Marketing an eBook

Sean Fioritto, author of Sketching with CSS, joins to talk Michele through how to market an ebook.

Michele Hansen  00:00
Welcome back to Software Social. This episode is sponsored by the website monitoring tool, Oh Dear. We use Oh Dear to keep track of SSL certificates. If an SSL certificate is about to expire, we get an alert beforehand. We have automated processes to renew them, so we use Oh Dear as an extra level of peace of mind. You can sign up for a ten day free trial with no credit card required at

Michele Hansen  00:28
Hey, welcome back to Software Social. So today we're doing something kind of fun. We're leaning on the social part of Software Social, and we have invited our friend, Sean Fioritto, to join us today.

Sean Fioritto  00:44
Hey guys. Thanks for having me. 
Colleen Schnettler  00:47
Hi Sean. Thanks for being here.
Michele Hansen  00:48
So, and the reason why we asked Sean, in addition to being a great person, is that Sean wrote a book called Sketching With CSS, and as you all know, I am writing a book and figuring it out. And there is a lot of stuff I haven't figured out, especially when it comes to, like, actually selling the book. Like, I feel like that, I feel like the, writing the book is, like, I feel like I kind of got a handle on that. The whole selling the book thing, like, not so much. Um, so we thought it would be kind of helpful to have Sean come on, since like, he's done this successfully.
Colleen Schnettler  021:36
So Sean, I would love to start with a little bit of your background with the book. What inspired you to write it? How did you get started? Where did that idea come from? 
Sean Fioritto  01:50
Yeah, so I wanted to quit my job. 
Colleen Schnettler  01:53
Don't we all?
Michele Hansen  01:55
Honest goal.
Sean Fioritto  01:56
I always wanted to go on my own, be independent, run my own business. That's been a goal for a very long time. So, I tried various things, you know, in my spare time, with limited to no success for years and years before that, and I was just getting sick of, the plan was, you know, I'm like, okay, I have this job. And in my spare time, I'm gonna get something going and then, and that just wasn't working. So I was getting impatient. Anyway, I ended up signing up with Amy Hoy's 30x500 class. This was seven or eight years ago. So, I signed up for that class. Actually, wait, I'm getting my timeline a little mixed up. So, I started reading stuff by Amy Hoy. It's funny, I'd actually bought another book that she wrote, and she used her sort of process for that book. And I bought that for my, for my job earlier. And I was like, oh, this Amy Hoy person is interesting. And so I started reading her blog, and then she has these things she writes called ebombs. You guys are probably familiar with that term. But they're basically content that, it's educational content directed at her target, you know, customer, which she would call her audience. So I was just, she, at that point, she had started 30x500. I think it was actually called a Year of Hustle at that point. And so she had all this content, and I was just devouring it, because I was like, she gets me. She knows my problem, and this is awesome. So I was just reading everything that she could write, that she wrote, and, you know, finding any resource that she'd ever written about, like, what's her process, because she was talking about this mysterious process that she has, she, she would talk about it. And I was able to sort of reverse engineer part of her course, the main thing called Sales Safari. So I'm not, I'm at my job, coasting, doing a half-assed job, spending a lot of time doing Sales Safari, trying to figure out what, what product I should do. Not product, but that's not the way to think about it with Sales Safari, but trying to figure out like, what, who, what audience should I focus on? And what problems do they have, and what's the juiciest problem that makes sense for me to tackle? And then, and she would call them pains, by the way, not, not problems. So what's the juiciest pain that they have, for me, that was like, be the easiest for me to peel off, and, and work on. So I started digging, and it was like, alright, well, what audience makes sense for me? This is kind of the process, and it was like, you know, like web designers, web developers, because I was a web developer. And so like, what are the, you know, audiences that are close to audiences that I'm in is kind of ideal. So I started there, and then I just read and read and read. I probably put like, 80 hours of research time into that process. 
Colleen Schnettler  05:05
Michele Hansen  05:06
That's a lot.
Sean Fioritto  05:06
Of just reading and reading and reading and reading, and taking notes. And really understanding and whittling down and figuring out my audience, and figuring out, so the thinking, the benefit of that amount of time spent deliberately going through a process like that is that at some point, I became so in-tune with the audience that I could identify, and this is gonna pay off for you, Michele, this, this little story, because this feeds into like, how do you sell it. At some point, it meant that I could tell when a thing that I was, like a piece of content marketing that I was working on, was going to resonate very strongly with my audience and be worth the effort, if that makes sense. And it didn't really take much. Like, after I got done with that much amount of research, it was sort of, like, pretty trivial for me to come up with ideas for content that I could write that I knew people were gonna just eat up. And so that's, that's how I started building my, building my mailing list. And then that's how I eventually, Colleen, to your question, I came up with Sketching With CSS, which it was a solution to a pain point that I'd identified in my audience, which at that point was web designers.
Colleen Schnettler  06:37
How big did your mailing list grow?
Sean Fioritto  06:39
I have 20,000 people on my mail list.
Colleen Schnettler  06:41
Michele Hansen  06:42
Holy guacamole. 
Sean Fioritto  06:46
Yeah. So like I said, I got really good. No, no, no.
Michele Hansen  06:51
I've got like, 200 people on my mailing list, or like, 220. And like, for context, that's like, 200 more people than I ever expected to have on the mailing list, and hearing, like, 20,000 feels very far from, from 200.
