How Nathan Barry and I Sold $39k Worth of eBooks (II)


Last week Nathan Barry and I took you behind the scenes of our profitable eBooks, talking about validating the idea, writing consistently, design software, and pricing.

Today in part 2 we talk about marketing, testimonials, and getting traffic, and in my opinion this part is even better than the first one. Enjoy!

Nathan is also preparing a video course on designing with CSS3. If you want to quickly catch up on the topic you should definitely check it out.

Designing the Perfect Landing Page

Sacha: Let’s talk a bit about the landing page and how you designed yours, how I designed mine. Let me bring up your page.

Nathan: The first thing I should say is that my page… for anybody who wants to find it as they’re looking, it’s, which is probably longer than it needs to be. But we’ll include the links in the notes as well. But, if you look through this page at least as it is when we’re recording this, it’s very focused on what you get.

That’d be like selling a product purely based on the features. As you look through it, it says you get a 125-page PDF, you get two case studies, you get this and that. I would like to use this as an example of what not to do. It obviously worked well for me, I think the design worked well.

But, you don’t want to sell products based on the physical features of them. You want to sell them based on value and what the user would get out of it. If instead of talking about how many pages the book is, I focused on how the book will help you design applications that will get notice in the app store, and how the code samples will help you design your applications more quickly.

It’s not all about how it’ll help them make more money. It’s about how it’ll help them make their life easier or help them to learn faster rather than focusing on the numbers.

Sacha: Yes, I think when you make a sale there’s two phases. The first impression you make will convince the person to buy or not buy, and then often they will try to make sure it’s a good decision. When they’re in that process of making sure, that’s when you want to show them, OK, there is 125 pages, or case studies, videos, that will help them rationalize the decision. But it’s not what’s going to seduce them or influence them into buying the book in the first place.

Nathan: You’re absolutely right that that information, the technical details do need to be included, just they shouldn’t be the very first thing.

Sacha: But I think what you’re actually doing really well is that the site itself is very nice and it looks good. Since the book’s about design, you might not be saying, OK, this is what the book will help you achieve and all that, but the fact that the site itself looks good makes you want to buy the book. Because you’re thinking, oh, if that guy can make such a nice-looking site, he must have something good to say.

Nathan: Yes, that is true. Going back to what we started with is, you should have some expertise in what you’re teaching, and having a well-designed site provides some validation that I do know what I’m talking about to some extent.

Sacha: Another thing I think is really powerful that I actually didn’t do is having a real physical book on there. You haven’t printed out the book or there’s no physical version, right?

Nathan: That’s correct, it’s all digital.

Sacha: But being able to look at the physical copy and see it open… It’s funny, because when I look at this, the sample chapter that you have there, it’s not even the same format as the book, right?

Nathan: Right, it’s not.

Sacha: The book is vertical, and the sample chapter is landscape.

Nathan: Oh no, actually, sorry. The book is landscape.

Sacha: I know, but the illustration of the book you have on the side, you know what I mean?

Nathan: Oh, you’re right. I didn’t even notice that before. That’s pretty bad, I’ll have to… Well, I don’t know how I’ll fix that for this one. For the next book, I’ll get it right [laughs] .

Sacha: But I doubt most people will notice that. If you stop to think about it, you’re like, yes, that doesn’t make sense. There is no physical version of the book. Even if there was, the two illustrations don’t make sense. But nobody stops to think about it and instead you just feel like you’re going to buy something tangible and something real that has value, just by seeing that image of something that doesn’t even exist…

Nathan: [laughs] Right, yes. I think providing illustrations does look good. I really like what you have on… You don’t have it on your sales page itself, but as soon as you click through on your site to Gumroad, you have the photo of the book spread open on the What We’re Building page. Is that a real photo, or is that just…?

Sacha: No.

Nathan: That’s Photoshopped, OK.

Sacha: Yes, that’s Photoshopped, too.

Nathan: [laughs] OK, but it’s kind of what it looks like, but I couldn’t quite tell.

Sacha: Yes, it looks pretty bad [laughs] .

Nathan: No, but it’s the same thing where it gives a physical impression of the product, you know? Even on purely digital things, I think that that works really well. For anybody who’s trying to find this, click-through on Sacha’s site to “buy now,” and then the “credit card,” which takes you to Gumroad.

I really like that the book icon that you have, of the binder, because that helps give the impression of, this is a small book. I think that works really well of you’re not having to explain things, you’re just giving that indication visually in how your fake book is bound.

Sacha: I hadn’t thought about this. It just seemed fitting for some reason to have that as a binder, but that’s exactly it. That’s what the book would look like if it was a real book.

