Julia Evans

Zine revenue for 2019

I occasionally get questions like “Can you share what you’ve learned about running a business?” The most surprising thing I’ve learned is that it’s possible to make money by teaching people computer things on the internet, so I want to make that a little more concrete by sharing the revenue from the zine business so far in 2019. Here’s a graph of revenue by month (the last month is September 2019):

This adds up to $87,858 USD for 2019 so far, which (depending on what I release in the rest of this year) is on track to be similar to revenue for 2018 ($101,558).

Until quite recently I’d been writing zines in my spare time, and now I’m taking a year to focus on it.

how $30,000 for September breaks down

The most obvious thing in that monthly revenue graph above is that 2 months (September and March) have way more revenue than all the others. This is because I released new zines (Bite Size Networking and HTTP: Learn your browser’s language) in those months.

Here’s how the $30,000 for September breaks down:

  • it’s 85% sales to individuals, 15% corporate licenses
  • it’s approximately:
    • $18,000 the new HTTP zine
    • $10,000 the various zine packs (the 6 pack and the 3 pack)
    • $2,000 other individual zines

This September was the month with the most sales ever, which is mostly because of individual humans who find the zines useful (thank you!!).

expenses

The main expenses are paying illustrators and an accountant, a mailing list, and various books I buy to learn how to do things better. They probably come out to about 10% of revenue or so, and then there are taxes after that.

giving away free copies has been great

With the HTTP zine, like many of my previous zines, I’ve been giving away one free copy for every copy that people buy, so that people can get it even if $12 is hard for them to afford. (if you can’t afford $12, here’s the link, there are about 70 available as I’m writing this). I’m pretty happy with this setup – we’ve given away 1358 copies so far. (I think of this as kind of a “sales” statistic too)

I think I want to automate the system to give away free copies a bit more soon (like by automatically updating the number of free zines available using the Gumroad API instead of periodically doing it manually).

hopefully this is a useful data point!

Writing about money on the internet is weird, so this will probably be the first and last zine revenue post, but I’m writing it down in the hopes that it’s a useful data point for others. I thought for a long time that you could only really make money from writing on the internet with ads or sponsorships, but it’s not true!

The goal of this isn’t to say “you should run a business” or anything, just that this is a thing that’s possible in the world and that many developers do really value good educational materials and are happy to pay for them (if you’re one of those people, thank you!)

Notes on building SQL exercises SQL queries don't start with SELECT