$30,000 eBook Sales.
In 2 Months.

Update: There’s a discussion at the Hacker News thread. (And, Greetings, HN folks.)

I launched my design ebook for startup founders on March 20th, 2012. On May 25, I broke $30,000 in sales volume. Here’s what I learned.

Research customers.

6 months ago, the idea of writing a book was inconceivable. I’ve never wanted to write a book. I didn’t think I had anything to say.

When I started—with research—what would become my next project, I was surprised. Not surprised at myself, that I had discovered some new ambition, but surprised at what people needed and how well I could meet that need. Me, a designer, not a writer.

See, by beginning my project with research rather than an idea, I found an opportunity. It wasn’t an opportunity I could have imagined nor one for which I would have intentionally searched. It was an opportunity that already existed out there—on the web, in tweets, on blogs, and appearing in the frustrations of certain people. (The audience I researched was programmers who are bootstrapping software businesses.)

The primary reason for the success of this eBook is that the idea came from my customers, not from me.

My business is succeeding because it began with an understanding of customers. This understanding includes not just what they need, but also more important insights: what they buy, what they value, how they communicate, and where they hang out.

You think you already know these things about your own customers, but you don’t. Your assumptions are wrong.

My first business was based on such assumptions, and it crashed and burned in silence. Don’t make the same mistake. Research first.

Price by value.

I set a price for my ebook that some consider too high. Their opinion demonstrates that these people are not really in the audience for my book.

My audience is composed of professionals—they’re good at what they do and they are paid well for it. While many in my audience can’t afford to hire a designer outright to work on their bootstrapped side projects, they are comfortable paying for products and services as part of doing business. They donate time and money to open source projects and they enjoy supporting products they like. For them, it doesn’t matter that much if the eBook costs $12 or $39. All that matters is that it helps them to build a more viable business.

Read my guest blog post on A Smart Bear about my value pricing strategy for a more detailed rationale.

The numbers prove my strategy worked well enough. Here are the details:

The number you really want: $30,286. That’s total sales volume (revenue) as of 5/25/12. I pay 3.6-3.7% per transaction in credit card processing fees. Other costs total $79/mo. Transfers are still pending in in Stripe, but closest approximation of profit is $29,008.

~2 Month Totals, 3/20/12 – 5/25/12:
66 days
12,319 unique visitors
809 transactions
6.57% conversion rate
$30,286 revenue
$2.46 revenue per unique visitor

1 Month Totals, 3/20/12 – 4/19/12:
30 Days
8073 unique visitors
643 transactions
7.96% conversion rate
$23,817 revenue
$2.95 revenue per unique visitor

First 48 hours:
2 Days
3527 unique visitors
242 transactions
6.8% conversion rate
$8,753 revenue
$2.48 revenue per unique visitor

3/22/12, 3rd day after launch:
1 Day
401 unique visitors
31 transactions
7.8% conversion rate
$1,144 revenue
$2.85 revenue per unique visitor

3/27/12, One week after launch, I sent an email newsletter:
1 Day
376 unique visitors*
36 transactions
9.6% conversion rate
$1,269 revenue
$3.38 revenue per unique visitor

*Includes some organic/direct traffic.

Total Newsletter Statistics:
2,415 Recipients
52.7% Open Rate
287 People who clicked
333 Total Clicks
11.9% CTR (unique)

(Sorry I don’t have the 1-day newsletter stats for 3/27/12.)

4/3/12, Guest post on A Smart Bear:
1 Day
730 unique visitors
27 transactions
3.7% conversion rate
$1,033 revenue
$1.41 revenue per unique visitor

4/26/12, “Dear Python, Why Are You So Ugly?” blog mention:
1 Day
1150 unique visitors
12 transactions
1% conversion rate
$468 revenue
$0.40 revenue per unique visitor

Say sorry.

The power of an apology or the cost of a mistake?

I made an honest mistake after launch. The coupon I had promised everyone on my mailing list expired before I said it would.

I reactivated the coupon, extended the expiration by an extra week, and sent an email to the list apologizing. This apology email drove about $1,200 in sales. Other newsletters have not converted quite so well.

Would I have earned more sales if I hadn’t made that mistake? Did the apology completely close the gap? I have no way of knowing. Regardless of speculation, the apology email made an impact.

Later on, my payment system had an issue where credit cards were being declined for no reason. A couple of customers were very kind to notify me, and I got in touch with the support teams for those third-party systems and they fixed the issue quickly.

Rather than leave it there, I sorted through the logs to find about 10 people who had been declined when trying to purchase. I wrote a personal email to each of them, and included a $5 discount coupon as an apology. A few of them had already purchased after the error was fixed, so I refunded them $5 instead.

