Brett Kelly wrote a successful book: Evernote Essentials. That book has sold, according to his site, over twenty-five thousand copies, despite competing against a vast array of free and semi-free guides to the extremely popular and well known Evernote.
Then he wrote and released a second book, The Art and Science of Vaping. This was a total failure.
First, it feels really good to have written and shipped a second book.
Second, the book is good. There, I said it. I’m proud of what I made.
Finally, the book is out there and isn’t going anywhere.
In a blog post, “Why My New Book Bombed,” he offers a pretty simple explanation why:
I had—and still have—zero credibility among the target audience. Not because I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to the subject matter, but rather because I haven’t spent any time running in the same circles as they do. As far as the vaping community is concerned, I’m just another nameless bloke who made a thing.
I did very little to market or promote the product before launching it.
I had no clue how many of the folks who read my stuff would be interested in a book about vaping (I should have asked).
Read the whole post (it’s short).
My two-second take: I have to admit, there’s a small part of me that feels uncomfortable at this talk of community — as though I think, for whatever reason, that a good enough book, even on a subject I care nothing about, should simply rise to the top by total magic.
There’s a small fraction of my soul that asks, “Did Hemingway try to build up a standing in the fishing and bullfighting community before he published The Sun Also Rises? Would Kafka have sold more copies of The Metamorphosis if he had attended scholarly conventions on beetles?”
But I suppose that’s the exact point: as the marketing and publication of books becomes flatter, and as big name reviews become (or seem to become) less important, then the key to a book’s success becomes that initial wave of focused, committed readers, people who love the topic and who know lots of other people with similar interests, and who are willing to risk their own credibility to tell their friends, “Spend money on this! Now!”
Without that wave, nothing happens.