Jan. 29, 2013
Tim Ferriss is an entrepreneur, lifestyle hacker, and author who writes about how to optimize aspects of your life.
His newest book is 4-Hour Chef, and while there are plenty of recipes in it, it’s actually about about how to maximize your learning ability. Ferriss teaches the reader the techniques he used to go from being indifferent towards cooking to becoming a kitchen warrior.
Ferriss’ previous books, 4-Hour Workweek and 4-Hour Body, were released through conventional publishers, but he’s one of a growing number of A-list authors opting to go with Amazon’s publishing model instead.
We conducted a brief email interview with Ferriss to get his thoughts on where books and publishing are heading, and here are some of the highlights on what he had to say:
- Publishers need to behave more like talent agencies or venture capital firms to survive.
- Despite being boycotted by Barnes & Noble, he doesn’t regret his decision to publish through an Amazon property.
- E-books are a net positive for the publishing industry.
Here’s the full Q&A:
BUSINESS INSIDER: How does the experience of releasing 4-Hour Chef through Amazon compare to releasing your other books through more conventional publishers?
TIM FERRISS: I was penalized for the bestseller lists (due to the Barnes and Noble boycott, etc.), but I was able to get incredible Amazon on-site promotion and data intelligence. Wondering who’s buying your books, where, and which sites are driving the most Real converting traffic to your book page? I have that insight now, which I never had before. It’s been extremely cool and will inform everything I do in the future.
Plus, in the end, the boycott didn’t do much damage; The 4-Hour Chef still hit all the lists and now has more than 1,000 reviews. I gauge success in years, not weeks. The weekend box-office approach to book launches is short sighted and encourages crappy books.
BI: Could you see yourself returning to a Big Six publisher for your next book?
TF: Never say never, right? It depends entirely on my goals (i.e. NYT list versus revenue versus critical acclaim, etc.). It also depends on what strengths publishers maintain, develop, or lose. Publishers need to be more like CAA or WME (or venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz) than printers to survive. All that said, I think it’s more likely I’d so something completely solo as an experiment before anything else.
BI: How much of a liability was it to not have 4-Hour Chef in Barnes & Noble and other retailers?
TF: I won’t lie: it hurts. I’m pro-reader, not anti-bookstore. So to see B&N drive their own customers to competitors, to inconvenience their true retail fans, bothers me. That’s anti-reader behavior. It’s also not fun to get handicapped on the lists, to be sure. That said, I don’t regret my decision.
The controversy turned into a great David(me)-vs-Goliath(B&N) story that helped drive the book video trailer to more than 1.25 million views, for instance. It’s the most viewed non-fiction book trailer of all-time thanks to B&N.
BI: Are e-books ultimately good or bad for the publishing industry? Somewhere in between?
TF: Depends on which party, I suppose. I view it as net positive. It will unearth gems and give chances to people who would have otherwise ended up in some publisher’s slush pile. Simultaneously, it will create avalanches of garbage and noise that all authors – traditional or otherwise – need to fight through to get noticed. I’ve written extensive how-to articles on my blog about this, but “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” is also a good starting point for would-be best-selling authors.
BI: In your personal experience, how big or real of a problem is e-book piracy? Is there a way to curb or stop it?
TF: I’m not overly concerned about it. Keep in mind that I partnered with BitTorrent to promote The 4-Hour Chef. I gave away 2.5 gigabytes of content, including big parts of the book, cut chapters, behind-the-scenes video, etc. It was downloaded more than 1.5 million times in the first 10 days and had more than a 60% (I believe) click-through rate to the Amazon book page. The best way to “curb” piracy is to use the very same tools to promote your best content.