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Teach me how to code

Week 18 progress

Sébastien Dubois / March 21, 2021

5 min read

Hey there!

This week has been a real emotional rollercoaster for me.

I was really curious to see how many people would want to get a copy of the first tome. Unfortunately, I got 0 sales since I made it available, which has been quite demoralizing. I blame it partly on my bad marketing skills, but that's probably not the whole story...

I've received pretty negative feedback from someone, which was hard to take in (probably because I'm too emotionally involved in my work -- as usual). But it was good and honest feedback, so I needed to hear it. Also, I needed to take time and see how to adjust the course, which is why I haven't made much progress on part 3 this week either.

Here's an overview of the criticism, and how I analyze it / what I plan to do about it.

First of all, there were some unclear expectations. The reader that gave me his feedback is an expert in the field, but the part he read (tome 1: Software craft) is actually written with beginners in mind. I'd argue that it also contains a lot of useful & interesting information for people willing to improve their productivity & better organize their work, but my reader didn't read it all. He stopped half-way through the chapter and may have missed the most interesting part. He was disappointed though, so maybe I should've managed his expectations better.

The reader also told me that I should give this part away for free and that he would value it $5 at most because it felt like an introduction to him.

It is true that the first part refers many times to the other ones of the series; simply because I touch on many subjects, and tell readers that they'll learn more about those in part X or Y. So, in that sense, yes, it is an introduction. But on the other hand, that part is really separate from the rest, because it covers many concepts around professionalism, how to approach learning, how to learn about IT, what to learn and why, how to behave as part of a team, how to become a better decision-maker, how to approach problem-solving, etc. Many of those subjects are covered there and only there in the series. I think that I gave a lot of advice that, even though high-level, can really help many people become highly-productive professionals, and that took me a number of years to acquire.

Still, maybe the reader is right, and giving that part away for free could be a better way to lower expectations (for all readers alike), and raise awareness about the rest of the series. I'm not sure yet if I should do this, but I'm seriously considering it. Any idea is welcome about this! ;-)

Another point that the reader made was about the fact that many subjects were covered, but too lightly for his own taste. He would've preferred more in-depth explanations about fewer subjects. While that is a valid point, the thing is that this whole project is about explaining as many concepts as possible, as clearly as possible, and in a logical order. Given the wide range of subjects that I'll cover in the series, I just can't go in-depth with each. So yes, some subjects only get a few paragraphs, while they actually deserve entire books. IMHO, the first thing that newcomers need to get is a good high-level overview of IT, rather than an in-depth course about X, Y, or Z. And that's exactly what Dev Concepts is about. With this project, I explicitly chose to go for breadth rather than depth.

One last point he made was that I presented the part I gave him as "a part"; which left him with the impression that it was just one chapter of a larger book. The term "part" is one that I hesitated a lot to use. But now I realize that it was a mistake. From the beginning, I wanted each "part" of the book to stand on its own, to cover specific subjects, and to be sold separately. This is why I've now gone and replaced the term "part" with "tome" everywhere. I've also created new covers for each tome and adapted the visuals on the landing page, on Twitter, and on the sales pages. Hopefully, things will be clearer now:

Not getting any sales was really disappointing. First of all, because it shows that I've failed to raise enough interest in the project so far. If I did succeed in making it more visible, then at least a few people would've bought it just out of curiosity, or support me -- I guess. Another problem is that it prevents me from getting more feedback, which is why the idea of giving part 1 away for free is appealing.

To try and save the day, I ran a small Ad through Facebook (10€ in total), but only got ~30 clicks out of 3000 impressions, and 0 conversions (oops). This was a failed experiment. Too bad that I launched it before I decided to create new covers for the different tomes. I'll try it again later though.

There were more visits on the landing page this week (77), of course, linked with the ad and my announcements on Twitter/LinkedIn, but that is still really low.

To end on a more positive note though, I did get a support request from someone in Tunisia who wanted to buy the first tome and couldn't pay on Gumroad. Since I'm eager to get more feedback, I gave it away for free, in exchange for some. Now I keep my fingers crossed to hear some good things about the content.. ;-)

That's it for today!

PS: check out my Website, join the Software Crafters community, and come say hi on Twitter!