How to Write and Promote New York Times Bestsellers: Tim Ferriss and Jack Canfield

64 Comments

Jack Canfield, as co-creator of Chicken Soup for the Soul, has more than 500 million books in print. Among them, he can count 47 New York Times bestsellers. Jack also provide me with the early advice and introductions that got The 4-Hour Workweek published, despite 26 rejections.

In the above video, which was filmed as a livecast, the tables are turned. I was honored to be interviewed by Jack and Steve Harrison, the founder of Radio-TV Interview Report (RTIR). In this conversation, we answer questions such as:

– How do I make writing (which I find hard) easier?
– How do I minimize writer’s block and overcome it when it creeps in?
– How have I improved my own writing?
– How do I handle or even plan controversial content?
– Is all PR good PR? (Short answer: No)
– What have I learned from Jack?
– How do you introduce your content to so-called “influencers” (a term I still dislike)?
– How do you craft the pitch and make the approach?
– What advice would I give to someone who wants to write their first book?
– How does one become more action-oriented during the process, and throughout life?
– How does the philosophy of Seneca apply to writing and selling a book?…

I enjoyed the dialogue and thought some of you might find it valuable as a stand-alone post. That is why I put it up.

But for more context, the complete multi-day livecast was held to promote a program that Jack and Steve created called “Bestseller Blueprint”. As you know, I have never promoted “programs” on this blog and have no plans to start. Jack and Steve’s program is not cheap, nor have I reviewed it, but if you’re interested, you can find more information here.

What other questions about publishing or writing would you like to hear or see me answer, if any? Please let me know in the comments.

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Odds and Ends: FastCompany Videos on Muse Creation, Testing, Prototyping, and Manufacturing


Posted on: September 1, 2012.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

64 comments on “How to Write and Promote New York Times Bestsellers: Tim Ferriss and Jack Canfield

  1. Look forward to the results of the split test. Thanks for sharing both yours and Jack’s lessons on the blueprint that puts books on the best sellers list. Straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

    Like

  2. Too bad there wasn’t some kind law forcing writers with ambitions of self-publishing glory to study the story of what Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen went through to get to where they are.

    Also, Tim, do you think you might ever do a piece on how Robert Kyosaki and Jay Conrad Levinson built their publishing empires? Levinson in particular is quite the case study.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jack’ Assistant: Hey Tim can you promote Jacks new product
    Tim: umm.. I dont really do affiliate promotions, it is not my business model and generally it decreases long term trust between my readers and myself.
    Jack’ Assistant: This product is about writing books, you write books and your readers read your stuff cause they want to write books. Just tell them its an experiment….. so the ones interested will jump at it and buy and the non-interested ones will just think its another chapter in “lifestyle design experiments” and not hate you in the morning.
    Tim: umm ok… . . will see what I can do. ..

    Like

    • I agree. Love your stuff Tim and have been following you for years but being associated with this type of product launch (no matter who is behind it) has just dented the long term trust you built up with me.

      It wasn’t a conscious decision. It was a gut reaction. But maybe that’s because I’m VERY familiar with the internet marketing industry and what goes on inside it.

      I realize this may be a case of you paying back some favors, when these internet marketers helped push your books to their audiences…or maybe you just need some quick cash ;)

      I guess one opinion doesn’t matter. It how the majority respond. But associating yourself with this type of launch / industry really doesn’t help your brand, when there’s so many people out there online assuming you’re a scam already.

      Like

      • Hi Robert,

        Thanks for the comment. This post wasn’t put up to repay any favors at all. I thought the video content would be of interest to readers, given the popularity of past posts/videos on writing (like mine with Ramit) and requests for more. The link stuff is just an experiment out of curiosity; I have zero need for the cash.

        Hope that helps somehow!

        Tim

        Like

      • Hi Tim,
        just finished reading the 4hww, i loved it man, great information and it got me motivated again. Truly inspirational. If you ever need any new music to listen to, clue is in the name.. lol. :)
        I call this an ‘experiment out of curiosity’ to. if you like what you hear dont be frightened to give me a review. I have found the promotion and marketing an absolute struggle and money drain, but one hell of a learning curve.. so any advice welcome.
        Much respect,
        keith G Halligan

        Like

      • I am at page 50 of your 4 hour work week. I am trying to have an open mind, but so far, all I get from this is you are able to make choices because you already have money that gives you that freedom. What do you tell a 50 something, whose ex husband bankrupt them thru gambling, and has lost everything and is living in a room in her mother’s house? Oh, did I also mention unemployed. You want a true rags to riches, try working with that. What advice or direction does zero start with?

