Case Study – How David Made $13,000 Selling a Book Online

Stephanie K   57

Updated on December 23, 2019

 A simple setup generated David over $13,000 in revenue in the first two months of sales. What was it? A copy of Thrive Architect and the payment and product delivery service, Gumroad.

In this new Case Study series we’ll be diving deep into exactly how David made it happen. We’ll go through how he ended up selling an e-book, what was working for him, how he put it all together and hopefully, give you some invaluable ideas for your own business.

Meet David

David is a 30-year-old marketer and copywriter who was consulting for startups and small businesses - until a few friends made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

They asked him to join their startup full time as the head of marketing and sales. It was a “Hell Yes!” for David, but there was one problem...

David selling and e-book with gumroad and thrive architect

He still had leads flowing in from the consulting business he’d built up, and it seemed a shame to leave all that opportunity on the table.

If only there was a way to systemize and scale his consulting in a way that didn’t require him to exchange his time for money.


David’s consulting revolved around reviewing and improving businesses’ landing pages. To help his customer’s understand the marketing theory behind the changes he suggested, David created a practical guide to landing page marketing. He would give this guide to his clients as an add-on to his landing page review and feedback service. 

practical guide to landing page marketing

Since most of the theory was in there, David came up with the clever plan to beef out the original guide, turning it into the Landing Page Cookbook - as a Do-It-Yourself version of the service he used to provide. 

This whole process; working with clients one-on-one, then taking those insights and developing a scalable product from it - is a great example of the customer first approach, explained in the Active Growth podcast series ‘Forget Traffic’.

How To

David had already created his eBook for his personal consulting clients, but if you’re still at the book creation stage, take a look at this post on how to create a professional looking PDF.

You could create your book in a free tool like CANVA, or hire someone on a service like Fiverr to format the whole thing for you.

So David was stocked with:

  • A clever idea
  • A valuable eBook to sell instead of his services

Now let's take a look at how David turned this plan into a reality using two simple tools.

The System - From Traffic to Delivery

David's existing leads were from his old consulting business, mainly through driving traffic to his consulting website.

While his product changed from a service to an eBook, his lead generation strategies remained relatively the same.

Generating Traffic

Some of the strategies David uses to bring in leads involve:

  • Organic traffic through blog posts, where he uses Thrive Leads to offer either a content upgrade or a general site-wide opt-in offer
  • A nurturing automation for new subscribers to his email list, asking about their landing pages. David answers any replies with a few tips and a teaser of what the book offers
David's lead generation opt-in

David's site wide opt-in offer.

  • Going through online forums such as Quora and Reddit answering requests for feedback or advice on landing pages, and suggesting the book as additional help
  • Word of Mouth
  • Adding the book to ProductHunt, a user curated website for sharing new products
  • Cold emailing start ups and small businesses offering landing page feedback, and again answers any replies with a brief review and a link to the book's sales page

Getting the Sale

All leads eventually end up at this long-form sales page, built with Thrive Architect.

Landing Page build with Thrive Architect

“The process was pretty smooth given that Thrive Architect is really super user-friendly. I know how to code a little bit, but using the page builder just makes the whole experience much faster for me” - David

The buttons on the page are Gumroad buttons. To put a Gumroad button like this on any post or page built with Thrive Architect, you just need to drag in a HTML element and add the button code that Gumroad provides during product setup.

How To

If you want to learn more about how to set up the back-end of Gumroad, take a look at this ActiveGrowth post that walks you through the whole setup process.

gumroad overlay

When a visitor clicks one of the Gumroad buttons, this overlay pops up. This is powered by Gumroad and you can change the text, pictures and other details within the Gumroad product settings.

“The integration with Gumroad is literally just copying and pasting a bit of code using the custom HTML element. Their checkout is integrated seamlessly and the conversions have been very good.” - David

gumroad added to cart

Clicking the 'I want this' button on the product overlay adds the book to the visitor's cart, which is displayed in the top right of the page.

payment with Gumroad

Taking Payment

When the visitor clicks 'Pay' the payment options appear, still in the top right corner of the page.

