March 5, 2020

Completely discouraged, but still moving forward.

Nick Haskins @nphaskins

I've been talking a lot about this book, but for the most part it's falling on deaf-ears, which is really unfortunate.

After some tweets yesterday and some RT's by some accounts with lots of followers, a whopping 5 users were added to the newsletter list bringing the total to 45. Forty-five.

The truth is that developers just don't use Rails anymore, and I don't think there's anything I can do to change that.

I just crossed 20K words and 110 pages, but the more I write, the less I get excited.

  1. 7

    One secret: Growth on internet is NOT LINEAR. There will be days with 1% growth and there will be days with 10% growth.

    Four words: Just keep at it.

    You are doing good, complete the book.

    1. 2

      Thanks Ankur!

  2. 4

    I’m a first time author too. Just crossed $62K direct sales today since the release 2.5 months ago. The thing is, I didn’t know if I would sell any when I started, and to keep myself motivated I assumed that I won’t sell any, and I scoped my work accordingly. I only spent about 20 days working on it (intentionally time-boxed), and I had a plan to release it as a series of blog posts if it turned out no sales materialized. That way I could at least convert my work to attention as a worst-case scenario.

    I also shared some other lessons I learned in this process over here: https://twitter.com/dvassallo/status/1216175468681940992?s=21

    1. 1

      You wrote the book in 20 days? That's crazy (first time future-author here). Wow.

      1. 2

        I am not an author either, at least not a book author, but I've written a lot of blog posts (related to roleplaying) and I've written many papers as part of my education. If you want to pump out a large amount of text in a short time, all you need is a plan.

        My own strategy is the following:

        1. Make a list of all the things that you want to cover in your paper / book / blog post / whatever.
        2. Arrange this list into headings and subheadings
        3. Go over each section, write a line or two about what you want to put into this sections.
        4. Now just plow through each section, one by one, and write it. Don't think too much, just write it.
        5. Take a break when the words don't come easily anymore.

        I usually end up writing in bouts of 20 to 25 minutes, and in that time, you can easily write one page with a bit of practice. Maybe even two. Sure, it's a rough draft, but its written and only needs some editing.

        1. 1

          This is all good advice. If someone writes something from top of their mind (e.g. run a course before writing a book), then this is all it takes.

          But for some books or other outputs you actually need quite a bit of research first and then some strategy thinking about what to put in/out. That's what definitely takes my time.

          Then the editing/beta readers etc. unless you are super confident about the result.

          1. 1

            My approach is to reach a point, where I can write at the top of my head, before I start writing.

            For me, the writing itself is not the problem. And I don't think that @dvassallo spent those twenty days doing all their research.

            @dvassallo : Is this correct?

            1. 2

              Exactly. I intentionally chose atopic where the book could almost write itself. Finding something that I could finish in under a month was part of the plan.

    2. 1

      Thanks Daniel! I've actually been following your progress and really amazed by that! You had answered one of my previous DM's on Twitter with some feedback, and that helped a lot.

  3. 4

    The truth is that developers just don't use Rails anymore, and I don't think there's anything I can do to change that.

    I don't think this is true at all. Books rely a lot on authority to sell. It's why Adam Wathan can sell Refactoring UI and get one million in sales, and @dvassallo did great on his book. They both have a great following.

    While you're writing the book, how are you building your audience?

    1. 1

      Yep large followings definitely help. I've been Tweeting like crazy about it and doing weekly updates, I reckon these things just take time when you're not a popular person.

  4. 3

    What I've come to learn about "successful" products is that they are largely determined by the founders who consistently chip away at it. So like @at send, just keep at it!

    1. 1

      ❤️

  5. 2

    I would rephrase "Developers don't use Rails anymore" to "Developers don't use Rails anymore for their own projects"

    I feel that there is a lot of demand of Rails out there working with clients as a freelance, but when doing anything new it probably won't be my first option,

    1. 2

      but when doing anything new it probably won't be my first option

      Do you mind sharing why? I'm super curious.

    2. 1

      Curious what would be your first option :)

  6. 1

    Maybe people don't want learn rails anymore, but probably lots of people know rails and are trying to adapt to other frameworks.

  7. 1

    So I am a Ruby developer among other things. I seriously question the website.

    I looked at playbookthirtynine.com to see if I would be sold. Off the bat I was overwhelmed by a wall of text that wasn’t very clear or concise in terms of explaining to me what the book was really about. Then I got to the bottom where there is a list of questions to help people self identify if the book is for them. None of these resonated very strongly with me. They also didn’t feel cohesive like they fit together.

    Do you have any metrics on your funnel? I suspect there is a lot of fall off just because your landing page isn’t doing a great job of selling. I would be curious to know out of the tweets how many people came to the site and then out of all those people how many dropped vs bought. If nobody is going to the site from the tweets. Maybe the tweet isn’t concisely communicating through value prop.

    Anyways that is my take after looking at it for 5 mins.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the feedback. 87 clicks to the site from the Tweet with 25 new subscribers. It's possible you are just not my target market, and that's ok.

      I've had the complete opposite opinions about the landing page.

      1. 1

        I'm a long-time developer that uses multiple different programming languages for a wide array of tasks. I must say, respectfully!, that I also find the landing page to be lacking. Graphically speaking, there's little to no visual hierarchy. I agree that it's pretty much a wall of text. The contents sound compelling—something that answers various real-world questions like how to send emails—but literally every line except for the title is the same font size. For one thing, I wouldn't be able to even tell it was a book about Rails without metaphorically squinting.

        In an example like this one, I like the book image with clear title (I have no idea what "Playbook Thirty Nine" means or refers to) and big headline with clear value prop. Then the "What will you learn" section has a short list of easily differentiable bullet points that expand on the value proposition.

