#YearInReview 2012

Seth Godin had started a meme in 2010 where he asked people to make a list of what they shipped that year. I did the exercise in 2010, missed it last year, and decided to return to it again this year.

I have come to believe that this is a important exercise, especially for freelancers to see what they have accomplished.

Here is what I came up with for 2012:

  • New Ebook Version of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time (1/4/12) – We spent months working on a new electronic edition of our book. A lot had changed with formats and devices in the three years since the book was first published and we wanted the book to act more like an app. If you buy the ebook edition, you will find it filled with links to other books both inside and outside the book.
  • Every Book Is A Startup – Version 3.0 (1/20/12) – A new edition came out and I did a short Q&A about the challenges of serialized publishing.
  • Taught Two Courses in the Publishing Program at Portland State (Winter and Spring Terms) – I spent time in the classroom this year teaching two graduate classes. In the winter, I taught Publications Management, a 10 week MBA for creative types. In the spring, we tried a new class called Entrepreneurial Publishing, where students came into the class with ideas they wanted to develop into businesses. Anyone who has taught knows how much work it is teach that a class for the first time. These were two big projects in the first half of the year.
  • miniTOC Austin Talk (3/8/12) – I was proud of this talk. I pushed hard on the idea of minimum viable publishing and talked about the possibilities in the most complete way I have to date. The tie to the copy of the Gutenberg Bible at University of Texas still feels good.
  • Ken Segall’s Insanely Simple launches (4/26/12) – I was happy to see Ken’s book about Apple so well received both here and overseas. This was the first book that I served as literary agent on.
  • “Being Direct” in Publisher’s Weekly (8/21/12) – All the talk about “discoverability” finally got to me and I wrote my rebuttal to this idea that suddenly readers where having a hard time finding books. I suggest that if publishers had a relationship with readers much of the consternation would be solved.
  • Speaking at SOBCON NW (9/28/12-9/30/12) – I was honored that Liz and Terry asked me to lead one of the Masterminds and talk about the importance of customer feedback. We talked about everything from Amazon reviews to Net Promoter Score.
  • Every Book Is A Startup – Version 4.0 (11/5/12) – This new release contained a chapter on pricing and an extended interview with Eric Ries.

The most important project we shipped this year was my wife starting at the Natural College of Nautropathic Medicine in September. It was also the best best thing to happen this year, but this beginning was another milestone among many over the last few years as we moved across the country, bought a new home and the whole family adjusted to a new life here in Portland.

Looking ahead, 2013 is already shaping up to be a great year. I am teaching again at Portland State. A number of clients have projects that will launch in the first half of the year. And I want to get back to more writing, so look for a new project early in the new year.

Best Wishes to you in the New Year!

Other Things I Liked In 2012

There was a bunch of other great stuff I ran across in 2012. Here is a list of books, apps, websites and experiences that made the year more awesome.

