through a topless beach volleyball tournament, CALL ME.

The Good

Alright, it wasn't ALL bad. As fun as it would be to say I got no help from these books, a few ideas caught my attention.

Your First 1000 Copies

This one sold me on the idea of setting up an email newsletter for my little eBook business. The reason being, when someone subscribes to your email list, the conversion rate is WAY higher than that of social media. This is, of course, due in part to the fact that social media is malarkey and buries your linked content. But it's also just common sense. Who is going to be interested in buying what you're selling? Probably someone who subscribes to your newsletter.

Plus, I always wanted to work on The Blaze like Brandon Walsh. 

[amazon B00DMIWAIC inline]


Leave The Grind Behind

This book talked a lot about what it means to grind, to work your ass off and leave your job working for The Man and start working for yourself.

A little more in the motivational category than the practical, but I respected that about this book. It was realistic about the fact that selling eBooks involves working your ass off.

[amazon B01J4AGOQU inline]

Top 5 Cheat Sheet

This one I didn't love, BUT it had a pretty intriguing piece of advice.

Anyone who has set a book on the Kindle store knows that you've got to put it in a couple categories. And, according to this little gem, the best categories for your book probably won't show up as suggestions. You've got to ferret them out for yourself. And if you spend a little time researching, and if you categorize your book in a shallow pond, you can climb to the top of the charts.

[amazon B01J0AKNFW inline]

The Ultimate Last Piece Of Advice

Instead of marketing your stupid little eBook, the one that's an emotional exploration of your feelings and yadda yadda, write an eBook about marketing eBooks. You don't have to have any evidence, experience, or know-how. Just look up a few Zig Ziglar quotes, make all the mistakes listed above, and watch the passive income roll in.

About the author

Peter Derk lives, writes, and works in Colorado. Buy him a drink and he'll talk books all day.  Buy him two and he'll be happy to tell you about the horrors of being responsible for a public restroom.

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