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Todd Zuniga Headshot

Finishing Not-Quite-First

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When Opium's QuickFix with Jiggle Technology iPhone app launched, our announced goal was to hit #1 in the App Store's Books section (though our more-realistic, secret goal was to simply trump "Self-Help Classics" at #20). We banged on doors, made all the necessary social networking noise, and when we debuted at #89 and moved up eight spots by bedtime, I felt like we'd conquered "Ulysses". Sugarplum sales figures lolled in my brain, and I wondered how many we'd sold to get to that level? It was only $1.99, so maybe we sold a hundred? 300? More? After all, we'd blasted our monster mailing list, slathered Facebook and Twitter with our buying plea, and even the LA Times got on board, trumpeting our effort.

We opened day two at #70, and that's when the sales figures rolled in: it only took us 28 downloads to get there. Such a measly number! So, when we ended the day at #57 (25 downloads later), we'll admit disappointment that we couldn't topple Freakish Animals that you never knew existed at #46 or Ronald Reagan Quotes at #47 -- an app I saw ahead of Opium so many times, I even considered buying it to see what all the fuss was about.

The thrill of following our app's rise (and eventual slide -- after day four we slipped from the top 100) gave me the chance to seriously eyeball the Books section and really look at what was in there. I've scoured the store many times in the past hoping for something truly literary to impulse buy, and if my timing wasn't perfect, I'd find nothing.

Case in point were the digital and literary brainiacs over at Electric Literature -- who explained to me that to hit the top 10 you have to sell between 100 and 500 apps in a 24-hour stretch, and once in the top 10 there's a chance of self-perpetuating success. Electric Literature was able to skyrocket to the Top 20 on the strength of a New York Times write-up and a iTunes store Employee pick. Now neither of their two excellent eBook issues are in the Top 100, and go unseen unless you know to look for them.

Right now, only McSweeney's excellent, more-than-just-bookish app represents real, forward literary thinking in the Books section right now. When it launched, it hammered it's way to #1, slipped down to #50, and has been hovering around #25 since their recent release of the SF Panorama issue.

So, my twofold hope after this tiny-scale rise and fall? Fold 1: That when a future Opium app launches, my close friends and the random lit-nerds I meet at parties actually have iPhones then (I was surprised by how few did), and Fold 2: that more literary magazine apps, like McSweeney's, self-perpetuate their way into the Top 100. At Opium, we'd be proud of 99th place.

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