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Help Us Hack the Publishing System!
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Here's how the system is supposed to work: you write a book. If people think it's good they buy it. If enough people think it's good it becomes a bestseller and widely read, spreading new ideas into the public debate.

Here's how the system actually works: you write a book. Unless your publisher spends large sums of money on marketing and promotions to convince booksellers that you will be a blockbuster, your book remains obscure, often quickly sinking out of view, and few people have a chance to see it, let alone encounter the ideas it contains.

These days, in other words, publishing is like the film industry (with its obsession about opening weekend ticket sales) or the music industry (with its focus on making hits). Big is everything. Big gets you into stores. Big gets you media coverage. Big gets enough people talking about your book that the ideas in them (if there are any) have a chance to spread. The Long Tail may keep your book in print, but it won't get your ideas into the mix.

Our book is not Big. It is thick; it is packed with solutions; it is, we think, smart and important.

But we don't have the blockbuster machine working for us. We have no marketing budget at all. Our publisher, Abrams, is terrific, but they are not a big company. They have a comparatively tiny promotions budget and don't have the kind of clout with booksellers to manufacture bestsellers.

Here's what we do have: you.

You're smart. You get it about systems and how they work and the importance of moving new ideas into the mainstream. You like a good hack.

Like this one: we have the capacity, if we work together, to put the Worldchanging book on the top of the Amazon bestseller list.

The Amazon list is hugely influential, indeed it's one of the main ways booksellers and media determine what books are "moving" and thus which books they should pay attention to. It's not the New York Times bestseller list, but it's the next best thing.

And Amazon, you see, ranks books based on their sales over the previous 24 hours. This means that it is possible, through coordinated action, to hack the system by getting a large number of people to buy the book at the same time.

Since, most of the time, purchases of books on Amazon are not coordinated (except in the case of right-wing political books, and that's another story), it is possible for a relatively small number of people to time their purchases right and, for a short period of time, drive the book they wish to support up the charts.

Since we're already doing extraordinarily well on Amazon just through word of mouth, we are actually in a position to quite conceivably make Worldchanging the number one book in the nation on the largest online bookseller, if just for one day.

In that one day, however, every other bookseller, reviewer, producer and store manager will hear about Worldchanging, and our odds of getting the traction we need to bring worldchanging ideas into the public debate will dramatically increase.

Here's what we're asking:

On November first, at eleven minutes after eleven a.m. (Pacific time), please go to Amazon and buy the book.

Better still, go to Amazon and buy the book on the first, and in the meantime blog, email, talk up the book and do whatever you can to encourage everyone who you think cares about sustainability, innovation and social change, everyone who wants more solutions in the public debate, to join you on buying the book on 11/1 at 11:11 a.m. Please help spread the word.

We can do this. We can make the corporate publishing system pay attention to us -- IF we work together.

So mark your calendar. Set an alarm. Tie a string around your finger. 11/1 at 11:11 a.m Pacific.

Show up on November 1st and let's show the blockbuster machine that people who care about ideas are smart enough to hack their system.

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Comments

A beautiful plan. Consider us on-board.


Posted by: Randy J. Hunt on 28 Oct 06

Uh oh, I preordered it!


Posted by: Thomas on 28 Oct 06

Count me in.


Posted by: Ben Carey on 28 Oct 06

Can you cancel it Thomas?

BTW, I'm in! That's Nov. 1, 11:11 AM Easter Standard time right?

Don't forget to reset your clocks!


Posted by: Chris on 28 Oct 06

These kind of hack-the-system ideas are exactly what's necessary to continue pushing positive change forward into the mainstream. I will be spreading the message through my channels. Please keep us posted on the overall progress here!


Posted by: Jesse Shannon on 28 Oct 06

Uhh - yes.. EST or what time zone?


Posted by: Min Draper on 28 Oct 06

I just received my WorldChanging book from Amazon today. It looks great and I want to just say what a great accomplishment for all those involved in the organization. Excellent, now back to reading it!


Posted by: Chad Weinman on 28 Oct 06

Is there any way you can have people sign up for a reminder service so they get an email a day before and an hour before to go and buy this book?


Posted by: Damien Mulley on 29 Oct 06

The WorldChanging book is on its way to me--I can't wait to see it.

As a publishing industry professional, I can tell you though that your description of the system isn't quite correct. Yes, it's true that promotional budgets determine the success of blockbusters--but only blockbusters. With tens of thousands of books published every year, and with the vast majority of them not aimed at a general audience, publishing success has many different definitions. And, for the most part, success is determined by the quality of the publication but also by the willingness or ability of the author to promote it himself or herself. You're doing a great job of that here.


