10 Book Marketing Lessons From Tim Ferriss
Do you remember the first time you heard of the book: The 4-Hour Work Week?
If you’re anything like me, this was probably your first reaction…
“Virtual assistants, location independence, Internet businesses? Impossible…
Sure, it sounds great, but there’s no way this is real!”
But with each new positive review and enthusiastic recommendation, you gave in. Your curiosity got the best of you and you bought your own copy.
And then you started reading it… and couldn’t put it down.
Because with each page, you discovered some obscure new idea that shifted your view of life and business. And these nuggets kept coming, and before you knew it, you finished the book in just two or three days.
And such is the case for 1,300,000 other readers.
The result? The 4-Hour Work Week propelled Tim Ferriss into the entrepreneurship “guru” limelight in no time at all.
But make no mistake: Tim is a book marketing genius, and this debut blockbuster was no accident.
After reverse engineering Tim’s incomparable success, I’ve discovered ten key lessons for viral book marketing.
Below is a list of these ten strategies, with examples and actionable takeaways for each one.
And if you’re smart about it, you too can replicate some of Tim’s bestseller status.
1 Testing Is The Name Of The Game
What’s the difference between average and exceptional marketers?
And Tim embodies this idea to a “T.” Before launching The 4-Hour Work Week (…which we’ll refer to as simply “4HWW” throughout the rest of this post…), Tim repeatedly tested the two most important aspects of any book: The Title and The Cover.
How’d he do it? Simple. He used Google Adwords.
While writing The 4HWW, Tim ran a $200 Adwords campaign testing six different book titles. Eventually, his top two titles boiled down to:
- The 4-Hour Work Week
- Broadband and White Sand
The market chose the winner, and the rest is history. And the funny part? The 4HWW wasn’t Tim’s first choice.
And we see this over and over again. I followed Tim’s guidance and tested my cover until even my family and friends were annoyed. But the result? A clear winner stood out… and it definitely wasn’t the cover I wanted nor liked!
But the results speak for themselves: I’ve moved over 60,000 copies of Make Money, Live Wealthy by not going with what I thought was the best cover.
Here’s the moral of the story: expert marketers don’t rely on their own beliefs or assumptions to guide their decisions… they test everything.
And so should you. (If, of course, you want your book to be an out-of-the-park success like Tim’s…).
But how can you test with zero budget or no audience?
Your Action Item:
Set up a simple test to see what book title and cover is best for your book.
Or, you can mimic Tim and set up an Adwords campaign.
The point is… you aren’t restricted to just bugging everyone in your social networks… but you should do it strategically to plant the seed and bring people into your book creation process.
2 Make A HUGE Promise
Remember how at the beginning of this post I asked you about what you first thought of the title: The 4-Hour Work Week?
Well, it’s safe to say you either felt positive or negative about it…
…but one thing is certain:
No matter how you feel about it, the title gets your attention.
Why? Because it’s bold, it’s extreme, it’s remarkable.
And if Tim named his book How To Outsource Work… well… it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as big of a success as it was. Because a title like that is boring, and boring doesn’t get people talking.
Another great example of making a big, bold promise is Ramit Sethi’s New York Times bestseller, I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
At the time of his book’s release, Ramit was a kid compared to the older, more “established” personal finance gurus… and you can believe a title like that got their attention (for better or for worse…).
But despite some criticism, Sethi’s book got people talking. Soon enough, it hit the New York Times bestseller list and his brand exploded.
And here’s the key point: these HUGE promises speak to the market’s desired end-result.
With Ferriss? His audience wants to work less and enjoy more freedom.
And Sethi? His readers want less financial stress and more security.
Now the real question is… what does YOUR market want?
Some last words of inspiration of this topic from one of today’s most respected marketers, Seth Godin:
“Remarkability lies in the edges. The biggest, fastest, slowest, richest, easiest, most difficult. It doesn’t always matter which edge, more that you’re at (or beyond) the edge.”
Your Action Item:
First, find out your target market’s desired end-result. What do they want more than anything?
Then, find out how to articulate how YOU will help them get what they want in a big, bold, and daring way.
If you’re a bit scared of the title, that’s a good thing. Be audacious. 🙂
3 Write A GREAT Book
It goes without saying, but your book should be well-researched, well-structured, and well-written.
I heard Tim say once that a good book should take you over a year to write.
I was too impatient for that. I wrote Make Money, Live Wealthy in a couple months while traveling the world.
The quality of my book vs. Tim’s, however, is very clear! His is one-hundred times better.
In the easy-to-publish world that Amazon has created, it’s easy to crank out a book and make it live.
