Hey fellow Indie Hackers. I just published my second book, The Embedded Entrepreneur. It's the most actionable thing I have ever produced, and it is meant to guide founders through those terrifying initial steps of starting a business: finding out who you want to serve, where you can learn about their problems, and how to build a following among them.
Here is a little YouTube launch video:
Aside from being extremely practical, this book has another thing going for it: I co-wrote it with hundreds of other founders and Indie Hackers. Here's the story so far:
Last year, after releasing Zero to Sold in late June 2020, people immediately started to give me feedback on that book. One thing that I heard about more than anything else was that while people understood that starting with your audience instead of your idea makes a lot of sense, they didn't know how to do it. Who should they pick? How could they learn about their problems? Where did their future customers even hang out?
I heard those questions repeated in my conversations with mentees and consulting clients. At some point, I felt obligated to develop a framework so that I could give my mentees a structured approach.
I came up with a 5-step guide, and I tested it out with a handful of mentees. It immediately clicked. They finally had the tools for methodically considering all sorts of potential target audiences and find the critical problems by observing their communities. Within a few weeks, most of my mentees had found focus where before was chaos and too much optionality.
This guide turned into a Medium article I wrote for Better Programming in September 2020 that went into detail for each of the five steps, including questions to ask yourself and examples of how to find the required information. Readers loved that article, and I republished it on my blog and found that it attracted a lot of new visitors.
Over the next few weeks, I considered if this could be something bigger than a popular blog post. Since questions about how to find and build your audience were the most common ones I received, I decided to let my Twitter followers know and involve them from the start — after all, they were my community and my future readers. That happened in October 2020. The book was initially titled "Audience First."
I later changed the title to The Embedded Entrepreneur after an intense Twitter conversation with my followers about what "audience-first" meant to them. It was very exciting at that point to get this direct feedback at all stages of writing the book. But little did I know that the most intense feedback was going to appear soon after that.
I launched a landing page where I wrote about what I wanted to write about and asked people to do two things:
I shared this all over the community. The response was incredible: hundreds of people signed up for my Alpha Reader list within just a few days. Overall, over 550 readers were interested in the early manuscript. I never expected such a response.
Once I had all those hopefuls in an email list, I looked around for good collaboration solutions. People usually go with Google Docs, but I wanted something better. I stumbled onto Help This Book, a project by Rob Fitzpatrick (author of The Mom Test and Write Useful Books) and Devin Hunt (co-authored The Workshop Survival Guide with Rob). I immediately loved the product: it was built by two authors who needed beta readers for their work, so they built the tool to do it.
The HelpThisBook.com interface makes it super easy to collect reader feedback.
I was onboarded within just a day, and had my book up on Help This Book within minutes. I wrote my first email to a few dozen Alpha Readers and invited them onto the platform. Every day for a few weeks, I invited a few more people. Every few weeks, I took the comments and the suggestions from my Alpha Readers and adjusted the manuscript. Once I reached version 0.4, I was happy with the book and sent it off to a professional editor for the final steps.
During all of this, I ran a 99designs contest to find a good book cover. With the help of my Twitter audience and my Alpha Readers, I found a wonderful cover among all the many designs. It was particularly enjoyable to see people give their raw and honest impressions.
So here I was at the end of April when my editor handed over the final version of the manuscript: I had written a book in public, with hundreds of people making the book better along every step of the way.
And now it's here.
I'll share more about the technical details of publishing this book at a later point. For now, I am eternally grateful to the Indie Hacker community for supporting me in writing this book. An audience-centric book, centered around interactions with its future reader audience. Quite the meta project.
You can learn more about the book on https://embeddedentrepreneur.com/.
The Twitter launch thread can be found here. If you want to help me spread the word, please like, comment on, or retweet that thread. It will make a big difference.
Any questions? Let me know here! 🥰