Two Years With Leanpub and Going Strong

published Sep 12, 2014

Guest Post Bio

Azat Mardan

Azat Mardan has over 12 years of experience in web, mobile and software development. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Informatics and a Master of Science in Information Systems Technology degree, Azat possesses deep academic knowledge as well as extensive practical experience.

Recently, he has worked as an engineer at the curated social media news aggregator website, Storify.com (acquired by LiveFyre). Before that, Azat worked as a CTO/co-founder at Gizmo — an enterprise cloud platform for mobile marketing campaigns, and has undertaken the prestigious 500 Startups business accelerator program. Previously, he was developing mission-critical applications for government agencies in Washington, DC: National Institutes of Health, National Center for Biotechnology Information, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Lockheed Martin. Azat is a frequent attendee at Bay Area tech meet-ups and hackathons (AngelHack hackathon ’12 finalist with team FashionMetric.com).

In addition, Azat teaches technical classes at General Assembly and Hack Reactor, pariSOMA and Marakana (acquired by Twitter) to much acclaim.

In his spare time, Azat writes about technology on his blog: webAppLog.com which is number one in “express.js tutorial” Google search results. Azat is also the author of Express.js Guide, Rapid Prototyping with JS and Oh My JS!

Two Years With Leanpub and Going Strong

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since I joined LeanPub as an author. I so clearly remember why I made the decision to try LeanPub:

  1. LeanPub software automatically generates a Table of Contents that is properly linked to the appropriate pages with anchor links. This is something that Marked, Pages and other Mac apps refuse to do. (I think it has something to do with how Mac uses Safari to generate PDFs.)

  2. Generous royalties: 90% minus $0.50 goes to authors.

  3. Free setup costs and no DRM or restrictions on using LeanPub files somewhere else. In fact, LeanPub encourages authors to use their PDFs with Lulu or CreateSpace on-demand printers.

  4. The lean startup / manufacturing model has been adapted specifically to publishing — which is in the LeanPub name.

  5. It’s Markdown-powered!

My main goal when I started writing was to express my thoughts better on paper. I can attest that the experience of using LeanPub exceeded all my expectations! I’ve made tens of thousands in profits and gained over 7,000 readers. LeanPub allowed me to focus on writing and use only Markdown. You might have experienced this scenario: you sit to write for an hour, but spend the first 30 minutes toying with fonts and colors. Things like that are a major distraction!

LeanPub formatting and styles are unpretentious. They are available only when I need them. In other words, without extra settings and special markup, the book looks attractive and professional right-out of the box. That’s right — even your GitHub readme.md files will look fine without tedious additional work.

Yes, it’s true that it’s possible to use Markdown and a tool like PanDoc or LaTeX to generate PDFs and other ebook format files. However, in my humble opinion, it’s better to spend time writing. If you’re a LeanPub author, you get free exposure via search, bundles and sometimes by being featured on their home page!

The benefits of the LeanPub’s lean startup philosophy allow authors to experiment with release schedules, pricing and maintain a two-way communication channel with their readers. On the contrary, Amazon.com’s Kindle Direct Publishing doesn’t allow authors to communicate with readers or send their readers updates — ridiculous for someone who uses LeanPub!

I’m so happy with LeanPub that I can’t stop telling all wannabe authors to give it a try. Without LeanPub I don’t think I would have been able to write six books while working two jobs. All of the books were written in Markdown. The most popular book is JavaScript and Node FUNdamentals with 4,000+ readers. As of today, the passive income from my books has allowed me to quit my day job and focus on the most important things to work on—something I couldn’t dream of two years ago!

Another lessons that I learned the hard way:

  • Lean publishing doesn’t mean delivering a poorly formatted book full of typos. Similar to software, it means cuttings down on feature (chapters).

  • People (even programmers) buy books based on covers.

  • Bundles can work really well with minimum additional time required.

The evolution of Rapid Prototyping with JS cover over two years.

If you’re interested in learning about my writing/publishing journey in more detail, which in addition to LeanPub also include experience with a traditional publisher, check out my upcoming book ProgWriter [programmer + writer]: Lessons learned on my path from ordinary developer to writer of multiple programming books—that sell.

The future for self-publishing is getting brighter and brighter every day. The stigma is gone, because more and more good books are being self-published everyday. The time-to-market is shorter and communication with authors is more personal. Through the past year, I’ve seen LeanPub make additional changes to make publishing even easier. For example, they’ve added the ability to write in the browser, and a new website layout. Also, authors now have the ability to package and attach extra material (e.g., source code) to their books.

The summer is almost over, people will come back from their vacations, and sales will spike to new highs as they did after the last year’s summer. So if you’re on the fence or postponing writing/publishing that first book—go ahead and try it!

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