But if you want to create something that starts a movement, revolutionizes your industry and becomes the centerpiece for your business for the next decade, then you need to take it a bit more seriously.
I could talk for hours about how to create an amazing book, but let me share with you three major tips I’ve learned from working with hundreds of authors.
Great Book Tip #1: Get Market Feedback
I don’t know about you, but coming out with my book, I was initially scared to share it with anyone. I was embarrassed (and excited), but feared that people were going to think it was bad.
But I got over my fear, got some feedback from my small launch team – which consisted of family, friends and some podcast fans… And WOW, the feedback was game-changing.
They helped me so much. If I would have published what my editor and I thought was good, it would have been an entirely different result.
Getting “real world” market feedback from those in my target audience was crucial. You need to include this in your writing process, for sure.
Great Book Tip #2: Steal Like An Artist
The best thing you can do is read other top books related to your book. Figure out what you like about them, what you don’t, how they format their books, how they keep you engaged…
And do the same for your book!
Great Book Tip #3: Hire The Pros
From formatting to editing and proofreading, the single biggest difference I see with traditionally published and self-published books are 1.) Simple inexcusable typo errors, 2.) Unprofessional cover designs, and 3.) Bad interior formatting.
Hire pros to handle all three of those factors and you’ll instantly feel like you have a traditionally published book.
4 Leverage “New World” Marketing
In the “Old World,” the goal was getting you and your book on radio and TV shows. Get on major television and you were set!
But these channels are inferior compared to the ultra-specific “New World” outlets, and Tim was one of the first to really expose this major trend in the nonfiction book industry.
He marketed the 4HWW primarily through “New World” channels, like topic-specific blogs and online micro-communities built for his target avatar.
So instead of paying huge sums of money for mass advertising to a bunch of people outside of his target audience, Tim “niched down” and only focused on the channels his audience was already paying attention to.
After working with hundreds of authors over the past few years, we’ve come to favor a specific “New World” strategy for massive, cost-effective book marketing:
Now, don’t worry – you don’t need to start your own podcast (although it’s not a bad idea at all).
Instead, your goal is getting interviewed on other people’s podcasts who already have an audience.
(Of course, these podcasts should be related to your niche.)
And there are many reasons we love podcast interviews for rapid book marketing success, but here are a few:
- You can form relationships with a fellow “Influencers” in your space (i.e.: the podcast hosts), which could lead to future partnerships – HUGE tip.
- Your interview is an “evergreen” piece of content – meaning you spend 45 minutes ONCE to have an SEO-building asset working for you for the rest of time.
- You can build unbreakable connections with audiences by being vulnerable, opening-up, and sharing the most intimate details of your journey.
Not to mention, Podcast episodes can be transcribed into blog posts or emails – giving you more pieces of “evergreen” content to boost your SEO.
Your Action Item:
When I work with clients, there are a few things that I start with:
- Positioning – This is 50% of the battle and even some making 7-figures per year need to optimize and improve this.
- Targeting – Everyone wants to be everything to everyone. I would say close to 99% of authors are way too general.
Two quotes you may have heard that are true are, “The riches are in the niches,” and “Specific sells.”
So, just by going narrow with your positioning and targeting, you can make the world of difference for your business.
And this is also what you should do with your marketing!
To do this, we talk about going “5 Layers Deep.”
For instance, with Epic Launch we go niche by targeting those at the 5th layer:
Authors > Non-Fiction > Self-Published > Entrepreneur > Online Influencer
As another example, say you’re in the fat loss space. Your five layers could be:
Non-Fiction Author > Self-Improvement > Health & Wellness > Weight Loss > Ketogenic Diet For Weight Loss
What do these five layers look like for you?
Then, find the 10 most popular podcasts that have audiences potentially interested in your 5th layer. So, in this example, you’d find the 10 most popular podcast shows related to Ketogenic Diet For Weight Loss.
5 Get Clear on Your Avatar
Tim’s target avatar for The 4HWW was 18-35 tech-savvy males. He knew that and leveraged the heck out of it.
So, using the “New World” strategies mentioned, he “doubled-down” on targeting blogs, conferences, and online forums serving this specific group.
And the result?
The 4HWW had HUGE momentum the moment it released to the public, thanks to the specificity of his avatar.
You see, if Tim had tried appealing to all different types of demographics, the book never would have caught on in the way it did.
But instead, by solely focusing on his market pre-launch, he became omnipresent in their world. He was “everywhere” to them, because this was the core group of people he was targeting!
And because of his BIG exposure in this niche, the market listened. And when it came to buy, they bought.
The biggest mistake 99% of all self-published authors make is trying to be everything to everyone…
And what happens?