        Like

  4. Lots of great information here. The advice to find and get trained by experts is very helpful for people who want to accomplish great things. It’s easier than ever before to locate experts in your field. I still find a lot of people who are scared to reach out. There is an expert in just about every niche you can imagine and you can find their contact information online quite easily. The only thing that’s stopping you is you.

    Like

  5. Great stuff. The life of a writer isn’t as easy as most people think. I went from having a great travelling lifestyle to the life of a hermit while writing my book back home. With the help of my persistence I finished the book. It’s not a bestseller (yet) but as of last weekend i sold my first 250 copies (in 3 months)
    My book is called Around the world in 80 Girls – The epic 3 year trip of a backpacking Casanova.

    I was actually inspired to travel after reading the 4 hour work week.

    Cheers,
    Neil Skywalker

    Like

    • Neil,

      Your book has what I would call a very “mediagenic concept.” One of the best ways to get publicity is to go and do something interesting and then write a book about the experience. If what you did is sexy or controversial in some way — you’ll get even more publcity. Congrats on selling your first 250 copies!

      Best,

      Steve Harrison

      Like

      • Hey Steve,

        Well, there aren’t many books touching this controversial subject. I think you can count them on one hand but the subject also makes it hard to make it mainstream. I have the feeling that even a 100 hours a day isn’t enough to get the word out and major newspapers aren’t biting yet but all in due time I guess.
        All advice is welcome.

        Cheers,

        Neil

        Like

  6. Tim, I have to say first – I really appreciate the wisdom you bring. Secondly, not that you need my approval, but you are the real deal!
    I highly rate Jack Canfield and I can understand with his guidance and that of others how you have been so strategic in the way that you have marketed your books. The content that you shared in the video was spot on, I appreciate the writing for a niche audience, this is something that I will definitely be focusing on from now on as I write my book.
    I’m about to record around 10 separate videos for my Youtube channel, do you think its beneficial to record high value content to help promote the a book to bloggers to add value to their audience or write guest articles?
    Personally, I prefer to watch and listen to someone sharing a concept rather than reading it, but I’m interested in hearing your opinion on this Tim.

    Again, the wisdom you bring is greatly appreciated, big RESPECT Tim.

    Luke

    Like

  7. Love to hear insights from writers and authors, as I too am a writer and author.

    People approach me at book signings saying they want to write a book, but they just CAN’T. I say 1) If you’re serious about it, I mean really serious, of course you can. How do you think I do it? You get your butt up at 4:30 AM and you do it. 2) Write 250 crappy, imperfect words a day. That’s one double-spaced page. At the end of a year, you’ll have 365 pages. That’s a draft of an entire book. Don’t think BOOK. Think JUST THIS PAGE.

    Also, niche is the way to rich (I ain’t rich, but you get my point). Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” expresses this and one other real important point. You’re best marketing technique in making a product or writing a book is make a damn good product or write a damn good book. The book needs to be great first, then you can worry about all the satellite tasks. Get your great book into the hands of innovators and early adopters (think bloggers), as Godin says.

    Being a writer is also about fostering a writing community. You’re not alone. You’re sort of in competition, but not really, especially with the shrinking/evaporation of book stores.

    All we’re doing is building sentences. That’s it. And I want Tim, I the commenters, all readers, all writers, to break it down and write nice sentences. We’ll all benefit. Trust me on that.

    Thanks and write on!

    B

    Like

  8. Hey Tim! I love the Seneca concepts and recommendations. I think it’s awesome to be able to take action without the fear of failure, because the fear is much bigger than what might happen if it flops.

    All around great writing tips, and it’s also great to hear about your writing process. Nice to know you’re still on your own journey too!

    Like

  9. Hi Tim,
    I can show you a way to blow the human potential into dimensions you can’t even imagine wink Feel free to call me canada 778 386 9113

    You want a ride follow my facebook im blogging live

    Day 24 Full Human Activation: TRAILBLAZING THE HUMAN POTENTIAL

    I’ve thought long hard how to write this so I decided to take and emulate the Tim Ferris’s Approach. As he set me free financially and radically with both his books i can only
    nod and smile in total gratitude. Thanks Tim.

    So day 24 Stats

    Time awake from pervious sleep 40 hours with no sleep on plane: Slept 5 hours : woke up fresh. Anna Lovelight once commented I bet we don’t need as much sleep as you think. Well anna I can confirm indeed you were right.

    The 24 hour day has gone out the window for me. Sleep now is just when needed.

    Food: Seems I’ve turned instant vegan/vegetarian. I was on a heavy protein diet with Tim Ferris’s slow carb diet. I avoid all sugar and alcohol has no effect on me now. Have tried getting drunk on several occasions and it seems the increased atomic speed of my vibration of energy negates this. Well no more hangovers haha

    Calorie burn per awake 30 to 40 hour time span: Guessing 6000 to 8000
    Water: 6 /7 liters a waking session.

