The name John Green might not ring any bells for those not immersed in Internet culture. However, the author of the young adult fiction novel, The Fault in Our Stars, is also half of the famed Vlogbrothers, who host a video blog channel on YouTube. The trailer for the movie based on the book, which opened this weekend, was released back in January and has racked up over 21 million views. But the author has been sharing behind the scenes footage with fans from the very beginning.
Green and his brother started sharing their experiences as the Vlogbrothers in 2007. The development of The Fault in Our Stars into a movie has been no different, with Green posting frequent updates about everything from casting to the premiere. John has kept his audience up to speed with each development, which may have been a contributing factor to the success of both the book and the movie. His YouTube videos have spawned an Internet subculture known as Nerdfighteria.
Rob Brunner, senior editor for Fast Company, interviewed Green in an attempt to find the kernels of his success in audience building. Green identified the keys of success as being genuine with and involving the audience, and fighting against the ordinary.
“They’d seen me struggle, they’d heard me read [parts of books] that had to be abandoned. It made them feel invested in it from the beginning,” Green told Brunner. “I’m more likely to read a book written by a friend, and if you extend that idea out, people are more likely to read books if they feel a personal connection to the person who created it, and to the process.”
On his Tumblr page, Green points out that an audience will only take you so far when it comes to mainstream success. “[The Fault in Our Stars] had far more pre-orders than my previous novels. But when you have the kind of regular relationship with your audience that I do, pretty much 100 percent of that built-in fan base buys your book within the first month,” he states, citing click-through rates on his Amazon affiliate links.
Indeed, The Fault in Our Stars has been an amazing success by many metrics. It topped Amazon best-seller lists before it was even finished, and the movie has already grossed more than four times its production budget. But at this point, it’s not about the money for Green, it’s about his audience.
“I got paid for the rights a long time ago but I don’t get a percentage of ticket sales or anything and I don’t have to talk about it, and if I didn’t like [the movie], believe me you’d know,” he says in his video about the premiere. And to his audience, he says: “Thanks to all of Nerdfighteria for being part of this process with me.”