Selling to people in poorer countries

I’m selling a niche e-book called Angular for Rails Developers. Sales have been pretty good so far, at least in my eyes: $1882 in the first month.

One interesting thing about my email list (about 700 people as of today) is that a lot the subscribers, perhaps most of them, are from outside the US. I’ve gotten a number of emails saying “Hey Jason, I would love to buy your book but I live in India/Brazil/Ukraine and $39 USD is just too much for me.”

The way I’m “handling” this right now is to simply not do anything about it. But it seems like a shame that these people aren’t being helped and I’m not getting any money from them.

Any advice?

I get similar questions, often from Brazil and Russia. I have a standard pre-written response, that I generate by typing exactly 10 characters plus the space bar. My auto-typing software (Typinator) then inserts a message that reads as follows:

You can use this link to get [My product] at 25% off: [linktomystorewithcouponcodeinurlquerystring]

A very high percentage of people receiving this message buy my product.


Hey Steve, that sounds like a good approach. I believe I’ll use that. Thanks!

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I’m from Brazil. $39 USD is really a lot money here.

39 USD to Real(R) is something like R$140,00 + at least 10% of taxes. The minimum wage here is R$880,00. I think a Junior Develper can make something like R$1500-R$2500.

If you really believe that there’s a good market here, I think you should take a look of how you could accept payment in Real. Services like or even paypal can help you with that, plus, those services may make possible to your clients spread the payment through the months: It’s a lot easier to pay R$14,00 for 10 months than R$140,00 in one month.

I’m not sure how you could exchange R$ to $. Maybe using bitcoin?

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I believe many payment processors allow to set different prices depending on where the buyer is from. But that’s a manual work.

I’d like to see a pricing service where I could set a price as a function of specific economic variable, e.g. average monthly salary for a developer in the country the sale is coming from.

There would be some fraud, of course – via proxies. I wonder what is the percentage of it would be, and how hard it is to fight it.

The individual discount approach works for me for the foreseeable future.

It solves the problem of having to reply, “Can’t afford my book? Welp, sucks to be you. Talk to you later.”

I think everyone deserves a response, and I also offer a similar standard discount to anyone who asks for it. I’ll get the occasional person who wants to bargain, but my response to that is usually that I’m a one-man shop with bills I need to pay too. I’ve had one or two people walk away angry, but most understand.


I’ve tried this over the years, with mixed success (actually, mostly zero success).

My store automatically grants huge discounts (about 70%) to a handful of countries that I picked based on criteria like GDP, currency fluctuations etc. The country detection is done using MaxMind GeoIP. I hardly ever get any sales from it, although there’s a handful of people who have. I’ve only once detected someone who used a proxy for a discount.

I’ve had quite a few email enquiries over the years, but a lot of them don’t buy even when the discount is offered. I get the sense that many (but not all) of the enquiries just want to get something free, and I think I even detected a couple using the same template for getting free things online.

I do remember a woman from Argentina who said she couldn’t afford full price, I offered the discount, and she was positively overjoyed. It’s worth doing for the people who genuinely appreciate it.


Steam has a different discount for each country and it works good for them:

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My strategy to avoid mucking around with discounts based on location or means is to offer pay-with-a-postcard for anyone who feels they can’t afford my book. I’ve been really happy with this system.

  • pretty much anyone can afford to send a postcard, but it’s enough of an effort to filter out people who aren’t serious about wanting to learn from me and just want free stuff.
  • it generates a ton of goodwill.
  • postcard senders often return and buy the book and more once they do have the means. They also tell their friends.
  • I don’t view it as a lost sale, since otherwise they would either have gone without, or grabbed a copy from a friend.
  • I have a box full of the most wonderful postcards from all over the world. Most have really kind messages written on them. You can’t put a price on that kind of thing.

@avdi I had been planning to do that and then kind of forgot. I’ll probably do pay-with-postcard too. I like the idea of getting mail from around the world.

That is the coolest solution. I absolutely love it.

Is it something you actively promote via FAQ’s, or do you just offer it if people reach out? In my experience, so few people reach out to ask it feels like it would miss a lot of deserving people if they had to request it.

In the past, I’ve asked people who would like a discount to do a writeup of how they use the app. Not a review, just a writeup with a couple screenshots. I put that on my site, they get a free license.

It gives them a choice - if time is cheaper than money, spend the time on the task. If the money is cheaper, pay the license. That’s added web footprint for me, text in multiple languages and different writing styles, happy customer.


It’s on my Confident Ruby sales page.

That’s really a good idea. I’ll try that too, thanks. Too bad I already gave out hundreds of discounts for “thank you” in exchange :slight_smile: