37signals has a post about how their self-publishing experiment is going with their Getting Real book. They are completely transparent and open, telling people they’ve sold just under 6000 transactions worth (about 10% are 10 copy site licenses). Thus, they have grossed about $130,000 from this in 30 days. If they sold 6K copies in paper in 30 days, that’d be a best-seller of a tech book. Because they didn’t go the traditional route with a publisher and didn’t publish in paper, almost all of that gross take stays with them. With a traditional publisher they’d be at what, $15,000 in royalties or so? Depending on their advance, that probably wouldn’t be at earn out yet.
This has no DRM but does have your name or company stamped inside it, which is fine with me. That’s how AlexLit used to do it on ebooks they sold. Just enough social pressure to make you think twice about sending around copies willy-nilly. If you want to print it out, that’s fine too.
I’m thinking about buying it, and if I do I’ll go site license just so I can send it to nine of my coworkers and colleagues. Years ago, when I was an a team at a startup I went to Powell’s (in the glory days when I could walk 4 blocks over to there) and bought copies of Robert Rodriguez’ Rebel Without a Crew for everyone on my team. I thought (and think) that was a true inspiration for how one should think about life in a startup. I’m looking forward to this book in a similar fashion, but for a specific approach to make life more livable in the startup I’m involved with now.
In the comments to that post, there is this great exchange between a commentor who questions whether this experiment is reproducible for anyone else and Jason Fried.
From Nick D:
It is important to note that not anyone can have this type of sucess selling a pdf. The reason you guys are able to do this (and I know you know this) is because you are number one in the web app space. You have a blog that people trust, great web services that everyone loves and loves to talk about, you (David) invented the wildly successful Ruby on Rails framework, and you (Jason) are a great speaker and it is wonderful that you openly give advice on how to be successful in starting web based business.
Response from Jason Fried:
No one gave us this position, we made it for ourselves. And that’s the message here: You can do it too. That’s why we’re sharing.
Amen, rock on, where’s my credit card?