Growth December 27, 2019

Released an ebook: $17K sales in the first 2 days

Daniel Vassallo @dvassallo

Hey Indie Hackers 👋

I'm an ex-Amazon employee, now working for myself. Together with a friend of mine (who also recently left Amazon) we tried an experiment and put almost everything we know about AWS in one short digital book. We launched the book on Xmas day and it sold over $17K in the first 2 days.

This is the first time I got paid for something I wrote, so I'm still very new to this "profession". But I'm happy to share what I learned so far, so please feel free to ask me anything.

And here's a discount link for the book if you'd like to check it out: https://gum.co/aws-good-parts/indiehackers 🙏

  1. 4

    Twitter and Email are top of the referrals list there, would you say your existing network contribute to that surge? Or is there something else indie hackers could learn from?

    1. 7

      For me it was all Twitter. I spent the last 10 months documenting what I'm doing as I'm doing it. This helped be build a following of 13K, which when I launched this, some became customers, and some helped spread the word of mouth.

      If I didn't have yet access to an audience, it's likely I wouldn't have sold any. So obviously I think the order is very important: first share to build an audience; then ask. Perhaps, if I had written this right after I left my job, I might have released it for free, and let this be the first thing that gets me some attention, and then maybe attempt to sell something after 6 months or a year. I think it's hard to be an independent creator when there's no one seeing what you're creating.

      1. 2

        Your Twitter stream is excellent. I thought your insights about serverless were brilliant! 🙏

  2. 2

    Awesome achievement. I'm curious, how long did the writing take, and how you went about deciding the topics?

    I ask because I'm putting together a short ebook/pdf (but likely just as a lead magnet) and my mindset has been...

    "What things gave me hiccups/headaches in my projects during development"
    "What types of questions have I been asked over and over by people I'm helping"

    Etc.

    Would be interesting to hear if there is overlap with your approach.

    1. 2

      Thank you!

      The total time spent on the book was about 20 full-time days for 2 people. We started in October, and we were meeting once a week to work on the draft. Then we did one big push over the last 10 days to wrap it up.

      And yes, the inspiration for the book came after hearing from various people that they're daunted by the almost infinite number of options with AWS, and they're confused by the way Amazon describes its own products. And then I started to notice that my explanations were resonating with people, so this became a candidate topic when I started brainstorming for topics.

      In terms of sub-topics, we wanted to cover only things with which we had a lot of experience with, so that acted as a filter. If we felt there was topic that required us to research something, we felt almost obligated to take it out. So it was a process of elimination. Obviously, this approach might not work for all types of books, but this was a bit the premise of ours: just the important things.

  3. 2

    How did you come up with the price for your ebook?

    1. 2

      Good question. I asked myself what I would feel like a fair price for the content I had, and went with that. I tried to err on minimizing the chance that people feel overcharged after reading the book.

      I went with $24 for the pre-orders, and got >100 sales in the first day. So that confirmed that at least some people are willing to get out their wallet and fork $24 of their hard earned money for it. Then after I looked at the final book, I thought that $24 seemed a bit low for all the content there was, so I set the price to $38, but I put a $10 discount when I announced it (I didn't want to risk the launch if it turned out people felt that $38 was too steep.)

      Turns out, I got quite a few orders at the full price too, so it seems like that price is viable too. This is the total sales so far, broken down by price:

      Price  |  Copies Sold
      $24    |          228
      $28    |          460
      $38    |           39
      -------+-------------
      Total  |          727
  4. 2

    Please share the revenue after a month?

  5. 2

    Congrats on the launch!

    I saw this while scrolling through Twitter and didn't think twice about buying. You really struck a nerve for me. I've been working with AWS for years already but when I can get some relatively cheap insights from employees with 11 years inside experience - as opposed to, say, expensive trainings - I'll bite right away.

    The intro really resonated with me (so many choices nowadays and a strategy for decision making) and I am now in the middle of part 1 and really enjoy reading it. I can't wait to get to part 2, though, and compare how you're doing things with how I've been doing things so far.

    1. 1

      Thank you! Very happy to hear this.

