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Strategy, Tactics, and the Plan for the Next 97 Days

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Have you heard the news about the death of publishing? Books are going extinct! Paper will cease to exist! Buy stock in digital ink.

Seth Godin, a mentor to me and the rest of the internet, recently announced his retirement from traditional publishing. Seth is perpetually ahead of the curve, so as usual, most people completely missed the point in responding to the news.

When I read his interview, I thought “Wow, I need to catch up.” If I had twelve bestselling books, I’d say farewell to traditional publishing too. So everyone else in publishing, traditional or otherwise, who doesn’t have twelve bestselling books needs to get to work.

Then I read something on a publishing web site with another author complaining that “The only authors who sell books anymore are those who have popular blogs.”

This puzzled me. Where does a popular blog come from—does the blog fairy descend from the sky with a passionate group of readers, all eager to support a new writer? Or does it maybe have something to do with consistent, dedicated work over a long period of time?

Speaking of Books and Strategy

A few days from today I’ll head out on the world’s first Unconventional Book Tour to 63 cities. Venues are now posted over here… at least for the cities I have lined up so far. I get a lot of credit for being strategic, which is overstated at best—or more likely, completely untrue. I really don’t have a strategy besides what anyone can see on the site.

But yes, friends, there is indeed a method to the magic. The method is called: Dream very big. Decide to do big things and then set them in motion.

My strategic plan is: say yes to everything.

The tactic is: get up early and stay up late.

Whoa, so strategic! I know, I know… I’m really giving away the secrets to the store.

Next, get very smart people on your team, like Reese the Superstar Design and Nicky the Genius Developer. Together they do things like make the Unconventional Book Tour site come to life, where people can sign up, post directly to Twitter, and even volunteer to bring cupcakes. (And just wait till you see the World Domination Summit site… coming next month. They’re raising the bar even higher for that project.)

The point is that you don’t have to figure everything out before you get started. Dreaming comes first; details come later.

Which leads to another very important point: If you have a big dream, you should find a way to pursue it.

Derek calls it the hell yes moment – when you hear about something that sounds amazing, don’t worry so much about what else you have to do to make it work. Just say hell yes. You’ll be scared about it in the beginning and happy about it as you work it out.

Now, the process of following a dream is not without stress and tension. The point is not to retreat from the tension, but to embrace it and live in it. I am frequently reminded of this quote by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi:

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

By the way, I’m also encouraged by Csíkszentmihályi because if he can be successful with that name, Guillebeau should be no problem. But I think the point at hand is: If you feel discontented, change it up by doing something challenging instead of something relaxing.

So for the book tour that begins next week, some things are good to go and other things have yet to be finalized. I have no idea where I’ll be in Wilmington (Delaware) and Manchester (New Hampshire) and those stops are on the very first leg. I finally decided if nothing else, I’ll show up at a Starbucks somewhere and we’ll go from there.

But it’s OK. It will be fine. I try to take everything step-by-step. Get on the plane and fly to New York City. Have a fun book launch with all of Manhattan at Borders on Tuesday night. Figure out how to get to New Jersey. Look up the locations of Starbucks in Delaware.

No worries. We’ll make it happen with the help of a small army.

I’ll apologize now for writing a lot about the book and book tour for the next few months. It won’t be all book, all the time for 97 days while I’m back and forth on the road. But I’ve always written this blog based on what I’m doing, and “all things book” will be what I’m focusing on for a while.

The fun thing about blogs is if you decide you’re no longer interested, you can vote yourself off the island by unsubscribing. No hard feelings! And for everyone who sticks around, I really appreciate your support. The dream is much easier to pursue when other people are a part of it.

So, back to you over there…

What’s your plan? How can you embrace tension and pursue a big dream? What can you say hell yes to?

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Image: Jim

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60 Comments

  • cope says:

    Would be happy to give you a lift to or around New Jersey

    – Cope

  • I’m puzzled why you released a paperback. The industry is moving forward: Kindle, iPad, Nook and countless others offer loads of digital options.

    Why the regression?

  • Chris says:

    I don’t see it as one or the other – the book is also on Kindle and iPad and whatever other new formats are forthcoming. I’m not sure about the 10 Nook owners, though. 🙂

  • SusieR says:

    Love the Csíkszentmihályi quote – and you’re SO right… if he can make it with THAT name, you’ll be dandy!

