When will you stop dreaming and start playing? (Photo: Musician “Lights”, Credit: Shandi-lee)
I’ve always wanted to play the guitar.
It started as a kid, listening to my dad play around the fireplace during the holidays. The fantasy continued with Guns N’ Roses and the iconic Slash. From hyperspeed Slayer to classical Segovia, I was mesmerized.
But I never thought I could do it myself.
Despite tackling skills as esoteric as Japanese horseback archery, I somehow put music in a separate “does not apply” category until two years ago. It was simply too frustrating, too overwhelming.
My fascination with guitar wasn’t rekindled until Charlie Hoehn, an employee of mine at the time, showed me the 80/20 approach to learning it.
This post explains how to get the most guitar mileage and versatility in the least time… Read More
At Saison restaurant in SF, taking in the intoxicating aroma of “Buddha’s Hand” citrus.
During research for The 4-Hour Chef, I ate at well over 100 restaurants in NYC and San Francisco. Below are my favorite Slow-Carb Diet dishes and “cheat day” dishes in both cities, as well as markets and suppliers. Thanks for the help, Trippy!
What will you eat this weekend?
New York City Culinary Maps
The Top Slow-Carb Diet Meals (NYC) map, board
The Top Cheat Meals (NYC) map, board
Top Specialty Markets & Suppliers (NYC) map, board
San Francisco Culinary Maps
The Top Slow-Carb Diet Meals (SF) map, board
The Top “Cheat” Meals (SF) map, board
Top Specialty Markets & Suppliers (SF) map, board
All maps can also be found, color-coded by neighborhood, in the Appendices of The 4-Hour Chef.
- Have you found any errors in The 4-Hour Chef? If so, please let me know here: The 4-Hour Chef Errata Form. Please indicate if you’re using Kindle or the hardcover. Thank so much in advance! My team will jump on fixes ASAP.
My first handwritten brainstorm for The 4-Hour Chef, here in a signed copy of The Art of Simple Food by the inimitable Alice Waters.
“Don’t be intimidated by the red. You’re all good writers.”
I remember Professor John McPhee saying this when he handed back our first weekly writing assignment. We were 12 or so college seniors in “The Literature of Fact,” his once-in-a-blue-moon seminar at Princeton University. The red was Pulitzer Prize-winning McPhee’s edits and deletions.
Each of us looked down in shock. In some cases, his suggestions exceeded our own black text.
Over the subsequent weeks, our writing tightened. Oddly, as the red shrank, as the flowery adjectives and filler disappeared, my grades in every other class shot skyward.
What I learned: writing is the fastest way to improve your thinking. This carry-over is enough reason to put pen to paper, even if you never intend to publish. Just a week or two of writing for friends can work wonders and produce breakthroughs.
The author of the following article is Jeannette Ferrary. I wanted to include this piece in The 4-Hour Chef but, alas, I had to remove more than 250 pages due to space constraints, including gems like this, a nutritional profile of UFC champion GSP, interviews with the incredible Chef Wylie Dufresne, and more.
I’m honored to have the opportunity to write for you, and it’s been an amazing trip. It always is. I’ve known some of you since 2007! Seems like a lifetime ago, and I hope to be alongside you for decades to come. Your reviews are what keep me going during the most stressful times.
On that note, let’s look at the week in review: this launch was very different and very challenging. I couldn’t have done it without you, the tremendous online and offline support, including Hastings and the indies backing this book. Without B&N at the party, my team and I had to innovate and experiment to even scratch the lists. Unorthodox bookselling avenues were created (Panera, BitTorrent, etc.) and many new things were learned.
For instance, BitTorrent conversion is NUTS. Of 210,000 downloads (of this bundle) earlier this week, more than 85,000 clicked through “Support the Author” to the book’s Amazon page. We all had to triple and quadruple check that to believe it. Even at a 1% conversion after clicking an effective “buy now” link, that translates to 850 books… and BitTorrent is only accelerating. Wow.
I also came to understand the hard costs of producing The 4-Hour Chef.
