The 24-Hour Book Challenge — A Six Month Update

Gumroad_-_Analytics

On December 2nd, I sat down, created an outline, and started writing.

24 hours later, I launched the first (beta) version of my first biz book, Just Fucking Ship.

After a couple more weeks of work, I shipped the final(ish) version. Then it was Christmas — New Year’s — time to get our new office renovation off the ground — time to launch & build the brand new 30×500.

I put JFS on a shelf and left it alone for a while.

Now, 6 months later, the insanity is letting up — just a bit! — so we can get back to work and give JFS the things it deserves.

Things like:

  • A new landing page
  • a real sales funnel
  • big fat CTAs on this very site (yay!)
  • a hand-tuned page layout
  • an epub and mobi version, a place in the Kindle Store
  • an audiobook
  • graphics and illustrations and videos, too.

Oh yeah, and an actual, you know, launch. All I’ve done so far was simply announce that the book existed.

But before we bust our butts on all that stuff… I thought, why not look back?

So here you go: a retrospective. Six months in the life of a 24-hour book.

This post is super long (2,000 words) but if you have any interest in the way a veteran bootstrapper like me creates, soft launches, and evolves a product? You’re gonna get so much value out of it. It’s worth your time.

The book itself

Now, the important thing to remember is this book grew over time. This is not something you can do with a published book — or even, really, a book you self-publish on the Kindle platform. When you control the whole chain from production to distribution, you can launch a beta and then send updates.

Which is great because…

The 24-hour version had no cover, a crappy auto-gen layout, just 48 pages and 8,129 words.

It was rough and unedited. It was missing more about a third of the chapters. I included placeholders for those chapters, though, in the places where they belonged.

JFS_half_edited__page_1_of_199_

I knew what was missing because the very first thing I did with my 24 hours was spend two hours working on my backwards plan. (Which is a technique you learn in JFS!)

I used that plan to create the outline, break it into small, doable chunks, set up my workflow, track progress, and get down to biz so I could meet my challenge deadline. (Each one of these steps is a chapter in JFS.)

At the end of my 24-hour period, I picked a good-enough Ulysses stylesheet, used the automatic export to PDF, Alex uploaded it to Gumroad, and I announced it on the blog.

Bam! Lazy launch.

Yep, the PDF was pretty fug. There was no cover. There were awkward line breaks in weird places. And the world didn’t end!

Fact: If you can help your customer kill a serious pain, they won’t care if the supporting details aren’t perfect.

Want more detail on how I used those 24 hours? Well, read the live blog to find out.

A few days later, I shipped a chapter-complete update.

JFS-early-v1_3_-_Marked_Up__page_1_of_112_

10 days later, I launched version 1.8: it had a cover, a vastly improved layout, 125 pages, and 20,696 words.

I fleshed out all the empty or incomplete chapters, added a couple (couldn’t help myself), proof-read and edited the whole shebang, spent a few hours tweaking the style and layout (aka customized the Ulysses theme) and designed a cover. I live blogged this too.

JFS-v1_8_pdf__page_1_of_125_

Once I wrapped that up, I bumped the price from $12 to $19.

Alex wired up a post-sale feedback sequence to help our readers use the book and also to encourage them to tell us how they were using it. (And we’ve gotten hundreds of emails in reply… woohoo!)

And… that’s pretty much the last thing I/we did to / for / with the book. Til now.

The marketing & launch

This is where we really fell down. Life got in the way — my office renovation, house drama (so many leaks), and last but not least, Alex and I have been busting our asses to create the brand spanky new 30×500.

But hey, that’s why I’m here, now, reviewing what we’ve got, and writing about it, so we can move forward.

Here’s all of the blogging I did about the book:

Email promotion:

  • “Hey, I just wrote a book in 24 hours!” – right after the challenge was over
  • “So I wrote a book in 24 hours, now what?” – the email version of the eponymous post

(Yes, I only sent two measly emails. I never did an actual launch. Poor little cobbler’s kid… )

Interviews/guest posts:

  • just this one (thanks, Trello!!)
    • and Trello included a link to this interview in one of their newsletters, which gave us a nice little bump

Public speaking:

  • IRL, Alex and I talked about a lot of things, including JFS, at our local UX meetup
  • I mentioned JFS at the end of my talk at PeersConf

Blog/forum/watering hole comments:

  • fat load of nothin’; I’ve been heads down, heads down, heads down

Price, sales & revenue (yes!)

