Chris Guillebeau offers an unconventional business model. He publishes books with traditional publishers, AND he offers so much more to his readers via his website and blog. He is shining the light down the path of the future of publishing. He does this by focusing on building a relationship with his readers. He calls it building a community. Because the first thing I think of when I hear community is the people who live near me whether I have anything in common with them or not (one perspective), I call what Chris is doing as calling together a tribe. He is inviting anyone who shares the thirst for an adventurous, meaningful life to join him in figuring out how.
His books and blogs feature lots of other people’s stories and experiences. This increases the inspiration factor and attracts more and more people to the community. The tribe has an annual gathering in Portland, Oregon every July known as the World Domination Summit.
All of this enhances his success in the traditional publishing world—his most recent book is Happiness of Pursuit and debuted on the New York Times bestseller list.
It is not a gimmick though. At least it feels very authentic. He even approached his book tour to promote his book in a fresh and unconventional way. As a blog follower I received an invitation to get a free ticket to one of his book events scheduled at independent bookstores in 40 cities across the United States. As a NorCal resident, I could choose between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. My friend Connie and I decided to go to the event in Santa Cruz and make it a girls weekend with lots of good food and shopping.
Some things I noticed as I RSVP’d for the event. I felt invited to the event. This is different than an announcement say for a concert or other event. I had to request a ticket and this gave me a greater sense of commitment to attend. While it did not cost anything, I felt like there was a spot reserved for me so I made plans to be sure to be there. I actually ended up selecting the bookstore further from my home because it became an excuse for a larger adventure. The staff at Book Shop Santa Cruz also had more information about how many people were coming and so could make sure they had plenty of books and chairs. The crowd was standing room only. This is a testament to Chris’ loyal readership; however, this method also makes the event more “sticky”. I have noted author events on other occasions and much more convenient to attend and then decided not to attend.
It also means if there is a low response Chris and the bookstore can do more outreach, adjust expectations or cancel. I have been to an author event at Borders with a much more popular author and I was one of just 5 people including the author and his wife. It was a memorable evening for me, but perhaps not worth the author's time.
Chris planned an hour long event, starting fashionably late, devoting the first 25 minutes to talking about the book, 25 minutes to “attempting to answer your questions” and the remainder to signing books. He encouraged people to meet someone new and make a connection. This part is inside the box, except Chris did not read from his book.
I also got a follow up email. Chris could do this because he collected my email when I requested the ticket. Even though it shamelessly asked me to help promote the book, it reconnected me with the event and motivated me to write this blog post.
So it worked.