Edit: Great wrap up of Redacted by Michael Tsai (who is without peer at link sniping these things).

And some quotes there are as sharp or sharper than mine:

So as any good, RSS-equipped indie dev wannabe knows, Sam Soffes blogged about the release of Redacted yesterday. I've watched the video, I've seen the website. I agree with you. It wasn't a great launch, and it isn't a particularly great app. I can pixelate all I want with Skitch for free. And making black boxes on top of images? RLY? How long have we been able to Windows-R, mspaint? Heck, you can make white ones in Preview by selecting and cutting.

I bet Soffes wouldn't argue any of that. He certainly doesn't argue that it was a bum launch.

All I did was tweet the video about it a few days before it came out and then tweeted that it was out early the morning it was ready. Someone else submitted it to Product Hunt after seeing my tweet. The results were pretty shocking!

Dan Counsell would not be proud.

I'm all for supporting the village toymaker, but Redacted isn't exactly hitting a pain point for me, so I doubt it's aspirin for other OS X users that heard about the app either.

It's the results, stupid

But our take home today isn't that the launch wasn't great or the toy isn't particuarly novel. It's that this cruddy launch of a cruddy app DOMINATED THE APP STORE!!1!.

... Redacted was #8 top paid in the US and #1 top paid in Graphics at the end of launch day. It was also at the top of Product Hunt with 538 up votes! Wow!

Let's let that do the proverbial sinking in. This barely tweeted app was #8 overall paid in the US Mac App Store. That's great! Wow, look what a blog and twitter account bags you, right?

What a blog and a twitter account (and #8 top paid on US Mac App Store) bags you...

I tweeted asking people to guess how much I made yesterday (after Apple's cut)... Here are the actual results:

Sales [Gross]

7 of those units were promo codes I sent out. Only 59 of those units were in the US. It's pretty nuts that 59 sales is top paid on the Mac App Store in the US.

Wow. #8 in the US == 59 sales, at least on May 7th, 2015. And that bagged him $302. If he stayed #8 all year he makes $110k.

(Hint: He's not going to stay #8 all year. That said, by following the new, "I'll share my numbers with you indies, and then you'll buy my app," marketing plan, he's #2 currently. Sounds like he's getting $1000 today. See what a little marketing does for you? Dan's happier now. Not happy, but happier. ;^D)

Who is Sam, and what's the lesson for indies?

I almost decided to stay indie and work on Whiskey as much as possible to make a living on that. I'm glad I didn't. (I work at Venmo as of May 4th.)

I like the way he quietly slid his move back to full-time employment in there, but I'm not sure that's the right reaction. This is a guy who, about a year ago, made his goal to retire a year from now, at 25. Probably not going to do that at the 9-to-5.

This is also a guy who, just over seven months ago, said:

2 What advice can you give to someone just starting out like me?

This junk is hard. Don’t give up. Basically anything is possible if you just do it.

That's just sad, man. And it's pretty common, I think. I follow a recently pretty quiet blog from White Peak Software. The guy hit it fairly well at least twice, once on the Mac before iOS, and once during the iOS gold rush. And he's been working as an indie (plus contracting) for 10 years.

But he talks about a goal of making $700-1500 a month on software alone at one point, and apparently isn't hitting that goal. That stinks.

I'll probably blog more about this later, but the lesson seems clear: Go big or go home. Target business users somewhere, somehow in your business plan. News flash, niche seekers: You can't help but shoot for a niche, but, oxymoronically, shoot for a big one. Don't go out of your way making your ideas more niche. Simply find it. And don't expect any single marketing trick (perhaps excepting the aforementioned, "Here are my numbers; buy my app" trick) to push you into the black/green/what-have-you.

And don't expect to retire at 25 if you're the village toymaker. It could happen. It shouldn't be your goal.

Let me be clear: I really appreciate folks blogging about what's essentially failure. Soffes hasn't failed yet, but he was on his way if he just left Redacted on the Mac App Store pile without any more marketing. You could read what I'm doing here as a pretty hard slam. It isn't, though it's not slam-free.

Redacted has to be a side project for him. That is, I don't get the feeling this was the equivalent of Sinclair working on Unread:

I began work on Unread at the beginning of July 2013. I spent about six weeks on the overall design of the app, then plunged headfirst into Xcode, not coming up again for air until the following spring. I estimate that I worked sixty to eighty hours a week every week from July 2013 up until the launch of Unread for iPhone Version 1.0 in February 2014.

Getting several thousand dollars from a for fun side project ain't failure, man. It doesn't mean go back to Cubeland. Though getting $300 for being #8 Top Paid in the US might be. Reminds a little of Charles Perry's fable of "Pareto Distributions and the Long Tail":

Luckily, there’s a lot of money to be made in that long tail. At the top of the long tail, in position 871 on the U.S. Top Grossing list, an app still makes over $700 in revenue per day. That’s almost $260,000 per year. Even number 1,908 on the U.S. Top Grossing list makes over $100,000 per year.

I sent Perry an email after that post, and he was exceptionally kind with his time and replied, in detail. He's, imo, stuck on seeing the glass half full. Fair enough. But after hearing a number of people say targeting the Mac, where people will "still pay real prices" (I think Daniel Jakut, among others, has said something to that effect, though that's where his bread is buttered already), I'm not sure if the tail on OS X's store (not including straight sales, natch) is as long, and I wonder if the iOS App Store's is as fat as we thought.

I can agree strongly with Charles on one thing, though, that I believe he said on Release Notes: We need to grow the pie.

Soffes' big project was supposed to be Whiskey, a Markdown editor. I'm using a great, free Markdown editor right now -- MacDown. I don't see a single must-have, Markdown editor-evolving-feature on Whiskey's feature list. He's got to get better ideas, man, or he's got to gain a larger following. Note that I didn't say more original ideas. Just plain old, solid, "invest in gold" kinds of ideas.

And going back to work full-time is a sort of failure within the goals Soffes' expressed for himself. Though there's still hope: Soffes tends to fall in and out of full-time work. It'll be interesting to see what happens in a year to 18 months.

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