I Am Joe’s Blog:

September 8, 2004 • 12:55 PM

How to Succeed in Publishing Without Really Trying

I’ve always marveled at the role sheer randomness has played in my career.

For example, when I got the contract to write my first computer book (about 10 years ago now), it was only because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was doing tech support for Nisus Software, and I happened to be answering mail sent to one of the company’s email addresses. A publisher wrote to the company at that address to ask if we knew of any Nisus-using authors who might be willing to write a book on the program. I mentioned a few names, and then said I myself would be extremely interested. One thing led to another, and I got the gig. And the fact that I’d had one book published gave me enough currency in the publishing biz to do a second one, and so on.

In today’s mail I found my copy of the October, 2004 issue of Macworld magazine, featuring an article by yours truly—my first for the magazine. Again, the way I got the assignment was pretty random. I’d written an ebook on dealing with Spam in Apple Mail, and just before the ebook was published, a Macworld editor had joined our Take Control authors’ mailing list. She read about my ebook and told me that another editor at the magazine had been looking for someone to write an article about spam, and would I be interested? Absolutely—I’ve wanted to write for Macworld for a long time.

But here’s what I find interesting. For its first couple of months, Take Control of Spam with Apple Mail did not sell particularly well. However, its publication led to interviews for radio shows and Wired News, not to mention the Macworld article, so it’s had the biggest PR impact of any of my titles. After the companion ebook Take Control of Email with Apple Mail came out, the two titles seemed to boost each other’s sales, and now both are quite successful. So even though the ebook by itself didn’t generate a huge amount of interest, it spawned other processes (so to speak) that indirectly reinforced its sales. And with the upcoming publication of these two books together in printed form from Peachpit, I’m hoping the exposure we get from appearing on bookstore shelves will make even more people aware of the Take Control series and perpetuate the cycle further.