An Interview with Roy Osherove, Author of Notes to a Software Team Leader
Published May 16, 2012 by Peter Armstrong
Roy Osherove is the author of the Leanpub book Notes to a Software Team Leader and of The Art Of Unit Testing. Roy has been in leadership roles for most of his professional life, acting as team lead, CTO and architect in many places. He’s had many failures to learn from but also some great successes, that he likes to share by doing training courses and mentoring. You can read his blog at 5whys.com.
Roy was a very interesting person to talk with. However, this is the first interview Peter had ever conducted as the interviewer, so it’s occasionally painful to listen to at times! The transcript below is a bit cleaned up.
This interview was recorded on March 20, 2012.
Peter Armstrong: So I’m here with Roy Osherove, who is an instructor and blogger and author. Roy blogs and teachers workshops about Agile development and software team leadership. His most recent book is Notes to a Software Team Leader which has been written and published on Leanpub. We’re going to talk today about his book, his experiences as an author, about Lean Publishing, and what led Roy to try Leanpub — and also as a programming note, this is the first podcast I’ve ever done as the interviewer, so I’m sure I’ll talk too quickly and make tons of mistakes, so forgive me!
Okay, so, Roy, thank you for being on the first ever Lean Publishing podcast.
Roy Osherove: Thank you, I’m honored to be the first.
A: So, before we get into discussing your book and Lean Publishing, I’d like to find out a bit more about your background. On your blog it shows you teach workshops, and you’re a blogger and an author. So how did this all happen?
O: Well, I’ve been in the software development business for about 12, maybe 14 years. I live in Israel, and I’ve always been a software developer in my heart. About maybe ten years ago I started to blog about .NET, and things actually rolled from there. I got a bunch of readership, and I got to write my first book at some point, which was about unit testing, it’s called The Art of Unit Testing, and that led to speaking engagements and training and whatnot. And team leadership has always been a passion of mine; it’s something that I’ve failed to do so many times that I’ve learnd a lot about it, and so I’m doing the same thing that I did with my previous book, which is just sharing a lot of my mistakes.
A: Excellent… Yeah, I found myself as I was reviewing the book for this podcast, and I found myself just reading the whole thing, and didn’t prepare as much as I planned, because it struck a chord with me in my own experiences going from a developer to trying to lead teams. So, what led you to write Notes to a Software Team Leader? Was it, coming out of your training, or more out of your experience leading teams, or, how did that get started?
O: Well the book, I view this book as more of a bridging book, much like the first one was. Notes to a Software Team Leader for me is a book that bridges people with no management experience or leadership experience with the most important basic material they should be introduced with. But very much from a down-to-earth point of view: no-nonsense, real advice, not necessarily in, let’s say, industrial terms, as least upper-case letters as possible if you will -
A: Yeah, jargon. There’s no jargon, it felt like reading a conversation, I really enjoyed that.
O: Thank you. And the point is, there was a series of books called 99 Things Every X Should Know, like a developer, an architect, and it’s edited by Kevlin Henney, and I got to meet Kevlin at a bunch of conferences, and I said ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a 99 things every team leader needs to know’? Unfortunately, the company that publishes his books didn’t really like the idea for this book, and I didn’t want to steal the naming convention, so it’s basically Kevlin’s idea to call it Notes to a Software Team Leader, and he’s getting full credit for this name, because I think it really matches. So the second part of the book is actually community-driven, and it’s filled with notes and advice from team leaders and consultants and team leader wannabes and project managers, about what would make a good team leader to them.
A: Right, I noticed that. I assume you’re evolving this as you publish it, like it’s currently around 30–40 pages on Leanpub right now, and what’s you’re plan for the book overall? Like, keep going with more notes from other people, or expand it yourself, or, what’s your plan forward, or are you just evolving as you go?
O: The plan is to have two parts to the book. The first part is the one that I’m writing, which is based on the blog at 5whys.com, and that’s my notion of my biggest discoveries in the world of team leadership, which is about the idea of elastic leadership and the idea of team leadership stages, where the team needs different things at different stages in its life. When I finish the first part, which is probably going to be about four or five chapters, or something more than that, I’m working on chapter three right now, I’m going to add probably no more than a hundred notes, and hopefully the book will be basically finished. And then I’m going to print it and then sell it. Because I’m teaching this stuff, and I’m really missing a book that encompasses the things that I’m teaching, a companion book for my courses.
