Popular author Tim Ferriss got some attention recently when his latest book, The 4-Hour Chef
, was published by Amazon, with a big push to try to make it a best seller (the first Amazon published book to get such a push, apparently). This scared off Barnes & Noble who refused to sell the book, because, apparently, it's run by childish and petulant execs. Ferriss, who is known for his rather extreme ability to market the hell out of anything, has actually been using this to his own advantage, continually calling out the fact that Barnes & Noble is refusing to carry the book, and using non-standard promotion techniques, including having the book sold via Panera restaurants and... doing a big promotion deal with BitTorrent. To be honest, I found some of the language used to promote that deal a bit misleading, as it appeared some people thought he was distributing the book itself via BitTorrent. Instead, he teamed up with the company to distribute "an exclusive bundle" of extra, related, content. That's still cool, but having watched some of the hype behind it, you could see how some might see it as bait and switch.
However, it appears that my concerns may have been overblown. Late last week, Ferris revealed that not only did the book land on various best seller lists (despite the lack of Barnes & Noble sales), but an astounding number of people who downloaded that extra content bundle on BitTorrent also clicked a "support the artist" button
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.
Now, of course, not everyone who clicks will buy -- and he admits that as well. But, that's still an extra 85,000 people going to the Amazon page. Some of them are likely to buy.
Even at a 1% conversion after clicking an effective “buy now” link, that translates to 850 books… and BitTorrent is only accelerating. Wow.
But BitTorrent is only for pirates and only hurts authors and artists, right?