For the same money that you would spend seeing a movie that will be over in two hours, you can purchase a novel that will provide more hours of enjoyment, more depth, and the option to return at any time.
For a fraction of the money you could spend on a scammy info product that constantly upsells you and pushes you to promote the author (via fb likes, tweets, etc), you can have the result of months or years of effort from one of the greatest minds in history.
I'm sure Patrick doesn't need any help selling his products here, but I'll say it anyway-- books are an incredible value, especially from someone like him who has shared so much before and from whom you have an idea what you'll be getting! Buy it.
I'm totally broke and could still easily justify this kind of purchase -- skip one trip to Chipotle and it's paid for!
I read slowly, so the value ratio is something incredible... :]
I don't know how many times I've read one of your Hacker News comments or blog posts and thought, "Wow, this guy really cuts to the chase." Then I bookmark it but never return.
I'm hoping that this is kinda like a "Best of Patio11", giving busy people like me a chance to have it all in one place on my hard disk. If so, $9.99 is a bargain.
Downloaded, up to Page 14 of 136. I guess dinner will be late tonight.
I've been asked to write a book for a few years by potential readers, and a few times by potential publishers, but I was very disinterested in doing so. For most people capable of writing tech books, writing books is a very poor use of time under any economic calculus. The typical model is that you and the publisher agree to do the book, then you're paid an advance (sometimes in installments contingent on milestones). You earn a royalty on each sale of the book, with the royalties first going to pay back ("earn out") the advance, and then being paid to you quarterly.
This sounds reasonable, until you hear the numbers (typical advance for a tech book from a first time author: $5k, typical royalty percentage: 8% on a physical copy, 15% on an ebook). They're not universally that bad -- an author or two from Apress and Pragmatic Programmer wrote me to say they were genuinely happy with their experiences -- but that's sort of the general flavor of things.
If you do the math, it is highly unlikely your book will recoup the advance, and that is indeed what happens to most tech books. So you've traded months of full-time labor writing and rewriting, plus additional months of part-time work hawking the book to anyone who will listen, in return for $5k. That is not a rational use of time for anybody who can e.g. do contract programming, which (one would assume) virtually all tech book writers could do.
When I said as much to publishers who asked me to write things, they said "Ahh, but the book will allow you to establish your bona fides", and I do not believe that making stupid decisions for my business successfully demonstrates to clients that I will make smart decisions for theirs. To my view of things, I'd rather have lots of folks be able to read my writing than have it blessed by a gatekeeper but widely unavailable.
But blog posts do leave a lot to be desired for teaching people. For one, my blog is very disorganized, since I have six years of back-issues which appear in order of "what I was working on that week", and they're of varying quality and relevance, particularly early in my career. Something with a bit of structure and curation seemed like it would add value. Plus, I am spelling- and design-challenged, so having an editor and someone with a sense of style would be a plus.
That's basically what Hyperink pitched: curating the best of the blog into a book, complete with editing and design help, with some extra essays added. It's far less work than scratch-writing a book, the terms are more equitable (no advance, equitable royalty split), and it provides incremental value to readers over the blog.
I don't expect to make a huge amount of money on it, relative to the business in general, but the idea sounded attractive enough to try it as an experiment.
But, it's somewhat more lucrative than you describe. Self-publishing has opened the doors to much higher royalties, and the stigma has vanished.
I self-published with Createspace, amazon's publishing arm. I get 43% of revenue (not profits) as a royalty. Printing costs are covered from amazon's portion. If I had a Kindle version, I would keep 70%.
Here's what the book looks like: http://www.amazon.com/Hacking-LSAT-Explanations-Official-Dia...
I am comfortable posting here as I expect exactly zero people on HN would need to buy it, it's pretty niche.
Design + proofing costs were around $500. Reviews were easy to get from advance readers.
I've found a tangible benefit from being able to show this page to people in my industry. The learning curve to produce it wasn't very high.
Anyone with a pre-existing following shouldn't have trouble marketing a book. It may be worth many people's time to write one book both as a passive income project and as a credibility indicator. The royalties are great if you get any kind of volume.
