Why 37signals Sells Books

You may be aware 37signals released a book called Rework not too long ago. This follows Getting Real, which isn’t about standards, not about Ruby on Rails, or Web 2.0.

Neither book is a basics of Web design for newbies who have been on the 'net for less than six weeks, as so many articles are.

And guess what? 37signals SELLS the books, for money (And I really wish I wasn’t forced to add that last part, but this is the 'net).

What Rework and Getting Real are about is how 37signals does business – not the tools everyone in the industry uses. It portrays the company as an expert and thought leader, when so many articles paint the company as a monkey-see, monkey-do, lowest common denominator commodity.

37signals is getting tuned-in, turned-on, perfectly profiled potential customers to PAY to hear about how they do business. Can the English as Second Language flunky you just paid five bucks do that?

Most developers have simply never conceived of their business as offering something different from the dull industry commodity service. And so site content fosters clients trained to believe the only interesting thing a developer can possibly say is the lowest price quote. End of story.

You don’t listen to these people. You send them your code dictation to type up.

Your site content practically tells potential customers to pay you as an expert whose advice they listen to, or a commodity code monkey to dictate to for the lowest possible price (Plus whatever they can get away with).

Ask yourself which clients you want.


Getting Real for sale on Amazon. And just how many developers have something desirable enough to say on the subject their potential customers (and competitors) would buy it?

Rework Isn’t the typical technical article for developers – people who will never hire – the book is targeted at clients. How many sites are using “article marketing” to train the competition and disinterest anyone interested in hiring?

That’s how the “new marketing” works.

The danger being a whole lot of people are doing the exact opposite of what 37signals does: Mistaking the word FREE for marketing. The important point is that’s how the new marketing doesn’t work. And far more are making the new marketing not work.

Bands. Article marketers. Ebook writers. Web devs. Wannabes. They all know what you seem to think is the only point worth noting. Everybody knows Free. Very few do what 37 signals does. That is the problem with fixating on free to the exclusion of all else.

To the contrary, Free is the only point anyone ever seems to make about the new marketing. It’s the monetezation problem – rather we never thought about monetezation problem – from the days of the dot com bubble. And the bubbleheads never seem to get past the “we gave all our stuff away …now what?” phase.

Radiohead Album Available for Free, But Fileshared Anyway explains how confusing free for skill (the real new marketing) really works.

I dub it “Mommy told me I’m special” marketing. “I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me Enough to (somehow or another) Pay Me!” affirmations aren’t marketing. It’s not what I’m talking about with this example.

The rainbows and unicorns view of the universe is cute as the dickens, though.

What is the one that that your business could not exist without

Another take on this would be “What makes you indispensable to the customer,” with the related question “what would customers miss if you were gone.”

The one thing most businesses seem overwhelmingly happy to go without is customers. They try to survive on consumers – and consumers aren’t customers.

Consumers know the price of everything and the value of nothing. They’ll pay pennies and exhibit no loyalty. And that’s the target of most business marketing.

The answer in most cases is – other than an overblown sense of self-entitlement – not one single thing. They bring to the table what anyone else would. Their complete and total business proposition seems to be “Open for Business …Now Give Me Your Money”

I have a copy of Rework in my backpack…permanently. As soon as I get an Ipad, it will be placed there also.

I pick a point from a chapter that is relevant to what I’m doing and try to put it into practice, of course that is after reading the entire book.

I find that you forget most of what you read, so to get the most benefit out of the book I decided to take the aformentioned approach. This book is a must have.

My favorite part. “concentrate on those things that are never going to change” (like good customer service).

Another part that has helped me tremendously is: What is the one that that your business could not exist without, that is what you should concentrate on" or something to that effect. Since I adopted these practices, my business have been visibly improved.

Awesome, awesome book and worthy of mention here, where most of us is doing something on the web.

37signals is a good example of who all entrepreneurs and business owners should do. That is establish themselves as experts within a specific field or niche. If you read the book Rework you will see the book is not about IT related topics its just their advice on how to run a successful business. By them putting themselves up on a pedestal and declaring “this is how you should run your business” they are setting themselves up as the company that others should aspire to be.

Although I should note 37 signals has had great success and personally I think they have a really good business outlook

Again the point is not copying those books. (You’d only be going where 37sigs used to be, not where they are going with their next book).

The larger point is to have some kind of differentiating philosophy. Quite impossible when you’re just trying to pass copyscape with the fifteen thousandth article saying pretty much what everyone else does.

That wasn’t my point. My point is that they’re offering something for free that ISN’T FREE. That makes the difference. They can do this because they know people will buy the book, because they know by now how good their content is and that people will want it and thank the creative minds that are responsible for it.

FYI I make important distinctions between the words price, cost and value.

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get. Cost is what you really pay on the way to realizing value.

A lot of people know the price of everything and the value of nothing. That’s not who I’m targeting with, say, a book such as those mentioned here.

It takes a lot of thought and effort to write something people would value enough to pay for. That is called value creation. It takes a minimum wage flunky with a sticker gun to slap a price on something.

Guess which this thread is about. Hint …we don’t need a thread to write the word free.

Why 37signals sells books is the reason they can give them away. Not the other way around. We need a thread to discuss how you write a book you could charge for. That would be a content writing forum thread topic.

Writing something you must give away free because you couldn’t get people to pay for it has been discussed elsewhere.

And my point is still that nineteen out of twenty who read this whole thread will go off with the takeaway of using FREE on dull, trite, drivel they couldn’t pay to get people to read.

It’s like you’re talking about nuclear fusion, and the whole thread is “…you forgot to mention when you flip a switch and the light comes on.”

Yes. But NO.

Please reread the subject line in light of me probably knowing your point. And the vast, overwhelming, huge majority not having much difficulty slapping free on everything and anything. Should you seek evidence of this, just look at any other thread here.

And, then, if you want to talk about the hard part, I have no problem adding “and then you offer it free” at the very end.

Otherwise I have a problem with your point as not being on topic. The point is NOT offering something free that isn’t free.

The point is offering something of value you could have charged for, and making that perfectly clear to the person getting it without charge.

Uhhh, is this an ad for this site???

I guess I’ll just have to come out and say it. Rule one of the new marketing:

If you couldn’t sell it to save your very life …please don’t waste everyone’s time by giving it away and wondering what happened.

Rule two: It’s not as simple as kicking stuff out of the back of a van.

Not an ad for the site. It’s also not a pitch for the books, really. Otherwise I would talk more about what the books are than what they are not.

It is about how to use content to market your business, and how most don’t. Or couldn’t if their lives depended on it.

A very significant thing you forgot to mention is that they are offering “Getting Real” for free to people who want to read it online. Eventhough they do, I still bought the book. Why? Because I value their work. And I know I’m not alone in not having taken advantage of their free online copy.

It’s a great marketing move.

And what a message to pirates and people who choose to download pirated copies of digital works.

Kohoutek’s point is very valid. She read the book for free, liked it, and bought it. That’s how the “new marketing” works. Same with music: Justin Bieber (I know, yecch) is an insta-millionaire after beginning a YouTube campaign for fans and recognition over his music. People liked it (God knows why, but they do), downloaded it, and made him an instant star. They’re buying his stuff even though so much is available online. Maybe the record companies will finally learn this lesson and start embracing the post-millennial, Net-driven marketing paradigm instead of fighting it tooth and nail. 37Signals has.

This is a great post DCrux! It certainly got me interested in both books. If 37 Signals ever does want a PR person, I’ll recommend you!