Find out how Alex turned a doctoral thesis on a niche topic like business models into a runaway bestseller and a highly rewarding career as an entrepreneur, speaker, author and consultant to some of the greatest companies on the planet.
Writing a bestseller (like Business Model Generation) is a great way to build your reputation and your personal brand – with a bigger audience come bigger opportunities as well.
With more and more self-publishing options available, self publishing a book has become a viable option for most of us.
Unfortunately, according to the Independent Book Publishers Association, 92% of all books never sell more than 70 copies.
In this interview, Alex and I do a “deep dive” into the five things he did differently that turned his self published book into a commercial success of over 360’000 books, and a global movement of business model innovators.
Build a strong foundation.
After Alex discovered that people were reading his doctoral thesis online, he knew he was onto something. He discovered that what he had to offer was being used in companies, and started offering his services to organize workshops for companies, universities and not-for-profits. As his audience grew, he increasingly felt writing a book would give him a platform to express his views and crystallize his thinking.
Practice what you preach.
Once he’d decided to write a book, Alex was faced with a BIG decision: either go the traditional route and get published by a big-name publisher, or self publish. He “wanted to do things in a different way” and make sure his book stood out from the 11’000 new business books that are published every single year (on top of the 250’000 existing ones).
Once he found out how to self publish a book, he decided to differentiate. Not only in terms of the design and visual style of the book, but also in terms of the business model – how it was created, marketed and (pre-)sold. For an early insight into how Alex got a growing community of dedicated followers to co-author his book (and pay 24 USD for it), check out this presentation on Slideshare.com.
Stay independent and stick to your guns.
Alex knew he could get his book published, but he also knew he it would be extremely difficult to get an A-list publisher on board. As someone who “hates to sell”, he didn’t want to go and do the rounds trying to peddle his book to traditional publishers.
He and co-author Yves Pigneur share the vision that if they could just experiment and “do creative stuff”, they could create a book so unique that people would come and buy it before it was even published (thereby financing the publication).
They also wanted the flexibility to “do things their own way” and not be limited by what a publisher would dictate – giving them a chance to “do all the wrong things” that ultimately made the book the success it is today.
To thine own self be true.
Getting a couple of thousand people to read his blog gave him a platform from which to launch his movement. Sticking to his initial core focus of business model design and innovation ensured that Alex built a loyal and growing following.
As the popularity of the topic and the book grew, so did his influence and audience.
Alex stayed true to his vision of “creating a book we would want to buy”, which kept guiding him and gave him the courage to keep going even though real business success only came (much) later. Having a sense of “healthy naiveness” helped him overcome the uncertainty and inevitable setbacks that he faced along the way.
Enjoy the fruits of labor. Do not rest on your laurels.
Even though demand for his services today is “outrageous”, at his core he is still the same person who loves doing the same stuff. The toolset has become more refined and he and his associates keep pushing the envelope by putting out new products and applying the model in other areas (like up-and-coming bestseller “Business Model You – a one page method for reinventing your career”).
This has allowed Alex to further leverage his focus on business model design and innovation into additional opportunities. He now offers keynote speeches, masterclasses, an iPad app and is involved in a software startup called Strategyzer.
In barely three years time, Alex was able to go from a “totally unknown” university researcher to bestselling author, speaker and entrepreneur. He continues to push the envelope, fine tune his methodology and develop highly innovative business models that generate new opportunities.