How do you publish a book 100 years after your death, and have it become an instant bestseller?
Mark Twain just did that.
Yesterday when I purchased his just-released autobiography, it was ranked #4 on the Amazon bestseller list… which is completely amazing.
After all, Mark Twain died 100 years ago… in 1910.
And all this without an “Amazon book launch”… without an appearance on Oprah… without a book tour… how do you do that?
Well first off, Mark Twain was an enormously popular and influential writer in the 19th and early 20th centuries. His novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is clearly one of the seminal works of American literature.
Second, Twain left explicit instructions to NOT publish his work until 100 years after his death.
And even with a 100 year delay, the interest in Mark Twain and his work was enough to turn the book into an immediate best seller.
There is so much here that is just so rich… what would Twain have thought of me buying the book from my home via Amazon? Or the fact that I had to decide if I wanted to buy the physical book or the Kindle edition?
(I'm sure he would have been fascinated by all of it since he was keenly interested in new technology, especially new technology in the publishing industry.)
But the thing that kept running through my mind as I ordered the book was “the long view”… in an age where everyone is a publisher the minute they sign up for Facebook or Twitter… where people blog about what they had for breakfast… where most companies can barely look beyond next month, much less next quarter… here is the triumph of someone who had a REALLY long view.
In my opinion, the easiest way to win… at business, at life… is to take a longer view. To think strategically, if you will.
By most measures, I've had some rather outsized success in my business… and one of the reasons (in my opinion) is that I spend a lot of time thinking about the big picture – the long term stuff.
This is the deal – it's not about the next email I send or the next project… it's about what those things are going to do for my business next quarter, next year, or three years from now.
(Many years ago my friend Paul Myers said I was an “empire builder”… it took me a long time to figure out what he meant, but I think this is what he was talking about.)
Of course, you don't need to be an “empire builder”. And yes, you have to focus on getting profitable and staying profitable. That's the #1 thing if you're starting out.
But if you want to instantly set yourself apart in your market… just start making your decisions based on a longer viewpoint than the other people in your market.
Are your current actions building for the long term? Are you building assets in your business?
BIG HINT: In the online world, the most important assets you can build are: 1) your relationships with clients, prospects, and partners, and 2) your lists of clients, prospects and partners.
In any case… I ordered the physical version of Mark Twain's autobiography. I didn't get the Kindle version, because I think this is going to be a book I'm going to want to put on my bookshelf for a long time after I finish it. It's going to arrive tomorrow… I can't wait.
[EDIT by Jeff: I originally wrote that Twain was an influential writer of the 18th and 19th centuries. After consulting the calendar (and being called out in the comments), I realized my error and changed it to the 19th and 20th centuries. 🙂 ]