Categories
Transparency Reports

Transparency Report of October 2021

Improved Mayer Magazine design, started use-case interviews, WPML integration underway, and duplicate posts as print materials

This is the 31st monthly report for Print My Blog (PMB) WordPress plugin.

What Happened This Month

Plugin Stats

I think one of the releases triggered the biggest downloads per day yet. There was certainly a lull due to no proper releases for the last 2 or 3 weeks.
Active installs continues to fluctuate. The modest rise-then-dip seems to have happened independently of any input (no blog posts or releases during that time).

Mailing List Stats

Stats from my MailChimp mailing list.

Email list growth still dead without Freemius’ Opt-in screen.

Website Visits

Stats from my site’s Koko analytics (don’t need no Google Analytics, thank you!)

Slight increase in page views is noteworthy considering I really did no content marketing this month.

Freemius Stats

Freemius gathers other stats about sales and sites using the plugin.

Slight dip down in sales, although recurring revenue has bumped up slightly. Not fantastic but pretty steady considering the small of actual paying customers.

I realized I misinterpreted what the “Active Sites” stat means last month: when it says “5 Active Sites, down 16.67%”, that means 5 more active sites this month, which is 16% less than last month’s 7 more sites (as measured by Freemius). I couldn’t have had 7 active installs last month, 5 this month, and yet had 98 sites un-install the plugin.

I’ve removed the “Uninstall Reason” from the transparency reports as it’s actually an aggregate of all uninstalls ever, not just the ones from this month. So including it each month doesn’t seem very useful.

Business Stats

  • Hours:
    • 117.75 (+6) support
    • 162.25 (+2) marketing
    • 423 (+9) development
    • 74 (+6) management
  • Expenses (Opportunity Cost): $28,974.40(+$580.65)
  • Expenses (Out-of-pocket) $150(+$15)
  • Income: $3,125.26 USD (+224)

Plugin Stats

Overview of What’s New

The Details

Mayer Magazine Styling Improvements

A customer mentioned using the Mayer Magazine last month, so I revisited it and made a few improvements to its look. Most notably:

  • remove lines at the end of sections in front matter (they weren’t necessary as front matter takes up the full page width and always starts on a new page)
  • justify text in the main matter columns to give it a cleaner, more magazine-like look
  • smaller page margins so more text can fit on the page, like most magazines do
Mayer Magazine no longer has underlines after sections of front matter.
Mayer Magazine now has smaller page margins and justified text.

What do you think of these improvements? Anything else you’d change?

Use-Case Interviews Began

I’m starting to do interviews with users to share how they’re using PMB and then sharing their answers to give others ideas of how they can use the plugin. This is directly inspired by Freemius’ interviews with WordPress plugin and theme developers and Pressbooks’ directory. I expect to publish the first one next week. Stay tuned!

WPML Integration (In-Progress)

While preparing the upcoming use-case interview, I was reminded the customer was using the WPML plugin to translate their website and book made with PMB. WPML’s staff were kind enough to give me a free development copy of their software for integrating with, so I tested it out.

I discovered PMB mostly worked with WPML, but I saw plenty of opportunities to improve. I’m nearly done, but there are a few last items that aren’t-quite-perfect and which aren’t too easy to fix. I think I may just release it with those oddities (there are workarounds) and gauge interest before spending more time on them. Expect those to be released in the coming weeks, too!

Duplicate Posts as Print Materials (In-Progress)

Another customer has been using the Yoast Post Duplicator plugin to copy posts, make them private, then do all their tweaking to the private post and then including the tweaked version in their book. I wanted to make that process easier, so am adding buttons to duplicate posts as print materials.

New action to create a print material from a post on the admin posts list table. This will only appear for Pro users. (I was afraid it would just irritate free users who don’t even use Pro Print.) This link appears for other post types, too, like pages.
New button on PMB’s project “Edit Content” step, also added for convenience.

Adding the buttons wasn’t too hard—actually, it was a fun technical challenge. But after adding it, I had second thoughts about it.