Sean Fioritto  07:10
Yeah, well, let me say something that will hopefully be more reassuring. The, Amy and Alex, for example, they've been running 30x500, for years, and I think their mailing list is just now approximating, like 20,000 or so. And like, the, they have been making so much money with that course with a significantly smaller mailing list. And that's a really, like, high value product, too. So anyway, if it makes you feel any better, I really think they only have like, a couple 1000 people on their mailing list for a long time. And then, for me, I launched pre-sales of my book, at that point, my, I think I only had, boy, I used to, I used to have this memorized. But like, it's been so long now. But I think I only had like, it was less than 2000 I think. I think. So, and even then, I don't think you need that. I know people that have launched with much smaller lists than that, and, and it was fine. Because the people that are on your list now guarantee it, your, will be very interested in, in buying the book. You know, that'd be like a low, low barrier to entry, assuming like, your mailing list is one of the ways that you're thinking of selling the book.
Michele Hansen  08:26
Yeah, I guess. That's not a good answer. But like, I, I, I actually, I admit, I'm a little bit like, wary to kind of hit it too hard. Like, I would probably send out like, like, if I did a pre-sale, which I guess I should. Actually, I had someone a couple days ago, who has been reading the drafts, who actually I think is also a 30x500 student in the past, say that they wanted to, like, pre-buy the book and asked me how to do it. And I was like, that's a great question. I will figure that out. And like, so maybe do that, and then maybe one more when, like, the book comes out? Um, yeah, cuz, so I've been thinking about the newsletter as a way to draft the book because I find writing an email to be a lot easier than, like, staring at a blank cursor just, you know, blinking at me. And I guess I haven't really, like, and like, people signed up for it to read the draft of the book, so I guess I almost feel bad like, using it for sales too much. Like you know, I want to let people know that the book exists, but like, I don't want to. I don't know, does that.
Sean Fioritto  09:45
So, it's very considerate of you to think about that.
Michele Hansen  09:52
Another way of saying that another, also a way to not make any money off of this.
Sean Fioritto  09:57
Well, yeah, that, but also, it's kind of inconsiderate of you to not be thinking about all the people that really, really, really want to buy it and also would like to read anything that you're writing right now. Like, you're just completely leaving them out there to dry. And there are definitely people like that on your mailing list. So, they're like, there's like, some people on your mailing list are not going to be interested in your content if you're sending it too much, or, or just in general, really lightly interested in what you're writing about, or mistakenly signed up for your mailing list, which at this point, you probably don't have that problem. So like, to some extent, that's always the case, and it used to bother me a lot. I would send an email, and sales emails especially would result in bigger unsubscribes after every email, because you know, your little email tool tells you like, can, you know, so nice of it to tell you like, this many people unsubscribed after you sent this email. And it's always a big jump after like, a sales email. That used to bother me a lot. But then I started, kind of watching even my own behavior, and you probably do the same, and you probably like, look forward to some emails from some people that hit your inbox from some newsletters that you're looking forward to, and you'd very much like them to send you more. And then there's other people where you're like, well, I signed up for that, like, a couple years ago, and I just am not thinking about that anymore. And I need, like, to like, whittle down my content. So you unsubscribe. So then you become that unsubscribe number on the other end of the person sending the email, but like, you weren't annoyed, you didn't mind. It was just like, time to move on. And that's usually the case. So I think people can just unsubscribe as long as it's easy. I would literally put it at the top of my emails. So like, because I would send emails very infrequently. I was not disciplined about that. And I still don't think that that's a problem. But the, but because I sent them infrequently I put at the top like, hey, you know, you signed up for this, because you probably read this thing I wrote. You weren't interested in the book, whatever, if this is not for you anymore, just unsubscribe, like, first thing. So that always made me feel better about sending emails. And also, I don't know, I think that's the right thing to do so people just know, like upfront, that you know, oh, okay, there's the easy to find unsubscribe button when they're done. And then that's fine.
Michele Hansen  12:26
We did that for Geocodio once, like, I want to say it was like a year or two ago, and our lists had been like, super disorganized. And like I think we had, we were sending stuff like, we send like one or two marketing emails a year from MailChimp. And then we also had Intercom, and those things didn't sync up. And so like, sometimes people would unsubscribe in intercom and then like, not be unsubscribed in MailChimp, or like vice versa. And then, since we didn't send a lot of email, we used MailChimp's pay as you go. And then they just like, shut down their page and go option a couple of years ago, even though we had a ton of credit, which was a little annoying. And, and then, so like, the next time, and I think we migrated over to Mailcoach. And so the next time we send out an email, we actually like for some reason, we were like, there's probably a lot of people on this who have meant to unsubscribe. And so at the very top of the next email, we put an unsubscribe link and we also put a link to delete their account. And like, a bunch of people did it, but then our number of people who were unsubscribing later on like, went like, way down. So it was like, ripping off the band aid basically.
Sean Fioritto  13:36
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I think like, I don't know, when people unsubscribe from Geocodio, at this point, it doesn't like, break your heart anymore, I'm guessing. Right? 
Michele Hansen  13:45
No, I mean, we're like, we're kind of like jumping into something that has been very much on my mind, but I hadn't been wanting to admit that it was there and just trying to like, pretend that it's not there, which is all the dealing with rejection around either, you know, people being mad that they were being sold to or negative reviews. And I like, you know, it sounds like you kind of have a process for, like, accepting those feelings. 
Sean Fioritto  14:19
It used to bother me a lot. 
Michele Hansen  14:22
Like, yeah.