  • Buddha – Told across eight volumes of manga, Osuma Tezuka portrays the life of Shakyamuni Buddha in detail and with a light hand. I am not sure the interpretation would hold up to scholarly examination, but I found it a great way to become familiar with the life story of Buddhism’s founder.
  • Super Vendor – At SXSW Interactive this year, I remember being between panels and seeing in the Twitterstream that there was a vending machine across the street from the convention center dispensing notebooks. I literally ran to find it was even cooler than that. To start, you followed the machine on Twitter and, in turn, received a code, which you took to the machine, entered on the alphanumeric panel to chose your notebook. The small scout book contained a rope API, a set of git shortcuts, and many pages of kaleidoscoped patterns of dotted lines. Bravo, Bohemian Collective. Bravo.
  • Indie Game: The Movie – Project creators Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky found the perfect indie game developers to show the drama of creating. Required watching for anyone who is a maker. The soundtrack is brilliant too.
  • HackerNewsLetter – This is the one newsletter I read every week. Curator Kale Davis does a incredible job pulling the best from the popular community site. The links lean heavy toward programming and startups but the real value is in the eclectic mix of topics that come up on the forum and the honesty users have about sharing their experiences.
  • Tig Notaro Live – Cancer can be funny. Really. Tig proves it in this masterful 30 minute set and must be listened to through to the end. The recording made a big splash earlier this year when Louis CK sold it through his site. The album is now available through iTunes and other outlets.
  • Comeback by Redlight – This song was a popular track on this summer’s Avengers soundtrack and I think it works even better in this acoustic version.
  • Wirecutter – The sole purpose of this website is to tell you the best single choice to whatever technology problem you have whether you need a iPhone 5 case, are buying a HDTV, or want to know what the best condom is.
  • Kingdom Rush – The best game for the iPad, period. I spent most of the summer working through every level in this tower defense style game and on the weekend I completed all the missions, they released two more levels. Heaven.
  • Clear – The iPhone version of this app is beautiful and simple. This is the digital place that I put quick notes and to-dos when I am out. Nothing comes close to how intuitive this application for managing small bits of information. Spend the $1.99 and you won’t be disappointed.
  • The $100 Investment – I was sitting in The Newmark Theatre in Portland as Chris Guillebeau made his closing remarks at the World Domination Summit. Chris informed each attendee that as they left the theater, they would be handed an envelope with a $100 bill with the hope they would invest in a project, person or cause. It was an incredible moment that left the audience stunned and set high expectations for the works to follow.

P.S. My four favorite quotes of the year:

  • “We cook this way, not to be special, but rather to make it possible for anyone to eat here.” -Abby Fammartino talking about her philosophy to serve food that is free of gluten, dairy, soy and refined sugars at her Portland restaurant Abby’s Table.
  • “Profit is theory, cash is a fact.” -Unknown
  • “Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It hits your mind and bounces right off.” – Clay Christensen (source)
  • “On a scale from one to Adele, how bad was your breakup?” -The Internet

My Favorite Business Books of 2012

As the year comes to a close, I have been thinking hard about what books influenced me this year.

In 2012, I read fewer books than in past years and that is why I called these books my favorites, not the best (if you are looking for the best, check out 800-CEO-READ’s Elite Eight for 2012).

“Favorite” is also probably a better description of these books because I found my reading more directed this year as I worked on growing my business and spent time thinking about the parallels between entrepreneurship and publishing.

In any case, I wholeheartedly recommend any of these titles:


Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration by Scott Doorley and Scott Without

The people behind of the innovative work environments at Standford’s d.school put everything they learned about collaboration and how to build space that support collaboration in this beautiful book. When I say everything, I mean everything from communication theory to bills of materials for the fixtures they built.

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau

There is one message you get loud and clear from Guillebeau’s second book – be relentlessly useful to your customers. That means you need to be communicate in your offering clearly, give customers what they want (not what you think they need), and be OK promoting what you do. This might sound like Marketing 101, but we all miss some part of this when we launch our latest project or new business.

Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works by Ash Maurya

Maurya started his book in Lean Startup fashion as article written for his newsletter followed by a self-published edition. With a thousand copies sold of the minimum viable product sold, he partnered with O’Reilly to be their first book released in their Lean Startup Series. Running Lean is a more tactical book than Eric Ries’ Lean Startup and focuses around the three stages of startups: Problem/Solution Fit, Problem/Market Fit, and Scaling. Knowing which stage you are in allows founders to know what actions are going to move their startup forward.

The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s Most Exclusive School for Startups by Randall Stross

Books that promise an inside look into an organization are often weak. The writer often lacks the access required to provide new and insightful commentary. Stross delivers the rare exception with his fly on the wall view of the drama founders experience in the Y Combinator program. And yes it is drama with founders pivoting from one idea to the next hoping to find the funding they need to take their startup to the next level. What we also see through Stross’ reporting is the philosophy that drives the Silicon Valley’s premier boot camp/accelerator/grad school for startups.

