Sell it, one step at a time
Scouring shelves groaning with computer books, Rochester resident Annette Godtland stumbled upon a surprising observation.
A hobby programmer who enjoyed writing her own game programs, the former IBMer could not find a single book that explained, from start to finish, how to create and sell software programs over the Internet.
There were books on how to write software. Books on how to sell things over the Internet through sites such as eBay. Even books on how to create a website. But not a single one that tied all the steps together into a comprehensive, "ready to market" book that freelance computer programmers could use.
Godtland didn't know it at the time, but she had the germ of an idea for a book — a rather large book. Numbering more than 500 pages, "This Little Program Went to Market" offers everything a person could possibly want to know about selling programs and other stuff over the Internet.
"When I first wrote it, my intended audience was hobby programmers like myself," Godtland said at her dining room table at her northwest Rochester home. "Then people started asking me about being able to sell their own products, so I've tailored it to people" like that as well.
In "This Little Program Went to Market," readers can find out how to accept credit card payments through PayPal, maximize one's website traffic, create buy-now buttons and e-mail sales order templates and develop marketing strategies to increase downloads and sales.
Godtland, 51, didn't set out to write a how-to book when she retired from a 30-year career in technology. She had spent her first 20 years as a computer programmer at IBM, then another 10 years at Kingland Systems as a developer. Always in the back of her mind, though, was the desire to write and sell her own games, utilities and programs via the Internet.
"I always had ideas of games that I would like to write," Godtland said. "We were at a point where my husband thought it would be OK for me to retire and we could afford for me to explore this opportunity."
Godtland had already written some programs that she wanted to try and sell over the Internet. But she was struck by the absence of a comprehensive source that explained step-by-step how to finish, deploy, sell and market such programs. By the time she completed her research, she realized she had the material for a book.
"It ended up being a bigger book than I originally thought," she said.
Godtland sells two types of games over the Internet, one a sliding-tile puzzle and the other a word-search game. The key, she said, is to market your product to as large an audience as possible, because Internet shoppers can be notoriously choosy. Only 2 percent to 3 percent of visitors to a website make a purchase. Of those who download a trial version of a software product, only 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent of those will buy it, Godtland said. But the potential payoff can be worth the effort.
"There's a wider market that you can reach through the Internet that you can't get through a store. And it's a lot less expensive to set up, so it doesn't hurt to try," she said.
Three years in the making, the book was also something of a family endeavor. Godtland's husband, Paul, 54, and her daughter, Leah Darst, 29, both contributed to the book as editors.
The retail price for the self-published book is $48; it is available through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
As home to IBM and other technology companies, Rochester will be a natural market for her book, Godtland figures.
"I know that not everybody likes to program at home. They get enough of that at work, but I know there are so many people at IBM that also do programming as a hobby and would be interested in probably trying to sell something that they have," she said.