Adding payment details and clicking 'Pay' one more time confirms the purchase, and the customer is immediately issued a digital receipt.

They can access the book immediately through the Gumroad App, or wait for it to be emailed.

GumRoad Post Payment Page

Product Delivery

Customers can access the book immediately through the Gumroad App, or wait for the PDF to be emailed. Both options are made very clear in the receipt.

The customer will receives an email a short time after purchase with a link to the PDF and the option to generate an invoice.

Email delivering PDF Gumroad

You can turn off the 'Discover more products' section by disabling 'discover' in your settings.

Gumroad even adds a little security feature. They mark each PDF with the email of the purchaser to discourage 'sharing'.

Feeding The System

Since launching the book in September 2017, David has sold over 350 copies.

From here it's a numbers game, the more people David can get to visit his sales page, the higher his revenue.

The setup requires very little maintenance, which means it can run in the background whether he puts effort into it or not. Those periods when he has a bit of spare time, he can ramp up the marketing / traffic strategies, and in turn make more sales.

David now has a list of other traffic channels, and is systematically tapping into each one when he has time.

Dissolving the Complexity

I hope this post has shone some light on the technical side of selling an eBook online, and helped your realize how achievable it is.

So what do you think, do you want to see more case study style posts like this?

Let me know in the comments below!

by Stephanie K  December 20, 2017


Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.

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Leave a Comment

  • Great article Stephanie! Also goes to show how keeping things simple can be effective. My first setup for selling my course was: Thrive Content Builder + Paypal Link and delivery of content was via Email + Vimeo.

    • Hi Baidhurya,

      I agree, when we’re first getting started it’s easy to get caught up in trying to get the ‘perfect system’ – when what we really need to be doing is shipping! Love your example 🙂

  • Is this article pulling in the reader’s name dynamically, or is this person actually called David? If so, how did you do it?!

    • Well that would be an interesting feature, talk about website personalization! But no, the business owner’s name is actually David 🙂

  • This is such a powerful post I almost hyperventilated with excitement before I finished reading. Real examples like this are really going to help some people get unstuck. Kind regards to David for allowing you to share his info. Stephanie!

    • Hi Martin,

      This is great to hear! Just writing this post had the same effect on me 🙂 It’s very motivating to see other people succeeding and taking the mystery out of how they did it.

  • Thrive Architect have serious compatibility issues with Gumroad. I have been using Gumroad for 2 years on my WordPress but after redesigning my landing pages with Thrive Architect the Gumroad buttons were not working properly. The overlay popup was not working with Chrome and Firefox and was opening in a new tab. I created a ticket but even Thrive tech support was unable to resolve the issue. They said the problem is with Gumroad’s javascript code and there is nothing can be done on Thrive’s side. I am just putting this comment so that people don’t mess up like I did. I love both Thrive Architect and Gumroad but it’s a shame that I have to choose one out of the two.

    • Hi Satish,

      Thanks for leaving your feedback. I’m sorry you’ve had this experience with the two products combined. I see you had an issue with the Gumroad pop-up not working with your Chrome browser.I see support gave you a solution with the script. If it is still not working for you, and you’re sure the problem is related to Thrive Architect – and not Gumroad conflicting with another plugin or browser, I would suggest opening another support forum ticket.

      • Thank you for your reply Stephanie. Support was able to stop the Gumroad product links from opening in a new tab (though it was also a work around and not a proper solution) but they could not resolve the overlay pop up issue. I can’t say if the problem is with the Gumroad or Thrive; I just want to say that there is some compatibility issue between the two. There is no conflict with other plugins or theme as Thrive support checked by disabling themes and plugins.

