CNET has a neat interview with author Adam Mansbach, who wrote the now-viral release valve for frustrated parents, Go the F*** to Sleep. Between YouTube videos of the leaked galley copy and an audiobook version read by professional badass Samuel L. Jackson, the book has been shared, forwarded, posted on Facbook walls and – ultimately – bought.
The leaked galley copy made its way around the web awfully quick:
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.”… And clearly, there’s more to the success of “Go the F*** to Sleep” than its accidental marketing campaign. Mansbach realizes that it’s the product itself, which touches a deep nerve with parents, that’s at least as important to its success. As the full PDF version of the book circulated, he says, “People were able to see that we delivered on the promise of the premise. That it wasn’t a one-note joke. It was beautiful, an art object.”
Mansbach notes that while he doesn’t support piracy in general, it worked in this campaign. Like a new band that got discovered giving away downloaded songs on MySpace five years ago (or Napster ten years ago), there was a value in giving away content. Since most purchases of the book will probably be gag gifts for parents of infants or young children, having the book out there doesn’t hurt sales. No one is going to skip out on buying the book because Samuel L. Jackson spoiled the ending.
Piracy is wrong, because a writer should have control over his or her own work. That said, the accidental marketing ploy represents something that every political or product campaign sees as the Holy Grail: people genuinely liking what the campaign is trying to sell and telling their friends. That only works when the content is good – and when the content is good, letting it speak for itself may be the best marketing there is.