IAm John Green, author the #1 New York Times bestseller THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, and I'm doing this AMA entirely so that I can get some hats.
I wrote the novels Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars, which has spent more than a consecutive year on the NYT bestseller list.
I also co-created the popular YouTube video channels vlogbrothers, crashcourse, and mental_floss with my brother Hank.
I am not here to promote my new project or anything. I am doing this AMA solely in the hopes of acquiring hats. I hear they last forever. EDIT: It turns out that they do not last forever, and now half of this AMA makes no sense. Sorry about that. RIP Reddit Hats. 4/1/2013 - later in the day 4/1/2013.
I am happy to answer your questions about writing, YouTube, publishing, or whatever else. PROOF.
You're the best, Reddit.
(This is my brother. Hank, I don't want to brag, but I have a lot more hats than you.)
DAMN Y'ALL I GOT A LOT OF HATS.
One day I will tell my children how I fought a hard battle next to John Green. I will tell them how we bonded in the trenches and how you exploited your fame for flare.
You have to love something in the world, ChopStyx.
For me, it's flare.
How are you preparing for your upcoming role as Augustus Waters in the TFiOS movie?
I've been going to a personal trainer, but I'm not sure he can make me look 17.
I do, however, know a lot about what it's like to be 17 and a virgin, so I think I'm ALREADY prepared.
Well if you happen to need anymore advice on being 17 and a virgin you've certainly come to the right place.
You get gold.
Because I'm first, can I just get a response? Just want an acknowledgement from your awesomeness!
I was first, dammit
Have you considered naming your future daughter Penny?
I can confirm it is your cake day. Repeat: IT IS YOUR CAKE DAY.
My girlfriend and I were in one of your videos a while back, Tales of Nerd Love, I was the boy who asked my girlfriend to homecoming with an Air Force bear. We also were at your atlanta stop of your book tour and spoke to you for like 5 seconds, I was the one holding a teddy bear in an Air force uniform. The bear was part of the reason why we were in your video of nerd love, but I don't think you made the connection when you saw me holding the bear. I think you were tired and just got confused by a 6' 3" teenager holding a teddy bear. So I just wanted to thank you and tell you that we are still together and that I am not just a weirdo with a teddy bear. Us outside the atlanta venue: [IMG]http://i.imgur.com/4469J.jpg[/IMG]
Now it all makes sense! (Great to hear y'all are still together.)
How is Henry doing?
(Henry is my 3-year-old son.)
He's good. He's 3, so he's discovering language and personhood and it's all really fascinating. Spending time with Henry and Sarah (my wife) is the great joy of my life, but it's hard to answer questions about it, because it's a very private kind of joy and difficult to talk about effectively.
But other parents will know what I mean when I say that I find parenting to be an incredibly challenging job but by far my most rewarding one.
(I'm holding back from writing in all caps but I am honestly screaming right now.) So, hi, I am a big fan, and I just wanted to know what you did for April Fools' Day :D
I told everyone I had been cast to play the role of the 17-year-old her of my book.
And then an astonishing number of people believed me and I had to post an apology because they were threatening to kill me for not casting (Some Young Hollywood Type). All of this is based on the false assumption that I am personally casting the film adaptation of my book, when in fact I have just slightly more say in casting than you do.
So what other ideas do you have for Crash Course subjects? I'd love to see Crash Course Anthropology.
Well, we have to see whether funding for Crash Course comes through and where it comes from in order to answer that question. I'm very interested in economics and personal finance (I sometimes post at r/personalfinance) and literature and philosophy and anthropology and the list goes on and on...
I think a Crash Course Personal Finance would be great. People always talk about how high school didn't teach them financial life skills. Or, at least that's what people talk about high school didn't teach them on tumblr.
I think it would be great, too. Khan Academy has a good personal finance section, although obviously they teach stuff very differently from how we go about it. (I'm a huge fan of Khan Academy, for the record.)
The problem is finding the godawful amount of money it takes to make crashcourse (because you have to hire experts and people who know how to write and animators and Stan to produce and edit the thing and make it look good).
I like, "You have to hire [job], [job], [job], and Stan."
I wanna be Stan when I grow up.
Stan is kind of irreplaceable. But I guess at some point he'll die, and then maybe you can be the next Stan.
I'll tell you this right now: Stan does not bake cupcakes, so....
GO TEAM ORANGERED.
How is your soccer team doing?
If by my soccer team you mean the Swindon Town Swoodilypoopers, we are back in League 1 after regenerating into FIFA 13. But we have several gingers on our club, which is encouraging.
If by my soccer team you mean Liverpool Football Club, we are seventh. If the season were 60 games long, I think we could finish in fourth. Sadly, it is not. #nextyear
As a Liverpool fan you must be used to saying next year by now.
It's my favorite year!
I meant both, but especially Swindon Town.
Wish I could convert you to Chelsea, dude! ;) Thanks.
Shit club no history. :)
Are you fully aware of how much tumblr idolizes you?