Nathan: That tells me that it’s less than 50 pages, and that it’s a fairly quick read.

Sacha: The same with your book. The design tells me that it’s a thick book, with real content in there. Those small clues are very important.

Nathan: I think they are. Did you have any sample content for people to download?

Sacha: Yes. You can download a sample chapter. The button could probably be a bit bigger. I think you did it better because it’s like the third thing on the page, basically.

Nathan: I think if you were to pull your book illustration itself over, then that would be a really good example, and people would just go for that right away.

Sacha: True.

Nathan: Other things. You’ve got the images of the different steps, so I can get a feel for what we’re going to be building as we go through. I think the point of all of this is that we want to show people samples right away.

They’re not going to be sold just by the excellent copy that we write. We’re writing books about design, so we have to show visuals.

Sacha: But, speaking about copy, one thing I tried to do is include humor in my page. It was…

Nathan: Have you had any feedback on that?

Sacha: Actually it’s funny because, so, if you scroll down, one thing that’s on there is, “Order now, only 12.7 million copies remaining.”

Nathan: I really like that.

Sacha: It originally it wasn’t like this. I forget what it was exactly, but it was something like, “Limited supplies, only 10 copies remaining.”

People took it seriously, and I had comments on the hacker news thread that was like, “Oh I hate when people do that fake marketing bullshit.” I meant it as a parody of that fake bullshit, but people thought I was serious.

Nathan: Obviously there are going to be more than 10 copies of a $6 e-book.

Sacha: Why would supplies be limited? But, it turns out that people really do artificially limit supply to give value for digital products.

Nathan: To create demand, yeah. I didn’t do that with my book, but it is a good way to artificially create demand.

Sacha: I want to talk about this later on, because this is one of the marketing techniques that I find slimy, and I really don’t like it. Honestly, I would never do that.

Nathan: All right. Anyway, I like the humor on your site. I remember reading that 12.7 million copies remaining, and getting a good chuckle out of it.

Sacha: It’s part of who I want to be, and who I want to come across. I don’t want to position myself like a serious expert, listen to what I say because I have these diplomas. It’s more lighthearted and friendly.

Nathan: Everything that you do in how you write the book, the sales page, the follow-up process, should be authentically you.

Sacha: Yeah.

Nathan: To everybody listening, don’t try to become some expert that you’re not, just teach people as authentically as possible, and people will love it and they’ll happily pay you for it.

Getting Testimonials

Sacha: Let’s move onto something else which is very important, which is testimonials, and social proof.

Nathan: I’ll start, in that I didn’t have any. [laughs] I was working on the book up until 12 hours before I published it. I got to the point where the sales page was basically in place. I had this empty spot for a quote that was going to be the testimonial of the user who absolutely loved it.

I realized I hadn’t given this to anybody to preview. I had outside people, I had an editor go through it, but that was all for grammatical mistakes and things like that, and not some industry expert who could give a glowing review. In my moment of panic what I did was I found, I just used a quote, not as a testimonial for the book, but it’s a quote that I really think applies to software, and that’s from Mark Kwano, who’s the UX evangelist at Apple.

The quote I used was just, “What your users really care about is what your app enables them to do, and how it makes them feel when they’re using it.” Because I think that too often designers and developers just focus on the features. Really as a designer, when we craft a great user experience, we’re crafting feelings for the user as well.

I really liked that. I featured that quote prominently. But I think people thought it was an endorsement. That’s something where… I don’t know if I should take it down or not because I’m not… When you read it, it’s clear that it’s not an endorsement, it’s a quote about the philosophy that inspires my book. But at first glance, it does look like it’s an endorsement.

Sacha: I’m looking at it right now. I’m not looking at what it says, I’m going straight to who said that, oh, a guy from Apple. Wow. Apple is a great company with great design, so this book might be great.

Your brain processes things like this, and you don’t even stop to read what the guy said. You could put up a Steve Jobs quote, or maybe not Steve Jobs but…

Nathan: Somebody, that can’t be too high up. It has to be believable that they would have read my book. That’s one of those things where, if I had planned ahead, properly I probably wouldn’t have done it. Not that I think there was something unethical about putting that quote there, but I do see how it’s misleading. Obviously it’s better to have a testimonial about your product.

On your site, you’ve got what people are saying, and you’ve got some high caliber people. The founder of Reddit says, “Sacha does good work.” I think that’s great, and really important. I also really like that you include photos. That’s fantastic.