Posted by: Andrew W on 29 Oct 06

While I appreciate the sway that Amazon has in the publishing world, I think it's really counterproductive for you to be directing business their way instead of encouraging folks to support independent booksellers (yeah, I noticed you had a Powell's link on the book page, but nowhere near as prominent as your plea to buy from Amazon). I won't be buying from Amazon.


Posted by: johanna on 29 Oct 06

I agree that Amazon isn't necessarily the entity to go after, but that's because I don't see Amazon as antithetical to independent booksellers and see it as inherently disruptive to the corporate publisher/national chain model.

First, Amazon sends tons of business indie bookstores' way: half the books I order through Amazon Marketplace end up coming from independent bookstores. I bet others Amazon customers could say the same.

Second, as soon as one makes an account with Amazon, its front page is personalized for you. Bestseller-based publishers are, but for one link, locked out. For example, last week I bought a book through Amazon; today on my Amazon front page is a recommendation to a complementary book, published by a small press, reviewed by independent reviewers, with used copies sold by indie bookstores.

Yes, bestsellers on Amazon largely track with bestsellers from brick-and-mortar stores. But so do sales from most indie bookstores. Most bestsellers are bestsellers not because of marketing but because they're aimed at very, very general audiences.

In other words, Amazon doesn't need hacking: it's the ultimate publishing hack already. If you really want to hack the system on behalf of WorldChanging, go to your local bookstore and leave a copy of the WorldChanging book on the front table. Or buy a copy, read it, and send your copy to a local book editor or reporter with a letter recommending it for review. Or use the most classic hack of all: word of mouth.


Posted by: Andrew W on 29 Oct 06


You got it! New site looks phnomenal by the way!


Posted by: Nick Aster on 29 Oct 06

Okay, I'll bite and order on 01-NOV.

But WorldChanging isn't the only organization/book struggling to make a dent. There are other solutions or approaches. Glenn Greenwald's "How Would a Patriot Act?", for example, went through a small press (Working Assets) to get published in a timely basis.

After that experience, it became clear that although this particular blogger-propelled book worked, getting a different kind of book published may not work as smoothly. Bloggers and their readers are now self-funding the publishing of another author, whose work may not immediately have the same broad appeal as Greenwald's, but whose research and writing deserves to be published.

If WorldChanging doesn't get the traction it needs, I recommend it consider looking at the efforts that were successful for Greenwald and consider additional tack.

Personally, I think the week before an election may not garner the attention from progressives this book deserves; maybe an additional push later in November might work?


Posted by: Rayne on 29 Oct 06

For Worldchangers who have already ordered a copy (or copies) -- you can join the hack too by buying another copy or two for worthy recipients, e.g. local public or high school libraries, church reading rooms, a valued local teacher or nonprofit, etc. This book needs to touch many lives -- put it places where it is sure to do so.

Boosting the book's sales rank at the same time is just icing on the cake. Be there at 11:11 on Wednesday!


Posted by: Ted on 29 Oct 06

I think it's really counterproductive for you to be directing business their way instead of encouraging folks to support independent booksellers

I tried looking for the book through Booksense, finally got to the right page, and then found its price to be $40. They've now since dropped it to $37.50.

By comparison, it's $31.87 direct from the publisher and $24.75 from Amazon (and I believe it was even less earlier). I'd also need to drive 13 miles round trip to pick up the book from my nearest "local" bookstore. And I live in a city.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 29 Oct 06

It is precisely the gigantic size of Amazon that makes it a good target. I'll be buying three copies (all I can afford). I hope you'll also pay what you can.

This is a great idea.

Is there any reason why this couldn't also be done for Powells' and etc?


Posted by: Dan on 29 Oct 06

Both Worldchanging and Amazon.com are based in Seattle, so I'll shoot for Pacific Standard Time. I'll send a message to confirm.


Posted by: Ben on 30 Oct 06

This is a very disappointing piece for two reasons. First, the book industry does not work the way you say it does. Second, and far worse, what you are proposing is unethical. This is supposed to be worldchanging, but it sounds like cynical business as usual to me.


Posted by: Joseph J. Esposito on 30 Oct 06

If you really want to shake the book world then have a go at those who demand enormous discounts, thus pushing the price of books up and the actual print quality down. We are only a small publisher, yet we produce books that people want to read. Large chains will only accept books from distributors, who normally demand 50 - 60% discounts. We simply dug our toes in and said no. Although we are minnows in the business, the big boys caved in almost immediately and we give them 35% close to or equal to our discount to independent booksellers. Why don't all publishers do the same?


Posted by: Kirsten Elliott on 30 Oct 06

Why is it unethical, Joseph? Clearly, you think sustainability is important or else you wouldn't be posting on the site. Most people, however, don't. All we're doing is buying a book in a coordinated fashion in order to increase its exposure, which is the ultimate aim of the entire site, anyway.

