Trust the Crowd: Launching the Happy Manifesto

In: BlogDate: Nov 28, 2011By: Henry Stewart

The Happy Manifesto has been launched for a week, and so far we’ve sold just over 500 copies.

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That is not going to get The Happy Manifesto into the best seller charts but it is 10% of the print run and enough to pay off 80% of the total production costs – which is nice given that we self-published it.

Most of the sales have come from the crowd-sourced funding. Inspired by a crowdfunding workshop I attended at the ClearlySo conference I offered a deal of £100 for 20 copies plus 1% of the income from the first print run (or the half that is being sold). We could have paid for the book, as we did with Relax, out of Happy’s cashflow but the key piece I learnt at the workshop was that crowdfunding is as much about the people as the money. I now have a whole bunch of people outside of Happy who are committed to the book and to spreading its ideas.

The crowd has been crucial to this book. I put the first draft of the book online (calling it the beta version) in the summer of 2010 and the feedback was invaluable. It pointed out elements which were not clear, led to a variety of changes and the comments I received are half of the quotes on the cover. It also reassured me that there was a need for the book with 83% rating it 9 or 10 on how likely they would be to recommend it to colleagues.

Then came the debate on the cover. We got down to the choice below and I was being advised that the sun cover was childish and would put people off. I liked it, but was concerned by the reaction. I remembered how Harvey Mackay had been sure that How to Swim With the Sharks and Not Get Eaten Alive was a better title than his publishers were suggesting and only persuaded them after commissioning an opinion poll to prove it. Luckily getting feedback is easier nowadays and so I put the two covers out to a public vote.

I asked my Twitter followers and I asked all those who had downloaded the book from the web. The verdict was clear. Over two to one were in favour of the sun version.

It also led to changes. The original was supposed to show the sun emerging from the clouds. But many found the cloud a dampener and there was debate about whether the sun was emerging or being covered up. The cloud was taken out. So the crowd not only delivered a verdict but improved the chosen version.

Interestingly it got the biggest response on Twitter I’d ever had. It is clear that people respond best when asked to help.

Some people have asked why give the book away online. Why will people buy it if they can get it for free? Well one reason is that I’m as keen to spread the message as I am to sell the book. It felt great to get an email the day before the launch from somebody who had downloaded it in Australia saying “after reading your book I feel like people must feel when they find a new religion”.

But I’m also sure it makes commercial sense. Over half the people who chose to join the crowdfunding were a result of an email sent to the 600 who had downloaded the book from the website. And many more will buy it or recommend it. Though I guess it means there is no incentive for Kindle users to buy it, as they can use the PDF version.

The book is available to download for free download on the dedicated Happy Manifesto website. There are also details of bulk discounts in case you want to buy one for everybody in your organisation. Or you can order it from Amazon.

I look forward to lots more interaction with the crowd! I’m hoping the next book will be entirely based on feedback with stories of how people put the ideas into action. Watch this space.

 

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Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer

Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd, originally set up as Happy Computers in 1987. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he has built a company which has won multiple awards for some of the best customer service in the country and being one of the UK’s best places to work.

Henry was listed in the Guru Radar of the Thinkers 50 list of the most influential management thinkers in the world. "He is one of the thinkers who we believe will shape the future of business," explained list compiler Stuart Crainer.

His first book, Relax, was published in 2009. His second book, the Happy Manifesto, was published in 2013 and was short-listed for Business Book of the Year.

You can find Henry on LinkedIn and follow @happyhenry on Twitter.

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