How to Write a Bestselling Book This Year — The Definitive Resource List and How-To Guide

If you want to write a bestselling book, don’t reinvent the wheel.

I get at least a dozen email a week from friends who want to write books.

After three #1 bestsellers from 2007 to 2012, and publishing in 35+ countries, I’ve tried a lot. Having experimented with everything from “traditional” (Random House) to Amazon Publishing, from BitTorrent Bundles to self-publishing audiobooks, I’ve developed strong opinions about…

  • What works and what doesn’t.
  • What sucks and what doesn’t.
  • What makes the most money and what doesn’t.

This post is intended to answer all of the most common questions I get, including:

– “Should I publish traditionally or self-publish?”

– “How does a first-time author get a 7-figure book advance?”

– “How do I get a good agent or publisher? Do I even need an agent?”

– “What does the ‘bestseller list’ really mean? How do you get on one?”

– “What are your top marketing tips if I have little or no budget?”

– “What are the biggest wastes of time? The things to avoid?”

– And so on…

My answers are grouped into sections, all of which include resource links. Here are the four sections of this post:





As a prelude, here are two books I found useful when selling The 4-Hour Workweek, both as a proposal to publishers and as a finished book to the world:

Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why

Author 101: Bestselling Book Publicity

For the first meaty section, we’ll cover marketing, as it’s where I get the most questions.


A few quick points to get us started:

  • Wrangling book blurbs or cover testimonials is one of the biggest wastes of time for new authors. Take the same number of hours and invest them in making a better product and planning your marketing launch. I think one quote per book is more than enough, and a passionate quote from a credible but lesser-known person is FAR better than faint “meh” praise from a famous person.
  • If you only have time to read one article on marketing, make it 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired Magazine.
  • In my experience, more than 50% of the CEOs who have bestselling books buy their way onto the lists. I know at least a dozen of them. See The Deception of Bestseller Lists for more detail. I’ve never done this, as I aim to have books that are bestsellers for years not two weeks. That said, if you’re busy and simply want “bestselling author” on your resume, it can be had for a price.
  • If your book is mediocre, you can still market/promote a book onto the bestseller lists…but only for a week or two, unless you’re mega-rich. Long term, book quality and pass-along value is what keeps a tome on the charts. I value the Amazon Most-Highlighted page [Ed note: The page no longer exists. The link will take you to a snapshot of the original page in the internet archives. Please allow longer-than-normal load times.] more than my NYT bestseller stats. The weekly bestseller lists are highly subject to gaming. I’d love to see a shift to monthly bestseller lists.

Now, the meat of this MARKETING section:

12 Lessons Learned While Marketing “The 4-Hour Body”

How to Build a High-Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself

How Tucker Max Got Rejected by Publishing and Still Hit #1 New York Times

How Does a Bestseller Happen? A Case Study in Hitting #1 on the New York Times (Skip down to “What were the 1-3 biggest wastes of time and money?”)

Behind-the-scenes mechanics:

How the Various Bestseller Lists Work — New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Etc.

Behind the Scenes: How to Make a Movie Trailer for Your Product (or Book)

How to Create a Viral Book Trailer (or Get 1,000,000 Views for Almost Anything)


What does one week of a real launch look like for me?

Here’s the first week of The 4-Hour Chef launch. It features a complete list of media, in chronological order and broken down by format.

Now, here’s how I get that done:

From First TV to Dr. Oz – How to Get Local Media… Then National Media

How to Create a Global Phenomenon for Less Than $10,000

Public Speaking — How I Prepare Every Time

The success of The 4-Hour Workweek is often attributed to an early wave of tech “influencers” who spread the word. Pursuing such influencers requires thoughtfulness, and you can’t be overeager. Sadly, most people oversell and make an asshole of themselves, pissing off busy people and getting rightly shunned. Here’s how to avoid pitfalls and do it right:

Marc Ecko’s 10 Rules for Getting “Influencer” Attention (Be sure to read his interactions in the comments)


Let’s showcase four success stories, all using different approaches:

If you’re going to use a crowd-funding platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to fund your book (and get pre-paid orders, as well as a reader database), the following scripts and tools could save you hundreds of hours:

Hacking Kickstarter: How to Raise $100,000 in 10 Days (Includes Successful Templates, E-mails, etc.)

Now, let’s look at the nitty-gritty economics of publishing, as well as how to weigh the pros and cons of self-publishing:

How Authors Really Make Money: The Rebirth of Seth Godin and Death of Traditional Publishing

Tim Ferriss and Ramit Sethi on Self-Publishing vs. Big Publishers (Hint: there are some benefits to big publishers)

For those of you considering selling a book chapter by chapter, here are some relevant thoughts:

A Few Thoughts on Content Creation, Monetization, and Strategy

If you opt to self-publish, you might also need the below.  Remember: you’ll be your own marketing/PR/advertising department, and you need to know what you’re getting into. Never bought advertising? You might have to learn. Not sure on margins? Get sure:

Jedi Mind Tricks: How to Get $250,000 of Advertising for $10,000

The Margin Manifesto: 11 Tenets for Reaching (or Doubling) Profitability in 3 Months


If you’re going the traditional route (Read “How Authors Really Make Money” above), you will have to negotiate.