Sacha: Because I know that people respond to photos, they zoom in on photos. They are very effective. One thing I want to say is that even if you don’t know… OK, I know Steve Huffman because I’ve worked with him, and I’ve met him a couple of times. But, Hiten Shah, I don’t know him.

I have been in touch by email but that’s all. I sent him my book and he was nice enough to give me a small testimonial. A lot of people in this industry are actually really nice. I’m not saying spam them with testimonial requests, but you can at least ask politely, and don’t be afraid.

Nathan: A great email to send would be something like… Well, first find somebody who your book is truly relevant for. Then take a short chapter, or a section that you think they would really like, and then send them that. Say, “Hey, I wrote this book. Here’s a section that I think is really applicable to what you’re doing. I’d love to know what you think.”

Maybe you can include a link to the full one if they want, but trim it down so it’s nice and short, they can read it over. Then if they come back and say, “Hey, I absolutely love it, blah, blah, blah,” then you could say, “Thank you. I’m honored. Would you mind if I quoted you on my sales page?”

Sacha: I’ve had people ask me to provide a quote. It’s flattering for me. I want to provide a quote because I want to have my name in the little box up there endorsing something if it’s good. Don’t be afraid to ask. People are usually happy to provide a quote.

Nathan: That’s true. I think it’s just… It’s important that you pitch it correctly. Don’t say, “Here’s my book. Can I have a quote for my sales page?”

Sacha: Yeah, of course.

Nathan: That will get terrible, terrible, results.

Taking Marketing Too Far

Sacha: While we are talking about marketing tactics and stuff, I want to address something, which is that I think you can go too far with marketing. Some techniques, while they might be very effective, I still don’t think you should use them. One thing we were talking about for about… What was it?

Nathan: Artificially limiting the number of copies available.

Sacha: OK that’s it. That happens a lot. People will make up something like, I don’t know. A good example is DVDs. I train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and there’s a big market for instructional DVDs. Why do people use DVDs in the first place, where I don’t even have a DVD player in my house. My computer doesn’t have one. I simply don’t have one.

Nathan: Right.

Sacha: Why I still use DVDs, and the reason is, I think, only because first of all, a DVD is a physical product, so people will attach more value to it.

The second reason is because you can pull off the limited supplies thing. You can say oh, we only got 100 DVDs. Act fast or otherwise, you’ll miss out. It’s harder to do this with online products, but people still do it.

Like, for memberships or people will say, “Yeah, we only have 100 spots because we cannot manage more people.” Sometimes it’s true, but in some cases it’s really obvious that it doesn’t hold, it makes no sense. That’s one thing I would avoid. If there is no reason behind the limitation, I would not have one. I don’t know if you have more examples of this?

Nathan: Right. I think this is an area where you should really go back to who you are, what you want your personal brand to be, and to make sure that everything you do, how you market, how you talk about everything, is an extension of that. Just because a marketing technique works, if you don’t agree with it, making an extra 500 bucks in sales or $1000 in sales is not worth doing something that you don’t agree with.

Sacha: Yeah, and that will hurt your brand.

Nathan: Yeah, it would. Personally, I think that limiting the size or the number available can be helpful sometimes. For example, if I were to come out with a new web application and I wanted beta testers, for example, one thing you could do to artificially create demand is to accept 10 beta testers and have them pay for it.

If you’ve built up to this launch and say, “Hey, we’re taking 10 customers only right now.” You have a legitimate reason for doing that, because you need to let a few of them in at a time for testing and things like that, then you make it feel a little bit exclusive. That’s something I would think is fine if you do it right.

Sacha: Are you saying we can only take 10 people for now? Or are you saying, “Act fast. We can only take 10 people, and you’ll never have a chance to apply again?”

Nathan: In that case, it would be a “for now” thing. In round one of our beta invites, we’d let in five people. Another example is if you were teaching a class, say, where there’s value in there being fewer people. Where if I know there’s only 10 people in the class, then I know that I’ll have time to get my questions answered.

Rather than there being 2,000 people in a webinar or something like that, where there won’t be any time for my question. That’s a case where you could limit the number. It will let you sell out your class, which is good for marketing, to say, “Hey, my class sold out.” There’s a legitimate reason or a legitimate benefit to there being an artificial limit on the number of members.

Sacha: Then the limit is not really artificial. If there is a reason behind it, then it’s not artificial, so I think those things are OK.

Nathan: Right. That’s true. If I have my eBook and I say, “I’m selling 100 copies and that’s it,” and it’s a PDF, then that’s purely artificial.

