October 2, 2013

Tim Ferriss On How To Growth Hack A Book

Tim Ferriss. Source: Forbes

Tim Ferriss became famous (and wealthy) after publishing the book The 4-Hour Workweek. The book became a bestseller despite the fact that over 25 publishers had rejected it. He has since then published two more books with the same theme: The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef. These later books were as successful as The 4-Hour Workweek, so I thought it was a good idea to investigate what Tim Ferris marketing tactics were. While the typical US nonfiction book sells fewer than 250 copies per year, and under 3000 copies in its lifetime, Tim Ferris sells a considerable amount of more copies. I've published my own book called The Engineer which is a biography on the entrepreneur Elon Musk, so I can hopefully use some of the same marketing hacks.

When Tim Ferriss wanted to publish The 4-Hour Chef, he realized that 700 bookstore boycotted his book because he published it through Amazon. This was not a good start. So what he did was to begin marketing the book as an online startup. Most other authors spend two year of their lives writing a book and then they release it and sell their 250 copies of it each year - and that wasn't good enough to Tim Ferriss.

  • To help him, he contacted Ryan Holiday who is considered to be a marketing wizard  
  • The 4-Hour Chef consisted of several different topics so he could market each topic to a specific audience interested in that specific topic. You can see the insane long list here: (The 4-Hour Chef Launch - Marketing/PR Summary of Week One)
  • He released the first chapter of the book together with (at least) 680 mb of behind-the-scenes content on the torrent site BitTorrent. The same torrent network is famous for helping people downloading (pirating) illegal copies of books
  • He created a series of campaigns: Booksellers got the opportunity to travel with him. Fans who created their own trailers for the book got the chance to win a $2500 reward and a hour long conversation with Tim Ferriss himself. Those who bought his two earlier books got the opportunity to get the new book for free
  • When he released his first book, and to find out which title/cover to use, he printed different covers and attached them to books by other authors. He then traveled to airports where he put a fake book on a table, and from distance he could now see people's reactions when they picked up the book. He could now find the most popular title and cover
  • He conducted as many fast low-cost experiments as he could, and then he tried to scale the successful experiments. An eight second book trailer was one of the successful experiments
  • When he began to write the book, he asked his blog readers what they thought the weaknesses were of the current books with similar topics. He argued how he got more information from his blog readers than what he gave them with his three books
  • If you have 1000 hard-core fans, you will never have a marketing problem. Don't ask yourself "How do I sell as many copies of the book as possible" - ask yourself "How can I create content that appeal these 1000 fans." This is the article he got this idea from: 1000 True Fans
  • Your book should fit into a new category that doesn't exist. For example, the 4-Hour Chef is a cookbook for people who are not reading cookbooks, and that category didn't exist before
  • If you want to become a better marketer, you should read: Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson who also wrote the Steve Jobs biography
  • Hire a good editor
  • He gave away 1000 copies of a book before the release to friends, companies, contributors
  • Carpet-bomb the Internet with information of the book for a short time - don't bomb the Internet for seven months


More articles in the same series: Best technical and creative writing resources

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