“Writing the last book was so painful, I swore I would never do it again,” Eric Ries, author of the insanely popular business bible The Lean Startup, said hours after launching a Kickstarter campaign to announce not one, but two, new books.
The first book, The Leader’s Guide, a user manual for business leaders, will be available exclusively to those who pledge money to the crowdsourcing campaign. Those people will also become part of an online community, where by sharing their experiences using The Leader’s Guide‘s principles will help Ries research and write his next book, tentatively titled The Startup Way. Every person who backs his campaign will also get that book, slated for release in late 2016 or early 2017.
Ries overcame his book-writing PTSD after years of fielding the same questions from business leaders and entrepreneurs who had read The Lean Startup. “At a certain point, I was like, Oh I shouldn’t be trying to convince people one person at a time–maybe a book would be more efficient,” Ries said.
Much like The Lean Startup, Ries’s follow-up will rely on case studies to answer questions about how to best run companies, from accountability to metrics to budgeting. This time around, though, he’s decided to take an experimental approach to collecting that data, which is where Kickstarter comes in.
The Leader’s Guide will be culled from over 1,000 pages of material that Ries currently uses with his clients to help them tackle organizational issues. The 250-page manual will read more like a road map than the consumer-friendly Lean Startup. The Leader’s Guide will be a straightforward matter-of-fact user’s guide to running a business. The people who buy the limited-edition book will, ideally, take its lessons, apply them to their businesses, and report back to a private online community. Where that community lives will depend on how many people back the campaign. “If it’s hundreds of people, it can be a Slack channel or a mailing list. If it’s a couple thousand people, maybe a Facebook group,” Ries says. As of this writing, Ries has 881 backers.
The case studies for The Startup Way will come from the conversations inside that private community. “We will go write this book together,” says Ries.
Of course, Ries, a successful first-time author with a New York Times best seller, didn’t need Kickstarter to fund another book. He already has a contract with his publisher Crown for a second book. In fact, to even do the campaign, Ries had to make a special agreement with Penguin-Random House, which owns Crown. “Traditional publishing contracts specifically prohibit this behavior,” he explained. His publisher, however, agreed, because the CEO has read Ries’s work. The publishing house is even fronting the cost of giving The Startup Way away to the Kickstarter backers for free.
Ries turned to Kickstarter as an experiment in research, writing, and marketing. He didn’t want to write in a vacuum. A lot of the examples in The Lean Startup came from talking to his friends and contacts. He hopes that by opening up a dialogue he will get more diverse experiences to inform the case studies. The community will also help him craft and package his message in the most consumer-ready way. “I want to see what happens when these ideas escape into the wild,” he writes on the Kickstarter.
Head to Ries’s Kickstarter to check out the project and nab an exclusive limited edition of The Leader’s Guide.