This is a case study in doing everything wrong and still finding success in self-publishing. Identifying details have been removed to protect the innocent.
After Bottle Cap Publishing released Unfinished Muse in July, we watched the rankings on Amazon very closely. Over the first month, UM was doing well, and we saw some organic growth as it made the Hot New Releases list and the top 10 list in the Mythology category.
But after about a month, a new book came onto the scene. This self-published book came out of nowhere and within days of being released it was ranking in the top 1000 of the Amazon Paid Kindle Store and the top 500 over on Barnes and Noble’s Nook store. And on Amazon, it was ranking #1 in three categories.
Despite the stellar sales rankings, no one was talking about this book.
- 0 ratings and reviews on Amazon
- 0 ratings and reviews on B&N
- 0 ratings and reviews on Goodreads
So what was this book and how had the author managed to goose the sales if no one was talking about it?
It aroused our curiosity, in part, because the cover was unimpressive. The image was not particularly engaging and the font choice made reading the title and the author’s name difficult. The back cover copy was not particularly well written. The first page in the preview included several punctuation mistakes. And it was just over 100 pages.
The book was priced to move, but at an odd price point. Not the usual $0.99 you see for most nearly free books.
Everything seemed a bit off, and we decided to investigate. Down the rabbit hole!
We could find very little information about the author or the book on either Amazon or B&N. The author didn’t have an author page on Amazon.
A Google search turned up a few random tweets on Twitter, as well as the author’s Twitter account. His account had zero information about the book or a link to a website. But he had tweeted to B&N thanking them for helping make his book a success.
But what had B&N done? Nothing that we could find. No tweets, no posts on Facebook, nothing on the B&N website. And besides, that wouldn’t explain the book’s equal success on Amazon.
More searching, trying to find anything or anyone that might be responsible for the book’s success. Facebook gave us some clues. We found a lot of personal information about the author and his family. He didn’t have a network of contacts. He had no ties to big publishing. He didn’t have a platform for self-promotion.
Did I mention that he didn’t even have a website?
The cover artist mentioned the book once on Facebook. The author (on his personal Facebook account, because he didn’t have an author account) told his friends about it, but each of his posts managed to garner only a few likes and one share.
The book and the author were not mentioned anywhere else. It’s as if the book didn’t exist at all before a few days ago.
After several hours of late-night research, we concluded that whatever shenanigans had occurred, this was not a model for success that we could replicate. Either something had happened behind the scenes to catapult this book to fortune and glory, or the author had visited the crossroads at midnight and made a deal with the devil.
We’re betting it was the latter.
The moral of this story is that sometimes you can do everything wrong and still manage some success, but it probably won’t be of the long-lasting variety. At Bottle Cap Publishing, we believe it’s important to do everything we can to make a book successful and not leave it all up to chance.
Hard work will pay off in the long run.