For several months before I released my book, The App Design Handbook, I had a to-do item to figure out what platform to use to sell the book. I looked at platforms ranging from Pulley to Quixly. I also tried a couple WordPress e-commerce plugins and even considered writing my own integration with Stripe.
On a side note, if you ever find yourself about to program a custom solution just to save a few dollars, stop. Your time is probably worth more than the little bit you would save on fees.
Anyway, each of these platforms had issues. The e-commerce plugins all had a complicated, multi-step checkout process. Who needs a shopping cart if you are buying a single product? Other options required me to use PayPal, which I don’t trust.
Gumroad was the option that stood out. They promised a simple payment process with easy file delivery. I’m not sure what made me not choose them right away. But then Ryan Delk, the head of business development at Gumroad, reached out, asking if I’d be interested in using them.
I asked a bunch of questions about affiliate support, PDF stamping, and exporting customer information. Even though they didn’t support affiliate sales or PDF stamping (turns out neither are necessary), I decided to go with them. It seemed hypocritical to write a book about creating great experiences with software, but then choose a payment provider with a poor user experience.
After selling my book through them for nearly 2 months, I’d like to share what I think about their product.
Update July 2015: So much has changed in the last 3 years since I wrote this post, but one thing stays completely the same: my enthusiastic, no reservations endorsement of Gumroad.
They’ve since added important features like PDF stamping, affiliates, PayPal payments, and so much more. Their team is constantly improving the product. After passing $500,000 in sales on Gumroad I’m a bigger fan than ever.
What I love about Gumroad
The attention to detail in the user experience is fantastic. Starting with the simple checkout process, you can purchase a product just by filling in your email address and credit card information. They don’t even ask for your name. Compare that to other providers that want name, email, address, password, and everything else just to deliver a PDF file to you.
Seriously, give their checkout process a try. It is really slick.
My emails have always been answered promptly. The support has been great, and I’ve never felt like my issue was just another ticket in the queue. Because they are such a small team they really take a personal approach to support. Waiting more than 30 minutes for an answer was rare. Ryan once answered my emails at 1:30 a.m. Not sure why he was working then, but I appreciated it!
Using their modal feature, I can embed the entire sales process into my site. It appears seamless to the purchaser. It is a very slick checkout process that is sure to work well whatever platform you are using to manage the rest of your site.
Their official policy is to pay out your balance every month at the end of the month. Normally this would be just fine, except that I expected a large launch and didn’t want a huge balance sitting in there for a month (since I launched on the 4th). They kindly agreed to pay out after 7 days, but they actually sent me a payment after 3 days, which made me very happy since the balance was $18,000!
My experience with them wasn’t flawless. But no matter what provider you choose, there will be issues. So what really matters is how that provider handles the problems.
After you check out, Gumroad displays a really simple receipt. They also send this to the customer through email. It basically just says, “You purchased The App Design Handbook for $39; here’s a download link.” It’s really simple. Unfortunately, many people needed more detail, or something more official looking for tax purposes.
I ended up making custom receipts in Numbers and sending them out to about 15 different customers. I’ve talked with Sahil (the founder of Gumroad) about this, and they are working on putting together a more detailed receipt.
During the launch a few people emailed to say that they never received an email with the download link. It turns out Gumroad had some email delivery issues right then. Not a big deal since I could just search the admin panel for their email address and click the “Resend Receipt” button. It would have been more frustrating, except that resending receipts is so easy for any purchase.
Issuing a refund is really easy in Gumroad, but unfortunately the seller is responsible for all the fees (5% + $0.25) from the original payment. Normally this is fine, except that some customers ended up purchasing twice. It was a combination of user error and a Gumroad bug. After talking with Ryan and Sahil about it they credited my account for the few dollars in fees. They said they now have code in place to prevent the same user from purchasing a product twice, which should take care of this issue.
All of these issues were resolved promptly, making me like their team even more every time I asked for help.
Edit: Gumroad has since change their policy. Now refunds don’t cost the seller anything. :)
The Only Question That Matters
In any product review there is really only one question that matters. And that is:
“After your experiences selling with Gumroad, would you use them again?”
Well, thanks for asking. The answer is, yes, absolutely. They made the process so easy and fun that it made me want to look for more things to sell. So whether you have a simple PSD, a full book, or a code plugin, Gumroad is the best option available.
There are some features they don’t have, but they make up for it with a killer user experience. To everyone I talked to on the Gumroad team, thanks for helping make my first book such a success. It was a pleasure working with you all!
So I am definitely using them for my next book, which you can read more about here.
You should give Gumroad a try as well. Oh, and tell them I sent you. But if you do, be nice to them; I want them to still like me.
P.S. If you are still shopping around I recommend reading Sacha Greif’s review of a bunch of different providers.