Category Archives: Marketing

How I marketed and published a niche WordPress book

A few weeks ago, I released my first book “Discover object-oriented programming using WordPress“. The book had $11,040 in sales during its launch week. This went above and beyond the expectations that I had for how well the book would do. (I would’ve been ecstatic if it’d made even half of that.)

But before I go any further, I want to do a small preface. What I am going to talk about isn’t anything that I really figured out myself. All that I did was read a lot of what others had done and then tried to do it myself in my own authentic way. (That last part is super important though!)

I’m especially thankful to Nathan Barry and his book “Authority“. (Sadly, he doesn’t sell just the book anymore.) I’m also super grateful to Paul Jarvis who’s inspired me to have my own quirky voice through his newsletter. He and Justin Jackson (not the basketball player!) taught me that marketing didn’t have to be this slimy thing if you were authentic about it. (Justin has a course on marketing for developers.)

That’s also why I’m taking the time to write down all my thoughts about this experience while everything is still fresh. (Much like my year in reviews.) I was only successful because other people shared how they approached marketing and self-publishing a book. I want to do the same by sharing as much information as I can for anyone interested in marketing and publishing their own book.

Continue reading How I marketed and published a niche WordPress book

Making you proud

So yesterday I wrote about my first day doing Justin Jackson’s growing an email list to 1,000 class and the struggle of first time bootstrappers to build an audience.

The class continues

Today, we have to evaluate who are target audience should be. I think it’s pretty common for most bloggers to start writing about anything. I started talking about health and business topics because that’s what I was working on at the time. The content was also mostly educational. It didn’t help the reader in any way unless you just wanted to learn about health behaviour! By the end of the first iteration of Helthe, it was obvious I didn’t feel like writing about it. You should be passionate about what you write about!

A lot of the advice given is similar to what I had discussed when I started the PHP App Challenge. You should focus on your competitive advantage and the groups you are already part of that have money to spend (important!). I am very involved with WordPress, but I see myself as a PHP programmer more than just a WordPress programmer. So I want to write to programmers, but specifically those that work with PHP.

Another fortuitous discussion

For our homework, we had to come up with a statement to describe our audience and why were choosing them. I was struggling with the why, but then me and Justin started a discussion in the JFDI chatroom where we discussed PHP as a whole. This led to some great insight.

It started with me asking whether I could target programmers and still talk about products. He commented how there isn’t anyone talking about products using PHP or building products with PHP. I actually learned that Mailchimp is built entirely with PHP. This moved on, as it always does, to discuss how PHP is the second-rate citizen of the web. This has been mentioned many times on this blog already and it’s even the key reason I started Helthe.

To make PHP devs proud to be PHP devs

That line came from Justin, but it’s a great cause that any PHP dev can relate too. And just like that, I had my why. It’s a great why too. I can’t think of a week where I didn’t see this come up in conversation either in person or on the web.

I think it is partially why the community strives to do so much. There are so many cool projects going on and great developers working on them. I would say in the past 3 years, there has never been a day where I am not proud to be a PHP dev.

So following this new yet not so new insight, I finalized my homework statement for day 2.

“My name is Carl Alexander. The audience I am choosing is programmers who are using PHP, because PHP is awesome and we should be proud of using it.”

So things are shaping up

There’s a bit more of a mission statement around what this mailing list is going to be about. If you’ve liked what I have been writing, you can subscribe to my mailing list here! You can also keep checking the blog every day if that’s your thing!

Building an audience

Last night, I wrote a detailed post on the end of the Week of Hustle. The post concluded that, while the experience had been fantastic, I had been neglecting an important piece which was marketing. This week, I want to tackle it by working on building an audience using my mailing list.

Humble beginnings

My mailing list is currently sitting at a hilarious 6 subscribers (including myself!) so I really have no place to go but up at this point! Conveniently for me, Justin Jackson focused his Week of Hustle on building an educational product for growing email lists to 1,000 subscribers. I have kept all the emails from the course and I’ll be going through the first day of it today.