The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality by W. Edward Deming

There aren’t many business authors who accumulate the quantity or quality of work that warrants a greatest hits album. Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis both did and it is nice to finally see Edward Deming receive the same treatment. You might find Deming’s writings more difficult to read as his arguments resemble geometry theorems in their completeness and clarity. The work might also seem foreign because his prescriptions are still largely ignored. Maybe this new volume will solve that problem.

The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking by Mike Rohde

I am a member of the sketchnoting tribe and it’s so great to see my long time friend Mike Rohde create a book that celebrates visual thinking. I have wanted to move beyond my style of a single “font, arrows pointing all directions, and lots of exclamation marks. The Handbook shows great examples from other sketch noters and exercises to improve this largely improvisational art form.

FT/Goldman Sachs 2012 Business Book of The Year Shortlist

Galley Cat ran a quick post about the FT/Goldman Sachs 2012 Business Book of The Year shortlist that was announced last week. The site directed people to excerpts, but they used Amazon book page links for all of them.

I tracked down some excerpts to the chosen books as well. I realize that some of them might be the same content you would get by downloading an Kindle sample, but with all of these, you can be reading words from the book in one click.

I put them all into a Storify thread to make it a little prettier and easier to share.


[<a href= “http://storify.com/toddsattersten/ft-goldman-sachs-2012-business-book-of-the-year-sh” target=”_blank”>View the story “FT/Goldman Sachs 2012 Business Book of The Year Shortlist” on Storify</a>]

Business Books Market Statisitics

I have always wondered who reads business books.

I know the category leans toward a male audience, one that is affluent and is likely educated.

In checking out some of the features in Bookigee’s new app WriterCube, I found a section of market profiles broken out by genre. Using data from Bowker’s Market Research, the business and technology category looks like this:

  • Men 71% and Women 29%
  • 57% are between the ages of 18-44
  • 54% make between $50-$100K
  • 68% have had some college education
  • 58% live in the South or West
  • 50% use Facebook and 19% use Twiter

The increased point is in regions where the country is growing, more people are reading business books.

The Two Things Every Author Wants

Lately, I have been thinking about what authors want out of the publishing process and how the industry is organized around those goals.

The first thing an author wants is to be published. The traditional definition of being published involved an editor acquiring the rights to a book and helping develop the best book possible. The scarcity of being picked made the act of being published something special, a privilege only offered a relative few. An ecosystem of agents, ghostwriters, copyeditors, proofreaders and designers has developed to support the curation and creation of long form publishing.

After the need to get published, the author’s other primal desire is to be read and read by many people. The abundance of new and old titles has always made creating awareness a challenge. Publishers and in many cases authors employ a cast of marketers and publicists to spread the word of a book’s release and the message it carries.

Authors want to be published and read, but nature of how those two desires can be satisfied has changed. To be read, you no longer need to be picked. As Clay Shirky says, the act of being published has been reduced to pressing a button. Authors like Amanda Hocking, John Locke and Hugh Howey proved being successful was no longer linked to being chosen.

When Frank Chimero raised $112,000 in March 2011 on Kickstarter for his book The Shape of Design, I thought, “This is the future of publishing.” Two thousand people stepped up with credit cards in hand and declared they wanted a book written by Frank Chimero. There was no editorial board guessing about how design books have done in the past. No sales manager estimating a returns rate. No publicist wondering if she had the right contacts to get the word out.

On the other hand, Frank didn’t have an editor waiting to challenge his work. He hired one. Frank also didn’t have a production designer waiting to typeset his book. He did it himself. When he prepared to ship the 2000 packages to faithful backers all over the world, he had to find someone to do that too. The six figure advance he earned meant he needed to act like a publisher and hire the capabilities he didn’t have.

The abundance created by authors being able to publish and distribute their own books still has points of scarcity: a scarcity of good ideas and a scarcity of people willing to listen. Work toward solving those two problems and you create a wider range of options to pursue publishing on your terms.

Minimum Viable Publishing for SXSW 2013

I have proposed a panel for SXSW 2013 based on the work I have been doing with Every Book Is A Startup.