Sean Fioritto  14:24
Yeah, it used to bother me a lot. There are two things that I hated. I hated frontpage Hacker News, and I hated getting angry emails. 
Michele Hansen  14:33
Sean Fioritto  14:35
I also got creepy, tons of creepy emails. Once you get, like, past a certain threshold and the number of subscribers you have, the creepiness factor increases. Yeah. Yeah. But the, but I got used to all of that. I just realized, like, there's just some percentage of people that are just angry right now or whatever, like, whatever they're going through. And I know that, like, I am very carefully crafting things such that the most, most of my content is not self-serving, most of it is directly a result of research that tells me that this is a problem that people are having, and now I'm helping you. So I'm like, I never feel bad about those, and then even the sales emails, I started to not feel bad about those, too, because I'm like, this is also a thing that's helping you. But that took a while to get to. I mean, honestly, it did. And it got worse when it became my only source of income, which added extra, extra feelings. But yeah, there's a lot of feelings to like, get through. And now I have just developed more of a thick skin, you know. Like, I'm not terrified of having a super popular article anymore, or, you know, stuff like that. That doesn't, that doesn't bother me anymore. I think it just came with time, just like with you and Geocodio. I mean, I'm sure you are used to like, some fluctuations of revenue, which probably bothered you a lot at the beginning, but now, not so much. I mean, I'm just, I'm guessing, but that seems, you know, I'm sure there's some things they're that you've got a thick skin about now.
Michele Hansen  16:12
Oh, my gosh. I mean, for years, every time a plan downgrade came through, like every time it was like a punch in the gut. Like, and yeah, I think now that I, I guess I trust the revenue more, I'm not as impacted by it. It's more like, oh, I wonder, like, why that was. Like, did their project end, or like, you know, like, what happened? But yeah, in the beginning, especially when it was first our like, when it, when it became my, like, full time income. I mean, as, as you said, like, that is really painful. Like, I'm curious, like, so you,  so like, when did you start writing the book?
Sean Fioritto  1705
Let me think, like, like the year, or a timing, like, in terms of the timeline? 
Michele Hansen  17:12
Whichever one you want to go with. 
Sean Fioritto  17:15
Yeah, I can't remember the year cuz it was a while ago. It was like, eight years ago. 
Michele Hansen  17:19
Oh, wow. Okay. So you started,
Sean Fioritto  17:22
I think it was 2013 is when I started. Yeah.
Michele Hansen  17:24
You did the, sounds like you did 30x500 first, right?
Sean Fioritto  17:30
Yeah, I had the, I had started writing the book before 30x500. But like I said, I was ,I was following her process already at sort of reverse engineered it. And then I felt like I just owed her the money for the, for the course. So, plus I wanted to meet her, so.
Michele Hansen  17:44
Yeah, so you started like, the research process basically, like, like 30x500 like, was only one part of your, like, research. Like, cuz you said you had sort of, you had figured out what her process was based on the blog posts and whatnot before you took the course. Yeah.
Sean Fioritto  18:00
Michele Hansen  18:01
Sean Fioritto  18:02
Yeah, and at that point, I had already generated the research I needed to see, to choose Sketching With CSS as a, as a product. I pretty much had, I think I had a landing page. I hadn't done pre-sales yet, but I was, I was gearing up for that.
Michele Hansen  18:17
You are so organized.
Colleen Schnettler  18:19
Michele, do you have a landing page? 
Michele Hansen  18:22
There is a website. 
Colleen Schnettler  18:24
Okay, I didn't know.
Michele Hansen  18:26
I haven't told anyone about it because I talk about, 
Colleen Schnettler  18:29
Your secret website.
Michele Hansen  18:30
I actually have two. I thought of the domain name, or like, the name for it in the shower, and then I like, immediately like, ran for the computer to see if it was available. And I actually bought two, and then I think we put, like, a book, oh my god, I just typed it wrong.
Colleen Schnettler  18:55
This is the part where you tell us what it is. 
Michele Hansen  18:57
There's nothing on it, and actually, if I say it now then we have to have something on it by,
Colleen Schnettler  19:01
Well, there's no way to pressurize a situation than to tell us right now.
Michele Hansen  19:06
So okay, it is Okay, okay, crap, now I have it out. I don't even know how I'm going to sell it. Okay. So um, and I think I have another one, too. But yeah, we have like, a very basic like, WordPress template on it. Like, it's not, it's not, okay. While I was trying to figure it, so like, people keep asking me like, oh, like, when's your book coming out? And I'm like, I have no idea. I have never done this before. I don't know what steps are ahead of me. So, okay, so you started writing the book while you were doing research concurrently, and then how, and you were also,
Sean Fioritto  19:48
Oh, sorry, there's two types of research. 
Michele Hansen  19:50
Sean Fioritto  19:51
So, we could clarify that. There was my audience research and understanding the pain that I was solving, and then there's the research about the book. I didn't have to do as much research about the book. I mean, I already, like, the type of book I ended up writing, I already had, you know, the expertise I needed to write that book. So yeah, I was, audience research was already done by the time I was writing Sketching With CSS. So I wasn't doing research like that while writing the book.
Michele Hansen  20:16
Okay. And then you also had the landing page up, and you started building your list while you were doing this research and writing phase. Okay, so how long did it take you from, like, the time that you had the idea for the book to when people could, like, buy and download the book, like, just like, the big picture? Like, how long did that process take you?
Sean Fioritto  20:45
Well, I mean, keep in mind, that ton of the work was while I was still full time working, in theory.
