My Followers, My Heroes

23/11/2011 by Ben Hatch

One author looked set to fade into obscurity, until his Twitter followers flocked together and made him a number one download 

It’s fair to say Are We Nearly There Yet? 8,000 Misguided Miles Around Britain in a Vauxhall Astra, was going nowhere until it was picked up on Twitter.

It had great advance reviews from Terry Wogan, Danny Wallace, John Cleese, Richard Briers, Lisa Jewell and Jenny Colgan, but an unlucky start. The book was released in August and publicity on it was embargoed for three weeks to allow for a Daily Express serialisation. The timing was unlucky – due to run the week the summer riots started, the serial got pulled. By now the stretched PR team at my publisher had understandably moved onto other titles. The book began to sink. And that’s when I found Twitter. 
 
Having previously been sceptical of the medium (wasn’t it all people discussing their sandwich fillings?) I embraced it. What a warm embrace that’s turned out to be. When the book was mentioned on the Terry Wogan show I tweeted it to my then 100 followers. They retweeted it to their followers and word spread. Then John Cleese tweeted about the book. I passed that on and my followers began to grow. I’d chat to them about funny episodes of our 8,000 mile trip round Britain: my daughter’s nature wee in a field of live ordnance; my wife’s tortoise phobia; the bat attack in the Kielder Forest. Part of the book was about my father’s death from cancer. I spoke to followers who’d had similar experiences. Much much more then the insides of a sandwich. 
 
By now I had an army of followers.  Media savvy ones at that, who understood and were tolerant of an author trying to make a mark. They’d kindly not only tweet about the book, but put reviews on Amazon. There are 46 there now, 41 of which are five stars. 
 
The buzz leaked into the real world. I was reviewed in the Daily Mail and Marie Claire magazine while Mumsnet backed the book so that by last weekend the book was the biggest downloaded Kindle title on Amazon and the paperback was in the top 10 travel books, ahead of Bill Bryson. 
 
I’ve tried thanking my followers online, but I wanted something more public. That’s when I came up listing them all by Twitter name in the latest reprint of the book – all two thousand-plus of them. 
 
The back of the book, with all the underscores, ampersands, capital letters and nicknames in neat rows, now looks like that crazy shed in A Beautiful Mind. But it’s a permanent recognition of all the kind-hearted people who’ve helped make my book a success. To them I am eternally grateful. 
 
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