The panel is called from Cesna to 747: Minimum Viable Publishing Lessons. The panel description is:

Tablets and digital distribution have changed what books we read and when we read them, but the possibilities for how we create books in this new world are still constrained by the past notions of long lead times and unchanging permanence. Borrowing from the lessons of the Toyota Production System and the world of lean startups, this talk will discuss the concept of minimum viable publishing, how the inherently risky venture of book publishing can be made safer and what notions we need to let go of to see the new opportunities lie ahead for innovative authors and publishers.

Take a moment, click the button and give the panel a thumbs up.


Stephen Covey

Yesterday, Stephen Covey passed away at age 79. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and the follow-on books in the series have sold 20 million copies. We selected 7 Habits for inclusion in The 100 Best Business Books of All Time and the following is the review we published:

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

by Stephen R. Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is the outcome of Stephen Covey’s doctoral research into personal development literature. He studied two hundred years worth of self-help, popular psychology, and self-improvement writings, and identified two distinct philosophies of self-improvement. The first is what we identify with principles found in the works of early American visionaries Benjamin Franklin: principles like integrity, industry, humility, and simplicity. Covey calls this the “Character Ethic,” and it was the dominant philosophy in American literature until the early 20th century. But Covey found the literature changed significantly after World War I, with a shift in emphasis from quality of character to improvement of personality, behavior, and attitude: the Personality Ethic. Though not by name, he takes aim at books like How to Win Friends and Influence People, Think and Grow Rich, and The Power of Positive Thinking, saying at best these books focus on secondary traits and at worst teach deception using a quick-fix mentality.

The first of Covey’s seven habits, “Be Proactive,” describes the freedom of choice one has between stimulus and response, between loss of a job and loss of self-worth. The initiative to learn a new skill is a simple incarnation of “Let’s look at the alternatives” versus “There’s nothing I can do.”

The next two habits address the same challenges an executive faces publicly: leadership and management. “Begin with the End in Mind” uses imagination to envision a set of creative choices about the future, the same energies employed in leadership. Covey advocates the development of personal mission statements to codify the varying roles and responsibilities of home, work, and community. “Put First Things First” takes that newly defined identity derived from the mission statement and matches up tasks and priorities to ensure alignment. When Covey asked readers which habit was the most difficult to adopt, this management process ranked number one, and he wrote another book, First Things First, to further explore the challenges.

“Self-mastery and self-discipline are the foundation of good relationships with others,” Covey writes (186), and then moves forward with his three public habits: “Think Win/Win,” “Seek First to Understand…Then to be Understood,” and “Synergize.” All are based on relationships. “Think Win/Win” is interpersonal leadership that creates mutual benefits for all parties. The classic negotiation book Getting to Yes uses the same philosophy that calls for individuals to use an abundance mentality in their interactions and look past the confining paradigm of the zero-sum game.

Being a good listener is a skill that is helpful in any relationship and sits at the core of “Seek First to Understand…Then to be Understood.” When someone is speaking to us, our natural response is to listen autobiographically: agreeing or disagreeing, asking questions from our point of view, giving advice based on our own experiences, trying to figure out what is making someone feel the way they do based on how we would react. Covey spends much of the chapter on an extended example of a conversation between a disillusioned son and well-intentioned father. Covey replays the conversation a number of times showing how ineffective listening with our biases can be. When listening, “rephrase the content and reflect the feeling,” the author writes, and then he shows how the conversation completely changes. The second half of the habit is about presenting ideas, and Covey returns to Aristotle’s rhetorical philosophy of ethos (character), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic).

“Synergy” encapsulates the entire Seven Habits process. When people join together, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and greater insights and previously unseen results are achieved. Covey suggests synergy is the third alternative to my way or the wrong way. All relationships grow when trust and cooperation grow.

The seventh habit, “Sharpen the Saw” returns to the individual. Covey believes we all have four dimensions that need continual renewal: the physical, the mental, the spiritual, and the social/emotion. He suggests spending an hour working on the first three every day. Find time for a cardiovascular workout. Read the classics. Keep a journal. Meditate or pray. It is only through recharging that we have the energies to succeed in the other aspects of our lives.

