Are Hashtags the New Global Book Club?

Thursday, June 02, 2011
Imagine picking up a book and reading a particularly funny, shocking, or disturbing chapter. You think, OMG! I have to share this with someone. But alas, you don't know anyone who has read the book. (This happens all the time, doesn't it?)

Just as you are about to go back to reading, you notice a hashtag printed on the top of the page. You pick up your phone with the Twitter app and find that people all over the world are talking about that particular chapter in real time. And...VoilĂ ! You just found your new global book club.

That's the concept behind Ian Greenleigh's post. He suggests that publishers assign each book an official hashtag that would be printed on the book itself—on page tops, introductions, even on covers. These tags would also be promoted in marketing materials, author interviews, speaking engagements, book signings and appearances, etc. By promoting it this way, the reader could engage in discussions about a particular chapter, the author, or anything else while they are reading...even mini book reviews. In essence, by giving a book its own unique hashtag, you're creating a living social network—without having to create a dedicated website. It becomes a moving, growing and ever-evolving entity of its own.

I think this is a fantastic idea. For the past few months, with our blog tours, we've assigned each touring book a unique hashtag, which we use when we tweet about anything related to that particular book: a blog stop, book giveaway, writing prompt, or other news items. Originally, it started as a way to track the number of tweets, so we could show the touring author what we've been doing to promote her book. But then an interesting thing happened. People we didn't know started using the tag for their own discussions. It started to take on a life of its own.

However, there are a few hurdles ahead. One problem is that Twitter only archives hashtags for about a week. So unless you have a bestselling, timeless book that will continually generate discussions you're probably out of luck. There are a few sites that archive social media, such as Twapper Keeper and Arkovi, and new sites like Book Hashtags are a great way to find out about book discussions. Maybe these sites and other forthcoming apps will provide a solution. Another foreseeable problem is spoilers. You'll have readers discussing all different parts of the you may not want to know yet. One solution, suggested on Greenleigh's blog, is to assign each chapter its own hashtag. Perhaps use the book's hashtag with the chapter number after it.

Although there are some kinks, I think the idea is solid. We've tested it to some extent with our blog tours, and I've heard that some publishers are already doing this. If you're an author or self-publisher, you may want to consider adding hashtags to your book's marketing plan.

What do you think of this idea? Have you been using hashtags for your book? We'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.


Anonymous said...

What an intriguing idea. I am a relatively new Twitter user and it's amazing how easy it is to find other readers who are reading what I am. Saves me the trouble of going through goodreads and shelfari and checking for book discussions.

Naomi Musch said...

Great idea. Wow, between social media & eBooks & constant upgrades to technology in general, the publishing world and new ideas are bursting along at breakneck speed. Kind of exciting for us authors, if we can keep up with it!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Jennifer, Love your couch! It looks like you'll need a bigger one soon...or a really big bookshelf. ;) I bet you have a lot to discuss on Twitter. Goodreads and Shelfari are a lot of fun too.

Naomi, I think it's a very exciting time for authors. Technology is providing opportunities that some authors didn't have before. Traditional publishers are a bit worried and are still trying to figure out how they can best get a piece of the pie. And yes, it's hard to keep up with it all!

Janice Hardy said...

Very interesting. I've only recently figured out the hashtag thing myself (I know, I such a doof) and I've found it very useful. Being able to connect with other fans of a book would really help expand the audience and allow readers to connect. I'd be very interested to see how your experiment works out.

Anonymous said...

Bless the Internet.

Beverly Diehl said...

I like this idea a lot. Wonder how it would work with e-books, though, where there is no real "top of the page" since that changes depending on font size and layout. Writing in Flow

Ian Greenleigh said...

Glad you like the idea. So exciting to see it in action! Thanks for the link and kind words.

Aidan said...

Hello, Thanks for mention. If there is anything I can do to support your future book tours (e.g. including books in the featured book of the day section) then let me know. Every little helps to get the book chat flowing!

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