Unless you're talking about the ethics of some sort of "absolute truth" to sales numbers designed to help consumers, which we'd be disrupting. Which I think is hogwash, anyway. Noones needs to know that latest Grisham re-hash wasn't topping the charts for one day. The entire corporate/consumer model needs some serious monkeywrenching, and I'd say this is a pretty whimsical way to make a mark.

I'll be one of the sheep, since it's for a good cause.


Posted by: Andrew Leinonen on 30 Oct 06

Can we lesser mortals outside the United States join in? (for example via Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.de). Many of us have learned to read, too. And some of us really like your ideas.


Posted by: Ken Davies on 30 Oct 06

Does it work from alonovo--which raises money for your favorite causes through amazon's affiliate program?


Posted by: Evan Schoninger on 30 Oct 06

East Coast: This will be Nov. 1, 2:11 PM Eastern Standard Time. I'll be wrapped up at work, but good luck to you all!


Posted by: Lyle Solla-Yates on 30 Oct 06

Another few grassroots things that help sales tremendously are:

1) Recommend the hell out of the book at all your local bookstores. Employees often have discretion as far as what they put next to their cash registers, and certainly have discretion when it comes to what they push. This applies to the big stores too. A placement there increases sales a lot. A placement in Employee Favorites is also really helpful. Certain bookstore placements are pay for play, but a lot are not. The more people recommend the book, the more it will be displayed.

2) Mildly less ethical, but hell: it's always helpful, as a reader, to move the book, if you find it in a graveyard like the Design Section, to one of the New Release tables. Lots of people only buy books off of new release tables, and usually the book will stay there for at least a little while, and with any luck, will sell happily there until it's gone.

3) You can also ask bookstores why the book isn't on the new release table. This often gets them to move it-customer demand.

4) Get an email chain started that has people sending a recommend note to their lists. A friend of mine had a contest that had this as the action - he was cced on the mass mails, and gave prizes such as t-shirts, stickers, etc - not a ton of people entered. Maybe 40. They sent the email, between them, and their friends sending it out to help them, to 40,000 people. The book got on the NY Times bestseller list that week. It takes less sales than you'd think to get on the list, and getting on it helps exposure SO MUCH.

There you have it - the nutshell guide to things I learned when promoting my own book. Some of them would have been really great to know in that crucial first week!

Excited to see it making waves everywhere!

Maria


Posted by: Maria Headley on 30 Oct 06

A related tactic is being used by Dr. Mercola to promote his new book. I think it's better planned - the idea is to make the NY Times bestseller list which has a greater reach. What they do is collect pre-orders online and in turn do a bulk purchase, at cost. See http://www.mercola.com/sweet-deception-aspartame for more information. One of his video blogs describes the process in more detail that the web page noted above.


Posted by: David on 30 Oct 06

11:11 is the good-luck, romance time for me and my sweet, beautiful wife of 15 years. There have been so many 11:11s in our life together (I mean when one of us looks at the clock, and goes, "Hey! It's 11:11." Then we kiss.

We're in for sure!


Posted by: David on 31 Oct 06

And when we all have a copy and have read it, lets not leave it to gather dust on the shelf. Let´s make sure we use bookcrossing.com (or your favourite resource sharing tool in your local area) to spread the word even further to people we don´t even know yet. ):()


Posted by: Fiona Mac on 31 Oct 06

Sorry . . . I blew it.

I ordered early, and my eight copies arrived today! They had shipped before this plan was hatched.

I've been plugging the book in various forums.

I also taped a couple of the glossy hand-out cards to a sheet of paper and tacked it up outside my cubicle, inviting people to ask to look over my personal copy.


Posted by: Stefan Jones on 31 Oct 06

Good Idea but why would I want this book? Is it any good or is this just a clever marketing trick?


Posted by: barry lyndon on 1 Nov 06

A very nice idea. I won't pretend to know enough about the book-selling industry to predict whether or not it will make a significant difference. I am London based though, and so I will have to order mine slightly earlier (6pm here).

In regard to the sustainability of Amazon vs. Local, is it possible that the transport efficiency of Amazon would help to balance the equation?

Keep up the good work guys.


Posted by: Ian Crawford on 1 Nov 06

Powells is both independent and unionized. Amazon is not changing the world, except for the worse.

http://shamazon.blogspot.com/


Posted by: Alan Cordle on 1 Nov 06

the ranking has actually gone down to 111 since Chris posted the ranking.. d'oh.


Posted by: u24 on 1 Nov 06

Um...I would have been in, but Amazon Canada only has the book for pre-order. When does it go on sale outside of the States?


Posted by: Matt on 1 Nov 06

Powells is both independent and unionized. Amazon is not changing the world, except for the worse.

