21,617 words. 113 pages. 71 days. 56 hours. 1 changed life.

If you like numbers, this is the post to read.

What I will provide in this 3,136-word post is a transparent and honest look at the breakdown of what went into The Radical Minimalist, including exactly how many copies I sold in the first 48 hours and the mistake I realized I made 24 hours before launch date.

This is a very important post to read as it goes into the details of a first product launch, the thought processes, the lessons learned, the insights, the “why am I doing all this?” question, and much more.

If you’re launching or are thinking about launching your first product on your blog, read this from a first-timer myself. Adam Baker of Man vs. Debt also has a wonderful (albeit crushing, at first) story to share regarding his Sell Your Crap ebook launch here. And even if you’re not launching any digital products, this post is still worthwhile to read as you will also find out what my calling is and why I spend so many hours on this blog. Ready? Let’s do it.


This is Day 3 after The Radical Minimalist ebook launch, my very first product launch ever (not including my 2 free ebooks, which you can find here).

I have to say, it was extremely exciting for me (so exciting that I didn’t sleep for 24 hours straight) to have started and completed my first lengthy ebook that required:

  • Quite a bit of thought, time, and effort in organizing my writing in a clear, honest, and thought-provoking voice
  • Reaching out to the fabulous 6 contributors for TRM (Leo Babauta, Francine Jay, Joel Runyon, Tammy Strobel, Everett Bogue, and Colin Wright)
  • Sketching the little doodles you see in the book (stick ninja figures, little doggies (cartoon shih tzus if you’re wondering what kind of dog), oval-shaped cartoon characters, and a radical apple leaping out of the basket of average apples)
  • Laying out the design in an easy-to-read format and font size (I didn’t use InDesign or any ebook formatter/software for this. All was created in Word, believe it or not.)
  • Creating a launch page and accompanying post for the day of the release
  • Thinking of the price in which to charge (I wanted it to be fair and reasonable and at the same time not to devalue the book at hand.)
  • Creating an Affiliate Program
  • And a bunch of little details that goes into launching a worthwhile ebook that has the power to change lives

Here’s the final breakdown:

  • 21,617 words
  • 113 pages
  • 71 days
  • 56 hours
  • 6 contributors
  • 1 changed life

21,617 words in 113 pages

The final word count of TRM is 21,617 words in 113 pages. Sure, if I really wanted to be “minimalist” and say the least you need to know, I could’ve just written one short sentence that will go something like this:

Choose to live a radically minimalist life.

But would that have helped you in any way? What does that even mean? What does it entail? How can I live a radically minimalist life? Hence the ebook.

I organized my thoughts in easy-to-digest sub-topics under each part of the book, and there were 3 parts:

  • Part 1: what it means to be radical (17 sub-topics)
  • Part 2: what it means to be a minimalist (13 sub-topics)
  • Part 3: what it means to be a radical minimalist (17 sub-topics)

Such sub-topics include “radical,” “outlandish,” and forward-thinking thoughts and ideas, such as:

  • Dream small.
  • Quit.
  • Be selfish.
  • Start over.
  • Build from scratch.
  • When being well-rounded doesn’t work.
  • Throw your planner away.
  • Let go.
  • Collect experiences, not stuff.
  • Set your own rules.
  • Become your own authority figure.
  • Freedom is for everyone.

And so forth. For a total of 47 sub-topics.

You can take a look at what the exact sub-topics under the contents on pages 2-3 in this free 20-page preview by clicking here.

My goal in terms of number of words written for TRM was to write quality content of minimally 20,000 words. I’ve accomplished that and included over 1,600 more.

And all this while still entrenched in my full-time corporate day job but one in which I will be handing in my resignation in 6 weeks’ time. You can count on that.

(Side note: I hope by now you have realized that I do not just say things because it sounds like a good idea. Yes, I say a lot of things on this blog. But the powerful difference is that I actually DO what I say and follow through. My life is the example. Setting a date (whether that’s a product launch date, a quitting date, a traveling date) is the differentiating factor between a goal and a dream, as Chris Guillebeau in his most excellent book The Art of Non-Conformity says. Which, by the way, is a great book by an even greater guy, as I’ve had the chance to meet and chat with Chris during his Unconventional Book Tour stop in Chicago. So, quitting my unfulfilling day job in less than 2 months? Yes. Traveling to Taiwan (and other Asian countries) in the spring of 2011? You can count on it. And if things change, I will be honest and let you know.)