Many books have been written on the subject — I quite like Getting Past No — but here are the two most important things to remember:

  • He or she who cares least wins. Have walk-away power and figure out your BATNA.
  • Options are power. If you can avoid it, never negotiate with one party. Get competing offers on the table.

If you’ve decided on traditional publishers, I also suggest getting an agent.

I pay a 15% commission on my royalties because I want an experienced, diplomatic bulldog to fight my publishing battles for me. Selling a book to a publisher is easy — if you pitch the right editors, you only need an entertainment attorney to review contracts. But getting a book distributed properly nationwide? Getting the cover you want?  Pushing important editorial decisions in your direction? Getting commitments for end-cap displays or seasonal in-store promotion?

All this stuff is massively time-consuming.  Epic pain-in-the-ass stuff.

I view my “agent” more like the COO of my publishing business, not as a simple commissioned salesperson. This is one reason I opted to go with a smaller agency instead of a large entertainment agency. The latter tends to be (but is not always) exclusively focused on selling your book rights to the highest bidder. Once that one-night stand is over, they move on to fresh commissionable meat/deals, leaving you to fight the publisher on your own.  And trust me: the road from contract to bestseller list is a LOT harder than anything that comes before it.

You can find good agents by looking for contact info under “Major Deals” on Publishers Marketplace/Lunch. I also suggest reading the “Acknowledgments” section in books that you like; the agent will often be thanked. Here’s an old story about how I found my agent.

Another reason to have an agent — you’ll have your hands busy writing the damn book! That’s where your creative process will make or break you.  Take it seriously.


If you want a “bestselling book” that’s worthy of that label, you need a good book.

In my opinion, a mediocre book is more of a liability than no book at all. As the author of The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber, once said to me, “If you’re going to write a book, write a fucking book.”  Good advice.  Follow it.

My stuff isn’t Tolstoy quality, but I do take pride in the work I do.

My general recommendation is this: If you can’t dedicate at least a year of full-time attention to a book (which might be 70/30 split between writing and PR/promotion), don’t bother writing it. There are exceptions of course. Some cocaine-fueled novelists I know can knock out a rough draft of a book in 1-2 weeks (!). I’ve seen memoirs completed in 1-2 months. But, alas, I’m not fast. I’m slow, what Kurt Vonnegut might call a “basher” or a “plodder,” and I write how-to content that requires a shit-ton of research and first-hand experimentation.

To do that reasonably well, I budget 1-3 years per book project.

It’s worth noting here, even though I write my own books, you don’t have to. “Ghost writers” exist solely to write books that are credited to other people. Here’s a good example of such services. If a current CEO publishes a book, it’s fair to assume that they had a professional ghostwriter interview them and pen “their” book.  If you’re not sure, you can check the acknowledgments or simply compare the writing to their speaking style in interviews.  Don’t match?  Grammar a little too good?  Use of “whom” a little conspicuous?  That’s a ghost at work.

Now, moving onward.

Here are some techniques, tricks, and resources that I’ve found helpful for nearly any type of writing…

The Good:

Tim Ferriss Interviews Neil Strauss, 7x New York Times Bestselling Author, on the Creative Process

Neil Gaiman – The Best Commencement Speech You May Ever Hear (20 Minutes)

The Odd (And Effective) Routines of Famous Minds like Beethoven, Maya Angelou, and Francis Bacon

Paulo Coelho: How I Write

The Bad (But Critically Useful):

“Productivity” Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me)

So…You Want to Be a Writer? Read This First.

The Ugly (But Necessary):

The Ugly New York Times Bestseller — The Creative Process in Action

Tim Ferriss: On The Creative Process And Getting Your Work Noticed


And that’s it!

Did you enjoy this post?  Any favorite parts, or things missing?  Do you have your own tips about publishing and writing?

Please let me know in the comments!  I’ll be reading them all.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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184 Replies to “How to Write a Bestselling Book This Year — The Definitive Resource List and How-To Guide”

  1. This is amazing Tim. I like the way you linked everything back to this post – it looks like a great road map!

    “I think one quote per book is more than enough, and a passionate quote from a credible but lesser-known person is FAR better than faint “meh” praise from a famous person.” – what a great piece of advice. I have never considered this approach – it makes so much sense though! Thanks, I’m gonna implement it in my new info products.

  2. Holy crap, this is going to be the perfect kickstart to the business productivity book I have been planning for 2014. Thanks Tim!

