I sold $15,000 of Writing for Software Developers in its first 24 hours with no pre-existing audience. I sold over $23,000 of the book in its first month. This post details everything that I did to make these sales. This video covers much of the same information.
Of the numerous strategies I used to publicize my launch, three were responsible for the vast majority of my sales:
- Hacker News launch. I posted “Show HN: Writing for Software Developers” at exactly 8 AM Central time. I immediately left a long comment including an excerpt from the book talking about HN.
- Show HN gave the post visibility and sticking power
- The initial comment gave people a reason to click on the comments section
- The sales page was created with the Hacker News audience in mind
- 6,359 clickthroughs to my website in 2 days
- Reached #2 spot, spent hours in top 3 of Show HN, still on Show HN top 10 the next day
150-200 copies sold
Interview Subjects on Twitter. My book includes interviews with 11 people. Many of them posted on Twitter about the launch, either by retweeting my tweet or writing their own threads about the project.
- Jeff Atwood retweeted my announcement early on, which kickstarted the traffic
- Patrick McKenzie and Daniel Vassallo wrote their own twitter threads, each of which directly converted to sales remarkably quickly
- 76,601 impressions of the announcement tweet (pinned on my profile)
- 2,423 clicks through to the sales page
- ~500 new followers
100-150 copies sold
Individual emails. Over the past couple of years, I have built up a small network within the software development and technical content world. I sent dozens of personalized emails and messages telling people that the book was available.
- Multiple twitter posts and congratulatory emails
- ~20 copies sold
Other Launch Strategies
I also posted to LinkedIn, Indie Hackers, and Product Hunt, none of which generated significant traffic but each of which may have been responsible for a sale or two. LinkedIn was by far my largest platform before launch (I had ~650 connections) but my post did not convert very well.
Pricing and independent distribution are two key parts of my marketing strategy. If I followed the easy route of listing the book for $9.99 on Amazon (where maximum prices are set per megabyte. Ludicrous.), I would have had to sell five times as many copies to get the same net revenue (assuming I even qualified for their 70% royalty rate), plus I would not have received payouts as quickly nor would I have a new invaluable business asset: a customer list. High, fair pricing ($36 per book) means I can focus my marketing efforts on reaching niche communities and the return on time invested is high. Independent distribution means I keep the bulk of the money and the trust of my customers.
A quick foray into pricing tiers netted me more than a thousand dollars during launch month. I figured that some companies would have teams of people who would want to read the book, so I offered team licenses for sale for an extra $100 on top of the normal price (total cost: $136). These licenses give their buyers clear permissions that fit their use case and signal that I have thought about how teams might use the information in the book. I don’t draw too much attention to the option, but people who need it are able to find it easily.
Understandably, sales have been much slower after launch. While I now have a small audience for my work, that audience found me because of the book, so relentlessly promoting it directly would be pointless as most of the people who that promotion would reach have either already bought the book or already decided against purchasing it. Instead, my efforts have been focused in the same direction as my launch efforts: finding people on the internet who haven’t seen my work and showing it to them.
The most successful effort along these lines has been my podcast book tour. I used a round of cold email to tell podcast hosts my story and let them know that I would be happy to record with them. Several got back to me, and a few others reached out to me directly. These shows vary in topic, scope, and audience size but all contribute to establishing the legitimacy of my product and ideas to a broader audience than I was able to reach on launch day.
Here is a video walkthrough of much of this information on YouTube.
This post is one of four about Writing for Software Developers.