Learn how The 4-Hour Workweek's success was planned from the start.
Learn how The 4-Hour Workweek's success was planned from the start.

Lessons from Timothy Ferris' "4-Hour Workweek"

Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

As this is written, Timothy Ferriss' The 4-Hour Workweek is #83 at, where it has been since it first appeared. It's one of the most carefully marketed books I've encountered in a long time. Here are some of the lessons it teaches:

  1. Magnetic title and subtitle. There's no misunderstanding The 4-Hour Workweek's promise or appeal. It appeals to the universal dissatisfaction that many feel with their highly demanding, but often unrewarding, jobs. The title's promise requires no elaboration or interpretation. Equally important, because the words in the title are short, they can be set at large size on the cover, supported by a simple "tropical paradise" visual. Like many compelling titles, it "sells the future" and provokes curiosity.
  2. Distinct vocabulary. Like many highly-successful books, it introduces and defines new terms based on familiar words. One of the book's key terms is "New Rich." Other terms include "Deferers," "low information diet," and Target Monthly Income. The terms are simple enough to be understood, but unique enough to be frequently capitalized, adding to the perceived value of the book.
  3. Conversational style. Timothy Ferriss writes like he probably speaks. Words, sentences, and paragraphs are very short. Personal pronouns, i.e., "I" and "you" are frequent. Active verbs are the norm. There are frequent transitional phrases, like "for example" and "Did I mention you..." "If you..." There's not an ounce of academic writing or pretension in the book.
  4. Structure. The book is based on a 20 chapters, divided into 5-sections. Section 1 sets the stage and introduces the book's 4-step "DEAL" structure. The chapters in each of the following sections are organized around the 4-steps needed to achieve a 4-hour workweek, i.e., Definition, Elimination, Automation, and Liberation. These lead to the book's climax: "The Last Chapter: An E-Mail You Need to Read" and resources.
  5. Concise. The 4-Hour Workweek respects the reader's time. Most chapters are very short, i.e., 4 to 16 pages. Several are even shorter. The three longest chapters are just 34, 24, and 18 pages long. A typical page contains 90,000 words (maximum).
  6. Chunked. One of the reasons The 4-Hour Workweek is such a fast read is that its pages can be scanned at a glance. Content is broken up by frequent subheads and lists. The subheads help maintain your interest and provide a context for the paragraphs that follow. Numerous lists throughout each chapter aid comprehension by organizing ideas and facts.
  7. Design for easy reading. The book's inside page layout invites reading. Generous line spacing aids readability. Subheads are set in a contrasting typeface and type size, emphasized by extra white space. Lists contain run-in's, i.e. bold-faced text is used to emphasize the keywords in lists. Stories and case studies are placed against gray screened backgrounds, to separate them from the adjacent body copy. There is an obvious hierarchy to the information on each page.
  8. Engagement. The 4-Hour Workweek encourages readers to act. Each chapter concludes with questions and answers that summarize the important points in the chapter and help readers apply the chapter's lessons to their life. There are also forms and worksheets which not only help readers take action, but also add visual interest to the pages.
  9. Website hooks. Although published by a large trade publisher, Crown Publishing,, there are numerous hooks to the author's website, Many chapters contain 2, or more, links to the author's website. These hooks occur in numerous locations, i.e., both within the body copy and in the footnotes. The end of the book contains a "Bonus Chapters" chapter listing numerous resources include scripts, case studies, and licensing agreements.
  10. Relationship building. Clearly, the author is interested in more than a one-time only sale to its readers. E-mail registration is required for access to the book's sample chapters as well as bonus content. Sign-up forms are present on most pages. In addition, there's an author blog and resources for book clubs and organizations to speak to the author.


Timothy Ferriss's 4-Hour Workweek is both one of the most carefully constructed and marketed books to appear this year, as well as one of the easiest to read and most thought-provoking books.

It's well worth studying for the lessons it teaches about becoming profitably published as well as its ideas and detailed resources.

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