Category Archives: Business

Minimum Viable Book: The Case of Michael J. Knowles

No one who thinks about the future of publishing can fail to be fascinated by the overnight success of Reasons to Vote for Democrats by Michael J. Knowles. The book is still at number 1 as I write: not just in its category but in the category of all books on It has been there for several days straight, selling some 60,000 copies and earning its self-published author enough money to buy his first house. It has 1,676 customer reviews and a 4.5 star rating.

This is a book with no big publisher behind it, and no real marketing campaign. It is also a book with no words in it. It is blank.

The book recycles an old joke, as Knowles freely admits. But he has pulled it off with style. Democrat attempts to reverse the tables with their own copycat effort have failed to take off.

You can’t predict what will go viral. But there are lessons here worth noting.

  • Do your best work

Knowles did a solid job on this. The cover is properly designed. He got Ben Shapiro, a conservative rock star, to give him a puff quote. And he didn’t just do an ebook, he got it formatted properly for print. He made a little video of him flicking through it to demonstrate its blankness. And he even bothered to subdivide sections within the book and provide some references at the end. When called for interview, Knowles can recite chapter and verse of embarrassing Democrat history to explain why he left each chapter (on values, the economy, etc) blank. If this is an empty book, it is full of attention to detail. As Seth Godin always says, show up and surprise people with great work, even if it doesn’t seem to require it. People can tell the difference.

  • Do a job for people

Even better, do a job that justifies them buying multiple copies. Clay Christensen talks about thinking of products in terms of jobs to be done. Most books are rather limited, in that we buy one copy to entertain or inform ourselves. Knowles’s book is instead a novelty item, a practical joke that people can use to poke fun in a lighthearted way at people they are close to but disagree with politically, by gifting them a copy. At first glance, it looks like a pro-Democrat book. Only when you open it to find it blank do you see you have been fooled. As a result, many people bought multiple copies. In a politically divided America, this book does a job that lots of people really needed a way to do in a goodhumoured fashion.

  • Leave room for people’s creativity

I’ve written before about the imperative in an age of selfie-nomics to design products that leave room for the consumer to insert their own personality and creativity. The emptiness of the book made reviewing it into a creative challenge that explains why it has such a staggering number of positive reviews. They make great reading. Discussion of the book on Twitter hit a similar height of performative silliness.

  • Leverage a network

This book didn’t have a big firm behind it, but it did have a big network courtesy of the Daily Wire, where Knowles works. That meant a lot of prime buyers were presented the book as it launched, and in the context of voices they already respected. The part where it then caught fire through word of mouth was unpredictable, but a good and relevant network and authoritative figures with large followings who are willing to vouch for you are invaluable. But note you don’t have to own that network. You just have to get access to it.

Perhaps the most important lesson is that one young man could pull this off by using simple tools on Amazon that are available free to anyone. He then reached out to a likeminded network, who were willing to do all the hard work of promoting, reviewing and celebrating the book on social media. And that then led to more traditional appearances on TV networks and even more awareness and sales. All conducted in a spirit of good humour and celebration.

The world is open today as never before to anyone with a good idea and the right attitude. It’s a topic I address in my book, which offers some guidance for the new media landscape we are in. My book has words in, but not too many. And it can never have enough witty reviews. People who bought Reasons to Vote Democrats might also like How To Win Like Trump.



Leave a comment

Filed under Business, Publishing

Number Two in Kindle: How To Win Like Trump


Leave a comment

February 7, 2017 · 2:23 am

How To Win Like Trump: Free Extract

Here is a free sample of my new book — currently at number 11 in its category and with a five star review. Read now and start winning today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, Trump, What I'm Reading

How To Win Like Trump

I launched my new ebook last week on inauguration day. It explores nine of Trump’s hidden techniques that help him win even when he looks like a loser. It’s been a crazy ride. It has broken the top 50 on two main store categores and already had a couple of 4 and 5 star reviews. Get in early. Inspire yourself — and start winning today. Click below

Win Like Trump

Leave a comment

Filed under Business

A Classical Take on Trump


The ever-interesting Victor Davis Hanson is not only a classical scholar but also a fifth-generation farmer. His take for City Journal on Trump’s appeal to rural America combines his knowledge of life today outside the big cities with a dazzling historical sweep.

“To paraphrase Cicero on his preference for the direct Plato over the obscure Pythagoreans, rural Americans would have preferred to be wrong with the blunt-talking Trump than to be right with the mush-mouthed Hillary Clinton. One reason that Trump may have outperformed both McCain and Romney with minority voters was that they appreciated how much the way he spoke rankled condescending white urban liberals.”

Read the whole thing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, Trump

Trump’s FDA Pick Could Be Inspired

Trump’s willingness to surprise continues with the people he is considering to head America’s medical watchdog, the FDA.

Yesterday Trump met with two contenders. One was Balaji Srinivasan, a brilliant and thoughtful man with deep ties to Silicon Valley and Peter Thiel, a key Trump backer.

Thiel’s justified frustration with the FDA is longstanding. When I interviewed him six years ago, he told me that if the tech industry was regulated that way, it wouldn’t exist.

As he said to me, “Imagine if Twitter had to go through the FDA drug approval — how efficacious, how does it affect the brain, phase II, phase III trials.”

And Srinivasan is of a similar mind, publishing a tweetstorm in March last year criticising the FDA’s chilling effect on innovation.

One example:

“New tech allows far better regulation than the FDA.”

Which means that Srinivasan even being considered for the role is a sign that priorities at the FDA are set to change. Fantastic. Because freeing things up will save thousands of lives.

Srinivasan is an experienced, successful biotech entrepreneur and venture capitalist. But more than that, he is incredibly thoughtful and original in general. His tweetstorm on “the cloud versus the land”
is one of my favourite reads on the year so far.

Trump’s first 100 days just got even more interesting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, Innovation, Politics, Trump

Streams versus Episodes

Interesting take on the power of episodes as a next-generation text format. It comes from the reliably interesting Storythings. Although  it glides too easily over the important differences between serial and episodic fiction, it asks an important question. Could episodes in text be quietly emerging as a rival to the bitesize stream?

Leave a comment

Filed under Business

It is not a fake news problem. It is a news problem.

“To the question, If the media were to cover the election again, with the benefit of hindsight, could we expect anything different? my answer is a sobering no.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Business

A 2017 Manifesto: Make Magazines Great Again

Leave a comment

Filed under Business

If you want a book, buy it. My kind of New Year’s resolution.

Leave a comment

Filed under Business