Last year, I told my wife that I’d be happy if ten people would read my book Start Something Good. As the writing process came to an end, I had meager expectations for this passion project of mine.
So imagine the surprise when the book debuted at the #2 spot on the Amazon charts.
We competed against professional journalists. The book vied against bestsellers written by the powerful and famous.
I’m a first time author. I had no marketing budget. The book featured stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things to make the world a better place.
How ON EARTH did this HAPPEN?
This was no accident. It took a dedicated team driven by purpose that believed impossible is what they won’t do.
Here’s the breakdown of how a small side project became a bestseller so you can learn how to share your vital story with the world.
I always hyped my book from the start, even when it was merely a series of sticky notes in my notebook.
At first, sharing my book idea with friends and family fostered a sense of conviction, ensuring I would complete the project. Nothing helps a long project drive towards completion like the social anxiety of explaining why something did not happen. I spoke about Start Something Good from the get-go and insisted my social network held me accountable for finishing the damn thing. And in the process, I unwittingly formed a community around the book.
The narrative of Start Something Good focuses on how my life trajectory intersected with change-makers who strove to create a better and more just world. By writing about philanthropic leaders, the book’s de facto had a sense of community before any formal marketing began. Over 100 people are featured in the book. Each were sent snippets to review so they could validate the accuracy of my recollections of their stories. Most responded enthusiastically. A minority responded with caution, as the book is candid and emotionally raw about failures that occur as a startup nonprofit grows. Regardless of the opinion, a community around the material fomented.
As the book launch drew near, I asked the aforementioned people to formally join my book launch team. This team was comprised of a group of people committed to spreading the word about Start Something Good. I kept the team apprised on the progress of publishing the book, live events about the book, setbacks during the publishing process, and also sent them early versions for their honest feedback. When the first Amazon reviews came back far better than I had expected, the book magically shot up to #14 on the charts. During our soft release. I knew our team had a shot at going #1.
I’m not a natural extrovert so talking about myself does not come naturally. But as my amazing editor David Hopkins at Creative Expansion constantly reminded me, a book launch demands that you be persistently vocal about your work. You have to market both yourself and the material to sell copies.
You’re in sales, get over it.
What was my trick to mitigate this blocker rooted in my social anxiety? I decided to give all proceeds to charity. Since the book is about social entrepreneurs helping their communities, it seemed natural that my work would support their efforts. This shifted the book’s purpose from being “about me” to being “about us”. The book received a wider purpose which empowered me to speak up. Every. Single. Day.
With a book launch team of 50 people armed with a purpose and pre-written social media messages , we got ready for game day.
Sunday May 5th.
No other books launched that weekend in our category so our team stood ready for action. We still needed a hook, a sense of urgency. I spoke to Gabriel Romero, the SVP of Marketing at AllCloud who has experience in best-sellers to figure this out. He explained that I needed to offer a low price that would only be valid for the first 250 copies. We struck a balance to find the right price to gain attention while not forgetting proceeds went to charity. We made this plan clear to our launch team as we geared up May 5th. Altogether, we prepped our networks that Sunday 05/05 would the BEST day to buy the book.
As momentum for Super Sunday surged, our motley team got dealt a few ace cards. Two companies and a university confirmed they would be ready to buy copies in bulk. Those high volume buys happened on launch day and paved a path for our entire team as we stormed up the charts. These opportunities arose through my launch team and I’m proud to announce that the book will be taught at USC this fall semester to future social entrepreneurs! And many thanks to all the AllClouder and Salesforcers for this support.
In the end, around 25,000 people received notification of the Super Sunday launch. My email, social media channels, and texts went off the hook. I made sure to respond to everyone for anything they did to help with this effort.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I wrote this book to show the power of everyday people doing what they can to make the world a better place. You showed me the power of sharing that message.
Now, it’s time to share the impact.