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...Voilà! 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 book...parts 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.