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Should You Use Bribery To Grow Your Audience?

Jessica Jalsevac on February 19th, 2014

Last week I had the privilege of taking part in a two day workshop on effective email and newsletter marketing hosted by writer Jeff Goins

Now, one thing you have to understand about Jeff is that he is the LAST person you would ever suspect of anything shady. As a former nonprofit worker, much of his writing centers on how to make a difference in the world. He’s a SWEETHEART.


So when the workshop rolled around to bribes, I was caught off guard. Had I been duped?

The Ethical Bribe

When Jeff first started his email list, it grew very slowly. Two subscribers this week, five subscribers the next, etc. Then one day, Jeff took a blog post he had written and repurposed it into a 900 word ebook called “The Writer’s Manifesto”. He poured his heart out about what it means to be a writer. He formatted it in Keynote, exported it as a PDF, and offered it as an immediate bonus when signing up for his newsletter.

That week, over 1000 people signed up for his newsletter.

Jeff’s ebook was something that marketing guru Seth Godin calls the “ethical bribe.” But not to worry, there’s no hoodwinking involved here. An ethical bribe is simply something valuable provided to your audience for free, as a thank you for them giving you their email address. 

Like Jeff, this is something you can easily implement to accelerate your list’s growth. Below are some guidelines to get you started, and examples for inspiration.

3 Characteristics of the Ethical Bribe

1. Keep it short and immediately valuable

Don’t burden people with too much information while they’re still getting to know you. Give them something that’s easy to consume in one or two sittings and provides them value right away.

2. Make it shareable

Make sure to embed Facebook and Twitter links into your content, with pre-written text to make it easy to share.

3. Deliver it as a download

While much of the content in Jeff’s ebook was already in the form of a blog post, once he reformatted it into a downloadable ebook, it really started to pick up. Psychologically a download feels more substantial and valuable than a blog post.

Examples of Ethical Bribes:

  • Report: Share some of your unique knowledge with others in the form of a helpful case study, an infographic, or a research report. Below is an example from Help Scout, a customer service platform, that has compiled facts and stats on great customer service to give to their newsletter subscribers.


  • Video or audio: Behind the scenes footage, video of a presentation you’ve given, or a recording of a song all make great giveaways. Below is a screen shot from the website of musician St. Vincent, who’s offering her new single to fans when they sign up.


  • Course: Use a combination of materials to deliver a simple, actionable lesson that people can implement immediately. For example, if you’re into fitness, offer a video tutorial on an exercise, with an accompanying PDF of the steps.
  • Resource list: A curated list of books, articles, or tools is super easy to put together and saves you audience from having to do many hours of their own research. If you’re a podcaster, you could do your top 10 tools and gadgets. Or, if you write about productivity, you could compile a list of books and articles on the topic.
  • Ebook: This classic ethical bribe is still very effective. Jeff’s ebook was an inspirational manifesto for writers. Author James Clear is another great example - he gives a book on transforming your habits to all his subscribers.
  • Tools and templates: Examples here could include a launch sequence template, a checklist for wedding planning, or a budgeting spreadsheet. The possibilities are endless, just make sure its highly relevant to your audience.

An ethical bribe can be an incredible source of new email subscribers, and truly valuable for your followers. What can you put out there for free today to give your list a boost?

Gumroad Trip: Ben Johnson’s Grand Plans

Travis Nichols on February 12th, 2014

When I met Ben Johnson, he had two self-produced albums out, multiple videos, and sheets of multi-tiered goals stuck to his wall (whoa!). Immediately after graduating from the University of Texas, he hit the ground running and kicking and fighting. But with the same peaceful, determined style that he puts into his music.

"It’s not difficult to be overwhelmed in this modern world. Our peace is threatened on all sides, whether from old anxieties of loss and loneliness or from newer ones that come with the modern pace of life and new technologies. My mission is to help you live a simpler and more peaceful life."

Ben says he makes “hand-crafted piano music”. What does that mean? It means that he’s the one writing, playing, recording, mixing, mastering, and releasing the music. It also refers to his writing style. Rather than sitting with a book of sheet music and a pencil, he composes by playing parts over and over, making little changes along the way until the final piece is revealed. Ben compares it to carving.


For his Sounds of Austin, Texas album, Ben chose his favorite places in Austin and recorded soundscapes of multiple tracks and then coupled them with piano pieces written for each area. In “Conversations at 360 Bridge”, which you can hear in the latter half of the following video, there are cars overhead, insects buzzing around, and water lapping below. Other tracks feature the crunchy steps of joggers on a trail, dogs jumping into water, friends laughing, and many, many other sounds layered under music.

As Ben figures things out for himself as an independent musician, he is determined and eager to teach others. He built a second site, The Concise Musician, where he posts articles for working musicians. On that site, you can also find an ebook called Gumroad for Musicians, which is sold as pay-what-you-want.

In the time since filming, Ben released sheet music, a Christmas album, and several stand-alone tracks. Ben left today for a trip to Alaska where he’ll write and record for a new album. The trip was successfully crowd-funded (rewards included digital and physical copies of the upcoming album, digital journals from the trip, private concerts, etc.), and he had this to say about it:

"Though I had hope (expectation, not just desire) that I would reach my goal, still I was overjoyed when I actually reached it, when I began to think about how lucky I am to have the opportunity to make this record. For the first time ever, I have a group of people who both know about and have embraced my musical project at the beginning."