Michele Hansen  20:56
I mean, I guess I am, too, right? Like, this is not my full time thing.
Sean Fioritto  21:00
Yeah, but I think like, from, from, from research to launch, like, book is done, it was like, in the four to six month range.
Michele Hansen  21:14
Okay. Okay. So I think I started at like, the end of February with the newsletter, and it's May, so that's like, yeah. I do feel like I'm doing a little bit of, I think what we have termed Colleen does, of putzing in the code garden, rather than selling things or doing marketing or whatnot. And I am totally doing that with my manuscript, I guess you could call it. Sounds so fancy. And just like, moving commas around and like, totally procrastinating on making images for it, like totally, totally procrastinating on that. Okay, so it took you like, four to six months to get to that point. 
Sean Fioritto  21:59
Yeah, there was a, there was a launch in between there.
Michele Hansen  22:02
So when was the like, so was your pre-sale your launch? Or like, how does that work? 
Sean Fioritto  22:08
You could do lots of launches. 
Michele Hansen  22:11
This is like, the part that is like, just sort of like, you know, in my head, it's like step one, write book, like, step two of question, question question, and step three, profit. Like that's sort of where I am right now.
Sean Fioritto  22:24
I feel like you're already doing most of the things that I would do. The, the one thing, so alright. So you're, you're working in public, so you're getting interest via Twitter. You're writing to your mailing list. You're doing the right thing, which is writing content for your book that, you know, is also useful to your mailing list, like, independently. Like, like getting double bang for your buck is smart when you're doing this kind of business. So you're keeping your list warm enough. People are, you're building anticipation, people are telling you you're building anticipation, because they're like, hey, when do I get to buy this book? So, you know, you're basically doing all the things. As, you know, from from my perspective, looking in, it seems like you're just accidentally or intuitively doing the right, doing the right stuff. The thing that's missing between like, what you are doing and what I did is probably, I would press pause on book writing and do specific content marketing things just to build my mailing list.
Michele Hansen  23:37
But I love putzing in the code garden. 
Sean Fioritto  23:39
And I'm not, I'm not, sorry, I didn't mean to say that as like, you should do that. That's what I would, as in like, I was doing that. And I don't know,
Michele Hansen  23:48
And you wrote, like, a successful book and sold it, and it was your full time job for a period of time. So you're kind of here because you're good at this and because I need to be told these things.
Sean Fioritto  23:59
Right. Well, I'm just saying what I did. But it's, it's really ultimately you get to pick and choose what you do. The, you know, I actually happen to very much enjoy the process of coming up with content that I knew would be popular and writing it and sharing it everywhere and doing all that stuff. And also, I knew I needed to because I was going to try and make this my full time living, so I'm like, I need more people on my mailing list. So that was pretty important to me based on the goals I was trying to achieve. The, the other thing is though, like, even with a small mailing list, your book as the, a lot of book sales are gonna come from word of mouth. Like, I sort of forced the book onto the scene. But like, it's not a, the Sketching With CSS is not like a, while the marketing theme is, like, the marketing message at the time, it doesn't connect anymore because  the world has moved on from that phase of web development. But like, while people could read the marketing, the landing page and connect really strongly, and, you know, be interested in the book, the book didn't really lend itself well to word of mouth, because it's not like, it was not like a, oh, you should read this, like, it's this lightweight, like reading recommendation. It's got to be, you've got to be like, ready to commit to learning a bunch of code. So it's like, there's like, a smaller group of people at any given time that are like, at that point, does that make sense? Versus your book, it's, it seems like, it's like a higher level of value, like, it's a more abstract, then like, here are the, learn this code. Here's how to type in Git commands, here's how to do that. You know, like, I was really like, down at the, like, here's what you're gonna be doing day to day in your job. And you're giving them the same message, but like, in a way that can be, that is at like, a higher level, it's maybe easier to read, you know, in your spare time. It's like a business book, has the same qualities of, like, successful business books. So, I think that you may not have to do any of the content marketing stuff that I was doing is what I'm getting at, because, like, I can already tell, I'm ready to read your book, and I'm ready to recommend it to people, because it does it solve, like, a question that people have all the time, and a problem people have, and they're like, oh, I wish I knew how to, you know, talk to my customers more effectively, or understand, you know, the types of customers that are gonna be interested my products, or what problems they're having, etc, etc, right? Customer research, that kind of thing. That is a topic of conversation that comes up a lot in my communities that I hang out in, and so, you know, your book’s gonna be like, at-hand for me to recommend. That's, that's what I suspect. That's my, that's my theory for your book.
Michele Hansen  27:00
Yeah, I guess, I mean, there's parts of it, definitely. 
Sean Fioritto  27:02
It's also got a catchy name. 
Michele Hansen  27:04
Hey, I thought of it in the shower, and then I ran to register the domain, which is exactly what you are supposed to do when you have a good idea for something right? Like, this is the process.
Colleen Schnettler  27:13
Michele Hansen  27:13
Sean Fioritto  27:14
You already had a book though, so it's different. You're like, I'm gonna write this book called Deploying Empathy. And you already, like, wrote it. So I think you're good to go.
