Adam Mansbach, author of the cathartic "children's book for parents" "Go the F*** to Sleep," has a complicated relationship with content pirates.
The viral spread of a PDF version of his book helped rocket the print version into the bestsellers list on Amazon before the book was printed. Finally pushed to stores and retailers just this Tuesday, it is now Amazon's number one seller.
If one were to design a viral media campaign, it could not have been done better. Except this success happened quite by accident. I talked to Mansbach about the book, piracy, and social marketing.
Mansbach says that the online spread of "Go the F*** to Sleep" started before the PDF hit the Net. He did a reading of the text on April 23, in Philadelphia. He told the audience that they could preorder the book on Amazon, and the next morning, he says, it was 125th-best seller.
He had sent the PDF of the book to a few booksellers -- a common practice in publishing. And then, Mansbach says, "Innocently enough, it was forwarded. And it went from there."
Mansbach, a novelist, never intended the world to be able to see his book, for free, online, and before the print version was available. "To show how Web-savvy we were, " he says self-deprecatingly, "We were trying to do cease and desist orders at first."
He even reached out to individuals who were sharing the PDF on Facebook accounts. Mansbach says he asked one Facebook user to remove the PDF from their page, and the response was, "'Ok, If you want, but 300 people asked me where I could get the book.'"
There was a "gradual dawning that it wasn't hurting us," he says. After about a week, Mansbach and his publisher, Akashic Books, ceased trying to stanch the spread of the book.
Mansbach still has not given the piracy of this book his full support.
"It helped us," he says, "but it would have hurt most people. We had a perfect storm. The idea of pirating I don't want to be too romantic about or supportive of."
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