  • Mike Piper says:

    In reply to the comment you quoted about needing a big blog to sell books:

    Sure, having a blog with lots of readers helps. But one doesn’t necessarily need to become a best-selling author to make a living writing books. For self-publishers, due to a higher profit margin, we don’t need massive followings in order to turn a book into a meaningful income stream.

  • Chris says:

    Yes, I agree — there is more than one road to self-publishing (or traditional publishing) success.

  • Print may be dying but it’s not dead, and I think it’ll be a fair time before it’s gone completely. Ray and I both have brand new eReaders for our backpacking journey, yet I still find myself with a book-book to read. And have you SEEN the size of Shantaram? 😛

    Congrats on the release of your book and your book tour, Chris. I’m lookin forward to my review copy (if it makes it to Taiwan and doesn’t end up in Antarctica) and to taking pics of it at Mt. Everest, Angkor Wat, the Great Wall, etc. for you! Have a great journey!

  • i am finding that in embracing the dream, a lot of tension does come up and that’s a really super awesome good thing. when i do workshops about it, i describe it with a little diagram: you in a circle with all of the things you have in your life. all of the things you want but don’t have are outside of the circle. that circle is made up of your own fears and limiting beliefs. so to get to what’s outside there – you have to go through that stuff.

    it’s a subtle shift, but seeing yourself as choosing to go through the fear feels totally different than just having all these fears descend upon you. it’s puts you in the position of power and makes it easier to move through.

    i’m saying hell yes to all of it right now. i’m quitting my job and living my dreams and handling a lot of tension and fear along the way!

  • Marta Lane says:

    Funny – my blog is called Follow Your Dream. The blog is about leaving Colorado and moving to Kauai. My husband and I gave up cushy corporate jobs, a healthy income and sold almost all of our stuff. We now live in a tiny treehouse, have no debt and our dreams are unfolding at a rapid pace. I am a firm believer of a quote that used to allude me “leap and the net will appear”. I will continue to read your blog even if it’s about “all things book”, it’s your vibe that keeps me coming back! Good luck and don’t drink too much coffee! Maybe you should get some stock in Starbucks before you go!

  • Jason Walton says:

    Also dig the Mihaly quote ( and his books Flow and Creativity ). A corollary to his quote is that the difficulties, challenges,calamities, disasters, etc. make the best stories. You rarely hear a good travel or camping story about how smoothly everything went. My best camping memory revolves around a failed snow-camping trip to Mt. Hood ( it rained above the snow line ): I ended up sleeping in ice water, shivering harder than I thought was humanly possible, and using a zip lock bag – in the tent – for a urinal.

  • Devin says:

    As a Nook owner, I am shocked and appalled by the Nook’s apparent lack of popularity 🙂

    As a book lover and someone who is actively writing a book, my feelings are much more complicated about publishing. I am all for change and the creation of ebooks and self-publishing, but still can’t help wanting the paper world to continue to be a force. The good news is that, for the time being, bookstores in my neighborhood are still crowded.

    As a big dreamer, I just feel lucky to be in the ballpark of success, and I will keep plugging along — with a popular blog, or not.

    I hope everyone keeps dreaming.
    devin

  • Kimmie says:

    I experienced the “net appearing” phenomenon too… in many different forms… first, I knew I wanted to go… and I was on the precipice… with events rapidly unfolding, compelling me to jump into the mists of uncertainty… and just as my feet lost contact with the board… a place to land appeared… and that place is providing the income stream that will fund my next jump… a whole new world of possibilities has become part of my thought process. I find inspiration through your words, Chris, and I share that inspiration with everyone I meet… I am ecstatic!

  • mike says:

    Why not book stores at airports? Perhaps non-conformity?
    Thx for blog
    MiKe

  • Thanks for the reminder to say “yes” to everything. The more time I spend studying up on empires like yours, the more “hell yes” moments I have. Looking forward to seeing you in Raleigh in October!
    Safe travels!
    Jane

  • Linda says:

    What an exciting new chapter (no pun intended) for you. I enjoy living vicariously.

    And no matter where you end up, the comforts and familiarity of Starbucks will always beckon!

