How small can a business book be? Analyzing Jay Baer’s mini-book “The Time to Win”

Readers of this space (or my book) may recall how I’ve held up Jay Baer’s business books as paragons of the form: sparkling ideas, great stories, meticulous organization, and flawless launches.

Now, Jay Baer proves fast is best

Jay’s latest business idea is about speed. He’s done consumer research to prove that, with a few twists, faster competitors often get the sale. There’s more to it than that, of course. Jay shows that in some cases (like an enchilada order filled in 90 seconds), there is such a thing as too fast. And he has, of course, a six-part framework for how to become faster:

  1. Perform a “Got It Audit”: see how fast your company actually responds.
  2. Answer before they ask: anticipate common questions.
  3. Respond without answers: if you can’t answer quickly, tell them you’re working on it.
  4. Set speed expectations: Be clear about how long things will take.
  5. Close uncertainty gaps: Like Domino’s, make it clear where people are in a queue.
  6. Offer a fast pass: Increase revenue by allowing people to pay to jump the line.

There is, of course, research with consumers that supports and enriches the concept. I particularly like this counterintuitive data point that shows that the most impatient consumers aren’t Gen Z, but old folks like me:

Source: “Time to Win: Consumer Patience Study” (c) Jay Baer and Ursus 10.
N=1981 US Consumers Age 16-65, surveyed in 2022.

Jay supports his speaking tour with the smallest book ever

Jay is a hall-of-fame quality speaker and makes a good living doing it. He’s currently in the midst of a 25-city tour, sponsored by Chase Small Business, giving the “Time To Win” speech all across America. I saw him earlier this year in Boston; he was awesome as usual.

Jay decided that his usual deeply researched, traditionally published, and engaging business book format wasn’t right for this topic. “Go as fast as you can: here’s a 200-page book about it” seemed hypocritical. (It reminded me of the speaker I once saw who demanded an hour time slot to talk about brevity.)

So Jay made a little book, as you can see in the photo.

The Time to Win: How to Exceed Customers’ Need for Speed is 3 1/2 inches by 5 inches, and only 72 pages long. I read it in 15 minutes. It contains all the concepts from Jay’s speech, including graphics, in a package you can consume on a bus ride or lunch break. If you want more supporting data, you can download Jay’s free report on the topic featuring more detailed consumer survey results.

I don’t think this is the future of business books, but it’s certainly an interesting alternative.

Here are a few things to know if you become interested publishing your own tiny book.

Jay’s book printing vendor was MiniBük. He says they did a good job. All their books are the same 3.5″x5″ format as this, but you have a choice of perfect bound (with a skinny spine, like The Time To Win) or saddle-stitch (stapled on the edge). A MiniBük can be between 16 and 200 pages long. At 72 pages, Jay’s is pretty sleek.

Jay’s book is selling, at least in ebook format. When I checked (today is the actual release date for the Kindle edition), it was a top new release in the category of Consumer Behavior. It’s priced at $4.99.

The print edition won’t be available until August, when you’ll be able to buy a 3-pack for $20.99. This is an interesting strategic choice. Anyone in a real rush will buy the Kindle edition and read it quickly. If you like print books, I don’t think the $20.99 price will be too much of a stumbling block — most business books cost more than that, and if you get three copies, you can give two to other people who ought to read them, like your boss or your VP of customer service.

If you want Amazon to sell books you print yourself, you become the publisher as far as they are concerned. If you want them eligible for Prime shipping, you need to have Amazon do the fulfillment, signing up using Amazon’s tools that Jay describes as a “Byzantine gulag, with worse UI.” You can, of course, ship them yourself, but then you’re not only a publisher, you’re also a shipper, which is time-consuming and thankless.

As a giveaway at Jay’s speeches, this micro-book is an awesome idea. In the context of his speeches, Amazon is not the most important channel, and it’s likely that sales of this book won’t contribute nearly as much to Jay’s bottom line as his speeches do. But as a mechanism to get the word out, a very small book is a fascinating idea.

I’m curious. If you’re an author, what do you think of this unusual alternative to the traditional business book?

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  1. I love rethinking the conventions around business books, and have seen a trend toward shorter ones. (Amazon has a “short reads” category, so clearly people are looking for shorter books.) Jay is taking it to a logical extreme, and it will be fascinating to see how it does. 3.5 by 5 is pretty small! Bonus, recording the audiobook shouldn’t take long.

  2. Reminds me of standing in a Staples years ago reading, in about 15 minutes, Who Moved the Cheese? and getting all the concepts before I realized that was it. Expensive little book, almost no content, good graphics, one basic quick idea.

    If everyone does them, it will only work for the first few.

    But it had potential. Makes me think of the musical Gypsy, and the song, You Gotta Have a Gimmick.