Seth Godin Uses Kickstarter to Launch New Book

This morning, Seth Godin launched his new book The Icarus Deception on Kickstarter.

The project has already raised over $100,000 with almost 1400 backers and sold over 4800 copies of the book in first seven hours.

The Icarus Deception will be published by a unnamed traditional publisher. Godin describes the book as a capstone for his books Linchpin, Tribes, and Poke The Box. Two other books are a part of this Kickstarter project: a new book from cartoonist Hugh MacLeod called V for Vulnerable based on the final part of Godin’s new book and a “best of” collection from Godin’s online work.

Many of the pledge levels have limits and several are already closed out or are close to being closed out. The first pledge level that closed was $200 that included letterpressed poster, 8 copies of The Icarus Deception, 2 copies of V for Vulnerable. The $22 level that included a single copy shipped anywhere in the world also sold out its 300 slots. A dozen people have pledged $655 for a a mystery box with limited, signed & “generally surprising stuff from the attic.” Five backers quickly snapped up a $1150 slot for the opportunity to have Seth interview them and have their stories included in the book.

Godin says in the description that the campaign is meant to send a signal to the publishing community about supporting the book, not maximize profits. He states in the video that his goal is to sell 10,000 copies through this effort.

In the past, business book publisher Portfolio, a division of Penguin, has published both Godin and MacLeod and would seem a likely candidate for publishing in this project.

Business Beginning With The Letter ‘P’

I am struck by how often the letter ‘P’ appears as the pneumonic device in many lists about how to do business better.

There is the four P’s of marketing first proposed by Jerome McCarthy in 1960: Price, Price, Place, and Promotion.

Paul Williams at Idea Sandox referred to a construct from Ingrid Bens for staying “tuned-in” to your audience as a leader: Pace, Process, and Pulse.

Brendon Burchard uses them in his 6 Questions for High Performance: Purpose, Presence, Psychology, Physiology, Productivity, and Persuasion.

And then this morning, I got a set of notes from John Spence this morning from his time at Entrepreneurial Masters program at MIT and he says, “To become world class you need the 4 P’s: passion, persistence, practice and pattern recognition.”

I am not a linguistic, but I wonder if there is something about common roots in Latin and Germanic language families that drives the frequency of P’s.

Go Author, Go

On the front page of the Sunday New York Times this week is an article titled “In E-book Era, Rule for Writers Is Type Faster!” The piece focuses on the additional work already busy authors are doing now as readers demand more new material. Some are writing more books. Some are writing novellas between books. Some are hiring writers so they can write more books.

There are some interesting thoughts between the lines:

  • Publishers want to be able to capitalize on faddish interest in an author with more stuff readers can buy. Does art go well with speed? Is there other ways to gain permission to talk to readers in between books?
  • Talent is scarce and once commercial success is seen publishers want to scale the art. What are the limits to that kind of effort?
  • Abundance of an author’s works correlates to more sales and through these additional avenues discoverability improves. Does lower prices have the same abundance effect? How about removing DRM?


Bradford Wieners was tasked by Bloomberg BusinessWeek to profile Harvard Business School professor Clay Christensen and talk about Christensen’s new book How Will You Measure Your Life? for the May 7, 2012 issue of the magazine.

In describing Christensen’s latest book, Weiners writes:

“More accessible than Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, How Will Your Measure Your Life? is provocative but reassuring: Peter Drucker meets Mitch Albom. Landing as it does at the nexus of two abominable genres, self-help and business how-to, it earns easy credit for being low on psychobabble and casually self-aware.”

So, the new book is not bad, but that is easy given how horrible the entire category is.

If there is any question whether Wieners has bias, we only need to look at a Q&A published last week where he opens with:

“Yvon Chouinard, the 73 year-old founder of Patagonia, has a low opinion of business books. “I quit reading them 20 years ago,” he says, “when I realized that they had one simple idea that they expanded to fill the required space.” All the same, he has now written two.”