Although editing is still, of course, highly recommended.
After going to their site and clicking on the link for bloggers, it presented me with a form asking my email and URL and then said they'd follow up when they were ready. Any ballpark idea how that process works?
Also, were the new blog posts your idea? I've actually written in quite a bit more depth for the book than I did on the blog. I definitely do want to earn money out of it, but as long as I'm doing it, it's worth doing it properly.
I think the new blog posts that were added to the book serve as an incentive to buy it, probably a lot of the HN users were already familiar with Patrick and might've needed a little 'push' to click on the purchase button :) Just one of the possible reasons.
Considering the other ways to this path take years (working ones way up the corporate ladder), money (a university degree) or risk (launching a startup), losing a few months and earning 5k may be worth it. I'd imagine this publisher validation is built in to the price you are paid.
I have a few personal friends who have written tech books and it is a large part of what helped them leapfrog their peers in job position and compensation.
For the amount of effort that goes into writing a book, the deal major publishers get from authors borders on predatory. I have a lot of friends who have written books, and I'm not sure any of them really benefited from it.
Having your ticket punched opens doors plain and simple. In general being published by a major house will open doors just like a Harvard degree will. Doesn't mean there aren't ways around that. Doesn't mean for anyone. But I don't agree that you can make the same pitch for something more lucrative.
Also with that statement you have to make a distinction between the traditional world and the online world. Being a top ranked commenter online means something online but it probably won't get you on 60 Minutes or (as easily) quoted in the WSJ or NY Times etc. I mean if I was in PR I could certainly pitch it that way and perhaps I would succeed. But my job would be much easier if you had been blessed by a major publisher.
"For the amount of effort that goes into writing a book, the deal major publishers"
I've been meaning to ask you this for quite some time. By your karma ranking you obviously put much time into HN. There is no doubt that this has paid off for you. Did you ever wonder or tally up that time and have any idea of how that effort would have paid off if you had followed another route?
But to the point at hand: I can easily make a case for my HN comments being more lucrative than any book I could have written. Easily. There is no way a book would have been as valuable as recruiting vector, for instance; I've hired more people from HN than any other source.
I can easily see how in the case of someone being as active as you are, and at the top of the heap, how this pays off for you (and before I posted my comment I almost said that). But I suspect there are many others that spend a fair amount of time that, while enjoyable and with benefit, might not fall into that category.
I'm wondering if you've ever thought about leaving HN and forming your own, um "family" if you get my drift. I'd put some seed funding into that family. You already have the gold medal, why not try to do something new? My guess is that others would follow.
The first is "why buy the cow if the milk is for free"? The second is how I'm reminded of women that never get their long time boyfriend to marry them because there is no line in the sand, no deadline, no imperative to make a decision or do anything.
To wit: "I'm here until Paul Graham offers me...". People need a reason to make a decision and to do something. (Not that you can say "if/then" or anything.)
For all I know of course you have had discussions with Paul or someone else about a YC slot or are totally joking. (I can only speculate and offer thoughts in case anyone is still awake in the thread my thoughts).
I do plenty negotiating and I've never closed a deal w/o having a time limit (in which of course the bluff sometimes goes bust obviously but that's the risk of the game). I never ever leave something open ended unless I don't want someone to make a decision because I am trying to buy some time while waiting for someone else.
My point of course is not that you could ever say "make me YC or..". Just that there is no clear reason for PG to do anything and make a decision.
It seems to me that a 35 - 60 page ebook might be better for your reputation than 35 or 60 blog posts. Not sure, but it seems to me, "Go look it up on Amazon. I'm published there" should send a pretty good signal, particularly if you have mostly positive reviews.
I agree. I think the deal is becoming much worse for prospective authors with the evolution of technology.
A few decades ago, if you wanted to sell a book, you would have to turn some words on paper (typed up if you were lucky) into a professional quality product both physically and of course in terms of the content. Then you had to get that product into bookshops. Then you had to find ways of promoting it to your audience so they would go to the bookshop and buy it. All of this took a lot of time-consuming, laborious work and relied on extremely wasteful processes for things like stock management. Publishers would be expected to handle these things for their authors, in addition to providing professional editorial and support services for the content itself. They would also be expected to guide authors toward creating a product that would actually sell, based on their knowledge of the markets.