Sacha: I have another good example. You know Patrick McKenzie, patio11 from the Hacker News forums? He’s great, he has a great blog, and I’m not saying anything bad about him. He had a guest on his podcast, Ramit Sethi.

He does great thing too, but one thing that’s on his site I didn’t really appreciate. When you go to his site you have a popup that comes up, and the popup says, “Do not click this button unless you do not want my insider’s kit.” The button says, “Do not click here.”

Nathan: OK, I can’t even… I’ve even seen the screenshot of that, and I can’t mentally follow it as to whether I’m supposed to click the button or not.

Sacha: Yeah, and there’s no alternative. It’s the only button there. It says do not click here, but it’s the only button. You’re confusing the user.

It’s black hat UI design, black patterns. I think you should avoid that. Not because it doesn’t work, because I ended up clicking the button just to find out what happened if I clicked the button.

I think it works, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, personally.

Nathan: Yeah. I think honestly part of that is a joke, and he’s trying to be lighthearted with it. But really, it just comes back to make all your marketing decisions conscious, and don’t do something just because somebody else tells you it’s a good way to make money.

Sacha: Right. Also, something else is that, remember why people are buying your book. Part of it is because you’re good at marketing and you’re good at selling, but the big part is because you know what you’re talking about. If you end up spending all your time focusing on marketing and learning new marketing techniques and cross selling, all that, sure, you’ll sell more.

But don’t do that at the cost of stopping designing, stopping developing, or stopping getting better at what enabled you to write the book in the first place.

Nathan: Ultimately, you’re trying to build a long term reputation. I now have 380 people who have given me money that I can market my next product too. You have thousands of people that you can market your next product too.

For everybody listening, we’re going to do everything possible to not screw up that relationship. Because we need that trust. Yeah, I think that’s basically all I have to say on that topic.

Sacha: Right.

Nathan: But I would say to anybody listening that the call between Patrick McKenzie and Ramit Sethi is really good when it comes to talking about pricing and things like that. I learned a ton from listening to it, so definitely check that out.

Sacha: Definitely. I’m taking this as an example, but… The call is great and both Patrick and Ramit are great people who have a lot to teach us. It’s more like, this specific example of one thing he’s doing.

Finding Traffic

Nathan: Right, absolutely. Let’s talk about when your book came out, where did the traffic come from?

Sacha: That one’s easy, it came from Hacker News, like 99.99 percent.

Nathan: OK. What can you tell us about the process of getting on the home page, how all of that went?

Sacha: OK, I can tell you a couple things. First of all, getting to the front page of Hacker News is pretty hard, and there is no reliable trick or solution or thing you can do. The reason for that is if you take a look at the Hacker News algorithm, how the posts are ranked, time is very important.

You have about maybe a one-hour window or sometimes even less…

Nathan: Yes, I’d say it’s a one-hour window.

Sacha: … where your post can be successful and make it to their front page and get more upvotes. If you don’t get upvotes then your post falls off and you cannot repost a link. Then, well, that’s it. Better luck next time.

Nathan: If you hadn’t picked up all the traffic from Hacker News, where do you think you would’ve turned to, to get…?

Sacha: Well, first of all, what you can do to pick up more traffic is simply write content that Hacker News people will enjoy, so that’s what I did. I wrote the book with Hacker News readers in mind, basically, with startup people, with developers. I didn’t write it for designers, because I know designers don’t really go to Hacker News.

If I had written it for designers I would need to pick a different, long strategy. That’s one thing you can do. To answer your questions, if Hacker News hadn’t worked, I don’t know.

Nathan: Yes, but that’s something where I’ve seen not just your book appear on Hacker News, but I’ve seen at least half a dozen blog posts by you since then make it to the home page of Hacker News, because you’re writing good content that’s somewhat related to your book. It’s about design or technology in some way. In the sidebar of your site, it links to the book.

You talk about your book in a few places, and that kind of education marketing works incredibly well. If you teach me things, then I’m happy to buy from you.

Sacha: Yes, and that’s the one very important thing I try to write. Recently I wrote a post about why I think programming language sites are ugly, and that post made it to the front page of Hacker News, but for all the wrong reasons, because people hated it and disagreed and thought I was trolling. Which, OK, maybe a little, but I really do think programming language sites such as, etc. could be improved.

But that post is a bad example, because it’s basically a rant and it doesn’t really teach people anything, and it doesn’t contain any actionable items. On the other hand, posts that are considered valuable by that kind of audience are posts that teach something. Maybe one was a list of Google web fonts that are high quality and people can use in their own sites or writing.

Nathan: Yes, that’s exactly the one I was thinking of. That’s a great example.

