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Ask HN: My first attempt at passive income. Where do I take it now?
64 points by RobAley on Nov 22, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 29 comments
I've just published a book (called PHP Beyond the Web) at


I work (flexible) full-time at a Uni, which allows me to spend decent time with my three young children and act more as a primary carer than a part-time dad. I don't want to give this up, but extra money is always useful. I'm currently trying to generate some extra income in a (fairly) passive way, at least without giving time commitments to people. I've written this book as a first step, as it was something I could do in my own time and on my own schedule, and I'm now wondering where to take it next. I've considered consulting (which I've done in the past) linked to the book but that doesn't fit my aim of "in my own time and on my own schedule". Does HN have any ideas of where I can go from here?

Start your own blog or offer to guest post on someone else's blog. Publish single chapters/excerpts from your book as posts, with a note that promotes your book.

I've seen this marketing tactic used quite often, and it has certainly sparked my interest more than once. Here's an example I ran into yesterday: http://alistapart.com/article/why-sass

Thanks, that's not a bad idea.

Promote the hell out of it on Twitter, Reddit, Hacker News (done). Apply to speak at conferences and go speak about it. There are plenty of PHP conferences to choose from. Get your employer to pay for the trips.

Other ideas for passive income:


Thanks for the tips, the conferences idea sounds interesting (though my employer has no budget to fund conferences related to my work let alone anything else, so I'd have to cover the costs myself).

Not sure about the real-estate idea, I guaranteed my wife that any money-making schemes would be strictly low-risk!

Not only is buying an apartment to rent out short term on a full time basis high risk, its probably illegal. This specific post was on HN and we found he was violating his homeowners agreement as well.

It's also a bad idea insurance wise, what if something happens (fire, flood, robbery) and your homeowner's insurance says "we are covering a home, not a friggin unregulated hotel"

I have no experience with authoring books, but please do a follow up in a few months to let us go how it went.

Good luck!

I certainly will do, if I'm not too busy cruising around the world on my new yatch bought with the profits from the book...;)

How are the sales of the book going? Do you have a "name" out there? I mean, have you built an audience that you know will give you sales?

If someone trusts you to consult them I am pretty sure they will adapt to your own schedule and not the other way round.

I have no such experience as I am still trying to make a standard good regular income but Nathan Barry (http://nathanbarry.com/) is a very inspiring example to look at, I think.

It only went live last night, so far "dribble" rather than "flood" would be a good way to describe it, although that is (perhaps better) than I expected anyway. I wanted to complete it before I started promoting it, so there would be no pressure to get it finished by a particular deadline (I know this works for some, but as I mentioned in my intro this book has to fit in around my "real" life).

I've been watching Nathan's posts on here, they are very interesting. I have no "name" out there, so not all of what he's acheived is applicable to my situation right now (perhaps my second book maybe!). It's something I probably need to work on, blogging may be the way forward on that front.

Your comments on consulting are interesting, working up that trust without being a "known quantity" I suspect maybe hard though.

You might consider buying and reading Nathan's book, Authority:


Here's my review of it:


It's aimed pretty squarely at someone like yourself and has a lot of good advice.

But the interesting thing is that he didn't have a "name" either. He started by sharing some of his technical knowledge, set a challenge and has been pushing himself to the limits every few months, since then.

Buy a $100 adwords coupon (if you don't have an account) on ebay and start advertising this. you'll fail at first but your keyword mix should be such that you can make this profitable. start with small goals like 1 or 2 conversions a day. It's not unreasonable to say that you can have this making $2000 within 3 months.

Rob, I think your idea (your book) is really innovative. Many people don't realize what they can do with what is available to them. It is a long time I am using PHP for text processing, e.g reverse engineering on embedded systems, impact analysis on requirements, collecting information from web, etc. I have rebuilt the architecture of many legacy systems for refactoring

I believe, given your situation (being a dad), you should continue to introduce innovative applications of available technologies in the form of books, and perhaps video tutorials. Though, this may end up to consulting.

And, don't forget, things don't work in passive mode. You always need to do some light marketing. Even, it you want just to publish blogs. Good luck.

