I (accidentally) launched my book a year ago and then it magically sold 10,000 copies
Happy Friday! I’m doing a week of posts to recap 2022 and kick off 2023 with some writing momentum. Today I’m sharing a recap on my crazy book success in 2022.
I am also soft-launching the Find The Others Community on top of this newsletter which will kick off with a virtual party next Monday. 💃🕺We have 50+ people and its been more fun and active than I expected:
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Accidental Book Launch
A year ago I was sitting on the bed of the sublet we had rented in Austin. We had moved in a couple of days earlier and didn’t have a couch yet.
I uploaded the .mobi file for the kindle version and picked a launch date of January 31st. Submit. I then moved on to the paperback and hardcover. Slightly different process but pretty straightforward. I noticed it didn’t ask me for the launch date but I shrugged it off. Maybe after it gets approved.
At that point, my eyes had gone blurry from reading my book straight through approximately 15 times in ten days. I had spent about 15 minutes thinking about the launch strategy and figured that I’d have a couple of weeks to plot some 80/20 strategies.
The next morning I pull open my phone like a regular ol’ 2022 notification addict and saw this e-mail.
I quickly decided that Amazon was my new overlord and decided not to backtrack the decision. My book was officially published.
I had not prepared an e-mail sequence, marketing materials, or anything. I changed the kindle launch date to three days later so I could do a proper “launch.”
A friend I made later that was watching this commented to me this year, “did you really just tweet that your book was for sale as your launch strategy?”
The pre-sale sold 53 and I thought that was incredible. Total pre-sales including the prior year? 161. Wow.
I was launching my book and it was an absolute slam-dunk success. Some people say I aim too low. I say I’m quite happy.
I had no clue what was coming. This is me reflecting on my first week of sales where I sold 308 including pre-sale:
I might have sold more books if I had put more energy into the launch, but it’s hard to know. For my book, I sense that the initial audience will be people that have already read my writing, and if the book does find some marginal success, it will likely be slow and steady growth.
My Hunch About What Happened With My Book
People keep saying things to me like “you must have known there was potential for your book to succeed.”
Yes, and no.
I wrote the book based on secret knowledge that only I seemed to be paying attention to and eventually became obsessed with from 2016-2020. I had this hunch that things had gone terribly wrong with how people were orienting their lives around work and how people talked about work had become weirdly disconnected from what people were actually experiencing.
I had about 383 curiosity conversations and nearly 100 podcast conversations with people from 2017 to 2021. Over and over again people told me things that you didn’t hear in normal conversation:
I am miserable at my job but can’t tell my wife
I have so many dreams but don’t know how to get started
I feel so ashamed that I don’t like what I do. I should, I get paid a lot.
I have enough money but can’t quit my job, what would I do with my time?
Working on my own is my dream but I don’t think I can match my salary.
This motivated me. We have one damn life, more prosperity than ever, more ways to work, and we’ve driven the collective engine of cultural desire towards a weirdly mediocre upper normie lifestyle that is dependent on continued employment at jobs where we look at silly stuff we don’t like screens all day.
How could I be the only one that thinks this is insane?
In 2020 there was a dramatic spike in these conversations I was having and I rode this wave of ideas and energy to the end of the year when I decided to write the book.
That energy told me something was going on and I followed it.
Turns out there are far more people than I expected.
In the first month I finally talked to a few people that knew how books worked. Someone I knew that had worked at Scribe Media told me that 1,000 books in 100 days is one of the most important metrics. Because if you can hit 1,000 it gives you a chance of word of mouth taking off.
Long games like this are the most interesting to me. When I heard James Clear tell Tim Ferriss that he lined up 75 podcast interviews with people to be released on the week of the book launch I was shocked. There really are all sorts of different people.
Billy Oppenheimer shared this thought from Ryan Holiday with me last week and I ate it up with all the confirmation bias energy in my body:
I ended up hitting 1k sold sometime in March and in the first 90 days I sold 1,584.
This was incredible to me and the prospect of selling what I thought might be three or four thousand books for the year seemed mind blowing.
I felt validated that I was right about these ideas and it inspired me to re-name my podcast to the Pathless Path podcast, keep writing about work, and launch Find The Others this week, which I’m quite excited about.
A few days ago I hit 10k books sold across all platforms. This is far beyond what I expected. To celebrate I took a day of leisure, wandering around, taking a walk with a friend, slowly hanging out at the gym, and reading. It was wonderful.
Here are the overall numbers from the year. The revenues don’t include all of the December info so it’s even a bit higher I stopped tracking the costs closely but it’s probably no more than $12-$13k total spend.
The costs include editing, publishing, design, platform fees, some ad spend on Amazon, a couple of consultants that helped me think about the book, and gifting anyone who asks for my book, which is close to over 1,000 at this point.
Turns out self-publishing is very profitable!
Here is the more detailed data where you can see the average royalties by platform:
Reflections & Predictions
David Senra (pod episode coming!) likes to say there are two types of people:
Those that understand the scale of the internet
Those that know they don’t understand the scale of the internet
At every phase of my journey, I have been reminded that I am in camp #2.
When I decided to write my book, I had ~2k newsletter subscribers. When I finished it was about 5.5k. Now it’s about 8.5k. How are 10,000 people finding, buying, reading, and giving decent reviews?
It’s the internet stupid.
This is why I think more people share their ideas online. Not to make money - I made less than $2k from writing for six years before making much more this past year. But to find the others, build connections, and potentially build a life that is aligned around doing things they actually care about.
The BEST part of writing the book is the flood of messages I have received. Almost every day I receive a message like this across every platform. People feel the urge to reach out and tell me about their experiences.
I’ve probably received one message a day for an entire year. Finding people that appreciate you is a cheat code to having the courage to keep going.
Here are a few from this week:
People seem to think past success indicates future success too. This is what David Kadavy’s book Mind Management, Not Time Management has been doing on Amazon over the past few years.
Following this trajectory, I might hope to slightly increase sales in the upcoming year.
The truth is that I have no idea.
I didn’t write my book around current events. so I think it can stay relevant for a while. These issues aren’t going away and people don’t seem to be slowing down their awakenings around work.
I am probably pessimistic about the future potential of the book but that’s how most self—employed people are. It’s what keeps us in the game.
I thought it might be fun to close with some predictions on next year’s sales. I’m likely not going to track it as closely but I’ll still look at it now and then.
My predictions and confidence levels
Sells less than 2,500 copies (10%)
Sells more than 2,500 but less than 5,000 copies (30%)
Sells from 5,000 to 10,000 copies (40%)
Sells more than 10,000 copies (20%)
Some other predictions:
Some mainstream press will mention my book (25%)
A top podcaster that I haven’t will ask me to go on their show (determined by apple rankings) (25%)
I will appear on TV to talk about my book (5%)
I will decide to write another book by the end of the year (30%)
Oprah will read my book (1%)
My book will be mentioned by another YouTuber with >2M subscribers (20%)
Mr. Beast will buy 1 million copies and airdrop them onto an island of knowledge workers (1%)
Ali Abdaal will mention my book on a public platform at least once in 2023 (100%)
I will continue to gift my book to anyone that asks (100%)
Does anyone else have any fun predictions?
I just want to end by thanking everyone. From a work standpoint, this was the first year I really got to make money in a way that was aligned with what I care about. As David Kadavy says, I got paid to “be me.”
None of this would have happened without much of your support. I value people that read my stuff and share it so, so much. You are choosing me out of the millions of crazy things you can pay attention to.
Thank you 🙏
PS: It was pointed out in a post about not being good at selling my book I didn’t have a link to my book. Here is a link.