How exactly does that make the case for a reader to want any business book, let alone Chouinard’s new book that the rest of the interview speaks of?

I bristle when writers dismiss business books and I always take the bait, having to highlight the travesty and hyperbole of their statements. Abominable was the trigger of this episode. Moral revulsion is not the reaction most people have to business books. The majority are indifferent, but there are few of us who feel enriched by what gets published.

I was in New York City last month and stopped into The Strand just south of Union Square. I went down into the basement, as I always do, to see what I might find on the shelves of the business section. They always have a fascinating selection of new, old and very old. A young gentleman looking at the same shelves turned and said “It is good to see another person concerned about improving themselves.”

Where I Would Be Now

It’s hard to chart an alternative course for my life had I not started blogging, because every significant event in my career during the last ten years has come from this form of writing.

My connection to 800-CEO-READ came from an author who found my blog, saw my love for business books, and thought I should know that the nexus for the industry was less than 20 miles from my home. His introduction led to my first position at the company as a blogger paid to write about business books and continued for seven wonderful years.

When I left 800-CEO-READ in 2009, blogging directly led my to my next pursuits. A tweet from an editor in Spain connected me to the world of literary scouting. My renewed blogging about the future of publishing led to a project with the awesome folks at O’Reilly. My clients for book development have all come to read what I am about and what I believe and the conversations start at a much richer point.

As Hugh says in his new book, “Freedom is Blogging” and I couldn’t agree more.

Books And Apps

A few weeks ago, Alex Payne, CTO of Simple, wrote a post titled How Not To Sell Software in 2012.

In the post, Payne berates wide swaths of the software industry for their gatekeeper sales practices, convoluted product explanations and the intolerable distance between the customer and someone who can really help answer technical questions about the product. “[I]t should be as easy as humanly possible to try it, pay for it, and start using it…” Payne says.

In looking at Payne’s list of Don’ts, I wondered what sorts of things the book publishing industry might be doing that causes similar grief among customers.

  • Books are made of code that is designed to solve a problem, whether that is entertainment, navigation or skill-building. The code is complicated and requires a specific cranial device but the file size is small. Being able to start using the code right now to solve my problem is expected. If not, I will look to other sources.
  • Amazon has made it simple to buy books. I press one button and the digital file shows up in 60 seconds or the paper device shows up in two days. No one else comes close to this speed of how quickly I want to use the code contained in books in my life.
  • Books are hard to sample the quality of the code and the promise in the marketing copy often fails to translate in the book itself. The introduction and first chapter to almost every book should be available everywhere, including when I am standing in front of the shelf at the bookstore and I want to read the beginning of a book on another device.
  • Maybe what is included in the sample should change. Joe Wikert has all sorts of thoughts like including the index.
  • On a standard publisher’s website, you might have the option to buy the book, and beyond cover art and a book description that is all you can find about the book. What if I just want more information now or to get an email remainder when the book comes out? Adding a Kickstarter-like Remind Me button wouldn’t seem all that hard and then publishers could start a conversation with readers.
  • There are times when I often want to give the author and the publisher more money. I would gladly pay more for a collectible edition or a further extension of the book I just read. The trick here is that this normally after I read the book and am fully bought in. Sadly, there is no mechanism to capture the value of that newly generated enthusiasm.

What I am missing? How could buying a book be more like buying an app?

Are They Ready?

Lorne Michaels, producer of Saturday Night Live, said last week in the New York Times, “With a host, you have to be at the point where the applause won’t stop until he or she hits their mark.”

Authors need to understand acquisition editors are thinking the same thing as Lorne.

Publishers want authors that are recognizable to the audience they are going after.

Platform is about popularity.

And Seth is right about not needing to wait to be picked anymore, but there are still gatekeepers that can help you and they have their different yardsticks to measure you up with.

Do yourself a favor and start building a tribe today. I promise there are a handful of people who right now want to know what you are working on. I also know that they will tell others if you share with the tribe the things they need to hear.