  3. Love how you share openly without trying to have others buy your advice and knowledge. Tim, you truly understand that old saying that a rising tide raises all boats. The universe is so blessed by the stuff you are putting out. Great karma

  4. This is great Tim! Thanks so much for sharing! I will definitely be using your resources to help me as I move forward with writing my own book this year on graphic design.

  5. Tim, this is possibly the best post you’ve done! I just finished writing my book so I will be using this as my road map! Thank you for always having incredible content, I have read nearly every post on your blog!

  6. Just awesome, Tim. Thanks very much for putting this together. As someone who’s writing my f’ing book right now (editing my first draft), this couldn’t come at a better time. I’ve found that before all of these awesome resources comes the willingness to just write a first draft – no matter how horrible. That was a big hurdle for me to get over first. If that head game doesn’t get in your way, you’re already ahead of a lot of people. Good stuff, Tim, as usual. Hope you’re well man.

  7. Thanks for putting everything in one place 🙂 I find entering competitions great creativity motivators for writing. My first novel was written for NaNoWriMo and now I’m busy editing trying to make it good enough for entry into the Amazon writing competition.

  8. Great article. I haven’t had as much success as you but I have managed to sell over 800,000 copies of my books and to have them published in 22 languages in 29 countries.

    These quotations are particularly true when it comes to being successful at self-publishing.

    “Book writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Anyone who decides to write a book must expect to invest a lot of time and effort without any guarantee of success. Books do not write themselves and they do not sell themselves. Authors write and promote their books.”

    — Dan Poynter

    “The vast majority of self-published books sell less than ten copies a year online and through traditional retail channels, and that probably disappoints a lot of self-publishers. But it shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s hard enough for traditionally published books to register meaningful sales, and they have huge built-in advantages.”

    — Jeff Herman, Literary Agent

    “Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.”

    — Mark Twain

    “Even the most careful and expensive marketing plans cannot sell people a book they don’t want to read.”

    — Michael Korda

    “It’s better to do a sub-par job working on the right project than a great job working on the wrong project.”

    — Robert J. Ringer

    “No amount of money or marketing can overcome a book that doesn’t deliver. So your first challenge is to write a book that your networks assure you is as good as you want it to be. The content of your books will determine how you sell them to publishers and promote them to book buyers. Content precedes commerce.”

    — Rick Frishman

    “People think that just because they’ve written something, there’s a market for it. It’s not true.”

    — Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver

    “When starting out, don’t worry about not having enough money. Limited funds are a blessing, not a curse. Nothing encourages creative thinking in quite the same way.”

    — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

    In short, to be a success at self-publishing, one must write a great book and know how to creatively market it to the right readers so that it generates word-of-mouth advertising for many years to come.

    Ernie J. Zelinski

    The Prosperity Guy

    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”

    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”

    (Over 200,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)

    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’

    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

  9. Great stuff Tim. I’ve been really getting into the PR side of things of late, and it’s certainly paid off. You mention influencer attention, do you have any other resources that you’d recommend in this area?

    1. I agree with the influencer strategy – it seems so key. Also good to know more about building a platform, but that also seems to be a questions of putting in the hours. I’ve just finished reading “Write, Publish, Repeat” as a guide to self-publishing (concentrated slightly on fiction) and I must say it is great. Just when I thought there was nothing more to learn. They also have a podcast:

      I’d also like to hear more about typical costs. I found an editor who now freelances but used to edit for Penguin. She wants 5 grand to edit my book and I want to pay her. But have to save up a bit and it feels like it’s all on hold until then…

      There’s also a nice post from James Altucher on self-publishing:

      Best of luck, y’all


  10. Tim, thanks!

    How much of this applies to making a kick ass KickStarter campaign? I’ve got one in the works, and I’m really trying to use my time efficiently.

    Plea: I bet siccing mind on something like IndieGogo/KisckStarter would = tons of value. Can you please master it, and then tell me how it’s done :).

  11. My favourite parts are the Marketing and Creative Process, as I personally have the most fun with those. I definitely have a lot to learn when it comes to PR and Media attention so I will be sure to spend some extra time there. The article with Mark Echo was amazing and helped me to design some beautiful swag bombs that got sent out to 20 local restaurants. Are there any other PR experts that you learned from when you were starting out?

  12. Fantastic advice, Tim! As usual from you, a ton of resources and real-world advice.

    I am on the cusp of finishing my book, and you are helping me answer many of the questions I have. I think I am going the amazon createspace print on demand and Kindle ebook route to start with.

    I have spent over 20 years of research on my subject, with just a small fraction of it getting into the book.

    One thing that I don’t think you addressed, and that is turning your book into a film. That is my intention for my story. I am thinking that I may or may not need an agent for the book, but may well need one to sell movie rights.

    By the way, I’d like to list you in my acknowledgements; you have been a great inspiration to me for several years now. Thanks!

