On April 23, I saw a link to Go the F**k to Sleep, a parody picture book, on Facebook and, as I am wont to do when something amuses me, I posted it on Crooked House. Now this is a tiny little personal website, averaging maybe four or five hundred hits a day. But in three days that post got around 7000 hits. The only time I ever got more hits than that was a couple of years ago when the reality show Jon & Kate Plus 8 featured Crooked House playhouses and ten thousand people came here by mistake through google while they were watching Kate hiss and spit through her teeth at Jon.
I thought the concept for the book was funny, yes, but I was perplexed by its popularity. If this little site was getting that much traffic from it, just imagine how many people were viewing it on large sites like boingboing or Cup of Joe, who featured it over the next couple of days. The book, not yet actually published, started climbing the ranks at Amazon and the New York Times remarked on its meteoric rise. (According to the Times, last June the author Adam Mansbach posted on Facebook to “Look out for my forthcoming children’s book, ‘Go the — to Sleep" and the reaction of his friends made him decide to turn his offhand joke into an actual book.)
Now I am an Amazon affiliate, which means that if someone clicks through to Amazon through a link on my site and buys something, I get a tiny percentage of that sale. Because my site is so small, this generally works out to me being able to afford to buy a couple of books or so for the kids every few months. After the frenzy of hits stopped, I noticed that of the thousands of people who visited here to see this book, eighteen of them purchased the book (or actually pre-ordered it, as again I must remark it has not yet technically been published). Eighteen! That has never happened before. Again, keep in mind that it's not the money I'll be rolling in that fascinates me -- I'll be making a few dollars out of this, perhaps 40 cents a copy -- it's the unpredictability of the book's sudden popularity. At that point, the book wasn't even due to be released until October. Th gleeful and surprised publisher, Akashic Books, has since moved the date up to June 14th.
Today, the book is the number one bestselling book on Amazon. This post on the New Yorker blog and this article in the Bay Citizen suggest that the popularity is due to the fact that a pdf of the book went viral. I think it was enough for the concept -- the title, that excellent cover image, one bit of verse -- to go viral. Macy Halford at the New Yorker says that bloggers who posted a verse from the book must have seen that pdf (which she rhapsodizes about). Perhaps they did -- but I got the sample verse straight from Amazon. I still haven't seen the pdf. And if I had, why would I, after enjoying the joke, then rush to buy the book? It's a joke. A joke that really resonates -- oh how it resonates!* -- but a joke nonetheless. After all, unlike at least some children's book parodies, this probably isn't one you will actually want to read with your children. Unless you want your two-year-old to tell the dolls at daycare to "go the fuck to sleep. " Many people, including Halford, have commented, however, that they plan to give it as a baby shower gift and I can certainly understand the temptation to do that. After all, everyone loves to terrify pregnant ladies. If not with frightening birth stories, why not with the suggestion she will soon be cursing at her darling newborn like a sailor?
*Pdf, schmdf. I'll hazard a guess that one reason this book is really resonating right now is that in addition to the normal difficulties infants and small children have falling sleep, much of North America is experiencing the springtime lengthening of the days, which makes falling asleep even more difficult than usual for kids and even more frustrating and exhausting than usual for their parents. Hmm, maybe someone should do a little research on whether frustrated and exhausted people spend more money on impulse purchases than well-rested ones...