Defining an objective

What I need to do today is quite simple I have to simply talk about myself and why I want to do this. Justin goes on to list a few examples in his day 1 email, but there are two that stuck with me. They were:

  1. They want to sell their own products, and gain financial independence
  2. They want to increase their profile within their industry

While the second one is very compelling to me, it is not a good enough reason to be a list. The first one is. Following that bit of soul-searching, we had to write an objective for our mailing list. Mine turns out to be nearly the same as the one he wrote as an example.

“My name is Carl Alexander. I want a mailing list so that I can build and launch my own products and eventually earn an income from them.”

I am hardly the special snowflake here. This is a pretty common desire for all of us struggling with our first product. Mailing lists have been working amazingly well for all the bootstrappers I follow so it’s hard to argue against them. However, it does seem so very hard to do when you start at the bottom like making your first dollar.

I’ll be working on that this week as hone in my ideal audience and work on the other tasks that the course as in store for me. I am also still working on Helthe. I expect some more marketing site changes to be happening soon.

Keep up with my progress

Could this be a plug for a mailing list!? Why yes it is! If you’ve liked what I have been writing the past week, you can subscribe here! You can also keep checking the blog every day if that’s your thing!

Why it is only PHP

Looking for an update on what I did yesterday? Well I did NOTHING. I felt quite bad about it, but if there’s something my gym habit has taught me is that you can’t be perfect every day. But today I was ready to get things done!

It is worth noting that it is the last day to work on your roadmap for Week of Hustle. Tomorrow, you have to ship things out so I was determined to get through the rest of it.

A week ago by the campfire

Last sunday following the publication of my roadmap, I had a discussion in the JFDI campfire chat room with Andy Parkinson about Helthe and what the service was. The important part of the conversation is found below.

Campfire ChatThe main takeaway that I took is that I needed to really double down on what it meant to the user to have a solution for PHP. The other popular languages at the moment tend to have one dominant framework (Django for Python and Rails for Ruby), but that’s not the case for PHP and that needs to be better explained.

PHP is 80% of the web

PHP is so prevalent for many reasons, but the important point is that PHP is represented by more than just a framework. It is used to run web dominant CMSes and E-Commerce platforms as well as various frameworks so it’s not realistic to expect one PHP library to be adequate for each. I definitely don’t believe it is. And that’s where I draw my line.

WordPress is the best example of that. I already did an exhaustive analysis of WordPress errors and how they are handled. A regular PHP library would only capture a fraction of the problems that could happen within a WordPress installation. It’s especially complex because WordPress is so defensive in its way of handling problems.

I don’t have an issue with that per say because it makes WordPress very user-friendly which is one of its core values. It does, however, put an increased burden on the programmer who is looking for the cause of problems. This can lead to dangerous practices like cowboy coding because it’s just so hard to know what is going on at times.

We meet again copywriting

With all these ideas swirling in my head, I set to work modifying my marketing site copy.

Now I have a confession to make, whenever I have to do copywriting, I want to go hide somewhere and forget about it. It’s one of the many skills I need to build, but it’s definitely the one that makes me feel the clumsiest. I feel like Fry (Futurama) trying to play the holophor for Leela.

You have well constructed ideas in your head, but you have to put them out there and hope they get shared properly.

Before Screenshot

I wanted to modify the section that discussed the more PHP centric benefits for the user to be more descriptive and explain some of the  issues I brought up earlier in the post. After 4 hours, I got a result I was satisfied with.

After Screenshot
After Screenshot

I do actually think it is an improvement over the old version. I didn’t add the logos because I couldn’t make them look good on the page with the responsive layout so I kept them out. I am curious to know if logos are something you would consider important so let me know in the comments.

I did a small modification to the FAQ to say that the deadline had passed, but I was still working on it.

This goes up tomorrow

I’ll be pushing all this out tomorrow, but will be keeping the work I did on the account creation and API disabled. I’ll be writing up my thoughts on the experience as well.

Keep up with my progress

I have been bad and haven’t sent emails everyday as I should, this is the next thing I want to spend time tackling. I’ll be sending a detailed recap at the end of the project to my mailing list. You can subscribe here. You will also get all the info when things are ready for testing.