Yeah, that didn’t happen.
Some people did buy copies of the self-published version, and I literally made enough in royalties to occasionally buy a pizza. Very occasionally. A small pizza. Without pepperoni. But hey, that’s a bite or two more than I had before, right? Plus I was having fun with it, meeting new people and learning a lot.
I eventually decided to give the digital version of the book away for free. Almost nobody was paying for it anyway, so no great loss of income there. But it was more than an economic decision. It was actually strategic.
The idea to give it away came from an article by John Perry Barlow, former Grateful Dead lyricist and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It was titled Selling Wine Without Bottles, and he argued that “Familiarity Has More Value Than Scarcity.” In fact, he wrote “It may often be the case that the best thing you can do to raise the demand for your product is to give it away.”
The principle that an idea’s value increases with familiarity made a lot of sense to me. If lots of people heard about The Simplicity Cycle, and I was the Simplicity Cycle guy, then demand for my services should (theoretically) increase. Accordingly, I set out to make my Simplicity Cycle idea as easy to find and share as possible.
By Dec 2008, the free version had been downloaded more than 1,000 times. By Sept 2009, it was up to 1,400 and in January of 2010 it broke 2,000. Then Lulu broke my heart when they stopped tracking how many times free PDFs got downloaded.