My brand new book and an experiment in publishing

Unconventional Website AdviceLast week, I published a short guide for clients starting to build their business’s website and presence, Unconventional Website Advice. I’ve been making a living as a web developer, content creator and strategist on the web since 1999. I often tell my clients advice that contradicts what they hear from other web “experts.” In my experience, those “experts” are usually trying to sell my clients packages that they aren’t going to stick around to maintain. I generally tend to regard a person’s expertise by how dirty they get their hands on the maintenance. E.g. don’t tell me the best way to code something if you don’t know how to write code. So this new, short book of mine has some pretty wild advice: Forget Facebook, You Probably Don’t Need a Blog, Your Website Isn’t That Important.

This is a book with a specific audience: businesses and individuals building their website and presence. It isn’t a generic introduction to the web. It’s only going to make sense to those who are inundated with advice on “how to succeed” on the web. It’s a needle aimed at that balloon. If you are an artist (writer, musician, actor), I think it’s got some great down-to-earth advice for you too. I even included a chapter on simple blueprints for your “minimum viable website.”

So when I decided to publish it as a complete piece and not separate blog posts, I made some strategic and experimental decisions.

For starters, the entire guide is free to read online. It’s also only $1 on Kindle. Why did I do that? Well, I wanted the advice to be public because ultimately it helps me, my clients, and my potential clients to get this advice before making any decisions. I made a Kindle book from it because it’s easier to read that way and I like having books in my portfolio.

There are many ways to offer a book for free on the web. There’s a whole strategy that many “experts” use wherein they give away a free PDF “ebook” in exchange for your email address. You’ve seen this. How many of those ebooks have you read? If you’re like me, it’s close to 0%. How many of their email lists have you unsubscribed from after you got the ebook? If you’re like me, it’s 100%.

I don’t want to read a PDF. They’re clunky. The experience is worse than reading on the web or a Kindle.

I also don’t want to try to read a book on a website that is constantly interrupted by pop-up modal windows asking for my email. That’s another terrible user experience.

So I’m giving away my book the way I would want to read it.

I made the strategic decision to put all of the chapters on Medium all at once for a couple of reasons.

  1. It follows the advice I give in the chapter “You probably don’t need a blog.”
  2. It allowed me to follow my own advice in the chapter “Maybe you just need a single page, flat HTML website.” UnconventionalWeb.com is simply an index of all the chapters. An easy way to organize the work without having to maintain another website.
  3. I like Medium. It’s really easy to read, share, and save pieces there.

I wanted content to be sharable and discoverable while having a light footprint to manage. Medium let me do all this.

That said, a more sophisticated, “drip” content strategy would have been the academic way to go. If I’d published a chapter each week, I could have shared each one more thoroughly and strategically. Possibly, the chapters are less likely to be shared since they all appeared at once. I also don’t like that my Medium profile is overrun with Unconventional Website Advice articles.

But in the scheme of things, I like launching things. I like trying new ways to publish and disseminate the content I create. I have used a decently sophisticated drip campaign for my last book, good.simple.open: the values that lead to better work. It hasn’t grown in audience as one hopes a campaign like that will. So I tried something new. I sure hope something I try makes me money someday. But I am not going to be paralyzed wondering if I’ve followed the “rules” for publishing content. See this chapter. It’s all a crap shoot.

I make things. If you want to start making your presence on the web, read my book. It’ll help focus you on the building and not on the spending.