      • Hi Satish,

        I have checked with our developers and the support team, as well as comprehensively tested the two together multiple times – I can safely say Gumroad buttons and Thrive Architect compatible and there are no conflicts. As mentioned in your support ticket, it is likely a conflict with one of the other plugins you have installed on your site. I hope you can figure out what’s causing it and get it all running smoothly again.

  • Stephanie

    I love the info in this post. It’s one thing to talk about doing something, its another thing (entirely) to get the “nuts & bolts” figure out.

    When I started marketing on the internet 15 years ago, the biggest hurdle i had was figure out how to create the engine that sold & delivered the product. I came across a product by Liz Tomey that showed how to accomplish everything I needed. Her product was a step by step set of video tutorials.

    Those videos were transformational. They provided the technical building blocks for my little empire.

    I have a suggestion for Thrive Themes…make a series of straight to the point videos for each theme. Videos that show how to make the theme look exactly like the theme demo does. Thrive University contains the How to Build a Conversion Focused website tutorial (which is fantastic), but, videos that are specific to each theme would be extremely helpful.

    The above comments are not criticism, merely a suggestion form a very happy customer.

    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!!

    Portland, Oregon

    P.S. I’m an old guy, with a sincere compliment…you are the spitting image of Ava Gardner. The first time I saw you was in a video demo you made. I couldn’t get over the resemblance.

    • Hi Mike,

      Thank you for the suggestion. I agree with you there, we do need more content on how to replicate the themes demos. You used to be able to generate the demo pages for your theme on your own website, but since the change to Thrive Architect that feature no longer exists. The reason we haven’t updated it is because we’re working on a new Theme Builder that will give you a whole array of new options. We’ll be sure to make tutorials on how to build websites with that new theme once it’s released. Sorry for the delay on that but we hope to have something for you in the first half of next year 🙂

  • If you are Thrive Theme member, I believe you can make it all happen using the plugins provided with the membership and integrate your PayPal or Stripe account, correct?
    Please keep the great content comes to us.????

    • Hi Violeta,

      Correct, you can do the exact same thing with Stripe or PayPal, but the check out process look a little different. For a full comparison, check out this ActiveGrowth payment system comparison post that goes through how to set each payment system up and the differences between them.

  • Great Post …

    I would like to ask if gumroad is good only for digital products like books or software etc.. or recommended for multi products payment getway like physical items whatever but more then 10 items for example !!

    I hope my concern is clear ,thanks again

    • Hi Saer,

      They do a lot more than digital product, but to see if what they offer suits your businesses needs I’d suggest taking a look at their features page where they list all the things you can sell with them,

    • Hi Luis,

      Yeah even I found it super helpful to have it all mapped out like this. Keep an eye out for a few Thrive Themes team members releasing eBooks in the future :p

  • Love the hustle by David. All these traffic generation steps are indications of how much effort David put in to succeed. Even this post is the product of his hustle in the thrivetheme forum. Hope he will get more sales out of this post too.
    Of course would be nice to see some non-money making product examples too.

    Thanks, David and Stephanie for this great post.

    • Hi Claudius,

      Hustle hustle hustle 😉 An easier traffic generation strategy would be to figure out the numbers and run paid Facebook traffic to the site too, but it’s always better to gauge how much you can pay per lead first so you know your paid traffic will be profitable. What do you mean by non-money making product examples?

      • That’s right Stephanie,
        then it’s only a numbers game.

        I meant to say: Maybe in the future, it would be cool to see such an article about a more traditional business, like dog training, someone selling yoga mats, or someone selling an ebook teaching people how to jump higher. A product that is not directly promising to make the customer more money.

        In other words, a case study that doesn’t come from the: How to make more money online niche. Because unfortunately most case studies online come from this niche.

      • Oh OK, thank you for clarifying Claudius, I understand now. I’ll keep that in mind when searching for the next case study subject!

  • Yes, I would like to know more case studies like this. Adding a security guard in ebook is a really good feature. I too have planned something like this. Will work on that. Thanks for sharing David’s case study!