Today, we have DTP software where someone can either create professional grade work on their own computer or hire someone to do it for them. Either way, by the time it gets to the printers, you can usually just hand over camera-ready copy in a PDF set to their specifications, and if you or your hired help are good then you'll probably achieve a much better standard of presentation than the phone-it-in quality some publishers seem to generate by default these days. Those printers can then print on demand, again to a reasonably high level of quality these days if you go to a good one, and even have arrangements to accept orders and ship direct to customers, negating any need for wasteful stock management for most kinds of book. To get those sales, you can do just fine via Amazon and/or major e-book channels, without ever touching a bricks 'n' mortar store unless someone wants to order your book, and again there are various integrations within the industry so book stores can still order in directly from your print-on-demand/self-publishing services if they want to. Obviously for promotion, we have search engines and social media, which make any token effort at promotion that most publishers might give a new author rather insignificant and IMHO negate what little brand value remains in being published by a "major" publisher. I had no idea who published the last few books I bought, though looking along the shelf they are all "big names". I did know who every author was before I bought the book, though.
The situation is only going to shift further away from favouring publishers toward a self-publishing approach as e-books increasingly take over and printing at all, on demand or otherwise, becomes relatively unusual for anything but showcase books. I see a rise in fortunes coming for professionals like editors and designers of various kinds, who can freelance out their skills on merit to authors who lack the ability or the time and money to do such work to a good standard themselves. I see a rise in fortunes for modern distribution channels, catalogue sites, payment services and the like. I see a potential niche for a "book project manager" who can identify what combination of services will be useful for a project and recommend/co-ordinate the hired help. In fact, if I were running a publishing house right now, I imagine I would be shifting to more of a one-stop service-provider model just about as fast as I could making hiring/firing decisions accordingly.
But for traditional publishers who won't adapt, who think the author is just one small part of a larger chain who should fit into their frameworks as one of many minor components, I don't see much future at all. Technology is making their business model obsolete, and it amazes me that they still get good authors signing up for the kinds of deal mentioned in the posts above.
Having written a few books myself through the traditional publishing process, I agree that you'll likely never earn back the royalty and the $/hr rate is minimum wage. That said, I have landed more than a few jobs by giving a copy of my book to the interviewer to start the interview. Real paper books published by big name publishers still impress a lot of people, including my mom.
This might make sense at first glance, but in many cases it's a technical violation of copyright. When you buy a PDF, you're buying the right to read it, not reproduce it.
Unless you read, and then promptly burn, the copy, yes, it's correct. The point is that the printed copy might be passed on, at which point it's a clear violation of copyright.
> I believe courts have ruled that you can make copies for personal/backup reasons ...
These rulings apply to computer media, not printed works.
I blame EULAs for making people think this is all about contract and not copyright law.
If that action is unlawful I'd wager that 99% of offices around the world would be in breach.
A fair use defence of printing a copy of a PDF for personal consumption would probably hold up fine, in the same way that the Audio Home Recording Act establishes that it is legal in some circumstances to make copies of audio recordings for non-commercial personal use.
Yes, true, but that is not what is called "fair use".
"Fair use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, search engines, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship. It provides for the legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test."
> A fair use defence of printing a copy of a PDF for personal consumption would probably hold up fine, in the same way that the Audio Home Recording Act establishes that it is legal in some circumstances to make copies of audio recordings for non-commercial personal use.
Again, yes, but you're describing another appropriate exception, not "fair use".
> I am spelling-challenged
Indeed: "tails of abysmal failure." (Or was that a joke? :-)
EDIT: Forgot to mention how much I appreciate all the time you've spent to help fellow techie entrepreneurs. Happy holidays to you.
> I don't expect to make a huge amount of money on it, relative to the business in general, but the idea sounded attractive enough to try it as an experiment
I find this a strange thing to say.
