First sale!

16 April 2018

Huge week to share with you!

This week I presold my first three copies of Camel Step by Step, my beginners guide to Apache Camel ebook.

I made my first sale last Monday, and then made two more, later in the same week!

I was gobsmacked.

This is the first time I’ve offered up a product for sale online, and I’m very excited to have made sales. This happened without any spammy marketing campaigns, “outreach” or even any backlink building.

My sole strategy is writing decent content, hoping to get indexed by Google and helping people out.

I’m actually still writing the book, but last week I made it available as a “soft pre-launch”. This is where I’m taking pre-orders for the book at a discounted price.

This has two main benefits:

  • For the reader, they get a prelaunch discount on the final book, which will be priced at $29 or higher. They also get to influence the content of the book: I’m taking suggestions from the community on what they’d like to see in the final content.

  • For me, it allows me to gauge interest level in the book and see whether it’s a product worth creating. I’ve read a lot of blogs which recommend doing this, instead of spending months locked away creating a product, only to quickly discover on launching that nobody wanted it in the first place.

To “launch”, I created a simple landing page and extended my current email campaign I send to new subscribers, adding a new email introducing the product.

I haven’t emailed my existing subscribers (of which there are just under 180), probably because I’m a bit afraid of asking for a sale without providing more value to them.

That’s a fear that I should get over. One of a few fears.

The fear

I get a lot of fears about releasing a product.

It’s difficult to release a product out there to the world, whether it’s a blog post or a book. I have a few “classic” fears that I have my head on rotation:

  • The product isn’t good enough

  • My writing is terrible

  • I’ve picked a niche that is far too small

  • I’m going to get negative reviews

  • The product doesn’t actually solve a problem for people

  • I feel guilty charging money for something I’ve created

There’s also a big dose of impostor syndrome that I want to get over.

All of these fears are things that I hope to overcome. I want to do that by simply getting my work out there, and into the hands of people who want it.

And that means shipping.

The first sale

So, fears aside, how did the first sale happen?

It didn’t start with outreach. It didn’t start with guest blogging, or Google Ads, or posting on Reddit.

It started with helping someone, 1-on-1.

On Clever Builder, I encourage comments and messages from blog readers. Readers can interact with me in three ways:

  1. I have comments forms on every article (powered by Disqus - soon to change to the Isso commenting engine).

  2. Mailing list subscribers can hit reply to any email, and email me directly with questions or feedback.

  3. There is also a traditional contact form where people can send messages and ask questions

This is because I like to hear from readers. I want to know if the stuff I’m producing is actually useful to someone.

My strategy at the moment – whether right or wrong – is just throwing content out there, on my topic, into the cold, unforgiving void of the internet.

How do you stay motivated if you don’t know if your content is helping anyone?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been exchanging emails with a blog reader from the USA. He originally got in touch via the contact form to ask a couple of questions about Camel.

I took time to respond to his question, responded freely to his follow-up questions, and eventually left him with a working example that demonstrated how he could achieve his requirement.

In response, the reader enquired about pre-ordering the book! He said he received quite a lot of value from me and was happy to support the book in return. I was surprised when my first notification from Gumroad came through to say that I’d made a sale.

Result! Sale number one!

The reader has also since emailed me to say that he’s looking forward to receiving the book when it’s released.

Customers 2 and 3

My second and third sales also took me by surprise.

I was at work a couple of days later, still thinking about my first sale, and thinking about writing this very blog post to share my news.

I went to my Gumroad dashboard to take a screengrab. And I was very puzzled when I saw that my dashboard was showing three sales.

3 sales in Gumroad!!

I put this down to one of my previous test purchases showing up erroneously. But, on further glance, it definitely looked like I’d made two new sales somehow.

When I looked at the sales data, it seemed that a further sale had come from someone else who I’d been helping with her Camel questions over email.

So, again, helping people and answering questions led to a sale.

My next sale came from someone who I had not interacted with directly, but who was on my mailing list.

These two sales came in one day! I took the train home from work with a spring in my step.

So in all three cases, sales came from people who I had either helped out with their individual questions, or who I’d built up a relationship with via my freebies and my mailing list.

The feeling of the first sale

This is the first product that I’ve created. It felt amazing to know that people actually want to buy something I created.

I previously worried that I was serving a tiny, difficult niche (enterprise integration developers!), and that it would be impossible to make a sale.

But my sales this week show that’s maybe not entirely true.

If you can provide real value to someone, they will buy from you.

I’m buoyed by these sales and can’t wait to finish the book. The great bonus is that I now have a small amount of data that I can start using to improve what I offer for my blog readers.


This post is part of my ride-along series, where I’m recording my progress in building and launching a product in 2018.