AOL News wrote:
“It is perhaps no surprise that a book titled “What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex” is a best seller. It is also perhaps no surprise that such a book has recently outsold a Harry Potter title and “The Da Vinci Code” on Amazon.com.
But what about the fact that the book contains only blank pages? The joke is on, well, all of us.”
How I got a blank book to the top of the Amazon charts or: “Laughing All The Way To The Bank
By Shed Simove
Here’s how I published a bestseller in just nine days (and made a million authors instantly hate me).
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 value. 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.
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 bucket loads.
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.
I began thinking about the relative sales of my books and my novelty products. If my novelties were selling so well around the world and seemed to effortlessly capture people’s attention (it’s amazing that a non-working joke remote control called a Control-A-Man could sell over a quarter of a million units) and yet, bafflingly, my books weren’t selling well at all, then maybe there was a way of combining both concepts to achieve massive success. In my corporate speeches and presentations to big companies, I talk about techniques for generating new ideas, and one of them is to join two ideas that aren’t normally placed together, which then delivers a totally new concept. So that’s exactly what I did. In one hand, I took the idea of a book and in the other hand I took the idea of a novelty joke item. And once my mind had decided on a book that was a joke, I knew my new book had to be blank inside. I settled on the title “What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex”.
Now, I’m positive that had I gone to any publisher with the idea to release a blank book (and that’s assuming I could even get to see them – which is really tough), they would have told me a) it had been done before and b) it wouldn’t sell. In fact, I rang the boss of the publishing house who published Ideas Man asking to see him so that I could tell him about my planned new book. His press agent called me back and told me the boss wouldn’t see me. I wonder if he cares now the book has become a worldwide bestseller! I decided to remove all possible barriers to me getting my book on to the market by both publishing and releasing it myself.
I immediately searched online for an established printer who specialised in books. I found a few, got some quotes and within hours had a feel for how each one dealt with me over email and the phone (note to companies – this matters!). This enabled me to choose the printer I was going to work with from then on. I gave the printer the precise specifications I needed for my book, including: off-white blank pages, a glossy thick cover, ISBN and barcode on the back, professionally bound (they call it perfect bound in the trade) with a pre-creased spine. All these details were to make sure the final product instantly felt and looked like an authentic book. After all, the joke hinged on this – and that’s all I had. The punch line of the blank pages inside the book would only be funny if the person holding it expected the book to be a traditional book with words inside – nothing could give away that this was a joke before it was opened.
The design of the front cover was also massively crucial. I then worked with a brilliant designer I know called Chris Jones, who I’d met through working on previous novelty gifts. Chris came back with three brilliant designs for the front cover and I chose one, a striking design with navy blue and black writing on white.
At this point, everything started to happen very quickly. It had taken me just nine days to get the finished book in my hands and I immediately ordered 1,000 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!). I battled through the bureaucracy, overcame the headaches and finally had both a product and a sales outlet where millions of people could buy it from. Yes, I was all ready to go.
But what was missing was that out of the six billion people on the planet, only about seven of them knew about my book. Two of those were my parents, one was the printer and one was my cleaner. And this inner circle was hardly going to get the message out to millions.
I called up the best PR company I knew – The London PR Agency – and told them my budget. Instead of putting the phone down on me, they clearly outlined how long they could work on my book for the amount I had. Little did I know it would turn out to be one of the best investments I had ever made.
The day after the first press release was sent out, Alex from the London PR agency called me: “Shed, good news. The ITV morning show Lorraine is interested in the book. Can you send them a copy over?”
I did so right away, sending one of my books in a taxi so I knew the person at the TV show would have it in their hands within the hour. The next morning, I tuned into the show and watched with huge excitement as Michael Ball picked up the book and talked about it. Amazing! I immediately uploaded this clip onto YouTube and Facebook, immensely proud to have national TV coverage. Things were starting to happen… I believe two other factors helped make the story reportable – good photos and a decent video.
I’m lucky enough to know a brilliant guy called David Thorburn who is both a friend and a fantastic photographer. David always supports me with whatever adventures I’m creating and he created three great images, so journalists could choose a good picture for their story.
As well as the images, I also created a YouTube video which showed me speaking to camera, introducing the book.
What’s incredible about YouTube is that because it’s integrated into Google, when the title of my book, ”What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex” is punched into the search box, any videos related to it immediately pop up in the results.
Another call from the PR company came through: “Shed, the Daily Star is going to run a story on the book… and Aled Jones on Radio 2 might mention it too. I uploaded a scan of the Daily Star article to my website and to Facebook (it was brilliantly headlined, “Laughing All The Way To The Blank”) and cut a crude YouTube video of the Aled Jones mention on Radio 2 as well.
Over the next week, a whirlwind occurred. Every day more articles appeared on the net, from ever increasingly obscure regions of the world, I was inundated with interviews from around the globe, the book raced up the Amazon chart and I sold thousands and thousands of books. It wasn’t all plain sailing, of course. Trying to sell books in the States, for example, was one big nightmare.
The day the book hit 44 on Amazon was like a dream. I couldn’t quite believe it happened. The sales of my blank book overtook Ideas Man after six days. I didn’t know whether to jump for joy or weep.
I’ve launched novelty items before, and arguably some have been cleverer or funnier than this book, so why did this book become a global phenomenon?
Reasons the book blew big:
1. A great PR company, which reported stories about the item:
2. A YouTube Video – that showed me and the book too.
3. Some clear, professional images.
It shows that if you have a clear idea, you deliver it well, and then shout about it loudly (and with the right tools), you can make anything happen – you could even get a blank book to the top of the bestseller charts. Read more: http://realbusiness.co.uk
In one of the interviews the Author Sheridan Simove said: “This book is the result of 39 years of painstaking research and practical study into the subject. I left nothing to chance and really threw myself into my work. After many years of hard work I finally realized that men think of absolutely nothing apart from sex. It was such a shocking conclusion that the world needed to be informed of my findings. I never thought for one moment that my life’s work would be embraced by Britain’s students in their thousands. It is very gratifying to see my book outselling many other academic works whose authors claim to have worked even harder than I to break new ground and further the extent of human knowledge.”
Simove, 39, an Oxford University graduate who is an author, performer and entrepreneur, added: “I never anticipated that my book would be used for students to take their lecture notes in. In a sense they are proving me wrong by filling my book with content.”