More than a year ago I decided I would write an ebook on building Micro-SaaS businesses. I was really enjoying the experiment in radical transparency, sharing the metrics and details behind building my own small software company on blog. Readers were enjoying the long form blog posts and I felt I had enough material that was genuinely new and interesting to put together a longer writing project. On top of that I saw several folks having some real success with ebooks, and having just read Nathan Barry’s Authority ebook about selling ebooks, I also thought it would be cool to try out a new business/revenue stream.
After a ton of thought and feedback from friends and readers, I’m killing the ebook project and moving the content over to my blog, where it will be available for free. You can start reading the first three chapters now here.
Because I like to over-share. Here are the main reasons why I decided to kill the project despite really not wanting to give up on it.
A big part of what I preach in my ebook is the concept of shipping fast and iterating. It’s also what I’m actually pretty good at. Writing a book is the opposite of that. You sit there and write and write and edit and re-write endlessly perfecting the entire product and hope for a splashy launch. It works well for some people but I hated it.
I began to dread opening up my text editor. I procrastinated interminably. My blog posts dried up almost completely because I felt it was too indulgent to spend two hours on a blog post when I was so far behind on my book. So in the end nothing would get written for months at a time.
Since I decided to write an ebook I’ve talked to, or found blog post or podcasts by, several ebook authors. Anecdotally it seems like, if you really crush it with an ebook, putting in nearly a year’s work of writing a great book, pre-marketing it, building an email list, doing guest posts on other blogs and in general doing a ton of non-sleazy self-promotion, you can earn $100,000/year for 1-3 years with an ebook project. This also seems to be outrageously rare. Most people with a medium-sized audience and a decent ebook can expect $5,000 – $20,000 unless it’s a total dud.
The email launch list, built only from my blog/Medium/Twitter is just over 1,000 people at this point. I don’t love doing some of the things that successful ebook marketers say, probably correctly, that you have to do to really sell a ton of ebooks. My honest assessment was that this ebook project would be a big success if I did $15k – $20k in sales in the first six months. Frankly compared to almost any other way I could spend my time that money just didn’t move the needle for me.
So the financial success of wrapping these ideas up in a package and putting a price tag on it just didn’t get me that excited. But more importantly, I just really did not like the idea of selling a book about how to make money on the internet. This is just the scammiest genre on the web and I was constantly re-writing sections of the book to strike a balance between having a strong confident opinion on something and not coming off as the 12-step sure fire plan for internet financial freedom.
I may find a way to make some money off this through speaking fees or transparent co-marketing or something, at the very to try to break-even on the 100s of hours I’ve spent writing about Micro-SaaS, but it just feels great to not be selling a book on it.
Some day I would like to write a book-length something. Just as a personal goal if anything. But I made a big mistake in choosing the scope of this ebook. A lot of good books have already been written about the various components of building software businesses: launching, marketing, building fast, supporting customers, hiring and so on. My value-add is in writing about my particular take on a business like mine. So the sensible format for the book was to go through almost every major topic in building a Micro-SaaS business, synthesize the information I found most useful, and provide my own caveats, deviations and strategies that specifically applied to a small, bootstrapped, profitable SaaS company.
This turns out to be an enormous scope! The latest draft in my text editor was over 45,000 words. On top of that, I’m still working on this business, learning new things quickly and evolving my thinking on many of these topics. I found myself reviewing early chapters (initially written a year ago) and having to completely re-write major sections because my thinking had changed so substantially. This is just not the kind of scope that lends itself to the static, crystalized structure of a book. I never felt like the project was getting any closer to done, the more I learned in real life the more I felt I needed to change, edit or add to the ebook. And all this action is happening in the track changes section rather than in public where it would actually be useful to people.
But I’m really excited now
The decision has been made and it feels great. Having the book free and online feels like a much more natural fit for this content. I’m energized to get back in the flow of publishing content, getting feedback, being as helpful as I can.
I’m also going to take advantage of the format. Rather than just giving you the digitized version of dead trees, I’m looking to build more interactive tools.
The first one is an email mini-series on the process of actually generating a Micro-SaaS idea. By far the most common feedback when I sent out the initial draft to 400 readers was to go beyond the principles of what makes a good Micro-SaaS idea. So I’ve put together five days of exercises that I think will be helpful to build a list of SaaS business ideas. From there you can use Chapter 2 of the ebook to help refine them and figure which ones are worth testing and validating. If you put your email in this form below (even if you already subscribe to my newsletter) you’ll start the mini-series, or mini-course, I’m not sure what to call it.
Micro-SaaS Idea Generation Mini-Course
Get 5 days of exercises in your inbox to help you come up with your own profitable Micro-SaaS business idea. Even if you've already subscribed to the newsletter drop your email in here to start the course.
Most of the content for each chapter is already written so hopefully I’ll be able to polish and publish them quickly from here on. If you want to get each chapter as they go live you should definitely put your email in one of the various forms on this blog. Thanks for reading and looking forward to getting this stuff out the door and in your inbox.