    • Yes it was very generous of David to offer up all the details 🙂 I wish you all the best with your eBook Chamel.

  • I’m so sorry.

    But this is a well designed ebook, depicted as a real book in the copy… created by a copywriter….that went #1 in Product Hunt.

    Of course he’d make a lot from this.

    Look at it! It’s so nice looking.

    And it went #1 in product hunt.

    That’s like DIGG 2017 page 1 #1.


    So many factors in the story aren’t duplicable by many readers.

    So sorry.

    It’s just not inspirational enough – for me.

    Too many things going on for it NOT to succeed.

    But, maybe I’m just in a bad space today.

    Thank you for the article though. I’m compelled to consider buying the book. If only it was really printed out like in the website.

    • And clearly, that can never happen to you, right? You can’t possibly make a nice book, learn to write good copy or get traction on Producthunt.

      So, you’ll have to wait for that easy, guaranteed, cheap (free?), no-effort-required solution to finally come around.

      I’m not writing this to make you feel bad. I’m writing this because your comment almost perfectly reflects an attitude I’ve seen for many years in countless people who struggle and fail and suffer. Being an entrepreneur is hard and failure is likely. Create the book, list it on Producthunt and watch how nothing happens. Then, create the next one, do something slightly different, try again. Then the next one. Then the next one… and if that sounds like a worthwhile or even fun thing to do, you’re probably an entrepreneur. 🙂

      • Agreed. It’s easy to imagine that’s the first thing I ever created and it went straight to ProductHunt #1.

        Let me be very clear about that. There’s luck involved in getting to #1 on PH.

        Beyond that, I’ve created a bunch of products that failed before this one.

        Shane has a great piece on how you should see everything as training for the next iteration on your product. You’re getting better each time. Just keep at it.

        Also, if you want to discuss product ideas I can give you some feedback and let you know what I think by email. (That’s true for everybody here, btw, just shoot me an email).

      • thats a great answer, to go from a blogger to an entrepreneur is pretty hard but, i always say ” the obstacle is the way”

  • Thanks for writing such a good blog on this topic how can people earn money online.
    I really impressed with your ways of article with this depth.
    enjoy this post and will try to read and review more.

  • Hi Stephanie,

    Indeed a great case study. Expecting more studies in future. It’s great to keep learning and improving & case studies for me the best thing to learn immensely.

    ~ Dona

  • This sounds quite interesting to me. I’ve only recently heard of Thrive Themes and so far I see a number of items you do that could really push my site forward.

  • Excellent post and love the very detailed way it was presented. As I work very much in the offline space with people who want to write and self publish, this post provides a great model to follow and an easy way to sell your product without having to make use of the big guns like Amazon, especially when you are just getting started.

    Other options and alternatives are very welcome for my clients to get started on their self publishing journey.

    Thank you to David for sharing his road to success and wishing him many more sales into 2018.

    And to Shane and the team – love seeing how you have grown from those early days when I joined as a member. Love what you guys & gals do.

    • Hi Ruth, thanks for this response. It is extremely motivating seeing how these post apply to real world businesses 🙂

  • Hi, In going through Davids information I ended up signing up for stripe. David talks about a plugin for strip that is free called strip lite I think. It does not come up though in wordpress..only things like strip companion and strip manager. Do you know anything about this and I I can get that plugin that would help me use stripe without having to deal with the code? Thanks so much

    • Hi Faige,

      I don’t see where David was talking about this, so sorry if my response is off the mark a little. All the information you need on how to set up Stripe and the types of plans can be found in this ActiveGrowth post.

  • Very helpful, thank you!

    I have a question…

    I have a muscle building workout blog and have several programs I would like to make into eBooks (ex: mass building workout, lean muscle workout, strength/power workout, etc.).

    Do you have tips for selling multiple ebooks on the same website as opposed to just one?

    Should have a long form page for each workout, or just one page that features all the workouts?

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