Find Ben at and


Previous stops on the Trip:

Yale Stewart, comic book artist - St. Louis, MO

The Sun Bros., comics duo - Chicago, IL

John Staskevich and Kevin Holland of NTHSynth - Columbus, OH

Brad Guigar, artist and illustrator - Philadelphia, PA

Lisa Yen, designer - Queens, NY

Let’s get together: The Creators Studio launches this week

Jessica Jalsevac on February 10th, 2014


This Thursday, Gumroad is launching a new free event series, The Creators Studio.

The Creators Studio is designed to help you learn about building your audience and selling your products, while networking with other like-minded individuals. The series kicks off with Nathan Barry, who will share insights on how he’s made over $350,000 from his books and courses.

We’re. So. Excited.

As if Nathan Barry wasn’t squeal-worthy enough, here are 5 more reasons why we think you’ll be super excited too:

1. Professional Headshots
A great profile picture is essential, and here’s your chance to get one done for free! Our friends at 8:45a will be on hand taking portraits that make you look your best. Use it in your Gumroad profile, your website, and even your social media accounts. First come first served.

2. Creator Gallery
Get inspired for your next project in our gallery. We’ll be showcasing the work of some outstanding creators who represent the breadth of innovative products available on Gumroad.

3. Authority (In Print!)
Nathan Barry’s Authority is chock full of some of the best advice available on selling your products online. We’ve got free print copies available for the first 40 attendees, so get there early and snag one.

4. Ask Gumroad
The whole Gumroad team will be on hand to answer your burning questions about selling your products, listen to your feedback, or just chat about life. Make sure to find us and say hi.

5. Food and Drinks
Make friends over beer, wine, and delicious pupusas from Chef Luis Estrada.

We hope to see you Thursday! Be sure to reserve your seat here as space is limited.

If you can’t make it to the live event, fear not. We’ve got more events coming up this spring, and we’ll be posting all the recordings online.

A huge thank you to PARISOMA for hosting and organizing.


Event Details:
RSVPThe Creators Studio: Building Profitable Audiences
Date: Thursday, February 13th, 2014
Time: 6:30pm
LocationPARISOMA, 169 11th Street, San Francisco

Is Pay What You Want Pricing for You?

Travis Nichols on February 5th, 2014


It’s not just for ribbon dancers in the desert anymore. The Gift Economy is for writers, designers, lawyers, restauranteurs, consultants, artists, etc. etc. etc. Everyone seems to be getting on board, but is it for you? We talked to author and publisher Tom Morkes about his experience with Pay What You Want pricing. Tom wrote a definitive guide after interviewing hundreds of individuals and businesses on the unsettling-to-some business/pricing model.


You surveyed hundreds of creators about PWYW pricing. The number one concern you found was that people are most afraid of not making enough money from their PWYW product or service to cover overhead and other basic expenses and that they believe customers will undervalue their work and pay very little or nothing. What has been your experience?

In my experience - and based on the research and analysis of dozens of other individuals and businesses that use Pay What You Want pricing – not only do the majority of people contribute when it’s optional, but they often contribute so generously that it’s quite common for PWYW pricing to bring in 60%-200% more revenue than fixed pricing. I know, sounds crazy, but it’s true. I started my blog a little over a year ago. For months, I wrote on the topics of creative entrepreneurship, unconventional business strategies, and starting, finishing and shipping creative projects. I also started a podcast and wrote several books and guides in and around these topics.

I did it all for free.

In April of 2012, I had a new book I was getting ready to release called 2 Days With Seth Godin.  I planned to give it away for free to my readers (all 166 of them) like I had done with all my other products up to this point, but I wanted something in return:


I wanted to know if people actually care about the work I was doing. Of course, the only way to validate work is through an exchange of money (anyone will take a free sample – but how many people buy the $10 smoothie?). This put me at a crossroads – how could I validate my work without charging money?

That’s when I remembered an interview I had heard a month prior on the topic of Pay What You Want pricing. According to the interview, Anthony and Joe Vennare of were selling fitness programs but with a catch: they let their customers choose their price. Interesting, but not necessarily remarkable, right? Until you find out they were making $400 - $600 per day using this technique. Think about that for a second. By giving their stuff away for free, while at the same time giving their loyal readers, followers, and customers the chance to contribute any amount they liked, they were making $146,000 - $219,000 per year.

Mind = blown.

That’s when it clicked for me: I didn’t have to charge to validate my book. Instead, I could give it away but with one subtle difference: I’d give my readers the opportunity to contribute back (as much or as little as they’d like). So I released the book as Pay What You Want, letting my readers know the book was free, but if they liked my work, they could buy me coffee (or maybe a nice steak dinner). In the first month, I made close to $500 from a free eBook (with a subscriber list of only 166 happy readers).

