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Saturday, March 23, 2013

What John Green Can Teach Authors and Publishers

Stick with me on this one.

A hilarious text exchange yesterday morning led me to these thoughts:

  • John Green is hilarious. I didn’t know that.
  • One of my Pub355 students introduced me to his videos (and I should have watched them immediately).
  • Craig Ferguson is still hilarious (always knew that, loved his show, haven’t watched it for awhile, thought his novel was darkly funny).
  • I’m now addicted to John Green videos.
  • I’m ready to read The Fault in Our Stars (cancer story, couldn’t read that last year due to a family illness).

Here’s how it all went down.

SDS: Do you know John Green?

Me: I know Joslin Green (Boxcar designer).

SDS: John Green. He’s big on the internets. There’s a video clip where he goes on about being a big Harry Potter fan and going to conferences.


Wait. What? I’m a big Harry Potter fan and go to conferences. Who are we talking about?

(Search “John Green” and autocomplete brings up “John Green Books”)

End Pause

Me: Oh, John Green, author. I thought we were talking about someone I know personally. I know author John Green of The Fault in Our Stars. Harry Potter fan though?

SDS: Yes, the interview on Craig Ferguson is about his book. He goes to Harry Potter conferences.


I go to Harry Potter conferences. Who are we talking about?

(Search “John Green Craig Ferguson”)

Yes, yes. Same guy. Ok, the puzzle pieces of this text thread are coming together. John Green. Author. Interview on Craig Ferguson.

Watch 11 minute video (actually it’s not that long because the last 4-5 min are some other show promo). OMG funny, worth watching. I didn’t know how personable John Green is.


Discovery: Yes John Green is a Harry Potter fan and goes to conferences because his brother plays Wrock. (That’s Wizard Rock for those of you not in the Potterverse). I personally like the Mudblood’s “Be My Witch Tonight,” which I first heard at Portus 2008.


Who, then, is his brother?

(Search “John Green Brother”)

Hank Green. Thank you Wikipedia.

Ah! This is the guy behind “Accio Deathly Hallows”, which was super popular because it went viral before the last Harry Potter book was released. I know this (without knowing or connecting the details). Hilarious! This is a fun internet-browsing adventure.

(How are you liking the inner workings of my sleep-depraved, new mom brain? Fascinated, I’m sure. Thankfully this blog is called So Misguided.)

Next thought: That song launched Hank and John’s Vlogbrothers YouTube channel into the stratosphere, which is what my student Calvin was telling me in September. I clearly should prioritize reading/watching links sent to me, not just by students but by James, Boris and friends who diligently keep me up to date. Mea culpa.

(Go to YouTube “Vbrothers” channel)


John Green video—Mar 19, 2013—offers a great commentary on advertising and where marketers are going wrong when they think about social media and advertising. (See this is valuable, work-related research now.)

Plus, the video was filmed in advance of the Craig Ferguson interview so the neurosis of this video is a perfect complement to (my state of mine, ur, I mean) the actual interview itself.

I’m now addicted to John Green and most certainly want to read The Fault in Our Stars, which I wanted to read before anyway.

And here’s my work-related thought to show that a portion of my professional brain still exists ... the video highlights a good point made by Jane Friedman earlier this week in her post on 5 publishing industry trends writers need to understand:

3. The Value and Distraction of Author Platform Building

I’ll make a bold statement right here that I don’t think I’ve made before.

If you’re a totally new, unpublished writer who is focused on fiction, memoir, poetry, or any type of narrative-driven work, forget you ever heard the word platform. I think it’s causing more damage than good. It’s causing writers to do things that they dislike (even hate), and that are unnatural for them at an early stage of their careers. They’re confused, for good reason, and platform building grows into a raging distraction from the work at hand—the writing.

Therefore, build your platform by writing and publishing in outlets that are a good fit for you, lead to professional growth, and build your network. The other pieces will start to fall into place. It might take longer, but who cares if you’re feeling productive and enjoying yourself? Go be a writer and take a chance on the writing. Writing and publishing good work always supports the growth of your platform—and I’m willing to bet more valuable platform building will get done that way, especially for narrative-driven writers.

Exception to the rule: Nonfiction/non-narrative authors and entrepreneurial authors who are self-publishing. Sorry, but you should probably focus on platform as much as the writing.

I 100% agree. And when publishers are talking to authors about building a platform, they are looking for a John Green.

But you know what? Green is a total outlier. See above activities with Hank Green. Then look further back than Vlogbrothers. Vlogbrothers was predated by the Brotherhood 2.0 Project.

John Green and his brother Hank ran a video blog project called Brotherhood 2.0. The original project ran from January 1 to December 31, 2007, with the premise that the brothers would cease all text-based (‘textual’) communication for the year and instead converse by video blogs, made available to the public via YouTube (where they are known as the ‘vlogbrothers’) and on their Brotherhood 2.0 website. Thanks again Wikipedia

Dear authors: a platform is often years in the making. Be realistic about the time you have available if you want to build an audience faster than that.
Dear publishers: See above point for authors.

And now I’m off to feed Finlay. Another day. Another 8 feedings. Another 8x to get lost in the ramblings of my own brain. Thanks for following the thread of this one.


Love this post. Thankfully, I have a 16-year-old who keeps me current about all things John Green. That totally helped at TOC this year when they referenced him in they keynote and I had to explain to my colleagues around me. The Fault in our Stars devastated me, but it’s well worth reading. Watch the show he and Hank just did at Carnegie Hall. It includes some other web stars (that I only know about through my daughter) such as the Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

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