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John Green novel, not yet finished and months from release, still No. 1 on Amazon.com

July 1, 2011 |  6:35 pm

Green John Green's novel "The Fault in Our Stars" is a runaway success -- even though basically no one's ever read it. 

The book, still unfinished and almost a year from release (tentatively May 2012), is nevertheless the single bestselling book on Amazon.com and No. 2 on BarnesandNoble.com. 

That unusual type of pre-publishing success is being attributed to the 33-year-old author's savvy use of social media to promote the still inchoate book. Green, who has 1.1 million followers on Twitter, 560,000 subscribers on YouTube and hundreds of thousands more on Tumblr, Facebook and a forum called YourPants.org, has been aggressively advertising the $9.89 proto-book, offering every pre-release buyer a signed copy.

He has read the first chapter of the book live over the Web, encouraged his followers to try their hand at designing a cover for the book (dozens have) and even asked them to vote on the color of Sharpie pen he should use to do the wrist-cripplingly huge numbers of signings (green is winning).

As our intrepid book blogger Carolyn Kellogg observes, the phenomenon of lesser known authors hitting the charts before they're released seems to be gaining steam:

It's interesting that Green's "The Fault in Our Stars" and "Go the F-- To Sleep" [the potty-mouthed children's story] 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.

The snail-mailboxes of technology reporters are constantly crammed with books offering the secret to social media marketing, using Twitter to get rich and generally lighting up the Internet with your product. But Green's approach seems to distill it into a single sentence:  Work hard making stuff people like and chat with them online while you're doing it.

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-- David Sarno

Image: Temporary cover of Green's book.  Credit: Amazon.com

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