This book, a full-color 672-pages at $21-35 end-user pricing, would have been impossible or nearly impossible to produce outside of Amazon Publishing. Marketing and merchandising muscle aside, I owe them tremendous thanks for the most important element of all: paying for exactly what I wanted my readers to have. In the end, product is king. Marketing might get you on the list for a week, but only good content will keep you selling for years. They allowed me to showcase the best of what I had to offer.
To that point: I’m in this for the long-haul, and my goal is never to be a “one-week wonder” on the lists.
I have zero interest in approaching pub date like opening weekend for a big movie. Both of my previous books are still going strong, and my proudest accolade is perhaps the least known. Here it is: there are only two authors (excluding the author/authors of The Bible) who currently have two books in Amazon’s “Most Highlighted Books of All Time” top-10 list: Suzanne Collins of The Hunger Games and me. Crazy but true. Many, many months ago, The 4-Hour Body was #1 for months.
I would love to add The 4-Hour Chef to that top-10 list. That list, which reflects readers’ feeling after buying, is much more important to me than the bestseller lists, which can be gamed. I know exactly how the black-hat folks do it, and I choose not to participate.
Regardless, and much to the chagrin of my critics, I’m just getting warmed up.
This leads us to…
Those bestseller lists — what happened exactly?
For the vast majority of you, the following will be boring. In fact, it’s pretty boring to me, but I need to understand the minutiae. If you’re an author, I’d highly suggest that you get familiar with the lists. They can be fickle and (sometimes) seemingly irrational beasts.
Next, before we delve into details, a fundamental piece of advice: start-up-style iteration isn’t just for product. It’s also for distribution.
I did NOT pull all my eggs into this first week, precisely because I wanted to iterate distribution. Since I am being boycotted by Barnes & Noble and others, it was unclear which of my sales would be counted or discounted by BookScan and others. I therefore reserved a lot of powder in the keg for later use, once lessons were learned.
It was a good thing I did.
See, I’m as obsessive about book data as I am about tracking physical data. In a single ongoing spreadsheet, I have weekly sales for every channel and every outlet for all of my books since April, 2007.
A few basic observations:
• BookScan only represents 25-30% of the market for most major bestsellers, but its rankings are relatively true, making it a good measure to sort out the variations in the NYT.
• USA Today is the only list that mixes ALL formats, including but not limited to eBooks.
• The NYT Advice list is the only major nonfiction list that doesn’t track eBooks for “Advice, How-to, & Misc.” This means all how-to books and cookbooks are omitted, among others.
• On the main NYT “nonfiction” print list (not “Advice, How-to, Misc.”), O’Reilly was listed as #2 and the #1 book sold half of what he did on BookScan.
• On the ALL formats USA Today list, the #1, #2 and #3 NYT books were at #24, #70 and #35 respectively, all below The 4-Hour Chef‘s #13 ranking.
Pretty odd arithmetic all around, huh? This leads to…
A few observations and questions to the universe:
- Isn’t it odd that 4HC was the #1 non-fiction book sold on Kindle last week, and the #1 ebook on The Wall Street Journal list, but it doesn’t even show up on the NYT ebook bestseller list? Why would that be?
- If the NYT list doesn’t reflect what people are actually reading, what does it reflect? Will they adapt to the times (and full spectrum of non-fiction) or be replaced? I would wager they have a matter of months to decide.
- The NYT does not appear to accept Kindle sales for my book, as it’s from a “single vendor.” That’s really too bad, since Amazon is the largest seller of ebooks in the world. It should be noted that Amazon offered The 4-Hour Chef to Barnes & Noble for their Nook device, and they declined.
- The 4-Hour Chef sold more than 60,000 copies in print and ebook its first week, which would likely put it at #1 on the NYT combined list if its ebook sales were counted. The media is overlooking this print-to-digital mix change and hanging on to the outdated notion that bestseller status = solely print retail sales. I sold more than twice Bill O’Reilly, who had an estimated less than 10k eBooks and was #1 on the NYT eBook list.
