May 15, 2020

$17,272 book launch in 2 days: Initial lessons

Philip Kiely

After reviewing the data, here are the three key tactics that helped me sell $17,272 and counting of Writing for Software Developers since May 12th.

Hacker News launch

I posted "Show HN: Writing for Software Developers" at exactly 8 AM Central time. I immediately left a long comment including an excerpt from the book talking about HN.

Some details:

  • Show HN gave the post visibility and sticking power
  • The initial comment gave people a reason to click on the comments section
  • The sales page was created with the Hacker News audience in mind


  • 6,359 clickthroughs to my website in 2 days
  • Reached #2 spot, spent hours in top 3 of Show HN, still on Show HN top 10 the next day
  • 150-200 copies sold

Interview Subjects on Twitter

My book includes interviews with 11 people. Many of them posted on Twitter about the launch, either by retweeting my tweet or writing their own threads about the project.

Some Details:

  • Jeff Atwood retweeted my announcement early on, which kickstarted the traffic
  • Patrick McKenzie and Daniel Vassallo wrote their own twitter threads, each of which directly converted to sales remarkably quickly


  • 76,601 impressions of the announcement tweet (pinned on my profile)
  • 2,423 clicks through to the sales page
  • ~500 new followers
  • 100-150 copies sold

Individual emails

Over the past couple of years, I have built up a small network within the software development and technical content world. I sent dozens of personalized emails and messages telling people that the book was available.


  • Multiple twitter posts and congratulatory emails
  • ~20 copies sold

I'm working on a more extensive writeup for my blog. Until then, if you haven't already, check out I'll also be posting a video walkthrough of my analytics soon on my twitter account

Bonus: three things that didn't work.

  1. Product Hunt. I launched at the same time on PH as Hacker News, but gathered only 9 upvotes, yielding basically no traffic
  2. LinkedIn. I have about 650 connections and am fairly active, but my post yielded very little traffic.
  3. Facebook. I posted, my family posted, my friends posted, but most people seeing these posts were not software developers.