1-day sale turns 10-year-old book into ‘New York Times’ best seller

Les Standiford‘s 2005 Meet You In Hell has just met the New York Times Best Sellers list.

Wanting to tell the story of the larger-than-life personalities responsible for the boom of the American steel industry, the director of the FIU Creative Writing Program published the historical nonfiction book in 2005. A decade later, a promotion offered by the book’s publisher made Meet You In Hell’s sales rocket, placing it in the top 10 of the country’s best sellers for the month of May.

Meet You in Hell_resize“Years ago, it was unthinkable for a book to make it on to a best-seller list a decade after it had been published,” Standiford said. “That’s the remarkable thing about this, the way publishing and reading habits have changed. This would never have happened to a book sitting in a bookstore, but e-publishing makes this possible.”

Penguin Random House offered a temporary discounted price of $1.99 for the book through BookBub, a free service that allows readers to discover limited-time deals on e-books. The promotion was a great success, generating sales of more than 3,800 e-books in April and helping the older book rise from obscurity to best-seller status.

Meet You In Hell tells the story of Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick who dominated the business world in the Gilded Age, but whose partnership crumbled as a result of one of the most serious labor disputes in U.S. history. When he was near death, Carnegie sent Frick a note, presumably to bury the hatchet after decades of not speaking to each other. Frick’s reply: “Tell him that I’ll meet him in hell.”

Standiford is not the first FIU author whose book has found a second wind through e-publishing promotions. Alumnus and famed author Dennis Lehane MFA ‘01 first published his detective novel Gone, Baby, Gone in 1998, selling a mere 23 copies. In 2007, a movie was released based on the book and six years later, Amazon designated the title as a “Kindle Daily Deal.” The 24-hour price cut to $1.99 revived the dormant book, and by the next day, it had sold 13,071 copies.

It is estimated that half of all reading in the U.S. is done without paper. Electronic publishing, or e-publishing, has removed much of the cost and risk involved in print publishing. It can also help attract new customers, drive engagement with your readers, and develop new products. With consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets rapidly rising, many argue e-publishing is here to stay for the long haul.

“I still read most of my books in hard copy. I love to rub the paper and smell the binding. It’s a sentimental thing,” Standiford said. “But times change, things evolve. Publishing, as we know it is changing, and publishers and booksellers will need to adapt. There might come a day where very few people will still read books in hard copy.”