- Amazon sold more Kindle copies than print copies of The 4-Hour Chef. My first-adopter demographic is made up of readers who are embracing digital and driving digital growth, so this is not only relevant, but also strategic. We know, for instance, that week-one ebook sales of 4HC were more than week one ebook sales of The 4-Hour Body (over a 30% increase from my last launch, using the 21,000 number on hand), which given my audience–and it could very much be argued the future of book publishing–is a trend in the right direction.
None of this is sour grapes.
If I were in this for one week, it might be, but I have big bombs held in reserve, all to be used soon enough. I want The 4-Hour Chef to become a movement, and that will take years to reach full potential, not weeks.
I’m in no rush.
This is a ready, fire, aim-type of game. There is a lot more to come, so keep watching. If B&N would like to join the party, I’ll have a glass of wine waiting. Either way, it’s going to be one hell of a party.
For those of you interested in how I sequence launches, or how punishing the last 7 days have been, or what’s required if you want a shot at #1 New York Times or BookScan, below is a very partial list of media coverage and partnerships. They are in rough chronological order. If I missed anyone, please let me know in the comments!
I’ve done more here than in my last two book launches combined, and reader results (Twitter examples here) have made it all worth it.
I was pleasantly surprised by how many bookstores are now stocking The 4-Hour Chef, which sat at Amazon #2 for most of this week (Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a juggernaut, but Ina Garten is my real competition). According to my readers on Facebook, stocking stores now include Tattered Cover, Copperfields, Powell’s, Elliot Bay, Vroman’s, Prairie Lights, Changing Hands, Boulder Bookstore, and even some Books Inc. (my local fave). Barnes & Noble continues to boycott nationwide, but indies are picking it up, which makes me very happy, of course. It’s exactly where I want a 600+-page full-color book!
Last but not least, sincere thanks to everyone who’s left Amazon reviews!
If you have read the book (or are reading), pretty please take 30 seconds to leave a short review — it would really mean the world to me. Just click here. I have read every review and commented on many of them. At the very least, if you take a look here, there are some great conspiracy theories in the 1-star reviews. Many folks don’t seem to grasp the idea of ADVANCED copies of books, which all authors send out, often in the hundreds. Doing the same doesn’t make me a Scooby-Doo villain or clever mastermind, alas.
Now, to an incomplete list of media from the past 168 hours or so, excluding national advertising…
Christopher Michel has taken pictures from outer space. OK, technically, it was aboard a U-2 “Dragon Lady” spy plane at the edge of space. But still.
Best known as founder of Affinity Labs, Chris has one of the most unbelievable bios I’ve ever seen. Between serving on the board of the U.S. Naval Institute and acting as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Harvard Business School, he’s managed to publish four fine art books full of his photographs. He’s the one responsible for getting me interested in photography. After taking my pic with his favorite M9 and Leica Noctilux (50mm, f/.95 lens), and after seeing me marvel at the quality, he insisted I get a proper camera to chronicle my adventures and misadventures.
But what camera to get? And what about lenses and all the other accessories? “50mm” meant nothing to me, nor did “f/.95.” The jargon is enough to make your head spin.
Chef Marco Canora serving up red snapper at the wonderful Hearth in NYC. We drank almost five bottles of wine that night.
And this combo! It turned out perfect for close-up food photography, even in very low-light conditions. It was simplicity itself to turn A below (iPhone) into B (exact same shot with Olympus/Lumix):
A – Parmesan and white chocolate macaron at Saison, complete with gold leaf. Taken with the iPhone.
B – Same shot… but much more beautiful. Taken with an Olympus PEN E-PL2 and Panasonic Lumix pancake lens.
Roughly 20% of the 1,000+ photos in The 4-Hour Chef were taken by me using the aforementioned gear. No Photoshop, no zoom, nothing fancy; just a nice lens and improved composition thanks to Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson, which is required reading.
That’s more than enough to get started and kick ass. The above is all I used for six months.
But there’s more fun to be had, naturally. Let’s look at the iPhone and the big guns, each in turn, as you can blend the best of both worlds… Read More
- I will donate $6 of every book sold (100% of my royalties and then some) to DonorsChoose.org to help high-need public school classrooms.
