Growth October 22, 2020

14 days, $14K in sales, 1,000 customers and what worked for me

Gergely Orosz @gergely

I'd like to share the strategy and tactics that helped my ebook launch, alongside with the data.

I built my first-ever digital product: an ebook to help write good developer resumes. You can see the history of how the product was built, and major milestones to the launch on The IH product page. I've shared some details in this Gumroad forum, and I'll add to those details that could help/inspire fellow creators.

Launch results

I launched 2 weeks ago, and here are the numbers:

Launch results

What's not shown on the breakdown is the distribution of sales:

  • 212 customers got the book for free (for developers without a job)
  • 516 customers bought the book at $15 at launch (or lower, thanks to PPP)
  • 272 customers bought the complete package ($29 at launch, or lower with PPP: book + video Standard Resume offer )
  • 1 customer bought the group package for up to 10 members

6 Things that helped with the results

Here are the top things I've identified that helped with a strong launch.

1. Market validation: don't start without this!

I started writing a book after offering free resume reviews for developers, getting overwhelmed with the responses, and wrote a short PDF in response to be able to keep up with the demand.

I then took it to Twitter to offer free ebooks for up to 1,000 people - before I had anything ready. These "spots" filled up in less than 24 hours, so I figured this is enough validation. Note that later only 350 of those 1,000 people claimed their free ebooks, so keep this in mind when offering something free: people can forget about it easily.

2. Involving other experts in the fields helps several ways

I could have just written the ebook all by myself. But then:

  1. The contents would have been less accurate. I did have plenty of resume review / hiring experience, but this was at only three companies (Microsoft, Skyscanner, Uber), and I was "only" a hiring manager at two of them (Skyscanner, Uber). My views would have been quite one-sided.
  2. The book would have been more dull.

I reached out to recruiters and hiring managers in my network and beyond, asked for their support. I also made it clear that all beta book revenue is going to STEM and diversity related organizations (which I later did keep my word on.

The result was a book with lots of contributors, lots of reviewers, and probably the most credibility in 2020, in the niche of developer resumes:

Contributors

Having these experts involved also helped amplify the launch, them sharing it with their network, driving interest and sales.

3. Goodwill goes a long way

The people most likely to buy this book are people who are out of a job. I decided to not want to make money off these people, and give the book away for anyone in this situation. This was for two reasons:

  1. The book would have not happened without COVID. I wanted to help, not profit from the people most impacted. Especially not profit with something that cannot guarantee you getting a job (no resource can, for that matter). There is a business on resume writing with very questionable marketing and misleading claims, but I'll stay away from this.
  2. I believe in long-term goodwill. I'm suggesting for people to help someone else, assuming this resource helps them.

I did have a few spammy requests early on, so I built a form to validate the identity of people using LinkedIn, or email. This is that form.

4. PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) & VAT reduction discount codes: they worked!

Implementing PPP / VAT reduction probably increased my sales 15-30%.

A day into the sale I got a complaint from someone in the EU about how VAT is added to the book price. However, ebooks are VAT-free in most of the EU. I looked into this, and my seller platform, Gumroad, doesn't have a separate ebook category or handle this edge case. So I quickly whipped up a solution:

PPP for VAT reduction.

I then also added PPP for several countries:

PPP for VAT reduction.

Results from this change:

  • 30% used a PPP / VAT reduction for the book or the complete package
  • This was 29.6% for the book (153 customers used a PPP discount, while 363 people paid full price)
  • And 29.7% for the complete package (81 / 191). Shockingly similar numbers!

My guess is that a good part of the PPP sales would have not happened otherwise: I added PPP a few days into the sale.

5. Coordinated launch with contributors: add that extra boost

I let all contributors know ahead of time when roughly launch would be, and followed up with them afterwards. This didn't go as smooth as it sounded, as I had to delay the launch a few times. However, it did help that I sent an email after the launch, with links to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook posts.

6. HN: cross your fingers, and be on the standby!

Getting on the front page of HN is admittedly, luck. I got lucky with my Show HN post.

However, once there, staying on the front page is only half luck. I set aside everything, and responded to questions, and made live changes to the site, responding to (valid) criticism. This turned some of the most upvoted, critical comments into supportive ones, like this one. Listen to your critics, especially when they are right :)

7. Post-launch: it's hard to keep attention. Plan for this.

The biggest learning for me is that especially after a successful launch like this, attention dies down. And without attention, your sales will dry up. Here's my landing page stats (that correlates exactly with sales: both paid and free)

Website stats

This is simple maths. In my case, out of about 100 people visiting the site, around 20-30 people will click on the "buy now" button and about 5 will go through with a purchase. This means that if you want to keep selling, you need to keep having people come to your site.

However, following the launch, you have no search ranking, and people will rarely find you passively.

