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The dirty little secret behind Ramit Sethi’s book launch

Ramit has a dirty little secret...

Ramit has a dirty little secret...

Yesterday my friend Ramit Sethi launched his book I Will Teach You To Be Rich, a personal finance book based on his highly successful blog.  By midday, he was the #1 selling book on Amazon.com!  I knew he was on top the second it happened.  I knew because I was watching him live on his blog, along with 1,000 other “believers”.  He was streaming a live videocast all day long, answering questions from viewers, giving away prizes and even taking a call or two from mom.

What’s remarkable is not that he got to the #1 spot, but rather how he got there.  There’s a lot of chatter on Twitter right now pointing to Ramit’s book launch promotion as “the way to launch your book to the #1 spot on Amazon.com”.  Well, I’m here to tell you a dirty little secret: the promotion was only the match that lit the fire.  The fire burned so bright because he’s spent five years stacking the wood.

The simple fact is that five years ago Ramit knew he’d probably write a book on personal finance someday.  So, he made himself highly influential within certain communities and networks.  His influence was measured in many ways yesterday by the success of his book launch.  The reach of his influence will continue to grow as he touches more and more people, but the power of his influence depends on other things entirely.

Robert Cialdini names six “weapons of influence” in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. They are building blocks that provide the base for a successful personal brand or marketing campaign.  Ramit has done an excellent job at employing these weapons, and I have no doubt he’ll continue to do so.  He’s a case study.

Now, let’s take a look at how Ramit really launched his book to the #1 spot…


Ramit’s been establishing his influence over a community of young entrepreneurs and personal finance buffs for years now through his blog.  His tone is super conversational and he’s always generous with his time.  In fact, a couple years ago when I was first interested in starting a blog, I wrote Ramit asking for his advice.  We spent no less than three hours on the phone as he walked me through all of the elements of successful blogging (I still have the notes!).  When it came time for him to call in a favor, I – along with the rest of his network – responded with the same enthusiasm he gives to us everyday.

Commitment & Consistency

Wow, is Ramit committed.  He committed to his blog five years ago, and still posts regularly.  He emails his subscribers, responds promptly to emails, and – most importantly – he stays topical. Never has he violated the trust of his community by soliciting through his blog or by advertising for his company, PBWiki.  When he does post about an opportunity for his readers, it’s with an authentic and disclosing tone.  Hell, he even asked his readers if it would be OK by them if he placed some relevant ads on his blog’s sidebar.

Social Proof

A certain degree of social proof is inherent in a book release.  The fact that a publisher is willing to publish your book gives people a comforting sense of pre-selection (“well, he must be legit – they’re publishing his book”).  But even more important to building social proof – especially in communities where bookwriting is relatively commonplace – is the ability to get endorsements from people that others respect and look up to.  In many cases, these people are your friends.  This is why word-of-mouth marketing works so well.  Twitter was Ramit’s friend yesterday.


Ramit has spent the last five years establishing himself as the authority on personal finance advice for young people.  I could write for days on how he made his blog successful, but in short he demonstrated his authority to his readers by consistently posting relevant and useful content.  But outside the blogosphere his status as a personal finance authority was absent.  So, he worked the phones (hard!) to get mentioned in The Wall Street Journal.  That was his first big press.  The press hits that followed I’m sure were tough to score, but definitely easier than the first one.  Why? Because he now had more social proof as an authority on the subject.


If you don’t already like Ramit from his blog (he has a very likable and distinctive voice), then you were certain to like him in his live video feed the day of the book launch.  He knows he’s a charismatic character, so why not show off that charming personality and dapper sense of style all day long?   At one point, he had upwards of 1,000 watching him answer questions, give away prizes and call his publisher to “send more books to Amazon!”  He was completely authentic and genuine, and it was easy for him to be that way.  He made it clear that he wanted to share his moment of success with us.  We all like people more when they make us feel special.


And finally, the promotion. Ramit couldn’t create scarcity for his book, so he created scarcity for the next best thing: time.  The promotion he ran the day of this book launch was brilliant, but to be honest it was a very small part of his success.  It was a catalyst used to awake the sleeping army he had already amassed at his back.  The scarcity of time artificially increased the power of his influence during the 8-hour promotion, but it worked.  It permanently increased the reach of his influence (Twitter followers!), and it also gave everyone in his network a great value proposition to spread the word.  So instead of me asking my friend to spend her hard-earned money on a stranger, I can say, “Hey! You can win $1,000 or a Kindle just by buying this book!”  He armed his army.

We learned a lot from Ramit yesterday.  Perhaps the most impressive part to me was the emotional connection he was able to make with his audience.  I found it to be reminiscent of the Obama campaign, particularly with his use of personal plural pronouns (we, us, our), making us feel that that #1 spot was just as much our success as it was his.  And in many ways it was.  We helped a friend succeed, and we know that he would do the same for us.  It’s that reciprocity thing.