What’s more remarkable is that the average purchase price of the ebook (of the people who chose to contribute) was close to $15. If, at the time, you had asked me what I would have set the fixed-price of the book at, I would have said $3 - $5. In other words, I was making anywhere from 3 to 5x more by allowing my customers to choose their price than by setting a fixed price. *For proof, check out my Amazon Self-Publishing Experiment where I tested a fixed price version of the book through Amazon to see if a fixed price would bring in more or fewer sales (and more or less revenue).

Since releasing 2 Days With Seth Godin, I’ve experimented with Pay What You Want on a number of other ebooks and guides. My most recent PWYW book, The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing (meta, I know), brought in $963 in the first 10 days of release (including pre-orders).

More recently, my publishing company, Insurgent Publishing, just shipped the first issue of our brand new business and arts journal called The Creative Entrepreneur. The journal is a semi-annual, donation-based publication with a portion of all proceeds going to charity. Readers can contribute whatever they want over $1 / issue (with bonuses for those who contribute over a certain amount). We officially launched the journal on 1 January (although we did allow pre-orders). As of 8 January, we have 57 annual subscribers who have contributed $1,688 (and counting). 

Okay, so these are all digital publishing endeavors, what about physical products and services? No way Pay What You Want could work for that… Until you take a look at some of the success stories from people who have bought my guide and applied PWYW to their businesses:

Mick H. does part time consulting.  Normally he charges $200 / month. After reading the guide, he applied The 6 Step Perfect Pitch Framework to his consulting offer. He had a client immediately sign up for consulting at $500 / month. Mick more than doubled his revenue simply by letting his clients choose their price.

Or take Leah Hynes and Nazrin Murphie, founders of and The Circuit Breakers Series conference. They launched their first conference toward the end of 2013. At first, they sold tickets at the incredibly discounted rate of $49 (comparable conferences sell from $100 - $300 per ticket). In their own words:

“We had 3 weeks to organize it, promote it and fill the 64 person theatre. After two weeks of minimal movement on registrations we decided to use a Pay What You Want ticketing option. In 10 days we went from 3 registrations to 47. Over those 10 days we saw significant results: 

  • An 1466% increase in registrations from 3 to 47 registrations 
  • 22 Early Bird registrations (56% of tickets) 
  • 19 Pay What You Want registrations from $5 - $49 with an average ticket price of $20 paid (23% of tickets) 
  • 9 full price tickets sold (19% of tickets)” 

Not only did they sell a bunch of tickets using Pay What You Want, but by offering PWYW tickets, they increases sales of their full priced tickets as well.

While these two case studies demonstrate the power of Pay What You Want, there are literally hundreds of examples of successful PWYW offers, including:

  • Bridge Hotel’s Pay What You Want Karma Keg that brings in 10-25% more than their fixed-price kegs
  • Linda Formichelli’s Pay What You Want eCourse experiment that brought in 10 times more than her fixed price eCourse (and is now a permanent option on her site)
  • Larian Studios PWYW video game compilation experiment that backfiredand brought in more money than they ever expected
  • Panera Bread’s group of Panera Cares Cafe’s that are entirely Pay What You Want based
  • Humble Bundle that raises millions for charity and for video game publishers through their PWYW video game bundles
  • Joost van Dongen’s hobby project Proun that brought in over $20,000 using Pay What You Want pricing
  • Chris Bennet’s Dock Cafe in Belfast that’s run entirely on an honesty-box system
  • Libboo, Zoho, Propellerhead and BinaryNowall software companies that have used Pay What You Want to sell their products
  • Perlin Winery in Germany that’s run entirely on PWYW… for the past 10 years
  • Little Bay restaurant in London that’s made 20% more revenue using Pay What You Want than their fixed price menu
  • And many, many more…

This is the power of Pay What You Want. Instead of customers undervaluing your work, they are much more likely to contribute generously. And in the process, it’s not uncommon to more than double your revenue.

Well, this could be a one-question interview. But let’s go further. We did a post a few months ago on psychological pricing that focused on prices ending in 99 cents. A major part of giving a product a price ending in 99 cents is the implied value. PWYW almost flips that on its head. Do you think people more often feel like they’re paying too little when they’re purchasing a PWYW product and then increase their contribution?

There is a lot of truth to this, and it’s definitely one of the powerful, underlying psychological principles involved in Pay What You WantWalt Kania is a freelance writer and consultant who has used PWYW extensively for his work (and has extensive documentation to show it’s helped him make more than double his fixed price consulting and freelance rate), and this is what he’s witnessed when it comes to offering services as Pay What You Want:

“Sometimes (as one client confessed to me) they’ll reflexively crank up the fee when filling in the blank. Sort of like the way we reflexively and fearfully crank down the price when the client says ‘How much will it cost?”

Source: The Scariest Pricing Idea Ever. That Works.

But there’s more to Pay What You Want than making people rethink what they contribute for fear of looking cheap. Pay What You Want actually inspires generosity. This Harvard Business Review headline says it best:

When The Rule is: Pay What You Want, Almost Everyone Pays Something.