Yeah, I mean I do have an idea of it. It's weird to think of tumblr as a monolith when of course it's just a massive collection of blogs.
But I really like tumblr as a platform and as a way of making/reinventing/mashing up things, and the tumblr community has been very generous to me and my work. (That said, there are elements of tumblr that really, really dislike me, and that's okay, too. I like it when people take the piss out idols--even if it's me.)
Hello! Two questions. 1. Have you decided between Eleanor or Alice? And 2. Have you recovered from the fact that Obama is a nerdfighter? DFTBA!
(The President said a nerdfighter slogan when I spoke to him during a google hangout. Also, I asked him what we should name or kid if it's a girl. He gave a non-committed response.)
No. (There are other names in the running as well.)
I suspect someone told the President to say that, and that he does not have time to be deeply engaged in the nerdfighter community. But I was absolutely thrilled that he said it.
have you ever regretted starting making YouTube videos? (and everything that came after)
That's a good question, but no.
Well, the answer to whether I've EVER regretted it is yes, but I don't usually regret it. Making videos has allowed me to become very close to my brother, which has been amazing. It's also allowed me a platform to talk about stuff I care about with people I care about. And it's given my books a much broader audience than they otherwise would've had.
At times, it has been difficult to keep everything together and still be a good dad and husband and friend and son, and I wish I could manage that stuff better, but I really love nerdfighteria, and I wouldn't want to count any other place as my hometown.
What made the Yeti decide that we could finally see her on the Google Hangout with the president?
Well, Sarah (my wife) has always had a public life (she is a curator of contemporary art and very successful in her field); she's just never been in a vlogbrothers video.
And while she did say hi to the President, she's STILL never been in a vlogbrothers video. (She is known as the yeti because sightings are extremely rare.) But as Sarah has progressed in her work, she's been in a lot of YouTube videos and has written and edited her own books associated with shows she has curated, "keeping her a secret" became totally impossible.
To answer the question: Yes, she's a redditor; no, you can't know her username.
Ever since Brotherhood 2.0 and becoming a NYT Bestseller author, I am sure you have become a lot more famous/recognizable. Has this changed how you do things in your everyday life? Do you ever feel like society is constantly watching you and judging your actions?
Yeah, back then I was like snorting cocaine off the thighs of strippers.
No, I don't think things have changed much for me. In real life, I'm a very introverted person, and I have anxiety problems, so sometimes I have panic attacks in big public settings like signings or Vidcon (a YouTube convention organized by my brother).
But my everyday life hasn't changed at all (my wife and son and best friends couldn't care less about any of this stuff) and when I get recognized in public, it's almost always very nice. People are super respectful and I am always happy to meet them, even though it's usually at my least flattering moments (reaching for a frozen pizza at Costco, standing in line in sweatshorts at Baskin Robbins, etc.)
Yes I have sweatshorts. Shut up.
why do you always write books that make people cry? why
Well I wrote a comic novel called AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES that never made anyone cry.
And then no one read it.
So I went back to writing sad books. But hopefully even the sad ones are pretty funny. I prefer funny books, all things being equal.
As an avid Swindon Town Swoodilypoopers supporter, how surprised are you at the success of the Miracle of Swindon Town/Swoodilypoopers Strike Back series?
Very surprised, yeah. When I try to explain it to people, they're always like, "So people watch you...play...a video game. On the Internet?" And I'm like, "Yeah." And they're like, "So you play them on the Internet?" And I'm like, "No, I play with a fictional soccer team and then I upload it to the Internet and people watch it," and they're like, "But why?" And I'm like, "Well, we're pretty good. We might win the Premier League this year." And they're like, "But not the real premier league," and I'm like, "Well, what is real, after all?"
Are you currently writing anything at the moment? And what is your advice for following through with an idea and getting it noticed?
I'm trying to write but it's difficult. In wonderful ways but also claustrophobic ones, The Fault in Our Stars has really taken over my life, and even though I've finally stopped traveling a lot in support of the book, it's hard to forget about it enough to write other stuff. Usually you publish a book and a few weeks later, the work (and pleasure) of publishing is mostly gone and you can go back to writing. This has been very different, which I'm grateful for, but yeah, it's going to be a while before I finish another book. (I was slow even before this, to be fair.)
Following through: A lot of this is a question of not giving up and giving a story the months or years (almost always years) it takes. As for getting noticed, the publishing business has changed so much since I sold my first novel in 2003 that I don't even know anymore. The main thing to me is to focus on the quality of the story first and finding an audience later. You have to find pleasure and reward in the work itself, because nothing is guaranteed to you except the opportunity to do the work. But that, it turns out (at least for me) is the most fulfilling part of the whole process.
Like, we have no problem spending an hour on an exceptionally difficult level of Angry Birds, and the longer it takes, the more fulfilling it is when you finally break through and kill all the .... pigs? I think? It's been a while since I played Angry Birds. But anyway yeah writing for me is like that when it's working: It's hard, but it's tremendously gratifying when I feel facets of the story clicking together.
how can a lowly film student and fan of your books PA on tfios movie?