Congratulations, my man.

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Categories: Marketing
  1. March 22nd, 2010 at 05:23 | #1

    I sent you an email this weekend, but just wanted to say again that this is some of the best advice on this subject I’ve ever read. Thank you so much for writing this up.

    Also, that contest is genius. Do you know how he verified that people had actually bought the book to enter? (I apologize if you explained it and I missed it.) I’d love to know how he handled that aspect of it.

    Thanks again!

  2. April 22nd, 2009 at 11:48 | #2

    Hey Ryan,

    Loved this article. I was thinking the other day about ways to help Keith achieve his goal, and your article came right to mind. The other guy who was massively successful when his book launched was Tim Ferriss. He too laid the groundwork for his launch well before it ever hit bookshelves, particularly by reaching out to influential niche bloggers. I know he and Ramit are pretty close, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he followed Tim’s advice pretty heavily in the runup to the book launch.

  3. April 3rd, 2009 at 06:03 | #3

    “He’s spent five years stacking the wood”. Very true, “overnight success” is rarely achieved, however, most people don’t see the dedication required beforehand. For more on that, check out “The Way of Innovation”: http://bit.ly/jFvr . I met the author, Kaihan Krippendorff, at a lecture the last time I was in Seattle. He also writes for Fastcompany: http://www.fastcompany.com/user/kaihan-krippendorff

  4. March 26th, 2009 at 09:35 | #4

    @Pritesh – thanks for the very thoughtful comment! You’re spot on in identifying the tactical steps he took in order to ensure a positive reception and far-reaching publicity. I may even break down this list you wrote here and provide an analysis of the various steps he took. Thanks again, and stay in touch!


  5. March 26th, 2009 at 05:35 | #5

    I love Ramit.

  6. March 26th, 2009 at 05:29 | #6

    Great analysis. I completely agree with this post. I’ve a book and already read it. It has everything what Ramit has offered and posted on his BLOG for more than 5 yrs. I’ve been a follower to his BLOG for a while and after watching him LIVE on Monday and came to know that book has reached #1 post, I can think following points (these are all consider as matches that lit the fire) for his great success:

    - Ramit has emailed to all his subscribers when the book was available for pre-order.
    - After pre-ordered, Ramit emailed to them to join forum for more information.
    - Ramit sent pdf file for first 5 chapters every week and also did live web chat on the forum about every chapters.
    - Ramit asked to have a pic with the book. He also asked to have a video, if possible. Ppl did send out pics and uploaded video on YouTube.
    - Ramit updated website few days before the actual release of the book.
    - Ramit posted guest post on other Personal Finance blogs (Bargaineering, FMF, Get Rich Slowly etc) few days before the book launch.
    - For his book, Ramit has asked other Personal Finance bloggers to write a few pages.
    - Before the launch date, Ramit informed about the date and requested to post AMAZON review.
    - Ramit posted excerpts from the book on his blog. He also gave to other Personal Finance bloggers and they posted it there too.
    - On the launch date, Ramit did a live web chat, where he gave answers to various questions and also gave more information from the book.
    - On the launch date, Ramit also offered so many giveaways to the buyers like free Kindles, five $1000 check, free softwares, free entrepreneur advice, five $100 gift certificates.
    - On the launch date, Ramit also uploaded three full chapters on his blog. That’s the home run !! I have never seen anyone to do that on the book launch date!
    - As other Personal Finance bloggers have written in Ramit’s book, they also did review on the launch day. Ramit also did marketing push over there. He talked to them before the launch date and so, other Personal Finance bloggers offered to give 1 hr of conversation between them and Ramit to the buyers.
    - Ramit was live thruout the day on his blog and posted frequently on Twitter. As you said, Twitter was Ramit’s friend.
    - Tim Ferris and other prominent ppl twit about him on the launch date. When you have more than 30,000 followers (Tim Ferris), this makes a huge impact! For an example, Tim Ferris’s twit about Neil Strauss’s new book ‘The Game’ made it Amazon #650 to #35 in 12 hours!
    - Wait until Ramit does interviews on various media and a book

    All above things make his book a brilliant success. As you said, Ramit Sethi is a case study. I am a follower to Ramit’s blog and have already read the book. He simply deserves this success. He has given so many good advices and posted great posts for last 5 yrs, he should have this success, no doubt about that! I like his book so much that I have decided to give this book to every teenagers I know. His book would be my default ‘Graduation Gift’ for students.

    Keep blogging…


  7. March 24th, 2009 at 13:04 | #7

    Thanks, Jun for the support! Many more posts to come…

  8. March 24th, 2009 at 12:48 | #8

    Wow, this is sick nasty honesty and advice. Will put this out on twitter!

    Keep blogging man cuz you have some awesome things to say.

    - Jun