    Sept11
    Day 1 of protocol I went upstream at full mind capacity for a long time and requested the full akashic record.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akashic_records
    Day 2 was love with no attachment and unable to let go
    Day 3 was love with no attachment: letting go process 9/10 hours achieving highest Samadhi state from what ive read. All yogic test say you have to be some god like ascended. Complete bullshit alert. Simple change of vibration so don’t fall for that mind trap. Never give your power away. Look out far and wide for spiritual teaching but any worship or idolization and you’re powerless.
    Day 4 Downloaded Some type of Mayan ceremony for December 12th and 21st December: Still ponndering that one
    After a phone call from a very wise angel we both understood my presence in south Africa. Patrick Gery l I’m coming to say hello in the Drakensberg mountain. Patrick Geryl has believed with immense thought that December 21 is end of the world by an earth crustal discplacement and full planetary POLE SHIFT. He is currently bunkered in and has been joined by 100’s if not 1000’s. I have to say i nearly fell for it myself after 5 years of research until the 4 day event reality wake up call.

    Mind: Only works when needed then turns off. No thought train no trickster. Multi tasking with right brained activities amazing. Multi tasking with left brain activities challenging LOL

    Senses: Massive increase in awareness. It’s like I’m looking through 12d camera lenses, smell seems the same, touch seems the same

    Sound: Can’t be in loud areas. Any load bar or children screaming like a school ground and I’m out of there fast.

    No exercise now for 2 months i think. Body fat and muscle mass seem to have stayed the same. I did huge training for this beforehand. I have become much leaner .

    I have immense energetic power at various times depending on what I’m focusing on.

    Intuition is not stop from source.

    Long term memory is improving very interestingly. Short term memory is a disaster at the moment. I have to super conscious when putting keys phones or anything important on me.

    Reality Making: I think in the future permanently. This is advanced mind power. Everything I wish to achieve is done. I go through the detail, feeling, visualization. I pump this upstream all day beautiful people all day. Manifestation wow now this is where things are NUTS at the moment. And i mean NUTS. Law of attraction has been magnified X god know s what.

    Thinking: I’m am very mindful of my thoughts but have next to no negative thoughts other than resolving issues or temporary blocks that may be in my way.

    Mood: Calm and relaxed mostly. However peoples saboteurs affect me greatly so I either stop them dead when they go negative or start throwing up there negative energy or simply excuse myself. Cant be around negative people. YOUR UNLIMITED HUMAN BEINGS
    Mission: STAY LOVE CENTERED AT ALL TIMES.
    Feelings: I LOVE ALL HUMAN BEINGS; find you all fascinating at the moment: Immense Love energy running through me hehe. Watch out planet earth
    END GOAL Already done again in my mind. Change GLOBAL LOVE CONSCIOUSNESS. How, will be detailed in the next post.
    Love you all…Spiritual Love Quantum Warrior.
    Akashic records – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    en.wikipedia.org
    Theakashic records(akashais aSanskritword meaning “sky”, “space” or “aether”) is…See More
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akashic_records

    Write a reply…

    Like

  10. I typically get gold brick out of each of Tim’s presentations and this one was “Write like you are talking to a close friend(s) after two glasses of wine as if you’ve solved a problem that may help them.”

    I enjoyed the video, I was completely turned off by the presentation material. Please take this in the spirit that it is offered from somebody who believes your knowledge and experience could help a lot of people. Regardless of the value of the material, I feel like I am being sold the entire way. The material is structured to check off ethos, pathos, logos all then way down. I feel like someone is attempting to lead me without subtlety or tact (reminscient of an online ad, there’s bold fonts, promises of success for a one-time price of “x” or 3 easy installments,you can be me multi-miliionaire ).

    Tim’s value is his authenticity and his desire to shake up the status quo. I’m sorry, conventional wisdom??? Let’s put that to the test, I’m going to fly to South Africa, rip out my muscle tissue in the name of science. Tim exudes impartiality and a desire to help people by presenting new theories and ways to approach life.

    The “Bestseller Blueprint”, may have huge intrinsic value… but the way it was marketed in those links makes me feel that it is created to convert buyers for the sole purpose of profiting the owners.

    Jack Canfield- I loved Chicken Soup for the Soul. You don’t need to make a hard sell on anything, everybody knows who you are… I’d listen to what you have to say in a heartbeat.

    Tim Ferriss- Please don’t take a commission sale off of links to other people’s programs. I would rather you have a donate button on your page. I’ll give you five dollars everytime you teach something profound… it can be like yoga class! Would seriously hurt your image as the champion of the common man. The amazon links are different, those are products… these are ideals.

