$17,272 book launch in 2 days: Initial lessons

After reviewing the data, here are the three key tactics that helped me sell $17,272 and counting of Writing for Software Developers since May 12th.


  1. 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.

Some details:

  • 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
  1. 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.

Some Details:

  • 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
  1. 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

I'm working on a more extensive writeup for my blog. Until then, if you haven't already, check out https://philipkiely.com/wfsd. I'll also be posting a video walkthrough of my analytics soon on my twitter account https://twitter.com/philip_kiely.

Bonus: three things that didn't work.

  1. Product Hunt. I launched at the same time on PH as Hacker News, but gathered only 9 upvotes, yielding basically no traffic
  2. LinkedIn. I have about 650 connections and am fairly active, but my post yielded very little traffic.
  3. Facebook. I posted, my family posted, my friends posted, but most people seeing these posts were not software developers.
  1. 3

    Random question, but how'd you get that book design mock-up. Is there a generator or did you get someone to design it? And what would you actually call it, "Book cover mock up"?

    1. 3

      https://diybookcovers.com/3Dmockups/ for the renders, I hired another student at my college for the art.

  2. 3

    Interview Subjects on Twitter - very smart. What are your plans for distribution to keep the momentum going?

    1. 6

      3 things I'm focusing on RN:

      • Make content about how the sales went to increase publicity and interest. Be 100% transparent
      • Write on my own blog about related topics, see if I can repeat some HN traffic
      • Reach out to podcasts in writing and software engineering to record episodes on related topics.
  3. 1

    Thank you for sharing! This is super useful as I am in the process of creating an SEO resource :)

  4. 1

    This is awesome @philipkiely. Thanks for sharing your insights and lessons learned. Congratulations on the launch. 🚀

  5. 1

    Philip, congrats on the launch, and thanks for sharing. Regarding HN, how much contribution to that platform have you done before you posted for the book?

    I've posted it before but did not get any traction.

    Can you comment about your post history prior to the successful book post on HN? What type of engagement would you advise to do prior to posting for something like a launch?

    1. 1

      I had posted a small bit, I had about 300 karma or points or whatever HN calls it. 1 previous successful front-page post a year or so ago (an article I wrote for a client) and a handful of posts that went nowhere. Decent comment history. Success on HN was less about my post history and more about my daily use of the platform to understand the culture on it.

  6. 1

    Very impressive Philip! You must feel FANTASTIC! :)

    How did you approach the interview process?

    1. 1

      For the interviews, once I had secured each appointment, I read as much as I could by the person I was interviewing. I read their blogs, twitter accounts, websites, and books. I also read or watched other interviews they had done. I used this preparation to ask specific questions that they hadn't answered elsewhere and that were relevant to the book.

      1. 1

        How did you approach them? Send a DM on Twitter? I have an interview lined up with Daniel. Interested in how you approached the rest. (I won't contact them, but maybe for others to learn from you.)

        1. 2

          Entirely cold email with a few cold DM. I contacted almost 100 people. I focused on keeping my pitches short and relevant.

  7. 1

    This comment was deleted a year ago.

    1. 1

      Wrote in Markdown. I thought I would use Pandoc for everything but it didn't work too well for the PDF. By format:

      • PDF: Markdown -> (pandoc) -> Word -> (format & export) -> PDF
      • EPUB: Markdown -> (pandoc + config) -> EPUB
      • MOBI: EPUB -> (calibre) -> MOBI

      Wasn't thrilled with any part of that process but the final product came out looking well-formatted.

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