  • Sean says:

    I love your strategy, wake up early, stay up late, say yes to everything. If thats not a recipe to success, I don’t know what is.

  • Wow, I can’t believe people view paperback as a regression…I much prefer print to digital…by a huge margin.

    Anyway, I think the concern around book deals is a good one. Now, it’s not good enough just to have a great story or book, but you have to build a blog first, and then write the book.

    Is every author going to be a blogger? Is that a good thing?

  • Jenn says:

    Chris,thank you for this timely post. I happen to be in a hell yes decision right now. Even with 3 hurricanes in the area, my husband and I are saying hell yes to living at the Outer Banks. We will find a way to make it work, but we ARE going! We just spoke to a realtor about selling our house last night. I was already looking for a change- I thought in just my employment, but after just minutes at the beach last week, we both felt we were home. It’ll be a whole new location, friends, and climate challenges, but it’s exciting step into the new and fabulous experience!

  • Melanie says:

    I will always read paperback, I prefer the texture of the page. It feels nice to physically move your fingers and move towards the end.

    Chris, go to an indie coffee shop in NJ, not Starbucks! Not that I have any suggestions, but there has got to be a good one! 🙂

    I also so look forward to seeing you on Tuesday in Manhattan. I didn’t realize it was so soon!

    Thank you for inspiring us all.

  • Duke says:

    I think a lot of deep-seated fear is rooted in pursuits that are fundamentally mismatched with one’s real goals, personality, and values. Tension, fear, and uncertainty are just details if you have an idea worth pursuing. Artists (including authors) often say they don’t have a choice when it comes to their vocations, so I assume they work through their insecurities as they complete their projects.

    I’m saying ‘hell yes’ to a big project right now that, frankly, terrifies me. And I feel a simultaneous sense of relief.

    I wish you all the best with the tour. Send me a note if I can help you with the Toronto date.

  • Marthe says:

    I love how you turned this into an “follow your dreams post”.

    I feel that the universe is giving me small signs that I’m on the right track. Tomorrow morning I’ll be launching a dream project over at my blog. Thank you for believing in dreams. I’m 100% sure that you helped me start to work on my dream.

    Thank you!

  • Tony Ruiz says:

    Hell yes! Good stuff Chris! Looking forward to seeing you on the tour. I agree with Sean, “…If thats not a recipe to success, I don’t know what is.”

  • Julie Wise says:

    Thanks, Chris, for the reminder to always dream big. I like to go one step further and challenge myself to dream BIGGER! My current dream is to help 100,000 people bring more joy and ease into their lives by pursuing their dreams. Talk about setting the bar high! You’re so right about the need for a strong support team to set the wheels in motion and keep things moving forward. I’ll remember your “hell yes” notion as I get my own book campaign going. Happy trails!

  • Jon Case says:

    “Get up early, stay up late”. That’s it right there! That is what success is – I am still making my way but that line certainly struck a chord with me!

  • Crap, mean to say the concern is a *good* one, not a book one 🙂

    I guess it fits anyway.

  • Chris says:

    No worries – fixed. 🙂

  • Okay all you early-birds…I’ve got the staying up late part down pat (so I’m halfway there)…still working on the get up early part! Any suggestions?

  • Marilia says:

    HELL´ll. I´m new on the army and I plan to keep going with you. Lately I´ve been having a lot of Hell yes moments, it´s brilliant. And like you said, much better when shared.

  • I am reading one of Csíkszentmihályi’s books right now, “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention”…and you are right, it isn’t in the name – it is in the content and all that goes with it – If you have yet to read this one of his, it is worth the read. Traits of highly successful and creative folk….
    Your advice, get up early and stay up late, does, make a big difference, especially when you have one of those “Hell Yes” moments and something just HAS to get done…..

  • Darrell says:

    thanks for this. its always encouraging for someone to write something like this when you are in the midst of what they are talking about.

    you have been a pretty big inspiration since i have started this whole blogging thing. in a few years i hope to have an incredible story to tell from this whole experience. i am living the story today that i want to tell tomorrow.

    d

  • Josh Bulloc says:

    I recommend everybody live by the hell yes moment. We all get a lot more done when we are pushed to a deadline and this forces a deadline. I imagine this like jumping into a pit of lions (or Tigers in your case Chris) and fighting my way out. I was not going to get anything accomplished by thinking about jumping in the pit.