Sacha: Another that did well was one about why cheap customers cost more in support costs. Those are the kind of posts you should be writing if you want to reach that audience and not basically your “PHP sucks” and “You’re stupid” and [laughs] …

Nathan: [laughs]

Sacha: …or “Your site is ugly.” That doesn’t work.

Nathan: I’ll talk a little bit about my launch plan. I’ve made the number one spot on Hacker News once before, and my blog must’ve made the home page half a dozen times or so in the last year, and so I know how incredible amounts of traffic it can drive. We’re talking 30,000 uniques in a day, if you stay on the home page for quite a while.

Obviously I was really, really hoping that with my book I would make to the home page, and I didn’t.

Sacha: You didn’t?

Nathan: I did not. What I did, I released the book. Sales started coming in, I made sure that the whole process worked, and then I submitted it to Hacker News.

When I submit posts to Hacker News, the only thing I do is go to the “new” tab and look at the posts at the very bottom and see how far down it is, what the timestamp is on it. Because if it’s 20 minutes, then that means I have 20 minutes. It means there’s a lot of content being submitted, and basically I have 20 minutes to get enough up votes to hit the home page, otherwise the post will never make it.

That’s all I do. I watch that one little metric, and post at a slow news time. Or at least when I have more than an hour, or an hour. I did that, it got a handful of up votes, and actually just barely made the home page but then dropped off. That was the link directly to the sales page.

What I would say is, typically a link to the sales page is not the kind of content that Hacker News loves. In some cases it can work really well, but that fell off. Knowing how much traffic Hacker News can drive, what I ended up doing is… The rest of the launch went really well. By that evening I was sitting at $6,000 in sales, by 4:00 or 5:00 in the evening.

I wrote a blog post titled “What I learned selling $6,000 of my eBook today.” It’s a little bit of a link bait title, but I really try… I didn’t just say, “Hey, I sold $6,000 today, here are some stats.” I really tried to dive into, “Here’s what I’ve learned so far. Here’s how I’m selling it, here’s the marketing I did to build up to it,” really trying to teach.

That post did really well. Did great on the home page, stayed for at least five or six hours. I think I can credit at least $3,000 or $4,000 worth of sales to that post.

Sacha: Yeah. That’s the one I saw, then.

Nathan: Yeah. That’s what I mean when I didn’t make the home page at first. That’s a case of if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, and write content that’s tailored to the site. That post did very well and I ended up hitting $12,000 in sales in the first 24 hours, which I was absolutely blown away by.

Sacha: Wow. Yeah, I can imagine. Same thing for me. I reached $8,000, and yeah, every hour I would tell my wife, “Hey, 8,000… 8,500… 9,000… ”

Nathan: Right. You can’t get any work done because you’re stuck refreshing your stats, or checking your email for the sale notifications. It’s a success paralysis, basically.

Sacha: But it’s also an adrenaline rush just to see the retweets and the upvotes and comments. In fact, I think you can get addicted to it and stop doing any meaningful work. Sometimes that happens to me. I write a new blog post, and then I just spend the next hour waiting to see if people are going to retweet it, upvote it, comment. It’s pretty stupid, but…

Nathan: Yeah. I do actually the exact same thing to a horrible extent, to the point where I actually edited my hosts file on my Mac to block Twitter, Facebook, Hacker News, FeedBurner, Google Analytics, all these websites that I compulsively refreshed to see how many more visitors I’ve had today, or how many more people have signed up for my email lists.

It was getting really, really bad. Now, what I do is I have my iPad that I can access those sites on, and my Mac is just for creating content. I made that change about a week ago, and it’s working pretty well.

Sacha: Yeah, that’s a good idea.

Building a following for your launch

Nathan: Anyway, I’ll talk about a couple other things that I did with the launch. I talked about I put up that landing page beforehand and started collecting email addresses. From that page, I got maybe 200, 250 email addresses, just from linking to it on Twitter and asking friends to tweet about it.

Then what I did is I put an email signup box at the bottom of each one of my blog posts, in my WordPress blog, just on the single.php page. What is was, it was a little book graphic, it said, “The App Design Handbook,” and it had just an email signup box that said, “Sign up to hear when it launches” and a few other lines of copy.

Then, basically, what I tried to do is write as much valuable information as I could in blog posts and get those promoted on Twitter, hoping that people would enjoy the post and sign up to hear about the book. One example is I’ve recorded videos of how to design the landing page for a book. Me walking through doing the design in Photoshop and then talking through coding it in HTML and CSS.