    Steve Harrison- You appear to have a strong talent for finding and identifying authors with lots of potential, getting them in front of the decision makers, closing the deal and capitalizing on it. How does this program differ from your million dollar author program? Seems like you are the common link for all of these best-selling authors.

    If you truly want to do something of value, create an online “school” to help budding authors make it. Divide it into automated sections that outline different stages, charge $500 for each section. If they each continue to hold merit, people will continue to purchase especially if it is relevant to what they are working on at the moment. Build it more as a credible institution where people can learn. Place a few of the free videos online to hook people. You already have the material and charge Steve’s $1200 fee for an hour to evaluate a student who has completed all three sections of the course material (this way you can weed out most people that haven’t put any time in). I would totally pay $1200 to have Steve evaluate a book offering for an hour.

    Whatever you do, please abandon the sales letter. Demo the two ideas side by side (or a different idea), see which gets more click-throughs. Regardless, I bet you attract people with more potential to be successful through the “school” method.

    tl;dr
    Regardless of intent, “Bestseller Blueprint” appears to be profit centric for the creators versus value driven for the consumer.

    Like

    • Thanks very much for the very candid and indepth feedback on our marketing. I will definitely consider your suggestions. Your point about giving free videos is a good one. Perhaps you didn’t realize that we actually do give away three high content videos already. The Bestseller Blueprint Course is much more detailed, step by step, and up to date than my Million Dollar Author program which came out in 2005. Thanks again for taking the time to sharing your thoughts.

      Like

      • Steve,

        Thanks for the response. Why am I writing such a long reply… I hate to see wasted opportunity.

        Honestly, no, I was unaware there were additional videos. To put it bluntly: nor would I have cared or wanted to watch them after glancing at that material.

        As a consumer, I’m constantly bombarded with advertisements on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. As an intelligent consumer, I filter those messages based on the judged veracity, alignment with my interests and value compared to competing products.

        Unfortunately, your marketing material has a similar tone and format to a
        slightly higher equivalent of what I would term junk or spam mail. Why would I waste time watching what could be an infomercial? If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck… I’m not going to waste additional time verifying that it is NOT a duck.

        The only reason I watched the video that I did (which I found informative and enjoyable), was because it was on Tim’s website.

        Don’t get me wrong, your recipe works and you’re obviously making money.

        Hypothetically, I would estimate this (please feel free to contradict if you
        have differing empirical data but I’d imagine you’re more of the “testimonials” sort of guy because empirical data would be discouraging):
        *50% of your students do not complete the program because life gets in the way or they’re too ADD- life is hard. Not your problem.
        *30% of your students don’t have the right skill set for writing. Let’s be
        honest- writing is hard. Two pages a day as a goal says it all.
        *17.5% of your students are okay writers, they make a little money (<$50k per year annualized average). Not everybody makes a ton of money right away. This gets them jumpstarted, maybe 10% of these get in a good hit in the next 10 years.
        *2.4% – Motivated, hard workers, good writers, make between ($50k to $100k per year annualized average)
        *0.099999% – Have a blow-out hit ($100k to $300k best-seller list and then fall to 2.4% range of $50k to $100k).
        *0.000001% – Have multiple Jack Canfield sized hit.

        I would say those would be phenomenal numbers. Tighten your net by building a better sales interface. Weed that 50-80% out with bite-sized programs (<$500) so they're not burning a whole ton of cash and focus on developing the guys that have a lot more potential to make more money.

        Everybody wants the "easy" life which is what makes your program so appealing. Sub-$3000 is disposable income for a lot of people that are writing books but a lot of those people are never going to make it.

        The odds are higher than average that I'd like to write a book at some point in my life but I would never choose your program because it is too similar to scammy material. I'll likely search for the material online first, decide it's suspect and then engineer meetings between potential muses for mentorship.

        Ps. To all those "Woo, it's Jack Canfield, buy it already" coolade drinkers… your statistical odds of you just saving your money and becoming a millionaire over a 30 year period are far higher than you blowing your cash on bunch of programs promoted by successful people. Most of these best-seller books are a crock of regurgitated material that are slightly different. Nothing in this program material convinces me to buy it or differentiates it from other material other than Jack Canfield.

        There's a lot of pepole that accidentally fall into their muses as a result of working hard and/or doing things you love. Find something you love to do and if you see a better way to do something, capitalize on it.

        Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don't recognize them. – Ann Landers

        I'd wager what Tim considers fun and being Tim, most of the rest of you would consider as "working your ass off". If it were easy to replicate Tim Ferriss, there would be a whole lot more of him.

        Like

  11. Great Stuff – thanks for sharing that with us “would be” writers. I’d love some links to the books you recommended in the podcast that helps your craft.

    Thanks

    Like