A: That makes sense. I really like the three phases, the Chaos phase, the Learning phase, and the Self-Organizing phases for the team, and also the different leadership styles where you talk about command and control, coach and facilitator. It think they’re really valuable to think like that, because I find myself either falling into command and control or facilitator a lot, like defaulting to facilitator and then moving to command and control. It’s nice when you have words for describing what you’re doing, like design patterns kind of. To me it felt like when I read Design Patterns and it’s like ok, yeah there’s just some names for things I’m doing, like named ‘Facilitator’, ok, this is to recognize what you’re doing. I think it makes you more self aware as to what you’re doing as a leader; I really found it valuable.
O: One of the biggest points about the idea of elastic leadership in the book is something that I’ve been missing a lot. It’s basically a framework for deciding what type of leader should you be, based on the current situation with the team. So it’s more of a framework to say, What is the current situation of the team? Are we in chaos, are we in learning mode, are we in self-organizing mode, and then to change accordingly. That’s something that seems to be missing in terms of guidance for a lot of team leaders. Especially for me, it was missing, and I wish I would have thought about that when I just started out. But today, when I see team leaders make a lot of mistakes, once I have that framework in my head, it’s very easy to say OK, so I can see what the problem is, there’s a mismatch between the leadership type and the actual phase the team is in, and that’s a problem, if we just match one to the other things would be better. And it also gives you a framework for deciding what type of advice do you accept. Have you ever seen those questions on LinkedIn, like, ‘I’m a scrum master and my team, I have a person in my team who’s always negative, what should I do?’ Then that person gets like 100 different responses, things what they should do, and of course each and every one of them seems to make sense, but a lot of them collide with each other, a lot of them are the opposite of each other, and so it’s kind of a framework to say, OK, it depends, what is the phase the team is in, because based on that, you either have time to work with that person and challenge them, or you don’t. How do you challenge them? If the team is supposed to be self-organizing, are they really? And so your actions as a team leader will be different. So it’s a framework to decide what to do based on the current sitation.
A: Right. For people, say for example who might be better at facilitating than coaching, is there, do you try to look and follow the situation as much as possible, or do you take into account, well I might be like average or poor at coaching right now, but I’m excellent at facilitating, I’ll try to facilitate my way out of this, or should you try to really just improve your own abilities as a team leader, and then try to be really situational? Does that take into account the difference, what the team leader’s capable of? Like if you’re trying to coach teams using agile coaching, are you only making matters worse, or…?
O: That’s a good question.
A: I’m really good at facilitating, and I’m terrible at coaching. And I’m good at command and control, I enjoy it but I try to use it very sparingly, because it think it’s destructive if you use it a lot. The one question I had, maybe related to this, is: Lots of this, in the elastic leadership chapter, seemed to talk to team leaders inside larger organizations. Do you see the same sort of dynamic applying to smaller startups, or do you think that things are just so chaotic at startups that it may make more sense to apply this knowledge in larger organizations first? Who’s your ideal target reader? Is it a person in a 100 person company, a 1000 person company, a five person company?
O: Having worked with a startup mentality, and having moved to Ruby in the past couple of years, has taught me that I don’t think that this elastic leadership stuff makes a lot of sense if you are in startup mode and the whole idea is just to get feedback and see if you’re on the right track. I think that it’s more, it’s going to make more sense if you’re in an enterprise-related team…
A: Where you know the product you’re building and it’s about delivering, or you’re doing the traditional agile approaches?
O: I really come from the Microsoft world, and from the Microsoft world it’s a lot of enterprise stuff, and there’s a lot of people problems, because it’s usually not a startup space, and in that regard, you have a lot of time to work at your skills and improve your team. In startups, usually you would have a month or two to just develop something, and get feedback, and I don’t think it’s the right place for the team leader to develop the people in their team over a month or two…
A: …when they only have a couple months of runway. That makes sense.
O: If you’re past the startup stage, where you know you’ve already built something of value, and now you have a long stretch ahead of you, of mulptiple years that you know you’re going to be working, now is the time to start building a real team and growing them etc. But in the inital seed stages, I don’t see it happening too much right now.