A book is a way in which to earn additional income from content you've already produced.
Why not have the content you produce pay over and over?
Once on the blog.
The second time on the blog as a best-of-the-blog.
The third time in a book.
The fourth time as presentations at conferences.
One piece of content, earning revenue many times over. It seems to me that the book isn't supposed to earn a huge amount of money, you already spent the time creating the content and relative to the time to compile and edit the book should earn a tidy income.
And, as you are patio11 and have a great standing, the book can only further enhance your reputation and achieve higher sales, and increase your value to conferences later.
Whether or not you yet appreciate it, you are one of the few programmers who has the status equivalent to a celebrity chef, and you should seek to earn additional revenue through recycling the same content through different channels. You should, because you're one of the very few who could. For you, not writing a book is money left on the table.
Yes, the content is already produced. But putting it all together in a book format still takes time. You need to go over old articles, choose the ones to go in, edit and rewrite where necessary, figure out what order to put things in, add new content, deal with the publisher, figure out typesetting things, etc.
If that process takes him two weeks and earns him $5k but his consulting rate is $5k per week then writing the book costs him $5k in potential income. In that case, writing the book is actually leaving money on the table.
At this point I'm ready to abandon the shopping cart. Just
thought I'd pass this along I realize that this is hyperink's doing (and I like the graphics and look of the site) but this is ironic given the messages that you are trying to give and what you are writing about (I think..)
Given your word of mouth recommendation here (w/o a link) how am I too find them with such a generic word that's so closely tied to their industry? Search for "hyperlink publishing", "hyperlink ebook"? Yeah, good luck with that!
Companies should not chose a generic name for their company that's already widely used in that market. Apple Computer... that's good. Apple Orchards... not good. Hyperlink? Come on.
So... anyone got the link?
I've almost finished reading it and I can pretty much guarantee that it would've taken me a lot more time to navigate through your blog and make myself read beginning to end.
I'm really interested in knowing what they did to sell you on that. What hot buttons they pushed.
Very glad the folks at Hyperink were much more persuasive and good luck with it;<).
Excellent! Having researched what it'd be like to build a product before having done so, I found so much emphasis on the development side ... building, launching, iterating, etc. I didn't find a whole lot that covered marketing, sales, and conversion. W/my product launched and getting good reviews from those that use it, I have every intention of using 2013 to focus on it's growth and conversion.
So this turns out to be such a timely offering. Thank you for offering this up at a great price, and for recommending Hyperink (I have a deep interest in writing an ebook in 2013, I'll check them out).
Anyway, I really appreciate the earnest care you took in talking about the book in this linked-to post. You didn't publish "20 blog posts" in the book. You published "20 essays that appeared in your blog." Now I haven't read all of your blog. And for a few parts of a second, reading the word "essays" (instead of "blog posts") made me think you had some kind of book-marketer coach this enunciation. But, I have read enough of your blog where I think I know what you mean. I have definitely made posts in my own blog because I have felt it's been too long and I have needed to make a post. But, on the other hand, I have also had a teensy-handful of posts because I had something itching at the back of my head that needed to come out. Maybe I would call these essays. I would definitely try to distinguish them in my mind from just another "blog post."
Although I could've read almost all of it through the blog (except for the few new articles), I find it much more comfortable to have everything compiled into a single file; pure content without other distractions.
I just started dabbling into software marketing and would much rather take advice from Patrick than general-level marketing advice.
The book (I used the pdf version) is pretty well typeset, so reading it is not headache-inducing (for the ppl worrying they might not enjoy it and would rather wait for a printed version).
This is more of a comment about Hyperink: It looks like a really nice platform, and seems like they do good marketing too. The only confusing part with the purchase process initially was that they only show iPad and PDF highlighted as available formats. Nook and Kindle look greyed-out (??). I was just hoping to get an ePub, so wasn't sure if I'll get one. Eventually it gave me a much clearer list of options to download from: pdf, epub and mobi.
Why not simply showing those options with the same terminology in the first place??
You can buy it here (Kindle, iPad, Nook, PDF) or on Amazon (Kindle).
