30-day update: Getting Real, the book Jason 03 Apr 2006

48 comments Latest by Justin Akehurst

Here’s a 30-day status update on our Getting Real PDF book. We plan on providing these updates from time to time to encourage those considering self-publishing their own books/content in PDF format.

30 days in we’ve sold roughly 5750 copies of Getting Real. We’re counting a transaction as a copy sold, but out of those 5750 transactions, 530 were 10-copy site licenses. So, if you wanted to count each of those site licenses sales as 10 copies, you can add another 5000 or so copies to the total.

We’re happy to see that nearly 10% of the books sold have been in the 10-copy site license flavor. It’s nice to know that people will do the right thing if you give them a fair opportunity to do so.

Total revenue for the book has been around $120,000. Since the book is distributed electronically in PDF format, it’s nearly all profit. Yes, we spent months writing the book, but we would have had to do that anyway if we had chosen to work with a traditional publisher. Plus, if we worked with a traditional publisher that book probably wouldn’t even be out yet.

Since we released the book we’ve been contacted by three traditional publishers interested in publishing a paper version of the book. We’re considering our options.

We’ve also been contacted by a few university libraries interested in making the book available to their students. We’re currently discussing those options as well.

The reviews and responses have been fantastic. We’re thrilled that people are finding the material valuable. We’re collecting emails and letters from people who’ve started putting the Getting Real principles to work. There’s a special place in our hearts for people willing to give it shot. If you have a story to share, please email matt at 37signals.com.

So that’s the 30-day update. Thanks to everyone who’s purchased a copy. If you don’t have a copy yet, $19 is all it takes to download the PDF in just a few minutes.

48 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Clark Valberg 03 Apr 06

I’m all about this book! Not sure if i’m supposed to purchase a site license - but i’ve printed and bound a (1) copy - and have lent it out to clients as a “bloat-ware” preventative measure. If I can get them to understand”less software”, well, that’s great for both of us!

dave rau 03 Apr 06

Wow, getting real publishing some numbers eh? That’s honest and direct communication; well done. I’m about 3/4 done with mine and it’s got so many great things to say. It’s the first book I’ve been taking notes on in quite some time.

The momentum you guys have right now is great. I’m thrilled with the success; it’s very well deserved.

Oh a side note, what ever became of the design not found (www.37signals.com/dnf/) site? I’d love to see this and a getting real site come back! The case studies were absolutely excellent lessons.


“We’ve also been contacted by a few university libraries interested in making the book available to their students.”

Digital distribution? That sounds amazing! I’d love to hear about the lessons learned after things get going with this.

Tim 03 Apr 06

You’ve no idea how proud I am to have my name at the bottom of each page ! hahaha
Great book - and thanks for sharing those (impressive) numbers.

Jonah 03 Apr 06

Great job guys. I’m in the middle of the book right now and I’m really finding it really useful. It’s a great read, with great information but most importantly it’s highly motivational.

Also, wow on the $120,000 in revenue!

Fabien 03 Apr 06

If I already bought a copy of the book, when will I be able to get that update ??

Shalev 03 Apr 06

I’ll second that question.

Anonymous Coward 03 Apr 06

You’ll second what question? There’s no mention of a book update in this post.

ML 03 Apr 06

Fabien, there might be a misunderstanding here. This post is an update on the status of the book. There is no new update for the book itself.

Pom 03 Apr 06

Well guys. you just read the update above ;)

Cheers, Pom

The other 03 Apr 06

Well, also in the past 30 days hundreds of thousands of children died of hunger and malnutrition.

Jonathan M 03 Apr 06

I just want to thank you guys again for writing the book. I’ve never gotten so much out of a single book before. It gave me some solid new ideas as well as confirmed some old ones for developing and launching a software product.

We are incorporating a lot of your ideas in our development of an ASP offering for the clubs and associations sector and it will be launching in June/July of this year. Our company actually did a lot of the HTML mockups before we wrote a single line of code for the first time in our R&D history :-) and it helped in conceptualize the details before they are much harder to change.

Many THX, 37s

Brandon Eley 03 Apr 06

Great job guys! I’m glad the book’s done well for you. I really enjoyed reading it… in fact — I couldn’t put it down. I read it straight through the day it was released.

Keep up the good work.

David Harper 03 Apr 06

Thanks for posting numbers - terrific information! I noticed that you did not secure the PDF in any way. Since it’s so easy to copy/forward PDF files, what is your thinking on security (or, protecting your intelletual property)? Do you just accept that certain number will be duplicated/forwarded without recompense to you? Thanks again…

Zack 03 Apr 06

In lieu of the earlier confusion about the ‘update’, it got me thinking about where the “major update within 30 days of release” is. Man, you guys need to start Getting Real! :)

David Heinemeier Hansson 03 Apr 06

All PDFs are stamped with the name of the person who bought it. We hope that’ll help remind people that they’re buying a personal license to the book, not a license to post it on the internet.

