11 min 2 sec

Software Engineer Publishes Technical Writing Guide

After a computer programmer with a knack for technical writing is approached for a freelance gig, he ends up writing the book on the subject.
Book Product Writing

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What It's About

A tech writer hacks his book launch by posting on tech forums.

Business Model
Skills Required
Writing & Marketing
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Philip shares some important advice, "don't reinvent the wheel, see what others have done and compound on their successes while avoiding their mistakes."

Fun Fact

When Philip launched his first book, he posted it on Hacker News and got his first sale in 50 minutes. At the end of the week, he had made $20,000!

Notes from Chris

Episode 1534
In 2019 Philip Kiely was studying to be a software engineer when the idea of writing his first book came to him. He followed a number of writers and bloggers online and had seen several have huge success in “teaching what they know” through writing a book.

For Philip though, the roadblock was platform: he had only a dozen Twitter followers and what he describes as a modest personal network. If he wrote the book, he didn’t know how he’d get eyeballs on it to make sales.

Still, when he landed his first gig doing freelance work, he committed to the idea of a book. A former boss contacted him to produce some technical writing, knowing he had a knack for it.

It was a revelation for Philip. If his former boss who was a great programmer himself with a PhD no less was asking him—still a college student at that point—for advice on writing content, he knew he had a valuable skill. Perhaps it was a skill he could even teach others.

And that was the genesis of the idea for his own book. The working title of which was “Technical Content Development Handbook”, which Philip now thinks is terrible. He’d cover topics like writing style, what to write about, how to find clients, and overcoming writer's block.

As luck would have it, Philip’s mom is a professional editor and he leveraged her skills to edit the book, in exchange for buying her a printer and a microwave. After several rounds of revisions and six months after first conceiving of the idea, Philip had a final draft.

It was time for him to market what he now called “Writing For Software Developers.”

By now, he had a personal website up and made a sales page for the book, priced at thirty six dollars. He also spent a few hundred dollars for cover art and manuscript layout. This was his masterpiece, after all.

To kick things off, Philip posted the sales page to HackerNews, a popular forum for programmers and tech enthusiasts. He left a comment on the post and included an excerpt from the book. As he suspected, the book resonated with the site's audience and resulted in thousands of visitors and hundreds of sales.

Next, he tweeted to his own modest following about the book and pinged the interview subjects to let them know he’d done so. Several either retweeted his original tweet, or created tweets of their own. This led to another influx of sales and a boost in his follower count.

The book launch was a huge success, netting Philip fifteen thousand dollars in sales in the first twenty-four hours. Over the next month the trend continued, and by the time the initial peak was over he’d brought in twenty-three thousand dollars. Sales have slowed since but still exceed a thousand dollars per month. Because this is a self-published book, his profit margin is more than 90%.

Beyond this success, Philip now had several new contacts, a small but growing audience of his own and perhaps most importantly proved he can launch a product. Something he plans to do more of now that he’s graduated!

In fact, Philip doesn’t want a job at all. He’s aiming to make a living solely from writing, building and launching his own products.


  • Check out Philip Kiely's “Writing For Software Developers” at his website, philipkiely.com/wfsd.
  • Philip used sites like Hacker News, Indie Hackers and ProductHunt to find his target audience. When starting a side hustle, find the sites online where your potential customers are hanging out.

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work! Yours in the revolution, cg-sig-newsletter
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