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This Average Developer Made $2.3M Selling an eBook - Here’s How You Can Copy His Results

by | Jan 2, 2023 | Income Streams, Money

Average people have expertise.

Many just don’t realize it. They go to work daily as an expert in their field but never think to turn it into an eBook.

Why? Publishing a book feels overwhelming. You need a book publisher, don’t you?

Average computer programmer Adam Wathan figured out another way. He’s made millions of dollars from it. You can copy his strategy. Maybe you won’t make 7-figures in the first year. But you can easily do 6-figures.

The overly simple book that *should* have made $0

Adam figured out developers suck at writing clean code.

He wrote a simple eBook about how to fix the problem called “Refactoring to Collections.” In 2017 he launched it.

Now you might think he was popular or had some huge email list. No. From the research I did it looks like he had a small blog and about 1000 email subscribers to start.

In 3 months, the book made over $100,000. In 11 months, it made $138,835 and still brings in $1000-$2000 a month. Let’s dissect.

Build in public

The whole way through Adam documented the process of making the book and launching it with regular tweets.

As people followed his journey they thought two things:

  • That book could help me
  • I’d like to write an eBook

The attention gave him an audience to sell his book to.

Go where the people are

Adam went to places like Twitter to find internet users who might like what he had to offer. He didn’t go into some quiet corner of the internet or beg strangers who don’t care about clean code to promote his book.

Don’t do it for the money

Adam’s goal wasn’t to get rich, buy a Lambo, and wear a Hawaiian shirt. He says he just liked the idea of publishing a book and solving a problem for people. Things we do solely for money become soul-crushing.

Start small

Adam had a dream to sell a digital product for years.

He never did it because every idea became too big or ambitious, and that intimidated him.

Once he saw the project as a mini-book of 30–40 pages that he’d sell to a tiny email list and 4000 Twitter followers, everything changed.

Treat books like an investment property that generates passive income

After the small success of his first book a realization hit him in the head like a baseball bat to the skull.

Many of us can’t afford an investment property. But we can afford to invest our time in another asset: an eBook. eBooks are digital assets that you create once and that produce income for years.

Adam’s realization:

The “stuff you make” is an asset class.

He says you don’t need to buy assets. You can create them. I did the same with my eBooks. I wrote them years ago and they still make sales every day while I sleep.

The $2.3M massive eBook success (still blows my mind)

Adam’s second project was another eBook called “Refactoring UI.”

He also figured out that developers suck ass at front-end and UI design. He realized if the typical developer could get better at design it would enhance their career. The category isn’t a huge niche.

The problem Adam solves is small. But there’s a market for anything if you’re smart about it. And the scale of the internet is massive so you don’t need a popular category.

This second eBook has sold over 20,000 copies and made over $2.3M USD. This last update was in 2020 so it’s likely more than double that now. WOW.

Here are the lessons from the second eBook.

The coolest eBook lesson of all…

Charge bloody high prices!

This is perhaps the biggest takeaway for me. Adam’s second book has two pricing tiers. $99 USD for the eBook and 3 tutorial videos. $149 USD for those two things plus fonts, component galleries, and a library of icons.

His advice is to get the hell out of the $20 eBook category. All you do is add videos, exercises, coaching, digital products, etc. Adam doesn’t even call his book a book. It’s a survival guide.

If I told you a month ago that books were selling for $150 USD, you’d have thought I was on crack. But now you know.

eBooks can sell for high prices … so you can work less.

Add a second author

Adam added his mate Steve Schoger for the second eBook.

Now Adam had access to his followers and email list, too. I did the same with my digital products business. Close friends said “but you have to give away 50% of the revenue.”

No sh*t Sherlock. But the business partner I added instantly helped me double revenue. There’s power in numbers. More people equals more digital leverage.

Being too greedy will keep you poor forever.

Give your work away for free ya tightarse

“Free” is one of the best online strategies in history.

As they say, make your free stuff better than everyone else’s paid stuff. Adam describes putting out free work online as compressing a spring. Finally, when he had a product to sell people were happy to pay.

It’s called the Reciprocation Bias, according to Farnham Street founder Shane Parrish. If you try and charge money from day one, it’s the equivalent of saying “pay me b*tch” to a stranger you’ve never met.

But the free strategy allows you to build relationships.

When you do work for free for long enough, it secretly generates IOUs. Once you eventually sell an eBook people can’t help but support you, without the need for you to jam it down their throats. Win-Win.

The “get two free chapters” strategy

Adam’s website doesn’t try to instantly sell you his eBook.

No. The main option is to get you to download two chapters of the eBook for free in return for your email address. Once he has your email he knows it’s easier to have a conversation with you about a $99 purchase.

There’s the free strategy again making big bucks.

Screenshot via Refactoring UI website

Use the eBook to sell an even higher margin product

Adam has a third product called Tailwind UI. It’s a bundle of design components and website templates.

The eBook creates a strong organic path to Tailwind UI, which costs even more and has higher margins.

The cool way he reverse markets his eBook is by mentioning it in the technical documentation for his Tailwind UI product.

This simple strategy is how Tailwind UI does 5x the revenue of the eBook! I estimate that to be around $10M from Tailwind UI alone. Holy crap.

What you should have learned about eBooks by now

So let’s wrap all of this up.

You don’t need to be an expert. You don’t need a massive marketing budget. And you don’t need a huge online audience.

You need to be resourceful to make $2.3M from an eBook. And every one of you reading this has the potential.

The challenge is we’re still told we need book publishers for eBooks. But even if you get a book publisher they’ll be lucky to spend a cent marketing your book, according to the experts.

So the problem with eBooks isn’t the book. No. It’s a marketing problem. When you post on social media you solve the marketing problem.

Now there’s no excuse to fail. That’s what you should have learned by now after reading about this $2.3M eBook story.

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