Another option is to put it up for sale for the Kindle (kdp.amazon.com) and at B&N as ebooks. At one point I had 5-6 books on kdp and even made over 4 figures one time. I haven't promoted them at all for a good 5-6 months and still make a couple hundred each month. Non-fiction tends to do well; there are many guides out there on how to rank better for your book (use certain keywords and categories etc) so that could be a good avenue for you. One drawback is that it takes 3 months to start receiving your payments.

I'll look into that, thanks. It obviously has a much wider reader base than Leanpub where I'm currently publishing, although it has lower margins and more "competition". Of course there's nothing stopping me using both if that looks promising. Is there any specific guide for ranking better on kdp that you would recommend? I've just found a couple via Google and they seem to have conflicting (and slightly inconclusive) advice.

Congratulations on your book! I have an idea of how long it takes to push something of this size out, so you must be happy to be finally done with. Though, to be honest, this is only the beginning. For books, marketing is >50% of the work. Below are some pointers/advice.

1/ Do you have a webpage for your book? I think that can make a big difference in the conversation with your potential readers. Here is a sampling of some "book pages" out there: http://nathanbarry.com/webapps/ (Nathan's) https://django.2scoops.org/ (Danny's) http://minireference.com/launch40 (mine)

2/ As aparadja said, a blog will also help people find you. Getting traffic via AdWords is expensive, whereas organic search is free. You can release parts of the book, or even better develop new content --- I'm sure there are some things which you didn't get to. Now's the time ;) The big picture is this: you have a unique expertise and experience using PHP on the server-side so many people will be interested to hear about your experience and your opinions about what is happening in that domain.

3/ Did you get a professional copy-editor to go through the text? I recommend you use the first $1k of profits and hire someone to proofread the book for you. It cannot be a friend, friends will only encourage you and say "great job," but a professional editor will be able to give you critical feedback about which sections need more explanations or rewording. Typos are also a nightmare (both English and code-wise). If a reader sees a typo on every page or two, he/she will quickly lose trust in you, and you don't want that.

4/ You should also consider offering your book in print (through lulu.com for example, or lightning source). Self-published print sales can be very interesting, I know eBooks and iPads are the craze, but #PrintNotDead https://twitter.com/minireference/statuses/40222755949812940...

Good luck, and feel free to get in touch with me if you would like to discuss further.

Hi Ivan,

Thanks for the tips.

1) I've got a page up at http://www.phpbeyondtheweb.com, as well as the publisher page at http://www.leanpub.com/php. I hope to add to and improve both as I go along.

2) I'm definitely looking at the blogging suggestions

3) No, just my wife (although she was definitely critical!). It's definitely a route I want to go, when the book can pay for it.

4) I'm planning on doing that, when the content has settled some more after I get feedback from readers.

Wow, congratulations to writing such an awesome book! Just bought it now, and from a first glance it looks really thorough.

I've got a German blog dedicated to php on which I've just mentioned your book. Maybe it helps a bit in promoting your book. Best of luck!

Thanks for buying it! If you have any more thoughts or any feedback once you've had a chance to read some, please do let me know (author@phpbeyondtheweb.com). And thanks for mentioning it on your blog. What's the URL (if you don't mind sharing)?

Sure, the post is at http://perfektes-php.de/php-beyond-the-web/ Will surely mail you once I've got some productive feedback!

If you have to take it anywhere, it isn't passive.

That's not true.

Passive income doesn't just happen. What the author is asking is simple: I've written a thing that could bring me passive income. Now, how do I finish the investment so that it gains the momentum it needs to roll on its own?

Talking about consulting. Ever thought about stuff like liveninja.com?

I wonder if there is room for a site called LiveInNinja.com, which matches 'engineer cofounders' with people who have ideas, and can put someone up for free while they create them...

As a matter of fact, there is one (sort of...)


That's definitely worth looking into, thanks. I hadn't heard of it before, have you had any experience (on either side of the transaction) with it?

Levarage -> Leverage

Thanks, I spell-checked the body of the page but forgot the intro! Updated now.

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