  13. Thanks Tim, great information and resources for the uninitiated! My book has been a work-in-progress for a few years, mainly because I get overwhelmed by the mine-field process in actually getting it out there, in the quality that I want and finding the right information, resources and people. A great help with researching and cutting out some of the B.S.!

  14. Freaking strange to see this.

    Both this post and my discovering of James Altuchers blog/recent book, along with my recent want to tackle a legitimate book must be signs that it’s time.

    Question — What’s the best way to transition from a niche to a wider market? (Or are there any books/articles/blogs on the subject you recommend?)

    This is an ace post. Evergreen at it’s finest. I can smell the fir. Thanks for sharing your success.

    1. Thanks, Stephen. Nearly all of the advice applies, if not all of it. There’s one big difference. For non-fiction, you sell the book to a publisher, then you write it. For fiction, you finish the manuscript, then you sell it.

      1. Thanks for your reply. Do you have any tips for determining whether there’s a market for your book? Fiction is trickier, but is there a way to determine which genre works best?


      2. I am in the midst of writing a book, fiction. It is called The Matriarch and it is about slavery, strong women and living between two cultures (Dutch/ Surinam). I have already sold the book based on the outline and the epilogue. By crowdfunding I have raised over 19k euro for video’s of songs and poems that go with the book. The book will be in stores in September. How do I go from here? And.. I want to cross the ocean and get the book out in the States. Any tips?

  15. This is a great (and thorough) post. There is plenty to learn whether you plan on writing a book or not.

    But, to that point, I have to say, most people should not write a book.

    Even if you have something great to share with the world, most people would still probably be better off syndicating their knowledge via a blog, or a podcast, or even through video content.

    There are much more efficient means of distribution (with far fewer gatekeepers) available to the aspiring “author”.

    Now, if you have a bustling platform already (as you do Tim), a book can be a great way to productize your information. But, I think you’d agree that the platform is more valuable, and should be the primary focus.

  16. Whoa…. This is gonna help so much. But there is so much info, I’m gonna take a long time to go through everything.

    Still, thanks for all this information.

  17. Thanks for this list. I am actually writing my first book and – yes – you really should have at least a year (full-)time for writing. 🙂 (Now I know what I have to do the next 6 month …)

  18. Wow, a bang for the buck – and then it’s free! Wholeheartedly sharing your right to the point experiences with the world, good karma – Ferriss style. I’m grateful, thank you very much, Tim 😉

  19. Amazing post, thorough, useful, efficient, detailed, brilliant as usual.

    Nothing to add except for this:

    This approach addresses these:

    a) publishing, b) amassing $ c) fame d) acquiring material gain e) turning art into commerce f) mastering the physical plane

    Yet a, b, c, d, e, f is not what you were seeking, at the Root.

    While you have achieved all of this –

    What you were seeking to begin with cannot be found in any of these.

    —-> What you have been seeking for your entire existence is beyond the temporary, imperfect, fulfilling-only-to-a-certain-point, addictions of the flesh.

  20. Hey Tim,

    Thanks so much for the post!

    I met you at your Sydney event last year (I was the tall guy with the swimming device) and asked you how you’d market your books there. This is a great refresher on your advice. Our book goes to print on Friday and we’re deep into the marketing phase now armed to the teeth with your posts and advice. The adrenalin is definitely starting to pump!

    Thanks again,


  21. Tim, the actual time to write a book is probably different from one person to another. Like you said, there are people who can throw a draft in 1 or 2 weeks.

    I’m interested in what did you find the most challenging part of writing the 4HWW.

    Was it content creation?

    Was it marketing?

    Did you self-publish first and then go to amazon?

  22. WOW! So many tips in one article awesome!! The Deception of Bestseller Lists, that surprises me, had know idea anyone could do that!

  23. This is the one everyone’s been waiting for. Thanks for putting this mega post together Tim, I know every author will look back to this as a primary resource for a long time when launching a book!

  24. Thanks for the overview Tim, some interesting articles to go through here.

    Our site helps fiction writers write a novel and we’ve found a few things that most writers struggle with, mostly self doubt (e.g. is my idea any good, I can’t progress until I’ve edited it my work to perfection) and motivation to actually write after the first excitement is over.

    We find that having a mentor/someone to help, accountability (a deadline and a mentor to enforce it) and peers really help with motivation to get your book written.

  25. Excellent advice. One more thing to think about. Why not create a joint venture with a company to help sponsor or off set the costs (marketing, printing, travel, media tour, etc.) it’s fairly new and can be done if you know how.

    [Moderator: Link removed]

  26. Awesome, and hey what a timing. Just had a friend calling me this morning asking for advice on book publishing. I am really not an expert on this subject so I was wondering why she called me anyway. But now I only have to give her the link to this blog post. Thx. And we’ll see hopefully I can use the tons of info provided for myself anytime soon. Thanks Tim! Greetz from Germany cR

  27. Awesome list.

    I wrote the book, but kind of forgot that it takes marketing as well. At least for me it was a great deal of work doing the book, so I was just happy and could finally release it.