Writing and just fucking shipping a book in 24 hours was an awesome experience. A++ would do again. And it’s even better to hear from our readers, who have used JFS to JFS all kinds of awesome stuff of their own. Yay intrinsic motivation!

But I ain’t gonna lie… making 5 figures off it? That’s pretty rewarding, too.

Stats from 6 months of sales:

  • Direct sales to 1,479 people: $20,667
    • that’s $8,976 at the early bird price ($12)
    • and $11,501 at the final price ($19)
    • and $190 at a discounted rate for the book club ($10)
  • One bulk license to a fellow biz teacher: $750
  • the JFS share of the Gift of Biz Bundle: $5,178
  • Total: $26,595, or an average of $4,432 a month (although weekly sales are typically $200-350/wk)

Now, $26k is not shabby, not shabby at all! But it’s not great, either; that’s not a huge launch for me or Alex, much less me and Alex. It’s not even the best launch I’ve done for an ebook. Probably because I did dick all to actually, you know, launch it.

For a couple weeks of solid work, with an ongoing weekly sales average of $200-350? I’m not cryin’ about it.

But I know we can do better.

JFS is so critical, which is why it’s ok it’s not perfect yet

Paradoxically, the reason I’m not stressing out about our piss poor marketing efforts so far is… well… JFS is super mission critical to our long-term business strategy. I know, I know, that sounds backwards, but hear me out:

JFS isn’t just its own delicious little book… it’s going to be the entry point to our 30×500 universe.

Kathy Sierra writes, “Don’t build a better product, build a better customer.” And that’s something Alex and I have spent our whole careers doing. That’s what JFS does.

First, it’s priced for an impulse buy; $19 is a couple of movie tickets, max.

Second, it’s a low risk way for new readers to figure out if they like our advice & our teaching style. (Until JFS, you had two options: Read this blog for free, or plunk down $2000 for our class. That’s quite a leap.)

Third, it’s a way for us to help potential 30×500 students achieve something, see results, to prepare them to get the most out of class. And it may even help some of them earn the money to pay for the class.

Fourth, it’s a way for us to help our existing 30×500 students achieve more.

Fifth, it’s something we can get into the Kindle marketplace, and Audible, and bundle with other people’s products to expand our reach.

When something is a one-shot, you really have to get it right the first time because that’s the only chance you’ll get. JFS, on the other hand, is timeless, and ongoing. So it doesn’t really matter that we didn’t launch it properly… at first.

We’re expanding our market. We’re creating our market. It’s a long, long game we’re playing.

Our next 30×500 launch will be this fall. For the first time ever, we won’t have to restrict the number of seats. We’ll be ready to scale. And JFS will be there to help our students… and us.

So, what’s next?

Here’s what’s next:

  1. A real launch sequence, deployed live. I’m actually working on this now. (Hint: This is part of it. OMG META.)
  2. Turning that launch sequence into an autoresponder.
  3. Pitching that as the CTA/freebie when people visit this blog, instead of the bootstrapping course.
  4. Collecting and sharing more reader success stories (we already have some recorded!)
  5. A real landing page vs just the blog page it’s got now.
  6. Creating a system of followups that will funnel the right readers/buyers to 30×500.
  7. A real, hand-tuned InDesign layout and then subsequently exporting to epub, mobi, and the Kindle store.
  8. Guest posts and interviews.
  9. Audiobook.

This might take 3 months. It might take 6 months. It might take 9 months. It doesn’t really matter, because we’ll get there.

And somewhere in there, we’ll launch the new 30×500.

And then we’ll expand the book.

And then we’ll revise all that marketing stuff again.

And maybe then we’ll add videos or do some webinars.

And word will spread.

And our list will grow.

And our readers will continue to ship awesome things and feel the joy of putting their work out into the world, under their own steam.

And yays will be had by all.

Oh, and I’ll be blogging and writing about it, so you’ll want to sign up for our newsletter (below!).

And the new layout, epub & mobi, etc., goodies will be free upgrades if you buy JFS today. So you might want to grab your copy for just $19.

Get your butt in gear. Buy now.

Buy your copy of Just Fucking Ship

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