Skip to content

The Books of No Excuses

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
2 min read

I buy books to dissect their strategies as much as to read.

A sub-genre of these purchases is the “no excuses” book — a book that exists to show you why you have no excuses not to publish your next book.

Kevin Kelley’s new book, Excellent Advice for Living, is simply a collection of the advice he’s been publishing online for years. They are often just one sentence, filling a full page with a thought.

Seth Godin has a few such books. Ship It was just a tiny workbook, sold five at a time. You were meant to use a new one every time you launched a product you wanted to ship. It’s not much more than a brochure. Seth Godin also once published a one-page book on behalf of a designer (it was essentially a poster).

Austin Kleon suggested checking out the book, 300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso. Like Kevin Kelly’s book, it’s a collection of one-sentence-ish thoughts. And, it’s super-small. The idea of such a tiny, physical product that a creator could add to their offerings had me all-in before I read a word.

Chase Jarvis’s The Best Camera Is the One That’s With You is the book that launched 1000 blogs. It’s just a small book of (mostly) images made using the first version of the iPhone, when no one thought phones could yield “real photography.” Now, the title of the book is used as a cliché. I can’t think of a higher compliment.

Timothy Goodman made a book from his Sharpie drawings.

This collection of 20 prints packaged like a book could be the clearest, most impactful book you read this year.

Several of no-excuse books are collections of blog posts edited to be manifestos, like Patrick Rhone’s, Austin Kleon’s, or even mine.

George Carlin’s book, Brain Droppings, is a collection of snippets of jokes and stories that he used or didn’t use while on tour. It was followed up by a few sequels. Why let all those scraps of humor go to waste?

David Hieatt of Do Lectures published a cool little ebook on 24 quotes that changed his life, with commentary. He also published the tiny physical book, The Path of a Doer.

The truth is: we all have books that are already written…somewhere. They live in our blogs, social feeds, and notes. It’s the constraints and strategy, and the decision to ship, that eludes us.

We need to be reminded – sometimes physically – that there’s no excuse for not shipping.