On Tuesday, January 15, author John Green and his brother, Hank, will present “An Evening of Awesome”—a speaking engagement with musical guests the Mountain Goats—at Carnegie Hall. But the audience won’t be limited to those lucky enough to have snagged seats at the vaunted New York City venue. Thanks to a new partnership between Penguin Young Readers Group and social media platform Tumblr, anyone can attend, via livestreaming video and various Tumblr “meetup” events. More than 100 bookstores and libraries are already set to join in.
According to Emily Romero, v-p of marketing for Penguin Young Readers Group, the project came together organically. “We were excited about Tumblr as a booming social media platform, particularly among teens, and we were looking for the right opportunity to collaborate,” she says. Specifically, Penguin was searching for a way to mark the one-year anniversary of the publication of Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which has more than 950,000 copies in print, and was included on several national best-of-2012 lists. “When we approached Tumblr, they were incredibly enthusiastic about John’s community of more than 200,000 fans on Tumblr and the opportunity to work together.”
Rachel Fershleiser, Tumblr’s director of literary outreach, says that teaming up made perfect sense. “This is really the first time that we’re officially partnering with a publisher on meetups,” she says, though authors and their fans, and an increasing number of publishers, have a presence on the site where users find a blogging platform with a built-in social network. “One of our biggest communities is reading and writing YA books,” she says. “On other platforms a million fans freak out when Justin Bieber says something. On Tumblr, a million fans freak out when John Green or Maureen Johnson says something.”
That kind of book-and-author–focused reach has piqued the interest of publishers. More than 50 book deals have come from ideas created and expressed via Tumblr, according to Fershleiser. And on the publicity and marketing front, “Publishers have gotten more interested in using Tumblr when they are trying to reach teenage readers and college students,” she says.
Connecting with Fans Online and in Person
The key component of the Fault in Our Stars anniversary campaign is Tumblr’s meetup feature, which allows users to organize and attend events where they can meet in person. There are two opportunities for participation: the livestream event on January 15, and the Ultimate John Green Trivia Challenge, which will run the weekend of January 19-20. “Bookstores and libraries will either livestream the Carnegie Hall event, conduct an Ultimate John Green Trivia challenge, or host an event that is a combination of the two,” Romero says. In addition, fans can organize meetup events of their own.
Tumblr is providing a Green-specific event kit for the occasion. Meetup kits typically contain name tags, table tents, and “a bit of swag,” says Fershleiser. “The events are very user-driven; we just want to facilitate and help.” Livestream participants on January 15 include Kepler’s in Menlo Park, Calif.; Politics and Prose at Takoma Park Library in Takoma Park, Md.; and Village Books in Bellingham, Wash. Updates and information about how to attend or organize an event can be found on Penguin Teen’s Tumblr as well as Green’s Tumblr.
Green has long been known for keeping in contact with his extensive fan base—aka the Nerdfighters—via various forms of social media, and has said that Tumblr is his social media platform of choice. “John is very much about engaging with his hugely loyal community,” says Romero. “We wanted to keep these meetups true to his spirit and to Tumblr’s so we kept much of the campaign fan-driven.” As an example, Romero says that all the questions for the Trivia Challenge were fan-sourced on Green’s Tumblr.
Penguin Teen will promote the Carnegie Hall and trivia events on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and Tumblr will also be spreading the word via its outlets, which account for millions of impressions.
Everyone involved feels confident that there will be more collaborations to come. “This is a very new kind of partnership that we see as key in the future,” says Jennifer Loja, v-p and associate publisher at Penguin Young Readers Group. “As this market shifts, we are seeing many great new opportunities to connect our authors with their readers in completely original ways. We know we have to constantly rethink how we reach our consumers.”
Fershleiser agrees. “One of my goals is to find ways to help authors and publishers find fans in our community, and to find ways fans can interact with their heroes,” she says. “I appreciate that Penguin has really embraced social media and the fan community.”