Indie Hackers Community Building January 22, 2021

"The Mom Test" author Rob Fitzpatrick has launched a new book and community 🎉

Rosie Sherry @rosiesherry

@RobFitz of The Mom Test fame is in the process of writing a new book that is currently partially available.

This is his third book. His first two books were non-fiction and his third book is not coincidentally called Write Useful books — it's about how to write non-fiction that works.

Interestingly enough, Rob has huge credibility in this area. Not only has he published two non-fiction books, but they are now generating $160k in royalty revenue.

My first two nonfiction titles have grown organically to reach well over 100k happy readers and are now generating $160k per year in royalties. All with nearly zero hands-on marketing. This is due to how the books were built.

I was a bit blown away by this when I first found out. 🤯

As part of his new book he is also building a community to help and provide authors with accountability, Q&A, problem-solving, and events.

Obviously, I'm a big fan of all things community, but I find it super interesting to see how Rob is combining writing a book and whilst also building a community. Personally, I love it as an approach and I believe it's a super clever way to help connect with your audience in a real way.

Not only will he help his people through the community, but the community will undoubtedly help him with refining his ideas and words.

I like to point out these examples of how to make money as I often feel indie hackers are pressured into building a SaaS. There are plenty of other ways to create a fulfilling indie career. With a long term view, writing can be one of them.

  1. 9

    Aw, thanks so much for the mention Rosie -- I really appreciate it.

    And yes! When properly designed, turning your knowledge into a book (whether that means technical knowledge, business experiences, or insights drawn from your previous career) is a wonderful way to get started in the world of IndieHacking.

    The royalties are reliable, hands-off passive income, and the process of writing and launching also helps build an audience (or community) that you can use for future tech projects and products.

    Would love to answer any questions about the business of books, and hope to see one or two of you in our authors' community sometime soon ;)

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      Hey Rob, big fan of your book and awesome to see this :)

      If you don't mind me asking, what platform are you using to host your community?

      Just curious because I'm currently building a community using Circle (free-to-join, over 1,300 members so far):

      Always interested in seeing how other people are running their communities!

      1. 1

        We're just 80 authors currently, and just running it out of Slack (plus a weekly email as a sort of content heartbeat and 2x weekly live events, one for accountability and one for education).

        I recently attended a course/community on Circle and I thought it was fairly solid, but also depended hugely on how it was organized. In the one I took, the information design was all over the place, so it was hard to find resources/knowledge/etc, but the personal profiles and interactions were excellent.

        I'm super keen to learn more about the options and tradeoffs though -- what's your experience so far?

        1. 2

          I chose Circle for a few reasons:

          I wanted more of a "posts with comments on a post" solution (similar to Indie Hackers), rather than a chat-based solution like Slack.

          The other big thing was SEO. My community is public, so that means every post and comment gets indexed by Google (again, just like Indie Hackers).
          So ideally in the future, most of the traffic to my community will come via people searching Google and finding certain posts from my community in the search results.

          @csallen has mentioned to me that a significant amount of IH traffic comes via SEO of the user-generated-content of the community.

          However, for a private community, this probably doesn't matter at all :)

        2. 1

          @DavisBaer As a reader, I find Circle's notifications confusing.

          When I click a notification item, for example a specific comment by a user, I end up somewhere in the comment thread but not at the exact spot where the user's comment begins.

          1. 1

            I agree, this is an annoying issue that Circle definitely needs to fix. Just forwarded this to the Circle team, so hopefully they fix it soon.

            1. 1

              That would be great, thanks.

  2. 4

    Wow, $160k/year in royalties is crazy. Congrats, @robfitz!

    Have you broken down where this comes from?

    The Mom Test is so useful, it gets organically recommended everywhere I look, so I wouldn't be surprised if that accounts for the bulk of the revenue. But how many copies do you have to sell to generate 6 figures?

    1. 5

      Hey Courtland, thanks! I'll write up a more detailed behind-the-scenes and shoot it to you at some point soon, but basically:

      You don't need to sell too many copies if you've self-published, since the royalties are 5-10x better than what most people expect from book ($7-15 per copy vs. $1.50-3 per copy).

      My overall breakdown is:

      • 60-70% of the sales/profits are from The Mom Test, 2013 (about 1500 copies per month) for ~10k royalties

      • The remainder are from The Workshop Survival Guide, 2019 (about 500 copies per month, for ~5k royalties)

      • Roughly half of sales are paperback, representing two thirds of profit due to the higher price (~$15 in royalties per paperback)

      • Half of unit sales are kindle, accounting for one third of profit (~$7 in royalties per copy)

      • Audiobook sells an extra ~500 units per month, but the royalties are negligable (<$3 in royalties per copy)

      • There's also a grab-bag of other nice-to-haves like PDF sales ($1k / month), udemy course (300 / month), etc.

      • I used to also sell a 200-500 copies per month of bulk paperbacks to corporates or universities, but that has largely stopped during lockdown (I still do some bulk PDF licenses, but it's almost always <$500 / month)

      Here's the last 30 days of just the Amazon stuff (excluding translations, audiobook, etc):

      And 24 days of royalties (it's their beta dashboard so I can't select a full month yet):

      And of course, the books were designed to be long-lasting and recommendable, so the royalties continue growing. If it's relevant, I wrote an article showing my royalty growth over time and explaining some of the royalty mistakes that tend to hold nonfiction back.

  3. 2

    Huge fan of The Mom Test! Probably one of the best books I read last year (on startups/entrepreneurship).

    Not a huge fan of "Yet Another Community". Community fatigue is real. I'm already in way too many: Hacker News, Indie Hackers, 30x500, Egghead, StackOverflow, not to mention the millions of Slack, Discord, and Subreddits (I don't tweet much, but that would count too, I guess, and Facebook which I don't have an account on).

    @robfitz - what's the differentiator / upsell of your community?

    1. 3

      I hear you. My first thoughts:

      Ours is only for people actively writing a nonfiction book, and they pay to be there.

      So we aren't there "just to chat", but rather to help each other move forward, finish, and succeed with a well-defined project (a book). I generally expect people to leave after 6-12 months, once their book is finished. Some people are engaging fairly regularly for ongoing support & encouragement, while others pop in once they get stuck on a specific question about the writing/publishing process.

      It's the first time I've done any sort of community, it's still early, and I definitely don't have all the answers, but we're trying to keep it as useful and non-interruptive as possible.

      1. 2

        Perfect answer- thanks for that.
        Also, Mom Test. So good!

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