Every week, it seems there is more evidence that the balance of power in the book industry continues to tilt towards the author and away from the all-powerful publisher. One of the latest examples is John Green, who writes fiction for young adults from his home in Indianapolis, and whose latest novel has hit number one before it has even been published.
Green gives credit for this phenomenon to his Twitter and YouTube followers, but the real credit should go to him for being willing to not just use social media as a promotional tool the way some do, but to actually reach out and engage with his readers and fans.
As the Wall Street Journal describes it, Green simply posted the title of his new book — a story about two young cancer patients called “The Fault In Our Stars” on his Twitter account — where he has built up a following of more than a million fans — and on his Tumblr blog, as well as a community forum based around Green’s work called YourPants.org.
He then offered to sign the entire first print run of the book, and later followed that up with a live YouTube show, in which he discussed his plans for the book and read from a chapter of the uncompleted novel.
The whole process started on Tuesday afternoon, and by that evening, the book had apparently hit the number one spot on both the Amazon list of bestsellers and the Barnes & Noble list.
Not surprisingly, this kind of word-of-mouth marketing multiplied by the force of social media has caused a lot of raised eyebrows in the industry. As one senior editor at publisher Harper Collins told the Journal:
Obviously, not everyone is going to have the million-plus followers that Green has, or the devoted following on YouTube that he and his brother Hank have built up over years of doing what used to be called “vlogging” or video-blogging… The point is that no publisher or agent or industry had to create those things; the author did it himself with help from his fans.
RTFA. More information, more compartments of experience and method open up. How and why an author can seize more control over growing their fans, their market. Because the capability is there for writers. Because publishers aren’t especially willing or able to do the same.