The article goes onto explain: 

“During two years of observation, only 0.5% of patrons took advantage of the opportunity to eat free at the pay-what-you-want Wiener Deewan self-service Pakistani restaurant in Vienna, say Gerhard Riener, of the University of Jena, and Christian Traxler, of the University of Marburg, both in Germany. By the end of that period, payments for meals had stabilized at an average of €5—more than enough to cover costs—and the number of daily customers had increased by more than 50%.”

In my own experience, I’ve had several people contribute $50 - $100 for one of my ebooks (and these outliers more than make up for those who contribute little or nothing).  

I’ve also had other people come back and contribute more after they used one of my guides and got results. But the best aspect of Pay What You Want is that it’s helped me develop a relationship with my readers (which, in turn, has helped me buil trust and brand). Oh, and I never have to hard sell anything either – which is priceless. 

There’s a lot of anger/hesitation/backlash, mostly in the design/illustration world, about working for “exposure”. While increased exposure is a major benefit to PWYW pricing, do you think there’s a point where one should decide that the cost of entry should be raised? That exposure isn’t as much of a factor as, say, getting a 60-foot yacht instead of a 48-foot yacht? 

I don’t think this has to be a mutually exclusive trade-off. Why not maximize exposure while maximizing your revenue? I listed dozens of examples above that shows PWYW being used to generate upwards of 200% more than fixed-price alternatives. Exposure is great – but getting paid is essential for any entrepreneur, artist or writer…which is why Pay What You Want can be so effective – it does both simultaneously if you do it right.

So how do you do it right?  It’s all about the pitch. I go into a lot more detail in my guide, but I’ll do a basic overview of The 6 Step Perfect Pitch Framework, which should be enough to get most people started on the right track to offering a PWYW product or service that actually makes money:

1. Clarify the Offer
Simple, but essential. If people don’t know what you’re offering, how can you expect them to contribute (let alone contribute generously).

2. Show the Customer You’re Human
We don’t give to corporations. We give to people. If McDonalds rolled out a Pay What You Want Big Mac, why would anyone contribute generously? But if the artisan baker down the street, who you’ve known personally for years, is offering his hand-crafted baked goods as Pay What You Want, now all of a sudden there’s a reason to contribute (and generously). A couple ways to show people you’re human online: add your picture to the website and sales page, and write in a casual but passionate voice (in other words: write like you talk).

3. Appeal to Idealism
PWYW is all about giving people a reason to contribute generously. We do this by appealing to virtue, generosity, karma, and any other ideal that encourages giving. Sometimes, just mentioning the word is good enough (think Karma Keg). Other times, we need to elaborate on what and why we’re using PWYW. Remember: people buy stories.  So give them a good story that appeals to their idealism (they’ll be more willing to contribute and to spread the word).

4. Anchor the Price
If you’re selling a premium product as PWYW, you need to anchor a premium price in the buyers mind. This could be as simple as referencing comparable products or services that are extremely expensive, or offering multiple versions of your own product (and giving away bonuses for people who contribute over certain amounts).

5. Steer the Customer to the Right Choice
Once you’ve price anchored the product, you need to actually steer the customer to the right choice. PWYW is ambiguous in some ways, and ambiguity scares people.  We need to be clear not only with our offer (see above), but with what an average contribution would look like, and, even better, what a generous contribution would look like. does an incredible job of this by (1) showing you the average people contribute and (2) pre-setting the amount you should contribute at the bottom of the sales page.

6. Add Charity to the Mix 
While it’s true that a simple PWYW offer can increase revenue compared to fixed-pricing, it’s much more effective when you add charity to the mix. This ties into the ‘appeal to idealism’ I mentioned earlier but creates an even greater incentive to give and to give generously. Of course, you need to integrate charity authentically, honestly, and congruently with your message, otherwise it comes off shady or forced and people won’t contribute. No, you can’t ‘game’ the system with charity, so only use it if it fits.

As your audience increases, has your contribution amount per customer average increased/decreased/maintained?

It depends on the product. If we look at just one product, like my book 2 Days With Seth Godin, the average contribution price of those who contribute something ($.01 or more) has fallen to $9.75 (during its first month of release the average was $14.51). But the average contribution for The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing has increased from $10.37 to $11.78. Of course, there are ways to keep contributions fairly consistent, and one of the best practices I’ve seen for this is offering bonuses or incentives for contributing at or above a certain price point (which is what I do for The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing, which keeps the average contribution steady).

What has been your biggest surprise about PWYW pricing?

That it works. And that it works consistently.

I didn’t expect to have much if any success with PWYW when I started.  I just wanted to try it out and maybe make enough for a cup of coffee in the process.

Since the release of my first Pay What You Want product, I’ve steadily improved and perfected my pitch, and found ways to make my PWYW offer irresistible, to the point where I’m confident I’ll make money from my Pay What You Want products and services. All in all, I’ve made thousands from giving away my products and letting my customers choose their price. And I’m not alone.

I think the best advice I could give to any creator (especially if you have a small but passionate audience like I did when I started) is to at least experiment with Pay What You Want. Who knows, you may never go back to fixed pricing.


Tom Morkes is an author, publisher and all around instigator.  Tom graduated from The United States Military Academy at West Point, spent 5 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, and even got paid to jump out of helicopters for a while.