  • Nathan says:

    thanks for the great quotes & the encouragement to just go out and do it. i’m reminded of the quote “the world needs demonstration more than it needs instruction.”

    i really appreciate you demonstrating and walking the walk – makes it easier for me (and others, i’m sure) to take those leaps of faith. and yes, those secrets of hard work, determination, and persistence are always great to be reminded of. Not to mention – PATIENCE!

    as i tackle my own “hell yes” project, i’m finding more and more things i don’t know the answers to, and just trying to realize that’s ok. it’s taking that step forward into growth instead of back into safety that will lead to the REAL fun!

    stay awesome!

  • Chris, I think you’re right on about why successful authors today already have successful blogs. People are so quick to make causal relationships based on assumptions when it takes a much more open mind to see what’s really going on.

    The tension I’m choosing to embrace right now is the fact that I can do A LOT more good working towards big projects, some in collaboration with others, than I can working one-on-one on the things that are “safe money.” It’s time to break out of what has been safe for me and work on what I really want to do.

  • Jadyn says:

    If you can’t find a place in Toronto, you should come to the Starbucks I work at in Niagara Falls. Not that there aren’t any Starbucks cafes in Toronto…I have heard they’re by far not as friendly as ours is though 🙂 Plus, the Falls really are pretty spectacular (can’t say that about the town unfortunately, but hey you can’t have everything, right?).

    Anyway, thanks for writing and sharing your journey. Good luck with “all things book”.

  • Trixie Rioux says:

    Wish you a wonderful tour book. Enjoyable reading….! This is… absolutly… synchro with my day! 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    Good luck on your tour! I grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire. It’s cool place to see in the fall. Check out the historic mills on Merrimack River and The Currier Museum, if you have time.

    I live on Grand Bahama now, but NH in the fall is a beautiful site.

    Best regards,
    Jennifer

  • Parag Shah says:

    Thanks for the great post, and also thanks for reminding us to be awesome and think big.

    I have started an experiment where I am trying to get a masters degree worth of knowledge in computer science using open courseware and social learning / credentials.

    Even though it is something I have wanted to do, your blog posts have given me a lot of inspiration to actually do it. So thanks again.

  • You’re absolutely right, Chris. Dream big, and act on that dream. As one of my Thriving Artists Project interviewees said just the other day when I asked if he had any advice for people who dream of doing their creative thing full time: “Start.”

    Exactly. And keep moving forward, one baby step at a time.

    Thanks for being a beacon!

  • Greg Hartle says:

    The thing I hope most pick up on is your statement, “Consistent dedicated work over a long period of time.”

    My two pennies: Focus and consistency are what create “over-night” successes!

    Love your work and I’m looking forward to the book.

    Thank you for all you do for the world my friend!

  • Nice. Congrats Chris, and I’ll swing by and get my copy signed in NYC.

  • Ken Apple says:

    As a complaint, ‘the only authors who sell books are those with bestselling blogs’ is way overstated. But if you took away all the sales in the bookstore where I work of books based on movies, television, video games or oprah picks, we couldn’t stay in business. People seem to need some other media to tell them what to read.

    Be a nonconformist, just go pick a book.

  • Katie Simon says:

    Commenting from the Warszawa Centralna station in Poland, one of many places you have helped inspire me to go to! I’m 18 yrs old from Boston and am traveling independently all over the world this year (eastern europe, central asia, west africa and mid east) and reading your blog has significantly impacted my choice to do this despite the naysayers (mainly friends of parents and parents of friends). This is definitely one of my “dream big” things- I’ve been saving up since I was 8 when I traveled with my family for a year, the first time- and my one regret is that I won’t be in the US for the book tour! Best of luck on that and all your other adventures, Chris!

  • Great post, Chris, and I think we can all do better in life by just dreaming big. I’ve got the “stay up late” part down, now I just have to focus on the “get up early.”

    Also: I don’t think print will ever die out – it may become more of a niche market, but I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon. Just look at engraving or letterpress – no longer used for newspapers, it’s now a fine art/luxury printmaking method, but it’s still around and thriving!

    Keep on keeping on, and I’m super excited that you’ll be at my favorite bookstore in San Francisco!