Michele Hansen  27:20
Yeah, actually I didn't have a name for a while. Okay, so, so something else I have, like, a question on, which you kind of just sort of touched on with that about, like, super practical elements. So some, some of it is you can, you can definitely sit down and, and you could probably read it in a sitting or two. But then there's, there's the stuff that's more like a toolbox with all of the different scripts, which, by the way earlier, when you were saying like finding the type of content that people are really hungry for like, that, like, those scripts are the thing that people are the most excited about. The problem is, there's only like, so many sort of general scenarios. So I've basically written the main ones, but, so something I noticed with your site, which is, just for everybody's reference, so you have the book plus code, which is like, your basic option for $39. And then you have one with the video package for 99. And then you have another one with more stuff for 249. And then there's one with like, all the things for your team for 499. And so, something that people have asked me for is like, like, there's the book piece, and then there's also, people want to be able to easily replicate the scripts so that they can then like, use them to build their own scripts off of it, and like, modify them and whatnot. So people have said, like, well, that could be like a Notion Template, like, bundle that it's sold with, or Google Docs or, or whatever. And so I've been like, kind of like, how do you sell the book with this like, other bundle? And like, can you also do that, like if you sell like a physical book to like, if I did it through Amazon, like, could I also sell a Notion Template bundle or something? Like, I just, I'm kind of, that sort of like, something that's on my mind is like, I'm not really sure how to approach that. And I'm wondering if you could kind of like, talk through your approach to creating like, different tiers, and what you provided at those different tears. 
Sean Fioritto  29:33
Mm hmm. Right. So, at the time, I know, I have a more sophisticated thought process about it now, but the, when I did the initial set of tiers, it was because Nathan Barry told me that I should have three tears because it tripled his revenue. So I was like, oh, okay. 
Michele Hansen  29:53
I mean, that's a good reason. 
Sean Fioritto  29:55
Like, we just happened to be at the bacon biz. That was the other person that I was, I bought his book. So here's the thing I always do, I would buy people's books that way I could email them.
Michele Hansen  30:08
Is that a thing? Like, if you buy someone's book, like, do you have a license to email them?
Sean Fioritto  30:13
Well, you get one. You get one email. And as long as it's, you know, not creepy. That's, that's the main thing. But yeah. So we had a bake in this conference in real life, and then, yeah, that's what he, that's what, he told me that I was like, oh, yeah. Okay. I think Patrick McKenzie was there, too, and he said something similar. So I was like, oh, because they did a landing page tear down for me at that conference. That's right. 
Michele Hansen  30:36
Wow. Nice.
Sean Fioritto  30:37
Yeah. So anyway, so I did the, I did that, because somebody told me to. And in fact, it's true. Like, if I hadn't done that, you could just see like, the way the purchases ended up that like, that absolutely almost tripled my revenue. So, 
Michele Hansen  30:53
Oh, wow. Yeah.
Sean Fioritto  30:54
Which is a big deal for books, because it's not like, yeah, anyway. The, the, the way, the way you were talking about it, though, because there's another way to think about it. I was thinking about in tiers with the book, but another way to think about it is in terms of a product funnel. So your, your book could be super cheap, and it is the entry point into your product, your little product universe. Because like, you're, what you're doing is naturally, because you're literally writing a book about this, listening to your customers and understanding that they have other like, you're really understanding what their, their pain is, and you see that there's different ways that you could solve it for them, right? Those things as a product. So you could bundle that stuff into your book, you could create tiers, like I did. And maybe it does make sense, we talk about this more, but like there's, there's, there's different ways to do tiers with books that, that makes sense, that aren't exactly what I did. But also, like what you're describing is basically different courses. So let's, so, like, people that run these info product businesses, like, what you end up with is like, you've got this world of courses, and you've got this world of content. And people come in from like, search, you know, or whatever channel that you've worked on, usually it's like an SEO channel, like through your content. And then they enter your automated marketing system. And then the first thing they do is buy probably your cheapest thing, your book, and then you're moving them on to the next level into your email marketing system to get them to start looking at, you know, your course, which is like a more in-depth version of the book, or whatever. So anyway, I'm just sort of sketching out, like how, how these content marketing businesses tend to work. So you kind of end up in their little universe and then you just get bounced around all their various email automation. If you've been in anybody's like, any internet famous person's little, like, email world, you'd probably notice eventually, if you're there for long enough, like, I already got that email. And so anyway, so let's there's like a different way of looking at it. You don't have to do tiers. You could just sell your book, you know, digital version, here's the hardback version, you make it cheap, and then, you know, lots of people, lots of people read it. And then you, turns out that this is still really interesting to you, you still like solving people's problems and you're like, you know what, like, I should release like, some recordings of customer interviews as like, examples or whatever, you know, and then you peel that off into a different product and you sell that, and slowly you build up this machine, basically. Also the guy to talk to would be Keith Perhac, who's in our group, too.
Michele Hansen  33:51
Oh, yeah, I should totally talk to Keith. 
Colleen Schnettler  33:53
Did he write a book?
Sean Fioritto  33:55
Yeah, he did but also his, his job before running SegMetrics was with the internet famous person that you guys know of that ran these huge content marketing programs and had this whole product funnel thing and all this stuff that I was talking about. So Keith is like, expert on that topic.
Michele Hansen  34:15
I guess I don't know if I want to go that direction just now because I do, you know, I do have a job. Um, so I'm, yeah. 
Sean Fioritto  34:28
You could just be like Amy. 
Michele Hansen  34:33
So, I, yeah, so I guess I have to think about that, and thinking about like, like, where to price it and those bundles and whatnot. Actually, I have another super like, mechanical question. So, between the time you announced the pre-order, and when you, like, people could actually like, to like, first of all, like, what was the incentive for somebody to pre-order? And then, what was the time from like, when you announced the pre-order to when you like, people could actually get it? Like, how far in advance do you do a pre-order? And what do you like, do you have to give people something?