If you want to get inside his brain, check out his blog at, where he applies what he’s learned leading troops in combat to starting, finishing and shipping creative projects.

Gumroad Trip: Justice Finds Yale Stewart

Travis Nichols on February 3rd, 2014

Yale Stewart’s Gifted has been through a few rounds. It started in high school as posted-up strips by a friend before the torch was passed. It fermented for some years and then was reworked into a comic book format. Yale put a bunch of pages up on deviantART… but it didn’t go so well.


Then Yale tumbled, er, stumbled on something that helped him rise above the cultural milieu. When he created JL8, a fan comic about the Justice League (DC Comics) as 3rd graders, he went straight to social media. He posted the comics on Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter rather than building a site to send people to. It paid off. The (adorable) comics were shared with the fervor of The Flash on a paper route.

Along the way, two things have happened. First, Gifted gained some traction. Onlookers were hooked and reeled in by his SuperCute stuff and then sold on what he could actually sell. Secondly, Yale got really BUSY. He’s now doing work with Marvel Comics, the Adventure Time comic books, and FOUR children’s books. Ironically, the success of JL8 now threatens its own continuation. That’s what you get for sharing and liking things, people.

Find Gifted on Gumroad, and read JL8 on Yale’s Tumblr.

Music in this video comes from Wild Man Records.

Title fonts generated (from my handwriting) by Project Hancock. Get your own!


Previous stops on the Trip:

The Sun Bros., comics duo - Chicago, IL

John Staskevich and Kevin Holland of NTHSynth - Columbus, OH

Brad Guigar, comic artist and illustrator - Philadelphia, PA

Lisa Yen, designer - Queens, NY

As always, we love hearing your feedback — feel free to get in touch.

Anatomy of an Effective Product Page

Jessica Jalsevac on January 31st, 2014

You’re put the finishing touches on your killer product and are ready to take that great leap of faith - hitting the “publish” button and releasing your baby into the world. High five!

But, real quick, lets just make sure your product is looking its best for its date with success.

We’ve put together a handy checklist for you to optimize your product page. Each of these 8 points is geared towards converting your visitors into customers by removing uncertainty and building trust in your product.

To illustrate this checklist, we’ve enlisted the help of the prodigious Justin Jackson, a product manager and host of the Product People podcast. Here’s the product page for Justin’s Amplification course in all its majesty. The numbers are your Checklist of Product Glory.


Now let’s break it down.


1. Product Cover

Products with covers convert twice as well as products without. So whether its an image, a video, or a sound byte, don’t neglect this important element! Yes, it should be beautiful and eye-catching, but it should also give your visitor a good feel for the product with just a glance.

For a film, the obvious cover choice is a trailer, but the film poster, or an interview with the cast/director also works well.

For an album, you can include the album artwork, or instead link to a single on Soundcloud, footage from the recording studio, an interview with the band, or a music video.

Looking at this image, you can tell right away that the product is a bundle of items, including a course and a handbook. Some things could be improved, but overall it helps you get a good sense for the product, which is great. For other examples of phenomenal product covers, see here and here.

For photos, we recommend either a square (at least 700 pixels) or a wide rectangle (700 x 333 pixels).

2. Title

Like the cover photo, a title should be compelling, but also clear and specific. This title explains that the product is a) a course, and b) downloadable (as opposed to live-streamed or an in-person event). Another example might be, “Beauty in Disrepair (Signed Physical CD).”

3. Social Proof

Social proof is one of the most powerful elements you can include in a sales page. Awards, press quotes, ratings, interviews, testimonials, number of copies sold - these all work to validate your work and inspire confidence in your audience. 

In this case, the product has been featured in Inc. Magazine, a well-known brand. Plus, a real person was able to get 2 articles on the front page of Hacker News because of this course. This is the exact result that Justin’s target market is looking for.

4. Headline or Tagline

For tools and educational content, like Justin’s course, your headline should focus on your customers’ pain (in this case, not getting enough traction on a site or blog). Justin demonstrates that he understands that pain before he even gets into what his product has to offer. Because, at the end of the day, its all about your customers, not about your product. 

For novels, music, films, games, etc., aim for a tagline that gives your audience an emotional feel for the story. Think “A lot can happen in the middle of nowhere” from Fargo, or “Don’t go into the water” from Jaws. Did you just get chills?

5. Description

Again, the type of product is going to determine the format of your description. Novels, music, films, comics, and games should have specific and enticing descriptions of the product concept/plot. Use the language of your target audience and focus on what excites them. A table of contents, track list, or cast list might also be appropriate.

For instructional content and tools, illustrate the customer’s dream (what happens when their pain points go away), and demonstrate how your product gets them there.

Here, the dream is to have a bigger audience, and Amplification will help you do that by showing you how to tap into the right networks.

Descriptions can also overcome objections. You might wonder what qualification Justin has to be teaching you about getting traction. Ah, he’s made several posts go viral himself, and he’s going to expose his real data to prove it. Objection overcome.

6. Content Specs

Don’t underestimate the importance of explaining precisely what your buyers will receive when they purchase your product. You don’t want your customers to expect to be mailed a CD when in fact the product is a digital album.

