In the past couple of weeks, the Wall Street Journal has published two articles (to my knowledge) concerning YA books. One of them was an extremely inflammatory piece about the dark topics addressed in modern YA fiction. The shockwaves from this article are still rippling through the YA writing/publishing community, and I plan to do a proper post about it sometime in the future. (Expect fire and brimstone when I do. There are very few things in this world that make me angry enough to want to punch something, and censorship of YA fiction is one of them.)
But tonight, our subject is much lighter in nature. As you may know, I’m a big fan of John and Hank Green, two videobloggers who have built up an amazing community surrounding their vlog channel on YouTube (more info here). John is a successful author of several YA novels, and he recently announced the title of his newest book, which will be released in May of 2012. The book has been in the consciousness of the Nerdfighter community for a long time, as John (like most writers) does occasionally vent about the inherent joys and frustrations of his craft. He even read an excerpt from the novel during a live video show on the day that he released the title (which, by the way, is The Fault in Our Stars). You can watch his official announcement video below:
However, there’s a twist that makes the release of this book unlike any other. John has promised to personally sign every single pre-ordered copy of The Fault in Our Stars. Every. Single. One. Given that John is notoriously bad at math, my theory is that he didn’t think this through, or else simply didn’t have any conception of how much time he’d actually spend writing “J-scribble” over and over and over. My mother and I did the math for him the other day and here’s what we came up with:
Let’s say the first run of TFIOS is 70,000 copies, and let’s say that John essentially has a six-month period in which to sign them all. If he signs about 380 copies per day for the entire six month period, he could finish them all. If he signs at a rate of one copy per minute (60 copies in an hour–it definitely won’t take a minute for each one, but this way we build in time for hand-cramp breaks), it will take him 6.3 hours to get through them all.
6.3 hours a day, at a rate of 60 copies an hour, for 184 days.
Dear God, John. I hope you actually have a hand after this.
But that’s not actually what I wanted to write about. The amusing thing is as follows:
1. On June 28th, John released the title of his new book through all the venues available to him: YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, the Nerdfighter forums at YourPants.org, and his personal webpage. Releasing the book title meant that it was now available for pre-order (because now people would be able to…you know, find it). John also made his official announcement that he would be signing every single pre-ordered copy.
2. The anticipation and build-up to the announcement of the title precipitated a swarm once it was released, and Nerdfighters around the world descended on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble’s website in order to pre-order a copy.
3. TFIOS shot to the top of the bestseller lists of both websites and remained there for several consecutive days (I don’t know exactly how many, but it was more than two). The book isn’t published. It’s not part of a series. It isn’t even finished, and it doesn’t have a cover, and yet it beat out other bestsellers like Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games and George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. It was absolutely unprecedented in publishing history.
4. The Wall Street Journal tried to write an article about it.
The reason I use the word “tried” is not because the WSJ somehow failed to write an article–the thing is definitely there, and you can go read it, and it makes sense in terms of grammar and spelling and whatnot. What’s hilarious to me about it is the total incomprehension on the part of the journalist about how this internet community actually works. As you’ll see if you read the article, the WSJ attributes much of John’s success to his 1.1 million Twitter followers and credits the social networking site (with a few mentions of YouTube) for the book’s rapid rise to the top of the charts.
In some senses, this is true. However, what the WSJ fails to realize is that the true reason this book has been so successful does not have to do with the number of followers John has, or with where exactly he announces things on the internet. The WSJ wants to look at this story as though all of John’s internet doings were a clever marketing ploy to promote himself and his work. Which I can understand, because that’s the lens the WSJ is used to examining things through.
But that’s not why he does it. Anyone who has watched John and Hank’s videos for long enough knows it isn’t. The Vlogbrothers are still on YouTube (five years and still going strong) because they love the awesome community that has sprung up around their videos. Any marketing success is just a side-effect of having so many people think you are made of pure awesome in addition to being a good writer (I might also note that Hank’s new album recently charted on Billboard.com for the same reasons).
In short, I think the WSJ needs an “internet correspondent”–a Web 2.0-savvy 20-something with good writing skills who can help bridge the journalistic generational gap between Gen-X/Baby Boomers and Gen Y. Maybe I should write to them and suggest this. Or maybe I should offer myself as a candidate? :-p
Except not, because I’m busy going to school and writing books.
But I do wish you’d consider it, WSJ. It’s a brave new world out there, and you could make some freshly-graduated English or journalism major very happy indeed.