Introducing: subscriptions to books and courses

The "everything included" package

Author's image
Tamás Sallai
5 mins
Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

I'm changing my offerings from one-time per-book payments to a subscription that includes all my content that I'm selling directly. This is the next step on my journey to make a living out of teaching. And in this post I'm describing the thinking behind this change.

My main focus is to explore what is the best way to write software. I do a lot of research and exloration and keep up-to-date with the changes and also to develop my understanding. My mid-term goal is to make a living out of teaching others how to be better developers and so that I can focus on that more.

For more info about the subscription, go to this page.

First try: platforms

My first try was to sell books via platforms: Amazon, Leanpub, Google Play books. The idea was simple: I provide the content and these platforms will do the marketing and selling. As you can tell it did not work out that well: the amount of money I got from these sales were minimal and their pricing structure forced me to a specific price (especially KDP).

All these platforms are full of success stories: somebody made some content and got a nice living out of that. What I found is that there is a bias here: of course some of the authors get rich out of the masses who sell. But that does not mean that the average makes decent money. I'm sure that there are many tricks and techniques to raise my position and ratings, but that moves me away from what I like to do: providing content.

Second try: direct selling

So I got disillusioned with the platforms and my next try was to use a middleman to handle the technical part but otherwise act only as a storefront. I chose Gumroad because it has a sensible pricing structure and offers an API that I could integrate.

With this step I was no longer tied to a specific price. What I found is that for the target audience these books are a great investment: for example, to figure out how to use AppSync I needed ~2 months but with the book that I wrote based on this research that can be shortened to ~1 week. The savings are huge no matter how much the book costs. So I could ask for a price that more reflected the amount of work that went into creating the book.

This model worked way better than the first try. While I did not have too many sales, the income I got this way was way better than from what I got from the platforms. So I was fairly happy with this model.

But then I started to see the problems with it. The AppSync book is a success, but other less marketable ones (the JS async book and to some extent the Signed URLs book) are struggling. I found that AppSync is in the sweet spot: AWS markets it, people want to use it, and there are not too many good resources out there.

So, this model works for more visible topics but does not work for others. But this second category is still very important and I want developers to master these topics as well. I don't want to just focus on things that sell well.

Then, of course, for some people the price is still too high. While for a developer who is working with AWS as a day job it's an investment, for students, for example, the math works out differently as they might not have a salary to offset the cost.

Third try: subscription

So, here's my next try: the "everything included" subscription model. The idea is simple: for a monthly fee you'll have access to all my books and courses with some temporary exceptions.

I hope that it will solve my main problems described above: every topic covered adds value to the whole package so I'm free to explore the more nuanced topics without worry about marketability. Professionals can keep subscribed so that they have continued access to new and existing content and updates to use as a reference and to keep up-to-date with AWS. And students who have more time but less money can subscribe for a shorter time and learn the contents in a more concentrated way. And I might get a more predictable income in the meantime.

As an extra, it can also be a patronage system. This whole thing is a personal project: these are no investors or stakeholders, it's only me. By subscribing and keeping the subscription you can support my work so that I can explore and write about technology more. And in exchange you'll have access to all my works.

June 8, 2024

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