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Becoming Viral: How “This Is How You Lose the Time War” Became a Hit

Social media has both good and bad points. While it has provided endless possibilities for sharing the latest trends and news in media, it can also have stressful consequences like impacting one’s mental health. Twitter is incredibly polarizing, although it has become more so after its new management under Elon Musk.

Nevertheless, it’s not all doom and gloom in the bird app. Despite the website’s issues, it remains relatively popular among users and will continue to do so for the unforeseeable future.

Last week, a viral tweet from Twitter user @maskofbun, also known as Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood, tweeted their enthusiasm for the critically-acclaimed book on their Twitter page on May 7, 2023.

The caption reads as follows:

“read this. DO NOT look up anything about it. just read it. it’s only like 200 pages u can download it on audible it’s only like four hours. do it right now i’m very extremely serious”

The effect of the user’s tweet took time. However, as it began circulating through the web, one-half of the book’s author, Amal El-Mohtar, responded in her tweet and newsletter regarding her surprise.

Since then, the novella has experienced a resurgence in popularity, where it’s currently an Editor’s pick on Amazon and the #1 Best Seller in the Science Fiction Romance. It comes in various formats, including eBook, audiobook, hardcover, and paperback.

The Power of Fandom:

Gaining popularity after becoming an internet sensation is not unheard of. While authors like E.L. James and Colleen Hoover had great sales, the power of fandom and internet hype helped them achieve a resurgence in popularity which has since become viral over the internet.

In the case of Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s 2019 best-selling novella, it achieved a kind of success that you can’t repeat. Like catching lightning in a bottle, This Is How You Lose the Time War claimed its resurgence in popularity through organic engagement, most of it was through a mix of these different factors:

Genuine engagement: People who have retweeted or responded have shared their enthusiasm for the book, which helps gain traction;

Zero “marketing” tactics: It’s safe to say the tweet wasn’t some marketing scheme. While the user has a relatively large follower count, a person’s tweet rarely influences a book’s performance on various best-selling lists. Nevertheless, Bigolas’ tweet influenced the novella’s popularity because of their sincere enthusiasm without looking for something in return.

Acknowledgment from authors: One-half of the book’s authors, Amal El-Mohtar, acknowledged Bigolas Dickolas’ viral tweet and its effect on its sales performance. This acknowledgment creates a new cycle of intrigue from various people over the internet, even with those who don’t have Twitter.

Fan enthusiasm is not unheard of. During lockdown, many people have adapted to finding more solitary activities at home to pass the time. TikTok users started a new trend, “Book Tok,” where avid readers made small videos showcasing their book recommendations. Authors like Leigh Bardugo and Colleen Hoover became TikTok sensations, influencing their book sales performances.

However, books are only one of the things that gained popularity due to fan enthusiasm. Passionate fans of K-pop sensation BTS, also known as ARMY, have created a global fandom community that partakes in various charities, including the Black Lives Matter movement.

Although the band is currently on hiatus to pursue solo projects, fans are still on the pulse in keeping up with their famous oppas, whether it involves a member’s latest solo work or their future book (which, by the way, is already in various bestseller lists). For any ARMYs, “Beyond the Story: 10-Year Record of BTS” is available for preorder.

Fandom culture is nothing new, but it’s something that only some authors can claim for their own. While authors can achieve success without die-hard fans, having a great fanbase and engaging with them on several social media platforms is a great first start for many who have to start from the ground up.

What Can Authors Learn From This Phenomenon?

If there’s anything one can learn from this phenomenon is that becoming a viral sensation is not guaranteed. However, there are some tips one can do to increase their chances of creating success in this age of social media. Some handy tips include the following:

1. Keep an online presence.

The internet is here to stay. Despite having a social media page and doing nothing about it, people will always find ways to connect with others on various online platforms. With multiple options, it helps to have some degree of online presence, like having a Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Reddit, or YouTube account.

2. Engage with your readers.

You don’t need to have countless followers. However, if you have a few fans on Twitter or TikTok, it helps to engage with them occasionally. Some examples include hosting a Q&A portion on Instagram or an AMA on Reddit called an “Ask Me Anything.” If you have a small yet intimate group of followers, consider having an online video chat via Zoom to answer any of their questions.

3. Create consistent online content.

An online presence is more than making various social media accounts and websites. This step must include posting consistent content using SEO or “Search Engine Optimization.” SEO is such a powerful tool for online success because it enables Google to “rank” your content based on factors like functionality, reliability, and context.

Having Google “rank” your page is helpful because the search engine behemoth averages at least 8.5 billion daily searches. If you could direct even a tiny percentage of those searches to your page, imagine how much attention and business your book can gain!

4. Do not expect overnight success.

We cannot control or pay our way into becoming a viral sensation. It requires understanding trends, meeting niche interests, and having a consistent work pattern. Nevertheless, some authors have achieved relative success by being readily “accessible” to their fans online. While it’s understandable that some authors wish to be more private, authors who have incorporated online engagements in their careers have consistent control over their image than relying on traditional publishing agents.


“This Is How You Lose the Time War” achieved an incredible yet familiar pathway of achieving success in today’s era—i.e., through the power of online fandom enthusiasm.

While only some authors can have a large fan base, learning to use the internet to your advantage and engaging with your readers can reap multiple benefits that many publishing houses can only sometimes guarantee.

Once an author actively markets their book or creates an online presence, it can reach a broader audience without spending too much money.


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