How to Decide Whether Your Digital Product Will Sell Or Not


Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 2.54.59 PMImagine you’ve written a masterpiece and you’re ready to shop for a publisher.

You find one you feel would be an ideal fit and learn from their submission guidelines that they require a book proposal.

You do your research and realize this means you’ll have to tell the publisher about your market, your reach, your competition, and the platform you already have. Bottom line, they want you to prove your book will sell.

What? That seems like a lot of effort! Isn’t the publisher the one who is supposed to sell the book for you? Nope. They expect the author to do most of the marketing.

Some people sidestep the traditional route and self-publish because they don’t want to fool with the proposal or the wait. Yet, even if you’re self-publishing, “Will it sell?” is a key question you should be asking yourself.

Anytime you write a book or create a digital product, you will need to invest significant time and energy in researching, writing, publishing, and marketing. Time is money, and few of us have money to burn.

[pullquote]If you’re investing the kind of time it takes to create a quality digital product, you want to be certain there is demand. [/pullquote]While you probably won’t conduct as much analysis as a traditional publisher would require, it’s still a good idea to research before you begin.

I’ll be honest, I’m not one to spend a lot of time researching trends, conducting elaborate surveys or analyzing market data, but I do my own form of research. In this article I’ll share with you what works for me in deciding what will sell and what won’t.

Engage Your Audience!

I began the first day of 2013 on the phone calling people who had signed up for my mentoring programs. I wasn’t pitching, wasn’t upselling, just asking them about their goals for the year. I wanted to know how I could better help them accomplish their goals through the programs in which they had enrolled.

The intelligence I gained was priceless, and I had a day full of enjoyable conversations with some fascinating individuals.  I came away with clear ideas about topics to cover, services to provide, and education to make available to my audience. That intelligence came directly from the mouths of my ideal customers.

Picking up the phone isn’t the only way to engage your audience. You can also use social media. If your audience is primarily professional, you might consider creating a LinkedIn Group.

If your audience is consumers or solo-entrepreneurs, you might create a Facebook Group. I advocate creating groups where your audience is already hanging out. It’s one less step. They don’t have to remember to go to yet another place to find you.

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 3.01.54 PMI use highly-niched Facebook groups to communicate with my audiences. For example, months before I wrote Light the World: How Your Brilliance Can Shift the Planet, I started a Facebook group for those I call Light Bearers.

These folks are entrepreneurs with a spiritual focus who want to change lives for the better. They create products, programs and services that guide people out of limiting situations to greater freedom.

I began by creating a video to explain my philosophy of how Light Bearers can shift the planet. Then, I hand-picked individuals whom I suspected would catch my vision. I personally messaged them, asked them to look at the video and tell me what they thought of it. If they responded positively, I invited them to join my Light Bearer group.

These people later helped me in various aspects of book creation. A few of these include:

  • outline and content ideas
  • feedback on book cover design
  • location of cover art
  • writing and editing back cover copy
  • story contributions
  • editing / proofreading
  • promotion

They even helped me plan and hold two live, in-person launch events around the book!

Build a Tribe and Create for Them

If you want to create a digital product that engages your audience and gets them talking, I recommend building a tribe around it. It’s never too early to start. I formed my tribe before I’d decided to write a book.  I’ve used this method with more than books. I also used key Facebook groups when I transitioned from IdeaMarketers to

This was a major leap for me, and I knew I couldn’t take it alone or blind. I needed the feedback of colleagues who would later become my contributors. I also needed feedback from my ideal site visitors.

In this case, I formed a new group for my colleagues who helped me rebrand myself and the site. My Light Bearer group came in handy again. I told them I was going to build a site for them that would address all the typical entrepreneurial and life challenges they face.

I asked them to share with me their typical challenges and what they would like to see in a site like this. They responded with a list of ideas and things they wanted to see addressed. This list became the fodder for the new site, and it continues to guide me as I take the site into its next stage of development.

With today’s technology, there is absolutely no reason for you to create products in the dark. You have so many communication channels available to assist you in forging and fostering relationships with your ideal audience.

Yet, One More Thing Is Needed…

Not everyone can build a group of loyal followers who gladly help them with their goals. Those who try to do this with self-serving, egotistical motives will have difficulty. People can see right through you. They can tell if it’s all about you and what you want.  They can tell if you think you’re better than they are.

The key to successful tribe building and customer engagement is to genuinely care about your audience. How you do that is as individual as you are.

For example, I refer to my Light Bearers as “mine” not because I “own” them. They aren’t my pets or my groupies. In my experience, the people with whom I work best are ones I believe in and who are working toward a common vision.

I call them “mine” because I’m invested in their success. I care about them and desire to serve them.  Helping them achieve their goals helps me achieve mine.

John C. Maxwell said, “People never care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you truly care about those you serve, you will listen to them. You will take the time to tap into their hopes, their dreams, and their desires. You will find ways to serve them in the unique way that only you can.

Think about the people who have impacted your life and provided great service to you. Did they take time to listen to you? Did they make you feel they cared? Did they forge a relationship? I suspect they did. I’d love to hear about your experiences. Please share them in the comments below…

Digital Publishing Online Intensive

Marnie Pehrson
Marnie Pehrson, the creator of, is a best-selling author, speaker, and online publicist who helps Light Bearers build influential online platforms. Marnie is also a wife and mother of 6 and the author of 23 fiction and nonfiction titles.
Marnie Pehrson
Marnie Pehrson


  1. Wow thanks for the great post. My friend suggested I read it. I am starting a project and wanting to enroll others in it to create and publish a book. I specialy liked the term “tribe” however my book project is on angels, so not sure if others would approve been called tribe of angels or angel tribe lol.

    • LOL I don’t call my “tribes” tribes to my customers. They’re my Light the World Group or my Ignite Your WOW Mentoring Group. It’s a term made popular by Seth Godin in his book “Tribes: We Want You To Lead Us.” Highly recommend reading it.

  2. Thanks for the great article Marnie. I am relatively new in the digital space/social media arena. One golden nugget I have taken from reading this is that I have to engage my audience more and ask them questions. So I feel inspired and will be asking questions in my next newsletter for ideas on how I can improve my website/service to clients.

    • Glad you found it helpful, Neale! One tip, make your questions specific and open ended. Instead of “How can I improve my web site?” you might ask them something more targeted like… “When you visit my site, what draws your eye first?” That will give you a clue as to whether you’re leading them where you want them to go.

  3. These are excellent tips for polling your audience in a very focused way. And, I think creating these small groups and tribes is a great way to endear the future product to them too because they have played a role in its creation. It’s sort of their village baby too. Since I’m in the techie field, my audience is very trendy, and technology is always changing, so there is never any lack of topics to write about. My problem is getting well-researched, authoritative info out there quickly enough. The folks I hangout with to learn about these things are not my target audience, they are the developers. They tell me what’s coming, and I translate that into non-geek speak and tell my audience what that means to them and how to use it.

    I can see how having a tribe would help me understand what they think is important about it, gage their interest level, and learn what questions they have. And, folks always want to know what’s next, so they could start telling their tribes about what’s coming.

    • EXACTLY, Maanna, when you involve your audience, they are more likely to help you spread the word and get involved in forwarding your cause. Have fun building your tribe!

  4. Yes, we must know what our market wants. Otherwise, it’s like trying to find your way in a dark room. Hmmm…. likely that is why you call them Light Bearers 🙂