Amazon - $24.75, free shipping (by adding 25 cents to the order)
Powells - $37.50, plus shipping (unless one adds another $12.50 to the order)


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 1 Nov 06

As someone who had never heard of worldchanging before today, this zap was not the most convincing first thing to read about it.

It smacks of self promotion for the sake of self promotion (I get that you're trying to draw attention to the larger Green movement, but that's not emphasized enough in the call to action).

You might want to do a bit of fine tuning, make this appeal more to someone reading this blog for the first time.


Posted by: Solomon Grundy on 1 Nov 06

I've done my bit.


Posted by: Agen Schmitz on 1 Nov 06

i ordered at 11:16am. in vain??


Posted by: nathan on 1 Nov 06

Oh I didn't realize I was typing just after the exact moment of your zap.

Good luck with your action. Even though I somewhat disagree with your tactics, I wish you success.


Posted by: Solomon Grundy on 1 Nov 06

I went ahead and ordered the book via Amazon Canada, like Matt said, it's only a pre-order, but I figured it couldn't hurt. Does anyone know how Amazon Canada orders affect the Amazon.com rankings?


Posted by: Anna Withrow on 1 Nov 06

Congrats. I picked up my copy through Alonovo.com, which uses Amazon to ship, but dedicates monies for sustainable projects all over the world. Also, while we're propelling WC to #1 on Amazon, can we once again request that Amazon reduces its packaging?????


Posted by: Tod Brilliant on 1 Nov 06

The book jumped from #72 to #59


Posted by: Alternative Energy Blog on 1 Nov 06

The Amazon sales rank is 59 at this moment. Yay!


Posted by: Thomas on 1 Nov 06

If you missed the 11:11 AM moment, that's fine. You should still buy it today.

Amazon's rankings are calculated every hour based on the previous 24 hours. So any purchases made today will help push us closer to #1.


Posted by: Leif Utne on 1 Nov 06

Sad to have to use Amazon (independent booksellers are dying!) - but I did my part.


Posted by: Evil ZEN Scientist on 1 Nov 06

Woo hoo!
I'd love to see some hard data about how well this campaign worked, how many participated and when. I hope you folks have plans to post a follow up analyisis.


Posted by: occassia on 1 Nov 06

Woot! Now it's at 13


Posted by: Alternative Energy Blog on 1 Nov 06

for those doing the 'buy it together' with design like you give a damn - cheers! we went from #1,700 to #700 today.

oh and WC is #9 in the movers and shakers list...


Posted by: Cameron Sinclair on 1 Nov 06

#13 as we speak. Good job!


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 1 Nov 06

It's number 10 and number 1 in the Book and Science categories(respectively of course) on Amazon.ca. I think this effort was a success.


Posted by: Chris on 1 Nov 06

If you see it at #1 on any list, please send us a screenshot.


Posted by: Leif Utne on 1 Nov 06

In the spirit of the book... wouldn't it be better to encoutage people to walk, or take public transportation to their local bookstore? Amazon horribly over-packages everything!


Posted by: paul on 1 Nov 06

In the spirit of the book... wouldn't it be better to encoutage people to walk, or take public transportation to their local bookstore?

That's not necessarily in the spirit of the book. The spirit of the book, and of this website, is about positive solutions that are workable for everyone. It's not about the old school approach of punishment and denial. Nor is it about adhering to emotional notions about something like public transport being environmentally superior to shipping something. I have a hard time thinking that shipping a book would require more energy than moving a 200 pound body over a distance of 15 miles (the round-trip distance to my nearest "local" bookstore).


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 1 Nov 06

If you really want to shake the book world then have a go at those who demand enormous discounts...the big boys caved in almost immediately and we give them 35% close to or equal to our discount to independent booksellers. Why don't all publishers do the same?
Because publishers in the US (noted that you are in the UK) must by law offer chains and independents the same discount. Independent booksellers sued publishers for offering special deals to chains and some of us received a token financial settlement.

While I support the book, our store is significantly less likely to make this a holiday special--with accompanying discount--given this "action." Amazon is killing independents. Your action drives business to Amazon yet you rely on independents on your tour?! Johanna's remark is spot on. There is a way to do this ethically. Many indies do report to the NYT list and other influential lists. Comments re: indies supplying books for Amazon are poor rationalizations at best. Take your own advice, buy locally.

Shopping at chains and online out of convenience does nothing to contribute to your local community. Support retail diversity: shop consciously. Independents live in your community, support your causes, pay taxes, find your book like no search engine can and bring you outstanding events.

Rant over.


Posted by: bookish on 1 Nov 06

Joseph-I understand your situation. I grew up in a rural area and know that Amazon has given some folks a selection not previously available.


Posted by: bookish on 1 Nov 06

How high did we go? The highest I saw was #12 on Amazon at midnight Pacific time. Now we've crept a little lower to #16.


Posted by: Leif Utne on 2 Nov 06



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