How a blank book got to the top of the Amazon charts
2 Apr 2011
Shed Simove explains how he wrote and published a global bestseller in nine days.
Bam! It was a simply unbelievable moment. Except that it actually, really happened. I stared at my computer screen. There, sitting in my inbox was an email that confirmed that the world around me had gone totally and utterly, bone-fide, stark-raving, strait-jacket wearing, barmy bonkers…mad. I read the first line. It said: ‘Shed!!! Your book is number 44 on Amazon… Congratulations!’
So, how on earth did a blank book become a worldwide bestseller? The background behind this remarkable occurrence is a tale of ‘ideas generation’, ‘attention to detail’ and marketing – and it holds important lessons for anyone writing a book, or indeed selling any product.
The book came about through a series of calculated thought processes. In one ‘hand’, I took the idea of a ‘book’ and in the other ‘hand’ I took the idea of a ‘novelty joke item’. Once my mind had decided on a book that was a joke, I knew it had to be blank inside. The blank pages instantly become the punchline of my ‘3D joke’, and the lead in line would then be the title. After rolling it around in my mind for a while, I settled on the title, ‘What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex’.
The design of the front cover was massively crucial. To get this right, I researched dozens of self-help psychology books. I say ‘researched’, I actually spent hours trawling through ‘Google Images’, downloading many examples of the genre and then I spent ages working with a brilliant designer I know until we got the cover exactly right.
Once we had the cover design, everything happened so quickly. I found a printer on the web and it took nine days to get the finished book in my hands. I immediately ordered a thousand copies and set up an account on Amazon, which is actually harder than getting a degree from Oxford . (Amazon please note: your system is SO un-user friendly.)
Next, I took the rest of my meagre savings and hired the best PR company in the world, the London PR Agency. What they did was create stories around the book, letting journalists know how students were using it as a notebook in lectures. Within three days they’d got me national coverage in ‘The Star’ newspaper, a spot on the TV show ‘Lorraine’ and a mention on the Aled Jones Radio 2 programme.
From there, it all went stratospheric. The story of the book was reported on the internet and it spread around the world in a most thrilling and uncontrollable fashion.
The sheer amount of coverage the book garnered not only directly impacted sales of the book (the thousand copies sold out in two days, and I had to re-order many times over the next weeks) it also brought a deluge of offers from all over the globe, from super-keen publishers asking to buy the rights to translate the book (as hilarious as that sounds). So far, I’ve been contacted by publishers in these territories who want to release a version of my totally blank book:
• Iceland • Japan • Mongolia • Slovakia • Czech Republic • Hungary • China • Canada • Spain • Russia • Germany • France • ITALY • Wales • Japan • Croatia • Australia • USA • Brazil • South America
These enquiries would only be successful if they could be realised, negotiated and signed up correctly. I needed a Literary Agent, and fast. I put out a request on Facebook for anyone who knew a ‘Super Agent’ and one of my friends recommended Andrew Lownie, the top Literary Agent in the country. I contacted him and amazingly, he didn’t look down on me for bringing him a blank book. Within twenty four hours he’d signed a deal with Australia to publish the book down under. Wow! And the rest, as they say…is publishing history…
Details of Shed’s life and other books can be found at www.ShedSimove.com