Paying people to read your book: The ultimate content marketing plan?

james altucherJames Altucher is an entrepreneur, investor, business adviser, and author of one of the most clever and entertaining blogs on the Internet, Altucher Confidential.

His latest idea is just as irreverent, crazy, and creative as his writing. He is paying people to read his book … or at least paying them back.

On his blog yesterday, Altucher announced that he would pay people back the price of his new book, Choose Yourself, if they sent him a receipt and prove that they actually read it (even if that is just taking a picture of yourself reading the book). Or, he would donate the money to a charity.

By all accounts, James does not need the money, but I still think this is one of the most outrageous marketing ideas I’ve seen in awhile. He is building his personal brand — perhaps building a movement for his ideas — at almost any cost.

Chris Anderson’s path-finding book Free hypothesized an economy built on giving stuff away.  Altucher isn’t giving his book away for free because he surmises that you wouldn’t read it. But paying you back is the next best thing, right?

This is not the same as creating a free eBook. Since Amazon and other retailers will still get their cut, Altucher would lose nearly the entire retail price of the book on every person who took him up on the offer.

Any way, this struck me as a bold idea — something the average person certainly couldn’t sustain — but a one-of-a kind content marketing idea that deserves some recognition.

At the very least, the idea got him some coverage on {grow}.  The real value of this is $2.93 according to my latest calculations. But hey James, it’s the thought that counts, right? Plus, I’m going to buy your book and not even ask for the money back.

What do you think about the idea? Is this the beginning of a new book marketing trend, or just plain crazy?

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  • Keith Laskey

    Mark, I purchased the kindle version yesterday morning and have had a difficult time pulling myself away. My first thought when I read that he was giving money back was, heck yeah!! I got a free book!! Then I saw the the option about giving the funds to charity. There goes my free book.

    I wasn’t surprised to see this idea from James Altucher. This seems to be the way things are with bloggers. I have never met a more giving group of people than bloggers. Free e-books, free promotion of other blogs, free ideas! Even blogs posts themselves provide a wealth of information and inspiration and are free to anyone!

    I don’t expect this trend to take off and I’m not even certain that it is a terrific marketing idea. I bought the book without knowing I could get the money back. I just think this is the way Altucher has decided to live his life. And if people do read “Choose Yourself” I expect that a lot more of us will be willing to give away things for free, whether it be time or products.

  • Great idea. I think James is gonna make out just fine. Paying people back is a attention-grabbing idea. Once people get the book and read it, I think the folks that will actually take the next step and try to get their money back are in a minority.

    I never thought I’d say this, but I’d love to see some numbers once the experiment is over. #ImNotANumbersGuy 🙂

  • Anna Pham

    This is surprisingly quite creative to creat a brand for the author, but I am sure he is confident enough about the book quality that he is able to do this.

  • WHOA

  • dtstanley

    I love the idea! I think this accomplishes several things:

    1. As you point out, it helps with promotion. He gets his name out to audiences he hasn’t connected with because he’s offering it for free.

    2. It creates intrigue and drives traffic. I haven’t heard of James before reading this post. Now I want to learn more about him and why he’s offering it for free. As an added bonus, I’ve learned about James from from one of my most trusted sources, so he has some social proof. Ah, the beauty of the strength of weak ties,

    3. It makes him appear to be extremely confident in the quality of his content because he’s essentially giving it away.

    4. it speaks to his personality to some degree that he’s willing to give it away. He believes so much in what he’s doing/writing that he wants to share it with as many people as possible.

    He definitely has me wanting to check it out. And as Dino points out, I wonder how many people will actually go through the hassle of getting a refund. Not many I would bet.

  • Thanks for the superb comment Keith. It means a lot to me that you took the time to contribute today!

  • Yeah, me too. I suspect you’re right — not many people will follow through.

  • All good points, but you have to be in a unique financial position to pull this off (which he is!) Thanks Don!

  • Anne T Stone

    Even better is buying, reading, and sending the refund to his well-chosen non-profit!

  • wyatt christman

    It’s a great idea and does spark conversation. Some may have some fun with proof of reading and he could mash those together on his site. Question is, how many people will actually send a receipt and proof? Why not have a code placed far enough in the book that you wouldn’t see it in a sample. The code is good for extras on his website that could move an audience towards further engagement. After reading his book they will naturally but maybe they could get an insiders club just for people who have read the book and want more? (Can’t believe this is his 11th book, the guy likes to write!) Other part of this, if the book is as good as many of the reviews say, I don’t want my money back! I want to support more. Of course it helps the Kindle price is $4.99. If it were $30 then that might be a little different. Price point does matter.

  • Superb commentary Wyatt. Nothing more to add but to say thanks!

  • wyatt christman

    Thanks Mark, glad I found your mention of this on G+ and I did buy the book, I couldn’t resist!

  • Interesting model to spread your message.

    I wonder if that could work somehow in the real world, outside the bloggers’ world I mean. Would customers from corporations be willing to pay it forward, knowing they would get something in return ?

    In principle, it is no different than the usual Return On Investment: businesses buy something, and expected it to bring value. Value in terms of ease of use, efficiency, or CAPEX/OPEX reduction.

    So it could work. I guess we just have to wait until someone actually does something in B2B with this example.

    Mark: thanks for sharing this!

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  • Oh my … I have become his press agent : )

  • Really interesting thoughts Tom. The thing I like about this is that it’s bold and when you think about it, there might be not that many people who actually turn in the receipt. Will be interesting to see how it goes.

  • Make it free or very cheap. What he is doing is manipulation that makes him look like a shyster.

  • Onkar Purewal

    This is a very intrestinga concept which I give loads of credit to him and pushingthe boundaries.

    Their is a lot or thinking behind this ane if I was his position (going to be to day) then I would think:

    1) What compeling offer that is going to get people attention.

    In the ever changing world of the net, easier access to market I.e amazon what can I do to to stand out and get my head above the crowd.

    And its worked… we’re all talking about it…….

    2) Get people involved.
    I always found by having people involved then are more loyal to you, your brand , product or service.

    By giving people the chance to get their money back he has to make do actions and eventhough i reckon a small % will ask for their money back if his content is good then he will get them hooked.

    3) He must have done his maths
    You cant just do this on a whim, he may thinking how can I invest in my customers / how much is igoing to aquire my customers.

    If he is good then is going upsell into a training program get them on his list to do something else.

    4) filtered client
    By having people involved then he has filtered people who invested in him, and the way he knows, they have askes for the money back or donate their fee.

    He knows that these people are more likely to take action hence segment on another list.

    Love to know the numbers on this if i get a chance. But overall he gots some brass balls, love it.

    P.s the idea not his balls

    PPS sorry if my spelling and grammer is all over the place

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