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I Was (Internet) Famous for Four Days

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For less than one week, I was famous. Famous enough that the employees at my optometrist's recognized me. But not famous enough to get free glasses.

In other words, Internet famous.

I'm not complaining. I'm just saying, it's not Jack Nicholson fame. It's Star Wars Kid fame. And now, for the most part, it's gone.

Here's a look inside the viral meme hurricane.

FRIDAY, July 19
A week earlier, Jack Daniel's sent me a very polite cease and desist letter claiming my novel's book cover (Broken Piano for President) infringed upon their trademark. My publisher decided to change the cover art.

I post the letter on my blog, calling it "The World's Nicest Cease and Desist."
Amazon Sales Rank: 500,000ish

SUNDAY, July 22
Esoteric news source BoingBoing runs a brief bit on the Jack Daniel's letter. Later in the day, Mashable picks it up.

Shockingly, the book enters Amazon's Top 1,000 sellers: a huge accomplishment for a small, independent book. My editor, Cameron Pierce, and I frantically began sending emails, assuming, at any moment, the book will plunge back into obscurity.

Amazon Sales Rank: At one point the book slid from 509th bestseller to 554th. (Cameron and I decide our moment has passed and that this is already an amazing accomplishment.)

MONDAY, July 23
I wake up to the book being the 154th best selling title on Amazon. Ranked #1 in Satire, ahead of hacks like Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller. My head is beyond spinning. I can't stop saying, "Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit" in disbelief.

I am rushed into my local NPR station for an interview and am pleased because a couple of elderly people might hear about me. By the time I get home from the interview, The Atlantic has picked it up. From there, things start reaching Overlook Hotel levels of craziness. Biggest of all, I suddenly have an Amazon Bestseller. 69th most popular book in all of America!

Non arts-based outlets pick up on the story, too, like those saucy sources of gossip: Business Week and Intellectual Arts Management magazine.

By mid-afternoon I make this Facebook post with all seriousness, because there is no way my little book can maintain this momentum:

Broken Piano is now #54 on Amazon. Right behind that book about that kid who died and saw heaven.

So... I guess I know what I need to do next.

I am compulsively checking Amazon, not to see if the book has risen any higher, but because I expect it to drop. I'm mentally telling myself: "Wow. It was a good time while it lasted."

A law school in Ohio asks me to come speak about trademark laws. Things will never be this weird again.

Late in the evening, The Huffington Post runs a story which is improbable enough. When they ask me to blog for them, I suffer my 15th heart attack of the day.

Amazon Sales Rank: #32

TUESDAY, July 24
First thing in the morning, Yahoo! News requests a Skype interview for their popular Trending Now program.

I've never made many correct decisions in the publishing world, but posting my cease and desist goes down as the best move I've ever made. Before that, on a good day, my blog saw 20 visitors. Since Sunday, I've seen over 150,000.

Today, things get wild in a hurry. The Jack Daniel's story appears in articles in Germany, Spain, France and more. My book's cover is on the front page of Yahoo!, of course, behind headlines like: "Mystery of 'Goat Man' in Utah Hills Solved."

My editor and I attempt to start a Twitter campaign to land me on the satirical news program, The Colbert Report. Anything is possible after the book is featured in TIME magazine.

I find myself punctuating most of my Tweets and Facebook posts with "!?!?!?!" because I knew no other way to describe the mix of raw excitement and complete disbelief in my situation.

Then the book leaped to #9. Keyboards don't have enough exclamation points and question marks to describe the shock.

Amazon Sales Rank: #6

WEDNESDAY, July 25
I didn't think it could get better than the New York Times writing an article, but then The New Yorker penned one sentence with my name in it. One sentence in The New Yorker is enough to call a career.

I decide to spoil myself. Gold watch? Tahitian vacation? Not quite. I purchase a $45 copy of Harry Crews' long out of print Naked in Garden Hills. Having never paid more than $15 for a book in my life, I instantly feel guilty.

In two short hours, I record a Skype interview with Yahoo! News, answer questions from the Telegraph and a French magazine, then accept an invite to one of the biggest radio shows in America, Weekend Edition.

I have never been busier in my life and it is a joyful busy. The book is holding at #6 and is the best selling Humor and Satire title amongst the millions of other books. Including this one.

Amazon Sales Rank: #6

THURSDAY, July 26
I am greeted in the morning to having a meaty piece of Forbes Magazine dedicated to my story. Somewhere, Donald Trump might be reading this while crushing someone's dreams.

I do more interviews, but not as many. The book begins to slide backward, first to a still-incredible #9 and eventually to #13, which still means two-jillion people are discovering the book.

There is a sense that I've seen the top of the mountain. I write my editor, telling him how everything feels like coming home from a long vacation. My surroundings are the same, but everything holds a strange emptiness waiting to be refilled.

I felt like the most popular man on Earth for four days and don't know how to downshift.

Amazon Sales Rank: #13

FRIDAY, July 27
To say that it's funny to be disappointed that one is only covered by the American Bar Association's magazine is a lesson in skewed perspectives. It's like Hugh Heffner getting grumpy because he only slept with three Playmates today.

The Amazon ranking continues to slide a respectable numbers. Eventually dipping out of the Top 100.

Colbert Report isn't calling.

The story has, apparently, reached a saturation point online. Everyone who knows about it knows about it. I think about calling the Star Wars kid to see if he wants to hang out.

My Internet fame is officially over.

I took this week off from my job and I will now return next week. Thank God I didn't buy that Tahitian island.

"!?!?!?!?!??!" gets packed away like a souvenir. A souvenir I am incredibly fortunate to own.