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Why You Should Pre-Sell

swyx
Infinite Builder 👷🏽‍♂️ I help people Learn in Public • Author, the Coding Career Handbook (https://www.learninpublic.org)
Originally published at swyx.io Updated on ・3 min read

TL;DR

You should pre-sell because you can validate your idea and create word of mouth and get money upfront to do it.

Elaboration

I had the pleasure of chatting with Dru Riley of Trends.vc for his latest piece on Presales, which is out today.

Trends is a newsletter with high-quality, extremely dense topical research pieces, spiritually similar to the kind of industry initiations I used to do as an equity research analyst.

It agglomerates inputs from a lot of people, so I thought I would write down my own. Note that I've only done one pre-sale so I'm no expert. But I can tell you that I researched a bunch of creators, all of whom had mixed opinions on the pros and cons of preselling, and after doing my own I have concluded that I will always pre-sell whatever I do in future.

For those who follow me closely, a lot of these repeat from my book launch reflection post, which Dru kindly cites at the end of the book. The post is a dense ramble, so I figured I'd split out my views on presales as a standalone post.

  • Validation:
    • You can validate your idea cheaply. It may feel uncomfortable to take money for something that doesn't yet exist (I know exactly how this feels), but if you have built up trust that you will follow through, some nonzero amount of your friends and the people who really need your product will buy it. You can always return their money if it really does flop.
    • You can validate your product while you build it. Your presale buyers paid you for the opportunity to give you feedback (well technically, you probably gave them a discount so you're paying them - but almost certainly people view the chance to shape your product as it forms a plus). Where else do you get a captive feedback audience like this?
  • Word of Mouth: Most new creators struggle with their first launches. It's very natural and more comfortable to spend all your time building and no time marketing. It's also well known that the most powerful form of marketing is the one you can't pay for - Word of Mouth. So it seems a no-brainer to use the one thing you're definitely going to do before launch (building) to create the one thing you definitely are going to need after launch (Word of Mouth)
  • Get Money Upfront: If you think about it, Kickstarters are all presales. People who do kickstarters use the funds for all sorts of things, from buying supplies to doing marketing. Even if you're making a digital product, you can do the same - use the money to pay for editing, design, video production, and whatever else that will improve the quality of the final output. This even builds in an incentive for people to kick in more money during presales to get a better product! (helpful if you can think up stretch goals to offer)

And finally, of course, for those who need it, selling something you haven't made yet to your friends and fans is a commitment device - both for finishing the thing, and also for finishing the thing with the highest quality. People have different responses to Skin in the Game, but I generally think it is a wonderfully positive thing.

Further Reading

Discussion (4)

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codefinity profile image
Manav Misra

💭 Nice. Any details or maybe an example (hypothetical or otherwise) of a 'presell dcoument?'

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swyx profile image
swyx Author

what do you mean by "presell document"? i dont understand the qtn

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codefinity profile image
Manav Misra

Well, I was kind of meaning...how we would implement this. So, if we have some app idea, but it doesn't really exist - no demo or anything, how you suggest that we would present the concepts?
It's what I meant by 'document' - or presentation.
Maybe it's too general of a ❓ and it depends on specific-use case. 🤷🏾‍♂️

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swyx profile image
swyx Author

make a landing page with your anticipated features I guess?