Like many writers of his time, Shea Serrano was nervous about how his book, The Rap Year Book, would be received when it came out this week.
"I was really nervous and scared, and I was telling people, 'The book is gonna come out, and I'm nervous no one's gonna read it,'" Serrano told BuzzFeed Books.
The Rap Year Book, a 240-page retrospective on, as the subtitle says: "The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979," features full-page illustrations by Arturo Torres. It's Serrano's debut book, though he illustrated and published Bun B's Rapper Coloring and Activity Book in 2013.
The Rap Year Book is now on shelves and selling better than he or his editor or publisher would have anticipated. Suspiciously well, almost.
A former eighth-grade teacher and a current staff writer for ESPN's Grantland, Serrano decided to take on The Rap Year Book project three years ago, when he and his family were looking to move from a townhouse to a larger home.
"You need the down payment if you want a home," Serrano joked.
Weeks before the book debuted, Serrano shared on Twitter, where he has 42,000 followers, that The Rap Year Book was available for preorder on Amazon, and expressed a hint of vulnerability about its potential.
"It's hard to get people excited about a book, you know? I've never been just super excited to read a book unless it was by somebody I knew," Serrano said.
"I was trying to put it out there and be honest about it, and a lot of times you're trying to be a cool tough guy, but I was just legitimately nervous."
Serrano's first target was Amazon, and as people began sending him screenshots of their preorder receipts, he watched the number of the book ranking start to drop.
"I made it like this big thing, like let's try to get it under 100, which seems friggin' impossible. Amazon sells like 8 million books!"
And thus, Serrano's friends and fans were mobilized, and Serrano twisted it into an "us vs. them" mentality. Serrano's army of consumers delivered.
With Amazon sold out online, Serrano's followers waged war on Barnes & Noble's online site.
Over the span of three days, during which The Rap Year Book was released, Barnes & Noble sold out online too. Over the span of one day, Serrano's followers bought out Books-A-Million, too.
"Books-A-Million was the first time a seller came back at me with some disrespectful thing — playfully — so I was like let's do this. Let's make it a war."
After only 24 hours of battle, Books-A-Million had to wave the white flag, too, and pronounce themselves out of stock.
As a condition of a bet, Books-A-Million also had to change their Twitter header photo to The Rap Year Book.
"My editor is telling me, 'We've never seen anything like this,'" Serrano said.
He admits that he's started thinking about the New York Times Best-seller's List, which he said started out as a joke, but after "an insane two weeks," is starting to appear on his horizon of hope.