With Amplification, Justin outlines exactly what files are contained in the product, and even gives the number of pages of the ebooks.

Pro tip: Want to include the length of a video or even a track list here? You can add as many custom attributes as you like. Check out this video to see how. 

7. Profile Picture

Let your audience know that you’re a real person. Give them something to connect with.

Justin is a real guy, with a real face (and a fake moustache). His profile picture shows personality, and that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s built up your trust a little bit more.

8. About You

Like your profile picture, you bio helps build a personal connection. But its also where you can reinforce your credibility. Justin’s bio tells you that he’s not just a mustachioed character - he’s got a podcast, he works at a startup, and he builds products. You can follow him on Twitter to get to know him better. All this helps to build your confidence that he actually knows what he’s talking about and that he’ll deliver a high-quality product.

You can update your profile information from your Settings Page.


Background image: Justin’s cool image of a soundboard helps reinforce his theme, and makes the product look stunning and professional. Check out this video for more on how to customize the look and feel of your product on Gumroad.

Satisfaction guarantee: Justin goes the extra mile to build trust by including a money-back guarantee if his customers aren’t completely happy. We hope he doesn’t have to honor this too often, but if he does, Gumroad makes issuing refunds painless, plus there’s no fee attached.

Great work! These simple tweaks to your product page have primed you for much higher conversion rates. Now all that’s left is to hit that “publish” button…

Nathan Barry’s Lessons Learned Selling $355,759 on Gumroad

Travis Nichols on January 15th, 2014

Nathan Barry is a designer, writer, and teacher. He’s the author of The App Design Handbook, Designing Web Applications, and Authority. He’s the founder and designer of ConvertKit, and he was an early seller on Gumroad. Two of the most redeeming (and valuable) qualities about Nathan are his transparency and his desire to teach others. Here’s how much I made doing ___. Here’s how I did it. Here are some things you can do.

Nathan recently spent a few days at Gumroad HQ, and he dispensed an amazing amount of insight and experience. We’ll be releasing it over the next few months like the controlling board of a precious metal monopoly. The best way to stay apprised of these types of updates is to sign up for our weekly newsletter. We’re bringing you all sorts of tips and tricks to build your audience and sell smarter. Sign up through the links on this page.

Here’s Nathan Barry.


A little over a year ago, while trying to find a platform to sell my new design book on, I got an email from Ryan Delk. In his well-crafted pitch to get me to consider using Gumroad he ended with, “and the UX is exponentially better than other marketplaces.”

As a user experience designer I had to check It out. Marketplaces and payment providers are famous for having a terrible checkout experience. PayPal tries to trick your customers into thinking they can’t pay with a credit card and e-Junkie looks like the experience hasn’t been improved in a decade.

After using the checkout process for the first time my professional opinion was, “wow!” The “exponentially better” part of Ryan’s comment was an understatement. Gumroad’s checkout process was—and as far as I know, still is—the best checkout experience anywhere on the web. Since my book was about designing great software it would be hypocritical of me to use a payment with a second-rate checkout process.

Anyway, that’s the story of how I came to Gumroad. In the 16 months since that initial conversation with Ryan, I’ve sold $355,759 worth of books on Gumroad. In the process I’ve learned a few tips that I’m certain can double your revenue—no matter what type of product you are selling—if implemented correctly.

Lesson 1: Be able to contact your customers

Before writing books I made all my product revenue from selling iPhone apps on the App Store. Each day I would look at the previous days sales numbers. Unfortunately that’s all they were: numbers. I would be informed “You sold x copies of this app in these countries.” That’s it.

Without customer information I had no way of contacting any of my users. That meant notification about updates, asking for feedback, and any other contact had to be done through custom code through the app—something I hadn’t taken the time to build.

That’s when it really hit me: the people who bought my app weren’t my customers, they were Apple’s. Apple was just giving me a little bit of money from each purchase, but not the customer.

I often get asked why I, as a full-time author, don’t sell my books on Amazon or the iBooks store. The biggest reason is the lack of customer information. I want to sell directly to my customers so that I can email them to ask how they like it, know who is buying it and where, and be able to build on that relationship to make my next book launch more successful than the last.

Through Gumroad I get all the information on my customers—I can teach them through other emails and promote future products to them. Without that, I don’t think I could have built a business to the same level that I’ve been able to.

Lesson 2: Price based on value

How much is a book worth? The most common way to answer that question is by comparison. Print books often retail for $20, but Amazon will sell a copy discounted down to $14. Mine are just digital, so we should probably knock at least $6 or $7 off just because ebooks aren’t worth as much.

So is your newly published ebook worth $7? Well, those ebooks at that price are by professional authors from major publishing houses. You’re just a first time author who hired your mom to proofread your book (luckily, my mom is actually a professional proofreader). So your book should be priced at just $3 or $4.

But remember those stories of authors hitting it rich on Amazon by selling their books for $0.99 or $1.99? You want to sell tens of thousands of copies, so is that the right price?


Seriously, stop thinking this way.

Whether you are selling books or any other product, comparison pricing like this is a great way to be a poor starving author/artist/creator/etc. Don’t do it.