Sean Fioritto  35:10
Yeah, I can't, I actually can't remember. I can't remember, what did I do? I did a pre-order. I can't even remember if I gave him the book or not. I don't think you have to. Some people just buy it ready to go. I think I, I probably did give ‘em like, here's everything I got so far, and it's gonna change, but, you know, here's that. Here's what I've got. And, you know, whatever version, like, people don't care if it's like, not even formatted or, you know, give me everything you got. Because the people that are going to do that are ready to just devour it. And then also, some of them might be like, I'm not wanting to, I don't want it right now, but I had a discount, right? So there's like, the pre-order, it's like a little bit cheaper to buy it now. Because I knew I was going to be selling it at like, as, like, a $40 product. So the discount, I think I sold it initially for pre-orders for like, 29 bucks, or maybe less even. Yeah, maybe like 20 bucks or something like that.
Michele Hansen  36:08
Okay, and it's 30 now.
Colleen Schnettler  36:11
Yeah, it probably makes sense for you, as someone who, I'm using it and referencing it, even though it's not done, because those scripts, like you were saying, are so valuable to people. 
Michele Hansen  36:20
Yeah, I mean, I guess, I guess I sort of like, feel like everybody already has everything. I mean, reality like, they, they don't because everything has been changed so much. But I guess I need to like, set it up, too. Like, I need to decide on a platform to use to actually sell it. 
Sean Fioritto  36:42
Oh, I didn't do that at first. 
Michele Hansen  36:45
Okay. So did you just use Stripe?
Sean Fioritto  36:47
I think I used PayPal. I was literally like, here's my email, send PayPal money there. And then I sent it to ‘em.
Michele Hansen  36:55
How did you deal with that and sales tax and stuff? 
Sean Fioritto  36:57
I don't think that existed. But also I would have just ignored it.
Michele Hansen  37:03
Okay, yeah, I guess I'm in the EU, so I kind of can't.
Sean Fioritto  37:08
It's the wild west out here.
Michele Hansen  37:12
Sean Fioritto  37:15
No, I had a really bad tax bill the first year because I ignored all of that stuff. 
Michele Hansen  37:19
Oh, okay, so you're not advising. This is not financial advice. 
Sean Fioritto  37:26
I'm just saying what I did. I'm not saying you should do that. 
Michele Hansen  37:30
This may or may not be good advice, what you are hearing, just so you know. All of this may be bad advice. Okay, so I basically,
Sean Fioritto  37:39
I got audited, too, actually. I forgot about that. So don't, yeah, definitely don't do that. Being audited is not as bad as it sounds, it turns out but that's, anyway, that's a different story.
Michele Hansen  38:55
I was, I feel like I should do a, like a talk hear, hear, and be like, well, on that massive disappointment, thank you and good evening. Um, so okay. So you know, I feel, see, I feel like I look at you and you're like, you, like, have your stuff together about selling a book. And the fact that you had all like, you had these fears about, like, getting rejected by it, and like, put all this into it, and you did it without having done it before. And, you know, made mistakes, looking back, that you are now helping me not replicate. Um, I feel, I feel a little, I feel a little better about this. And also, I guess I have a deadline now, which is five days from now to have the website functional. So, that's fun. 
Colleen Schnettler  38:51
You're welcome. I'm here for you, Michele. Just push you over the cliff.
Michele Hansen  38:56
Like, copy paste content into it, right? Um, I noticed actually that Sean, like, your site has a ton of testimonials, and that's something I have been sort of tepidly starting to collect. Like, I guess I'm a little bit afraid to, like, ask people for testimonials. But I've gotten a couple.
Sean Fioritto  39:17
So what you do is you write them the testimonial, then you email them and you say can I use this as your testimonial? And then they say yes, and then you put it on your page.
Michele Hansen  39:25
That's lower friction than what I've been asking for. Um, but, but that makes sense.
Sean Fioritto  39:32
I mean, I would also peel out, so they said something good in an email and I'd copy it and then change it so it sounded better, and then, can I use this as a testimonial? 
Michele Hansen  39:39
Yeah. Yeah. 
Sean Fioritto  39:42
I mean, when I say sounds better, I mean, just like copy edit, right?
Michele Hansen  39:45
I mean, I guess, like, we do that with Geocodio. And I think, like, Colleen and I have talked about this how, I guess I've like, gotten over all of these fears with Geocodio, and I'm so much more confident with it. And maybe it's because it doesn't have my name, like, directly on it, or it's just been around for like seven and a half years now. Versus this, I'm like, I'm so much more unsure. Like, 
Sean Fioritto  40:07
You haven't done this in a long time. 
Michele Hansen  40:08
I never have written a book.
Sean Fioritto  40:12
Well, whatever. Like, you haven't done a launch. Because you can launch anything. You could have launched Geocodio.
Michele Hansen  40:18
Sean Fioritto  40:18
You could've launched it this way, too. But you just haven't done that before. And it's weird, launch is weird because launch is like, everybody, pay attention to me now. 
Michele Hansen  40:29
Yeah, I'm just super uncomfortable with that. 
