4 min read

The Surprising Story Behind a Viral Bestselling Trivia Book

Discover the marketing strategy that took a fake trivia book from obscurity to hitting Amazon's top 100 books, garnering 1,000+ comments on Reddit, and half a million views on Imgur.
The Surprising Story Behind a Viral Bestselling Trivia Book
Photo by Ben White / Unsplash

I’ve written about my good friend Jeff Waldman before. Last time, he was hanging up swings for a Coca Cola commercial.

This time, his self-published book of fake trivia went viral:


Over the past three days, Jeff’s book:

  • Sold 500+ copies
  • Hit the front page of Reddit (#2 spot overall)
  • Got over 1,000 comments on Reddit
  • Got 480,000 views on Imgur
  • Hit the top 100 books on Amazon
  • Hit #1 on Amazon in the “Humor Encyclopedias” category (a meaningless accomplishment but still fun)
  • Has been sold to numerous book stores
  • Gave away a total of 50 books, at cost (about $150)

So, why am I writing about this?

Because I tricked Jeff into making this book.

Yes… I am his (fake) publisher.


How the Book was Made

It all started back in March of 2016:


That’s right…

We took it from scattered Google Doc to bestseller in 6 months.

In your face, Random House! (jk, love you guys)

So, this all started off as a document they’d titled “Dinosaur Facts.” Jeff mentioned that he and our good friend Jason Hemmerle had been casually collaborating on a running list of fake trivia facts, just for fun… over the course of SEVERAL YEARS.

Neither of them had touched the document for two years. I asked Jeff to send it to me.

When I read the facts, it made no sense to me why they would keep it to themselves. The doc was too entertaining. It needed to be a book.

I’ve known Jeff for a long time. He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and he is unquestionably a perfectionist who works his ass off to make things great.

But like most creators, he is very resistant to bringing his work to the public, especially if it requires a little too much effort with little payoff.


I told him that this would be an amazing wedding present for Jason.

To help the project along, I initially tried to help with the content:


That didn’t work, so I started putting together a cover concept on Canva.

This was the first attempt:


Jeff replied with:

“Nice cover. Though I have no idea if that’s the title to go with. It was just a random one I titled the doc.”


The next week, I hired a designer for $30 to put together something very basic for the book’s interior:


After I sent Jeff those files, his perfectionism finally kicked in and he took over the project entirely.

He edited the book over and over, trying to cut down on unnecessary words.

He spent a few hundred bucks getting illustrations done.

He designed his own cover.

I coached him a bit through the Createspace process and gave him an extra ISBN, but he did the rest.

I got 5% of the work done, which was enough for Jeff to accept the remaining 95%.

(Man, I really do sound like a publisher!)

How the Book Took Off

I asked Jeff how he was able to get this story to the front page of Reddit. He had some really helpful observations for anyone who’s trying to get noticed:

  1. Visual. Jeff took a bunch of pictures of the inside of the book, and posted them on Imgur. It feels like you are actually the one holding and previewing the book.
  2. Unique story. Planting fake books in bookstores feels very mischievous, and that is an easy story for Redditors to latch onto. It’s fun, and well-aligned with how their community behaves.
  3. Don’t self-promote. Notice that the book’s cover isn’t in any of the pictures, nor are the stacks of books he planted. Jeff did this intentionally so people wouldn’t think he was promoting himself. You can’t find the title or the Amazon link in the description of the Imgur post; it’s buried at the very bottom, like it was an afterthought. Jeff said he didn’t post the link to Amazon for several hours, and only after dozens of people had messaged him privately to ask for the link to buy the book. Reddit’s community is extremely sensitive to self-promotion. If you’re subtly trying to take advantage of the crowd or even earn money from your work in a direct manner (rather than entertaining people for free), you will be punished.
  4. Make it fun for commenters to add to. Because the book is a bunch of fake facts, most of the comments were fake facts. It was easy for Redditors to take ownership of the concept and make it their own.
  5. Babysit the comments. If you’re not guiding the discussion in a fun, witty, and positive manner, the room can fall apart. You have to be “on” for the first several hours and give entertaining responses. Otherwise, you’re susceptible to Reddit turning on you.
  6. Post at a low time. Jeff posted this on Reddit at 7:00am on a Tuesday, which is one of the least competitive times to get a story going. Anything to help the odds.

Did you like this post? Did you grab a copy of Jeff’s book?

Leave a comment and let us know if you have any questions.