- They advertise to anyone and everyone (which turns out to be a waste of money…)
- Their messaging is dull, bland, and boring – never hitting a nerve with their market
- They burn themselves out by trying to market their stuff on everyone’s platforms
So, by getting super specific on your avatar, you’re doing yourself – and your book – a huge favor.
And the best part? When you act on the above lessons (like “niching down” and making a HUGE promise), defining your customer avatar is easier than you might think.
6 Claim Your Topic
Before Tim made his historical splash in the world of entrepreneurship and business, no one was talking much about “lifestyle design.”
The topic didn’t exist in the mind of his ideal reader… but the topic of entrepreneurship did.
But – at the time – Tim was a small name in entrepreneurship. Attempting to claim the big, scary topic of “Entrepreneurship” with little-to-no platform would’ve been a suicide mission.
So, Tim did what any smart marketer would do… and made a new association with an already-existing topic in the minds of his target audience.
What I mean is “Lifestyle Design” is a type of entrepreneurship… just like “Start-Ups” and “Venture Funded Business” are types of entrepreneurship.
And by positioning his “Lifestyle Design” philosophy as a new form of entrepreneurship, he became the “Lifestyle Design” guru. It was something new and sexy… even though it was just a spin on what many others were already talking about.
Seth Godin is also brilliant at this. He gets paid a LOT of money for coming up with clever ways of wording a new idea or putting a spin on an existing topic.
Here’s Seth on explaining his work:
“My name is Seth Godin and I notice things, name them, and sometimes provoke people to make a ruckus.”
What’s your phrase that you’re going to own? You need to stake your claim.
Look at your industry and find the gaps. How can you position yourself first in a new category? Even if it’s a slight spinoff from what many have been talking about for years.
Then, you must be able to articulate your positioning to your market so they know – without a doubt – that YOU’RE the Influencer in this new space.
Your Action Item:
Watch the video below to discover how you can position yourself as the expert of your topic in just a sentence or less:
7 Start A Movement
Tim just didn’t write a book…
He started a movement. And here’s a fun exercise to prove it:
Open Google and search “Lifestyle Design.” You’ll find hundreds-of-thousands of bloggers, writers, podcasters and YouTubers preaching and teaching the “Lifestyle Design” philosophy.
Out of this, groups started – online and offline – around this one philosophy.
And why would you want to try to start a movement? Because it’s now easier than ever… and more important than ever.
Listen, if you’re a creator of content (which, let’s be honest, if you’re still reading this, that’s you) you can publish and share your work with the world in seconds.
You don’t have to compete for “shelf space” against huge corporations like you had to in the “Old World.” Instead, you can create your own niche, or enter an already-existing niche, and get your stuff seen and shared.
But there’s just one problem.
This “low barrier to entry” means there’s more competition than ever.
And the creators who don’t start a movement of true fans are going to be forgotten. Not convinced? Take a look at one of the most successful self-published authors, Grant Cardone.
One of Grant’s first books – The 10X Rule – evolved into a movement filled with die-hard supporters.
And the result? These true fans end up doing a huge amount of Grant’s marketing for him by religiously promoting his message, sharing his content, and buying all his stuff.
It’s one thing if you try to sell your book. It’s another if others do it for you. Start a movement and let your readers be your army of salesmen.
So how can you leverage your book to start a movement filled with passionate followers?
Your Action Item:
Take a moment – sometime soon while this is still fresh in your mind – and reflect on your WHY.
When you can answer the question – “Why do you do what you do?” – start sharing this with your audience.
Because in the words of Simon Sinek:
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
And when people know your true motivations behind the hours you’re spending on your brand and business, the ones who share those motivations will become your true fans… and eventually start a movement.
“Those who tell stories rule the world.”
Tell your story. Be authentic. Go a level deeper… and it may just spark a movement!
8 Create Book Trailers
When Tim first moved to the hotbed of entrepreneurship – San Francisco – back in the late 90s, he was working in sales for a software company.
And in his spare time, he volunteered at a few local non-profits.
As is the case for most non-profits, one of the primary goals was fundraising. So, using his unique marketing mind, Tim had a crazy idea…
“Why don’t we make a trailer for our non-profit like a trailer for a Hollywood movie?”
And it was a success!
So, when it came to marketing The 4HWW, Tim looked around at the book marketing “best practices.” And then he did the opposite.
No one was making book trailers, so he did just that. And just like he had success with his non-profit trailer, the trailer for The 4HWW was a hit. So much so that he continued making book trailers for the rest of his books.
