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How My Reddit Post Became A New York Times Best-Seller

HINT: it's really all about my editor.

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Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

You might have seen NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette somewhere on the internet.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via amazon.com

Well...what started as a simple idea in my head is now on this NYTimes Best Seller List

Yes, travel is a new category. (in case you wondered.)
Nathan W. Pyle / Via nytimes.com

Yes, travel is a new category. (in case you wondered.)

Here's how it happened.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

It all started with a different Reddit post - an animated GIF I made featuring a little wooden mannequin.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via imgur.com

I made this GIF with my small wooden mannequin and posted it to Reddit's NYC subreddit. The response was so big (about 100,000 views) that I thought "Hmmmm...maybe there's something more here."

Based on the success of the GIF, I then decided to draw a series of 12 NYC cartoons.

IMPORTANT: if you can come up with even 2 good images, you should go ahead and make a series of 7 or 8 at least. The internet loves a good series of images. (I'm sure you noticed.)
Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

IMPORTANT: if you can come up with even 2 good images, you should go ahead and make a series of 7 or 8 at least. The internet loves a good series of images. (I'm sure you noticed.)

With this new series of 12 cartoons, I had a plan to make it "buyable."

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

Pretty simple strategy really -

• Make it animated (original GIF artwork was somewhat rare still)

• Target a built-in audience (people who love New York)

• Make it entirely original (no parody of other brands/characters)

• Combine humor and practical advice (a combination that does well)

• Draw it in black and white (cheaper to print)

• Plaster the name of the series on every single page so potential buyers can contact me (It has to be on every single image because they WILL get separated on the internet)

I posted to Reddit in March 2013 and my series of 12 GIFs hit the top spot on the front page. Over a million views.

View count *and* comment count are both key. Obviously you want people to discuss the work not just view it and move on. NOTE: To be fair, 990,000 views on Imgur/Reddit and countless more views came from other sites that pulled the GIFs and posted them.
Nathan W. Pyle / Via reddit.com

View count *and* comment count are both key. Obviously you want people to discuss the work not just view it and move on. NOTE: To be fair, 990,000 views on Imgur/Reddit and countless more views came from other sites that pulled the GIFs and posted them.

A few weeks after I had posted the 12 GIFs to Reddit, HarperCollins called me. (I had no agent.)

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

NOTE: I've truncated the story of course - there were several emails that we exchanged in the days leading up to the phone call. This is my first chance to say: Cassie Jones is amazing.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

Here are ten things my brilliant editor Cassie Jones taught me:

1. Being funny/creative *on demand* is not easy. You just have to get started.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

There are so many talented people out there. I could sit there and wish I was the incredible Allie Brosh or the amazing Matthew Inman or I could just get going.

2. Approach all readers with kindness.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via amazon.com

Cassie knew we could appeal to both tourists and native New Yorkers simultaneously if we approach the subject with tenderness and empathy rather than snark or elitism.

3. The funniest description of life is an accurate description.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via amazon.com

New York City needs no embellishment. It's beautiful and quirky and magnificent and difficult all at once.

4. Surprise the first time readers and reward re-readers.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via amazon.com

This is what Cassie taught me about hooking readers. We made a flow to the sequence of pages in the book that was intuitive enough to notice but loose enough that it allowed room for surprises.

5. *You* the first-time author should get out there and sell your own book.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via amazon.com

HarperCollins has an amazing team and they paired me with an incredible publicity and marketing duo - namely Dianna Garcia and Alaina Waagner. That said, when you're a first time author you should expect to hoof it around town and introduce yourself and talk up your book as much as you can. Because nobody knows who you are.

6. Self-promotion will require you to be assertive.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via amazon.com

You might be uncomfortable. The competition is fierce. You have to get in there.

7. But remember the dynamic factors of sales are unpredictable.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via amazon.com

I had no idea what to expect once the book hit the shelves. Cassie assured me that, well, it's impossible for anyone to predict. Competition is fierce. As it turns out several other books were debuting around the time mine was. Imagine!

8. Relax.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via amazon.com

Be assertive. Then relax. Be assertive. Then relax. This how to sell a book.

9. There will be bad days.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via amazon.com

In any creative endeavor, you'll see your spirits rise and fall an unnerving number of times. Expect it.

10. In time, you'll understand just how amazing this all was.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via amazon.com

You need some time and distance before you get any perspective on your first book. When you're in the midst of it, it's going to be a whirlwind of emotions. Just wait. In time, you'll understand what a privilege it is to live in a world where another person actually reads your work.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

My book debuted in the top 100 on Amazon!

Nathan W. Pyle / Via amazon.com

...but it wasn't quite enough to make any NYT lists. Summer came and things got a bit more quiet.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via amazon.com

But then publicity for the book kicked up randomly in September because of Abby S. Marino's article on Distractify.

Abby S. Marino wrote her piece about the book in May and it didn't catch fire until September!
Abby S. Marino / Via news.distractify.com

Abby S. Marino wrote her piece about the book in May and it didn't catch fire until September!

At around the same time, the New York Times added new categories for best sellers.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via nytimes.com

With the new bump of publicity and the new lists, my book became a best seller.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via nytimes.com

And that's it! I don't think I could replicate this if I tried. Because the publishing world is chaotic and unpredictable.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

But whatever happened, I believe I took a God-given opportunity and did my best with it. If you have an idea today, I encourage you to get going with it.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via amazon.com

Because you never know who you might meet or what might happen when you team up.

Paperback book is available here. Animated ebook is available through iTunes only.