A: That makes sense. So in terms of the mechanics of your book specfically, what led you to use the Lean Publishing approach of self-publishing while your book is in progress?
O: Well, initially I was talking with Manning about doing this book with Manning, and they really wanted to, and then I was talking with Pearson Books about doing the book with them, and I actually signed a contract. But then the whole SOPA thing came on, and one of the things that I saw was that the Pearson folks were actually in support of SOPA, so I contacted them and said I cannot work with someone who supports the SOPA Act.
A: Wow, excellent. We’re very anti-SOPA as you may know.
O: Yeah, so, and the more I looked at the publishing world, the more I see that it feels like a big scam. Because you know I’ve published a book that is mildly successful, it has sold many thousands of copies, I mean definitely more than ten I think, probably double that, I’m not sure, and yet the royalties are just horrible. It’s definitely no way to make money. It’s a good way to make yourself known, in terms of marketing, but for someone who believes in the idea of agility and incremental work, the process of writing a book is basically the opposite! It’s the most extreme version of Waterfall that can ever be imagined. You’re expected to write the whole table of contents up front, and then to kind of estimate how long it’s going to take, and then try to lead by that, and of course everybody knows that’s never going to work, but somehow you’re expected to write the book and two years later you’re supposed to finish it as if your mind is two years backwards.
A: Yeah, and if you have a good idea part way along, and you try to change your table of contents, then that’s like a new proposal.
O: Almost. It’s not really that big a deal if everyone’s already in it with you, and then you can go ahead and say look, it’s going to take six months more etc. So my first book actually took three years to publish, because I just had a kid born — so I started my book with no kids, and I finished it with two kids.
O: Yeah, now this book, I just had a kid born nine months ago, so that’s interesting too. But my biggest problem was that the feedback mechanism, the feedback cycle of actually publishing the book and reviewing, and the copy-editing, all that stuff, is just so slow and so horrible and so Waterfallish, and so bureaucratic, it just doesn’t make sense, it’s something I would try to avoid at any cost. And so what happened, was that I was looking at other publishers and I was looking at the Pragmatic publishing company, and I’m actually still thinking about working with them, because their royalties are pretty good, they’re doing the 50/50 royalty stuff…
A: After costs, right.
O: After costs. It’s still not amazing, but you can tell they’re trying to do the right thing there. They’re developers, they’re working with developers, and they have some amazing books, I’ve always wanted to be a part of that.
A: I think that I have bought about ten Pragmatic books. Same with Manning though, one of the first Manning books I read was Java Swing, way back in the day. I wrote a Manning book myself, right. But I know what you mean.
O: It’s horrible.
A: The funny thing, I understand your experience totally, because I did two Manning books, and the first one I self-published it while it was in progress…
O: They were happy with that?
A: Before I had any contract with anyone, I was writing Flexible Rails, and I was self-publishing it, and what I was doing is I put the PDF on Lulu, and people could buy it. And in the thank-you note, I said Hey, this book is being updated, here’s a secret URL, and it was like flexiblerails.com/rumplestiltskin, and so it was my joke, right, don’t tell anyone this thing because this is the book you paid for is at this URL. And so I wrote the book in public, and iterated, and I after I finished the first draft, then I was getting contacted by various publishers, and did the deal with Manning, and my experience there was really positive, because I had the first draft finished, and then it was like, OK, take the thing and polish it and make a book out of it. And also my negotiating position was really good because I had a finished book and I was making lots of money, and so I could drive a hard bargain on the ebook royalties.
O: And that’s kind of where I’m driving to right now, because I really liked the Manning experience, the people are really nice…
O: They’re just stuck in a world of lots of bureaucracy. They’re trying to do the right thing.
A: Yeah, they add the most value near the end of the book. Like typesetting, copy-editing, all that stuff happens at the end.
O: Marketing too.
A: Yeah marketing, and the channels, I don’t know anything about selling print books in channels, right. But I found that if you do something with a community, like if you write in-progress and get your ideas out there early, for me what happened is the the community sort of functioned like my development editor…
A: …and then when I was done the book I put it through the sausage factory and then I made a real book out of it, like a real physical book, etc, but the process of actually creating the first full version, I really enjoyed that, self-publishing it, and it seems like you’re doing the same thing.