What’s the value?

A designer or developer at a software company who buys my book Designing Web Applications can get thousands of dollars of value out the ideas in the book. Just implementing the ideas on designing first-run experiences could radically improve their trial retention rates and generate a lot more revenue. So is that self-published book worth $2? No, it’s worth hundreds. Maybe not to everyone, since people working on small projects without many users wouldn’t get the same value out of each improvement, but it’s okay to price some people out of the market.

A Photoshop plugin that saves a designer 10 minutes every work day isn’t worth just $15. If it’s core to workflow, you could easily charge $50. After all, good designers charge over $100 per hour for their time, so a good $50 plugin would pay for itself in a couple days of saved effort.

If your product is focused on business customers you can—and should—charge far more than you think. Since my business is teaching and training I like to think of it like this:

You can charge premium rates if you are teaching a skill that makes money to people who have money.

I teach design to professional designers and developers. They use those skills to make their companies easier to use and more profitable.

Whereas if you were to teach knitting to middle-school kids, they not only don’t use the skills to make a living, but also don’t have money to spend on your product.

Value based pricing doesn’t work as well when focused on consumers (they tend not to not think about purchases based on a return on investment), but you should still probably increase your price to focus on the higher end of the market.

A small audience

I’m going to make an assumption that you don’t have a massive audience (10,000+ fans) that is eager to buy everything you produce. More likely you are in the early stages of your online business empire and are working on those first 500 or even 100 followers. The percentage of any following that will actually buy is quite low—so you need to maximize revenue from each one.

If only 10% of your audience will actually buy from you, I doubt lowering the price by a couple dollars will encourage significantly more people to purchase. Conversely, in most cases doubling your price won’t cause you to lose 50% of your sales—meaning you come out ahead on revenue.

Pricing is something that is flexible and hard to get right. Experiment with it. But if your goal is to maximize revenue think about increasing your prices.

Lesson 3: Build a relationship through email

When I first started writing this lesson I wrote it as “Build an email list.” But that’s actually not what I want you to do at all. Instead each seller should be able to build a relationship with their customers over time, and email is the best platform I know of to do that.

The first step is to know how you are going to deliver value on a regular basis. In most cases, teaching is the best way to do this. For my books I teach design and marketing through blog posts, but just about every product has skills related to it that the owner will want to know. People love to learn, especially from a source they know and trust.

Let’s go with the Photoshop plugin example again. What does someone who is a good customer for a Photoshop plugin want to know? Well, how to use Photoshop for design of course!

So on your email list you are going to regularly (every week or every other week) share tutorials and resources to help designers. Once you have a basic strategy in place you need a way to stay contact your purchasers.

Choose an email marketing provider such as MailChimp, Aweber, or my own ConvertKit (best for quickly building an audience), then export any existing customers from Gumroad and import the list into your tool of choice.

If you don’t already have customers then you are in the pre-launch stage—and email works great for that too.

Using email to launch a new product

The first step when launching a new product is to put up a landing page with basic details about the product and an email opt-in form so that visitors can find out more information. After promoting that page like crazy (email friends, submit to link sites, share on Twitter, ask friends to share on Twitter, etc) you should have a handful of subscribers.

The next step is to write really detailed blog posts or tutorials teaching that content we already established your target customer wants to learn. I’m not talking about short list posts or fluff pieces—these should be detailed posts that deliver a lot of value and are worth sharing. 1,000 words is the minimum, but my best posts are usually 2,000-4,000 words.

At the end of each post should be an email opt-in form for your new product. The goal is to convert as many people as possible to get on your list. That’s where you will get a much higher conversion rate.

By promoting the landing page and more blog posts you will grow your list, but remember, we want a relationship. That means providing value on a regular basis.

So, take that blog post you just wrote and send it to your email list. They expressed interest in your product and your content is good, so why wouldn’t they love it? The best part is you can ask everyone on your email list to share it, then your list will grow even more.

Repeat that process several times. Write a new post, send it to your email list, use the post to grow your list, then start writing the next post.

When working on my first book, three really detailed tutorials—plus a lot of promotion—was enough to build an email list of nearly 800 subscribers. Enough to make $12,500 in sales on the first day.

Though the best part about email isn’t that first launch, it’s how your list makes your next launch so much easier.

Lesson 4: Sell in multiple packages

What if I told you one simple method could triple your revenue—would you pay attention?

I’ve used this method to triple revenue on two book launches and more than double revenue on two more. It does take some time to implement, but not nearly as much as creating the rest of your product.

What is it?

Selling in multiple packages.

You know when you go to subscribe to a web application and it asks which plan you would like? That’s tiered pricing—or multiple packages. They are segmenting their customers to allow those with larger budgets to pay more and get more value from the product. It’s common in software, but you can apply it to any other kind of product as well.

I do it with books. I sell just the book for $39 (that’s me pricing based on value), then for $99 I include video tutorials, expert interviews, and some other resources. Finally at $249 I include a top package that has even more resources (Photoshop files, code samples, and anything else that will save the customer time) as well as double the interviews and video tutorials.