These apologies have led to customer relationships and great feedback, and I know that several of these customers recommended my book to others just because of this experience. Apologizing and fixing the problem was not only the right thing to do, but it drove more sales by word of mouth.

So, what now?

The last couple of months have been strange because I have no idea how to run a profitable business. I’m making it up as I go.

I’ve completely skipped marketing practices like SEO and A/B testing. Many people claim these techniques are essential to running a business, but the truth is they are long-term strategies for optimizing something that already works. SEO and multivariate testing can’t do much if people don’t want your product. This time out, I learned to focus on getting the product right before I worried about following every best practice. I can always work on that stuff later.

Next, the revised edition of the eBook is in the works. I have dozens of lengthy feedback emails and even full copies of the ebook annotated by customers to inform the revisions.

After that, I’ll start researching the next project. I have an awesome customer base to learn from, and they’re already asking for more.

Was this post worth the read? Is there other data you’d like to see analyzed? Leave a comment.

Comments

  1. Rico Pagliuca says:

    Will those who purchase the first edition be granted access to the revised edition at no extra cost? Great work on the book and thank you for sharing your figures! Congratulations on the well deserved success.

    • Jarrod says:

      Thanks Rico! Yes, the revised edition will be a free update for anyone who has already purchased. Delivered as a new download link via email.

  2. Alex Korban says:

    Jarrod, thanks for publishing the detailed numbers, it was interesting to see them.

    I’ve also found that mistakes (and doing my best to correct them) can be very positive. I got a large portion of testimonials from conversations that started when customers had some sort of an issue.

    • Jarrod says:

      My pleasure. Yes, learning to turn problems into positive experiences is so key, especially when you are going solo.

  3. Tony says:

    Thanks so much for posting this. I would love to see a follow up post about what you did marketing wise leading up to the launch. It seems like you set yourself up well in the months leading up to the launch.

    • Rizwan Reza says:

      This is something that would be good to know for sure.

      I’m also interested in how you go about doing a basic research of your customer base.

      Thanks and great work on the book!

      • Jarrod says:

        The best way to learn the process I used is to take Amy Hoy’s 30×500 class. It’s fantastic.

        I’ll think about a post on the whole process, but I don’t want to just give away Amy’s whole offering.

        • I found your book through Amy’s blog and I am enjoying it. And I appreciate you publishing your figures. Thanks. I’m building my own passive income business and this information is inspiring. I’ll write a review about your book in my blog (streamcreator.blogspot.com) when I finish reading it.

          Can you give us some breadcrumbs on 30×500? I found Amy’s blog too late and the now ongoing course was full already. You would not be taking away from Amy’s business, live course is a live course. I’d love to hear more how you made sure you’d have paying customers.

          • Jarrod says:

            Sorry I am just now seeing your comment! I will send you an email to follow up.

            It’s pretty much impossible to condense 30×500 down to one comment or even one blog post. So I’m not worried at all about giving away what Amy has built.

            The basic flow is to identify potential audiences, research them, and then evaluate them based on that research. If the audience meets your requirements, then you go about extracting needs from your research and outlining solutions for those needs. You learn how to talk to customers, how to understand them, and how to sell to them. You learn how to evaluate those solutions and how to avoid common types of failure. The list goes on and on. 30×500 is an incredible learning experience, and it’s not just about knowledge. It’s about personal development and learning to be effective.

            Hope that helps!

    • Jarrod says:

      Marketing was just Twitter network, Hacker News, and my blog. I wrote a post mortem about my first project that hit HN Top 5, and I tried to funnel that attention into the ebook launch. It half-worked. Mostly, engaging people on Twitter was the key, as that drove the submissions on HN.

      • Jarrod says:

        Please remember this worked very well for my specific audience, but these channels might not work the same for other audiences.

  4. Eliot says:

    Thanks for this post. Maybe I missed it but I am curious to find out what you did to get traffic so quickly? Google Ads? Did you have some other platform or user base to launch from? Thanks again. Great info.

    • Jarrod says:

      I haven’t placed a single ad for the ebook–I think that would be a waste of money. I also didn’t have any existing customers. Traffic, which was actually fairly modest but very targeted, came mostly from twitter. The HN traffic had a few spikes, but it didn’t convert that well after launch. The initial HN post was great for building the mailing list before launch. The mailing list drives a huge portion of my sales. Does that help?

  5. Thanks for sharing this Jarrod! This is really encouraging for anybody out there who wants to build a life out of info products.

    And I think that these 30k are just the beginning your product just began it’s life cycle.

    Well Done!

    • Jarrod says:

      Thanks Dimitri! Yes, this is definitely just the beginning! Now, it’s on me to see how well I can keep it going. :)

  6. As one of your target customers and a happy owner of Bootstrapping Design I enjoyed reading this post!

    Congratulations on the amazing success and here’s to the revised version, and a sequel!