71 days

I begun the thought process, outlining, and jotting down notes on August 1 and the launch date was October 10. That is 71 days from start to finish. 71 days for an ebook may seem like a short time to some and to others, it is long.

But for me, it is just right. I believe the number itself is arbitrary. Give someone 710 days and they may still never write a book or novel.

(Side note: National Novel Writing Month is coming up next month in November. The simple premise is that you write a 50,000-word novel from scratch, and from start to finish, within 30 days, November 1-30th. Pure, raw, unedited content. Talk about speeding things up! I’ll be participating, on top of all the writing/projects I do, my full-time day job I’ll be quitting (more on this later), etc. I’m no busier than any other person and I’m not saying I’m some big shot who has a packed schedule. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Purposefully filtering out the erroneous activities leaves me with what I love to do and what I choose to do.)

What I did was set a launch date and then write and write and write until I believe the message I need to get out in order to help others change their lives is complete. Well, technically the message will never fully “end.” Truly, this is just the beginning.

Remember how I said a minimalist revolution has begun at the end of my post when TRM launched? You can count on the message being trumpeted loud and clear by many minimalist bloggers out there, many of which were the contributors of TRM. More on this later.

56 hours

Over the course of 71 days, I spent around 56 hours, give or take, on writing TRM. This was calculated as such:

71 days is approximately 10.1 weeks. Each week I spent 5 and a half hours on TRM. 10.1 x 5.5 = 55.8 (rounded up is 56)

As you can see, 56 hours is not a small number. In 56 hours, one can do many things with that time, such as:

  • Climb 1 decent-sized mountain and back
  • Run 1 marathon and rest, or if you’re so inclined, be like Joel Runyon and do a couple of triathlons back-to-back :)
  • Sleep 7 nights in a row, with each night consisting of 8 hours of sleep
  • Work 7 days in a row, with each work day consisting of 8 hours of work
  • Read 19 average-length books, with each book finished in 3 hours (you may be faster or slower)
  • Take 19 painting classes, with each class consisting of 3 hours of painting (you can view my most recent painting entitled Fire (you’ll see why it’s called that) in a photo of me right next to it in the About page)
  • Train in 37 Karate practices, each lasting 90 minutes
  • Take 56 one-hour long walks in a park or along the beach
  • Make 672 cups of coffee with each coffee-making session lasting 5 minutes each (whew! Lots of coffee!!)

Instead of doing all/any of the above (doesn’t mean I didn’t do some of it; I still trained in Karate, worked, slept, read, walked, ran, drank coffee, and painted), I decided to invest my time in a worthy project that is not just intrinsically fulfilling (because it certainly is) but one in which can be a powerful tool in helping others reach their full potential in their thinking and lifestyle. That is why I continued to write TRM and will still continue writing for future projects.

I truly want to help others change their lives for the better. I really do. That is why Castles in the Air is about changing the way we view and think about the world through minimalism.

I wouldn’t be spending hours upon hours writing quality content for blog posts that is published 2-3 times a week, sometimes more.

I wouldn’t be waking up in the middle of the night with ideas that I need to jot down right away in order to capture the thought so I can build upon it in the morning.

I wouldn’t be connecting with so many readers, fellow bloggers and authors, friends, and peers if I didn’t care.

I just wouldn’t do any of this.

But because this blog is not just about me and more about the people whom I’ve had the privilege of coming across through my writing, I feel I have a calling. As hokey as that sounds, I truly feel it in my heart of hearts. I have a calling to inspire others to change their lives through my writing and art.

The word I’ve been told from others that best describes me is: passionate. A close second is: inspirational. I am very humbled and thankful to be described as such wonderful characteristics.

I’m also glad. Because this just means what I’ve set out to do — live a passionate life as the example to inspire others to change their lives — I’m doing it. I hope it’s working. :)

6 contributors

I cannot thank the fabulous 6 contributors enough for their time and valuable thoughts on TRM. Here they are again if you still don’t know:

I know everyone is busy. You’re busy, I’m busy, the janitor that works in the school cafeteria is busy, the CEO of your company is busy, your cleaning lady is busy, your bus driver is busy, your cat’s busy.

But the fact that those whom I’ve reached out to not only responded, but was delighted and honored to be a part of my project, I am very appreciative of it.

That is why when others ask me for help, be it a “what do you think of this blog post,” “please do a guest post for my blog,” “can you please retweet this on Twitter for me,” and so forth, I try my very best to lend a helping hand.

When we share our gratitude with others by way of helping those without asking for what they can do for us, we can give so much of what the universe gave us. That’s truly fulfilling.

