Book giveaway: The Starfish and the Spider

Ramit Sethi · September 26th, 2006

There’s a new book coming out in a few days called The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. It’s an interesting book about top-down organizations vs. distributed, peer-based organizations. Think GE vs. Wikipedia, or the RIAA vs. Craigslist. I met Ori, one of the book’s authors, and got interested in the idea.

The Starfish and the Spider

The book won’t be out until October 5, but I’m giving away 2 copies signed by him right now. And I’m going to try to adopt the book’s strategy during this giveaway by asking you for your creativity. Here’s how it works:

Quiz: What is your earning potential? Choose the answer you agree with the most
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How to win a copy
To enter to win, add a comment to this post (or email me) and show me the best way to spread the word about

I made a mistake yesterday
First, though, check this out. Yesterday, I sent an email to my newsletter subscribers asking for the “best idea for spreading the word about” This was a big mistake. Here’s what I wrote:

“To enter to win, reply to this email and tell me your best idea for spreading the word about Give me your most clever strategy for marketing my site. Bonus points if you actually implement it and send it over. For example…

  • Probably won’t win: “You should write more!!!” or “You should buy Facebook ads!”
  • Has a good chance of getting noticed: “You should create a landing page for new people who come to your site…something that shares your philosophy of getting rich. Here’s my take on what it would look like: [URL]” or “Your idea of putting stark personal-finance images and letting people link to your site was good, but here’s how to take it to the next level…”

The problem is that I asked for ideas, which are really cheap and don’t help much. Hell, I bet you could come up with 10 ideas for this site right now. Basically, I was stupid and ignored my own advice.

As a result, people suggested things like creating videos for YouTube, doing a MySpace page, and improving my branding. These are fine ideas, but after reading them, I’m still at the same place I was yesterday–nothing’s changed. I’ve had these ideas before, so they don’t help much. It’s my fault: I didn’t specify clearly enough.

The best live concept wins
I really do want to get some great concepts from you and put them into practice. So here’s the deal: To win a signed pre-release copy of the book, create the best way to spread the word about I’ll pick the best ones. Let’s try it–I don’t know if this is asking too much, but I want to try to see what people come up with. Whether it’s a tool to let people share iwillteachyoutoberich online/offline, an introduction to someone who could help get the word out, the creation of an iwillteachyoutoberich character, or anything you come up with…I think this will be interesting.

It should be live and ready to go. Ideas don’t count.

(Hint: I brainstormed with my friend this weekend and we went through the challenges we’ve had when spreading the word, like…people are skeptical of the name “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” they’re bored by personal finance, they’re afraid, the blog isn’t easy for first-time visitors, they don’t know where to start, etc. Maybe those will help, but I’m sure you have your own thoughts.) Fortunately, there’s nobody who understands what I’m trying to communicate through this site than the people who read it.

Deadline for sending your ideas
This Saturday, September 30. More about the book at Amazon.

PS–As a special bonus, the person who sends the single best working concept will get 15 minutes on the phone with Ori, the co-author of The Starfish and the Spider.

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  1. Do surveys for organization. With every survey done, give away something from that organization. Have 5 different organizations that are reputable good companies, like Quicken…do a survey and offer discount coupons/free gifts. You can either earn from this survey or use the money earned to give away to people who take the survey. This will definitely spread your website because people get attracted to FREE stuff faster than anything. They will try it because it is free.

  2. Sounds like a lot of work for a $17 book. The time (read: money) I would spend promoting your site is far more than if I just bought the book and read it.

    Nice try, but way too much work. I think you need to think about the amount of incentives you give vs. the amount of work people will do for that incentive – especially when you’re talking to people who you’re trying to teach things like that to.

  3. Ramit Sethi

    But I don’t usually think like in such a transactional way. When I help someone out, it’s to focus on the long-term. I’ll give you an example: I’ve done free stuff for lots of people and, in lots of those cases, they’ve given me consulting gigs or introductions that were worth far more than the work I initially did.

    In fact, I’ve given paid consulting contracts to people who have helped me out on this site for free.

  4. Good point. I didn’t think of that. 🙂 Sorry for thinking so transactional. I guess I’ve been blinded by the lack of extra time to give to things I’d like to do (like help people achieve more with their web traffic and promotion).

    Thanks for not flaming me, even though I probably deserve it with that last comment.. heh.

  5. I’ll bite, but not with a live and ready to go idea because it is a time eater. The idea involves evaluting other sites and incorporating their “goodnesses” into your site. (I love it when I can make up a new word.)

    Make a fact sheet containing many financial sites and order them by the number of visits. Add the number of outside links. Add some subjective information about usefulness, accuracy, writing style, look and feel, hmmm. And see which ones float to the top of the list with the most positive qualities. Your site needs to incorporate some of those qualities.

  6. Hey, this Saturday is Sept. 30th. So is the deadline Saturday, or Sunday Oct. 1st?

  7. Sorry, I have to agree with nate. I didn’t think it was a stretch to ask your loyal readers to come up with great ideas to help you market this site. In fact, I thought it was brilliant. I contribute to open source projects when I can, and since you don’t have a way of donating for your time yet in the form of purchasing a service or podcast or whatever I thought it would at least be something. While you’re right, ideas are worthless without action, it is not our job to take action. Not even speaking from the standpoint of it being a $17 book but just from the very idea that good ideas weren’t enough is somewhat insulting.

    So now instead of me going out of my way to come up with an idea and mock it up in illustrator, you would like me to actually take an idea to print for you on the offhand chance that it could help me out. The “I rub your back you rub mine idea” works better when it’s going both ways, not a one way contest with the slight chance of a return. Thanks but no thanks.

    Sorry for the rant but the whole offer has left me a bit confused about how you look at your readers. It doesn’t show much respect when you ask them to go the extra mile instead of being willing to take the good ideas the extra step yourself.

