My 2nd Year in the App Store

By Trevor McKendrick 👋 - Have you read my free newsletter?

I released my first iOS app two years ago last week. It started as a small side project with the explicit goal of paying my rent.

My 1st year net revenue was $73, 034, after Apple’s cut.

My 2nd year net revenue increased to $100,134, again after Apple’s cut.

While nowhere close to TechCrunch success, I’m extremely proud of how well it’s turned out, and our customers seem to like it, too.

(Last year I wrote a post about the first year but here’s a quick summary since you’re busy: I made a Spanish Bible app for $500. It did $1,500 in revenue the first month and has grown ever since.)

Last week I tweeted asking what people wanted to hear about and some said they wanted detailed numbers, so here you go:

All numbers are after Apple’s 30%:

Best Month — Sales
January — $11,358.85

Worst Month — Sales
May — $5,743.03

Best Day — Sales
January 19 — $1,008.27

Worst Day — Sales
February 22 — $112.68

Best Day — Downloads
January 26–3,014

Worst Day — Downloads
July 4–652

Average Daily Revenue

Median Daily Revenue

Best Sales Day, every single week

Worst Sales Day, every single week


Updates Downloaded

Peak Gross Ranking in the Books Category

“Current Version” Average Rating of our most popular app
5 Stars

“All Versions” Average Rating of our most popular app
4.5 Stars

Monthly Sales Chart

Number of days where I worry this will collapse at any moment

If you’re still reading, here are a few of my thoughts on the App Store, and a few highlights from the year:

Behold Apple Giveth and Apple Taketh Away; Blessed be the name of Apple
My #1 cause for worry is that Apple controls everything. They could change their search algorithm, or worse, decide to turn us off altogether.

This isn’t a diss though. There are pros and cons to playing on others’ platforms, and I accepted that when I launched our first app.

In the case of Apple, the deal is this:

They give me access to hundreds of millions of above-average income consumers and their credits cards.

I agree to play by their rules, that they own the relationship with the customer, and that they can decide to turn me away if they so choose.

That deal has worked out great for me, but it doesn’t mean I don’t worry about worst case scenarios.

Android is Awful
I’ll spare you the horror story, but I tried a port of our most popular app to Android this year. It did not go well. The developer was awful and required a ton of handholding. (He later sabbottaged our production database, too, but that’s a story for another time.)

Even when we finally did launch (albeit with fewer features than I originally wanted), downloads were terrible, and revenue was practically nonexistant.

This tends to surprise people given our target demographic of native Spanish speakers. It surprised me, too. I will not be trying Android again any time soon.

Don’t Be Romantic About How You Make Money
(AKA, Remember Google is an Advertising Company)

I don’t remember where I read that title, but it’s absolutely true.

Year 1 all revenue came from content I own 100%.

Year 2 my goal was to grow a library of licensed Spanish eBooks to sell as in-app purchases.

The hypothesis was that if we could become the #1 place to find Spanish Christian content it would boost downloads and sales.

So I began talking to publishers and we eventually licensed over 100 books from Harper Collins, LifeWay, Casa Promesa, and others in and outside the US. Not a huge amount, but enough to try this out.

The problem is that these licensing deals require a few things:

  1. A royalty that eats into our margins
  2. Attention to get the books ported into our library
  3. Attention to calculate and pay royalties, manage licensing manager relationships, etc.

The result?

Our revenue increased this year, but only because we launched a brand new version of our main app. With royalties cutting into our previously sky-high margins, I don’t think the ebook library hypothesis worked.

I don’t regret the experiment, but I got too far away from the real reason we make money: people like our Bible audiobook.

It sounds great, and people pay extra for audiobooks. That’s it. Don’t get romantic about how you make money

Highlights from the year

Making the Front Page of Hacker News 4 Weeks in a Row
I was pretty surprised by the response I got last year after writing my first post. It got linked to by Shawn Blanc, John Moltz, and Harry Marks.

When I was doing interviews for coding schools I even had a few of my interviewers recognize my name. That was a kick.

Attending the Flatiron School in NYC
I spent 3 months in New York learning Rails at the Flatiron School. I tried to teach myself to code on and off for years but could never stick to it. Committing full time for 3 months at the Flatiron School was exactly what I needed.

Coding schools have various reputations depending on who you talk to, but I can’t recommend the Flatiron School enough.

If you put in the time before and during school, you’ll likely be good enough to get a junior developer job when you graduate. (That wasn’t my goal but many of my friends now have jobs all over the country as developers.)

Bonus: Somehow I got the nickname “Biblia Jefe”, which means Bible boss. It was a fun 3 months.

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