Photo of Christoph Rumpel

The €963 Book Launch That Made Me Wish To Get Back To My Secured Job

Exactly 365 days ago, I released my first ebook. I always wanted to share my experiences about it, but I never felt comfortable enough to do so. The project didn't turn out as expected, and I felt embarrassed. It's time to finally reflect it and to overcome my fears.

This is the tweet I posted a year ago to present my first product Build Chatbots with PHP.

Screenshot of my release tweet of my first ebook

It is always special when you release something to the world, especially when you put so much time and effort into it. You think about what if. What if everybody buys it and you can make a lot of money? What if people love it so much, they want you to write a second or third one too? Are you going to be an author for the rest of your life now? What if this could be the start of something huge and special for your future?

Today, on this first anniversary, I want to provide you my review on the whole project and share the What if you fall short of your expectations?.

Numbers

Let's start with some brutal honest numbers. This is probably what you're most interested in.

  • Sold copies first three days: 26
  • Sold copies first year: 78
  • Made revenue first three days: €963
  • Made revenue: €2940
  • Invested time: ~450h
  • Invested money: €1221
    • €200 Logo
    • €447 Editing/Proof Read
    • €40 Facebook Ads
    • €480 Podia (Hosting)
    • €54 Leanpub (Hosting)

If I had worked the same time for €7/h, I would have made more money. So financially speaking, the project wasn't a success at all. I have to say making money wasn't my priority. Still, my minimum goal was to sell at least 150 copies in the first year. I didn't achieve this goal.

A year before I released my book, Adam Wathan published Refactoring to Collection. It was the launch that everybody wishes for. He made $61392 in the first three days, and it let him quit his old job. Since then, Adam has released a couple of successful products. You can say he made it!

I knew his launch was exclusive and that there are not many examples like that. Still, you think about if this could happen to you too. It did not.

The Book's Content Is Not The Problem

Before I sound too desperate here, let me tell you that the content of the book is excellent. I'm still satisfied with everything I covered, and the feedback I got was always quite positive. I gained a lot of experience about building chatbots in PHP for clients before I wrote this book, and therefore had a lot of great insights to share.

Where Did I Go Wrong

Since the problem, in my opinion, is not the content, what went wrong? This is always a hard question to answer, but I will try it.

Was It About My Intention

When you sell a product, you always want to solve a problem for your users. Something difficult or not possible before should get better with what you sell. You always need to listen to your users to find out what that could be.

What I did was different. Different from Adam, I quit my job before launching my product. I knew I wanted to work on my own, no matter what. If all my products would fail, I could still do freelancing. Nevertheless, this approach was quite risky. It took me about six months to finish the product and video course. This is a lot of time where I didn't make a lot of money.

But back to my intention. I knew I wanted to try to create a product, and chatbots were the only topic where I felt I had enough to share. Additionally, it was a brand new market, and chatbots were a big hype back then. Many companies and developers were interested in this topic, but one thing was missing: demand. I wrote the book without knowing if developers need it. I just bet on the fact that the chatbots topic is so big that developers would buy it if it would exist because there was nothing similar out yet.

Note: If there is no similar product out yet it could be your chance to shine, or it just means there is no market.

Was It About The Subject

There was a big hype in 2016, 2017 and 2018 about chatbots. It was a brand new technology, and messengers like Facebook opened their gates for chatbot developers. It was exciting! It was fun to develop, it provided a new and refreshing interface to customer services, and it was connected to AI. Meetups, conferences, and new companies popped up. It all looked super promising!

In my last company, I was responsible for analyzing this new technology. Could it be of interest to our customers? I said yes, and I was right. We built three chatbots for clients in a short time. One of them was for a huge Austrian insurance company. It was big!

In the middle of 2018, the big hype about these conversational services started to stagnate. People realized it was challenging to develop useful chatbots. In the beginning, it was fun, but in most cases, the bots didn't provide enough value. Additionally, they take a lot of time to maintain. You need to improve them all the time and learn from your users.

Don't get me wrong. Chatbots is still something promising. Especially when you look at all the sold AI assistants like Amazon Echo. I also know some companies that make a lot of money while working internationally on chatbot products. But right now, it is not a topic crucial to every developer. This is where my expectations were wrong.

Was it because of my Marketing strategy

As a self-employed developer selling products, marketing is one of the most critical tasks of you, especially when you want to publish your book yourself. There are many publishers out there, but I never felt it was a good idea to work with one. I wanted to do my own thing, and when you think about the future, it is better when you can build an audience yourself. When you buy a book on Amazon, you often don't know the author before. You are not connected to him, and the chances are good you will never buy something else from him.

As a result, you have to market your products and your person yourself. This means publishing a lot of content. I'm talking about blog articles, newsletters, tweets, and so on. I underestimated the effort all these tasks take, and I'm not solely talking about time. You need to be creative to come up with all that content. In the end, I feel like I did quite right with the marketing part, but I also think it could have done better.

One problem was that after writing the book, I felt a little bit fed up with chatbots. I'm not sure if it was because of writing so much about it our if it was a general thing. First, I thought this would go away after some weeks, but it didn't. This made it quite challenging to market the product after the launch. You need to keep going to write articles, new chapters, and new videos. I tried, but it was hard. I'm still working on a big chatbot project today, but the joy I felt while working on bots before is gone.

Did I Get My Target Group Wrong

I have been quite active in the PHP community for some years now. Many developers know me from my blog, my newsletters, meetups, Twitter, or some other projects. In my opinion, I had a good user base for releasing a book. What I didn't expect was that the chatbot topic wasn't that interesting for my followers. It was more like I created a second audience next to my existing one due all the chatbot content I published.

It took me some time to realize that my product was not well suited for my audience. It became obvious when I started my current project Laravel Core Adventures. The feedback was so much better right from the beginning. At this point, I realized that I'm much more rooted in the Laravel community that I thought. Now while reflection my book, I would say my target group was wrong.

I'm Still Proud Of Build Chatbots with PHP

I have never regretted the decision to writing this book. It was my first paid product. It was my first book. It was my first published video course. I did it all by myself, and I finished it. I have learned so much about products, writing, marketing, and selling. I'm very thankful for this experience even though it wasn't a success on quite a few levels.

What I Would Do Differently

  1. Put Less Time Into The Project

I was working six months on a product, where I didn't know if there was a demand. It would have been better to release a smaller version, maybe for free, and see how it goes first. Then decide what to do next.

  1. I Would Change What To Cover

With Build Chatbots with PHP, I tried to cover everything necessary to start building your first chatbots. This means I'm talking about the history of chatbots, the current state, examples, developing and so on. I still think it is all useful content, but maybe it was too much. The book has over 200 pages. If I could write it again, I would skip some of the theory parts and be more practical.

  1. Focus On The Video Course

Writing has always been difficult for me. I was never good at it, but I tried to cover that with useful content. Blogging is vital as a developer, but I enjoy doing screencasts much more. So I probably will never write a book again and concentrate on creating videos.

I don't think a video is a better channel. Many people I have spoken to prefer written words over videos. I feel like creating videos better fits me.

Conclusion

With my articles, I always want to share honest real live examples. Nobody is interested in everything beautiful happening in your life and projects. That's not reality. But this blog post took me some time to. It is hard to show people your failures, but it is also the content I like to read. It's not because I want to see people suffer. It's more about what happened and what you can do about it. I'm still super proud of every single customer, and I want to use all the gained experience for upcoming projects.

If you want to follow me on my journey with my next product, join the newsletter of Laravel Core Adventures. Never give up! Always dream big!

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