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Reviews

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Erich Stauffer
Erich Stauffer@erichstauffer · Director of Web Analytics, Managing Acti
I read this book this weekend. I know a lot about ecommerce and SEO, but I didn't know about subscription-based businesses specifically. I have used Chargify and Recharge with Shopify, but I hadn't used Cratejoy. I had heard of Subbly (they cold emailed us) and was leaning that way until I read Bemmu's description of each. After reading his book, I'm leaning towards Cratejoy because it allows for one-time purchases (like Shopify). One thing I didn't see in the book was whether or not Cratejoy supports static pages and blog posts as that is an important part of content marketing and SEO. A quick view of their website shows that they don't have one built-in so maybe that's why he didn't list it (or maybe he did and I missed it). The case studies he did mention I hadn't heard of, but it would have been nice to hear a more in-depth perspective on sites like Dollar Shave Club and how they used video. The use of video in marketing was not covered as much as I thought. Maybe that's because he wanted to highlight non-obvious marketing things like Reddit. By the way, the book helped me realize my Reddit account was shadowbanned. It helped me realize why my account could never be found, my comments were always missing, and posts I made were instantly deleted. I know it's a ton of work to write a book and I applaud Bemmu for writing this and finishing it. I'm still figuring out what products to sell and I was hoping this book would help me figure out what products to sell. It did help me understand the price point that is most common among subscription products ($20-$30 a month) and that items should be lightweight. Those two things alone give me some guidelines. I hope that this book opens some new doors for him and helps others as it has helped me.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Services for startups
@bemmu can you tell us the story behind this book and what the writing process was like?
Bemmu Sepponen
Bemmu SepponenMaker@bemmu · Candy guy
So this is how I got into making this book. Two of my friends wrote successful ebooks, namely Sacha with Discover Meteor (http://www.discovermeteor.com) and Laksman with Side Project Book (http://sideprojectbook.com). While writing a book seemed like a huge undertaking, with their example I convinced myself that I knew enough about a niche topic to write a non-fiction ebook on it. My chosen topic is subscription boxes, because I had already been doing some blogging (http://www.candyjapan.com/blog) about running one for a long time and figured that if I can just ramp up my efforts to 2 pages a day, then eventually I would have enough content for a book. I did much of the initial writing in Google Docs, before deciding to go with Leanpub (http://leanpub.com) and reformatting everything in Markdown. Leanpub can create PDF, ePub and mobi from the Markdown manuscript. For live previewing Markdown I used [Marked 2](http://marked2app.com/) and for editing Sublime Text (http://www.sublimetext.com/). For [the book cover](http://imgur.com/nw7rM0e) I used [99designs](http://99designs.com). I'm very happy how it turned out, but so far the book sales haven't even covered the cost of the cover. I wrote what I thought to be a decent outline and started writing. It was going well at first, I was filling my writing daily writing quota and gradually the manuscript was growing. But then I started having some doubts. Mainly I wasn't convinced that the outline was actually doable. I was creating a lot of content, but was it any good and would it actually form a coherent whole? I had hoped to produce many blog posts as a byproduct, but that wasn't happening either as the topics were not very blogpost-like and I had no audience to share them with (you can't really do a Hacker News post about how to commission boxes). In the middle it got very difficult to keep going, until I realized that the lack of good outline was the major cause, so I went back and redid the outline to be more realistic. That got me back into the groove and started writing every day again. I installed an app called Commit (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/...) which showed a notification each day, so I would keep motivated to write. Many days I stalled because I would hit a difficult topic that I didn't know much about and would need to stop and research. That involved reading a lot, Googling a lot and emailing a lot of people. On the bright side this left me with a feeling that by doing the research I was actually providing useful information and not just writing random nonsense. Soon I was closer to the end than the beginning. I kept going... and my goal expanded to writing 100 pages. When that goal started getting near, I started to realize that my topic is actually really broad. Not only does it encompass most things in running an online store, but also packaging, marketing and many other topics. You could write thousands of pages on these. Now instead of struggling to write, I found it difficult to stop writing :) As the manuscript ballooned to 138 pages I figured I had gone far enough to hit publish. I spent a good while wrapping everything up cleanly and then started learning about how to actually publish it. Fortunately having the foresight to switch from Google Docs to Leanpub made this pretty easy, as Leanpub produces PDF, ePub and mobi formats by default. I was dreading the iBooks submission a bit. It turned out not to be super painful, but it did take about three times as long as Kindle. I regenerated the book several times because it contained images that were too large for iBooks, or my screenshots would be the wrong resolution. You can see your iBooks sales stats on a site called "iTunes connect". You can also manage your book pricing there. The same place is also used when you submit iOS apps. I was already registered as an app developer, but to my surprise discovered that the same account cannot be both an app developer AND a book author. So I had to create another Apple account for that. Kindle was painless. After submitting to Kindle and iBooks, both of them were to my satisfaction approved the very next day. Besides iBooks and Kindle, I wanted to be able to sell the book on my own site as well. I bought an ebook landing page template and figured out how to host it as a static page on Google App Engine servers and uploaded it. All of this only took a few hours and soon I had a pretty decent landing page. I signed up to Gumroad and set up my product there, so that they could handle handing off the digital files to anyone who wanted to complete a purchase on my landing page instead of Kindle/iBooks. It's rather cool that on your own page through Gumroad you can keep 95% of the revenue, while Kindle is somewhere between 35 - 70% (with additional charges for data transfer) and iBooks is 70%.