Would people even buy this book?
Two weeks before launch that’s what I was thinking about Authority, my latest book. Sure, I had hundreds of email addresses from interested individuals, but were they interested enough to buy?
I’ve had this same self-doubt before every product launch I’ve done, even after a string of successful launches lately. Each time I find something different to worry about. For The App Design Handbook I had no idea if my readers would buy anything from me. After all, I’d never asked them to before. Turns out, sales were beyond anything I could have foreseen—selling $12,500 in a single day.
For Designing Web Applications I knew that every launch number from subscriber count to number of guest posts was larger, but I still had this nagging feeling that I was a one-hit-wonder, meaning I couldn’t replicate my first success.
Again, I was wrong. As all the pre-launch numbers predicted, the launch was more than twice as big—bringing in $26,600 in 24 hours.
At this point I should have had confidence that another book would do well—and I did to a point—but the doubt was still there. After all, Authority was an entirely new topic. Would my readers have any interest in it?
I’ll save the numbers for later in the post, but again my self-doubt was proved wrong. I always thought I would gain confidence at some point, but maybe not. I think to launch anything great you need to be able to embrace the fact that you may fail, that no one may buy it, and launch anyway.
If I still can’t get rid of the self-doubt after three back-to-back successful book launches, what makes you think you won’t doubt yourself on your first launch?
The launch weekend
Leading up to the launch I planned far too much stuff that weekend. With several graduation events to attend, family in town, and several soccer games, it was really busy, leaving me little time to put together the final packages and details for Authority. At 10:00 p.m. the night before launch I still hadn’t finished the sales page. Yikes.
The book was mostly finished before the weekend, but I still had some final editing to do, as well as getting it into its final format. The most work remaining was in the launch content and all the videos packaged with the book. While I hired a freelancer to edit the interviews, I was planning to edit all the tutorial videos myself. That took far longer than I expected.
Late on the night before launch I was starting to finish up the sales page when my hosting went down. It wasn’t just my server, a large part of Media Temple’s infrastructure was down. Expecting the downtime to be short, I stayed up late working on other things. Normally an outage would cost me quite a bit in lost sales, but since it was late at night in the US I don’t think I missed out on too much.
After waiting two-and-a-half hours for the server to come back up, I finally went to bed, only to wake up three hours later to get ready for launch.
Another oversight of mine was on the video uploads. I had uploaded all the videos so that purchasers could stream them without downloading 20GBs of content, but had failed to also upload the original files for offline viewing.
I didn’t realize this until Monday afternoon, meaning I didn’t have much time left. Luckily I have good internet (50mbps), but unfortunately that day it decided to go out. Quite often.
All this meant that when I woke up at 5:00 a.m. the files still hadn’t uploaded. So I ended up leaving the download links out of the final bundle. Those will have to come in an update.
I like to have all the interviews transcribed so that those who don’t like video or audio can just read, since reading is quite a bit faster. Unfortunately, I was too late getting the videos to my transcriptionist, so they weren’t ready in time (turns out it takes a while to transcribe 5 hours of video).
Luckily, I didn’t actually promise the transcripts to anyone—they were supposed to be a surprise—but I still want to have them. They’ll be there in the next version of the book which I’ll release in a few days.
As part of the complete package for Authority I wanted each person to get a template for iBooks Author. Instead of designing one or two myself, I partnered with friends at iBooksAuthorTemplates.com. We didn’t want to just give out one generic coupon code that could be spread around the internet. So their developer created a custom integration with Gumroad’s webhooks so that each customer would be emailed a unique code.
That was awesome, and working with them late at night to finish things up kept the launch from feeling lonely, but there were issues and code that had to be written on both sides to make the integration work. The end result was quite good, but it was stressful along the way.
But now my customers can choose from dozens of beautiful templates for their next book.
Despite all the small issues and setbacks (except downtime, which was a big issue), the launch still went forward fine. It was only an hour delayed. At 7:00 a.m. MDT I published everything, hit send in MailChimp, posted a tweet, and waited for sales to come in. One did, then another, but not the rush I was expecting. Weird.
After investigating, I found those sales were from people who had been waiting for the sales page to go live for the last hour—my most eager customers—but the email had not been sent.
In the past my MailChimp emails had always sent immediately, but for some reason this one waited 20 minutes to send. MailChimp support said that was normal and to just wait for it to get through the queue.
Other than delaying sales even longer, the only downside was two complaints on Twitter from people who said it was rude of me to promise the announcement would come to the email list first, but then post on Twitter before sending an announcement email. To anyone who felt frustrated because of that, I’m sorry. It was not intentional.
This launch had one guest post, a dedicated subscriber list of 700 people, and a general list for this blog of 7,000 readers. Each of those metrics was so different from Designing Web Applications (10 guest posts, ~1,800 on a dedicated list, maybe ~3,000 total email subscribers) that I didn’t know what to expect. My 24-hour sales goal was between $10,000 and $20,000.
I was pleasantly surprised to do $26,586 in sales. This was just $93 shy of my 24 hour record of $26,679 from Designing Web Applications. Crazy that they were so close, especially when I didn’t expect to do nearly as much in sales.
Then I remembered a few people had paid through PayPal, totaling another $286, and making my new 24 hour sales record $26,872. It always feels good to set a new personal best.
Thank you so much to everyone who has valued my material enough to pay for it!
I forgot to take a screenshot of the package breakdown in Gumroad at the 24 hour point, but the distribution was about the same as it is now. So here’s how sales have broken down between packages:
- The Book (163 sales for 48%)
- The Book + Videos (88 sales for 26%)
- The Complete Package (89 sales for 26%)
And the revenue:
- The Book (4,897 for 16%)
- The Book + Videos (7,072 for 24%)
- The Complete Package (18,011 for 60%)
Pay attention to to percentage of sales versus percentage of revenue. The majority of revenue (60%) came from the highest package, while only accounting for 26% of sales. Pricing with multiple packages made me an additional $20,000 over just selling the book for $29. So put the time in to create great bonus content for your book.
I sent two emails on launch day. The first email was at 9:20 a.m. Eastern (supposed to be 20 minutes earlier) announcing the launch, and the second was later that day as a reminder that the launch sale would end soon. In this chart of revenue per hour, can you figure out when the second email was sent?
Yep, about 8:00 p.m.
Looking at the stats for that second email, you may think it was a failure. The open rate was only 40.2% and the click rate was only 9.3%. Both are quite low compared to the list average. Even worse, 89 people unsubscribed, which is 1.3% of the entire list. Compared to my normal list stats, those are terrible.
But then you look at the hourly sales graph and see that email drove at least $5,000 in revenue. Does it still seem like a failure?
Sales have continued since the launch day, but at a tiny fraction of the same rate (as expected), mainly because I haven’t posted anything since launch. I’ve learned that teaching and talking about my products drives sales. Even just a quick reminder email—like the one about the sale ending—is enough to drive thousands in sales.
Remember that pre-launch list of 700 people I had for Authority? I ran a comparison and found that only 130 of them purchased. That’s actually quite good, but there is potential for those remaining 570 people to purchase a copy if they are properly motivated.
So in the next few weeks I’ll continue providing some great free content exclusively to them in order to try and convert a few more of them. Since I collected email addresses, I can stay in contact with them.
Is there something else you would like to know about the launch? I’m happy to share just about anything!
Oh, and if you haven’t already, go buy your own copy of Authority!