Video game consultant Rami Ismail was a little sleepy during an early morning meeting, until his client said something particularly strange: “I’m really just looking for a way to give my game its Bigolas Dickolas moment.”
“I definitely had to wake up really quickly to politely find a way to explain that I had no idea what they meant,” Ismail told TechCrunch.
Earlier this week a fan account for the anime series “Trigun” tweeted emphatically that everyone should buy immediately’This is how you lose the time war”, a strange, dystopian time travel novella published in 2019. The tweet got 10 million views, and enough people took the advice of this anime fan — whose display name is “bigolas dickolas wolfwood” — that the novella skyrocketed up the charts to #3 on Amazon’s book list. No, not sci-fi Amazon, or queer time travel romance Amazon. It’s the #3 book out of literally every book on Amazon because of an anime fan named “bigolas dickolas”. According to Amazon’s charts, the book outsells “Oh the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss and “Demon Copperhead” by recent Pulitzer Prize winner Barbara Kingsolver.
Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, the book’s co-authors, sounded downright giddy when we spoke on the phone Wednesday afternoon. Their novella was already relatively successful among sci-fi fans, winning the coveted Hugo and Nebula awards when it came out. In the words of El-Mohtar, “it fulfilled the dream of being a midlist book.” Now, almost four years later, it is extremely unusual for a book to get a second wind of sales in this way.
“I really think a big part of why[the tweet]caught on so much was that there was no link,” El-Mohtar said. “It’s only the book cover and the follow-up tweet that engages in that sort of ‘grab you by the throat, you gotta do this thing’ stan violence.”
Among the existing fan base, “Time War” is loved for being more of a long letter poem than a piece of fiction – but El-Mohtar and Gladstone loved Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood’s tweet in its own right.
“It’s a beautifully written tweet,” Gladstone told TechCrunch. “It’s a big wave of Twitter rhetoric… the way it’s constructed, the use of cases, the use of stan violence…”
“Yes!” interrupted El-Mohtar. “There’s poetry in it!”
BookTok – a community on TikTok that talks about books – has revolutionized the publishing world. Madeline Miller, who faded “Time War,” published “The Song of Achilles” in 2012 with an initial print run of 20,000 copies. The book, a strange retelling of a story from ‘The Iliad’, went viral on BookTok in 2021 and is now more than 2 million copies. Writers like Emily Henry, Colleen Hoover, and Taylor Jenkins Reid have achieved similar successes and defied the standards of book publishing.
But Twitter is not normally a convenient place to sell books.
“If you think of a book that goes viral, it’s usually on TikTok, and that’s because everyone is talking about it,” says Kelsey Weekman, an Internet culture reporter who reads all around 400 books per year. “For this book to blow up right away because of a single tweet… I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before, especially since BookTok.”
The problem with BookTok is that authors’ careers have progressed, as have the careers of “bookfluencers,” who make their living creating content about books. The entire influencer economy is based on the belief that people are more likely to buy things if they get a recommendation from a friend (or some cool person they follow online) – but when paid brand deals with publishers and the constant churn of content creation kill the unbridled joy of reading overshadow, fans may not see these recommendations as gospel.
Enter: bigolas dickolas wolfwood, an anime account that stopped tweeting about “Trigun” for a while command to their followers, “*grabs you personally by the throat* you are going to do this. for me. you go to the counter at Barnes and Noble. you are going to buy this. i will be greatly rewarded. In fact, it was such a new moment on Twitter Simon and Schuster’s corporate marketing account involved in the tweet, which makes the whole situation even more delightful, because we now know that marketing executives at publishing houses are talking about “bigolas dickolas.”
“There are so many people trying to be influencers whose job it is to recommend books,” Weekman told TechCrunch. “But just seeing a random person’s genuine enthusiasm about something makes it a better investment for me. It feels refreshing to get a recommendation from a real person.”
Like the TikTok For You page, the Amazon bestsellers list works in mysterious ways. Some publishing experts say the list’s algorithm prioritizes the speed of sales, rather than the total number — but whichever way you slice it, Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood is doing more for “Time War” this week than winning of a Pulitzer for “Demon Copperhead”. ”, which ranks #6 on the list.
Unfortunately, because of the way publishing works, Gladstone and El-Mohtar told TechCrunch that they probably won’t know until next year how much this has affected their sales. For now, they’re basking in the glory of it all: how more people will read their book than ever before because of an anime fan with a silly dick joke as their Twitter display name.
“While it’s part of the funniness of the story that it’s an anime fan account, there’s actually a lot of anime at the center of the book,” said El-Mohtar. She and Gladstone started writing “Time War” after swapping their favorite anime, like “Revolutionary Girl Utena,” “Sailor Moon,” and yes, even “Trigun.”
Future royalties aside, Gladstone’s favorite part of the Bigolas Dickolas saga is that, as the current “main character” on Twitter, this random anime fan isn’t trying to be Sound cloud or sell galaxy lamps.
“The thing they’re shooting their shot at from this whole absurd experience is Dark Horse Comics tweeting asking them to reprint the original Trigun,” Gladstone said.