David Gaffney has created his own innovative marketing technique on Amazon.com while trying to push his new book, “Sawn Off Tales”. The more aggressively he tries to dissuade customers from buying his merchandise, the more he sells.
The secret formula as revealed in Prospect magazine is more of an exercise in farce. Offering a best-selling book, free, with every purchase of his novel quickly turned into offering a free copy of his book, with each order of a best-seller—books which naturally received much more traffic on Amazon. Brilliantly using the Amazon marketplace as a space for free advertisement, he decided even if customers didn't want his used copy of a best-seller they could read his book's Amazon page, read reviews, and perhaps buy it. He writes, “I identified the top 20 fiction sellers on Amazon, bought a copy of each and put them up for sale, trying to ensure that mine was both the cheapest and—crucially—that no one in their right mind would actually buy the book I was offering, thus maximising my advertisement’s time on the page." Eventually, he started selling random books from his own collection.
Some of the adverts he used: “QI: The Book of General Ignorance. ₤4.50. Dropped down toilet so still damp and a bit smelly. Free sample of David Gaffney’s hilarious Sawn Of Tales with every purchase.”
“A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian ₤3.00. Book stored on pig farm so strong odour of animal feed.”
Or: “Cheap ink used in this edition causes headaches and comas in pets”; “Blood stains on cover and inside from bedroom fight”; “Has had eye-holes drilled through for comedy spy prop”.
The plan ultimately backfired when these decoy books sold like hotcakes, and he was losing money on every transaction, while losing his high-profile ad space. Gaffney realized this type of marketing wasn’t doing him any good, and concludes for next time, “I should just write a better book.”