Harlequin has just announced that they are getting into non-fiction, and how they just signed a book contract with Kyle Humphrey and Graydon Sheppard, who, in case you don't know them, are the creators of this popular internet meme:
This meme went viral back in December and prompted a zillion knock-offs, including "Sh*t Hippie Girls Say," "Sh*t Seattle People Say," "Sh*t Asians Say," and so on.
Is this a great idea for a book? Maybe. The fact that the videos have gotten 26 million views is awesome, and one million Twitter followers ain't too shabby, but here's the thing: most Internet memes have the shelf life of a banana, and trying to capture these memes in traditional forms like publishing or television is often an exercise in "too little, too late, no one cares anymore." Case in point: my first thought when I read this headline was "I was tired of that meme two months ago -- they better get that book out soon while people are still moderately interested." This lead me to read the press release, where I discovered that the book is coming out in hardback form in October of this year, meaning ten long months will have passed in between the YouTube videos going viral and the supporting book coming out.
Not to seem melodramatic, but in Internet Time, ten months is like ten years, and I suspect that once Harlequin releases this book, the potential market will have moved on to the next cat video, or double rainbow guy (or whatever clever thing is coming next), and that the "Sh*t Girls Say" meme will be deader than Mahir by then.
Harlequin buying the book means that mainstream publishing recognizes the value of the internet meme, but applying a traditional timeline to the release of the product disregards the importance of what makes a meme work: immediacy. By treating a new media phenomenon in an old media way, they are probably dooming themselves to failure. Publishing has to understand that speed is key when trying to monetize these memes. This makes me wonder-- does Harlequin not have an eBook division that could crash a digital edition in the next couple of months to keep people interested while they work on the hardback for its October release? This seems like money left on the table. Let us never forget the terrible fate of the grandaddy of this meme, the "Sh*t My Dad Says" tv show, which ran for 18 episodes way back in 2010-2011. This is another example of how traditional media like publishing (and in this case, television) gets there too late, after the bloom is off the meme rose. We can probably all agree that as a tv show, "Sh*t My Dad Says" would been better (and less costly) as an internet series that could have been shot and uploaded with South Park speed.
I guess what I'm saying is, good for Kyle Humphrey and Graydon Sheppard for getting a book deal, but why is Harlequin waiting until October to get their book out? Why are Humphrey and Sheppard not putting books out themselves right now? And, come fall of 2012, will anyone really still care about the Sh*t That Girls Say?