How Nathan Barry Made $12,000 in eBook Income in 24 Hours


Nathan Barry is a web designer who quit his job at a software company in October 2011 in order to work for himself.

In 2012, his first year of being self-employed, Nathan managed to make $145,471 USD, which is more than double of what he used to make in his last job. Interesting thing here is that over $85,000 out of that was income from his two e-books, “App Design Handbook” and “Designing Web Applications”. Want to know how it all started and how you can have similar success?

Let's take a look at the launch of Nathan's first e-book, “App Design Handbook”, with which he made over $12,000 in the first 24 hours, and uncover what he did right.

Starting Point

It's easy to look at Nathan now and say “Oh, he has a popular blog and a decent audience, no wonder he's doing well with his e-books.

An important thing to understand here is that although Nathan is quite well-known now, that definitely wasn't the case when he started working on his first e-book.

In fact, in June 2012, only 3 months before his “App Design Handbook” launch, his blog was only getting around 100 visitors per day and he only had 100 RSS subscribers.

That's why this particular launch is a great lesson for those who don't have a massive online following yet. Before you jump in, consider these points, which will help get your mindset on track:

  • You don't need a popular blog in order to make money with your product. Many people think that they need to build a high-traffic website first before they can sell anything. However, this can take years, and is a very inefficient way to go about it if your goal is to make money. What you really need is an email list.
  • When you consider the option of failing from the very beginning, and make your decisions accordingly, you prevent yourself from being disappointed later on.

  • You don't have to spend a lot of time in order to build a product that makes money. That is another mindset that holds people back from making money online: they think that it will take years before they can earn their first dollar this way.

    Nathan's story is a proof that you can go from an idea to thousands of dollars in profit in 3 months provided that you do things the right way.

  • Pick an amount of time that you can afford to waste on a product that ends up being a complete failure. Nathan mentioned in one of his interviews that the reason why he chose 3 months as a time frame for this project was because this was the amount of time that he was willing to spend on a personal project without guaranteed return on investment.

    When you consider the option of failing from the very beginning, and make your decisions accordingly, you prevent yourself from being disappointed later on.

Picking an eBook Idea

Nathan knows a lot about creating iPhone apps: he has three apps of his own in the App Store and has created quite a few apps for other people as well. It wasn't difficult for him to come up with an idea for an ebook about app design.

However, before investing time and energy into creating a product, Nathan wanted to make sure that there was an actual demand for it. He created a landing page that described the upcoming e-book and asked people who were interested in it to subscribe to his email list. Then, he drove some traffic to it, and got around 100 subscribers in a few weeks.

That success was enough to convince Nathan that it's time to start writing the e-book. Keep in mind:

  • Always validate your ideas. Most people are so convinced that their business idea is amazing that they don't bother to do a reality check. This often leads to wasting a lot of time, energy, and money on building something that nobody wants.

    You have to find ways to check whether there's enough demand for your product before creating it, even when the idea seems like an obvious winner.

  • You can't sell free, you can't sell paid. Squeeze pages are a cheap and effective way to validate your ideas. Put up a squeeze page in which you describe your product, offer a freebie, and ask people to subscribe to your email list. Then, drive some targeted traffic to it via guest posting, and see what happens.

    Getting 100-200 subscribers in a few weeks is a good indication that there's enough interest to justify creating that product. Keep in mind that if you can't convince people to give you their email addresses, you won't be able to convince them to give you their hard-earned money.

Writing the “App Design Handbook”

The "App Design Handbook" is 125 pages + bonus material. Nathan made a comittment to write 1000 words everyday. He took it seriously, kept writing every single day, and after just a bit over three months from the day he started, the e-book was finished.

It's important to set a daily writing quota for yourself. You won't get far if you only write when you are in the mood to write. One of the simplest ways to complete a big writing project is to commit to writing a set amount of words everyday (even 250 or 500 will do). This way, no matter how much you struggle with writing, you will have publishable material in your hands in due time.

Building a Pre-launch Email List

Nathan made sure to build an email list prior to the launch. He collected 100+ e-mail addresses just by creating a previously mentioned squeeze page and tweeting about it. Nathan also added an opt-in box under each of his blog posts. Then, he focused on writing valuable content, with hopes that people will like it, and sign up to his e-mail list. This way, he got around 800 subscribers prior to the book launch. Put these proven practices to good use:

  • Build an e-mail list prior to the launch of the product. Your launch will be much easier this way: you will be able to simply shoot an e-mail to hundreds or even thousands of people who already expressed an interest in whatever it is that you are selling. Keep in mind that the hardest part is not building a product, it is selling it.
  • Guest post on popular blogs in your niche. Nathan mainly promoted his upcoming ebook on his blog. This might work well if you already have a huge audience. However, that wasn't the case with Nathan, and he could have built a much bigger list if he would have focused on guest posting on popular blogs in his niche and driving that traffic to his squeeze page. Guest posting is the most effective way to build your pre-launch list fast.

Choosing the Right Price

Nathan knew a bit about pricing, therefore he decided to offer the buyers three options: base package for 29$, middle package for 59$, and the highest package for 129$ (current prices are 39$, 79$, and 169$).

He did all he could to push the buyers to the middle option, which in his opinion, provided the best value for it's price. He put these practices to good use:

There’s no such thing as an inherent value, there’s only the perceived value.

