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How did I develop and publish my first ebook?

Freddy Montes - Frontend Developer, Designer and Teacher
Freddy Montes|

For a little over 2 years now I've been actively sharing content on social networks about programming and design on June 13, 2021 I announced my first ebook: "99 tips for Web Development ".

99 tips for Web Development

The truth is that when I announced the book I already had a few days compiling the tips from my social media posts and at that time I was missing 24 out of 99.

How did I write it?

To write it I used Notion, a note taking application. I chose Notion for two main reasons:

  1. Notion allows you to export your notes to Markdown a lightweight markdown language (what you write readme's with from Github repositories) which among other things has support for code formatting which is just what I needed,
  2. The block editor is great, it works perfect on iPad, web browser and iPhone, just the means I used to write the book.

The format of the book was quite simple, three sections, HTML, CSS and JavaScript and each section has 33 "tips" of all levels, beginner, intermediate and advanced.

Most of the tips are formulated in the form of a question with a code example to explain the concept and a short conclusion where I explain the rationale and/or typical uses.

PDF and epub how do I generate them?

I needed to publish the book in the two most popular ebook formats, PDF and epub and as I wanted to get it out as soon as possible I did not plan to design each page, the idea was to generate both from the Markdown document and for this there is "pandoc".

Pandoc

Pandoc is a library that allows you to convert documents from one format to another and supports virtually any format, in fact the library describes itself as a universal document converter.

I wanted to generate the book with at least 3 things:

  1. automatically generated table of contents.
  2. One tip per page
  3. highlighted code stanza for each language.

And all this I could do with Pandoc, well almost all of it, because in the epub format I could not have a tip per page.

The cover

All books need a cover, so I designed the cover of my book with Canva, I already have defined my corporate identity with colors and fonts which allowed me to design the cover in less than 15 minutes.

Cover of 99 tips for Web Development

Once I had the cover I generated the half 3D mocks with this application: DYI Book Design

How did I distribute the book?

My goal was to accomplish two things:

  1. Create a mailing list of people who would download the book.
  2. Offer the book for free with an option for donations.

Mailing list: Converkit

It is an email marketing platform aimed at content creators, it has a free version with up to 1000 subscribers and a very easy way to insert a form in your Web page.

Distribution: Gumroad

Gumroad is half the standard for indie content creators to distribute, the reason is because it is very simple to use, you just create your product, connect your Paypal account and start selling, for Latin America it is the simplest option I think it is the only option.

Landing Page

I wanted my product to be on my own website, so I created a small landing page: fmontes.com/99, nothing too complicated, an image of the book with a form to download it.

Launch

A tweet, my first communication channel is Twitter so the book was launched by a tweet on June 20th (Father's Day in Costa Rica), I announced it saying it's free, but I could treat myself to a beer or a coffee and the results, the results really surprised me.

Results

  • In less than 24 hours more than 800 people had already downloaded it.
  • The tweet as of today July 20th has 50 comments, 707 RT and 1235 likes.
  • Total downloads are 2,219.
  • 49** humans paid for the book
  • 1 person paid 50$
  • 1 person paid 20$
  • Total I earned 293$ for a book I released for free
  • Many people I admire liked the format and are now writing their own 99 tips.
Book sales results on Gumroad

Problems

  1. Converkit only allowed me 1000 mails and I reached that number very fast.
  2. Some users were complaining that the book was not free, but it was because they only had to put 0 in the price in Gumroad.
  3. Gumroad is blocked in Cuba.

What's next?

I plan to continue iterating on this material and one of the plans is to record 99 videos with more detail on each of the tips.

Conclusion

If you have an idea to launch a product don't spend months or years perfecting it, get it out as soon as possible.

It was a good experience and now it is clear to me that you have to launch things fast and not wait for them to be perfect, there is always room for improvement.

The community was very grateful and their words encouraged me to continue.

Download the ebook for FREE fmontes.com/99


Thank your read this blog post. Any feedback or question hit me up on Twitter: @fmontes