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50+ eBook pre-sales ($383 made)

3 weeks ago, I started working on Failory's #1 digital product. A few minutes ago we made the sale number 53, without even having defined the content outline for the product.

It's a story that includes customer surveys, a/b testing, and sales. Thought some of you could find it interesting.

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On August 13, I purchased Trends Pro + Talks, from @dru_riley. Besides the premium newsletters he sends to Trends Pro subscribers, Trend Talks give you access to 30-minute talks with Dru every week.

On our first call, Dru noticed I was too focused on growth and not really into monetization. Having an audience of +70,000 monthly readers, he suggested I could try to launch Failory's #1 digital product.

Since we started 3 years ago, we've always made money through sponsors and affiliate commissions, so charging our users for a product was super scary, but I decided to give it a try.

The first step was to survey Failory's email subscribers (around 7,000) to get to know what they wanted to learn about and in what content form. I created this survey on Airtable and sent them a dedicated email with a link to it.

I quickly collected +130 replies. These were the results:

Survey image

Despite "Video course" won, Dru and I decided to go with an eBook for the first product, as it's easier to create and consume. As for the topics, "Startup failure & mistakes" and "Product-market fit" were the most voted ones.

That's when we decided to carry out an experiment to see which topic would perform better. I quickly created two Gumroad pre-sale pages: one for a $5 eBook titled: "10 Failed Startups: Interviews with their founders"; another one for a $7 eBook called: "Product-Market Fit: Deep-dive into how 7 startups achieved it".

eBook experiment

Then I split the newsletter into two and sent the first half the first eBook and the second half the second eBook. The eBooks received around 300 views that week and around 25 sales.

As you can see in the images above, the copywriting and images on Gumroad were super vague. I encouraged email subscribers and eBook buyers to share any ideas they had for the eBooks.

After ≈ 10 days, we had a winner. The "product-market fit" had received more views, more sales (at a $2 higher price), better conversion rates, and a lot more positive feedback. That's why we decided to cancel the "Failed startup interviews" pre-sale and focus 100% on the "product-market fit" eBook.

When purchasing @stephsmith's "Doing Content Right" eBook, I liked her pricing strategy of increasing the $ every x sales, and so I applied that on our Gumroad page and increased the price to $10, as by that time the eBook had +30 sales.

Then I sent an email to the buyers of the "Failed startup interview" eBook explaining them about the shift and giving them a 30% discount code on the "product-market fit" eBook so that they could get it at the original price ($7) as well as talked about the experiment on Failory's weekly newsletter. That day, there were 16 new sales.

Gumroad analytics

It's been 2 weeks since the eBook experiment and we've already made +50 sales without having the eBook outline, which is why I think Gumroad and pre-sales, in general, are amazing.

One of the most common failure reasons for the failed startups we interview at Failory is the lack of validation of the ideas. Many entrepreneurs put a lot of money and time building products no one cares about. MVPs and pre-sales are amazing ways to avoid this.

I originally wanted to focus on the eBook about interviews with failed startups as I thought it made more sense within Failory. Dru was the one who told me to carry out a pre-sale. Otherwise, I'd have spent +20-50 hours working on an eBook that would have performed much worse than other eBook ideas.

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What's the current status of the eBook?

So far we've made 53 sales and $383 (less Gumroad fees). I'm starting to do some more marketing (like writing this detailed post) and talking about it on our newsletter and website, where I've added a top bar linking to the eBook.

What's next?

  • Do a ton of research about product-market fit and create the eBook outline.
  • Hire a writer with whom I've been working on many articles for Failory. He will take care of most of the writing. I'll be doing research, contacting and editing.
  • Create a page on Failory for the eBook and adjust Gumroad's copy based on @philipkiely's feedback.
  • Promote the eBook more smartly across Failory's website. So far, I've only added a top bar linking to the eBook. I want to mention it on some of our articles as well as some of our interviews with failed startup founders, particularly those who mention they have struggled to find product-market fit.
  • Decide on the pricing strategy.
  • Think further about marketing for the book (I'm soon trying some @dvassallo's Twitter strategies). If you have any ideas, they would be highly appreciated.

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That's all. Comment your questions below ;)

If you want to get the eBook, here's the link. I'm raising the price once it gets +7 sales. Use the code "ih" for a $3 discount.

  1. 2

    Awesome job, Nico! I've been a fan of Failory for a while and I think @dru_riley had great advice to start creating paid products, considering the size of your audience!

    Expect to see many more sales once you publish the product. Over the pre-sale, my book made $10k, but within it's first week has already made another $10k!

    PS: Hope you're enjoying Doing Content Right! 😊

    1. 2

      That's amazing Steph! I'm pretty sure once we create the eBook outline and a page within Failory promoting it, pre-sales will increase.

      Really looking forward to reading Doing Content Right in the following weeks ;)

      1. 1

        Yes! I found that sharing the table of contents really helped my sales because people gained confidence in what they were getting. Best of luck!

  2. 2

    Congrats Nico! Look forward to our calls each week.

  3. 1

    Thanks, Nico. This is a very useful article.
    Can you comment on:

    1. How long do you think it would take you to write the book
    2. Churn of interest in the book as time passes (I suppose now is too early)

    I ask because: Those who showed interest in buying the book now, might lose the patience if the book takes, say, 1 year, to get published. But this is a hypotheses I wanted to check on

    1. 1
      1. I thought it would take us 2-3 weeks and it took something like that. However, we had to postpone the release date because we started it later than expected.

      2. None of the people who pre-bought the eBook canceled the order so I guess there was no churn in the interest.

  4. 1

    When you canceled the pre-sale for the eBook about interviews with failed startups, did you just refund everyone that bought the pre-sale? What was their response to that? That's the part that worries me about doing pre-sales - what if the demand doesn't justify the effort and you want to back out of it? Do you lose trust?

    1. 2

      Gumroad doesn't take the customers' money until you deliver something. If you just cancel the pre-sale campaign, customers get an email saying that the product won't be released, and that's all. It's not really a refund.

      That solves the trust issue that you mentioned.

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