E-Commerce Platform Gumroad Adds New Publishing Features, Says Some Authors Have Made $100K+

Gumroad, the Kleiner Perkins-backed startup that allows you to sell anything through a simple link, is announcing some additions to its publishing program today, while also sharing some of its early success stories.

Ryan Delk, who leads the company’s growth and partnership efforts, said traditional publishing is “still operating on economics and strategies that were invented 20 years ago.” Specifically, he said, “The power has shifted — it no longer lies with these aggregators and marketplaces, but with individuals and their existing platforms.” That’s the kind of shift that Gumroad (with its ethos of “share and sell the stuff you make directly to your audience”) is trying to take advantage of, in this case giving authors an easy way to sell to fans directly. Delk added that publishing is one of the company’s “biggest verticals.”

And as of today, Delk said there are a number of features that should make Gumroad more useful for authors. For one thing, the company has improved its analytics, allowing authors to see the conversion rates of different sources. In other words, authors can now see if fans who come from Twitter (for example) are more likely to buy the book than those from Facebook – if that’s the case, then it makes sense to promote heavily on Twitter, even if it drives less traffic overall.

Gumroad is also trying a different approach to preventing piracy. Instead of locking e-books up with DRM, authors can just stamp each document with the buyer’s name, which should discourage readers from sharing their books too widely. And if authors catch a typo in their book, they can now upload a corrected file without having to change any of their Gumroad download links. Lastly, Gumroad is also changing its payment schedule, so that authors get paid on a rolling schedule every 14 days.

PDF Stamping

As for success stories, Delk said there are now multiple authors who have earned more than $100,000 by selling through Gumroad. And it’s not just celebrities with big social media followings. Nathan Barry, for example, currently has less than 3,000 followers on Twitter, and saw about 100,000 visits to his site in December — a significant audience, but not exactly Justin Bieber levels. Yet he said that in four months, he has earned $108,761 from selling The App Design Handbook and Designing Web Applications on Gumroad (compared to around $20,000 from promotions with AppSumo, Dealotto, and others).

“Since I wrote books about designing a quality user experience, I couldn’t go with someone like PayPal,” Barry told me via email. “It would be hypocritical of me to use someone who doesn’t care about their checkout experience. Gumroad has created the best checkout experience on the web (I can say that with confidence). So I had to use it.”

And while Delk has some big ideas about changing publishing, Gumroad is working with traditionally published books too. Specifically, Wiley is publishing The Lean Entrepreneur, but authors Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits are running a preorder campaign through Gumroad. In an email, Vlaskovits praised the service’s payment infrastructure, buying experience, customizability, integration with YouTube, and more. He said he’s using it as part of a strategy to turn The Lean Entrepreneur into a bestseller:

We wanted to sell The Lean Entrepreneur BEFORE it was officially published (Feb 26 2013) so we could build up pre-sales for the official pub date. With Gumroad we can gratify our readers immediately with the PDF of our book, and then send them the hardcover the week of our launch. If we can double-down on staying close to our readers AND leverage the professionalism that a publisher brings to the table in terms of packaging and mainstream offline distro, we should have a winner.