Tempo Stealth Edition

Update – 4/28/11: the Stealth Edition has now been discontinued. Please check out the book site and buy the regular edition, available from Amazon.com. Thanks to the over 200 people who bought the Stealth Edition and get the buzz going.

Two and a half years after I began scribbling my first notes, my first book Tempo is finally sneaking out into the marketplace. Today, I am releasing an early stealth edition. It is exactly the same as the regular edition to come in about 6 weeks, except that this edition has a) a nice early release discount and b) an extra page at the end with details of a little experiment designed to get some word-of-mouth going. If you choose to participate in the experiment, you can get the ebook free later (the experiment involves giving your copy away).

You can get the Stealth edition via Lulu at 30% off. A reader informs me that the coupon APRILREAD gets you an additional discount, through the end of April.

The regular edition (without the word-of-mouth experiment) should be out on Amazon.com by May 15 or so.  This Stealth Edition will be discontinued at that time.

I already released this last Friday on the Be Slightly Evil mailing list, and sold just over a hundred copies on the opening weekend. Let me address the two most common questions immediately:

  1. eBook edition: The eBook edition won’t be out for several months. I’ll try to get the Kindle edition at least out by July/August or so. Other formats will follow.
  2. International availability: If you are NOT in the US or Canada, Lulu DOES deliver internationally, but the shipping costs seem to be highly variable, ranging from reasonable in the UK and Australia, to somewhat expensive in Norway to ridiculously expensive in some parts of Eastern Europe. Check before you hit “submit.” If it is too expensive, you may want to wait for the regular or ebook editions. I am trying to get the cheapest possible distribution lined up.

A quick request: if you plan on reviewing the book, please hold off till May 15. The regular edition should be available by then, and I’ll probably do some sort of official launch event around then. I don’t plan on overtly promoting the book beyond this blog until you guys have had a chance to read the book, and I can get a good email conversation going with at least some of you about it. I am taking this one slow and easy.

Note: if you were one of the early buyers, and your version has a misprinted page 12, download the corrected page here. My sincere apologies if you received the flawed copy.

So much for the basics. Let me share a few tidbits about the story so far:

Early Reactions from Ribbonfarm Readers

Whether you are a long-time regular or new to ribbonfarm, you will probably find these early reactions from other readers  interesting (okay, mainly I am posting them to pat myself on the back, but still!)

Davison Avery from Toronto has been reading the site from the beginning. We’ve met once, and have been exchanging emails on subjects ranging from container shipping to the future of telecom for more than two years now.  He’s usually the first person I ask whenever I need feedback about something, since I can rely on him to always be honest and blunt, but supportive at the same time. I think of him as a bit of a Godfather to this blog (in both Mafia and regular senses of the word). He doesn’t comment often (sorry man, but I had to put the spotlight on you sometime; good deeds cannot go unpunished), but the email back-channel we’ve had going for these last few years is easily one of the top 5 motivators that keeps this blog going.  He’s been one of the beta testers of the book from the beginning, so I asked him for a comment. Here it is:

TEMPO is a wonderfully readable exposition of the fundamentals of decision-making filled with insight, wisdom and ironic wit. Venkat leads us to a deeper appreciation of our lives through the development and practice of a new and highly relevant decision-making framework. Ribbonfarm readers will be treated to the same illuminating narrative-analysis style that is so distinctively Venkat.

On the other end of the spectrum, Ho-Sheng Hsiao (Hosh) from Atlanta is one of the most recent regulars. We ran into each other on Quora a couple of months back, and he started reading ribbonfarm.  Once he started, he powered through a goodly fraction of my archives within a week, and began sending me some of the scariest and most intellectually demanding reactions I have ever received.  I usually need to be at the top of my form mentally, with at least two cups of coffee inside me, to process and respond to an email from Hosh. If I ever make it to Atlanta, I plan on asking him for a quick lesson in esoteric martial arts and posting a picture of myself with the black eye that’s sure to result.  Here’s his blurb for Tempo:

Information advantage lets you seize important, yet fleeting opportunities. Occasionally, you find a gem of wisdom and piercing insight that endures — if you know how to use it well. Venkatesh Rao’s Tempo is one such treasure: ignore this book at your own peril.

If you’ve ever read Hosh’s Quora posts or interacted with him, you’d know that there are at least 15 layers of meaning behind these few words, in his head. The guy has internalized everything from Sun Tzu to Musashi to John Boyd. To give you an idea of how he processes stuff, after I sent out my BSE newsletter about John Boyd and OODA, he immediately bought half a dozen books on the subject and began working through them, going far deeper than I myself have. I now regard him as my go-to expert for Boyd/OODA stuff.

I’ll be putting these and other comments from ribbonfarm/Be Slightly Evil readers on a special page on the book website soon. If you are willing to share a comment after reading the book, please email it to me. I’d like to have at least a dozen reactions posted on the site when I do the formal launch.