And I believe that if you’re treating people with respect and give them easy access to do the right thing, they’ll be more likely to do the right thing.

Treating your customers like criminals was never a long-term business strategy.

Cooper 03 Apr 06

Awesome work guys :).

Slightly off-topic, but the black getting real icon on the right side annoys me.

Hunox 03 Apr 06

The book was an amazing read. Definetely an eye opener. One thing though, you don’t need to make the margins so huge. The total whitespace on each page was about half the total area of the page. A lot of pages contained very little writing. This reminds me of my method of writing for school/college to boost the number of pages. I’d rather buy the book with less pages = less printing. It’s about quality, not the quantity.

Yosef 03 Apr 06

That is great news for you guys. Thanks for sharing.

Correct me if I”m wrong, but it seems like the purpose of this post is to show the virtues of self-publishing.

In your situation it may be benefitial, but I don’t think it would be worthwhile for most of those out there. You have to have a serious community with a very strong philoshophy. You guys have built that and more. Together with the success of your applications and Ruby on Rails people admire you and want to do things and be successful like you.

So for the majority self publishing probably wouldn’t work, but for the “superstars” I think it is a great idea to

Hank 03 Apr 06

Why on earth would you ever publish how much money you have made on the sale of the Getting Real guide.

All this is going to do is get people to resent you for making money.

Nick D 03 Apr 06

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.

Anonymous Coward 03 Apr 06

All this is going to do is get people to resent you for making money.

People can do their own math (books sold x price). 37s isn’t telling you anything you can’t figure out on your own.

JF 03 Apr 06

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

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.

Nick D 03 Apr 06

Why on earth would you ever publish how much money you have made on the sale of the Getting Real guide.

All this is going to do is get people to resent you for making money.

I don’t think this is the case. I think people will admire them more. This is the new paradigm: transparency. The only reason someone would resent someone else for making a lot of money is if it was done in a dishonest way, or if it was by an untrustworthy company. Bu this is not the case.

Denis 03 Apr 06

Firstly, I found the book a really good read, with lots of useful nuggets to use in day-to-day work.

Unfortunately, I’m unable to copy sections from my PDF with the Mac PDF viewer. This is a real nuisance since I wanted to quote pieces in email. Wierdly, a friend who also bought it doesn’t have this restriction.

I mailed support and got a ‘this can’t be happening - they’re all the same’ response. *sigh*

Jonah 03 Apr 06

Denis, I was able to copy text in Preview with no problem.

David Heinemeier Hansson 03 Apr 06

Denis, they are indeed all the same. Remember to pick the tool mode to be text instead of the default drag.

Yosef 03 Apr 06

The only reason someone would resent someone else for making a lot of money is if it was done in a dishonest way

Or they are jealous because a)they have no money or b) they think money is an end all be all.

Peter Cooper 03 Apr 06

Any tips on how to do automatic search and replace in PDFs programatically? I’ve wanted to ‘stamp’ PDFs, and have played with Perl PDF libraries, a Ruby PDF library, and a few open source PDF tools, but none have been able to do this simple thing (at least not with modern PDFs.. pre Acrobat 4 seems okay - !).

Denis 03 Apr 06

Denis, they are indeed all the same

I know they’re meant to be. Would you mind if I mailed you my copy so you could see…

David Heinemeier Hansson 03 Apr 06

We bought an expensive license from pdf-tools.com. Their PDF Batch Stamp Tool.

Adam James 03 Apr 06

Would you guys consider making a PDF How-to? I know you’ve talked alot about these issues but a one page story/tip list for people who want to do the same woudl be nice. Things like layout programs, proofing process, features you like/don’t like with PDF, pros and cons of using PDFs and other tips for PDF distribution.

I’m really interested in the overall story of what you’ve done here. Very neat work.

jonnie 03 Apr 06

ofcourse you need some sort of knowledge and expertise to publish something, but if you do, these can be the results. No need to state the obvious.

Well done. i am also using it in some parts of my business already. thanks

JF 03 Apr 06

Adam, there is no how to. You write the book, lay it out in your page layout program of choice, and export to PDF. That’s all. It’s simple.

Peter Cooper 03 Apr 06

Thanks for the answer, David. The prices of all those products incensed me, so I looked for a different way all evening. I eventually worked one out (for free) and re-name stamped one of my Prag Progs PDFs as a test case! As it’s semi off-topic, I won’t link here, but the solution is on my blog for those budding PDF publishers who care.

Anonymous Coward 04 Apr 06

Pah, who wants to Get Real when you can Get Rich?