#1 – Grand Prize for most books sold (500 books minimum): An all-expenses-paid overseas food sabbatical with me and friends. You’ve seen me host trips to India, Africa, and elsewhere. They’re always a blast. Though details are TBD and dates will be mutually agreed, it’s likely we’ll be doing a high-end trip through Tuscany, Italy.
#2 and #3 – Runners-up Prize for second and third most books sold (250 books minimum): An all-expenses-paid full-day trip to SF to see my favorite spots and enjoy mastermind jam sessions with me and a small group of entrepreneurs.
Thanksgiving is a great example. The NYC Food Marathon, however, takes things to an entirely new level. Think of it as a 24-hour Thanksgiving on steroids: 26.2 iconic dishes in 26 locations, all hit by foot in 24 hours.
It’s one of the most insanely fun ways to spend a Saturday.
Which restaurants (and dishes) would you pick for a food marathon in your own city? Please let us know in the comments. Here are the ones we picked in NYC with the help of top chefs…
It’s 672 pages of full-color goodness that required blood, sweat, and tears (literally) for nearly two years. Putting it together was brutal. In the end, I think it’s the best book I’ve written, a very unusual choose-your-own-adventure guide to learning and life. I really hope you like it.
This week is a big ‘un. To get us started…
- I will be on Dr. Oz today for 30+ minutes. Full of surprises. Find local times at the bottom-right corner here.
- All NYC cabs will soon be running a 15-second version of The 4-Hour Chef cinematic trailer. I thought it’d be fun to carpet bomb the city. Why not? The trailer has nearly 1.5 million views and is now the most-viewed non-fiction book trailer of all-time.
- I’ve partnered with TaskRabbit to automate grocery shopping nationwide. For all recipes in the first DOMESTIC section, you can order ingredients for each “lesson” with one click. Click here to see if it’s available in your city.
- Come hang out with me in NYC today! From 3pm-6pm ET, I’ll be signing books (my only NYC book signing!) at Panera Bread at 452 5th Avenue (at 39th). Hope to see you there.
- The UK edition of The 4-Hour Chef also launches today. I’ve always wanted a simultaneous US/UK launch. Now my friends across the pond don’t have to wait for “pants” to become “trousers”! I’ll be visiting London in January to party with y’all. Stay tuned.
In the meanwhile, I’ll be following Chef Thomas Keller’s instructions…
The kitchen of Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York City. It is only one of seven restaurants in the US to be awarded three Michelin stars. (Photo from The 4-Hour Chef)
Barnes & Noble is boycotting The 4-Hour Chef in its 723 or so retail locations nationwide.
That makes me cry a little, but… Panera Bread has nearly 1,500 bakery-cafes in the US. Starting today, Monday, November 19th, I’m running an experiment with my good friends at Panera.
24 hours before the official pub date of The 4-Hour Chef, you can get an advanced copy at one of Panera’s four downtown Manhattan locations. Books will be on-sale from 10am-6pm EST. Not only that, but you can now order 4-Hour Chef-approved Slow-Carb Diet® dishes in the same locations. Just tell them you’re ordering from the “hidden menu”.
Pay ‘em a visit and check out the new set-up — it’s all a hint of things to come:
For the official pub date — Tuesday, 11/20 — I’ll be signing and selling copies of The 4-Hour Chef at the 5th Avenue location from 3pm-6pm. I’d love to see you and say hello in person!
Big things are afoot. Plans are being schemed. Old models shall be stress-tested.
A teaser: If you order the hardcover of The 4-Hour Chef by 11:59pm PST tonight, you will get a $5 Amazon Gift Card automatically. Then, the Kindle edition of The 4-Hour Chef will mysteriously drop from $9.99 to $4.99 at midnight (11/19) and remain that price until midnight 11/26. This means: If you order the full-color hardcover of The 4-Hour Chef (the optimal reading experience, IMHO) before midnight tonight, you can get the Kindle edition for free! Details here.
And not to worry: If you already ordered the hardcover, you’ll still get the $5 gift card. If you ordered the Kindle edition at a higher price, you’ll only be charged the $4.99. Winning.
Much, much more to come. BitTorrent and Panera partnerships are just the beginning.
If you missed the samples from every section, here they are again: