Bob Baker's Book Promotion Blog

How Tim Ferriss (4-Hour Workweek) Got It Wrong

4-Hour Workweek, Tim FerrissLast week I purchased the audio version of The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. This book has been generating a lot of buzz, and for a good reason. Ferriss made smart use of the Internet with an attention-getting title. It's been in the top 10 on Amazon and other bestseller lists.

It's a good read (or in my case, listen) too. The author considers himself an expert on "life design," and if you want a swift kick in the pants to shake up your notion of a 9 to 5 job, I suggest you read it.

I've been prodding people to think differently about their life and work for years, so I welcome the nontraditional message of the book. Some of Ferriss's ideas I'm already living, some I would never feel comfortable applying, and others I plan to investigate further and consider.

Here's my beef with Tim Ferriss ...

Ferriss has done a lot of interviews with many prominent bloggers, including Darren Rowse of In this interview, Rowse asked Ferriss for his advice for aspiring authors. Among other things, Ferriss said this:

Above all, do not create an e-book or self-publish as a path to a big publisher. No publisher will purchase something already self-published.

Excuse me? No publisher will be interested in a self-published book? Really? Then what about these titles ...

The One-Minute Manager
What Color Is Your Parachute
The Whole Earth Catalog
Life's Little Instruction Book
The Artist's Way
The Wealthy Barber
What to Expect When You're Expecting
The Christmas Box
1001 Ways to Be Romantic
You Can Heal Your Life
Attitude Is Everything
50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth
The Handbook of Higher Consciousness
Conversations with Millionaires
The Celestine Prophecy
Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun
Sugar Busters!
The Elements of Style

All of these books were originally self-published before being sold to major publishers. Believe me, if you're selling lots of books on your own, you will have publishers lining up to get in on it.

Ferriss may be an expert at life design, but he doesn't know much about the modern realities of book publishing.

Here's another misguided comment from the ProBlogger interview:

I'm not doing the book for income. NOTE TO ASPIRING AUTHORS: writing books is not a good way to make money. The benefits are huge, but not often financial.

The funny thing is, in The 4-Hour Workweek, Ferriss writes about creating passive income sources that free you up to travel and live wherever you want. One of the things he strongly recommends you do to generate passive income is to produce and sell an information product.

Tim, Tim, Tim. Sounds like you're talking out both sides of your mouth. On one hand, you recommend producing books and other info resources as a way to become financially free; on the other, you say there's no money to be made with books.

Maybe he meant there's little money to be made with traditional publishing contracts, even when you have a bestseller on your hands. But I'm here to tell you that there is money to be made with independently published books. I've been doing it for years, and so have many other authors. It's not easy to accomplish, but is quite possible.

I applaud Tim Ferriss for writing and promoting an eye-opening book. But I give him low marks for propagating outdated ideas about books and publishing, and for giving voice to the tired notion of the "starving artist." He should know better.


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  • As the creator and co-author of Conversations with Millionaires, I have to agree with what you said about Tim's comments. It is ABSOLUTELY possible to get major pub contracts with a self-pub book (you can add Rich Dad Poor Dad to your list to). I could go to a major pub at ANY time and they'd scoop up my book in a heartbeat. And I make money from sales of my book too and could make even more if I focused on it more rather than other things I spend my time on.

    Anyway, I agree with your comments and I teach people how to become best selling authors too at

    Keep up the good work Bob!

    Jason Oman
    #1 International Best-Selling Author of Conversations with Millionaires

    By Blogger Jason, At Tuesday, July 03, 2007  

  • cool review. i also ordered a copy and will read with some skepticism, but Timothy seems like a very savvy marketing guy, which interests me.

    By Anonymous Todd, At Friday, July 06, 2007  

  • I don't agree with all the comments. It's all relative. He may have made more revenue with other business ventures versus his book sales. To have a "best selling book" depends on the embrace of your market and how good of a writer you are. It's a slow process for financial gain and I can see why it would be discouraged if you want to make money and liberate yourself from working. Another point to make is that he was successful before the sales of the books, which was a key element in the marketing of it.

    By Blogger TallHonkey, At Friday, September 28, 2007  

  • Hi Bob - I love your site. How can Tim say there's no money to be made in writing books when he has been on the New York Times bestseller list for several weeks? That's a bit like Richard Branson telling us there's no money to be made in airlines.

    And the self publishing thing is very misleading. I bet he would have self published, had he not found a publisher.

    I did like Tim's book. As with many books, I did know a lot of the stuff he'd written about already (but that's what happens when you get old). However, I found a lot of the outsourcing stuff, and also the possibilities of leaving cheaply in other countries v useful.

    It was a great book on the whole - but largely aimed at people who don't have kids, or who have kids who have grown up and left home.

    I would love to take off a few months at a time and live in Argentina, but, I think I will have to wait until my two kids fly the nest.

    By Anonymous CatherineL, At Friday, October 05, 2007  

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