I really think users should use PMB’s special CSS classes to customize posts in printouts, not creating entire duplicates of the posts, in order to avoid maintaining two copies of the post. For example, what if you find a typo in the post? If you’ve created a copy of the post for your book, you’ve now got to remember to fix that typo in two places. Additionally, I’m afraid users will get the original post and the duplicated print material confused.

What do you think? If you were creating a book from your WordPress posts and wanted to make a handful of tweaks to it only for your book (but not make those tweaks to the post on your website), would you rather:

  • duplicate the post, and make all the changes to the duplicate (remembering that if you find any typos or want to update the content later, you’ll now need to update it in two spots)
  • modify the original to have some parts only appear in the printout and some parts only appear on your website (so typos usually only need to be made to the one post)?

Thinking Out Loud

I admit this month was pretty slow for me with PMB. My day job has been pretty busy lately, as I’ve been wrapping my head around all sorts of Microsoft Azure, Intune, and IT-support stuff. Usually, I would really dislike dealing with all that, but it has an immediate use so it’s actually been interesting for me. I think that’s sapped some of my creative juices too.

What’s Next?

I really, really want to get going on making ePubs.

Feedback on the “Duplicate Posts as Print Materials” would be really appreciated, as I’m debating whether it will be a good feature to unleash on users or if it will just make things more complicated.

6 replies on “Transparency Report of October 2021”

Good Morning,

As someone considering making your plugin the core of a content management system for publishing our guide books, our biggest concern is are you going to be able to get this plugin to the point that revenue will justify all the work you are putting in? If not you will eventually end up moving on and then we have hung our business on a dead plugin—bummer for both of us.

Given your opportunity cost my thinking is that you need to be generating at least US$40,000 / year to make this worth it, and then build to over 100k a year.

So, I think you need to make complete clean break with Print My Blog branding and go all premium with something like “WordPress Book Publisher”—that had 30 seconds thought, I’m sure there is a better name.

The differentiator between the two would be the latter would have both ePub and InDesign integration and cost up in the $300-$500 a year range, and more for publishers that do a lot of books.

Why InDesign too? Publishers will always want tweaks to what your plugin outputs so if you just provide ePub the people who are willing to pay you money will drive you nuts with added feature requests, but if you give us inDesign capability we will just tweak the output from your plugin there.

The other way to think about this revenue problem is that if you get say even 200 publishing houses using you product, easy with the right marketing since this is a huge need, and there are hundreds of thousands (millions?) of small publishers out there crying for a good content management system, you could also offer custom plugin and WP development services for this vertical market and end up with a nice full time job.

The way to think about this is you need to find a pain point and fix it. And let me tell you, trying to keep a books like ours with over 1000 separate entries organized and mantained in an inDesign file, like 99% of the industry does it is not a pain-point, it’s an agony-point. Solve that and you have a business.

Thanks again for taking the time to give this great feedback John.
Yes I hear you that it stinks to invest time into a tool that ends up not being maintained. For my part, I’m thinking achieving an annual income of 10k makes this project worthwhile, especially considering it’s also a passion project of mine to help preserve people’s blogs and the stories they keep on them. So far I’m happy that I’ve made good progress over last year’s income (trying to support development entirely through donations) and I’m eager to keep improving that (especially given the helpful insights from users like yourself.)
And I haven’t forgotten about the rebranding idea. The main difficulty is that most of the current user-base discovered the plugin because of the name that closely aligns with a search (eg “how do I print my blog?”). I think the volume of users wanting to publish books is much smaller than those who want to print blogs (and that’s much smaller than those who just want to print individual posts from their blog). But I agree that actual book publishers are more likely to have income for spending, whereas tiny blog owners not so much. Anyway, yes rebranding is still on my to-do list.
InDesign and ePub are also on the list of major formats for exports. I got a bit more experience using InDesign and it’s not just a matter of exporting a file in InDesign’s format because their format is proprietary (unlike PDF and Microsoft Word docs). Having said that, I know the plugin Eight Day Week exports XML files that are easily imported into InDesign designs. Still, I wasn’t in love with how they got that to work (I tried it out on a trial version of InDesign). It seemed to really only work if your post’s contained nothing but text (even bulleted lists and headings weren’t well-supported). You can check it out here: https://eightdayweekplugin.com/ and maybe let me know what you like or don’t like.
I’d like to understand better your “agony point”. By “separate entries” you mean chapters or sections, right? Can you share more about how you write and update content and why doing so from InDesign files is such a drain?