O: Yeah, I don’t want to hide the book as I’m writing it, and for me, the Leanpub process really fits, because I’m an extrovert in many ways, and if there’s one thing that I hate it’s to delay gratification, so I want to be able to fix a typo or add a missing bio to one the writers, and then click Preview, and then click Publish, and within three minutes everyone has the latest version.
A: Yeah, exactly, if it’s a technical book and you have a bug in it, you want to be able to push it out to readers the same day as you find it. Your book obviously it’s a technical book, but there’s no code in it, it’s a management book, but if you’re, if you want to just change something, you want to be able to push out releases to your readers, on your schedule, not putting people in between you and your readers.
O: Yeah, and it’s kind of like cooking, because you get to decide on the cover, so I went to 99designs.com, and I created a nice cover for it. So it’s like you’re a child, you’re in charge of everything, in terms of content, and you get to see it live. You know one of the nicest features that I like the most about the Leanpub stuff, is that I could tell that people would actually buy the book before I actually started publishing it, and that was a nice thing, that’s kind of the Lean idea, is to say, is this the right thing? Will people actually pay for this? And so I get to see whether people will actually pay for the book, and when it’s out, even though it has two chapters and couple of notes, people are actually buying it, I had already almost 80 readers so far. That’s, well it’s not the most amazing success, but it tells me that there is a pocket of loyal readership that’s just beginning, and to me it’s almost like a blog being written live, that’s going to turn into a beautiful book.
A: Exactly. I’ve obviously, since obviously I’m the co-founder of Leanpub, I can poke around and look at things, and I mean I noticed that you’ve had people paying from the minimum to like over $10, I mean your minimum price is $2.99 and your suggested price is $9.99, and you’ve had people pay more than the suggested price.
O: Yeah like 15 bucks.
A: I’ve seen the spread has been very impressive, actually. Lots of people have been paying over the minimum, which is fantastic. When we were initially building the variable pricing feature… Back in the day Leanpub only had fixed price, and we had the idea, we should do variable price as well, and kind of like based on the success of things like Kickstarter, seeing how people want to engage, feel like they’re participating in creating something, but yeah, this is, seeing the data from books like yours has made us realize that this is so good, that we should get rid of the idea of fixed price altogether, like it does not make any sense to charge a fixed price for a book.
O: I have to say, I’m pretty impressed. I think that you guys, I feel like I’m part of the beginning of a revolution in publishing. And I think a lot of people are going to start doing this in the next few years. We’re like just the earliest adopters. But, as the books become more and more published and printed, to have a nice graphic, like it says, ‘Published with Leanpub’, or ‘Incrementally Published’, I would call it ‘Lean-early’, as in the word lean…
O: Hey, I want dibs on that now!
A: Ha! I have a weakness for naming things too, whenever I have a good name I register the .com, it’s like my domain habit.
O: Exactly. I have six domains…
A: I think I probably have a problem an order of magnitude worse than you!
O: Wow. ADD? One thing that I like is that there is a Bestsellers, and my book is in the Bestsellers. But one thing I realised is that the Bestsellers is not sorted by the amount of readers.
A: It’s by revenue.
O: Oh… OK.
A So, the reason we did that, and that will show how early-stage we are, based on that you know your revenue. The short head of our revenue is really good, and then it falls off. But the reason we sorted it by revenue is that we had a couple books that had a free promotion that got a lot of press about a year ago, and say that had about a thousand copies that were just free, and so we wanted to give…. Well it’s a couple of things. We should on the Bestsellers page sort by, we should let a user of the website say show me top… it’s not like Apple where you say, top free or top paid, what you really want to see is, show me by grossing, which is what we do now, or show me, um number of copies, which would just count free and paid equally, but we should find some way to weight, they should be some sort of weighting… Where if someone chooses to pay more than $20 for a book, it should be worth more than free.
O: I’m sure the listeners are about to choke both of us right now!
A: Ha! Yeah, go ahead!
O: So, anyway, I really like the process, because it allows me to think freely and to change the book at my own whim, and geeks like me need that control, so it’s pretty cool.
