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A Book Marketing Trick I Discovered By Accident

February 18, 2015 — 1 Comment

With Trust Me I’m Lying, I accidentally stumbled upon a marketing technique that not only helped the book but in some ways charted a new course for my career. Early on in the book’s launch, I made the following offer: I would speak to or at any school that assigned my book to its students. My thinking was that I was only a few years older than most students, reaching them early would be good for the book’s lifespan and it would help with the prestige of the book.

Slowly but surely professors started taking me up on the offer. Sometimes professors would email me just to say they liked the book or a student would tell me they selected it for a report, and I’d actually ask if they’d let me speak. The answer was yes most of the time. In the nearly three years the book has been out, I’ve spoken everywhere from New School to UVA to NYU to the University of Toronto. Sometimes its in person, most of the time its over Skype. The book is now on the curriculum at tons of different schools from Reyerson to USC. Some of the courses I’ve done several times now. Which is really nice because each new semester the course’s students order the book, genuinely read and interact with the material and then we talk. This is what you write a book for: to reach people and to spread ideas.

I ended up doing the same thing with my other books. Part of the reason we gave away copies of Growth Hacker Marketing to students was so we could reach them early. It turns out, a bunch of professors took advantage of the offer on behalf of their students. Now the book is taught as an introduction to a new way of marketing for prospective media, PR and business students. These are the kinds of things that keep a book in print for a long time. Accordingly to the sales departments at my publisher the efforts have paid off with better conversion rates from marketing efforts to universities.

I’m point this out because it’s the type of book marketing that most authors (and companies) miss out on for a couple reasons. The first reason is that it’s slow. The process of being picked up by these professors was driven by word of mouth and natural adoption. It takes time and school is only in session part of the year. The second is that its a result that is difficult to track. There are undeniable benefits from being required reading for students, both monetarily and prestige. But it is difficult to quantify directly. This turns a lot of data driven marketers off–but just because something is somewhat opaque doesn’t mean it isn’t important. The third, is that this took real man hours and unscalable effort on my part. People want marketing to be easy. It isn’t. Finally, this all happens mostly off the radar. Selling 50-100 books from a blog post or a media article is actually relatively rare, but getting written about is an ego hit. Getting picked up by schools is something that–until I wrote this piece–was a success only I knew about. Sadly, that’s not enough for a lot of people so they chase attention instead of results. They want validation more than they want their book to be successful.

Anyway, the real benefits have been incalculable. It’s made me a better keynote speaker and better in front of an audience (which is where the real money is as an author). These talks I gave to students were some of the first I ever did and now I speak all over the world. It’s added cache to my resume to be able to say I’ve lectured at Yale and NYU and I think increases my fee. It’s introduced a generation of readers–aspiring journalists, marketers and entrepreneurs–to my work in a immersive way. And it’s sold a significant number of books. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I hope this strategy helps and thanks for letting me share. Also, if you’re a professor or a student, feel free to shoot me a note or look at my speaking stuff. We’ll set something up.

The Very Best Books I Read in 2014

January 17, 2015 — 4 Comments

Every year, I try to narrow down the hundred plus books I have recommended or read down to just the three or four best. I know that people are busy, and most of you don’t have time to read as much as you’d like. There’s absolutely no shame in that–what matters is that you make the time you can and that you pick the right books when you do. In 2014, I personally read a lot. Most of the books weren’t new releases and strangely compared to 2013, fewer books towered above the others. That made selecting this list a little harder but that didn’t mean there weren’t some potential life-changing standouts. There were plenty.

Before I get into those books, I wanted to share something I’m incredibly proud of this year: I was able to collaborate on a print with one of my artistic heroes, Joey Roth (I’ve written about him a lot). The very limited print is available here and is based on the stoic ideas in my book The Obstacle Is The Way. Here’s a post I wrote with some more background. Can’t wait for you to see it.

Now, to the books!

The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith
I was heartily recommend this book by Dr. Drew and since the last book he recommended changed my life as a young man, I did not hesitate to get it. Now this is a tough book, a really tough book, but it is amazing. People think of Adam Smith as being this ruthless economist who studied self-interest but this forgotten book reveals that he was in fact, a great moral and practical philosopher. It is clear to me that Smith was profoundly influenced by the Stoics and by the great classic thinkers of history. Intimidated? Well, good news! It turns out Penguin published a new book this year called How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life by Russ Roberts and it happens to be an eminently accessible access point into Theory of Moral Sentiments. (In fact, I liked both so much, I am buying copies to send as a package to a handful of close friends) I hope you pick up either book and I hope its deep thoughts on the pursuit of fame, of money, and of course, his concept of the “indifferent spectator” to guide your actions, make you think as much as they did for me.

