Monday, January 7, 2013

The 4-Hour Bestseller

In 2007 Tim Ferriss made marketing history by becoming an instant bestselling author on both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal's coveted lists. Prior to the release of his book, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, Ferriss was a complete unknown in the publishing world. So how did he become an overnight sensation?

The answer is that he didn't. What looks like an overnight sensation to the outside world is actually the product of many months of hard, sustained labor. That is not news to anybody. We all know that publishing a successful book requires work.

The question is: What kind of work?

Some kinds of work simply do not pay off. For example, nearly everything you do after your book is published is an uphill battle. Everyone in the business world knows that you have to build interest in a product before it is available, books included.

How did Ferriss do it?

What Tim Ferriss did was revolutionary (at the time). He completely ignored the usual marketing channels and went straight to the Internet. By the time his book was released, his name was all over the web on sites that got traffic in the thousands per day. How did he pull it off?

Ferriss went to blogging conferences and hung out with bloggers for six months prior to releasing his book. More specifically, he hung out with their wives. Popular bloggers are just as hard to reach as big-name agents. So, to reach them, Ferriss simply shmoozed with their nearest and dearest. And because Ferris was under 30, attractive, and personable, he made an impression on them. Before long, he was the talk of the cybertown. And when his book came out, he continued to be a rage on the Internet, making his own blog just as popular as those of the bloggers he had originally courted.

It was the American Dream come true – hard work, the entrepreneurial spirit, bootstraps, huge success, piles of money, rags-to-riches, overcoming obstacles – all the claptrap that makes good Americans weep at mall movie complexes everywhere.

You can do it, too!

If you don't have the nerve to snuggle up to bloggers' better halves, or to cold-call famous authors and ask them how they achieved success (Ferriss did that as well), you still have the option of building your Internet presence using more subtle techniques.
  1. Six months prior to releasing your book, launch your author website. If you haven't published anything yet, put a brief, interesting bio, and an attractive photo on your home page. You can post a picture of the cover of your forthcoming book and sample chapter. (Only if it is ready for publication. Do not post works in progress.) Start a blog. Write about a topic for which you have some expertise. (It doesn't necessarily have to match the subject of your book.) List your blog on blog directories.
  1. Start reading blogs on subjects that are similar to yours. Make comments. List their blogs on your site. Follow them, and they will follow you. (There appears to be no leader in this game.)
  1. Write guest blogs for sites that get more traffic than yours. (You can re-post them on your own blog afterward.) Write articles for ezines. Build your credentials as an author.
  1. If you can get to a bloggers conference, then go ahead. Meeting people in the flesh is still the best way to develop contacts. But, unless you are a dead ringer for Mae West, don't walk up to a blogger and ask if they'd like to come up and see your manuscript sometime. (Ask them to have a drink instead.)
You will have to do a fair amount of research to find blogs similar to yours. And it will take time to keep up with your own blog and everybody else's. But, unless your last name is Obama, you'll just have to roll up your shirtsleeves and get down to it. After all, Timothy Ferriss did it and all he had was chutzpah.

Essential reading:

How blogs helped Tim Ferriss create a bestseller.
How To Use a Viral Idea to Create a Best Seller

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