    Aaron

  7. Steve says:

    Great story…..! I’m guessing that you’ve been blogging for a while and that you have a pretty good list. I love the fact that you went at building something that people needed and then delivered without worrying about all the “right way to launch” BS…bravo for you.

    • Jarrod says:

      Thanks Steve! Depends on what you mean by a long time. Relatively, it hasn’t been that long. I built up the mailing list to 2500 subscribers in about a month, almost exclusively through traffic from Hacker News and Twitter.

  8. Hey Jarrod! I found you by serendipity on clicking a link from Copyblogger.

    What resonates best with me about this post and your experiences is the element of happenstance and good fortune. Of course you have a solid product, but I do have a major investment in fate and it seems like on this occasion it has led you down the right track.

    You make a really good point early on about the merits of proactive customer service. That is something we can all learn from.

    Great job. You’re one of the good guys. I will follow you.

    • Jarrod says:

      Hey Dave, there might be a bit of luck involved in my case, and in success in general. Mostly in the form of timing. (Time of day to tweet, post to HN to get the most visibility. There is no way to predict what will happen.)

      However, I think what looks like luck to someone on the outside is just hard and effective work. No amount of luck can fix a product that no one wants. Also, hard work can overcome having no luck on a viable product.

      I know you weren’t implying that the success of my project is only due to luck. My point is that successful businesses and companies that look lucky, or like they are overnight successes, have been working very hard in secret for years. In my case, it was a succession of failed startups and projects over the course of 4-5 years.

  9. Alex says:

    Nothing less than inspiring! That eBook landing page is a masterpiece .. An artwork in itself. You will go a long, LONG way, my friend!

  10. [...] $30,000 eBook Sales. In 2 Months. (A blog by fellow.) [...]

  11. Hi Jarrod.

    Congratulations on your truly beautiful sales letter. A work of art and obviously highly effective.

    Question: Good to hear that Twitter does the trick, but you also say “The mailing list drives a huge portion of my sales. ” So, did you drive peole direct to the sales letter from Twitter? Or to an optin page with a free offer first, then pitch the book via email? (The latter is what I’m planning.)

    My best

    Jonathan

    • Jarrod says:

      Thanks Jonathan! I do both:

      Before launch, I put up a landing page that had an email newsletter sign up, saying the book was coming soon. Marketing that page brought in more than enough sign ups to show the project was meeting the need. I used that list to announce the launch, and afterward for regular marketing email to those on the list who haven’t purchased.

      Twitter is just about people sharing the link to the landing page. I try to thank each person I find who’s tweeted about it, and answer questions. Twitter is great for my audience, but they were already very active there. I doubt it would be as useful for every possible audience.

  12. Jarrod, I’ve seen some of the people in your niche complain about not having something to do the work they want to get done – here you are providing answers to your fellow designers and making big money from it.

    One other thing that attributed to your success is guest post and e-mail list. These stuffs works so much that they will bring in much more sales in the near future.

    While I have no e-mail list (as the niche I am entering is not IM niche) I will be using guest post and also spend $200 on paid advertising – hope it works well.

    Hey, C’grats once more.

    The landing page is superb! I love it.

    Sheyi

    • Jarrod says:

      Hi Sheyi, and thanks! If I can offer a couple suggestions:

      I’d be cautious about writing for an audience I didn’t know how to reach. Do you know where your target customers hang out, or how you can spread the word about your project?

      Also, advertising is only useful at scale, for big companies with big budgets. $200 isn’t going to get you far, regardless of what rate you pay. Why spend money on ads when there are free, more genuine ways to get in touch with customers?

  13. Lena says:

    Hey Jarrod,

    Loved reading how an apology brought you more sales. I wish you see a surge in the sales soon. Congratulations and thank you for sharing the numbers with us.

  14. Brent Lawson says:

    If you wrote a piece about how you did the initial research, I would pay for that in a heartbeat!

  15. Neat article. I love your honest, direct style. After TOILING ( and I mean toiling ) for three years on a site/blog I needed a little inspiration and I found it here in your article.

    Thanks so much.

  16. Dani says:

    I’m in the process of releasing my eBook, I have so much to learn and it’s so overwhelming! ahhhh ! lol

  17. Congrautlations! It would be really interesting to know where you got all those visitors if you didn’t do any seo. Do you care to share about that?

  18. [...] what kind of mistakes he did along the way and so on. Here’s the link to the full article: $30,000 eBook Sales In 2 Months. Make sure to check the comments and the Reddit discussion thread as well, and those contain some [...]

  19. [...] what kind of mistakes he did along the way and so on. Here’s the link to the full article: $ 30,000 eBook Sales In 2 Months. Make sure to check the comments and the Reddit discussion thread as well, and those contain some [...]