Sean Fioritto  40:33
Yeah. Yeah, that's, that's what it feels like. But then when I realized it was, if you're doing it, right, it's not that. It feels like it, but you're not actually making it about you. It's about them. And then for like, a couple days, you know, you gotta be like, here's the product, you can buy it, and you got to be like sending more emails than you normally. Lots of people will unsubscribe. But like I said, those people are not subscribing. Some of them probably hate you, but you know, most of them are probably just unsubscribing because like, they're, turns out, they weren't interested now that they actually see what it is. They're like, oh, no, that's not what I was thinking it was, or whatever. You get used to it, like, you definitely get used to it. I did it for a couple products. And over time, I just didn't care anymore. Like, I absolutely felt like I was doing a good for people. And I know that I was because I didn't get nearly as much. I think that some of my friends who were in that space would tell me that I needed to go harder, you know, like a little more salesy than I was. But anyway, the point is,
Michele Hansen  41:39
The thing is, like, I'm not like, I'm not averse to marketing, I think, I mean, this is something that like, we were actually talking about the other day, like people, like technical people being averse to like, sales and marketing and like, like, I have written the book with this in mind that like, hopefully, like, people will recommend it, like, like an audience of the book is like product leaders and marketing leaders who need to teach their teams how to do this. And so like, that's an audience I'm writing for because if they then they have like, buy the book for like five people, and then if they get a new job, or promotion, or whatever, in two years, and they need to teach the team like their new team how to do it again. Um, and so like, that is like, comfortable for me. But yeah, I guess as you were saying, like, hitting the sales hard is, is a little bit uncomfortable. And I guess I will just have to deal with a couple of days of like, that being awkward and like, doing the whole, like, you know, I don't know, like home shopping network style, like, and here's this book, and you can have it for the low, low price of $29. Plus, all of these bundles. Like,
Sean Fioritto  42:43
So, the thing that, okay, maybe this will help you, but they would help, it helped me, is I just focus on, on the, on the people that are, on your audience, and like your copy and everything is about them. It's about you. You're using, I know you're doing this, right, so you're gonna use the word you in your copy. Like, you never use the word I in your copy, right? So everything is about them. You've done all this research, you know, them, you know, you know, the problems they're facing, you know the pains they're having. And so you could just keep talking about that, talking about that. Launch, then, is then just like, more of those types of emails, like, a higher cadence than you're used to, which is still just about them. And then you're hitting them with like, okay, and now it's here. Like, you're, the whole time you're telling them it's coming, it's coming, it's coming. And then now it's here, here's what's in it, and you're gonna have these emails that just say, here's everything that's in it, and then here's questions that people might have, email that follows up, and then hey, this is gonna end in like a certain amount of time, follow up and then you got one hour left, you know, email. So you do these, you do this sequence of emails, but like, you have to remember when you're sending those that are the most uncomfortable that some people are really, really excited, and if you don't send them that stuff, they won't buy it and they'll, they'll regret it. Like, there's some people that genuinely are very excited and super thrilled to get those emails.
Michele Hansen  44:03
Can I run a, I have like, a tagline, or not like, a headline I have been throwing around in my head. Can I run it past you? 
Sean Fioritto  44:12
Yeah. For an article? 
Michele Hansen  44:13
No, for the book, but like, so like, this would be the like, main headline on the site.
Sean Fioritto  44:18
Yeah, yeah. 
Michele Hansen  44:21
Your time is too valuable to spend it building things people don't want. 
Sean Fioritto  44:27
Perfect. I mean, it's a little wordy, but yeah, like, the concept is perfect.
Michele Hansen  44:32
I will work on the wordiness.
Sean Fioritto  44:36
I mean, it's really, it's good, though. That's perfect. 
Michele Hansen  44:38
It's good. I guess it's good enough, right? It's good enough for me to slap a site together in the next, checks watch, five days, and, and get that going.
Sean Fioritto  44:50
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Like, you could roll with that as an H2 on a landing page. Easy. Yeah. That would be fine the way it is.
Michele Hansen  44:57
Cool. Second image of the book. All right. There's all this stuff I'll have to do, but I guess I'll just be working away at this.
Sean Fioritto  45:04
You know what would be fun for you? I have an archived version of like, my old initial website, if you go to, oh, it doesn't work anymore.
Michele Hansen  45:15
Can I look it up on Internet Archive? Or it's like,
Sean Fioritto  45:19
Probably you can, yeah. Yeah, it doesn't. I used to have it just up so that I could, you could go to the URL. But yeah, so you'd have to go through the Internet Archive. But I had, and I did a, I did a write up on the landing page tear down and discussed screenshots from the, from the old version. It was truly, truly awful. But I sold $7,000 worth of book through it. So,
Michele Hansen  45:40
Can I ask you how much you sold overall? Do you reveal that?
Sean Fioritto  45:44
Yeah, yeah, of course. So it's actually hard to know because the, well, because as I've revealed I'm not fantastic about keeping track of my finances, or I wasn't then, but the, the book, through its lifespan, has made about $150,000. 
Michele Hansen  46:06
Sean Fioritto  46:07
And most of that was the first two years because I was really, really actively pushing it. And then it just sort of, like, continued to make sales in dribs and drabs, and now it makes, probably, I don't know, I think I sold $1,000 worth of it last year, which makes sense, because it's pretty out of date at this point.
Michele Hansen  46:28
That'd be interesting to know why people are still buying it.