Those were well-received, but didn’t drive a ton of traffic. The one that did really well is… About a week before I was going to release my book, Facebook released a new iOS application that was just a little bit changed. The design wasn’t radically changed or anything, but they’d done a lot of behind-the-scenes changes, and then a lot of really small changes that improved the user experience.

I wrote a blog post called “User Experience Lessons from the New Facebook iOS App,” and I thought this was fairly well-targeted at the Hacker News audience. I thought they’d really like it, because basically what I did is I went through all of these little improvements that they made and talked about how this increased the performance, whereas these other changes just improved the perceived performance because they had better animations, or things were quicker.

Examples like the menu on the side slides open twice as fast as in the old application, which just made it feel quicker. I wrote that blog post, and it was also really timely because the app had just come out, and it went absolutely nowhere on Hacker News, which is very, very common. I thought, “OK, too bad.”

Then it started getting shared on Facebook and Twitter, and it ended up having over 100 retweets on Twitter just because it kept getting shared, and shared, and shared. That one blog post probably gave me 300 to 400 subscribers to my book signup. It was very organic. They didn’t come from one main source. It was just this continual 20 retweets a day, and the post just kept getting shared.

Sacha: Yeah. One thing I think it’s important to point out is that… you know about confirmation bias?

Nathan: Uh-huh.

Sacha: When you’re looking at something from the outside, like if you’re following my blog, or someone’s following your blog, it can seem like everything you write is really successful and getting shared, and getting upvoted on Hacker News.

That’s because if you write something that doesn’t get shared, then people just won’t see it. The only things they end up seeing are the ones that are successful. Of course, behind the scenes you’re writing twice or three times as many posts that go nowhere, and have zero comments, and five retweets from your mom and your sister.

Nathan: Yeah, absolutely.

Sacha: Yeah. If you are trying to follow this advice and people are not retweeting and that, it’s normal. You just have to keep at it.

Nathan: Yeah, that’s absolutely true. Building up from that email list, I got the email list up to 800 subscribers at the time of launch. My goal was 1,000, and I didn’t quite make it. That list converted really well. I’m not sure the exact numbers, but after sending out an email to that list announcing the book I had $1,000 worth of sales in 10 minutes.

Sacha: Wow.

Nathan: I highly recommend building an email list. Lots of smart people say that email is still the best way to market. I tend to agree with them.

We get caught up in our own little worlds of, maybe I don’t use email, or because I don’t do something in a certain way I assume that nobody else does it that way, and that’s just not true. Email marketing works really, really well. Just do it in a way that’s not spammy.

Sacha: Yeah. I absolutely agree, and despite agreeing I don’t actually have an email list, so yeah. [Sacha’s note: I’ve corrected this tragic mistake since!]

Nathan: [laughs] Yeah, so that’ll be an action that maybe you can work on.

Sacha: Yeah. Definitely on my to do list.

Nathan: At the same time, you have thousands of customers that you have their email address, because they purchased from you. I’m sure you’ll market your next product to them through email.

Sacha: Yeah. Yeah, it goes back to it’s really hard to check every box. It’s really hard to get everything right, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t do everything right. Because even for me or you it’s impossible to do every single thing.

Nathan: Yeah, that’s exactly right.

Sacha: I think one thing that’s interesting too is after the launch. Getting a good launch is important, but it can’t be the whole thing. Because, like you said, if the launch doesn’t work out then you need a plan B. What can you do after that to keep sales going on and still get some income?

Nathan: I can talk about how my sales have dropped off. I did $12,000 that first 24 hours, $6,000 the next 24 hours, and then it dropped down to $1,000, and then held strong at $500 a day for a few days. Lately I’ve been averaging more like $150 a day, after two and a half weeks since the launch.

It’s dropped quite a bit, but I’m not at the point that I’ve done a lot to try to revitalize sales. Other than continue writing on my blog, and have links in the blog that point to the book.

One thing that I am going to do is, since I have three different packages, is I plan to send out an email to people who bought the lowest package and say, “Hey, if you really liked it here’s an upgrade link to buy the higher package at a bit of a discount.”

Sacha: Yeah, that’s smart. One more reason to have multiple price points.

Nathan: Right, exactly. That’s something I haven’t done yet, but I’ll probably do it in the next couple of days. Since you have a lot more time in your sales, I’d like to hear about how that went over time.

Sacha: Yeah, there was a big drop off after the launch. Don’t expect to be selling anything close to the launch. Assuming you have a successful launch, don’t expect to keep that up. After maybe a couple weeks it will fall off dramatically.

