Innovating Through Artistry

The Shack: A DIY Author’s Success

In Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Marketing, Money, Risk, Writing on January 19, 2009 at 1:46 am

Another story about how “they said it couldn’t be done”…..
Written by Karen Hunter,
theshack‘The Shack’ sold more than four million copies-one of the biggest hits of the year. But what many don’t know is that the publisher sold about a million copies of the best seller out of his garage in California. After submitting the manuscript to 20 different major publishers, both mainstream and Christian, and getting 20 rejection letters, Brad Cummings, along with his partner Wayne Jacobsen, who has had several works published by mainstream publishers, decided to print the book themselves.

“It was a little too much Jesus for the mainstream publishers and too edgy for the [Christian] publishers, but we knew it was fine just the way it was and we didn’t want to change it,” said Cummings. “Wayne had grown tired of the publishing industry because it was in the same old rut. I was actually hoping no one would buy it because I didn’t want to just give this away.”

Without any advertising, very limited marketing, but with a whole lot of faith, Cummings and Jacobsen went to a small printer nearby, printed 10,000 copies and were in business, launching Windblown Media. Their marketing? A podcast,, which they hosted weekly and talked about God and things that mattered to them. About three years ago, they started talking about this book they were working on and their audience, about 8,000 strong, showed a great interest in the project. Cummings and Jacobsen had 1,000 pre-orders before they even finished the book and they sold out the 10,000 first print-run in less than three months. ”

“It was like that commercial where someone tells two friends and they tell two friends and so on,” said Cummings. “It was all word of mouth. Our listeners were the best PR reps we could find. And we didn’t have to spend a dime to get the message out there. For a year and a half we were unintentionally teasing people about this book. When it finally was out, people really wanted it. But more than that, they wanted everyone they knew to read it, too.”

Cummings and Jacobsen started selling ‘The Shack’ by the caseload and had to expand their operations and move it from the study in Cummings’ home to his garage, which was filled to the hilt with cases of books.

“This is the quintessential Cinderella story,” said Cummings. “It frightens some of the big publishers because they say, ‘Oh, my Gosh, they don’t need us!’ We’re not the new gurus on the block. We don’t have an explanation for this other than this message resonates deep inside of people.”

The story is about one man who experienced a tragedy and questions the existence of God. He receives a letter in the mail from “Papa,” which is the name his wife uses for God. Papa wants to meet him at a shack. He decides to go and what he finds is a whole new understanding of God.

“One of the coolest responses we got was from a 13-year-old girl who told us that the way she read her Bible she never measured up,” Cummings said. “She never really felt that God loved her. But after reading ‘The Shack’ she fell in love with Papa and now has a brand new understanding of the Bible. ‘The Shack’ has led her into her own conversational relationship with God.”

‘The Shack’s message is definitely inspiring, but the story of its success should also be encouraging to anyone who has a great story to tell and cannot get a mainstream publisher to publish it. Have faith. And do it yourself!

  1. In July of 08 I had an interesting visit/conversation with my clinical consultant (LOL). After making a comment during our visit and rethinking it I had to back track and clarify my position. Additionally it seems to me that how you see yourself opposed to how other people perceive you can be quite different. I resolved that I felt comfortable in asking her what her perception was of my situation as I felt at some what of an impasse at that point and ask her to comment.
    So ……..
    Her comment …… Thanks for the message. No, it does not seem that you are hanging on to that (situation). What I do see is that you fight going on your own. It is DIFFICULT to do this but your talent and what you have experienced goes before you. Nobody does it willingly if there is another way. You will always be a fighter and may or may not make it big in the art world but will be satisfying to you. That is what I see.
    Good to work with you!
    O’ Boy ………….
    I enjoyed reading, “The Shack”.

  2. This is very encouraging for self-publishers. I think the greatest chance of success is with books that appeal to an audience that is passionate about the topic, and books that are positive in nature so people will want to share them with their friends.

  3. I agree that it is encouraging for self-publishers, however I also believe that besides this book obviously being well written, (which is critical) these authors had already established a following by having had several books published prior to this release. Building a following is key to finding this kind of success…

  4. […] in more information on The Shack’s success here are a couple of articles:   | Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)That song is weak—laaaaaaaaaaaast weekThe Career […]

  5. Is there anything about prevention in The Shack? I love aspects of The Shack as in the concept of God, the struggling with grief and acceptance, and the connection so many people made in the book, but I see The Missy Project as expanding to include prevention.

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