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
Wow, did you know that Moby Dick was based on a true story? There was a real whaling ship that was broken in half by an angry sperm whale. But it gets even more insane. The members of the crew escaped in three lifeboats, traveling thousands of miles at sea with little food and water until they slowly resorted to cannibalism(!) Besides being an utterly unbelievable story, this book also gives a great history into the whaling industry and the cowboys/entrepreneurs who led it. Definitely recommend and I promise my spoilers did not ruin anything. Another great narrative nonfiction out this year that I hope you’ll like is: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed and Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
It was wonderful to read these two provocative books of essays by two incredibly wise and compassionate women. Cheryl Strayed, also the author of Wild, was the anonymous columnist behind the online column, Dear Sugar and boy, are we better off for it. This is not a random smattering of advice. This book contains some of the most cogent insights on life, pain, loss, love, success, youth that I have ever seen. I won’t belabor the point: read this book. Thank me later. Anne Lamott’s book is ostensibly about the art of writing, but really it too is about life and how to tackle the problems, temptations and opportunities life throws at us. Both will make you think and both made me a better person this year.

Some Others:
Of course, I cannot stop at three (or four). I read both of Sam Sheridan’s books A Fighter’s Heart and A Fighter’s Mind this year and they are both spectacular. Don’t be put off by the subject matter. They are good. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics was something I reread and cannot recommend highly enough. In terms of big biographies, Ron Chernow’s biography of Washington, Eric Romm’s biography of Seneca Dying Every Day (LOVED THIS) and Edmund Morris’ final biography of Theodore Roosevelt, Col. Roosevelt were all worth every page. If you want a full list of what I learned reading in 2014, well, I put that together too.

So, thank you again for subscribing to this newsletters. It’s been an immense pleasure chatting with you, all 35,000 of you, this year. I hope you had a great 2014 and an even better year of reading in 2015.

My 2014 Writing Roundup

December 29, 2014 — 1 Comment

With the end of the year upon us, I thought I would do a round up of everything I’ve written and published (other than here) since my last round up in August. If you missed any of these, definitely follow me on Twitter, where I post each article when it goes live. Hope you enjoy these articles and feel free to share them.

More to come in 2015!

BETABEAT

The New Media Dilemma: Eschewing Crap for Quality, Despite the Incentives (August 11, 2014)

Thought Catalog: Why I Won’t Pull My Pieces, Despite the Outrage (August 22, 2014)

Spare Us The Sanctimony: The Gross Hypocrisy of Online Media in the Nude Photo Leak (September 2, 2014)

Apple’s Free Ride: Why Journalists Treat Product Launches Like News (September 9, 2014)

Facebook Is Getting Rid of Clickbait — But Not Because They Care About You (September 15, 2014)

Who Can You Trust? A Guide To Your Online Media Diet (September 23, 2014)

The Giant Online Ad Scam: Infinite Inventory and Prices That Should Be a Red Flag (October 7, 2014)

Rage Profiteers: How Bloggers Harness Our Anger For Their Own Gain (October 21, 2014)

From Zero to 35,000: How I Built A Big Email List Exclusively About Books I Liked (November 25, 2014)

I Was Summoned by #GamerGate; Here’s What I Saw (December 3, 2014)

You Are So Terrible: A Letter About the Cosby Coverage (December 9, 2014)

No Gray Area: It’s Definitely Not OK to Publish Emails From the Sony Hack (December 12, 2014).

If You Think the Sony Hacks Were a PR Stunt, You’re an Idiot (December 26, 2014)

THOUGHT CATALOG

3 Stages To Actually Knowing What You’re Talking About: Where Are You On The Path? (August 7, 2014)

5 Criminally Underrated Things About LA (August 15, 2014)

No Matter What You Want To Change, It Won’t Be As Terrifying As The First Step You Take Toward Making It (August 21, 2014)

You’ve Been Voluntold. (August 27, 2014)

So You’ve Just Dropped Out Of College (Or Made A Life-Changing Decision) (September 2, 2014).

