Some authors have had their sales boosted by a comment made by a celebrity. For example back in 1984 novelist Tom Clancy had published his classic "The Hunt for Red October" and president Ronal Reagan casually mentioned at a press conference that he liked the book. This guaranteed the book's success and helped launch Clancy's career. But this was way before the modern internet culture took off. Today, the interconnectness of people instantly communicating over the World Wide Web creates the potential for a given, story, book, or video to go "viral".
A recent example is the children's book for adults "Go the F*** to Sleep" by author Adam Mansbach. The author sent a PDF to several booksellers before the publication of the book on Amazon. Somebody forwarded the PDF out into the world and it went viral. Initially the author and his publisher, not yet savvy in the ways of the web, tried to contain the beast but then it dawned on them that this illegal spread of the book was helping their sales. "Go the F*** to Sleep" became an overnight success and went straight to the number one position.
Mansbach's case was more of an accident but there is the author John Locke who wrote a very particular piece in his blog and promoted it to a well-defined audience, which made it go viral. He describes what he did in his book "How I sold 1 Million e-Books in 5 Months", that I have reviewed here in my blog. However, although I agree with the merits of following this approach, and I believe it can help book sales, I don't think the viral power of the internet can be harnessed so easily.
It is extremely difficult to predict what will capture the attention of people in social media so that they share a given content or link with thousands of others. Of course, it doesn't hurt to try, and some people will be successful, but I think most of us will get stuck running the marathon rather than catching the virus.
What do you think? Do you have any tips for going viral you would like to share here?