  28. Super awesome list brotha Tim!!! Love your clarity and honesty. Deep thanks for shedding light on the deception of bestseller lists and how the book publishing world really works. Keep speaking your truth and moving humanity forward by being a living example of what is possible. You Rock! Muito obrigado!!!

  29. Thank you Tim for this super comprehensive post.

    Quick question for you, how did you discover that your best writing time is at such a late (or super early) hour? Did you test your writing productivity at different times of the day until you arrived at that outcome?

  30. Hi Tim,

    Hear about this Verizon vs. FCC ruling over broadband?

    The effects are still down the road but it would majorly suck if ISPs like Time Warner Cable, AT&T and Verizon could regulate what content we see on the internet (by slowing down connection speeds to sites they’re not receiving payment from). Sorry for the off-topic thread but it seemed worthwhile.


  31. Great post, lots of good resources. I’m working on my 2nd eBook, but the 1st one that will have a price attached to it, so I’m grateful for the guidance. Thanks!

  32. Frankly, I have never seen anything like this. My plan this year is to write a book about reinventing your life, how to start over, and I have been looking for a roadmap, or a list of ideas that goes more into depth than the regular top 10 list for aspiring authors.

    I have read enough of those to know they are of little value for an in-depth project like writing a book I want to last.

    Thank you for your kindness in putting this excellent post together and for sharing it with us.

  33. Wonderful compendium.

    In your post about Seth Godin you write “e-book is the future, plain and simple.” Do you think the meaning of “book” is going to morph? Will we be immersing in different types of content made possible by tech? I read something about how anticipated markets for this kind of thing aren’t opening up the way that some futurists imagined.

  34. Tim – thank you so much for this! I saw you on CreativeLive and have been using your upside down fire technique for years 🙂 I am starting to work on a book this year but was really intimidated. Not knowing the publishing side of things was a real barrier for me but this helped tremendously! Thank you again!!!

  35. I dedicated about two months while I was a senior in college writing Startups Open Sourced, and a bulk of that work where I interviewed founders was done during final exams. It was a bestseller for a few weeks on Amazon (self-published) and it made $24k in the first 24 hours because of a promotion with AppSumo. For that reason, I’d say you don’t need to budget 1-3 years. Granted, I was interviewing, so other people were writing a lot of the content for me, but I would say if you want to write a book, just do it. Don’t ask for permission, don’t wait around for someone to approve of what you’re doing. A bad book is not a liability, it is a way for you to learn. Don’t let that be the reason you don’t do it.

  36. Awesome list. Thank you. As someone in the throes (apt for me) of starting a new book I was wondering if you could comment or offer resources on outsourcing. Not the writing, but research (especially), as well as PR, marketing, etc. I can barely be a jack of one trade and the thought of being a polymath like you is literally exhausting.

  37. Holy smokes, superman’s identity is revealed! Thank you for sharing, now it is my turn to share your post with others.

  38. That’s a LOT of material, thanks for providing Tim! Just about a month left until mine hits the shelves, so I’m going to try my damndest, but I don’t know how you’ve done this three times in a row (or some you’ve linked to here doing it many many times). I feel like once is enough for a lifetime!

    Time to get busy 🙂

  39. Thanks for putting all these links in one place. It makes it real easy to find what I want to re-read.

    I’ve found the hardest thing about writing a book is the time issue. I like to set a time frame goal, like November 1 or 15 as a publication date to meet the Christmas rush. Unfortunately, there is only a limited amount healthy awake time to write, in addition to all the other things I need to do.

  40. Thanks Tim, quality post, as always!

    One tip for the ‘basher’ or single digit typist would be to dictate your book using some voice recognition software, Dragon Easy Speaking, for example. The software can learn your word usage and gets more accurate the more you use it. Worth a shot if you really cannot be arsed with all the typing.


  41. What a useful article. I am currently creating a children’s picture book and had been considering self publishing that as an e-book – I wondered if you had any thoughts on this?

  42. Excellent, well my next week of evenings are taken up with this and a glass of red. Now, where did I leave my pipe and smoking jacket.

  43. Thank you Tim for all the goodies! I have been writing for well over 15 years, and FINALLY came to the conclusion it is time to put my stories out in the world! Most of my work is fictional/fantasy/metaphysical, with a biography thrown in there. I’ve been working on an awesome story since December last year, and almost done. It requires a lot of research, so it’s taken some time. I’ve done my homework on publishing, researched MANY in my genre, and so on, but there are always questions along the way. So, thank you again for posting all of this great info for us to cruise and review! CHEERS!—Renee

  44. EPIC post. This could totally be a $1997 infoproduct. No stone left unturned- thank you for your extreme generosity!! 🙂

  45. Tim,

    Awesome. Devote time to this task. Real time. Like more than a few weeks unless you are the coke-fueled writer you noted. To see success put in the hours, weeks, and months.