Does that mean I would get an ePub version? Device-specific is great for non-technical people, but I have a Kobo (ePub/PDF) and it's not in the list, so I'm not sure what formats I'm being given (Hyperink's FAQ doesn't answer this either).
It has an entry: "How do I get my .epub eBook onto my iPad?"
if you're so good with marketing software why don't you market your software but go the consulting route instead? Isn't there more potential profit in selling your products than offering your services as a consultant?
That's something I've been asking myself for some time.
Let's say that Patrick's techniques can increase profits by 10% compared to an "unoptimized" website. If the bingo card business is worth $X0,000, by selling his own products on optimized webpages Patrick makes an extra $X,000.
If instead Patrick consults for a company that does $X0,000,000 his techniques are now worth $X,000,000. If he gets a percentage of those new profits, he is doing much better than if he had sold more of his own product.
Since creating a business which does $X0,000,000 in sales is hard, Patrick can make better use of his time by finding those existing companies and offering his services that by selling more of his (comparatively low value) product himself.
It is possible that there are some markets and consultancies for which publishing a book would be a great credibility enhancer, but I sort of doubt I'm in one of them. I do something which is very quantifiable, with very few people available who do it, and which empirically produces absolutely stupid ROI some of the time. Books are not required to raise rates. (And, if I ran into a company that was unpersuaded by "I made $FIRM $X million in two weeks by running a series of A/B tests" but really responded to "... and I wrote a book!", I'd run screaming from that engagement, because that client sounds like they're going to be a lot more stress than my savvier clients.)
Publishing this book was most likely seen as an advertising vehicle for his consulting services. I think it's a smart idea which will most likely net him a lot more money in the future that just book sales commission and will help further consolidate his name brand.
But if I search Amazon UK for the title it comes up correctly and I can buy it.
Pretty poor UX really.
Needless to say, I just bought the book.
Thanks Patrick, for not pricing it to squeeze every single penny you can from me. It's an easy sale.
The economics of producing things for businesses are very different than the economics of producing them for individuals, particularly because businesses are relatively price insensitive and not very numerous. I can price this at $10 because it receives implicit subsidy from everything else I do.
If making businesses money through training was my livelihood and not a fun hobby, I would certainly explore packaging options and price points that made sense even if I only sold a few hundred copies. (And, n.b., if you were a SaaS company trying to buy advice on lifecycle emails from me that would run $500 to $X0,000. There aren't enough customers in that niche to make $7 a sale sane. Also, seen from the customer's perspective, the information will routinely be used to make five to six figures)
I respect that this can make commerce difficult for goods which are dual-use between for-profit businesses and hobbyists, at least for folks whose purchase would be more aspirational in nature. As somebody who started out as a hobbyist with a $60 budget, I have great appreciation for expensive business tools not being in the budget, but wouldn't cast aspersions on them simply because they're not in the budget. Many worthwhile things like e.g. employees are similarly not in the budget, and the answer is probably "Do without and bootstrap until you can afford them" rather than worrying overmuch about the pricing structure of businesses other than one's own.
As I understand it, "arms-length" prices just mean "the price at which two unrelated and non-desperate parties would agree to a transaction". And, obviously factors such as the presence of manipulation, coercion, informational asymmetry and variance between the product and the promises of its marketing have an effect on how "honest" a price is.
Selling a car for $50k that we both know is crap is different from selling one that I know but haven't told you is crap is different from selling one through very persuasive and reassuring marketing and removing all liability through legalease incomprehensible to the customer. Selling a luxury car as a risky investment plan to a non-savvy retiree would be still worse, and selling a car with safety flaws would be downright reprehensible, even if both parties agreed on the price.
People of different cultures and political leanings draw the line in different places, but it's certainly not a simple black and white rule that anything you can get someone to agree to buy is ethical at any price. There's spectrum that goes from saintly and honest to illegal and evil.
My definition of an honest price: an honest attempt to provide at least as much value as you extract. (which the B2B business examples you listed above would be doing)
I wanted the fancy one, so I bought it.