        Anyway just thinking out loud, I really hope this helps!

  8. 1

    One word "persistence" ... progress can be painfully slow but it doesn't mean progress isn't happening

  9. 1

    Hi there from a code-illiterate!

    I'm not a coder. Not yet, at least. For the longest of times, I thought Java and JavaScript are the same things. :P

    But all I wanted to say was, don't give up. Maybe people who are learning Ruby would want your book more than others. Any chance that posting about this on Free Code Camp or reaching out to its founder Quincy Larson might get some traction?

    Also, if there's anything I can do to help, I'll give it my best shot. Since I can't code, I guess at best I can maybe help with writing, in some way. Or editing. Or proofreading. Or just be a sounding board.

    Keep at it. :)

    Regards,
    Abilash.

  10. 1

    This is anecdotal but a lot starts up build their MVP or initial product using Rails, probably because it's more productive. I also think a lot of people transitioning into tech from other careers learn Ruby and Rails because these languages are easier to master than something like C++ or Go. Have you considered focusing on a niche or targeting a group?

    I don't know Rails myself (I program in other domains, mostly backend) but if I were to suggest a web framework for anyone to learn it would be Django or Rails.

    Sometimes when you're discouraged you need to take a break. You put everything out there and a lot of energy is used and its normal to get hit with disappointment and fatigue. Give yourself a break and when you have more energy rethink your strategy.

    Wish you the best!

  11. 1

    Your book looks like an excellent resource. Seems to me your biggest struggle right now is marketing, which i struggled with in the past, for me it was a complete motivation killer.

  12. 1

    Hey there! I know what you are going through because I felt the same way when I was writing my book on programming. I kept questioning whether anyone would buy it or if programming books could make any money. Well, it turns out they can! My self-published programming book ended up selling over 100K copies to my complete surprise, and the income has allowed me to become a full-time Indie Hacker. This week, I signed a publishing contract for a follow-up programming book with Wiley. Anyways, I wanted to share that with you because I wish someone had told me that such a positive result was possible when I felt like giving up. Best of luck!

    1. 1

      Thanks Cory! That is awesome.

  13. 1

    What are you doing it for?

    1. 1

      The goals of the book are multi-faceted.

      We've over complicated web development, and have put too much focus on tooling, and not enough focus on building. I believe new developers are being swayed in the wrong direction, convinced they have to utilize JS libs/frameworks like React or Vue, or adopting a serverless paradigm just to ship an MVP.

      I believe in the majestic monolith, and have 6 years of first-hand experience to back that.

  14. 1

    "The truth is that developers just don't use Rails anymore, and I don't think there's anything I can do to change that."

    Rails is alive and kicking! https://jobsforvoice.com

    You could try releasing a bit of the book before continuing?

    1. 1

      and my mailing list subscriber count, just hit 52. So keep on going!

  15. 1

    Don’t give up! What are you doing to promote it?

    1. 1

      Lots of Twitter talk, weekly updates here on the project on IH, and answering other questions here on IH and in some cases dropping the link.

      1. 1

        If it's a long term project I'd consider SEO too!

  16. 1

    I'm all about data, check google trends, check github repos, check all your dev sites and trends (I'm not a dev, so I wouldn't know) and see what the data says. My hunch is telling me, there are three main programming languages, one for websites (javascript, and all its cousins) one for machine learning (python), and one for actual programs on computers (c and all it's variants)

    Like I said I have no idea what i'm talking about, I don't have data, and I'm not a dev, but yeah, if the data is telling you ruby is dead, then I would pivot.

    there is a famous saying that I like, I think Charles Darwin said it, I'm paraphrasing, but the gist of it is this: "IT IS NOT THE SMARTEST, OR STRONGEST, WHO SURVIVE, IT IS THOSE WHO ADAPT TO CHANGE." And if you have seen change, then your best bet is to adapt and change. we're all here for each other at the end of the day.

    Hope you come right big guy!

    1. 1

      ❤️

  17. 1

    What book are you writing ?

    1. 1

      Heya! I'm writing a book on design patterns and techniques for SaaS apps built on Rails. https://playbookthirtynine.com

      1. 1

        I think the landing page needs a little bit of work. The main body of text is OK, but I'd experiment with a few small changes that might increase you conversion rate:

        Instead of the image at the top, a big font headline to talk to your target's main pain point to grab their attention.

        Use the image at the top to creat an 'e-cover' which is a sort of photoshop generated picture that looks like a real book. There are a few sites you can google for that do this for free.

        For the opt in offer the first chapter of the book, not just the TOC.

        Near the opt in offer show the e-cover

        Use the Ruby and Rails logo on the page somewhere if you are allowed to.

        Get a testimonial from someone who has read the free chapter, show their face in a circle and their testimonial somewhere.

        A high quality picture of you somewhere on the page might help too.

      2. 1

        Too narrow topic. I would like topic on

        Design patterns in SaaS.

        Or

        Ways to implement flexible SaaS software that can withstand major changes in long run.

        Or

        How to build your core SaaS engine that help to develop multiple products ?

      3. 1

        Write the same book in Node and I’ll buy it ;)
        Alrernatively, focus more on the concept and less on the language/framework, and it could also peek my interest (from an indie dev breaking his way into SaaS).

        1. 1

          Ruby on Rails is the best tool that you could use to get an app to market quickly. There's nothing else that will beat it in terms of speed and providing everything you need out of the box.

          But then again, I may be biased since I just wrote a book on it! ;)

          There's a lot of stuff in the book not directly related to Rails. A lot of theory, and quite a few chapters covering stuff like multi-tenancy, and protecting against DDoS attacks.

          It's all based on first-hand experience over the last 5+ years running for different Rails apps ranging from multi-vendor eCommerce marketplaces to gym management software powered by Stripe Terminal.

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