A: Have you done much experimenting with your price? Did you do like $2.99, $9.99 right away, and did you change it around, or?
O: I just said $2.99 just to see what happens and that’s it.
O: It would be nice to have like A/B testing, but you know what, the fact that people are buying it tells me everything I need to know, so basically I’m OK. I’m fine with how things are going. So far I’m happy with the design…. I think the whole idea of Lean Publishing, of incremental publishing and being able to see it as you write it, I don’t think that exists anywhere else.
A: Yeah, when we designed Leanpub, we based off my experiences, what I had to do though was a kludge — I had to use a service that was meant for selling finished print books, which was Lulu, right, but they also sold PDFs. So I put a PDF on Lulu, and then I wanted to do it in-progress, so I put a secret URL in my thank you note, and I also set up a Google Group, so if you bought the book you could join the Google Group. And then I’d put updates on the Google Group, but the whole thing relied on, like, distributing updates — I had to post a file somwhere and email the Google Group, it was a big hassle. And I did it, and it hundreds of people of people read the book, and it did well for me, but basically Leanpub was created to be the website I wish existed when I wrote Flexible Rails. And the funny thing is that the idea for the name ‘Leanpub’ came from, our first customer was Eric Ries, and he came to talk in Vancouver about Lean Startups, and we were talking with him afterwards, we were drinking with him, and talking about what would he like in a publishing website, and says, “Well, what I’d really like to be able to do, is make a book out of my blog, because all the good content’s right there.” And we were like well, we can do that! And so, that’s when we realized that the idea of self-published in-progress books really dovetailed nicely with blogging and bloggers, and so we could look at blogs being a good optional starting point for in-progress books. And so that’s how the whole thing sort of happened and why it’s called Leanpub, is like Lean Publishing, which is self-publishing an in-progress book.
So, I think that you’re basically our ideal author. Obviously you have techinical skills, in terms of you’ve written, you’re a coder, and you’ve written a technical book and now you’re writing a business-type book, and so, basically, your feedback is really valuable to us. So, like, is there anything right now that you wish that Leanpub did, and it doesn’t?
O: Well… I know you guys were mentioning the idea of generating a PDF with things like Lulu, etc., which to me would be a very good idea. I want to be able to just, when I’m finished, to just ship it off, print it and just have it on Amazon and the Kindle and all that stuff, not even worry about it, just being able to get a link and tweet that and be done with it within ten minutes.
A: Yeah, what we’re going to do there I think is, so, currently you can just the PDF on Lulu, like yourself. For example Eric Ries’s Startup Lessons Learned is on Lulu right now, and I think I remember, last time I looked, a few months ago, it was like in the top 1000 Lulu books. But the thing is the PDF, right now the thing with Leanpub is that if you put it on Lulu as a PDF, that’s made for screen, and so we’re going to develop a feature where we make like print-optimized PDFs where we take the cover page off, so you can make your own cover page.
O: Yeah, that’s what I meant, exactly. There isn’t much that I miss, except maybe just being able to sort by readers, and, now I know it’s by grossing, that at least I know what it means, to be somewhere in the middle. Yeah, it just means that we’re somewhere in the beginning, because I definitely think it’s just the beginning. I know Johanna Rothman is working on a book, and I think in the next couple of years, other people will start realizing that there’s benefits to not working through a publisher at the beginning at least.
A: Yeah, I think publishers add value; the most value they add is at the end. And in the beginning part of the book, if you want to write in public, there’s lots of benefits.
So far in terms of reader feedback, like I know in Leanpub we have the opportunity for you to to say ‘email readers’, and send something from a form — have you found that useful, or have you found readers contacting you by email or Twitter, or has there been much feedback at all?
O: There’s been very little feedback from the readers. In fact now that I think about it, one of the things that I miss is that I can’t see the names of the people who bought my book.
A: Yeah. Oh man, this has been an internal debate on this. So at some point we were going to show everything, name and email of purchasers, but we didn’t want to do email because that would be bad.
