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Swizec Teller - a geek with a hatswizec.com

I made $730 by selling an unfinished book for 3 days.

Saturday afternoon I decided I was ready to unleash my book on the world. Or rather, the 0.1 extremely unfinished draft version of the book.

How finished do you consider it ? I'm counting 16 pages of actual content. I'm expecting a book to be a bit more work than a long blog post. /../

I understand that you would like to have money early to fund the process, but releasing drafts is not a good idea. And this \\\\$3.14 price point is not serious.

~ A Reddit commenter

Why is the price capped at \\\\$10? I'm sure there are people who'd be willing to pay more

~ A HN commenter

Consider a book that's about 6000 words long, most chapters are just outlines and the most developed chapter is missing two important sections. Selling this almost sounds like a bad joke.

However, after a few weeks of work and estimated reading time breaching the 30 minute mark, it was time to run the next experiment in the series - will people part with money for this?

Using Leanpub allows me to run this sort of experiment with a clear conscience. People pay however much they want and they're getting future updates for free - they are basically paying for a future finished book.

Set the minimum price at \\\\$1.73, the suggested price at \\\\$3.14 click publish, create a few coupons, post to reddit and twitter and away we go!

Mentally, I drew a line in the sand at 10 sales. That would let me know this book is worth my time.

883 readers and 272 sales later ... oh boy!

The book reached frontpage for several hours both on r/programming and on HackerNews, amounting to a total of 23,203 unique visitors and 28k pageviews.

Histogram of readers vs. $ paid

HN referrred just over 8000 visitors, who used HN's promo code 240 times. The 7500 people from Reddit used theirs 362 times. Promo codes made the book completely free, by the way. It's also hosted in full on Github, so it's not like I was forcing people to pay me money so they can read a draft of the book.

The book made a total of \\\\$959.88 in sales, of which I get a \\\\$730.40 cut in royalties. Much better than going with just about any other publisher - I was recently contacted with a promise of 16% royalties. And I really have a lot to thank Leanpub for, they made publishing the book dead simple and have invested all the work in having a landing page that converts.

Here's the really cool part though; out of everyone who paid, 77%** paid more than minimal price and a whopping 38%** more than suggested price.

Great success!

And I can't even put a price on all the useful feedback I received.

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Published on November 20th, 2012 in Business, Github, HackerNews, Publishing, Reddit, Self-publishing, Uncategorized

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