Growth Hacking A Book Launch – “Autism Breakthrough” Case Study

Ever since reading Ryan Holiday‘s book Growth Hacker Marketing I have been applying what he calls the “growth hacker mindset” to business projects.

This post is about using a growth hacker’s creative and analytical mindset to radically change the launch and long-term success of the book Autism Breakthrough by my friend Raun Kaufman


For background: Raun Kaufman is the son around whom the Son-Rise Program was created. The Son-Rise Program has since been run by thousands of families with children with autism around the world and helped kids recover from autism. Raun is the Director of Global Education at the Autism Treatment Center of America. For more information this fascinating study examines the efficacy of applying the Son-Rise Program with special needs children.  

What Is Growth Hacking?

I first encountered the term growth hacker in an essay by Andrew Chen:

Growth hackers are a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of “How do I get customers for my product?” and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph.

I was immediately struck by the similarities to what I have always done. Maybe its just that I’ve never had a big budget or that I was taught young not to spend money if I wasn’t sure of a return. Regardless, analytics and creative problem-solving have always been part of my work, whether for Move Autism or in any of my previous positions. I’ve always asked about processes with an eye to improving them.

Book Launch: Autism Breakthrough

I was attending a program the day Raun showed his literary agents around the campus. In a flurry, my class bombarded the book agents with questions, chiefly about how we could help. We were told that we’d be contacted and given further instruction.

Several weeks later I received an email from the marketing department at the Autism Treatment Center of America celebrating that I’d been chosen to assist. Here’s an excerpt:

As someone in this small core group to whom I’m sending this email, I see you as the key ambassadors for Autism Breakthrough. To find out more about how you can help, shoot me an email at

This is a start! The Autism Treatment Center has selected a group of their most vocal advocates, acknowledged them, and asked for help. So far, so good. Now, let’s do better.

First and most important, the final Call To Action is broken. I’ve left the link unchanged. Try it! It doesn’t lead to your email client.

The entire email is an unclear call to action. I’ve not included the entire email but it contained three different asks. First, it asks the reader to buy one book. Then it suggests where to go if the reader is interested in purchasing 25 books. (Why do I want to do that?) Then it says to email Raun.  Stick with just one, clear call to action.

Finally, the email fails to create community. We, the special supporters, probably know each other and would doubtless love to connect and collaborate. If we are going to help launch the book it would be great to know who we are!

What follows are several suggestions on how we can improve the book launch going forward. Follow along and let me know what you’d do differently in the comments!

Test To Learn What Works. Ditch The Rest.

Hundreds of thousands of books die quiet deaths every year. The key to a successful book is not to rely on traditional routes, a large budget, or even just an exceptional book. With a clearly defined set of customers and a rabid base of early adopters, the Autism Treatment Center has the potential to harness growth hacking to make this book a success and bring the Son-Rise Program to a new, broader audience.

I have many ideas about how we can make Autism Breakthrough an incredible success. But so does everybody who wants to see an idea or project flourish. What’s important about this new mindset is that I know that my hunches are my own and not necessarily reflective of what will actually work for the intended audience of Autism Breakthrough. Thus, we test our assumptions.

Here are a couple of my marketing ideas and ways to test my assumptions.

Incentivize The Current Platform

Incentivize the current platform to purchase more books.

Son-Rise Program families are already highly motivated to purchase at least one copy. By asking them specifically to purchase 5, 10, 25, etc. with specific associated give-aways we’ll be better able to harness the buying-power of the current customers. Several best-selling authors have done this very well. Tim Ferriss launched the 4-Hour Chef with amazing give-aways and Seth Godin used Kickstarter to do likewise.

The Autism Treatment Center already sells books, DVDs and live programs. By examining the products and programs that have the highest rate of return (financially, in utility to the families, etc.) we will be better able to determine which incentives will motivate book purchases.

Here are some possible incentives for Autism Breakthrough purchases:

  • 3 books ($60 value) – $100 off the next course at the Autism Treatment Center
  • 5 books ($100 value) – $100 off the next course at the Autism Treatment Center and a free copy of Best-Selling Autism Breakthrough DVD
  • 10 books ($200 value) – $400 off the next course at the Autism Treatment Center, 5 free copies of Autism Breakthrough, 5 Optimal Self-Trust DVDs, 5 copies of Happiness Is a Choice
  • 25 books ($500 value) $250 off the next course, a consult with a Son-Rise child facilitator teacher
  • 50 books ($1000 value) A free course at the Autism Treatment Center
  • 100 books ($2000 value) Dinner with Raun Kaufman
  • 1000 books ($20,000 value) Week long on-campus Intensive for a child with autism and their family. (Actual cost of the program.)

Create A Trailer

Book authors have traditionally relied on the their books to go viral without considering other new technologies that might help. That has started to change and creating book trailers is increasingly common among best-selling book authors.

Since creating a high-quality video can be a big undertaking, we should first test the idea of videos and trailers among our specific niche. This can easy be accomplished by measuring viewing trends on current Autism Treatment Center videos and videos produced by their competitors.

Here are two recent book trailers, as examples. What I find fascinating in each case is how carefully the message, music and content are targeted to a specific audience. Who do we want to reach with Autism Breakthrough?

The 4-Hour Body Book Trailer

Apple Designer Jony Ive Book Trailer

What’s Next?!

When I first met Raun Kaufman’s father, the founder of the Autism Treatment Center, I asked him what he wanted to accomplish before he died. He told me: “I want there not to be a single home affected by autism anywhere in the world – in the remotest regions of Ethiopia! – that has not heard of the Son-Rise Program.” Whether Raun and the Autism Treatment Center staff use this book to make that dream a reality is yet to be seen… .

I’m building a community to help spread word about this book and I want to hear from you. Leave a note in the comments and tell me one thing you’d like to do to promote Autism Breakthrough.

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