“The president of the United States gets 100 days to prove himself; you get 90,” says leadership coach Michael D. Watkins in the introduction to the expanded and updated tenth anniversary edition of The First 90 Days, published a few weeks ago. Some might argue that publishers get even less time to establish a new book. Certainly Watkins’s publisher, Harvard Business Review Press, has moved quickly to try to position the new edition while avoiding some of the transition traps Watkins profiles, like “sticking with what you know” rather than embracing new competencies.
For The First 90 Days HBRP made its first app. “Given the popularity of the book and the way customers are consuming content, we felt it was a natural fit and a great way to extend one of our key franchises,” says Julie Devoll, HBRP assistant director of publicity. The app, which contains daily alerts, exercises, and exclusive video from Watkins was downloaded 900 times in the first two weeks after its release.
In addition, HBRP has begun working with retailers that don’t typically stock business books. Earlier this year the press placed Conscious Capitalism by Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey and Raj Sisodia in both Whole Foods and The Container Store. The former sold close to 14,000 books, which were displayed with the Harvard Business Review magazine. It sold so well, that Whole Foods is now considering adding HBR to its mix. As for the Container Store, while sales figures aren’t available, it recently reordered. For The First 90 Days, the press is working with FedEx, which will place it in 1,650 stores. On June 19, Watkins will sign at FedEx’s flagship location in New York City.
HBRP has also been active on Twitter, where it asked @HarvardBiz followers to submit their worst “first 90 days” story for a free copy of the book. And Watkins has been active on Harvard Business Review’s LinkedIn Group. Nor has the press ignored traditional media. The first edition spent 15 months on the BusinessWeek bestsellers list and was named one of the 100 best business books by 800-CEO-READ. The expanded edition was excerpted in The Globe and Mail and was included in The Washington Post’s “Great Books for Your Summer Reading List.”
Taken together HBRP’s efforts for first 90 days seem to be working. As of late last week, Watkins’s book had sold 4,200 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, and it had earned a spot on the top 500 at Amazon. Still the new edition of The First 90 Days has a way to go to sell out its first printing of 50,000 copies—or to surpass the first edition, which sold more than 750,000 copies worldwide, was translated into 24 languages. It remains one of the press’s top three all-time bestsellers.