Nathan: Right. Mine fell off dramatically after 24 hours.

Selling with AppSumo and Dealotto

Sacha: Right, but it might fall even more. I hope not. Something to point out is that, since you are selling at a much higher price point, I would expect your revenue to stay higher over time. Because I think basically I would expect sales to be about the same, but you will be making much more than me, because you sell for a higher price. That’s one argument for higher prices.

But anyway, what I’ve done since, by far the single most successful thing I’ve done is sell the book on the AppSumo. AppSumo is like Groupon for software products and startups. It’s a deal site. I think let me check exactly, it brought in at least $1,000, just from AppSumo, so this is pretty good. It didn’t require any extra work on my part, aside from sending them my book.

Nathan: Tell me a little bit about how that deal was structured, how that whole conversation went in, for somebody who’s looking to work with AppSumo in the future, or somebody like them.

Sacha: Usually these kind of companies will take a percentage, which can be anywhere from 30 percent to 50, or maybe more. The thing to remember is that even if they take 90 percent, as long as they bring you sales, since you’re selling a digital product, you don’t have any costs. You can still come out on top. What you should worry about is not so much how much they take, but how much they sell it, because if they sell it for a really, really low price, then it will devalue your product.

I would avoid selling it too low compared to how much you sell it for on your own site. Also, to avoid pissing off your earliest customers, who are also your most loyal customers, probably.

Nathan: Right. How much did you sell your book for through AppSumo?

Sacha: Through AppSumo, I sold the book for $10, but it also included another book that I published exclusively on AppSumo about color theory for startups. That book, I actually didn’t publicize that book at all. It’s specifically for the AppSumo deal. Since that book is priced $8, and the first book, the step-by-step book is priced $12, and selling at $10 equals to a 50 percent discount. It’s a pretty good discount.

Nathan: Yeah. That is. That’s good.

Sacha: Another site I tried out was Dealotto. The way they work is, you can actually gamble for the price. When a customer buys my book on their site, they might end up paying $10, or $5, or even getting it for free, depending on what result they get from the random gamble, I guess. It’s a pretty interesting model.

Nathan: Right. They’re focused on design products.

Sacha: Right.

Nathan: You’ll see design books, Photoshop templates, icon sets, all kinds of great things on there.

That’s run by Liam McKay, I really like what they’re doing there. I plan to put together a deal sometime in the future with both Dealotto and AppSumo.

Sacha: Another one you can check out is MightyDeals. I didn’t get a deal through them because I had exclusivity with AppSumo. But, they are a great site as well for design products and design related deals.

Nathan: OK.

Sacha: I think this is probably the most cost-effective way to get more sales, because it doesn’t require any additional work. Another thing you can do is work with publishers, for example, Hyper Inc. they publish original content and also repackage existing content, and they can publish it for new platforms.

We were talking about ePubs, so that’s one thing you can do. You can take your book and repackage it for e-books, e-book readers.

Nathan: OK, perfect, I will have to check them out as well. We will include links to all of these in the show notes.

Sacha: There is definitely some things you can do to keep sales going. But, I think what’s even more interesting is how you can use your e-book, maybe as preparation for your next product. You could do things like, giving it away on your blog or giving it away on other blogs.

I did that on a couple of design blogs to promote it at launch. You can just use it as a reward basically. Maybe if someone contacts you, or helps you out you can send them your e-book as a gift or thank you note.

It becomes something very useful and can be leveraged in very interesting ways. Just having that product available.

Nathan: Right. That’s something that I found as well, where I would have somebody contact me because something went wrong with the checkout experience or their credit card kept being denied for some reason. Some issue like that, and I have this product that I can give them.

They were just trying to by the middle package, and I’d say, “Hey, I’m really sorry that the checkout experience didn’t work out, or your card got charged twice or whatever the issue was,” so I’d fix it for them and then say, “Here’s the complete package, as a free upgrade.” Having a product like that just lets you fix customer service problems so much more quickly, and all kinds of stuff, it’s really, really valuable. I think the whole point of all of this is, make and sell a product. It’s worth it.

Sacha: Yeah, definitely.

Nathan: We can point to your example of, I think you said you were over $15,000 in revenue?

Sacha: Right.

Nathan: My book is at over $20,000. We can point to a handful of examples. Jared Drysdale’s at 30,000 or more. Brendan Dunn, his book “Double Your Freelancing Rate” is doing quite well also. There’s a great market out there. Work on a product, get it out there quickly, and charge a fair price for it.