What Is “Work Aversion,” And Do You Have It? (September 16, 2014)

Alive Time Vs. Dead Time: Which Are You In? (September 22, 2014)

Why Do You Do What You Do? Because You Better Know. (October 2, 2014)

The 16 Best Books About Marketing, Period. (October 13, 2014)

Passion Is The Problem, Not The Solution (October 26, 2014)

13 Quotes On Being Magnanimous From Aristotle (November 3, 2014)

2 Simple Rules That Great Readers Live By (But Never Tell) (November 12, 2014)

Two Questions Every Writer Needs To Ask Themselves (November 20, 2014)

Things I Learned Reading In 2014 (November 30, 2014)

How To See Opportunity Where Others See A Roadblock (December 7, 2014)

The Difference Between Just Saying Something And Having Something Worth Saying (December 11, 2014)

3 Books You Absolutely Must Read Next Year (December 17, 2014)

Every Phone Call Can Be A Walk in The Park (December 23, 2014)

NEW YORK OBSERVER

Disrupting How Bestsellers Are Made: Apply Startup-style Growth Hacking To Publishing (October 14, 2014)

Abraham Lincoln as Media Manipulator-in-Chief: The 150 Year History of Corrupt Press (November 5, 2014)

5 Reasons Nobody Likes Tech PR (November 19, 2014)

Ryan Holiday Picks the Best Books of 2014 (December 18, 2014)

ENTREPRENEUR.COM

Capturing Repeat Customers Is the Magic of Growth Hacking (November 12, 2014)

THE NEXT WEB

Productivity Advice I Learned From People Much Smarter Than Me (November 21, 2014)

99U

This Is Why You Don’t Have a Mentor

SVBSCRIPTION

Three Ways To Refocus Your World (December 12, 2014)

STOICISM TODAY

Stoicism Is For Life, Not a Week (November 22, 2014)

GENIUS.COM

Growth Hacker Marketing (Annotated Excerpt)

LINKEDIN

The Single Worst Marketing Mistake You Can Make (October 29, 2014)

BUSINESS INSIDER

How To Build A Self-Perpetuating Marketing Machine That Reaches Millions By Itself (December 13, 2014)

Some Stoic End of the Year Thoughts

December 22, 2014 — 5 Comments

Here we are at the end of the year once again. It’s ironic to me that sandwiched at the completion of one year and the beginning of another, we have two vastly different rituals.

On the one hand, we have Christmas, which has for too many of us, become so materialistic and gluttonous. We expect gifts and good food and overindulge in both. On the other hand, we have the “New Year, New You” mentality which promotes ambitious new resolutions in which we commit to utterly change ourselves in the upcoming twelve months (or until we abandon these inconvenient goals).

It all seems to be all so misguided. In a way, one creates the problems that the other attempts to solve.

The Stoics provide good advice here, as always. These two thousand year old, pre-Christian philosophers offer us a clearer way to live–without the ups and downs and extra helpings of self-loathing.

Let’s look at three quick insights for the holiday season:

First, practice your “contemptuous expressions.” I know contempt seems like a weird emotion to bring to Christmas but stay with me. As you look out over the bountiful offering of Christmas–the presents, the food, the lights–remind yourself what this stuff really is: a bunch of stuff. As Marcus Aurelius once wrote, sounding like he was almost describing a Christmas dinner:

“Like seeing roasted meat and other dishes in front of you and suddenly realizing: This is a dead fish. A dead bird. A dead pig. Perceptions like that—latching onto things and piercing through them, so we see what they really are. That’s what we need to do all the time.”

What’s important are the people and the thoughts. Don’t let yourself get distracted from them.

Second, live in the present moment. That is, don’t obsess over what has happened in the past or lose yourself in visions of the future. Focus on what is right here, right in front of you. Make the most of it, and enjoy yourself. This moment could be all you have after all–it’s so much better to think that 2015 is not a guarantee and then to be grateful for all of it, then to have expectations and entitlements that go unfulfilled.

As Marcus Aurelius reminded himself:

“Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole. Don’t try to picture everything bad that could possibly happen. Stick with the situation at hand.”

What matters right now is right now. Enjoy it.

Third, if you are going to try to improve in the next year or you do have some regrets about the previous year, don’t just hope that this will happen. That’s not how it works. As Seneca wrote to a friend who’d asked for advice, you need to pick a person or a model to hold yourself against.

