Author Entrepreneur Case Study: The Happiness Project

I’m offering a course on how to become an Author Entrepreneur, turning your book idea into a business. What does this mean? Someone who has as much business savvy as creative vision. Today, I want to present a case study of a successful author entrepreneur, and pull out key lessons for others looking to follow in her footsteps.

Gretchen Rubin

“[Gretchen Rubin] has created her own cottage industry devoted to happiness (and to promoting book sales)”
via The New York Times

Think about that: if five years ago, you told your friends and family that you are writing a book on the topic of happiness, and planned on building a “cottage industry” around it, what would they have said? Likely, they would have brushed off the idea, perhaps reminding you of the thousands of books already written on the topic, and businesses that provide products and services in this area.

But Gretchen Rubin’s success story is instructive for anyone hoping to become an author and entrepreneur. Why? Well, let’s look at three blog posts of hers to put things in context:

Happiness Project Blogs

So it took 3.5 years to get to publication, and only one month to get to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list. But this simple example obscures what she has built. Consider what she announced on the DAY of publication of her book:

  • Today show scheduled for January 8
  • Starred review in Publishers Weekly
  • Named one of the “10 Must-Read Books” for 2010 by Oprah’s Book Club
  • An American Public Media Marketplace radio interview
  • Woman’s Day year-long Happiness Project
  • Amazon Top 100 – I hit #80!

Just look at this set of logos:


Most authors would dream of this after a career of writing, but that is what Gretchen received on the very first day her book was available on store shelves. How did she do it? Because she isn’t just an author, she is an author entrepreneur, someone who has as much business savvy as creative vision. Let’s dig into how she has extended the value of her book into the “cottage industry” that The New York Times describes.

How can you get involved in The Happiness Project? Let me count the ways:

  1. Read the blog
  2. Buy the book
  3. 2011 Happiness Challenge
  4. Join or start a Group to embark on your own happiness project
  5. Happiness Project Toolbox
  6. 2012 Page-a-day calendar
  7. Daily quote email: “Moments of happiness
  8. Monthly newsletter
  9. Be a super-fan
  10. Get a bookplate or signature card
  11. You can email her for a copy of her Resolutions Chart (Email her at Just write “chart” in the subject line.)
  12. Videos
  13. You can hire her for a speaking engagement
  14. … and the usual social media channels: Twitter and Facebook

While the book is the center of the brand, she is clearly thinking beyond it. She is connecting, partnering, and continue to expand her vision of what this can be. There are no limits to form – this is more than a book.

When you view her content, you see the many ways that she extends the term “happiness” to other issues about identity, achievement, and things we struggle with to become who we want to be, lead the life we hope to, and create achievements we are proud of. You see topics such as marriage, clutter, parenthood, creativity, relationships, body, work, and others.

She is constantly delivering new ways to break into the material, to get MORE involved. You see her repackage content as things such as “Twelve Personal Commandments” or “Four Splendid Truths.” Overall, you get a sense that this is just the beginning – that Gretchen is building a business and a vision with a very long time horizon. This is about so much more than selling a book, this is about building professional relationships, connections with her audience, and something akin to a movement.

She always trying to drive deeper engagement – the end of every blog post includes an action you can take to get more involved in the Happiness Project, be it buying the book, signing up for a newsletter, or joining a group.

And this works for everyone involved. There are countless reasons for media to cover her, topics that she can speak to, and ways to deepen her connection with her audience. There are many more products and services she can offer, brand extensions she can create with partners, and the like. I wouldn’t be surprised to see workbooks with titles such as “The Happy Wedding,” “The Happy Pet,” or “The Happy Baby.”

If any of this speaks to a goal or purpose you have – if you would like to become an author entrepreneur – then please consider signing up for my 8-week online course:

Let me tell you about it:

The course provides the following:

  • 8-week online course.
  • A structured curriculum, with a new lecture delivered each week, taking you step by step through the process of how to develop your writing career and the company behind it.
  • Weekly homework assignments that I provide feedback on to ensure that you walk away from the course having executed on the ideas we discuss.
  • A forum where you can ask questions, learn about what is and isn’t working for the other class members, and get past the biggest challenges you are facing.
  • Weekly Q&A conference calls where I answer your questions and the entire class can share insight into their experience.
  • An online classroom where you can access the material and learn about the other students.
  • BONUS: Guest Q&A calls, where publishing, business, and marketing expert takes your questions.

The price: $795.
Class begins on September 21 and ends on November 15.

Read more details and an in-depth look at the curriculum here.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out.