TL;DR: Started and ended the year well, with a depressing period in the middle. Published three programming ebooks, several blog posts, started a newsletter, improved Twitter readership, read 80+ novels, and so on. Had a good year in terms of ebook sales 😇
- 100 Page Python Intro — short, introductory guide for the Python programming language. Started writing last year, published in February
- Practice Python Projects — five beginner to intermediate level projects inspired by real world use cases. Started writing last year (before "100 Page Python Intro"!), published in July
- Command line text processing with GNU Coreutils — learn 20+ specialized text processing tools provided by the GNU coreutils package. Published in October
I also spent time updating all my existing books from February to May.
First and only workshop I conducted since the start of pandemic in 2020. And this was possible only because it was online. The topic was Python scripting introduction for Biotech students. Publishing "100 Page Python Intro" was timely for this workshop.
This took up most of my time during March/April along with updating existing books.
I've been consistently writing books for the past three years, but I find it difficult to come up with ideas for my programming blog. This is partly due to not wanting to repeat content from my books. Here's my favorite posts I wrote this year:
- Paying my bills with 'free' ebooks
- GNU BRE/ERE cheatsheet and differences between grep, sed and awk
- Escaping madness to get literal field separators in awk
- Perl / Unix One-liner Cage Match, Part 1 and Perl / Unix One-liner Cage Match, Part 2
I tried to be more consistent by posting short articles (see mini posts list), but lost interest. Starting a newsletter in November helped change my perspective about re-using content from my books. I've started posting tips and coding challenges that are short and easy to digest:
I was more consistent for my Escapist Reviews blog that I started late last year to review novels I read.
Had better sales compared to last year, which I really wasn't expecting. Especially when the average monthly sales was around $100 between May to September (my monthly expenses is around $150). This coincided with some health issues and the struggle to finish writing the "Practice Python Projects" book.
This led me to reading articles about better landing pages, building audience on social media, affiliates, etc. I still have a long way to go, but I feel these active efforts led to much improved sales in the last quarter of the year. I ended up deciding not to use affiliates though.
Here's my sales chart from Gumroad for this year (I had similar revenue from Leanpub):
There were plenty of reasons that led to the awesome last quarter sales. Here's some significant events I remember:
- Joined hands with fellow Python authors for The Indie Python Extravaganza bundle (given away freely for a month)
- A Twitter discussion led to the giveaway idea, which resulted in creating this bundle
- Combined marketing efforts by all four of us gave significant paid sales too
- Published "Command line text processing with GNU Coreutils"
- In addition to my usual practice of making a new book free, this time I offered All books bundle for $5 and a lot of users bought it
- Announcing the book on Reddit and Hacker News was well received
- I was beginning to improve my Twitter audience around that time, which helped a bit
- Got featured in Leanpub's monthly sales newsletter
- Jesse Smith on distrowatch.com wrote a lovely book review, which resulted in significant sales in December
- Getting featured on Ruby weekly
- Programming deals for the last week of November
- Helped a lot by commenting on Hacker News and getting featured in blog posts of fellow Python authors
- Interactive GUI app for Python regex
- As part of 50 days of break from book writing, I worked on this Python app
- Made it to the front page of Hacker News yet again
- "The Indie Python Extravaganza" bundle and some of my other books were featured in Leanpub's Boxing day sales
- And I believe creating GitHub Readme helped as well
The biggest takeaway for me was to actively look for opportunities (small or big) instead of just relying on free offering during book launch (which is about once in four months).
During the 50 days break, the other significant project I started was learnbyexample weekly newsletter. This is still in early stages to point out any impact it will have on my book sales, but it certainly has been a pleasure so far to email an issue every Friday.
And as mentioned earlier, this led me to write programming blog posts consistently (tips and coding challenges).
Building Twitter audience🔗
I joined Twitter in 2015. My follower count was less than 400 in July. In December, I crossed 1100. This is far from being impressive (I know a few authors who added more than 15000 followers during that time period).
Being active on Twitter led me to awesome opportunities mentioned earlier in the Book sales section. The best tips I can give is to tweet consistently, interact with your readers and don't be afraid to participate in conversations initiated by top users. Oh, and reading articles/books about social media audience building would help too.
Follow me on Twitter for interesting tech nuggets 😉
I enjoy reading fantasy and science-fiction novels. I read 80+ SFF books this year and recently wrote a post listing my top 10 favorites.
Goals for 2022🔗
Foremost goal is to continue taking care of physical/mental health. And I'd be more than happy if I manage yet another year with $250+ average monthly income.
- I'm currently working on Vim Reference Guide ebook. Likely to publish in the first quarter
- I started working on Command line text processing with Rust tools ebook even before "Command line text processing with GNU Coreutils", hope to publish in 2022
- Have several more book topics in mind, but not sure if I'll start working on any of them. And it is possible that I'll come up with something else I fancy and work on it instead of already planned topics
- Interactive apps for exercises from other books, similar to the one I did for Python regex
- Games for fun
- Continue to build an audience via Twitter, Newsletter, etc
- Contribute to other open source projects
Here's wishing you a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2022 👍 😇