    Thanks dude!

  46. Hi Tim,

    Thank you for sharing such a succinct and comprehensive post on an area you are an expert. Since most of your readers will not be publishing national bestsellers I want to offer a different perspective that may encourage some to write a local book that can jump-start their business. I used it to grow my landscape business when 70% of my work dried up in the housing recession and I succeeded instantly.

    I wrote the book by writing 1-3 chapters a day as short and practically as I could. My best tip along those lines: Write chapters that are short enough to be fully complete within one sitting (this can vary based on your attention span) so that if your mood or thoughts change you don’t need to work hard to bridge yesterdays flow with today’s flow. If I can finish a topic in one sitting it cuts editing (the boring part) down by 2/3rds.

    The book was just tips I have in the back of my mind as I landscape peoples homes as if I was advising a best friend in each area. There were around a hundred chapters 1-4 pages long. I made the cover myself in Photoshop and paid someone on to edit the book for $5. Yup. Publishing on Create space my grand total for publishing my book was $5. And it took about 3 three months.

    I live near a snooty college that was not interested in my teaching landscape design UNTIL I wrote the book. 30% of my students hire me. The approach I took was to get the book out there as quickly as possible focusing on useful local info. rather than style or even grammar. I knew I’d lose about 20% of readers who get annoyed with typos but I balanced that knowledge with the awareness that I’ve never done many good ideas because I was trying to do them perfectly and everything didn’t line up so they never happened.

    So my goal was simple: Help every reader with practical info and gain exposure in the process. It worked. And because on-demand publishing is so easy and so cheap I’ve updated the book five times in the last three years. Now it’s a pretty decent book, thanks to the feedback that has motivated the changes and me finally getting around to reading it objectively and making a few changes. I’ve even added cartoons in the last edition to diplomatically poke fun at client mistakes in their relationship with landscape contractors and environmentalism.

    The book has brought in about $130,000. in landscape business a year – about half the gross revenues I want for the lifestyle I enjoy (as soon as I hit six figures in net profit I go to Thailand). And it pays for itself. All that for 3 months of part-time work and very little polish. The unique value came from being the only synthesis of a lot of local info.

    I think books like this this could do very well for people in the catering, gourmet food business, for plumbers, architects, builders, coaches etc. And I think the biggest value of a local book is what I’d call the synapse factor: If a book says “find a local healthfood store, contact the vitamin department and do XXX” that’s abstract. And that abstraction costs action. There are two or three unknowns and an uncertain outcome and so maybe only 10% of readers will do it. But in a local book it can say: “Contact Larry and Good Earth in Fairfax and they will be able to help you.” Maybe 70% of people will do that because it doesn’t force as much speculation, risk and thought. And what that means is that there is a vast need for this type of book that closes the synapse gap and leads to easy action. And even though it can be a “poor quality” work of art, it can still outperform higher quality books measured by action/results. My view is that many self-help or how-to books are best measured by their action to knowledge ratio rather than their polish or sales volume and so I’d like to see a lot of poorly written local books that are providing real value to the communities they serve. I know from experience that the authors will be well rewarded if they have a service business that spins off of the book. In this context I disagree with the idea that a poorly written book is worse than no book. It is if you want to be known as a great author/presenter/communicator. But my experience is plenty of praise/compliments for helping people out and no one has complained about the books faults, though I’m sure some have thought about them.



  47. By the way, I just read your title after I sent my post and saw that your were focusing on best-sellers (I read your blog over three days so forgot the title by the time I wanted to comment). So I agree with all your points for best-sellers.

  48. Deathsquad bitches.

    A vicious link beating! Tim strikes again! I get excited by these posts – I recall a previous post about how to become an iPhone app millionaire, although I’m still an appless turd. I have been toying with the idea of writing an ebook called “Calm The Fuck Down!” (a book about how I slowly defeated my embarrassing anxiety/OCD/ADD).

    I’m four pages away from finishing Steven Pressfield’s “War of Art” and I realized resistance and the muse are real. But dedicating a whole FULL TIME YEAR to a book just seems to be a stretch for me. I already have two jobs (shift working miner/part time dairy sub). There are three shifts to my daily life: 8 hours work, 8 hours sleep, 8 hours of “free time” – the free time isn’t free and includes strip grazing grass fed milking 200 short horn cattle in the Adirondack Park.

    Steven Pressfield says I should ask myself this question: if I were the last person on Earth, would I still be doing this? The answer is no to some and yes to others. His example of Arnold lifting weights and Stevie wonder playing the piano really hit home for me – they do these things regardless of profit. Pressfield says these actions give back what you give.

