They’ve sprouted side projects for example Hank’s invention (during the height of the 3D movie fad) of 2D glasses for those who suffered from headaches whilst trying to see the latest blockbuster. The brothers release weekly ‘CrashCourse’ educational videos giving bitesize introductions to key events in world history and science. Hank is involved in an online vlog retelling of Pride and Prejudice called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, with weekly episodes modernising the tale and teasing the identity of Mr. Darcy’s face, the reveal causing an excited rush of gifs on tumblr. Most recently they’ve encouraged their followers to embrace their right to vote in the US elections with the slogan Don’t Forget To Vote, America (DFTVA,) a clever take on their catchphrase Don’t Forget To Be Awesome (DFTBA.)
And for forty-two weeks this year, John Green’s latest young adult novel The Fault in Our Stars has featured in The New York Times bestseller list.
The Fault in Our Stars (or TFIOS) is a story about a girl named Hazel who is facing the medical realities of cancer, befriending survivor Gus at her support group. It is an emotional trip through bitterness and laughter, grim acceptance and furious love of life and literature. Basically, it made me cry on a public bus. I had to hide behind my hair and hope no one could see me. It wasn’t pretty. But it was definitely worth reading.
Followers of the Vlogbrothers channel saw John quietly go through the writing process off screen, and then tumble head first into the realities of publication. This included a promise to sign a large number of pre-ordered copies for his eagerly awaiting readership. It has been translated extensively, and movie options have been picked up by Fox 2. TFIOS is also currently being featured as the PenguinUSA online bookclub title for adult readers, proving it has crossover appeal.
The utilisation of social media in marketing of books is something that interests me. I follow publishers, authors, bloggers, bookshops and news outlets on twitter and keep an eye on the publishing tag for latest news in the publishing world. The audience that John has gained might be considered niche by those outside the online community, but the sales figures of TFIOS prove that his following has immense potential for meta data hits, retweets, reblogs, reviews, discussions and word of mouth promotion. Out in the real world, John tours author and library conventions, fan events, he spoke this year at the BEA breakfast panel, and was a key attraction at the LeakyCon lit panel and at VideoCon (another of Hank’s endeavours.)
Furthermore, increased interest in the John Green™ brand amongst the collective consciousness of readers meant that one of his older novels Looking For Alaska came out of the long tail slump and entered the NYT bestseller list for the first time, seven years after publication. And on the back of the success of TFIOS, his novels have been published in a hardback collector's boxset. One title An Abundance Of Katherines being reissued with a competition winning cover designed by a nerdfighter fan.
The vlogbrother effect may be difficult to recreate, but the community which the brothers have built shows the wonderful potential for clever marketing. The brothers have made reading and learning an interactive social event that can be shared internationally.
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The Fault In Our Stars
In which John discusses the business of signing more than 70,000 books in less than a month and tells a cute story about his baby. .
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“Green’s best and most ambitious novel to date. In its every aspect, The Fault in Our Stars is a triumph.” -Booklist, starred review
“Luminous.” -Entertainment Weekly
“A smartly crafted intellectual explosion of a romance.” -Kirkus, starred review
A blend of melancholy, sweet, philosophical, and funny. Green shows us true love…and it is far more romantic than any sunset on the beach.” -New York Times Book Review
“John Green deftly mixes the profound and the quotidian in this tough, touching valentine to the human spirit.” - Washington Post