“Choose someone whose way of life as well as words, and whose very face as mirroring the character that lies behind it, have won your approval. Be always pointing him out to yourself either as your guardian or as your model. There is a need, in my view, for someone as a standard against which our characters can measure themselves. Without a ruler to do it against you won’t make crooked straight. ”

So, who will it be for you this year?

**

Stoicism is not something you “believe”, it’s something you do. It’s a practical philosophy. The more you work it, the more it will do for you. So why not start now? There isn’t a better time.

As a final parting thought, remember that we choose whether this was a good year or a bad year. We choose whether everything is good or bad. As Seneca said, “a good person dyes events with his own color…and turns whatever happens to his own benefit.”

This is the attitude for success and optimism in all situations. By controlling our perceptions, we create a reality in which every situation, no matter what it is, provides us with a positive, exposed benefit we can act on, if only we look for it.

With this in mind, I hope you enjoy the holidays and consider the Stoics when you can.

How To Think About Obstacles

December 11, 2014 — 11 Comments

The obstacles we face in life make us emotional. Yet, being emotional is pretty much the easiest way to make a problem worse. In fact, in order to overcome obstacles is to keep a steady and clear head about us at all times.

The ancient Stoics had a word for this state: apatheia.

What follows are the 7 critical ways to think about every obstacle, every problem and every and any kind of adversity you face.

Step 1: Steady Your Nerves

 “What such a man needs is not courage but nerve control, cool headedness. This he can only get by practice.” — Theodore Roosevelt

 During the Civil war troops were unloading a steamer when it exploded. Everyone hit the dirt except Ulysses S. Grant, who instead ran towards the scene.

That is nerve.

Like Grant, we must prepare ourselves for the realities of our situation, steadying our nerves so we can throw our best at it.

Step 2: Control Your Emotions

“Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself.” — Publius Syrus

 When America first sent astronauts into space, they trained them in one skill more than any other: the art of not panicking.

Here on Earth, when something goes wrong we trade in our plan for a good ol’ emotional freak-out.

As Nassim Taleb put it, real strength lies in the domestication of one’s emotions, not in pretending they don’t exist.

Step 3: Practice Objectivity

“Don’t let the force of an impression when it first hit you knock you off your feet; just say to it: Hold on a moment; let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test.” — Epictetus

 In our lives, how many problems seem to come from applying judgments to things we don’t control?

Perceptions give us information at the exact moment when it would be better to focus on what is immediately in front of us.

We must question our animalistic impulse to immediately perceive what happens. But this takes strength and is a muscle that must be developed.

Step 4: Practice Contemptuous Expressions

The Stoics used contempt to lay things bare and “strip away the legend that encrusts them.”

Roasted meat is a dead animal. Vintage wine is old, fermented grapes.

We can do this for anything that stands in our way, seeing things as they truly, actually are, not as we’ve made them in our minds.

Step 5: Alter Your Perspective

“Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.” — Viktor Frankl

 Remember: We choose how we’ll look at things.

What we must do is limit and expand our perspective to whatever will keep us calmest and most ready for the task at hand.

Think of it as selective editing—not to deceive others, but to properly orient ourselves.

Step 6: Live in the Present Moment

“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.” — Chuck Palahniuk

It doesn’t matter whether this is the worst time to be alive or the best, whether you’re in a good job market or a bad one.

What matters right now is right now.

Focus on the moment, on what you can control right now. Not what may or may not be ahead.

Step 7: Look for the Opportunity

“A good person dyes events with his own color…and turns whatever happens to his own benefit.” — Seneca

 The reality is every situation, no matter how negative, provides us with a positive, exposed benefit we can act on, if only we look for it.

Maybe you were injured recently and are laid up in bed recovering. Now you have the time to start the book or the screenplay you’ve been meaning to write. That business decision that turned out to be a mistake? See it as a hypothesis that was wrong. Like scientist you can learn from it and use it in your next experiment.

Remember: This a complete flip. Seeing through the negative, past its underside, and into its corollary: the positive.

The new way to think…

Does getting emotional about this provide you with more or less options? The Stoics knew the answer to that question and it’s why they worked so hard to see their obstacles with clarity, with optimism and from new angles.

It was with this approach that they turned negatives into positives and thrived amidst unthinkable chaos and turmoil. You can do the same.