Examining Failure: Why my new book bombed
Doing everything better includes failing better. Failing better means a couple of things:
- Accepting failure with poise
- Avoiding similar failures in the future by examining why the endeavor failed
- Understanding that failing doesn’t mean I’m a hunk of crap who can’t do anything right1
For that reason, I thought it might be worth taking a few minutes to explore why my new book completely tanked.2
Why the book failed
Near as I can tell, the primary reasons The Art and Science of Vaping rolled clumsily off of the carrier and into the briny deep are…
- I had—and still have—zero credibility among the target audience. Not because I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to the subject matter, but rather because I haven’t spent any time running in the same circles as they do. As far as the vaping community is concerned, I’m just another nameless bloke who made a thing.
- I did very little to market or promote the product before launching it.
- I had no clue how many of the folks who read my stuff would be interested in a book about vaping (I should have asked).
None of these factors guarantee a given product will fail, but they certainly increase the odds that it will (sometimes by a whole lot).
Building credibility would have taken a long, long time. I’ve developed a very modest following online, but breaking into a new market from scratch is difficult unless you have massive reach. Even then, I’d guess it would not be easy. This problem is made doubly difficult by the fact that my first foray into the online vaping world involved asking folks for money.
Marketing the product before launch would have given me a good indication that, among those folks who read my stuff, there probably wouldn’t be much interest in the product. This lack of interest likely would have been more evident if I’d surveyed my readers and customers beforehand.
Bottom line: very few people who know me are interested in the topic and those who are interested in the topic don’t know me. In essence, I walked into a huge car show and tried to sell everybody organic laundry detergent made specifically for a certain type of area rug that most people don’t own.
A Positive Spin
In the interest of not sounding like a complete Eeyore over here, there are a few things about this whole process that I appreciate.3
First, it feels really good to have written and shipped a second book.
Second, the book is good. There, I said it. I’m proud of what I made.
Finally, the book is out there and isn’t going anywhere. Worst case, it makes zero dollars for the rest of its life. I suspect it’ll sell at least a little bit every month, which will help a little bit. And who knows: maybe it’ll gain some traction down the road.
This launch did a ton to inform my thinking on future products. In fact, I’m still planning on launching new things in the coming year that don’t directly involve the kind of thing I’ve written about in the past. Now I know that part of planning such products is to figure out if anybody is going to buy them before I make them. It sounds so simple, really.
“If you build it, they will come” is a nice idea, but boy howdy I’ve learned my lesson.
Having realized the extent to which this product failed, I’m left with essentially two options:
- Try to market the living pudding out of the book and hope the right people see it and that folks start buying it (or talking about it, at least).
- Leave it be and move on to the next thing.
I’m going with option 2. An effective marketing effort would require time and cash I’m unwilling to devote to it, at this point. Working to turn this thing around would be misspent time that’s better used doing other things.
Would love to hear what you guys think about this. Comment below, if you like.
(Photo by Jeramey Jannene)
- This might just be me betraying a huge insecurity of mine, but I’m going to go ahead and assume that conflating failure with personal indictment isn’t a problem unique to me. ↩
- As I type this, the book has sold about 40 copies in just under two weeks. Almost half of those sales took place on launch day. ↩
- This is Eeyore.