    A book you say? A book I may. I’ll ask the muse then when I have some readable meat I shall refer back to this post.

    Thanks! More work! Haha

  49. thanks a lot ,in the begining, i need to know how i make a succesful first my book as a publisher>

    best regards


  50. This post will take any aspiring author from absolutely confused to amazing…quickly.

    Books are a pain in the ass to write, but there is simply nothing like them to help you build your platform.

    Looking forward to more!!

  51. btw

    most bestselling authors have a regular job or a spouse that works. A great selling book will net the author 10k, you cannot have a regular lifestyle on that. The very few authors that make money do so when their works go to tv or movie. every single bestselling author I’ve talked with (10-20 authors) spent many years writing before getting their first bestseller.

  52. A massive amount of excellent resources here. Thanks for including my blog on “The Deception of Bestseller Lists.” Glad to hear that you did not succumb to the temptation to buy your way onto the various lists, as so many do these days. Wishing you continued long-term success.

  53. The mention of testimonials for a book makes me think of Armand Hammer’s autobiography that had a truly comical number of celebrity quotes praising the book at the start of the book—my library copy has literally 20-30 pages of celebrity raves. A reviewer at the time said, “How many of these celebrities would allow themselves to be quizzed about the book as proof that they actually read it?”

  54. Thank you, I’ve always wanted to publish my own books especially children’s books but never really know how to start. This is not only informative but really helpful. Your article is organized it’s easy to understand and you have the links! Great help!

  55. Thank you! So much information here. Will be bookmarking everything and plowing through it over the weekend, as I have a book launch coming up in May.

  56. Hello Tim! Thanks so much for this blog post, I really appreciate the openness (even a tad overload) towards the epic resources you share. Numerous friends have asked me for advice towards book publishing, now I’m literally going to send them directly here! Muchas gracias 🙂

  57. Woah, this is whole lotta information to swallow, which is good thing – as for a soon to be a first time self publisher.

    As a noob in the internet marketing and publishing, here is my five cents how I’ll try to publish my e-book – please comment if this plan sucks, hah. My plans is not to use any money to marketing – I know it’s bad, but I really dont have a choise.

    Well here it goes by point by point – hopefully this helps someone at least a little.

    1. Building an authority site – which pops up in the first page of google search, when people are searching with right keywords – for the book.

    2. Building a media list. Finding similar sites and social media pages to your niche and comment on those.

    3. Creating free (or lite) version of the book, which could be shared on major torrent networks marketing in mind. I believe this step is very viable and good for non-fictional book.

    4. Create mobile phone app version your book on android and itunes. This is crucial since people in these days read and buy more books from app stores rather than amazon kindle etc. Personally I will do this step after crowdfunding campaign.

    5. Create good slogan and cover for the book. I will go with “Pocketful of positivity” for my book.

    6. Create social media profiles to facebook, twitter, pinterest, instagram and thumblr.

    7. In future – when enough money hopefully. Translate the book to other major languages like Chinese (935 million speakers), Spanish (387) and Hindi (295).

    Well that’s about it. I really dont know if this works – as I have never done anything internet marketing or published a book – but I’l try and see what happens 🙂

  58. This is a great post! Especially like the section on PR – as a writer myself I know how important it is to get the social aspect of writing right!

  59. As a first-time author [Moderator: book removed] this post was extremely useful, mostly due to the hours (and hours) of research time its saved me, its authenticity and unbiased recommendations. Thanks Tim.

  60. Hi Tim. Thank you for writing this informative post. Do you have any thoughts to share regarding Wattpad and if it is a useful self-publishing tool? Thanks again for sharing such valuable knowledge.

  61. A lot of info here to work my way through, and thanks for collating it. In fact, the subject is probably worth a book in itself, but guess it breaks with the four hour theme! :p

  62. Tim, Just read your post and think what a great person you’re.! It really something readable to newbie writer. I just astonished with the concept of the creative process and will share social network too.! 🙂

  63. One other thing that helped me get started was co-authoring as part of a series of books written and published by someone else. It helped me get started, plus get first hand experience of managed book launches and related promotions. This was part of the ‘contagious optimism’ book series. This was not about making money, but about getting exposure and experience while working full time on other things. Scott

  64. Tim,

    Disclaimer: My building had to be evacuated in the middle of the night last night due to a fire alarm. As a result, my brain is Play Doh (after going through the Spaghetti Factory), so I apologize in advance if anything I say is incoherent, unintelligible, or just straight stupid.

    Moving on . . .

    This post is remarkable. I just finished the manuscript of my first novel and the timing of this entry is impeccable—it’s like a freakin’ godsend!

    I’m commenting three weeks late because I wanted to spend time combing through all of the resources you provided here.

    I have (what I hope are) a few short follow-up questions:

    Self-publishing vs traditional – Is it possible to do both?