  • Pila Laronal says:

    Yes, please visit indie coffee shops in your travels it’s a much local experience.
    If in Olympia, WA., Orca Books is one good stop also Fertile Ground excellent BB.
    Would be happy to show you around.

  • Gary Wilson says:

    Loved the inspiration. Think big is a mantra of mine, along with yes. Was great to receive this in the morning here in Munich.

  • Ben says:

    Oh man, I was really excited for the book tour when you first announced it. Manchester, NH… that’s my home! I’d love to help out but in 1 week I’ll be leaving to pursue my own big dream – to educate and excite people to ride their motorcycle dream though Mexico. Oh well, I’ll have to catch you on the next world tour 😉

  • rob white says:

    Publishing is indeed a changing landscape. There are two things we need to do as authors (or anyone facing change). The first thing we need to do is ACCEPT it. The second is to REFUSE to live in fear that we can’t handle the challenge. Books are no longer “two covers with stuff in between”… it no longer a strictly linear experience… there is an opportunity to rethink the how we digest information. I too believe there is plenty of room for all the new forms of publishing.

    The way to embrace tension is to stop feeling threatened by the world when you know that your ‘personal model of reality’ determines the world you experience.

  • Mirella says:

    You are so right when you say that we should take action when we feel discontented, rather than just relaxing. When you have an unstimulating day at work it seems right to reward yourself with relaxation – watching a heap of T.V. But really requiring yourself to re-energise and work on something personally rewarding will move yourself away from the discontent both immediately and in the longer term. That one sentence was so powerful!

  • Thanks for this post. Your ending, “the dream is so much easier to pursue when other people are involved” really resonated with me.

  • Andi says:

    I’m so sad that I’ll be out of the country when you’re in Columbia, SC (that’s the closest you’ll be to Charlotte). I would have absolutely loved to come to your book reading!

    Best wishes with this tour. BTW, my dad stole your book from me and read it in like one sitting.

  • fernanda says:

    Love your strategy! I’m all about pursuing your dreams 🙂 and I do know all the tension that comes from it… but I believe the important thing is not giving up cause eventually you will get there. Love reading your articles, I’m sure you will do great! keep up the good work and inspiration!

  • Hopy says:

    I picked up a copy of the book today at a Border’s in Orlando. I’ve read a couple of chapters but am anxious to dig in and get serious making my unconventional life.

    Very encouraging with lots of real actionable advice that’s given with enthusiasm and energy! Keep it up, Chris.

    That Border’s got 2 copies in and I bought one. So you’d better hurry! It was the one on 17-92 in Winter Park.

  • Vincent says:

    Chris,

    I haven’t been a fan for long, but I love everything you stand for. I feel your passion. Your aspiration is inspiration.

    I’m just debating if I should buy your book in physical form or as an ebook. I’m starting to love having my library on my smartphone. Although, I do feel I’m gonna have both versions sooner or later. 🙂

    Well, I wish you could swing by Corpus Christi when you come into Texas.

    Have too much fun and Be safe on your first of many book tours.

    Always,

    Vincent

  • Dene Mason says:

    Chris, congratulations! Am loving the Empire Building Kit by the way. Will look forward to reading the book too!

  • Jason Kallsen says:

    Regarding publishing and e-books and the future of it … I was in a great used bookstore over the weekend, in a small town in western South Dakota of all places. It was the first used bookstore where the paperback books (all carefully chosen by the store owner) were ALL priced higher than their original price! Many of these books could be had NEW for less money at a major bookstore or at Amazon. When I asked the owner about this he said — point blank and without hesitation — “Printed books are the new LP’s, man! You wait and see.”

    Interesting food for thought.

  • Double-whammy!
    Sometimes, I believe in coincidences. Sometimes, I think everything happens for a reason. My “hell yes” moment will be putting on a concert next year.

    Hell YES!!

    You’re invited Chris!

  • TENSION… there is always tension. You are right that we need to step into the TENSION rather than run from it, which seems to be our “normal” human response to such things.
    HELL YES – I am stepping into the tension and pursuing LIFE TO THE FULL. Travel well my friend!

  • Brian Murphy says:

    Feel free to hit me up and I’ll help you get your Denver gig set-up.

    It’s a great place!

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