First of all, we have a number of testimonials on our testimonials page, at https://leanpub.com/testimonials
First, some big picture numbers. We've paid over $6 million USD in royalties since launching in 2010. Over a hundred authors have earned over $10,000 on Leanpub, and over a thousand authors have earned over $100.
But almost equally important are the countless hours that Leanpub has saved authors in producing the thousands of books which have been published on our platform.
Leanpub is a magical typewriter: you write in plain text, click one button, and you have an attractive ebook, published in PDF, EPUB and MOBI, for sale on a beautiful landing page, to readers all over the world.
Now, just to pick a few success stories, to span the range:
Jeff Geerling is a typical successful Leanpub author who used the Lean Publishing approach, treating his book like a Lean Startup. A web and app developer based in St. Louis, Jeff used the Lean Publishing approach with his book Ansible for DevOps and made $25,000 before completing his book. He wrote about his experience in this blog post: “$25K in book sales, and I'm almost ready to publish”. (Note that those were actual sales of the in-progress book on Leanpub, not an advance.) Perhaps one of the most important aspects of adopting the Lean Startup approach to writing books is the excitement and motivation that comes from building up a customer base of early adopter readers, which provides validation for projects that may take years to complete (Jeff’s project took over two years in total, even though he published the first version much earlier).
Luc P. Beaudoin is has used Leanpub for scholarly publishing. Luc is Adjunct Professor of Cognitive Science and of Education at Simon Fraser University and the author of Cognitive Productivity: Using Knowledge to Become Profoundly Effective. Luc has written about what may be a surprising example of where Leanpub’s Lean Publishing approach brings special value: scientific or academic publishing, an absolutely massive industry which is currently experiencing high-profile issues around the way texts are written, published and distributed. In particular, Luc writes, “establishing relationships with people who can provide invaluable feedback on their work” is important for scientific and academic writers. By making it easy to get a scientist’s work out to colleagues, particularly those accustomed to collaborating on platforms like GitHub, Leanpub’s approach can facilitate the improved production, presentation and dissemination of groundbreaking work. As Luc writes, Leanpub “allows you to develop knowledge in the form of an evolving book, while facilitating collaboration.”
Lean Publishing and Leanpub have also made a contribution by helping people with innovative projects in education, including corporate and professional education. For example, a group of professors from a prominent US university, who run one of the most popular MOOCs ever, have used Leanpub to distribute their Data Science textbooks. Here is what they wrote about how they used Leanpub, in a paper titled “The democratization of data science education”:
“The high cost of textbooks with frequent edition updates is one of the biggest justifiable complaints from students. From the beginning we had released all course material under an open source license on Github. However, we needed a mechanism for releasing affordable books and course notes. We used the Leanpub platform, which offered a variable pricing model with no minimum payment required. Textbooks for several of our courses including Statistical Inference for Data Science, The Elements of Data Analytic Style, and R Programming for Data Science have sold collectively hundreds of thousands of free and paid copies on the platform. The self-publishing model and markdown based writing format made it easy to translate notes written for courses into textbooks and rapidly release both at the same time. Since then, Brian Caffo, Roger Peng, and Jeff Leek have published a collective 12 books on Leanpub, all available for free on a variable pricing model.”
One key element of this project is the priority it places on efficiency and easy, rapid iteration, two important factors for doing anything that is both lean and startup-like. With literally millions of students, the automation of processes is key, and this includes the production of textbooks. Being able to easily “translate notes written for courses into textbooks and rapidly release both at the same time” is not just a convenience for people creating and managing huge MOOCs: it is essential to success. In the paper, they mention in numerous places how important the freedom to change things quickly was important to what they achieved, which was building “the largest MOOC program in history.” In an age where there is a growing understanding that the nature and importance of internal corporate training and lifelong education is changing, tools that permit both quick iteration and massive reach are going to be important to educators of all kinds as they develop new products and new resources.