John Green makes like 'Go the F-- to Sleep' and hits Amazon's bestseller list
John Green, the prizewinning young adult author, is in his fourth day at the top of the Amazon bestseller list -- with a book that hasn't even been finished yet. He's following in the footsteps (to abuse a metaphor because books, of course, do not have feet) of "Go the F-- To Sleep," the satiric children's-bedtime book for grownups.
The successes are the result of slightly different phenomena. "Go the F-- To Sleep" found its audience on the basis of its clever and profane title, aided by the cover illustration, which emphasized the sweet childrens-book look that contrasted with the exasperated parents' cry.
Green's book, "The Fault in Our Stars," won't be out until next spring. How did it climb the Amazon charts? Green promised his significant online following that he would sign each and every preordered book. Green, who has been video blogging since he and his brother started an online public exchange in 2007, has more than 1.1 million Twitter followers.
A lot of them decided to take him up on his offer and paid $9.89 for the preorder. He'll have thousands and thousands of books to sign (in the video above, he contemplates the conundrum of which Sharpie will be best for all that signing). Green's video persona is slightly manic and goofy, but not without seriousness. He's starting an online discussion, via video, of "The Great Gatsby" this summer. In an earlier video, he talked about the importance of book editors, saying, "There's a reason that 'The Great Gatsby' and 'The Sun Also Rises' were edited by the same guy."
Green won the Printz award for his first novel "Looking for Alaska," was a finalist for the L.A. Times book prize with his next book, "An Abundance of Katherines," and won the Edgar Award for young adult novel with his 2009 book "Paper Towns." The Wall Street Journal reports that he's still working on "The Fault in Our Stars" from his La-Z-Boy in Indianapolis.
It's interesting that Green's "The Fault in Our Stars" and "Go the F-- To Sleep" by Adam Mansbach both hit on No. 1 on Amazon's bestseller list on the basis of preorders alone, and are pretty much unknown quantities. That's because publishing has been saturated in recent years by sure bets -- and bestseller lists have been dominated by popular series books. Think Stieg Larsson's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and its sequels, the "Twilight" series by Stephenie Meyer, and the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. Although Green's fans know they like his work, he's not continuing an old story; these two books both hit No. 1 without readers ever getting ahold of them.
(Once they do, enthusiasm may continue: "Go the F-- To Sleep" is No. 1 on the L.A. Times hardcover bestseller list this week).
That's interesting; it shows that readers are, perhaps, more adventurous than publishers are willing to admit. For everyone who's going to buy the next Alex Cross book by James Patterson because they've read an earlier Alex Cross book, there's someone out there who's ready to buy a new book they don't yet know much about at all.
-- Carolyn Kellogg