      1. 1

        So I finally got to part 2, here's one little thing I encountered on page 51:
        When downloading the zipped master branch from my repo, I had to use curl -L to follow redirects.

        1. 1

          Hey, yes sorry about that. Just fixed that and published a new version a few minutes ago with that fix.

          1. 1

            Do you have an issue tracker by any chance? Running into more problems when following the instructions 1:1

            1. 1

              You can file any issues here: https://github.com/good-parts/aws-bootstrap/issues — We're going to use that repo to release all the source code in the book. It's already almost all there, but there are a few missing things. Thank you!

  6. 2

    How would you go around building an audience from scratch? It seems that the magical border is going from 0-1000 and then it sort of goes easier since you have others to re-share / recommend if the quality of content is good enough. I always felt that this is the hardest phase.

    1. 10

      Give people a reason to follow you. Share something interesting, and put a call for action to follow you for more. Then put that something interesting on hacker news, reddit, etc, and let it get some attention. The blog post in my pinned tweet got me 3000 followers in a week, and it only made it to the HN frontpage for a few minutes. Then I kept sharing things, almost everyday. You don’t necessarily need to create anything. You can just document: describe what you’re doing, what’s happening to you, how you’re choosing between options, etc. People like to follow a story as it happens. Obviously, if you do create something, that’s a better opportunity to get attention, but creation generally takes more energy than just documenting. I’ve formed a habit now that at the end of every day, before I close my laptop, I look at the events of the day and see if any lessons/insights/code/etc is worth sharing. And if it is, I default to share. Following someone is free and easy. If you give people a reason to follow, they will follow.

      1. 1

        Is there a particular reason you published your article on Medium and not on your site?

        1. 1

          I published on both my site an Medium. Medium is great because it gets me about 1000 visits a week from its network. For free. I don’t like it personally for various reasons, but I see no downside in republishing on it.

          1. 1

            Thanks for sharing, Daniel. ✌️

      2. 1

        Thank you for taking the time to reply, great answer and I will definitely take your advice and put it to action!

  7. 2

    I was just listening to your episode of The Entrepreneurial Coder Podcast yesterday so it is great to see this post, congratulations on your book and good luck.

    1. 1

      Wow, what a coincidence. And thank you!

  8. 1

    That's awesome! I will check it out. 👏

  9. 1

    Question: Is your ebook technical knowledge on which commands to use an such or more high level how to build typical use cases with AWS components? Who's the target audience?

    1. 1

      he first part is very high level. It's our opinionated perspective of the most important AWS products and how we think about them (which is not exactly how Amazon describes them). The target audience of this part is anyone wanting to see a different no-nonsense perspective of AWS.

      The second part is more technical, and written for developers who want to set up an AWS environment from scratch and understand what’s going on.

      PS. If you get the book and you find that it's not what you're expecting, just reply to the download email and you'll get a full refund. No questions asked.

  10. 1

    Hey Daniel, thank you for sharing your story, it will inspire so many people like me. Many congratulations and wish you have many more sales coming :)

  11. 1

    Great success story!! Interesting how you mention about building an audience first. I’ve shared this with a few people I know so no doubt there are a few more downloads coming your way :)

    1. 1

      Oh, thank you Matt!

  12. 1

    I am working on a course for Creating a SAAS application in NodeJS. One place where my audience hangs out is twitter and I have no followers there (I am trying) . Any tips for me please? I will be happy with 1/10th of your followers count . @page_monk on twitter .

    1. 3

      Would you consider making the first version of your course free? If you release something for free that people don't typically expect to be free, you're almost guaranteed some attention. Share it on Hacker News, Reddit, etc. If people like it, they'll also help you spread the word. Then try to give people a reason for people to follow you. Let them know you'd be sharing more stuff, etc.

      1. 2

        It’s difficult to give the whole course for free. Maybe I’ll give the first half for free. It will definitely provide a lot of value to who ever is interested in building a SAAS.

        Thank you for replying. .

        1. 1

          Where do I sign up? 👍

          1. 1

            I’ll upload the first 10-13 videos this week and reply here. Or you can email me at thepagemonk at gmail dot com so that I can let you know when ready.

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