June 6, 2023

Today’s newsletter is a story about two very different book sagas.

One of them concerns Taylor Swift. The other is the story of a little-known Twitter user with a daring name who accidentally instigated the most delicious thing to happen on Twitter in [checks notes] really long. We’ll start with the latter.

It goes like this: on Sunday a Twitter account dedicated to the anime series “Trigun” tweeted the following plea to their followers:

The book “This Is How You Lose the Time War”, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, was critically acclaimed when released in 2019 and won a Hugo Award for Best Novella the following year. (El-Mohtar is also a columnist who writes about science fiction books for The Times.)

What happened next was surprising. Twitter is great for shitposting and – a little less recently – keeping up with the news, but historically it’s not so good at motivating users to do things IRL. In this case, however, the tweets seem to have motivated some people to actually buy the book. “This Is How You Lose the Time War” skyrocketed on the Amazon charts, landing in the top ten.

“We’re literally sandwiched between Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘Demon Copperhead’ and Wendy Loggia’s ‘Taylor Swift: A Little Golden Book Biography,'” El-Mohtar told me.

Gladstone had just stepped off a plane for a family vacation when his phone started exploding with reports of people who had seen the tweet. El-Mohtar said her husband saw it on his For You feed.

The authors don’t yet have a concrete idea of ​​what exactly the sudden surge on the Amazon chart means in terms of actual sales. “It’s very opaque. As far as we can see, a big part of Amazon’s sales rank has to do with sales acceleration,” El-Mohtar said.

As for his motivation, Bigolas — who is 22 and wishes to remain anonymous and has gained 20,000 Twitter followers since its inception — just really wanted to tell people how much he loved the book.

“I only read “Time War” last week and finished it around 2am. I was floored by the depiction of an intense romance that transcends time and space,” he told me. “It was so visceral. I felt like I was going crazy, I had to share it with someone.”

Even if the bump turns out to be just an illusion, the collective joy will have been enough.

“People are enjoying what seems like a revival of an older experience from Twitter, an experience that’s more about people laughing together in a sort of shared enjoyment of something good. That’s not about making fun of anyone, that’s not about anyone dump,” El-Mohtar said.

The Bigolas drama wasn’t the only strange clash between publishing and internet culture this week. An unreleased book by Macmillan, titled “4C Untitled Flatiron Nonfiction Summer 2023,” began climbing Amazon’s presale charts this weekend, thanks to one of the internet’s strongest forces: Swifties.

The pop star’s fans convinced themselves that the book belonged to their beloved Taylor Swift.

To be clear, it isn’t. (It’s an oral history of the K-pop group BTS.)

But Swifties convinced themselves somehow, through a combination of internet sleuthing and numerological backflips. They found the number 13—Swift’s date of birth, lucky number, and often an Easter egg in Swiftie’s lore—in the date the book’s author would be revealed (June 13) and the number of pages (544, if you count all the numbers). separate and then add them). Another piece of pseudo-evidence: The book’s release date, July 9, is a lyric in the Swift song “Last Kiss,” and Swift referenced the date in a recent Instagram post announcing the re-release of her album “Fearless.” announced. (The words “dear reader” in the Instagram post added fuel to the fire.)

The incident is crazy, but it had real consequences for booksellers, customers and the publisher.

Bob Lingle, the owner of Good Neighbor Bookstore in Lakewood, NY, first heard about the Swiftie speculation in a Facebook group for independent booksellers. On Saturday morning, he posted to his bookstore’s TikTok account about the rumors and opened pre-orders for the book, just in case.

More than 600 orders poured in within a day. “I went to bed that night and the orders were coming in faster and faster,” he said. “I’m like, ‘I can’t go to sleep.'” Before going to bed, he stopped pre-orders.

Within hours of posting the video, Lingle received a direct message on TikTok from Flatiron, the imprint of Macmillan that published the book, asking him to remove the video. He obliged.

Lingle said BookTok has been much more helpful than Instagram or Facebook in helping his store reach new customers. But in this case, he learned that his rage can have consequences.

“It finally exploded in my face,” he said. He ended up canceling more than $25,000 worth of orders for the mystery book after news broke that it wasn’t Swift’s. When we spoke on Wednesday, he politely refused to guess who the true author of the book might be.

“I stop speculating,” he said.

Callie Holtermann contributed to this newsletter.