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Friday
Oct182013

$11,000

That is what I earned on my book for software team leaders before it was even finished.

This august I finished writing and publishing my first self-published book. Last month I got done adding a print and an audio edition of that book.

So far, two months after finishing the book, I have netted almost $14,000 from the book in ebook, print and audio formats. It sold around 1,500 copies. That averages almost $10 per copy sold, and I sold more than half of them at a very large discount.

It was an interesting experiment, and I would like others to know how I did it in a way that worked for me.

I previously wrote one other pretty successful (at least in the Microsoft niche) book about unit testing, through a “standard” publisher (Manning).

In the next month, the second edition of my book with manning will appear, and I am looking at the numbers deciding whether the self publishing experiment was worth it. So far, it has.

I can already say that I made more on my book before it came out, than I had made with a traditional publisher after 6 years. That is because with a traditional publisher you might end up getting 2-4$ per copy sold, once a quarter, while the way I sold it I got about 20$ for each copy, monthly.

A four year old blog

The work on the self published book started four years ago, with a simple blog about the topics I cared about. Every time I had something to say to a team leader, I blogged it there. I knew I would then use the best ideas from my blog in an eventual book.

This process keeps repeating for me. My first book was based on a blog started five years earlier. And I am planning another book about a different topic

ISBN:

AN ISBN can be costly if you live in the US. But I live in Norway. So that`s free. You just ask nicely by email. I also made my publisher name “Team Agile Publishing” registered in Norway. Free too.

 

Ebook:

So what does an author with a passion for agility and lean thinking do when they write a book? They look for a way to write a book the same way.

I used Leanpub.com to write my book and actually start selling it before it was done.

In fact, one nice feature you can do with that site is that you can declare you want to write a book, write out a description, and ask people to check it out. Visitors can mark on the page what they would have paid for such a book, and that can help you gauge whether you might make any money writing that book. It is pure lean market research, but you still have to get the people into that page, which is where my blog and twitter came in handy.

When I started writing it, I published a couple of chapters and immediately declared it available for sale. Yes, there were typos, and grammar issues. But I believe in deploying less than perfect and see what sticks, because that gives me a motive to keep working at something and make it better.

Because I could change the price whenever I wanted immediately, I started off selling the book for 3$, with the leanpub promise that purchasers always get the latest versions of the book as I update them on leanpub. That means early adopters will end up with the full book for 3$.

The more chapters I added, the more I added to the price.

Most the money from the book was made before it was even published. I was able to do this because I have amassed a bit of an audience through my long time blog and previous book. That means about 8,000 RSS blog readers and 10,000+ twitter followers that knew about my book while I was writing it.

While writing it, I also continuously wrote a blog about the ideas in that book at 5whys.com

Profit from Leanpub so far:  13,890$

image

Editing

For copyediting, proofing and spelling I used a combination of people I know from the publishing industry, which I paid to with paypal, and asking the readers of my blog to be beta reviewers of the book in exchange for a free copy.

Cost of editing: about 250$ if you do not count about 200 free copies given away.

 

Book Cover

To design the cover of the book I used 99designs.com and was quite happy.

Design cost? about 350$

After designing several covers there, I would recommend opening contests for $500 or more so that you get the really top tier designers there interested. Here is  a great cover I got for that price.

Amazon:

When my book was done I published it on amazon kindle (LeanPub generates a file you can just upload) through the KDP program.

 

Audio Book:

I first tried to record the audio book on my own. I felt like I could do it because I do a lot of speaking, but it was just not cutting it. So I went on voices.com and found within a day the narrator I wanted (Gorde Edland).

Gorde also formatted the mp3 files and I ended up making the itunes file  using AudioBook Builder (cost: 5$) 

I then published the audio book first on gumroad.com

Narration and production Cost? 1650$

Profit so far: 1679$      since august 17th: cost repaid in two months

image

I then tried to find a way to put the book on Audible.com. That is NOT an easy task if you live outside the United states and do not have at least five audio books to sell.

Turns out you can find, here and there, publishers that will do audible distribution for you, and only take a small cut of sales.

I tried going through vook.com and a couple of other places but ended up choosing Spoken Word. They were the quickest to return my email and I did not need all the marketing extra work that vook offered.

I still do not have any numbers on how much audible sold. It takes at least three-four months to find out, and then another month to get money from that. That sucks. But any money I make on the audio book now is “free money”.

 

Print Book:

I chose CreateSpace.com to print the book and have a print edition available on amazon. so far the reports show 10 print copies being sold (I still have not emailed my mailing list of several thousands that the print book exists).

To layout the book cover for createspace cost me about 50$ through a contact I made in the book business

to try out and ship to me a couple of proofs of the final print cost me less than 25$

Profit so far: About 130$

image

Marketing

I do very little marketing, and it is mostly on my blog and twitter, in the form of sidebar links from my various websites.

I pay 13$ a month to hellobar.com for the top bar of this website which I can easily change and applies to all my other websites as well.

I am now experimenting with facebook ads for the book. it cost me less than 10$ to get about 35 clicks and about 3 sales of the book after two days of that starting out. Still playing with that.

I use madmimi.com to maintain an email list of people interested, which I got for free because I used to work there.

 

Overall :

net profit of $13,815 within two months of book publishing in a niche area.

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Reader Comments (9)

Interesting one, I wrote my first two books with APRESS and OReilly. With OReilly I went over 15,000 copies but I made nuts out of it, almost nothing. APRESS was even worst, the book was sold for a ridiculous price of 40 USD and I was making not even 10% out of it.
I will seriously consider this channel for my next book, nice you shared your experience!

October 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRaffaele Garofalo

Thanks for the awesome run down. One thing I would like to know is how much time it took to write the book? Estimated hours? I mean if took 1000 hours to write, whats the hourly pay :)? Also how much do you project to make over the next year of this? Have sales slowed down?

October 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLuke Holder

The new distribution models for eBooks are truly amazing. I don't think there has ever been a time in the publishing industry where authors had so much power --- we can completely cut out the middle men.

The new value chain is:

author --> book shop --> reader

which is so much shorter than the old model:

author --> editor --> copy-editor --> typesetter --> printer --> distributor[1..] --> book store --> reader

No wonder the margins are better ;)

Congratulations on your success. Now you got me thinking about audiobooks; an math audiobook could be tough, but I think it can be done.

October 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Savov

Nice article and also extremely valuable for the reference to service providers in the self publishing space.

Can you say how many hours of your own time was spend in authoring of the book?

October 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErnest Nov

Nice post. I'm working on a book myself, the tips for the audiobook portion was useful.

October 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDanny

Thanks Roy for all the details.

To publish your leanpub book on Amazon through KDP, do you have to pay anything to lp?

Do you have any idea why leanpub sold many more books than amazon?

October 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaulo Silveira

Roy - Great book and I got it on leanpub when I saw you were beginning to write it. It's great to hear that you're profitable and I look forward to your next project. Btw, it would be great if you had a freebee of your "if test your break" song and included that with your book! Keep up the great work!

October 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIan Ceicys

Thanks for your tips.
That's so great for anyone doing a self-published book on Internet.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDang Tri

Hi,

I'm wondering, but looks like hellobar.com is free. What do they offer for these $13?

November 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAkim

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