Reader questions re “What went right in 2016?”

Sent by Jonathan Stark on December 28th, 2016

Quite a few readers replied to my “What Went Right in 2016?” message with questions. Here are the most common, with my answers inline:  

Renting Office

Q: Why did you decide to start renting an office instead of working from home?

My house is no longer conducive to conference calls, podcasting, webcasting, etc because my kids (ages 3 and 6) are always home, and they’re louder than a Scorpions concert.

(We are homeschooling, hence the “always home” part.)  

Self-Publishing

Q: Can you share more about your switch to self-publishing? What were the benefits? What is there to watch out for? Did you hire an editor?

The primary benefit of self-publishing is that I have contact info for my readers. This has been a complete game-changer for my business. In contrast, I’ve probably sold 50k-100k books through traditional publishers, but I don’t have an email address for single one of those readers. Which sucks.

A secondary benefit is that I get 100% of the sale price. With traditional publishers, I get about $1 per book. With HBIN, I average about $35 per book. This massive 35x multiplier means that even though my self-publishing sales volume is a fraction of my traditional publishing sales volume, I’m netting as much with HBIN per month as I ever did with my best O’Reilly title (i.e., about $1500/mo).

I didn’t hire an editor, because I’ve been writing for a long time. But even with years of experience, plenty of issues crept into my first edition. Helpful readers alerted me to typos, grammatical errors, and confusing passages.

Moral of the story? If you are writing your first book, hiring an editor would probably be a good investment.

Other thoughts on self-publishing…

I paid to have the cover designed. It cost me about $500. I used 99designs and was 100% happy with the entire process and the final outcome. Folks very much do judge a book by the cover so investing in professional design pays off handsomely.

I wrote the book in Sublime Text 3. The files were plain text written in markdown format. I used git for version control. I converted the markdown files to PDF, ePub, and mobi using https://www.remarq.io/.  

No Coding

Q: If you’re not coding, then how are you making your money? Are all your earnings related to talking about “Hourly Billing is Nuts” stuff? Or are there other income sources too?

My income from HBIN related stuff is right around $100k, which is a fraction of my overall revenue. My primary income comes from monthly mobile strategy retainers. I have written about how I run my retainers before but can revisit if there is interest.

(If you’d like to hear more about my retainers, just hit reply and let me know.)

 Since you don’t code for money anymore, is there a risk of losing touch with the practical realities of the day to day aspects of development?

No, not in a meaningful way. I still do a fair amount of code review and I develop proof-of-concept code with some regularity. Sure, my dev chops get a little rusty, but that just means I have to Google around a bit more when I’m coding something new. Development is mostly a way of thinking, which is something that doesn’t fade away very quickly.  

Conference Alternatives

Q: What marketing will you be doing that scales better than conferences now that you’ve sworn off speaking gigs?

Mostly guesting on podcasts, hosting podcasts, and presenting webinars.

At my last conference gig - an opening keynote spot which typically has the best attendance of the entire event - there were maybe 300-400 people in the audience.

In contrast, each episode of Ditching Hourly gets 500-1000 listens (and the show is only two months old so I expect this to increase to at least double). More mature shows on which I have made guest appearances routinely get ten times that many listens per episode. I did six webcasts in 2016, each of which attracted 100+ viewers.

When you consider the time and stress associated with flying around the world to speak at live events, online “appearances” start to look very attractive. They are not quite as engaging as in-person events, but they require a lot less effort and reach a lot more people.  

Questions?

Do you have a question about retainers? Or self-publishing a book? Or marketing yourself with online events? Just hit reply and let me know - I read every message!

Yours,

—J


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