You should have a plan for if you are fine with this, or if you keep doing certain activities, that are different to "spamming" your social network with the same message again.

In my case, I have a few last "launch activities" lined up:

  • A Product Hunt launch later on
  • A few guest blog posts, sharing actionable and helpful advice by themselves on specific areas of developer resumes, or the hiring process
  • Adding a few more parts of the book as samples on the samples page. This is both to make it clear to people what value they'd get, as well as to build up some search engine rankings (similar to how e.g. Google Books used to work). I'm not only sharing the PDF, but creating HTML pages.

I hope these details were helpful for any creators thinking about products, especially on ebooks. Happy to answer other questions!

  1. 8

    16.1K followers - this was actually working for you.

  2. 3

    What tool are you using in the picture you posted that shows where your traffic comes from?

  3. 2

    What did you use to deterct where people come from and show PPP?

    1. 1

      I'm using the service ipstack.com: for $10/month they provide a service with IP lookups, and context on the country (name, flag etc).

      If I really wanted to save, I might be able to do this for free, with AWS's API Gateway that can pass on country information (my endpoint is on AWS). But it's more work to do this, so I'll pass for a bit.

      One thing my setup does not do is detect VPNs. But right now I'm not too worried about this angle. Gumroad also gives logs of the country of the purchase, so I can always compare with the discount code and see if people have started to game the system or not.

      1. 1

        I see. I thought maybe it was a version of https://paritybar.com/.

        1. 1

          I took the opportunity to build something myself. I logged into Parity Bar, but it seemed I would have to do everything, and I wanted to set up alerts for countries I did not add.

          Plus, it was an excuse to build something small :)

  4. 2

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

    That's a really interesting way to implement PPP through Gumroad. I am also using Gumroad and those things are the biggest issues with them for me and the only ones that make me consider moving away to a different platform: not being able to have VAT included in the price AND not being able to set a specific pricing/country.

    1. 1

      Yes, this would be great. Gumroad seems to be adding a bunch of features and I'm happy with them otherwise. E.g. payouts are very prompt, the tooling and community are great.

      I am not selling that much, and I enjoyed being able to build the PPP solution as well. I'm still thinking of making it available as a small service for others. It does take a while to setup codes for all 150+ countries for.

  5. 2

    Thank you for the interesting read and congratulations on a successful launch! Do you plan on doing any paid marketing / inorganic traffic? No idea on the cost per click for keywords relevant to you, but you seem to have a fairly good conversion rate on people clicking "buy now".

    1. 1

      Right on the launch I did a Twitter “boost” for $35 after someone suggested it could help. I got 4,000 additional impressions on my (otherwise popular) launch post, and 10 clicks through to my site, zero purchases. I then stopped this :)

      I’ll probably experiment with Reddit. And for the sake of getting data, spend $100 on both Google and DuckDuckGo and report back later on IndieHackers as well.

      I’m treating this whole thing as an experiment. I’ve gotten a lot more out of it already than what I bargained for.

      If you have any other ideas on paid channels to try, do let me know! (And for the record, I don’t have particularly high hopes: I see that on Google “developer resume” has a lot of competition from the resume sites that I’m not sure I can/want to compete with, as their customer lifetime value will be probably higher than mine).

      1. 1

        Looking forward to see your results, should be interesting!

        Regarding other possible channels for paid marketing, YouTube comes off the top of my head as an avenue where a significant audience for your ebook lurks. Maybe if you could partner up with a programming lesson channel to promote your book. Perhaps they could even be interested in a revenue sharing scheme? Just an idea.

    1. 1

      Wow, I missed this... thanks! Fixed.

      1. 1

        👍 Your book looks great, well done!

  6. 2

    The book seems great. I read the sample and had my finger on the trigger to purchase it until I got an amazing retention offer from my current employer. If I end up job hunting again I know exactly what resource I’d buy.

    Have you thought about going on podcasts and/or appearing on tech youtuber’s channels?

    There’s a few YT channels that are very heavily focused on the tech interview process which would probably love to have you on to talk about writing good resumes.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the feedback, Kenneth! Great to hear you got a retention offer, and hope it works out for you!

      I actually will be on one podcast, but didn't really consider this avenue. Especially not the YouTube one. I'm no stranger to video (I recorded 2 hours of it, for the additional content), so I might do this for an additional learning. Great idea, thank you!

  7. 1

    Thanks for this! I agree with Zencentric that the 16k followers on Twitter must have helped quite a lot. But still, it's a great write-up, and I'll surely use it for my gumroad launch!

  8. 1

    titles like this are what make me feel super bad about my stuff but then give me the motivation to continue, great job on your numbers!

    1. 1

      Hah, same. I think that's probably a common way to feel! Onwards!!

  9. 1

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