Hi Michael,

Thanks for continuing to be open to suggestions.

I hear you on the issues of export to inDesign.

The best alternative would be to copy the way that ID imports word documents by giving the user a screen to map Word paragraph styles to ID styles. So I’m wondering if one could have a screen in your plugin that allowed the user to map WP block types to inDesign styles. Such a tool would be incredibly powerful and flexible since you would no longer be burdened by trying to get something like bullets over to ID looking decent. Instead the user would just specify in your plugin that a bullet block was whatever they had called that paragraph style in the target ID document.

Then styling would happen in inDesign automatically as that text came in and was recognized as a style that the document designer had already set up. Any changes? Just change the style in inDesign and it’s done.

You could even take it up another notch (perhaps in a later version) to allow a bullet block with a given Additional CSS class would map to a different paragraph style than a bullet block without that class.

By taking this approach you would hand over the entire formatting issue to the end user, while giving them absolute flexibility.

You would also be off the hook on tables of contents since as long as we could may H1, H2, H3 etc to a given paragraph style the in design automated TOC can generate from those.

Hope that helps.

I suspect I may be the customer – or one of them – who is plowing ahead, duplicating posts, making them private and then making the changes desired for the book. It has become somewhat rote by now and I have no longer accidentally re-published a post that I assumed wrongly was private – and triggered a blast of emails to puzzled blog followers who seem to recall reading this “new” post many months ago. (I find it hard to believe WordPress doesn’t have a way to disable those emails temporarily; they only give the subscriber the option not to receive them, not the sender an option to disable while working on PMB!) Encountering typos and needing to correct them in the original hasn’t been a problem.

I’ve yet to been able to find the icon that you created for Copy to New Material, although I have automatic updates to the plugin activated. But that’s OK, because as I say, I’ve adapted to the method above.

I wish the snapping of graphics and text to eliminate big blocks of white space was an easier chore. The toggling back and forth between the test PDF to see if re-sizing a photo or Always Preserve or Sometimes Preserve worked is daunting. I’ve come to think I will just finish up editing content and then find someone who knows InDesign and work with them on making it all look professional.

Yep, you’re that customer Mark!

And ya the “Copy to New Material” isn’t released yet. I’ve actually held off on it a bit fearing that introducing it might confuse your existing workflow.

And yes I understand the difficulty in getting a book to minimize whitespace when you have inline images and the placing of those images relative to text is fixed. I think what we really all want is to be able to have images automatically resize according to the remaining space on the page (eg, if the there is half of the page height still available, make the image fill up that space; but if there’s only a quarter of the page’s space available, place it on the next page). Unfortunately that isn’t possible with the underlying software PMB uses, Prince PDF (or any HTMl-to-PDF software of which I’m aware). For that, yes you’re probably wanting a custom designer with InDesign. I think the best option in the PMB space is to: make images smaller (eg at most a quarter of the page’s height), or choose your wording in such a way that it’s independent from the placing of the image. (Eg instead of saying “As you can see in the following picture, being in a hot air balloon is pretty scary!”, you’d just say “Being in a hot air balloon is scary!” in the text, and in the image’s caption put something like “The scary view from the hot air balloon”). I also think a Microsoft Word export will also be handy for getting files into a format that’s more easily imported into InDesign. That’s a feature on the PMB roadmap.

If you’re on the hunt for folks capable with InDesign, I have some connections to folks who’ve done that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.