    As I said, I’m a fiction writer and a first time author, so while all of this info is applicable and invaluable, I’m wondering if there are exceptions – namely: Can I self-publish (e-books only) and then bring my numbers to a publisher to show proof of readership as a substitute to having a large following on other platforms (blog, twitter, etc.)? (I DID get a twitter account five days ago and my followers have skyrocketed to nine . . . so that’s good news).

    In this link, you suggested that it is one or the other—traditional or self-publishing— “I created a mock-up cover for my book when we sent out my proposal to publishers, and one came back and asked point-blank: ‘Why is there a UPC code on this? Is it self-published or already written? We never buy either.’”

    Does that only apply to non-fiction?

    I ask this because I am unclear on how to garner a following through a blog if my content doesn’t have real-world application or relevance—which leads me to . . .

    Blogging – If I have to blog, what do I blog about?

    Your content is tailor-made for blogging because people are constantly looking for ways to better themselves, but my book is young adult fiction that utilizes the Greek mythos . . . this does not translate as well to a blog.

    Which leads us back to the question: Can I use e-book sales as a substitute for blog subscribers?

    If not, what type of blogging can I do to garner a following that is related to my genre and thus ensure sales?

    I was going to ask more questions, specifically about book advances, but I’ll save you the hassle since I’ve already rambled on long enough.

    I look forward to hearing back from you. Thank you very much for your time.


    Zack Howe

    1. Quick revision:

      I said you suggested that it was either traditional or self-publishing (not both) and included that link to Noah Kagan’s blog as well as a quotation . . . obviously that was not you that said that, it was him.

      That disclaimer seems appropriate now, doesn’t it?

      Thanks again,

      Zack Howe

      1. Oh my god, this couldn’t be going worse!!

        That was you guest posting on his blog so you DID say it!

        Always trust your first instinct #lifelessons

  65. Thank you!!! This is great!Easy informative article that has given me a lot of information & recommendations that I could not find during my research.

  66. I appreciate you sharing this information so willingly. Thank you for your wisdom and the time you took to write this article.

  67. Tim, great advice. I appreciate the time and honesty you put into the post. I am drafting my first book and this really opened my eyes as to the complexity of the process–if it is to be done right. Thanks a bunch!

  68. WOW TIM!!! As always, packed full of immediately useful information! Just what I needed – and at just the right time – for my upcoming novels!! Anyone just checking out Tim’s site or books for the first time let mention that it is apparent that Tim didn’t write the 4H books for a quick dollar but rather because he truly cares and wants to share with others. I have purchased the 4HWW also for friends, associates and family because Tim readily shares incredibly useful health and lifestyle intelligence with all who will listen. And anyone who has followed him long enough will see he is both the “chairman and client” of the amazing 4 Hour lifestyle. The 4 hour lifestyle that he has invented!

    Why all the praise? Well… Tim has truly changed my life in several positive ways (health, financial, even culinary prowess) since the 4HWW … I will not waste any more time here but I can’t recommend any author more than Tim for improving your life (if you are willing to take some action, that is). Tim is (really) the stuff.

  69. Tim,

    I am motivated to read your 4HWW book and have fired my Boss. Now I plan to write a book on my story as well as lessons learned from your book as well as use of NGN technologies to achieve efficiency through work-life Blend.

    I want to self publish it please to save time.

    Can I quote the anoctodes from your blogs and book please,

    Satyen Gupta

  70. Hey Tim, I’ve just finished and start publishing my first 2 ebook ( about Fasting & Detox) and lucky me I’ve found your blog on Linkedin. Dammn, Your stuff is really good,Thanks mate, as an obligation I will say thanks on my next invitation to a talk show and I will quote you! I know you don’t mind. Maybe one day we will meet, who knows. The world is a village. Tim, thanks for the inspiration and the knowledge you share, just great. Check out my on network on LI, we are the first independent LifeCycle Jobsite for Women in Business. All the best. Cya,Stefan

  71. Great post! I am writing articles since 4 years ago and now I want to write my first book. Unfortunately I’m learning English now and it isn’t enough for writing a book (my native language is Spanish). But I think your advice will let me write this book soon. Thanks, and I’ll be your follower from now on.

  72. Tim,

    I’d say this I the definitive post on finally getting one’s author dreams off the ground. A fantastic resource collection. Thanks so much for sharing your wealth of experience with us.

    For anyone who’s been blogging for nearly a decade, as I have, there’s probably a few book’s worth of content littering hard drives strewn around their lives. I was told years ago that the first step to creating an information business (an author is essentially that) is to take inventory of your existing resources and assets.

    There are websites, aged domains, content of all kinds, relationships, publishing relationships, etc. Use them to get started with a leg up.

    Thanks again for this true reference post.


    1. A pretty sound advice for the digital age. It seems that for any aspiring self publisher getting your house in order must be the first step.