The Magic of the Internet Has Turned This Is How You Lose the Time War Into a Belated Bestseller

Never let it be said that Twitter does not (sometimes) sell books.

The thing is, you can’t force it. It’s like a visit from a magical fairy: it comes to you; you don’t seek it out.

And so it was with Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar’s This Is How You Lose the Time War and a Twitter user with the unlikely yet glorious screen name of Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood, whose plea to his followers to read this 2019 novel has sent the book flying up the Amazon bestseller charts.

This is how you win the tweet wars, more like.

Last week, Bigolas Dickolas posted this:

The effect was not immediate. Slowly, the tweet began to circulate. As El-Mohtar wrote in her newsletter, her partner saw the book on his “For You” tab on Twitter. By Tuesday, the book was ranked #21 of all books on Amazon.

El-Mohtar’s summary is perfection, especially the last bit:

As far as I can tell, someone going by the name Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood runs a fan account for a 90s anime called Trigun which was recently rebooted, and tweeted about loving Time War with imperative enthusiasm, and somehow over the course of 24 hours that tweet went viral with people chiming in to say how much, how passionately, how violently they love the book, and it blew up, and despite the fact that Twitter Does Not Sell Books enough people bought our book in a short enough period that whatever algorithmic alchemy determines Amazon’s best-sellers took notice, and the upshot of it all is that corporate marketing people at Simon & Schuster now know the name Bigolas Dickolas.

The Bigolas Dickolas Energy has continued for an impressively long time; as of last night, the book reached #3:

To reiterate: a four-year-old queer science fiction novel is selling more copies than the Little Golden Book biography of Taylor Swift. Or, as agent DongWon Song put it:

Over at Slate, Dan Kois interviewed El-Mohtar about the phenomenon; unsurprisingly, she had some very smart things to say about why this tweet, of all tweets, has taken off like a rocket to the stars:

I think it’s a combination of things. There’s all the dark-box algo stuff. There’s no link in the tweet to a sales site, so it’s not getting suppressed by Twitter’s suppressing of links. It is pure fan-to-fan enthusiasm. In the context of a fan account, where people are used to sharing phenomenal art and GIFs and feelings and stuff, that kind of primes an audience for receiving something in a certain way.

I also like studying the grammar of it. Do you know Gretchen McCulloch’s Because Internet? Her area of expertise is the way we talk to each other on the internet. I don’t know as much as her, but I do think there is poetry to it! No cap: Read this. Then, all caps: DO NOT look up anything … To me, the tweet is beautiful.

It would be churlish not to mention that in addition to being a big fan of This Is How You Lose the Time War, Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood is a huge fan of the anime Trigun, which has also been brought to the attention of many more people than it might have in a regular, non-viral-tweet week.

In short, if you have not yet read Gladstone and El-Mohtar’s book, now is the time. And if you love a book, really adore it, tweeting never hurts.


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