The 21st Century Product Launch: Why It's Never Been Better To Be a Creator

"Individuals can now craft incredibly effective distribution channels and leverage them to sell their work directly to their audiences."


Nearly everything related to launching a product online has changed in the last decade, and it’s continuing to change at a very rapid pace. Just a few years ago, it was incredibly difficult to launch and sell a product—any product—directly to your audience. Building a mailing list, retargeting, and setting up auto-responders was essentially impossible because of the cost and effort involved.

Creators have since gained enormous leverage. It’s now possible for independent creators like Sacha Greif, Nathan Barry, and Kyle Webster to collectively make millions of dollars selling their work online. They don’t have big teams working for them, there’s no huge marketing budget behind the scenes, and they don’t have million-subscriber email lists. Individuals can now craft incredibly effective distribution channels and leverage them to sell their work directly to their audiences. There’s never been a better time to be a creator.

Since Gumroad is the platform that many of these creators are choosing to power their sales, we’ve had a first-hand look at thousands of creators’ product launches—from first-time writers and straight-from-the-garage musicians to best-selling authors and multi-platinum recording artists, many of whom are pioneering direct-to-fan distribution at scale in their industries. We’re in the business of helping these creators—and all creators—be successful at distributing their work directly to their audiences. We spend a lot of time analyzing, testing, and sharing strategies that help increase the success of product launches. There are a lot of winning strategies, and many that are specific to certain types of products, but we’ve found a few that seem to work really well across the board.

Email is Gold

It’s no secret that email is still the highest converting marketing channel for almost anything online, and it’s especially true for product launches. We see view-to-purchase conversions from email more than twice as high as those coming from social networks, and average revenue per subscriber on a pre-launch email list can exceed $6.

The simplest way to build an email list prior to launch is by offering something of value in exchange for people joining the list. The simplest things to offer are either a discount on the future product, or a sneak preview—like the first chapter of a book. Sacha Greif, the author of Discover Meteor, did exactly this when gearing up for his launch. Everyone who subscribed to his email list received the first four chapters of the upcoming book, as well as sneak peeks at content that would be included in the top-tier packages. This incentivized his audience to join the list, and immediately created value for them.

To amplify this even further, you can run ad campaigns that lead directly to your pre-launch email list opt-in. The conversion rate will be abnormally high, since giving up your email list is relatively low commitment (particularly compared to buying a product), and then the ball is entirely in your court. You now have a direct line into the inbox of each of these members of your audience, something you should both treasure and protect—and it’s up to you to earn their business.

The Magic of Drip Emails

The goal of this pre-launch strategy is simple: demonstrate the value of your future product in such a way that each person on the list is already convinced to buy before you give them the chance to do so. Every email sent to this list should expose a new angle on the value your product creates and lead them closer and closer to willingness to purchase the product. This strategy is often called “drip marketing”, and it works incredibly well. It demonstrates the value of your work and builds trust with your audience over time.

Tier Your Pricing

When it comes to packaging the final product, another strategy you can use to drive a lot more revenue from your product launch is tiered pricing. Nathan Barry, the author of Authority (as well as two other self-published books), has used tiered pricing with each of his product launches and has found that it more than triples the revenue from a release. The exact prices will vary from product to product, but the multiples that we see work well are: 1x, 2.2x and 5x.

If you’re releasing a book, you might price a digital copy at $19, a bundle that includes a few video interviews at $39, and an even bigger bundle that includes your research and notes (as well as the videos) for $100+. Often, the additional content that you can include in these bundles are things that you’ve already made during the process of creating your product, and can easily be offered to buyers with a small amount of polishing.

We generally see that the purchase breakdown of each tier is evenly distributed (or polarized a bit to either extreme, with the middle bundle acting as a price anchor). Because of the higher price points, more than 50% of your revenue might come from the top tier. Most creators have a small contingency of their audience who are highly engaged. That’s who this top tier is targeted at, and who will be most excited about purchasing your product.

These tools and strategies have worked well for a wide range of creators and have helped everyone from independent authors to some of the largest artists in the world drive more revenue from their releases. The tools are out there. The key is simply building a launch strategy to maximize both exposure and conversions, while continually building trust with your audience. The future is bright for creators. Take advantage of it.

Ryan Delk is the Head of Growth and Business Development at Gumroad. Follow him on Twitter @delk.


The 21st Century Product Launch: Why It's Never Been Better To Be a Creator