INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - John Green wasn’t always great at marketing himself.
Today, he’s a best-selling author and a sensation of YouTube (more than 1 billion views) and Twitter (3.1 million followers).
During a Thursday speech at Connections - the annual client conference presented by Indianapolis digital marketing company ExactTarget - Green reminisced about being a novelist with merely 200 friends on one-time social media giant MySpace.com.
His debut novel, 2005’s “Looking for Alaska,” stalled at 3,000 copies sold, and Green wanted to spread the word about its follow-up, “An Abundance of Katherines.”
Sending “messages of increasing desperation,” Green said he more or less begged his MySpace audience to buy “Katherines.”
In more colorful terms, he said he wanted to ram the new book down people’s throats until they regurgitated money for the author, The Indianapolis Star reported (https://indy.st/1uMdE7s ).
Aside from doing it wrong at MySpace, Green said he had better online experiences at Friendster and GoodReads. Eventually, he built a YouTube empire with his brother, Hank Green.
John Green said being an author is his career, but making educational videos in the “Crash Course” and “Mental Floss” series is his day job.
“It’s all part of wanting to have a conversation with people I like,” he said.
Speaking to a massive gathering of marketers at the Indiana Convention Center, Green advised a strategy of listening to one’s audience.
John and Hank achieved Vlogbrothers success thanks to a modest-sized but passionate fan base, which is preferable to a larger lukewarm group.
By the time Green prepared his fifth novel, 2012’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” he wanted to personalize copies for readers far away from his Indianapolis home. The idea was to sign the entire first printing, which he expected to be about 20,000 books.
But advance sales pushed “TFIOS” to an initial run of 170,000 copies. Even though Green suffered a hand injury signing the books, he told the Connections crowd he “might do it again” for his next book.
“The Fault in Our Stars” made Green a star. More than 10 million copies have been sold, and Time magazine placed Green on its 2014 list of the 100 most influential people. A film adaptation of the book sold $300 million in box-office tickets worldwide.
Nerdfighters, the nickname for fans of John and Hank, deserve a measure of credit for the blockbuster success, Green said: “We’ve been doing this stuff for years. We finally had a Hollywood-sized canvas to paint.”
Green’s books are classified as young-adult works, but he doesn’t claim to be tuned into 21st century teenagers.
“I didn’t know anything about teen culture when I was a teen,” he said.
On Twitter, Green makes self-deprecating proclamations that he’s “old” at age 37. He told the Connections audience that it’s a mistake to pretend to be in the loop when you’re not.
Offering a personal anecdote, Green said he recently spoke at a high school in Philadelphia, where he mentioned pop star Ke$ha. Students corrected him when he pronounced the singer’s name as “Keesha” rather than “Kesha.”
Green said he regrets not walking into the school and saying, “I am the type of person who doesn’t know how to pronounce the letter ‘e’ when it precedes a dollar sign.”
Regarding his own childhood, Green said he fondly recalls his father bringing a dial-up modem into their home.
“It’s the only sound that makes me want to cry with joy and nostalgia,” Green said of the device’s distinctive shriek.
Green also talked about being a fourth-grader and building a bench with his father.
“I had made something cool with someone I cared about,” he said. “That’s what I want from the Internet. That’s what I want from my work.”
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com
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