Selling early access books

(notes by robfitz for the )

For clarity:

Pre-order is asking people to pay now, receiving a finished product later
Early access is when people pay now to receive immediate access to the current work-in-progress, as well as a finished product later
Requires significantly more thought and effort
Can generate significant extra value via: feedback, fans, audience, and income

Core decisions:

Timing: when to start charging money?
Too soon: Since they get immediate access to something, selling it when it’s still too much of a mess can backfire
Too late: But waiting too long removes the benefits of learning and marketing
Just right: begin paid early access any time after your beta readers are receiving real value from the manuscript

Tooling: how to accept payments and gather contact/delivery information?
Easiest and recommended: for everything
Optionally, complement gumroad with a standalone book website via: or
If you’re building a full author platform, use to connect gumroad to for more control over your emails
DIY storefront on your own website: or
If you’re shipping lots of paperbacks, shopify is preferred thanks to the for semi-automated paperback fulfillment

Sharing: how exactly to share your early access manuscript?
Whenever a major new version is ready, send an email with four things:
For feedback: link to the live manuscript on Google Docs (or )
For maximum compatibility: also attach a PDF (A5 sizing is legible on both phones and computers)
For convenience: include a short ‘changelog’ of what’s different between this version and the previous ones
For connection: encourage them to reply directly to the email with ideas, requests, examples, etc.
To maintain perceived value, format your manuscript to look more like a book than a blog post
PDFs and piracy are a real consideration.

Fulfillment: how to print and deliver the final product(s)?
Digital-only is trivial: just send the final book via email, like any other update
Paperbacks are harder
Expect to spent 5 minutes and $5-15 fulfilling each order (consider that in your pricing)
The “normal” option is to order individual copies via either (one-time $50 setup fee) or (”author copies”)
If using Shopify + Lulu, it’s easier (but still tedious), since you just “approve” the orders
If small volume and local, you can also do a bulk print run with a local printer and then mail the books yourself:

Complexity decisions: making things harder or easier

Does your early access include a finished paperback or only digital?
If so, are you shipping everywhere or only North America / EU?
“Whole world” shipping carries higher costs, uncertain delays, and all sorts of weird hassles (like requiring photo IDs of every recipient in countries like India, Brazil, and many others)
Is this book the foundation of your next big project or only a standalone?
If so, it may make sense to over-invest in building a strong community of your early fans (or at least a strong and valuable newsletter for them).

Comments & questions

From Chris Davidson to Everyone 06:12 PM
bookfunnel for fulfillment?
From Daren Smith to Everyone 06:12 PM
you can sell digital products using convertkit commerce as well and skip the gumroad > zapier > convertkit connection
From Linda Eskin - San Diego to Everyone 06:14 PM
I have my phone read PDFs to me. That's how I "read" WUB.
From Linda Eskin - San Diego to Everyone 06:50 PM
My favorite idea (from Daren Smith) is to limit your exposure by offering early access to "Only 20 Slots!" or whatever you can reasonably manage.
- Upside: Manageable.
- Downside: Doesn't build a huge community.
From Chris Davidson to Everyone 06:55 PM
Amazon Decoded: A Marketing Guide to the Kindle Store (Let's Get Publishing Book 4)
david gaughran
Above book is excellent
Pub Rocket is excellent too.....
From Linda Eskin - San Diego to Everyone 06:56 PM
The earlier you can get the information from Publisher Rocket, and incorporate it into the product design of your book, the better. Don't wait until you're "almost done" to consider the keywords you'll target.
From Chris Davidson to Everyone 06:57 PM
Pub Rocket research changed the title of my book
From Linda Eskin - San Diego to Everyone 06:58 PM
Gotta go feed the diabetic cat on time. BRB...
From Daren Smith to Everyone 06:59 PM
Gotta run! Thanks for this on Rob, super helpful info today
From Chris Davidson to Everyone 07:02 PM
Thank you all - I'll be off shortly. Excellent session.
From Amara to Everyone 07:04 PM
Thank you!!
From Nathaniel Zeisler to Everyone 07:05 PM
Thanks so much! Have a great day!! Gotta run.
From Denys Allen to Everyone 07:07 PM
This was very very helpful!!!
From kailos to Everyone 07:08 PM
Bye bye :)

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