eBook lessons learned

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So the baseball eBook is done and made it through all the hoops of the Apple approval process. It’s here if you (or someone you know!) might be interested, although you have to have the iBooks app on an iPad to download it. (Email me if you’re interested in a PDF copy!)

After this, I think my next eBook will be “Things you should know before creating an eBook through Apple iBooks.” Just kidding. It was a good process to go through; here are a few of my lessons learned:

[Sidenote: I did a a more fun (and legible) version of this while testing out ThinkLink, but apparently my WordPress theme doesn’t support the interactive elements.]

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Keep calm and pivot

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IMG_5783With startups, there’s constant talk about “pivoting” — knowing when to change direction when something’s not working right. Yelp! started out as an automated email recommendation service, YouTube started out as a video dating site, and Flickr started out as an online game. (Here’s a slideshow with more details on these and other companies that pivoted.)

Jonathan Crowley of Foursquare talked about recognizing when to pivot and also knowing when to throw in the towel. “It’s hard to let go of something, but you’ll have other ideas,” he said and mentioned the idea of being a “serial entrepreneur.”

And investor David Tisch pointed out that having to pivot doesn’t necessarily mean that something failed; it could mean you’ve found another approach or idea that works better.

In one of my favorite episodes of Friends, Ross buys a couch and decides to carry it home himself to avoid paying delivery costs. The highlight is where he yells “Pivot!!!” several times while trying to get it up the stairs in a pretty hilarious scenario (about the 3:50 mark of this video). The final scene shows him trying to return the couch — which is now in two pieces — back to the furniture store.

I’m trying to come up with an insightful takeaway of some sort. But really, a friend happened to send me the photo on the left and I got a good laugh out of re-watching that part of the episode. Besides, there are enough sources of grief, stress and discouragement in the world — sometimes it’s nice to have a lighthearted reminder that when sh*t hits the fan, just keep calm and pivot.

On running and road races

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I love the atmosphere of road races. It’s funny, running is the thing you dread during gym class, the part you roll your eyes about during practice for other sports. But there’s all these clichés about it–the adrenaline rush, its addictive qualities, how it provides stress relief, etc., etc.–that I kind of get into. And despite the fact that it’s an individual activity, camaraderie between runners is so interesting: when you feel like death, there’s something comforting about the fact that there are thousands of complete strangers around you who feel the same way.

The Boston Marathon is the premier running event of the year. It’s one of the hardest to qualify for and a major goal a lot of runners aim for. The bombs went off around the 4:09 mark, just under a 10-min. mile pace and around the time when a high volume of runners would likely be finishing.

My body will probably never let me run a full marathon, and it feels like my distance running days are over (as I sit with an icepack on my knee). But I love short races just the same, and Monday’s event reverberated in a lot of other ways as well: seeing a flurry of activity at Sports Illustrated to change the cover, include new stories, and take out casual references with the words “bomb” or “explosion” just hours before it’s supposed to go to the printers; emails of concern and support shared between members of a running group; a frantic call from a close friend doing his residency at Boston Children’s Hospital.

What happened in Boston on Monday was terrible, and the full effect will continue to sink in as more details are uncovered. But I was heartened by this from Quartz’s Caroline McCarthy, “It’s Ours, And You Can’t Take It Away“:

I don’t know why anyone, or any group of people, had the twisted motivation to commit this attack. […] But one thing, for those of us who run, is clear: Whoever chose one of the world’s greatest distance running events for both amateurs and professionals as the target of a terrorist attack will most certainly not convince a single one of us to stop running.

Words of wisdom from Jonathan Crowley and an unconventional pricing approach

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Jonathan Crowley of Foursquare (and various entrepreneurial ventures before that) came to visit and had several interesting points to share. (Along with a pretty hilarious story about how the name of his company, Black20, came to be — betting company money on one spin of a roulette wheel.)

One point that jumped out to me was this:

“Working for yourself is both extremely hard and extremely rewarding,” he said. “When you’re sending that 5 am email or working on weekends for another company, you’re thinking ‘Why am I doing this?’ When you work for yourself, you know why you’re doing it.”

Very true, and something that stuck with me as I bounce between working on my own project and doing part-time work for a couple of larger/more established firms. The flip side is that with established companies, there seems to be less uncertainty: When I do X, I know it will yield Y result. (Generally.) It’s easy to revert back to what feels comfortable, a tried and true result, and what you know will generate revenue.

How to generate revenue for my project is something I’ve been trying to wrap my head around, and we also talked a lot about pricing strategies this week. As I put together an eBook on baseball, I was considering anywhere between $.99 and $4.99. I was getting hung up on $2.99 versus $3.99, and naturally, that got me thinking about Chipper Jones, a Braves player who just retired after 19 years with the team — was his career batting average in the high .200s or low .300s? Turns out it was .303. So $3.99 it is!

There’s a lot of value in doing market research and financial models, but sometimes, you just have to make a decision and stick to your guns. So you can make mistakes, learn some lessons, and make the next one better.