Hachette tries author-to-reader sales via Twitter


Before astronaut Chris Hadfield won the world over with his rendition of David Bowie’s space song “Major Tom,” he was already a social media star. High above the Earth in the International Space Station, Hadfield photographed the planet -- often cities at night -- and posted the pictures on Twitter, where he now has 1.2 million followers.

Hachette is hoping Hadfield will connect with those followers and turn them into book buyers. The parent company of Little, Brown, which published Hadfield’s bestselling memoir “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” has come up with a new way for Hadfield to sell his new book to people who follow him on Twitter.

The new book, “You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes,” is a photo collection of Hadfield’s pictures from the space station. Starting Dec. 15, people who click on the promotion in Hadfield’s Twitter feed can, without leaving Twitter, buy the book, which will come with a signed original photo Hadfield took from space. The book will sell for its list price; the bonus photo, not available anywhere else, is free.


There will be limited special offers like these from other Hachette authors -- so far those announced have significant Twitter followings: Amanda Palmer (1 million followers) and the Onion (6.6 million followers).

Palmer’s book “The Art of Asking” will be available starting Thursday accompanied by a manuscript page with notes from her, her editor and her husband, Neil Gaiman. The special offer for the Onion’s book “The Onion Magazine: The Iconic Covers That Transformed an Undeserving World” begins Dec. 18 and will come with a dozen Onion-cover notecards.

Publishing, which was structured as a wholesale business designed to get its products to retail bookstores, has always had a problem reaching book buyers. The changes in the bookselling landscape, however, have been putting pressure on publishers to see readers, not just bookstores, as their customers.

In this case, Hachette is wisely using its authors’ existing social networks as the means of reaching their readers. Whether followers will convert to buyers is the big question.

The mechanism behind the special book offer sales is Gumroad, a 2014 startup that makes selling and buying easy within Twitter. Gumroad has been successful for musicians who have been using it to offer both music and merchandise to their fans.

“With so much of our book marketing done socially now, in-stream Twitter purchasing is a natural next step,” Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch said in a statement. “Gumroad’s success working with music labels and artists to enable sales to fans, and their partnership with Twitter, put them at the forefront of social media commerce. We’re excited to work with Gumroad to offer this unique capability, and to open up this new channel for Hachette authors and their readers.”


Book news and more; I’m @paperhaus on Twitter