I already spoiled the surprise by saying this method doubles or triples revenue over offering just the book at $39, but let’s look at exactly how.

For my book Authority (which is on exactly how to write and profit from your own technical ebook), I used the package method mentioned above. When looking at the sales count (number of copies sold) this was the distribution between packages:

  • The Book ($39) — 48%

  • The Book + Videos ($99) — 26%

  • The Complete Package ($249) — 26%

So just the book by itself sold nearly 50% of the copies. So was it worth doing the other packages? Definitely! Here’s the breakdown when we focus on revenue:

  • The Book ($39) — 16%

  • The Book + Videos ($99) — 24%

  • The Complete Package ($249) — 60%

Despite making up nearly 50% of revenue, the book only accounted for 16% of revenue. The real revenue came from the 24% of sales in The Complete Package that made up 60% of revenue!


Without excluding anyone

Raising prices almost always increases revenue. So why don’t we just keep raising prices to ridiculous amounts? Because each time you raise the price you exclude some people from buying. For some products that’s good: low paying customers have higher support costs in general. So in that case getting more revenue from fewer, higher quality customers is a good thing.

But with my books and training I want them to still be accessible. While businesses have plenty of money to spend, I don’t want to price freelancers out of getting my training.

That’s the beauty of tiered pricing. You can get all the benefits of selling a high priced product (the top package) to customers who have money (real businesses), but people just getting started can still afford a version of your product (the lowest package). Something for everyone—and you maximize revenue from the entire market!

One more thing

A really important, but very in-depth, topic I didn’t get a chance to cover is product launches.

I’ve launched a book to an email list of 800 and sold $12,500 in the first 24 hours, and I’ve also launched a design workshop to an email list of over 5,000 and sold zero seats. For the book I got the launch sequence right, and for the workshop I got lazy and screwed up the launch.

A good launch takes time to go through, so I’ve written a free, ten email course called Mastering Product Launches. It starts with topics like how to gather subscribers and build interest and finishes with using urgency to drive even more sales.

Sign up for Mastering Product Launches.


We love hearing from you and getting your feedback. Let us know what you think here.

Gumroad Trip: The Storm of The Sun Bros

Travis Nichols on January 13th, 2014

Chicago: a family-friendly city of beautiful outdoor art, inland beaches, and strange tomato pies often confused for pizzas.

Enter the brothers Sun. Wesley and Brad were brought up on a steady diet of Sega, comics, and cartoons. And what happens when parents dare to raise their children on such things? Well, in the case of the Sun Bros, the result was comics that read like the cool, scary movies they show late nights on cable. The intro to their first book, Chinatown, employs a super cinematic intro style with an abrupt stop right as — well, I don’t want to spoil it. But it made me nod and say, “Oh, that was raaad,” when I read it the first time.


The Sun Bros went to Kickstarter to raise funds for the printing of Chinatown, and it was so successful that they were able to print their second book, Apocalypse Man, as well. Now both books, in both print and digital formats, are available on Gumroad. 

One of the coolest thing about the Sun brothers is that they tap into their shared culture as well as their childhood influences. Their upcoming book Monkey Fist is their take on the Monkey King legend from Chinese mythology. In their adaptation, the monkey is the lowest cog in a fast food giant who rises through the ranks of HQ in a manic, action-packed style.

When I met Wesley and Brad on a stormy evening (countless takes were ruined by rumbles and bursts of heavy showers), Wesley stressed the importance of in-person marketing. They have a busy schedule of appearances, talks, panels, and conventions. Hey, cartoonists. Don’t you wish you had an in-house Communications Director?

Expect lots more from this dynamic duo, and check out their goods at and

Music in this video comes from the ever-positive SNCKPCK.


Previous stops on the Trip:

John Staskevich and Kevin Holland of NTHSynth - Columbus, OH

Brad Guigar, comic artist and illustrator - Philadelphia, PA

Lisa Yen, designer - Queens, NY

As always, we love hearing your feedback — feel free to get in touch.

Updates to Your Product Pages

Travis Nichols on January 6th, 2014

We’re pretty excited about the new features on product pages. Now you can edit all of the buyer-facing attributes of your product and payment process on the page itself. The improved buying flow will let you adjust what your customers will see in real time. Change the purchase button, add attributes, toggle shipping and required info, and more.

Here’s a video walkthrough to show you all of the updates. FULL SCREEN AHEAD!


We love hearing from you and getting your feedback. Let us know what you think here.

Unzipped: Multi-File Projects

Travis Nichols on December 18th, 2013

Good news for creators with albums of multiple tracks, video series, or other products with more than one component. Previously, the way to list and sell such items would be in single zipped files.

While that’s still available and viable, Gumroad now supports multiple-file projects. Now, after you upload a file, you’ll notice an option to upload more files.


Go ahead. Add as many as you like.


On the product’s page, you’ll find that you’ll get _____ is now defaulted to you’ll receive multiple files. If you prefer, you can change that to whatever best applies to your product. You’ll get a PDF and an MP4You’ll get six streaming videos. Your call.


There are a handful of benefits to uploading a multi-file product rather than a ZIP.


How will you use this new feature? We love hearing from you. Let us know what you think here.

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