O: Yeah, but the names at the very least. Because I can see, I have a course on TDDD on udemy.com, and so there when someone subscribes, I can their name, so I can know they’re part of my course, and I can contact them directly…
A: So we can maybe have some checkbox or something on our form, like we can have it by default say ‘share name’, then check box ‘opt out’, then be anonymous, or something…
O: I don’t know, I think the person who purchases my book, I think they kind of assume that I see all the information because I’m the author of the book, and they purchase it and they actually pay me in some way.
O: So I don’t see any kind of problem, at least giving their first and last name, I think it’s actually expected.
A: Yeah, it’s an interesting question, we’ll have to think about it, because it’s like, you make assumptions, we try to make reasonable assumptions, and you’ll always find someone who’s indignant about the fact that your assumption was just on the other side of what they thought. But you can’t let that deter your from building a good product. And so we have to figure out what the right balance is, without making, like… Our purchase form is really dead-simple, you know with the sliders and stuff, and the reason we don’t want to do make it more complicated… but I do know what you’re saying, yeah it would be nice to see names, I’m going to make a note about that. I’m going to make a Pivotal story for that.
O: Now that I’m thinking about it, another feature that’s missing to me is the analytics.
A: Yeah, if you go to the Edit Info page, you can put a Google Analytics code…
O: Yeah, it’s a much more powerful feature. Not everyone uses Google Analytics; getclicky is actually better, just so you know.
O: I think you should experiment. Do it for a month…
A: We should try something…
O: A new experiment…
A: Yeah, we should consider that for sure.
O: Because using Google Analytics is kind of a bitch, you know. The interface is so complex and everything. Getclicky, I seriously advise everyone to go getclicky.com and just use that. It’s so much better, so much more usable than Google Analytics, and it’s free for the basic five sites, so it’s pretty cool.
A: Have you ever… So what we do right now is we use Google Analytics and KISSmetrics. We were considering trying to figure our if there’s a way to expose KISSmetrics data to authors, automatically…
O: What kind of data?
A: Funnel. Funnel analysis. What kind of data do you want? I assume you’re doing funnel analysis basically, right?
O: Well I just want to see how many people go in, so when I tweet about it, I want to see that it actually has an effect on the wave, on the analytics wave, if you know what I mean.
A: Yeah, so Twitter is weird, like Twitter traffic often shows up as “direct”, because lots of people use different Twitter clients. And so if you at least knew the volume, then you’d be able to tell, well I did a big Twitter thing here and then VOOMP! Now I have like 100 more people…
O: Now that I think about it, one of the coolest things that I saw, I want to be able to at least like embed a YouTube video on the page, where I explain and I talk about the book, or there’s a video of me doing a talk or a lecture about the book or something like that, I think that will draw a lot of people into it. It’s like a landing page, so it is a book landing page after all, and there is a really powerful feature.
A: Yeah, actually that’s a really good suggestion. If you don’t mind talking about this for a few minutes, like our desing goal for the book landing page is to be good enough so that people don’t want to set up custom WordPress blogs just to point at their Leanpub books. And we had an author who did this, because, our landing page used to be terrible, and so Manuel actually created a WordPress blog just to be basically–no actually, it was a different person–but people have created WordPress blogs just to point at their Leanpub pages. And so we want to be flexible in terms of like have things like video and analytics and whatnot…
A: Right. So, in terms of the layout that we have now, we did a bunch of work on the page…
O: The current layout is almost perfect, in Explorer it looks pretty good, but in Chrome there are like no margins to the right and left, otherwise I kinda like it. It’s clean and simple, but I want to be able to add some more information to it, you know, in a structured way.
A: And would you want that to be just like… OK, I can see that, and things like a YouTube video, I can see that living really nicely above the table of contents…
O: And like a big Twitter icon that leads right to my Twitter account, and a YouTube, where it’s right on the top of the page, where I explain about the book or whatever. Or a background image I can set, whatever.
A: I think you’re going a tiny bit farther than we’ll go, but I get the idea, and I think we’re going to start making this customizable, not like this week or anything, but I think going forward, and when we do I’ll ping you and see what you’re feedback is.
O: You know what? Before all that, I don’t mind if you keep the site as it is, just give me the ability to have parts in the book instead of just chapters…
A: Ha! Yes, you’re the second person who’s asked for this recently, we’ll do that, for sure, that makes sense.