So, if you would like my help as it relates to your blog, your ideas, your whatever, I’m inviting you to ask me. I can’t help if you don’t reach out. You can let me know on , , or . Don’t worry. I won’t ask for anything in return or that you help promote my ebook or blog. I’m just glad to help.

1 changed life

Writing this ebook is not just a 113-page journey of words spilled out of my heart and onto the pages. It was a transformative experience for me, a time of growth, of major learning, of listening and taking what I can from those who have come before me, and of trial and error.

Yes, mistakes were made. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I will share with you what my mistake was during my first product launch, having only realized it 24 hours prior to launch. Here it is:

Mistake: I waited too long to set up my Affiliate Program.

Yes, I have an Affiliate Program set up now. You can find further details here. However, I was e-mailing back and forth with Colin Wright after I sent him a preview copy of TRM and he asked me if there was going to be an Affiliate Program. I said yes but probably after the launch. Big mistake. And this was all 24 hours before launch date!

I now know that the majority of the sales for an ebook is made in the initial first few days, based on what other bloggers with a much wider audience reach than mine have experienced, time and time again. Unless there is a re-launch because the ebook was re-vamped, around 80%-90% of sales are made in the first few days of initial launch. The rest will trickle in over the weeks and months.

I do have some affiliates now (if you’re one of them, great! Please let me know if you need anything from me.), but I probably could have gotten a lot more on board if I reached out a few weeks prior. Then, together, we can make the launch much, much more successful.

All involved will benefit. Affiliates can help promote good, quality work (I hope my work is such and I’m eagerly making it as crazy valuable as possible) while earning a 50% commission on every ebook they sell through their blog. Of course, they need to (or should) believe in the product before promoting it. Reading the ebook prior to signing up to be an affiliate helps.

Doing it on your own is not the smartest way, I’ve now learned. Sure, I’m quite the independent person ever since I was young (I’ve flown to Taiwan to visit my mom when I was 6 by myself, purposefully “losing” my escort in order to explore) and all the way up until now, at age 26.

But asking for help, especially from those who have sound and solid advice, is smart. Some advice, I won’t put into practice if it’s not valid in my case. But I won’t ever know what’s valid or not if I’ve never even asked in the first place.

8 people purchased TRM in the first 48 hours for a grand total of $136

If you’re one of them, thank you for supporting my creative work! If I could, I’d hug you. Well, here’s a digi-hug. It’s the best I can do for now. :)

Yes, 8 seems like a horrifyingly small number, counted on two hands. This means I made a total of $136. To many folks, this probably looks as if my first launch failed. To me, this was a success.

Here’s why:

The fact that I’ve completed a worthwhile project from start to finish in the hopes that it will help others change their lives for the better means I’ve already met great success.

Yes, I would have enjoyed having a lot more people purchase the ebook in the first 48 hours (doesn’t mean they won’t later on). Partly this was my fault due to not doing enough pre-launch “stuff.” (Or maybe doing too much? It’s all relative.) This was a trial and error process for me, to see what works best while at the same time not devaluing the quality of writing you find at Castles in the Air.

My insanely optimistic goal for TRM in the first 2 weeks was to sell 50 copies. Well, 2 weeks isn’t up yet, and I still have 42 more to go in order to reach that number. Regardless, the inevitable by-product of this launch was a great sense of accomplishment that I did something worthwhile. Like a runner finishing his first marathon in 4 hours 47 minutes. Doesn’t matter he didn’t qualify for the more elite marathons due to a long finishing time. The fact that he started — and finished — what he set out to do is already a wonderful success. One should be proud.

What’s next?

I have a few projects I’m working on now and they will certainly take a lot of time. I can’t disclose them here to you right at this moment but will certainly let you know what they are as they are nearing completion. (Hint: This is foreshadowing for great things to come. Expect it from me that I will deliver. Or as Seth Godin famously puts it, “ship it.”)

First things first, I have 6 weeks left before I plan on handing in my 2 weeks’ notice of resignation. That means, the date is set for Nov. 22, the Monday of Thanksgiving week.

Wow, what a way to start off a week of thanksgiving, right? It’s not to kick them (by them, I mean my bosses and coworkers) in the face and leave at such a timely moment during the holidays. It’s more of a “You know what? I’m really thankful I even have the capacity to realize my own personal freedom. The fact that I can even make this choice at all in my life. I’m thankful I’m realizing my innate gifts and the calling I have to help others change their lives for the better.”

