I stared at my computer screen. There, sitting in my inbox was an email that confirmed the world around me had gone totally and utterly, bonafide, stark-raving, strait-jacket wearing, mad. I read the first line. It said:
“Shed! Your book is number 44 on Amazon… Congratulations!”
Now, most authors would delight at this news, and of course I most certainly was thrilled, but in my case, the book in question was a little bit different to other books. And that’s why my jubilation was, well, let’s say, mixed in with a healthy dose of disbelief and abject bewilderment. Because, my book, entitled What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex is completely and utterly blank.
That’s right, you read that correctly, my book contains two hundred pages and each one has absolutely nothing printed on it.
Astonishingly, at that moment, I made publishing history. It was the first time since records began that a blank book had got into the top 50 on a bestseller chart.
So, how on earth did a blank book become a worldwide bestseller? The background behind this is a tale of ambition, attention to detail and marketing – and it reveals secrets for anyone writing a book, or indeed selling any product or service.
Ever since I can remember, it’s been my fierce desire to write a bestselling book. For me, books have enormous worth. The ability of an author to inform, amuse, move and inspire is a hugely valuable and worthwhile pursuit. To this end, I’d worked hard, but hardly set the publishing word alight. The first book I got published was a little gift book called Presents Money Can’t Buy – 50 thoughtful (and very cheap) ideas to show someone you care about them. This took a long time to write and persuade a publisher to jump on board (more than 50 rejections) and, eventually when it was published; it went on to sell very modesty indeed. Or, more precisely, it bombed.
My second book Ideas Man was a far weightier tome and I had huge hopes for it. This book took five (count them – five!) years to write, and then another two years to persuade a publisher to take it on. It’s a book I poured my soul into, and it covers the successes and failures in my life. Now, for this book I had the backing of a huge publishing house, plus I also threw my whole life behind it. I built my website around Ideas Man, I included mentions of it on every blog I wrote, performed 21 shows at Edinburgh to showcase it, I even printed images of the book on all the novelty products I’d sold (over one million gifts worldwide, including the Martin Loofah King or birthday candles that spell YOU’RE OLD). But Ideas Man hardly sold at all, never getting to more than around 35,000 in the Amazon rankings, despite floods of great reviews and regular emails from readers telling me the book was a fantastic read.
This really got me down, and puzzled me hugely, too. I’ve since realised that it’s a problem many authors have. They spend years writing a book, then even more years trying to get a literary agent and publisher to back it and then, when their book finally comes out, the author breathes a huge sigh of relief and assumes that their book will be discovered, widely read and will sell around the world in bucketloads.
Well, any new author needs to wake up and smell the rankings. Most books, however well written, hardly sell many copies at all. This is a modern day travesty and I believe it needn’t happen. Little did I know, but my “failures” (or as I prefer to call it – my “experiments”) with my first books were to bring me to a solution that would garner huge publishing success and bring me lessons that can help all authors, companies or entrepreneurs.
Read more on page two