  8. Ramit Sethi


    An illustrator design–even a mockup–would be infinitely more useful than someone saying, “You should create a video of your talks!” That just doesn’t help. But an illustration, a drawing, ANYTHING tangible actually adds value, and I can take it from there.

    Debby: Oops, thanks. I fixed the date.

  9. Spend $5 in supplies and make a giant sign (it will have to be giant since the domain name is quite long) with in bold letters. Use your power of free speech and attach the sign over a bridge or something along the highway.

  10. Um…nah..I guess I’ll pass….I rather study my statistics class 🙂

  11. i hate you

    I know an idea that will not only get your promotion but it will save you money!

    Get some sap to do all the marketing work for you! He will come up with the idea, get a project developed and turn it over to you! Then you just touch it up a bit and bad a bing you’re set!

    Oh wait you are already doing that right now…


  12. Umesh Kumar

    You are teaching people to be rich. Then you should take a person X who you helped become rich, and email/put signs in the neighbourhoods of those people, asking them if they wanna experience what you did for person X. ( basically i think your claim looks like those having hidden conditions attached, and hence you should give people a 5 sec way to know that you arent talking BS)

  13. Dress up a midget in a leprechaun outfit and stake out the local news channels. Once they go out on assignment in the city somewhere, give the midget a sign and have him run around behind the reporter who is on the scene.

    Or have him stand outside the David Letterman show or the Today show with the sign.

    The key is the midget in the leprechaun outfit, not the show that puts him on TV.

  14. Jason Yip

    Leave comments at other financial blogs, articles, forums (i.e., engage the community). I’m sure there are other non-electronic opportunities as well. Add good content by learning more and sharing it.

  15. I’m not really capable of implementing this, and something tells me that this is far from a book-winning quality idea, but here goes:

    I really love reading your site and check it about 1-2x per week. Why not more? It opens reeeeally slowly on both Firefox and Safari. I am not sure how you could streamline your site, but my guess is that improved archiving would help.

    So, in more general terms, despite your explicit statement that “write more” is not a winning idea, I suggest that you just perfect the product and not worry about promotion. As you well know, blogs have a cool way of promoting themselves – if the archives were better, the site loaded faster and more new content was posted I can almost guarantee an uptick in traffic.

    Also, I plead that you ignore any suggestion that you associate yourself or your site with MySpace. That site is terrible and seems to be populated almost entirely by morons who think that forcing their friends’ laptops to stream crappy rap music is a good idea.

  16. Satire Mondays with Rod the Personal Finance Walrus. Get the walrus to say rude, inaccurate and inflamatory things and submitt his entries to carnivals. He can even say rude things on other people’s blogs. There’s nothing people love more than a chance to curse someone out. Ok, don’t do that.

    But seriously. This is a blog targeted at college students and recent grads. Have you considered targeting the indie scene? You could offer to do a free talk on a Nor Cal college radio show. Someone you know probably has one. Someone reading this blog may have one. You could also write an article about youth and personal finance and submitt it to an independent newspaper. There’s lots of suitable material on this site.

  17. How about a commercial? Something similar like your b/w adds. 2 friends having coffee and discussing. Once complaining about how his financial life sucks and the other how its getting better. And the guy with the rotten financial life asks him where the other got to be so savy with his finances.

    He answers, I got all my info from Since production cost can be quite high, I suggest a small flash video, made with a home digital camera, and post it on youtube or google video.

  18. Chen Kumar

    1. Create podcasts of your posts using some sort of text-to-audio application and make it available on RSS for everyone to download to their mp3 devices. If you want to make it personal, you can read/talk about the post and record yourself. You might also want to make your speeches at different venues available to your blog readers either the transcripts or audio/video/presentation material again for download through RSS.

    2. Why not become contributing editor of articles at other financial/personal finance blogs and/or share some of your articles with other blogs and link them back to your site.

  19. — Pick up a copy of Guerilla Marketing. There is a reference / phone # in the back to how to get advertising on one of the electronic scrolling tickets in Times Square.

  20. not sure but i want to win this book!

  21. So?? Who won?

  22. Don’t know if you’ve done this already, basically a no-brainer.

    Your target market is college kids, right?

    So put together a free PDF download of the top financial mistakes that college kids make (or something similar).

    Approach colleges offering to include it with their orientation material. Or how about student loan organizations? Or student newspapers (free column)?

    Your audience is easy to get to. All you need is time and a good piece of writing.

    Heck, you write the article. I’ll add my own (focussing on my unique target…women). And I’ll distribute it.

  23. Take responsibility for yrself instead of asking around!
    Anyway here’s what I think though I’m a new blogger.
    1. u can create a wiki for yr contents.
    2. create a google/yahoo group where members can contribute.
    3. Have a download page for financial softwares.

  24. keep writing great articles, word of mouth rules. For instance, a friend was complaining about how complicated med school apps were, so I sent her your “barriers are your enemy” article. She read it, then started reading the rest of your posts.

  25. Jinal Shah

    Tweaking the design of this site might help as well.. it’s just too bland. something I’d associate with financial consultants/ banks. add some color…something non-traditional…

    just my opinion!

  26. thx for the book

  27. I think once you will put this book on this site and once people will get the book from your site ultimately the site will be famous among the users and the base line in the site itself is “I will teach you to be reach”.Moreover its the user who has already visited the site will make it famous.New ideas should be put here and i think it will not then take more time to be famous for this line.And one more thing…if u will enter “the starfish and the Spider” in google search this result(this site) comes in search result in 1st page u can reap benefit from thr also

  28. best way is thru word of mouth!
    which im sure will happen for u, considering da efforts uve put in, rmmbr orkut!!