The 4-Hour Chef: What’s the Value of a Listen?

For author Tim Ferriss, it’s a 100% increase in book sales.

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Audiobooks have become big business. They’re now a $1.2 billion industry. Unit sales of downloaded audiobooks grew by nearly 30% in 2011 alone. Within this context, what’s the value of giving one away? The real question is: what’s the point? For an author, what is the value of a free listen?

In September, we partnered with New York Times bestselling author Tim Ferriss to find out. Call it an experiment in anti-cannibalization. Our goal was to use a free download of the author’s 4-Hour Chef audiobook to drive demand, and a second cycle of awareness for the bestselling hardcover; originally released in November.

The 4-Hour Chef Audiobook Bundle was designed as an interactive tutorial and learning lab for the text version. Readers (listeners?) could instantly download the audiobook intro, with creativeLIVE workshop videos. Those who wanted to kick in their email addresses could unlock the full 4-Hour Chef audiobook, with ten additional video courses.

The audiobook Bundle gave potential readers an immersive intro to the text. So, then, back to the original question: what’s the value of a free listen?

“BitTorrent Bundle is possibly the fastest way to find new fans online. By releasing the 4-Hour Chef audiobook as a BitTorrent Bundle, I was able to give potential readers an in-depth, multimedia intro to the world of the book. As a result of the campaign, sales of the print and e-book versions of the 4-Hour Chef doubled, and sales of my previous books jumped 5%.”

Tim Ferriss

BitTorrent Bundle allowed Ferriss to introduce the book to a massive lateral audience of readers. The audiobook received more than 25 million impressions inside BitTorrent – the paid media equivalent of spending $577K on advertising. (Source: Google Analytics)

In just clicks, it allowed him to build lifetime value from new readers. More than 3 million people opted to download the free Bundle, and more than 117K people opted in to the author’s email list – giving Ferriss access to an addressable base of present and potential fans. (Source: Campaign Monitor)

And Bundle exposure moved fans from passive listeners to paid supporters. Nearly 100K fans were inspired to check out the hardcover version of The 4-Hour Chef on Amazon, after downloading the BitTorrent Bundle. Sales of The 4-Hour Chef doubled as a result of the campaign, with other titles experiencing 5% increase in sales. On the day the campaign launched, Ferriss’s Amazon author rank jumped 394 points. (Source:, Amazon)

Tim Ferriss Author Rank

Turns out letting people listen can be a pretty powerful thing.

More on Tim Ferriss and the BitTorrent publishing model, here.

Get the 4-Hour Chef

About BitTorrent Bundle

BitTorrent Bundle is an Alpha project, made with and for the web’s creative community. Our mission is to help artists connect directly with fans, inside the content they share.

Each BitTorrent Bundle, like this one, created in partnership with Tim Ferriss, allows artists to distribute content directly to the Internet. And each Bundle comes with a key. Fans can unlock artist content with an email address. The idea is to make each song a storefront, and each file more valuable, each time it’s shared. Got ideas for the next BitTorrent Bundle? Hit us up.

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