How Giving Away His Work Paid Off for ‘It’s Cancer’ Author Jay Otterbacher

Outskirts Press self-published author Jay Otterbacher is living, breathing, writing proof that paying forward can pay off. Jay shared with us how openly sharing and giving his work to others last year turned out to be just the marketing tactic he needed to gain visibility and sales for his first self-published book, It’s Cancer.It's Cancer

Otterbacher penned It’s Cancer after he and his wife each battled simultaneous cancer diagnoses. The book was published through Outskirts Press in June 2012, but sales weren’t coming along as fast as Jay would have liked at first.

It’s Cancer is my first book. I am about as unknown as an author can be,” Jay said, adding that his independent efforts to bolster sales of the book were bearing little fruit in the beginning.”I was convinced it was either going to die on the vine or something big would have to happen soon. I also believed that if anything was going to happen with the book it would happen via the Internet and through Amazon digital sales.

“I read a couple of books on selling books on Amazon including (Outskirts Press CEO) Brent Sampson‘s. I searched out author forums to see how pricing and social media impacted sales. I did a lot of work on my Amazon page for the Kindle edition, as well as my author profile page to make sure they were sharp and professional.”

Finally, Jay took a leap of faith: He decided to offer the book for free. In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, he made free downloads available on Amazon for 24 hours. Eager to get word out, Jay sent emails with links to his Amazon page to everyone he knew, and asked them to pass it on to anyone they thought might be interested. Four days before the promo, he posted the promotion to his own Facebook page and every cancer-related page he could find … then he forgot about it.

“About 9:00 a.m. on October 1, I went and checked my Kindle Direct account and it showed that 130 copies had been downloaded! I went nuts, people were actually going to my Amazon page and deciding to download my book,” he said. “For the next 16 hours I was stunned as my book averaged 250 downloads an hour! In 24 hours 4,644 people downloaded a Kindle copy of Its Cancer. On October 1 It’s Cancer reached a #1 Amazon sales ranking in two categories for Kindle books and a #39 ranking among all Kindle books.”

While long-term success is difficult to gauge, the promotion has made a striking impact on short-term visibility. It’s Cancer leaped from #684,991 to #92,481 in Amazon sales rankings, and Jay sold twice as many copies of the book in the first few days of October as he did in the three months prior.

Additionally, Jay reports that the cover art produced by Outskirts Press’ design team has gotten rave reviews.

“My goal for this book was to have it read,” Jay said. “With close to 5,000 copies being read, I am finally OK saying I am an author and thinking I should be writing something else. I am thrilled to have my book out there and am excited about my next project.”


Jay Otterbacher was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 1980 he graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Business degree. In 2011 after thirty years in the IT industry he retired from his executive position to focus on developing a decidedly non-corporate lifestyle. Today Jay lives in Blythewood, South Carolina with his wife Karen and two incorrigible Labrador retrievers, Rosie and Lily. It’s Cancer is his first book.

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