And the results? Well, see for yourself:
I’ve helped create book trailers for a few of our past clients and saw amazing results. Here’s a quick example if you’re unsure of what a “book trailer” should look like for our 6 Months to 6 Figures book and program:
Your Action Item:
Who should consider making a book trailer?
Well, if you’ve got the resources (i.e.: the time and money… as these can turn out to be large projects), and if you’re book is in a crowded niche, then you should strongly consider making one.
But, if you’re not ready to go “all in” on a professional book trailer that costs $5-10k (on average), you too can still make one for cheap (or free). Here’s a simple hack:
- Take out your iPhone and record yourself pitching your book (this exercise alone will reap huge rewards with your messaging…).
- Add some simple background music.
And there you go… you have a book trailer! Just make sure that your flow is good.
But this is my favorite strategy if you’ve got a small budget:
- Write out a super compelling 60-90 second audio overview of your book. Make it motivational, inspiring, and leave people ready to buy…
- Go to a stock video outlet and find some clips that are aligned with your message. You can get amazing, high quality video footage for cheap. Use sites like Makerbook or Videvo.
- Record your audio. I use a cheap microphone called AudioTechnica ATR 2100.
- Get a motivational piece of background music from a site like AudioJungle or Pond5.
- Then, mash it up together and wa-la! Either hire someone on Fiverr/Elance or do it yourself with a tool like Screenflow, iMovie or Camtasia.
The result can be pretty epic… and for less than $500 you have an awesome and timeless motivational sales piece.
9 Turn Your Book Into A Series
The 4HWW eventually evolved into The 4-Hour Body… which then evolved into The 4-Hour Chef.
And the impact this has had on Tim’s brand is nothing short of extraordinary. I mean, just think about it…
- At first, Tim’s brand was all about productivity and entrepreneurship.
- Then, it branched out into health and wellness with The 4-Hour Body.
- Finally, he entered the world of speed-learning with The 4-Hour Chef.
And now, he’s seen as a self-experiment guru with all three of these topics under his umbrella.
So, if your book has some initial success, and you’re implementing the strategies we’ve talked about earlier (like starting a movement), you should strongly consider launching a series.
Because if you have eager readers waiting for another book, then they’ll all buy when it’s released. And when they buy? Well that means a new income stream for you. 🙂
Plus, by turning your book into a series of books, you’re not limiting your brand to any one category.
Take my friend Hal Elrod, as an example…
You may know Hal from the famous “Miracle Morning.”
Well, what you may not know is that Hal has expanded his first “Miracle Morning” book into a series of 10 books, on topics ranging from parenting to real estate.
Your Action Item:
Brainstorm how you can turn your book into a series of books. And then, how can you turn that series of books into a brand and business?
This will also help you think of your brand and title (big promise)…
But here’s an important thing to note: Have success with ONE book first, prove it out, get the brand known… THEN turn it into a lot of books. Don’t skip the first step or you won’t get the traction.
10 Give Great Bonuses
Tim has a genius trick he uses with each of his new books to move thousands upon thousands of copies… before it ever hits book shelves.
How’s he do it? Simple.
He offers bonuses for bulk book orders.
So for example:
During the launch of The 4 Hour Body, Tim sold 15,000 pre-ordered copies in the 72 hours before the its official release.
And of course, this helps with reaching the top of the bestseller charts. And in fact, another New York Times bestseller preaches this same strategy…
His name is Mark Anastasi, author of “Laptop Millionaire.” I interviewed Mark a year ago when he introduced this strategy to me, and I thought it was genius.
And it paid off big time.
During a past client launch, we gave away a package of bonuses for those that got the audiobook. The result?
We made the author over $100,000 from Audible royalties alone… in less than a year!
But don’t just take our word for it. Bestselling author Brendon Burchard told me the best way to launch a bestseller with no audience is to leverage video and bonuses.
So, if you’re just starting out, and you’re looking for a simple strategy to help catapult your book to the top of your category, give bonuses to your buyers.
Your Action Item:
First, brainstorm three different ways you can create additional bonuses around your book (digital course, handouts, etc.).
Set a launch window where you have this bonus package be available for a specific period of time (i.e. a week) to add in the urgency.
Great book + great message + bonuses + urgency = BOOK SALES BABY!
And there you have it.
Ten actionable book marketing strategies for making a huge splash from one of the world’s greatest book marketers.
Now, if there are a few points I want you to leave with, here they are:
- Positioning is everything.
- Make a big promise.
- Be audacious. Be different.
- Books are the catalysts to movements.
- Opportunities that can open up from book marketing done right are so amazing.
Take it seriously and you can create your dream life and business.
Here’s to making your book the next “4-Hour Work Week.”
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