The Book Website, David, Dan and John

I have a very rudimentary book website up at tempobook.com. Three of my favorite authors, David Allen, Dan Pink and John Hagel, graciously agreed to write back-cover blurbs for me, and you can read these on the site now.  I’ve had email interactions with David and Dan for several years, and with John for a couple of months. My interactions with them is again one of those hidden forces that has helped me do everything I’ve been doing on this blog.

Talking to other bloggers is great, but you never really understand the whole different level of the game that is book writing, until you’ve interacted closely with people who’ve written hugely successful ones. You start to see levels of the writing game that you didn’t know existed. Without the mentorship from David and Dan in particular, Tempo would not have been a real book. It would have been an amateurish and overly long blog post++.

The superficial value to connecting with people like David, Dan and John is merely the cachet of being able to count famous names among people you know. The enduring value comes from getting a glimpse into the minds and thinking styles of people who do deeply interesting things with their lives.

Assuming the book is well-received enough to be worth the continued investment, I have some very unusual plans for the website, with very different kinds of content compared to anything I’ve done before. It’s going to be pretty narrowly focused on the subject of decision-making though. So if you are interested, sign up for the email list on the site.

I’ll be launching a much better site along with the formal launch of the regular edition of the book in May.

Tidbits from the Slightly Evil Release

  • My launch email to the BSE list apparently got caught in a lot of spam filters due to the multiple occurrences of the word “discount.” If you’re on the list and didn’t receive the announcement email, check your spam folder (not that it matters now). Lesson learned: test sales-pitch emails against spam filters first.
  • One of the most surprising things for me was the extremely international nature of the responses to my launch email. I had no idea I had so many readers in Norway for example, or readers in places like Slovakia (a hello! to both of you).
  • Another big surprise was the number of people who immediately wrote, asking about ebook availability. Apparently a huge number of people have already migrated to an ebooks-only lifestyle. I should have suspected that I guess, since Amazon recently announced that Kindle sales have overtaken paperback sales.  For many of my regular readers in fact, paper books are basically an impossible medium, since they are so nomadic (I seem to have at least a dozen readers who routinely move to a new country every week, armed only with a passport, laptop and backpack).
  • I thought I knew a lot about publishing (after all, I worked in the print industry for several years), but it’s still been a shock to discover just how complex the world of print publishing is, first-hand. You could make a horror movie about the PDF format alone. But you learn to appreciate the beauty of the Gutenberg Universe that’s starting to collapse all around us. The eBook/ePublishing world that’s taking its place is becoming equally complex.

The reason for the 6-week delay between the stealth edition and the regular edition by the way, is a mix of deliberate intent and the lead time involved in getting a book into Amazon the right way. You can do it very quickly (overnight) via Createspace, as a self-published author, but if you want to do it the right way, and enjoy all the advantages of being a publisher rather than an author, Lightning Source, a division of the biggest book distributor, Ingram, is the only path.

I am hoping the higher initial costs of doing it right will be worth it. Tempo is written to be more than a one-season fad of a book. I’ve put a decade of thinking into it, and I hope to grow it through several editions into an enduring contribution to the subject of decision-making. In some ways, I am actually hoping for a slow start and very gradual diffusion of the book. I personally think this is one for the slow cooker, not the quick stir-fry wok.

It’s been a fascinating learning curve, and I finally feel like I am on the leading edge of publishing with the things I am trying with Tempo. If any of you want to get into Publishing 2.0, you can hire me and my comrade in arms, Adam Hogan to consult. Adam is a great friend; he also did my cover and battled the PDF demons for me. He’s another of the many mysterious and shadowy ninjas working backstage to make my life possible.

Now that Ribbonfarm, Inc. is set up as a publishing company, I am also interested in publishing books by others. Obviously, I am only interested in ribbonfaresque themes.  I have a few interesting conversations going with people who seem to have a book in them. If you think you have a ribbonfarmesque book in you, get in touch.

Over and out. There will now be radio silence on this blog, as far as Tempo is concerned, for the next few weeks (there will hopefully be some Twitter chatter though, if my evil plans succeed). We’ll get back to regular programming starting next week.

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter


  1. Ho-Sheng Hsiao says

    Ha! Congratz, Venkat, on getting this out to the world. Though… I didn’t realize that’s what my mania looked like from the outside ;-)

    For the other readers, I want to give something more tangible and less condensed about Tempo.

    In https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2007/09/24/strategy-tactics/ Venkat describes a master strategist as a storyteller.

    When I first read that, it got me thinking: really? Really??

    I had just read about describing chess openings as stories, but I hadn’t thought about the storyteller. It got me thinking about my favorite authors, both fiction and non-fiction writers. It got me thinking about eliminating all but the essentials. “Making circles smaller.” It got me thinking about presentation and misdirection — in a novel, on the stage, in corporate in-fighting, in Chess, in Go, in sparring. In software architecture. In mono-myths. In the elevator pitch. In pivots. This post was several years old. What more is in Tempo about stories?