Sean Fioritto  46:32
Well, because the concept of designing in a browser is still something that people, you know, talk about from time to time. Should designers write code, or should they be using Figma, or at the time, you know, Sketch or Photoshop, I think all my copy is about Photoshop. So, you know, so like, I think that that concept is still valid. My copy is a little dated, the, the tech inside the book is a little, little dated at this point, though, still useful. So yeah, I think that is just the, so that was one of the things that I learned for content marketing was the, so if you want something to be really like, a really big hit, and to sort of like, make the rounds on the internet, you know, just those articles, it's sometimes just like, everybody's reading. The key to those is there has to be, well, there's like three rules. But like, one of the rules is, it has to be something everybody's talking about right now. And so at the time, everyone was talking about should we design in the browser? That was a big point of conversation. I would say now, like a similar level of conversation would be people talking about how much they hate single page apps, like in the Ruby on Rails community and trying to like, get off of that, right. So like, if you wrote a book about building single page app equivalents in Hotwire or something like that, that would probably resonate really, really well with that community right now. And you'd get a lot of free buzz when it's, people are already talking about it. So that's the problem. I think that that's why, like, hardly anybody's buying it now. But still, people are talking about that. So you get like, a little bit. And then also, I have all these marketing automated things that are still running. So like, I have some content that I accidentally wrote that has a lot of Google traffic, right? Like, I didn't accidentally write it, but I accidentally, like, did some search engine optimization on it. And so I get quite a bit of traffic from those pages, and then they end up signing up for, like, my tutorial things. And then they're in my little email automation thing that I set up, and eventually they get a pitch and then they, and then they buy. So there's some trickle down of that.
Michele Hansen  48:50
That makes sense. So, I guess, and this will be my last question. Um, is there anything else I should know about selling a book?
Sean Fioritto  49:02
Yeah, you don't have to do any of the things that I said, like. Like, well I think, I think you're already like doing all the right things. I was pushing really hard to make it my business. And so that, and frankly, once it got to the point where it was my business, that was a distraction for me. It made it hard, harder for me to stay relaxed and focused on doing the things that were the best for my customers, like, once money became this, like concern. So to me, you have this advantage of like, you don't have to, you don't have to worry about that. Like, each one of the things that I did, like it feels like you should bone up a little bit on how to do a launch, though that's not too difficult. You don't have to do like, the greatest job ever, and you maybe even already know how to do that to some extent. But other than that, I don't know, like 200 people on the mailing list, probably enough already. And you'll get more as people are more and more interested. And, you know, do you have an email subscribe on any of your content at all that you've written?
Michele Hansen  50:16
So it's all in review, so I think it all has a subscribe link at the bottom. 
Sean Fioritto  50:22
Michele Hansen  50:23
I think I have one on Twitter, like, on my pinned tweet is a subscription to the newsletter.
Sean Fioritto  50:30
Yeah, yeah. Cuz like, by the time I was doing it full time, I mean, the number of, I was doing so many other things that we didn't even talk about, for marketing, which it's like, we don't, we don't even need to go there. Because you don't, you don't need to do any of that stuff. I think you're doing everything right. And I would think carefully about, like, what your goals are with the book, and, for both you, you and for your customers, and then kind of size it right size it accordingly. And don't feel guilty about not doing all the right marketing things, because the right marketing things, just as long as you're focused on your audience and the people that are going to be reading your book, you're doing the right thing.
Michele Hansen  51:13
Hmm. Well, thank you for that, like, boost of encouragement. 
Sean Fioritto  51:19
You're welcome. 
Michele Hansen  51:21
I guess to wrap up, we should mention, by the way, that you have your own show. And you're actually getting something off the ground right now. Do you want to talk about that for a second?
Sean Fioritto  51:34
Yeah. So my friend Aaron Francis and I, we have a company called Hammerstone, that's at Our podcast is, is linked to there on the home page. We have, like you guys, it's kind of like a ride along podcast, and we just do our weekly check in we record it as a, as a podcast. And what we're working on is a drop in component for Laravel. The component allows you, allows your users to build, dynamically build queries, which they can, you could then use to display reports, etc. to them. Yeah, so that's, that's our new thing that we're working on. That's a new thing for me. I should probably have a whole other podcast and invite you on, ask you about how I should be marketing my software business.
Michele Hansen  52:30
So by the way, so, the podcast is really good. We finished it on a road trip a couple of months ago, and you should totally start at the beginning because, like so, so yes, like, the software part is interesting. But there's this whole other element that Aaron's wife is pregnant with multiples. And the podcast started in like, December, right? 
Sean Fioritto  52:52
Michele Hansen  52:53
So, and she was due in April. And so there's this like, whole, like, tension of it of like, oh, my god, like, are they gonna get to launch stuff before, like, Aaron goes from being not a parent to the parent of multiple children overnight? Like, is it like, is it gonna happen? And I found myself as I was listening, I was like, oh, my god, like, like, it really added this element of suspense that I have not felt while listening to another podcast, and it made it very enjoyable.
Sean Fioritto  53:24
You know what's frustrating. I just realized your audience actually overlaps with the audience of my product. And I just did a horrible job of pitching it. I was like, I could just sort of half-ass explain it here. But,
Michele Hansen  53:34
All you Laravel people, like, just check it out. 
Sean Fioritto  53:37
Yeah, that's good. 
Michele Hansen  53:40
Just take my word for it. This has been really fun, Sean. Thank you so much for coming on. 
Sean Fioritto  53:50
You're welcome. 
Michele Hansen  53:51
I really appreciate all of your advice. And I, I don't know what you call the, the anti-advice. You know, don't ignore taxes. And encouragement and perspective, that really means a lot to me. 
Sean Fioritto  54:08
You're welcome. Thanks for having me on. 
Michele Hansen  54:11
This is awesome. So if you guys liked this episode, please leave us a review on iTunes. Or let us know that you listened on Twitter, and we'll talk to you next week.

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