O: Because my book is in two parts. Right now I have a chapter for the notes, instead of a part with multiple chapters.
A: So here’s the thing. We need to keep the h1 being a chapter, I think, because, for the listeners who don’t know what we’re talking about, in Leanpub you have a Book.txt file that lists file names, and then you have like h1 are chapters, h2 are sections etc. If we went and made parts be h1 then we’d break all the Leanpub books and we don’t want to do that, so I think what we’d end up doing is parts, I think the current thinking is, either some special syntax…
O: Yeah, just a special syntax, like multiple lines or something that says part one, or whatever. It’s just one hierarchy level up…
A: So do you need to be able to name the parts? Or is numbered, just part one, part two…
O: Yeah, you should be able to name the parts.
A: Ok, that makes sense.
O: And each part should have like a possible exposition, like a paragraph.
A: Yeah, OK, so then it’s basically just a special syntax for delimiting…
A: … a heading, and then you just write text in there that looks like normal text.
O: I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to cut this podcast in half, and say like the first half is a podcast and the second half is just us talking…
A: Ha! Well I like this because Leanpub is a startup and we’re a Lean startup and… part of this podcast is about Lean Publishing and the Lean Publishing ideas, because I’m going to be taking some of this and adapting some of it for my own book about Lean Publishing. And the other part is, I want to stick the podcast on Leanpub, and say hey, this is a podcast with a Leanpub author who’s enjoying using Leanpub, and etc., But, I think, frankly, we’re doing customer development, and we’re trying to build the best site for people who are basically you. And, so, this is very much what Leanpub is, I think, is this type of process. It’s usually been with emails, instead of on a podcast, but for me, this is what Leanpub is, and if you want to be like an author, who uses Leanpub, then yeah.
O: You know Peter, while we’re all being honest and recorded and stuff, here’s another request.
O: So, I don’t get, and you’re not the only guys doing this, but I don’t get why do payments always have to be every three months. Why don’t I get paid every month?
A: They should be monthly. You know why they’re every three months? You know why? It’s because I’m the guy who does it and I’m lazy! It’s literally, like I’m literally going into PayPal…
O: “Never ascribe to malice that which can be attributed…”
A: It’s not malice, it’s not even incompetence, it’s sloth! And it’s actually lack of automation. What it’s going to be at some point, obviously we’re going to use PayPal’s MassPay to pay everyone automatically. I’m thinking about changing the terms of service so that if it’s over a certain amount it gets paid monthly. What I don’t want to do is every month have to pay for books that are like experiments, and they have like one sale…
O: Yeah, but if it’s over 50 bucks or something…
A: …like if it’s some material amount of money. Like, we don’t have this all sitting in some big bank account earning interest for Leanpub. We’ve had that request from one other person as well, and the better you do, the more of a request it is, and so yeah. I think we’ll change the terms to be, over a certain amount, monthly, otherwise quarterly. And then, the other aspect is, ironically I went to go code, the way that the code works to mark things as paid is written really inefficiently, because when I first coded it we didn’t have as many successful authors as now, so now I have to rewrite the code that actually marks things paid.
O: Hey, congratulations!
A: Yes, I’m happy about that, it’s first-world problems, right?
O: Champagne problems!
A: Exactly. Yeah, we’ll change it to monthly. What’s reasonable to you? Like $100, $200?
O: I would say everything over 50 bucks is payable.
A: Sure, that’s fine. So, here we go, I’m not going to cut this podcast, I’m just going to put it up there as-is I think. I like this.
O: Raw. Make it bleed.
A: This was really good, Roy. So, do you have any… I think I’ve pretty much covered everything I wanted to cover. So you’re fine with this being a podcast and also with me excerpting or quoting it entirely in my Lean Publishing book, or just snipping certain parts out, and whatnot, right?
O: As long as I get to review the stuff you wrote about me in the book, yeah.
A: Sure, of course.
O: Yeah, cool.
A: Also I’ll probably ask you to contribute something about yourself, that’ll be easiest. Well thanks a lot, thanks for being the first Lean Publishing Podcast guest!
O: It is an honour.
A: Thank you…
O: Thank you Peter. Great work so far guys.
A: And thanks for being a Leanpub author!
Originally published at leanpub.com.