  • Price based on value. Many people who sell ebooks feel uncomfortable pricing them high because it doesn't cost anything to distribute ebooks (as opposed to paper books). This mindset is flawed, though: as long as your product provides value to people, and they are willing to pay the price that you are asking, it doesn't matter how much it cost you to produce it. Charge a fair price for the value that you provide.
  • Offer several packages with different prices. There's no such thing as an inherent value, there's only the perceived value. The price that people are willing to pay will largely depend on what they are comparing the product with: 59$ for an e-book seems outrageous when you compare the price with Kindle store prices, but it seems reasonable when you compare the price with the 129$ version of the same product.

    You want to have several different prices points in order to “anchor” people to the price range that you want. Otherwise, you might end up competing with Amazon's 0.99$ e-books, and that's not a race you want to be in.

Creating the Sales Page

Nathan made several interesting choices with his sales page:

  • He asks people to opt-in to his e-mail list to get a sample chapter (although you can get it without opting-in as well).
  • He nudges people towards the middle package with subtle design elements such as an orange “Buy it” button.
  • He uses a quote from Mark Kwano, who is UX evangelist at Apple, as social proof (instead of an actual testimonial about his book).

Take a look at the App Design Handbook sales page to see how Nathan put these principles into action:

  • Good design makes you look more credible. You can see that Nathan's sales page looks much better than most sales pages out there. This makes people more likely to trust him and buy from him (especially considering that the product itself is about design).
  • You should explain both features and benefits, but focus more on benefits. Features are qualities of a product (e.g. these shoes are waterproof) and benefits are the advantage that someone will get from using that product (e.g. your feet will stay dry).

    In general, people buy because of the benefits, and then rationalize the purchase to themselves and others using features, therefore copywriting experts advise to always focus on benefits in your copy. Nathan's sales page is focused almost entirely on features and would probably convert better if he would talk more about the benefits.

  • Add social proof even if you have to get creative about it. In general, having testimonials on your sales page increases the conversion rate, but if you don't have any testimonials yet, you can always add a quote about the topic by a well-known person. Surprisingly, it will still serve as social proof, even if it's a general quote.

The Launch of “App Design Handbook”

Nathan had an an email list of around 800 subcribers at the day of the launch (he originally planned to get 1000 subscribers, but didn't make it on time).

He sent out a free sample chapter to his email list a week before launch which led to a few unsubscribes, but overall made his subscribers more excited about the upcoming book.

Nathan also made sure that there was some buzz about the ebook on the launch day itself. He had 5 guest posts of his go live on the September 4th which drove a lot of traffic to his sales page and helped him get noticed by the web design and web development community.

Nathan ended up making over $1,000 USD within the first 10 minutes and over $12,000 withing the first 24 hours after the launch. Apply these pre-launch strategies to maximize success:

  • It's extremely important to build an email list prior to the launch. I know that I'm repeating myself, but I can't stress it enough. Nathan's launch was so successful because he already had 800 people who had expressed interest in his ebook and wanted to be notified when it came out. It's very hard to have a successful launch without an email list.
  • Too many people obsess about the launch day itself. That’s a mistake: you should obsess about what you do prior to the launch.

  • It's good to create some buzz on the launch day, but it shouldn't be your main focus. Having several guest posts of yours go live on popular blogs in your niche in the same day will make sure get you some attention. However, most of your sales on the launch day will come from your email list, not from the people who heard about you five minutes ago.
  • It's what you do prior to the launch that matters. Too many people obsess about the launch day itself. That's a mistake: you should obsess about what you do prior to the launch. That is what will make it or break it, not how many retweets you will get on the big day. Nathan managed to make over $12,000 in 24 hours because he focused on doing the right things for the entire summer, not because he did someting magical on September 4th.
  • Expect sales to decline very quick after the first 24 hours. Keep in mind that you will probably make your biggest lump of money on the launch day. Don't expect to keep making thousands of dollars a day after that: sales will decline drastically in the coming week or two and then stabilize at some point.

What Happened Next?

Nathan has three e-books for sale at the moment:

  • “App Design Handbook” with which he made over $12,000 USD in 24 hours on the launch day.
  • “Designing Web Applications” with which he made over $26,000 in 24 hours on the launch day.
  • “Authority” with which he also made over $26,000 in 24 hours on the launch day

Nathan has made well over $100,000 selling these ebooks in only 9 months from the day that he launched his “App Design Handbook”. Read more about these three ebook launches.

It's possible, you can make a living online. Nathan is a good example that if you do things right it's very realistic to make a decent amount of money selling info products. Keep in mind that he went from no experience with ebooks to making over $100 000 in e-book sales in only 9 months. It's amazing how much one's life can change in less than a year.

What are You Waiting For?

At the moment, there's a golden opportunity available for those who want to write and sell their own ebooks: there is a big demand due to Kindle and iPad sales, but the supply hasn't caught up with the demand yet. With the right topic it's not difficult to promote your ebook and get noticed.

You are probably an expert at something. Why not find a problem that people are struggling with and write an ebook that offers a solution to that problem?

Sure, there's a real chance that your first ebook won't be as successful as you would like it to be, but you will at least learn valuable business lessons, which will help you in your later endeavors. And, you just might hit the points we've discussed just right and land some reliable income out of the gate.

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