On Writing

Sacha: Right. I think people listening might wonder, “OK, these people have done it, but can I do it too?” I don’t want to say, “Yeah, anybody can do it,” because that’s not true. I think, to sum it up, the preconditions to be successful are what?

First, be good at what you do. Have some real knowledge that you can share with people, and then get good at writing. That’s important, too.

Nathan: [laughs] Getting good at writing takes practice. Just start writing, there are a handful of books that you can use to work on improving that. Ultimately it just comes down to practicing, and your blog is a great place to do that.

I just take the approach, as a lot of other people do, of just trying to teach everything I know. That built a following, it helps me improve my writing, and it’s just a great business model.

Sacha: Getting good at writing is not just writing nice sentences and all that, it’s also getting a feel for what people respond to, what kind of content they’re looking for.

Nathan: Right, absolutely.

Sacha: The good thing about the blog is you have instant feedback. Either people comment or don’t, or they retweet or don’t retweet. I’m not saying that you should write link bait all the time, and try to get people to retweet and all that. But at least get a feel for what kind of effect your writing will have on readers.

Nathan: Yeah. To summarize what we’ve talked about, I think it’s really important to come up with an idea where you have expertise, you could talk about it with credibility. If at all possible, validate that idea, either through a single blog post that talks about it, or an email opt-in link, anything like that.

Let’s see, we talked about writing consistently. Whether you sit down and write all in one chunk, focus for a couple of weeks, or whether you write a little bit each day, just be consistent.

Sacha: Right. Being consistent will help you get better.

Nathan: Yes, absolutely. On pricing, different prices can work. Each product has a price that’s right for it, but don’t be afraid to charge a lot. It can make a huge difference in revenue. Just make sure that you are delivering enough value to justify that price.

Sacha: Yeah. I would say the most important thing is have multiple price points.

Nathan: Yes. Yes.

Sacha: Probably two or three are good. More than that would be… if it’s justified, why not? But I think two or three… three is probably the best number.

Nathan: I think so.

Sacha: When you see pricing tables, it’s always the plan that’s too cheap, the one that’s too expensive, and the one that’s just right.

Nathan: Yeah. Three is what I plan to do for my next product, as well.

Sacha: Right. The sales page is very important. Try to talk both about features and benefits. Not just what’s inside the book, but why people should buy the book? Try to include clues, like hints, in the design of the page, showing what the book would look like as a physical product. Try to include testimonials, if you can. Social proofs.

Nathan: Yes. Send out review copies of your book weeks in advance, so that you can get testimonials in time, and you don’t have to scramble to fill a hole in your design.

Sacha: The good thing, if you’re writing this book for yourself, you can also push back the launch. It’s not like you have a date for a press conference or anything.

Nathan: That is true. The one thing that we haven’t talked about yet is deadlines. While you can push back the launch, I think the best decision you can make early on for your book, after what you decide to write about, is choosing when you’re going to launch it, because, especially for people who work for themselves, we don’t have a deadline that’s put in place by bosses or whoever else.

Artificial deadlines help a lot. It helps to provide focus. I recommend really picking a date and pushing for it. If you miss it for some reason, it’s not the end of the world or anything, but try to have a deadline.

Sacha: OK, deadline. Yeah. For marketing, I think we discussed more than a couple of techniques. Marketing sometimes gets a bad rap, but I think it’s definitely important as long as you don’t go too far and remember what you’re about and what your brand is about.

Nathan: Right. Basically, teach on your blog, give away all of that. Then have an email opt-in, and then sell to those people. That’s really what it comes down to at the most basic level.

Sacha: Right. Then, after the launch, hoping the launch is successful, have a plan for the long term, so making deals and thinking up of ways how you can use your products in other avenues, like giving it away as a reward for a contest, that kind of stuff.

Nathan: Yeah. That’s absolutely right. Then start working on the next product. [laughs]

Sacha: Yeah, I guess. Just do it all over again.

Nathan: Excellent. Well, hey, it’s been great talking to you about this. I absolutely love discussing numbers and how product launches go, and I’m always trying to learn as much as possible. I want to say a big thank you for sharing your numbers early on and inspiring me to actually write my book and get it out there. I truly appreciate your blog posts and all your effort in that area.

Sacha: Well, thanks to you for doing the same with your own book and for making me jealous that you made more than me and pushing me to write a new book.

Nathan: [laughs] All right, well, we’ll start a competition. Your next one had better sell a lot, then.

Sacha: Hope so. OK.

Nathan: All right. Excellent. It’s great talking to you.

Sacha: OK. Bye.

Nathan: Bye.

Thanks for reading this far and I hope you learned something valuable!


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