CommunityLeader 04 Apr 06

Great news on the success of the book. It has proved to be a very interesting read and we are considering making it recommended reading for our community of business owners. My only grip is that $19.00 is a lot of money when I’m paying for the ink and the paper and have to figure out a way to store this book.

I really like the content but don’t like the packaging. Call me old school but I like a book that I can slide into my bookshelf when I’m done reading it.

Best Wishes on the great content and hats off for pushing the boundaries.

Thomas Holmes 04 Apr 06

Well, also in the past 30 days hundreds of thousands of children died of hunger and malnutrition.

I know everyone else decided to just let this go by but…

Its true and I believe as fellow human beings we have an obligation to consider and help those that are less fortunate than ourselves.

But that doesn’t mean we should not try to succeed in our own lives. The success described in the post directly provides a livelihood to those involved in the 37 signals staff and many other organisations whose services or products 37 signals use. Indirectly through giving others a roadmap to succeed themselves, it may give many others a livelihood.

On top of that, it is often those that are successful that help in the best way they can by contributing to causes that help the people you refer to. Many people feel that giving back is an important aspect of success.

By succeeding in our own lives (not only or even in terms of financial success) we stand the best chance to be able to help others who are less fortunate than ourselves.

To the post itself - guys congratulations this is another incredible success - clearly there -is- something to ‘get real’! Your thinking has definitely influenced my thinking. Thanks.

Erik 04 Apr 06

In response to Hunox’s comment about the margins, I actually appreciate the nice wide margins.

After I was about 1/4 of the way through the book, I decided to take it down to Kinko’s and have it bound. They put a nice spiral bind and clear cover on it, and I’m happy with the results. I can flip the book open to a page and it lays down flat, whether I’m reading it open or folded back. It cost me another five or six bucks (I don’t remember the exact price), but I’ve found it worthwhile.

Getting Real is a tremendous book, primarily because of its integrity. We’re surrounded by books and articles about “playing the game” of business. It is extremely refreshing to read something that dispenses with the playacting and focuses on removing the impediments that most organizations create for themselves.

As to 37signals being resented for its success, I am fine with the team making all kinds of money. After all, they’re earning it. They make some great products, they give out valuable insights for free on their blog, and they’ve produced a book that has already positively altered the way I conduct my business dealings. More power to them.

Alex Bunardzic 04 Apr 06

Jason wrote:

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.

That’s it. That’s basically all you can say about it. Jason is right — there is no hidden agenda here, just pure generosity. They did it, and they want to embolden us to strive for the same experience of personal and collective liberation.

The greatest thing you’ve ever posted here, Jason!

Keep it up, guys!

Arnie McKinnis 04 Apr 06

Got the book last week - read it this weekend - and agree with both the context and content. As I was reading through it, I was recalling a “failed” development project a few years ago - for many of the reasons spelled out in the book. We had a good idea that never saw the light of day. Thanks for creating the book and providing insight into how 37Signals creates their products/services/apps.

Nick D 04 Apr 06

I see Jason. The point of the post is not to brag about the book. The point is that if strive to and become the best in your industry (whatever that industry is), you can sell and ebook on the topic, and there is money to be made, and good will shared.

So based on your current Feedburner stats, it could be said that about 25% of your readers bought a book. That is pretty powerful.

Anonymous Coward 04 Apr 06

I’m with you, Hunox. I really want to print 2 or 4 pages on each sheet, but because of all the white space it’s proving very difficult. I ended up having to copy all the text, paste into Word, and mess with the page setup there.

blort 06 Apr 06

I hope there is a paper version someday, that I may be able to borrow from the library.

marco 08 Apr 06

Great book. I read it over 2 days late at night.

Did anyone already asked for translation in other languages ? If yes, which ones ?

Steven Kempton 16 Apr 06

Great book guys, read it yesterday. I’m not a software developer but I really enjoyed it from a business point of view. I think you philosophy on being small is great.

David Craig 24 Apr 06

I’ll have to mention this site on my own blog about getting your work published. I’ve been very skeptical about self-publication up to this point, but maybe it is a good technique after all.

yode 28 May 06

fine

Justin Akehurst 15 Aug 06

Regarding the margins, you can do this to your personal copy of the PDF to chop the margins down to the bounding rectangle:

perl -p -i.bak -e ‘s/CropBox \[ 0.0 0.0 612.0 792.0 \]/CropBox \[ 126.0 117.0 490.0 690.0 \]/g’ GettingReal.pdf

It’s perl because I didn’t know the equivalent way of doing it with Ruby.

For your own tweakage, the numbers represent 1/72 of an inch, so 72.0 means 1 inch, measured from the lower left corner to the upper right.

The unfortunate side-effect is that it chops off the name on the bottom. Please don’t distribute your modified PDF, these 37signals guys don’t deserve to have that headache.

-Justin

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