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Marketing Your Website Sucks (the book)


This page is a chronological record of my efforts to sell my first book, Your Website Sucks. My intention is to market the book actively until it’s sold 1,000 copies.

Current sales: 539 copies. (44 on Gumroad, 495 on Amazon)

Here’s what I’ve done:

Pre-publication (2021-2022)

Social media

I spent a ton of time and energy on ad platforms—Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, and a bit of Instagram. I made short videos about the concepts and topics from my book.

Reception was … somewhere between warm and tepid. I reached a nonzero number of people who found the content useful, and a handful who expressed interest in the book, but the effort didn’t seem worth the benefit. I’m not convinced that an appreciable number of humans buy a book based on a TikTok. And there’s the whole thing about social media making people miserable, so I gave up on this approach more or less at the moment I published the book. No regrets :)

YouTube

I’ve made a bunch of videos on my book topic. Extremely low viewership, and I got tired of talking about it. But I’m still on YouTube, because I like it there—I just stopped focusing on a single topic. I don’t consider this to be a key part of my marketing strategy.

Niche List 2021

I published a book on niches and sold a few hundred copies!

Newsletter

After declaring that I’d never write newsletters again, I started writing a newsletter again. I imported folks who bought Niche List 2021 or subscribed to my previous newsletters, and I personally invited people in my network to subscribe. By the time I published, the list was at about 300 subscribers.

Publication

Publication on Gumroad (December 2022)

While still fiddling with the paperback cover of my book, I uploaded a PDF to Gumroad and announced it to my newsletter (and a few people on Slack). It sold 16 copies that week.

Publication on Amazon (February 2022)

I finally got the book listed on Amazon and announced this to my email list. I sold 15 copies that week.

Post-publication

Guest podcast appearance (March 2023)

I appeared on the Freelance Podclass to talk about websites for freelancers. (In general, I’m focusing on framing the general lessons of the book for specific audiences.)

I offered listeners a free course and a few have signed up. Maybe some will buy the book at some point. Overall, though, I found the coordination and pressure of recording an interview to be pretty draining, so I decided to focus on writing guest blog posts instead.

Listing ebook on non-Kindle marketplaces (March 2023)

I used Draft2Digital to list my book on Apple Books and Barnes and Noble, plus a few places I’ve never even heard of: Rakuten Kobo, Smashwords, Tolino, Borrow Box.

Flesh out book website (April 2023)

I made some updates to yourwebsitesucks.fyi to make it more conversion-friendly, so I can link to it in guest blog posts.

Guest blog post (April 2023)

I published a post on Accounting Today. The book website saw about 15 visits in the two weeks after publication.

Just ask people to buy the book (May 2023)

I’ve been emailing friends and colleagues and pointedly asking if they’d be willing to buy a copy. It’s led to some great conversations, lots of kind encouragement, and a handful of sales + reviews.

Guest podcast appearance (May 2023)

I appeared on the Deliberate Freelancer podcast to plug my book.

At least one human being has listened to this interview and bought my book!

Add “Read a sample” option to book website (June 2023)

I created an email flow so folks can get 6 sample chapters in PDF format in exchange for their email address. Currently not driving any real traffic to the book website, but this makes it worth considering.

Abandon guest blogging (July 2023)

After finding that several of the platforms I’d previously identified as options for guest blogging have stopped accepting commissions, I’ve decided not to pursue this strategy any further. I wrote several months ago about how large language models were destined to flood the internet with garbage content and what can I say? I take zero pleasure in noting that I was right.

I’ll pivot back to podcast guest appearances, and look into giving some talks or trainings.

Reduce price of ebook (July 2023)

I read about someone else having better results with a $4.99 price point compared with $9.99 and decided to try it. The book’s not really optimized for Kindle, so it feels better to sell it cheaper.

I don’t feel great about the fact that some folks have bought it at the higher price point but … it’s $5. Live and learn :)

Run some Amazon Ads (August 2023)

I did my very best to follow the instructions of a now-unavailable Amazon Ads online course, and hit Publish.

I launched two campaigns—one targeting keywords, one targeting similar books—with a maximum daily spend of $10 each.

Raise price of ebook (November 2023)

A couple months after lowering the ebook price, I raised it back to $9.99. This decision was driven by:

Tweak ad campaigns (November 2023)

After a couple months’ worth of data, I was able to turn off several keywords and product targets that weren’t leading to any sales. But some of the other ones were, at approximately-break-even rates! So I doubled down on those.

Just ask people to buy the book (January 2024)

After a long year, finally going back to my list of friends and colleagues and trying to be diligent about making sure they’ve got a copy if they want one.

As a result, my book may be featured in an undergrad CS course this year!

Continue to tweak ads (January 2024)

After 6 months, my ad campaigns have led to 200+ sales. The first couple months were pretty unprofitable, but things have gotten better as I’ve turned off underperforming ads, and as the book has accrued positive reviews.

Given that my goal is to reach 1,000 seed readers, at this rate I’ll be there by the end of 2024, on ads alone.

This feels kind of lazy, and I don’t love that I’m making bonus contributions to the Jeff Bezos Retirement Fund, but it frees me up to work on other books, so I’ll continue with it, and possibly supplement it with more podcast appearances or other tactics.

Launch a hybrid email course

I set up an email course where I promise to help people with their websites, with the intention of asking them to buy the book as compensation. Possibly setting a record for the least efficient marketing strategy ever imagined.

© 2024 Brian David Hall