I’ve learned a lot from this experience as you can tell and my life is better because of it. I know I have much, much more to offer the world and truly hope that my writing will inspire you to change your thinking and lifestyle for the better. Together, we can make a difference.


Please read my friend Matt Madeiro’s book review on TRM at his blog Three New Leaves. I’d love for you to retweet this post to your followers on . Subscribe to my and never miss a post. Please stop by in a few days to help me celebrate Castles in the Air’s 6-month anniversary with the top 6 posts! There’s going to be some really good content you don’t want to miss (and hopefully, good content in all my posts). Thanks, my friends. You are all truly wonderful. :)

View Comments

  1. 21,617 words. 113 pages. 71 days. 56 hours. ___ changed life. You blog, your experience, your story u2013 when people take it into their heart, they will surely be inspired to u201cchangeu201d. So instead of just 1 changed life, I firmly believe it will be ___ changed life!!! rnrnJust looking at your blog as an example, from your Irrasshaimase post on 4/11 to last night post u2013 in exactly 6 months, more than 79323 words in your blog and still counting. Print them all out, will be close to 200 pages! From all the comments and feedbacks that you received, numerous number of lives were changed – maybe itu2019s just a small change or a little inspiration in someoneu2019s life; maybe itu2019s a big one. rnrnBut either big or small, inspiring others to changes for good is a wonderful thing, and you are successfully answering the calling inside you. rnrnWhen we pour our hearts to something worthy/someone for the sake of a greater good, usually end up we are the people who are being changed the most. It happens to me, and happens to many people many times. rnrnThe number of copies sold is definitely not an absolute measuring stick of your success of this e-book. I guess being radical means we donu2019t go by the measuring stick of everyone else =) Setting our own standard and not comparing with other folks. rnrnKeep up the great work, girl! And I will also use this public comment to say u201cTHANK YOUu201d to you, for thank you me in your thank you page, and recognize me in your e-book.rnrnThank you. rnrnItu2019s my honor and privilege to get involved in your projects and to cheer for you! rn

  2. David K says:

    you’re awesome!

  3. Jay Uk says:

    Love your blog and love your honesty. Keep going, you have done way more than most people I know and you inspire me. Wishing you good vibes :o)nnx

  4. Congrats on the launch Nina. nnACTION is the difference between just talking and making things happen, and no matter what, you made the launch happen. Mistakes get made, but you learn and next time it will be even better!

  5. Mschatz03 says:

    Dont worry about it, Nina! You’re better off for doing it even if you didnt sell a single copy.

  6. Nina Yau says:

    Thanks for all your support Mr. Triathlon Man! Yes, taking action makes all the difference! It’s a great learning experience too. :)

  7. Linda says:

    Love your book! Thanks for taking the time to write and launch it. You have done way more than most people ever attempt and I’m sure you’re learning much from this experience. I’m looking forward to the next one. Follow your dreams, you’re awesome!

  8. Nina Yau says:

    You’re so kind, Linda, thank you! I’m very glad you enjoyed TRM (thank you for supporting me!). Expect more great things to come! :)

  9. Nina Yau says:

    Absolutely!! Thanks so much. :)

  10. Nina Yau says:

    You too, David!! Thanks for your continuous support!

  11. Nina Yau says:

    And you as well, Jay! Thank you very much. This gal here will certainly keep going. The best has yet to come. :)

  12. J. Crabtree says:

    Making a mistake is not really making a mistake at all. It is simply missing the mark or not having all the relevant data at hand. It is through mishaps that we come to learn how to prepare in advance and seek knowledge that can help us better interact with our environment. Thus, we grow as human beings and unlock our potentials as we strive to better ourselves and our world.

    Keep going strong, you are doing the right thing. You are successful and you will continue to be successful at what you do. You are a talented writer with a tremendous artistic sensibility.

    Thank you for existing.

  13. Great post! Writing a book is a huge accomplishment. Doesn’t it feel great? I actually think selling 8 copies in the first 48 hours is awesome. Your book will live forever and there will be lots more people led to you that are hungry for what you have to say. I just ordered my copy. I had planned on reading it on the plane to Japan but I may have to peek before then! :)

  14. Nina Yau says:

    Paige, thank you so much! You are so sweet. :) Have a wonderful time at the yoga retreat in Japan; that’s so awesome!!

  15. Nina Yau says:

    You’re simply magnificent, Jonathan. Words cannot describe. Thanks for always being my friend. I am honored to have you in my life.

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