    It turns out, there’s a whole chapter just on narrative. Just one in about half a dozen. Each of these, worth taking the time to digest, to see unfold in life, to seize for your own.


    • That post was one of the original motivations for the book. I need to go update that though, since the treatment in the book supersedes that post.

  2. Thanks for the kind words Venkat, but now I feel like I’m slinking around whenever I comment :)

    Anyway, the Strategy and Tactics post that Hosh linked is the original one that got me hooked onto ribbonfarm in the first place. I was googling for the meaning of “strategy” and “tactics” because of the confusion surrounding their definitions several years ago. The post is currently on the 4th page of Google search results, and was probably similarly buried back then too, but that has always been the original hook.

    Thank goodness that, in the end, the exploration and definitions of the two words were delivered in a full-length book format.

    Congrats on the (stealth) launch!

    • That strat-tacs post is one of the weirdest ones in my archives. Before the Gervais Principle, it was by far the most emailed post. Few people commented, and as you say it is probably hard to find (it used to be on the first page on Google for a bit), but once people find it, they are far more likely to forward it than comment.

      It’s a pattern (low comments/high email) that I only see for book review posts generally, which is why I thought, “hmm… this thing is behaving like a book review, so maybe there’s a book project here.”)

  3. Christian Molick says

    The narrative angle is especially interesting to me because of its breadth and relevance from the basic elements of language, through the way we build identities, to how we share experiences through stories. Further, in technology narrative forms are becoming critical at many levels from interfacing with human users to orchestrating highly distributed functions with nodes that cooperate with self organizing strategies.

    My decision to buy Tempo was quick. Though my lifestyle is tending toward nomadic, it is good to have some physical books around as they can be useful as weapons, door jams, pet training devices, and so on.

  4. Heh, it won’t be much good as a doorstop or weapon, since it’s only 1cm thick and a softcover:)

    I cover nearly all the aspects of narrative you mention. Looking forward to your comments.

  5. Congrats!

    FYI – If you want to edit the less-recruiting “You’ve missed the discount” language from the top of this post – Lulu provides a 25% discount APRILREAD for the rest of this new month. Afterwards – http://www.retailmenot.com/view/lulu.com – something else will likely be offered.

  6. “Tempo: timing, tactics and strategy in narrative-driven decision-making”.

    That sounds the catch phrase for a corporate “If-you-want-it-TAKE-IT” type of power book aimed at the Wall Street business crowd. But I doubt that is the case here, and so I have to ask: What is this book about? What does decision-making mean in this context?

    • Jacob:

      I plan to let the early reviews do the talking. That’s the point of this stealth edition. I am too close to the book, and I suspect early readers will be able to provide far better descriptions of the content, which I then plan to co-opt for my own evil marketing needs.

      You’re right — it isn’t a business book (the subtitle was a compromise between SEO-friendliness and elaboration of the title). It’s almost an informal theory textbook, that could be applied to any domain by adding some local wisdom/insight to the ideas.

      It is also not a book with a specific purpose. Like this blog, it’s an extended exercise in looking at familiar things (decision-making in this case) from new perspectives.


  7. Strangeattractor says

    Will the edition that will be on Amazon.com be printed at Lulu using the same paper, ink, and process? Or will there be differences in how it is made, other than leaving the page about the word of mouth experiment out?

  8. The Amazon version will be printed by LightningSource Ingram. AFAIK same process (digital print-on-demand), different equipment maker. There are several advantages of doing things this way.

    I am waiting for my LSI proofs. Should be no real difference though, for this kind of straight-ip print job, it’s all the same. This sort of thing only really matters for demanding print jobs like coffee table books.

  9. Is this a difficult read?I do want to read the book, but I’m not as smart as you.

    • The good news is that Venkat has the luxury of taking you through a learning process to gradually understand tempo and corresponding implications. I’m not smart, but rather I persevere when I don’t understand something. Fortunately, I didn’t need to do this with Tempo.

      In this case, reading Tempo was actually an easier read than some of Venkat’s blog posts because you feel that he really takes the time to properly explain in more depth the concepts (new and old) that he refers to.

      This is more of an intro to a newer decision making framework for laymen. If it was a difficult read, Venkat wouldn’t have an audience :)

      I suggest reading some sample chapters to get a feel for it.

      • Thanks :) Yea, I’ve had to read some of his blog posts multiple times to understand them so that’s what had me worried. I thought the book would be more difficult than the posts. You’re right, it is a matter of perseverance. It is satisfying to have understood something seemingly out of your grasp. These posts are def more challenging than the readings my profs assign.

        • Ho-Sheng Hsiao says

          It may be good to have some sort of an online reading group for it (and similar topics). Myself, I like having people sanity-checking some of my crazier ideas before experimenting with practical applications.

  10. Venkat,

    Got the book when I was in Chicago last week. Have started reading and would send you a separate note on the same!


  11. So has the book already disappeared from lulu.com? The link in the post did not yield any results — am I too late for the party?