March 28, 2020

Slow Sales. Little interest. The push continues.

Nick Haskins @nphaskins

It's been 15 days since I launched pre-orders for my eBook on Rails ( , and so far I've had 14 sales. I've been consistently sharing on Twitter, including pages and snippets, but I don't have a large following.

I guess I just expected more interest. I definitely expected more sales, especially when you look at the popularity of other eBook. I have so many years of experience across multiple apps. I built and sold a business in two years. Surely developers would want to read about my approach and techniques.

But who am I?

I'm just another fish in the ocean.

This project has felt like pushing a rock up a hill. There's a number things that are just out of my control:

  • Rails is not popular
  • We're in a pandemic
  • It's a pre-order
  • I don't have a large megaphone (Twitter followers)

What can I do?

Finish the book. Finish the app. Deliver the book and app on time to those who pre-ordered. Complete the project.

Who knows, maybe this will just be a late bloomer.

  1. 2

    Hey Nick,

    Sorry to hear it's been a tough slog for you. I'm sure it's a really tough time in general to be launching a book.

    That said, while I'm not a rails developer, I have to believe that there is a large enough community of users that your book could be selling much better.

    Looking at your website, to me you've just barely scratched the surface on marketing your book. If you want to make your book a success, you're going to have to spend almost as much time and effort marketing your book as you did writing it.

    Some feedback for you:

    • First, you absolutely must have the keywords "Ruby on Rails" in your title. I have no idea what "Playbook Thirty-Nine" means ... is that something that has meaning in Rails? Newbies will have no idea. Without those critical keywords, you are fighting an uphill battle getting the word out.

    On your website:

    • Must have a table of contents
    • Must give away at least 1-2 chapters.
    • Make some sort of free item or items (e.g. a downloadable Rails cheatsheet or some other useful goodie) that users get in exchange for an email signup. That's a way to start building your list.
    • Get reader reviews/testimonials, especially from Rails influencers, bloggers, community leaders, experts etc.
    • Give special promo codes (either discounts or bonus materials) that these Rails influencers/bloggers/experts can give to their audience.
    • Have a link to a live demo of your companion app

    Compare your website to this: ... TBH, if I were interested in learning Rails, this would be the book I would pick up.

    Here's another example of a pretty good book website:

    This one isn't as good, but the basics are there:

    You should also seriously consider selling your book on Amazon and iBooks (skip Kobo/B&N, the sales volume isn't there). About 85% of the ebook market is Amazon. iBooks probably around 15%. Go to Amazon and search for "Ruby on Rails". Your goal should be to get your book to page 1 of the search results. There's an entire playbook on how to market on Amazon, but basically it takes a lot of elbow grease to get the ratings/reviews, manage ad spend on Amazon and prime the pump. Your price point may be too high for Amazon, but it's worth a shot. The good news is that the competition isn't that strong here. The number one result "Ruby on Rails Tutorial" by Michael Hartl has only 87 ratings. Also, it looks like he's working on the 6th edition which is coming out in June 2020 for $49.99. If you can get your book to page 1 (preferably in the top 3), then you will get a constant stream of buyers who search for the keyword "Ruby on Rails".

    I know this is a lot to take in. Most people don't like marketing books. It's a lot of work, and honestly not much fun, but it's the cost of being a successful author these days. I hope you find this advice useful. Good luck!

  2. 1

    Do you have already some free rails content out there? Blogs? Youtube?

    If not, than I would highly recommend to write some.

    At the very least I would show first chapter on the website and tried to promote it somehow.

    I did the same mistake as you did. Pre-launched non-existing course in the field I wasn't known in. Of course nobody bought, so I scraped the project.

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