  20. [...] what kind of mistakes he did along the way and so on. Here’s the link to the full article: $30,000 eBook Sales In 2 Months. Make sure to check the comments and the Reddit discussion thread as well, and those contain some [...]

  21. Rheo says:

    The Ebook definitely offers timely and valuable information. As someone looking to drive traffic to my site, and like Laurie above, I noticed that there is no mention of how the traffic was initially generated. I would love to hear about that. Thanks

  22. nice article,
    lesson for begainers

  23. Wow! That really hit home because I don’t always follow the mold either. It seems you were just doing what’s right and your reward was in that! You didn’t have to think twice about the extra time it took to correct a few “minor” mistakes. Are they really just minor? No! Obviously, your selfless steps earned you the right to be heard. Now you are being applauded or would lauded be a better word? Great job! Proud of you following your inner ethical value system! Reminds me of my pet peeve. Litter bugs! Could never understand why people don’t “clean up after themselves”!

  24. Vahid says:

    Hi Jarrod,

    Thank you for sharing this.

    Your blog has a very beautiful theme. Will you share it with us?

    • Jarrod says:

      Thanks Vahid, glad you like it. This blog uses a custom theme I hacked together myself in a few hours. It’s not really built to be customizable or adaptable for other sites, so I don’t think you’d get much use out of it.

  25. [...] his latest blog post, he reveals the numbers and the strategies he used to create this kind of success. While not a [...]

  26. Steve says:

    Hi, liked your article. I’m just starting out into the world of online business, and have been considering publishing ebooks as a possible option. After reading this, i’m definitely going to progress ebooks.

    Thanks
    Steve

  27. Alex says:

    Amazing. Just amazing. Hats off to you to listening to your customers – and giving them exactly what they wanted! I’m still learning to grasp the concept. More inspiring posts like this one, please. Thanks, Jarrod!

  28. Ben says:

    Can you share a little about your toolset and the process of writing? I’m working through the process (actually I’m procrastinating) at the moment and currently it looks like a combination of Leanpub, markdown, emacs with simple mind+, iwriter and dragon diction on the ipad. But then for the kind of book (tentative title “Building real time systems with python”) a tool chain built around org-mode might make more sense.

    What are your thoughts?

    Thanks in advance,
    Ben

  29. I’ve found this book accidentally by reading someone’s blog post. I was inspired about the idea of the book. A free sample of the book helped me to make a decision of a purchase.
    I’ve just read this post and realized that I’ve found more precious information here. I mean your true story of success with such details shares more experience than I got during last half a year.
    I verily believe people can build a successful biz following by the design pattern. And you’ve just shared one of such patterns.
    P. S. sorry for my English, it’s not my native :)

    Thanks,
    Serge :: composer-enthusiast

  30. [...] the above sentences are taken from the blog post title “$30,000 eBook Sales. In 2 Months.” from Studio Follow. These are some of fine words which can help sell your eBooks successfully. If [...]

  31. Patrick says:

    This is great! I also wrote an ebook guide for folks wanting to build and maintain a WordPress website. I had a hard time deciding on pricing. It turned out that $9.99 was the sweet spot. I’m working on a video series too, but I’m unsure how to price that.

    I’m a complete newb when it comes to marketing.

  32. [...] Still not convinced that you can make money off of books and infoproducts? Fellow 30×500 classmate Jarrod Drysdale made over $30k off his book in just 2 months. [...]

  33. [...] Obviously I can write a lot on this topic, so I’d encourage your readers to check out the blog post for more depth than I can provide here. The core of the argument is this assumption: lower prices [...]

  34. [...] başlayan ve gerçek bir başarının öyküsünü anlatıyor, Yazının devamını buraya tıklayarak orjinal kaynağından okuyarak devam edebilirsiniz. Olay oldukça uzun olduğu için şuan için [...]

  35. [...]  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. [...]

  36. [...]  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 [...]

  37. [...] 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. [...]

  38. Paul says:

    Hi, could you give some info on how you set up the website, and what software you used for the purchasing/credit card transactions? Great site and thanks!

  39. [...] $30,000 in eBook sales after two months and the author reveals it all here. [...]

  40. [...] you can produce a design yourself that’s good enough for launch. This solution proved a success not just in terms of sales, but also in the satisfaction readers expressed through tweets, personal emails, and [...]

  41. Sarah Hansen says:

    What an inspiring story! See a need, fill a need! As an aspiring writer and new blogger, you have given me hope that I can make this new business idea work and I’m not crazy for leaving my corporate sales job for my dream! Thank you for sharing your success! I will begin writing my ebook!

  42. [...] that all changed one day when I stumbled on a post by Jarrod Drysdale, a graphic designer whose self-published ebook made $30,000 in two [...]

  43. [...] $30,000 in eBook sales after two months and the author reveals it all here. [...]

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