It’s almost February, so that means it’s time for the January author update!
We’re working on a number of things, but in terms of what we’ve actually shipped in January, it has either been focused on improving the newsletters or on simplifying Leanpub:
- We added bundles and courses to the weekly and monthly sale newsletters. Make sure you opt in to Leanpub discounts for them!
- New unpublished books now get added to the profile pages on first publish. If you published a book since June 5, 2019, we have made it visible on your author profile page, since your expectation should have been that it would be there already. To show or hide any book, go to your book dashboard.
- We have discontinued the Shelf Performance Plan. You can still buy spots on The Shelf here.
- We have discontinued the Conference Purchase Program. You can still sell to conference organizers directly, of course. See below for our recommendations!
- We have added Featured and Sponsored discounts to the newsletters. This newsletter shows an example.
Furthermore, you made it possible for us do all this without chopping down a single tree or selling any single-use plastics. That’s possibly a bigger deal than using a paper or reusable straw (or no straw at all, since paper straws taste terrible), so thanks! :)
Bundles and Courses in Newsletters
We’re really excited that bundles and courses are in our newsletters now!
Our weekly and monthly sale newsletters have already both earned Leanpub authors tens of thousands of dollars in royalties on their book sales. (We’re late to the party on emphasizing newsletters, so I can’t say hundreds of thousands of dollars yet!)
But until this month, they could only include deals on books, not on bundles or courses.
Now this is changed!
So, if you haven’t opted in to Leanpub discounts for your books, bundles or courses, please do so. You can find the options for your books, courses and bundles here:
- the book pricing page (Author > Books > Your Book > Store > Pricing)
- the course pricing page (Author > Courses > Your Course > Store > Pricing)
- the bundle edit page (Author > Bundles > Your Bundle > Edit)
Author Profile Pages and Book Visibility
In terms of your author profile pages, in June 2019 we made a change where new unpublished books were not automatically added to author profile pages. This was a good idea, since typically if you are just starting a book, you don’t want to promote it yet. And we don’t want a bunch of unpublished books cluttering up the profile page of an author with one or more published books or courses. (Yes, it can be useful to promote unpublished books to test the market, once you've created a good landing page, book cover, etc. However, that doesn't happen automatically, so we should not have been adding unpublished books to the profile pages automatically.)
This was a good change, in theory.
However, we made two mistakes:
- We didn’t announce this change properly.
- We didn’t make books get automatically added to the profile pages on first publish.
The first mistake was small; the second mistake was huge!
We have fixed both mistakes now. But what to do about all the books which had been published since June 5, 2019 that were not visible on profile pages?
Well, we had two choices:
- Leave them hidden from the author profile pages.
- Show them on the author profile pages, email the authors directly, and announce the change here.
We’re going with option #2. Today I just emailed every author who was affected by this.
Leanpub is almost 10 years old (!), and for almost our entire lifetime, if you created and then published a book, it would have been visible on your author profile page. So, the expectation for an author should have been that published books would have been visible on their profile pages. For this not to be the case is, in almost all cases, an error.
So, rather than ask everyone to go update their profile pages via our Book Dashboard page, we are doing the following:
If you have published a book since June 5, 2019 which was currently not visible on your author profile page, we have made it visible on your author profile page, and emailed you directly. We are also announcing the change here.
To show or hide any of your published or unpublished books, go to Author > Books > Dashboard, and mouse over the little eyeball on the relevant book cover(s), and choose to Show or Hide the books appropriately.
To show or hide any of your published or unpublished courses, go to Author > Courses > Dashboard.
Regardless of whether you’ve published anything since June of last year, we recommend that every Leanpub author take a few minutes to ensure that what is visible on your author profile page is what you think it is, by looking at the dashboard pages for your books and your courses.
(For me, for example, I kept getting unpublished books added to my profile pages, which I would then have to keep removing!)
We’re sorry about the mistake here, and we will work to do better in the future.
Discontinuing the Shelf Performance Plan
Last year we tried an experiment with a Shelf Performance Plan. I would explain how it worked, but that would be boring and annoying for you to read, and boring and annoying for me to write, since it was far too complicated. This was entirely my fault!
One theme of the past few months is that if we’re not happy with something, we either remove it or fix it.
So, although the Shelf Performance Plan came from good intentions, it was too complex, so we’re getting rid of it. Instead, we’re planning to replace it with something else, which we’ll announce and explain sometime in the next few months.
Discontinuing the Conference Purchase Program
Speaking of ending experiments, we’re also ending the Conference Purchase Program.
Again, this was something which we launched with good intentions. We even made a few authors a small amount of royalties.
However, we got the feature wrong.
We had been overly optimistic: we thought it would be great if we could build a self-serve way for conference organizers to buy books at a discount to give away to their attendees at conferences.
This is totally great, except for one small thing:
Conference organizers don’t want a self-serve process.
Instead, they want email communication, proper invoices, and some of them even want to send us wire transfers.
Now, there are a few problems with all that:
- We weren’t actually adding much value.
- What we earned wasn’t worth the time and effort for us.
- The payment and royalty remitting and accounting was manual and out-of-band.
By #1, I mean that when a conference organizer contacted us, authors would possibly have been better off if we had just made an email introduction between them and the conference organizers.
The authors could then negotiate a fair price with the conference organizers by email (which would have been similar to what we had done for some books, and possibly much higher for others!), send an invoice themselves if necessary (which it always is), and get paid directly by PayPal or wire transfer.
The conference organizer would pay the author directly, and the author would make a free coupon code for, say, 500 copies. Leanpub wouldn’t earn anything directly from these sales, and we are totally fine with that. (We like free sales, since we get a bunch of new readers, who hopefully buy one or more other Leanpub books and join one or more of our newsletters!)
In fact, not only are we fine with this process, we wrote a couple of articles in our Help Center explaining exactly how we think the process should work:
These are just recommendations, of course: we’re not running this program anymore, and authors are free to do whatever they wish!
By #2, I mean that since we pay 80% royalties, after the PayPal fees and any currency conversions or wire transfer fees, the amount of money we earned from the conference purchases just were not worth it when we were selling between $500 and $2000 of books at a time. We could consider offering authors a lower royalty percentage on conference purchases, but that would add complexity and hurt our messaging, so we really don’t want to do that.
By #3, I mean that since this was an experiment, we didn’t build a bunch of back-end code to report or pay those royalties nicely. Instead we would pay the author manually, and track everything manually in Excel. Again, this made it more work to do for each conference purchase. However, since we are ending the experiment and killing the feature, I’m glad we didn’t write any more code than we did!
Anyway, in a parallel universe where we just define elaborate self-serve workflows, write a bit of code and even less documentation, and everyone magically does what we want, this could have been a great feature.
But in this universe, it was a stupid feature, so it’s now gone. Lesson learned.
Finally, we have added Featured and Sponsored spots to the newsletters.
Now, you wouldn’t know this, since we haven’t actually featured any books, bundles or courses yet in any of our newsletters. Nor have we had any books, bundles or courses sponsor a newsletter yet.
Both of these things will change reasonably soon. So, I’ve arbitrarily chosen some featured and sponsored books, bundles and courses to show in this newsletter as an example, so that we can reference this newsletter when explaining what they look like.
The featured spots will be editorial, just like the featured book on the homepage. The sponsored discounts will be purchased either for a flat fee from the Shelf Spot purchase page (or something like it), or via another mechanism I’ll discuss in the next few months.
Well, that was a lot of words, even for me (Peter). Sorry about that! We hope you had a great January, and that you have an even better February!