Elon Musk is a well-known proponent of first principles thinking. His best-known explanation of reasoning from first principles is in this interview with Kevin Rose. The basic idea is that you ignore basic assumptions as popular opinion. Instead of reasoning by analogy, which will lead you to make something slightly better, you get to the basic principles that makes something work and as a result you can make something new, different, better, and cheaper. This is how Musk was able to successfully revolutionize multiple industries.
So, as authors, how can we achieve success using first principles thinking?
Instead of writing, launching, and marketing a book like everyone else does, what are the first principles that enable a book to become successful?
I would summarize a book’s success in this way:
A book becomes successful because someone reads it, enjoys it, and tells other people about it. Then, those people read it, enjoy it, and tell others about it, and so on.
You need to write a good book.
It has to be readable, but it doesn’t have to be written with perfect prose. It has to solve a problem for the reader. It has to be easy to remember. It has to be unique.
If someone reads your book, what makes them want to tell someone about it?
You need to have a platform to tell people about your book.
This could either be your personal platform or someone else’s platform. People read books based on recommendations from people they trust. You have a platform when someone trusts you enough to give you permission to communicate with them through things like an email list, social media, podcast shows, and video channels.
You can also tell people about your book on other people’s platforms by writing guest posts on someone’s blog, writing articles for a magazine or newspaper, getting interviewed on their show, etc. Or, even better, when someone with a platform reads your book and enjoys it, they tell their audience of people that trust them to go read it too.
Is my book unique?
Does my book solve a problem?
Why would someone share this book with others?
Do I have a platform to directly reach an audience of people that trust me?
Who has a platform that would enjoy my book and share the ideas in it with their audiences?