I wish I could tell you, but I truly know nothing about the movie business, even when it comes to the movies of my own books. I might be able to get MYSELF onto the set as a PA, but that's about it.
John, why did you start smoking and why did you stop?
Also, is it true that you liked Nicorette better than actual tobacco?
I started smoking when I was fourteen, in 1992. Smoking was very different culturally at the time; it was fairly widespread among teenagers and very inexpensive (a pack of cigarettes cost about $1.25, as I recall). It was a socially acceptable way of hurting myself, and I also thought it looked cool, and it gave me an excuse to go tramping through the woods of my school with my friends.
I quit smoking because it is idiotic. It's expensive and dangerous and hurts not only yourself but also those around you.
I did like Nicorette more than actual tobacco. Nicorette is amazing. I don't know why anyone on the planet Earth still smokes when Nicorette is available. (I did eventually quit Nicorette, but it was very difficult.)
I have been preparing for job interviews lately, so I'll use one of my least favorites on YOU:
What are your greatest faults?
Quick to anger, easily frustrated, too often settle for cheap sentiment instead of thinking hard, too often controlled by anxiety, gluttony, pride, morning lethargy.
You're not acing this job interview.
Also I'm really bad at having a job and working for someone else. I always feel unmotivated and I want to take a nap every afternoon. And I generally suck at finishing thi
- What is your favorite species of hominid?
- Do you prefer hardcover or paperback?
- I find it kind of weird that one of your books seems to be named after your brother's wife. Why did you name your book "An abundance of Katherines"?
Edit: I don't think this AMA is in any way serious. Also, I think everyone's getting downvoted by other colors and I don't even understand this game.
Us. (There's really no competition here.)
Hardcovers. (Because I make more much from them and I am greedy.)
At the time, Katherine was not my brother's wife. I chose the name Katherine not because of Hank's wife but because it is an excellent name for anagramming, since it contains both the word "heart" and the word "tear." I'm not actually very good at anagramming, so I had to cheat a lot to pretend to be Colin Singleton.
Do you think you'll ever write anything besides fiction?
Telling the truth seems an awful bore to me.
I dunno, non fiction essays can be great. David Foster Wallace's collections of essays are particularly awesome.
Sure, I love READING nonfiction. But writing it seems really boring to me.
(For the record, DFW made up a lot of stuff in his nonfiction, which is part of why it is so good.)
Might I ask about your videos? Such as: how do you shoot/edit them, how long does that take, how do you get ideas? I ask because I feel like making a vlog would be an interesting thing to do. Thanks a ton!
I've made at least one video a week for six and a half years now, but I still find myself getting a lot of new ideas. The great thing about the nerdfighter community is that they are always generating topics, whether in the forums or in comments or on tumblr or at r/nerdfighters.
I shoot them with a (not very good) Canon camcorder and edit in Final Cut Express. (I am the last person on Earth using FCE.)
It takes about six to eight hours from when I start filming to when the video is uploaded, but of course I spend a lot of time before all that thinking about what I want to talk about and writing and stuff. (I don't work off scripts usually, but I do write a lot of notes.)
My advice to new video makers: If you can't travel in a time machine back to 2007, you have to work a lot harder. Your videos have to be well-lit, and the sound has to be good, and you have to edit tightly. But you learn how to do these things by doing them. So make videos, and be patient with yourself. Hank and I got our 200th YouTube subscriber after we uploaded our 100th video.
I'm so excited right now!! I just want to you to know you're my favorite author. I fell in love with The Fault in Our Stars as soon as I read it and immediately bought all your other books. (Currently reading Paper Towns) I have your quote "That's the thing about pain, it demands to be felt." tattooed on my back. Your books really had an impact on me. Again I just wanted to say thank you and I guess my question is, what got you started I writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? Thank you so much!!
One of your biggest fans.
Edit: proof! http://i.imgur.com/pZvR5xt.jpg
Wow that's amazing. It's so strange to have something I wrote live on your back. I hope you still like me in 20 years!
I always wanted to be a writer, but it seemed like an unrealistic goal--like being an astronaut or something. I've always been a pretty practical person, so I figured I would write but also do other things. Even as my writing career has grown, I've continued to do other things, because I still can't really think of myself as a full-time writer.
Hi John! Big fan. Just finished TFiOS and loved it, do you have any other book recommendations for me?
Sure, lots. First, you should read Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, though. Just do that right now.
Is Miles Halter at all a reflection of your own potentially gawky teen years?
There are certainly ways in which I was like Miles, but there were also a lot of ways in which I was like Alaska: depressive, angry, volatile, poor impulse control. All of that stuff is still a part of my life, too, but of course when you're choosing what to share with the Internet, you don't (or at least I don't) choose to put yourself forward that way.
As I've become older, I think I'm less like a grown-up Alaska would be and more like a grown-up Miles would be, but they're both still part of me.
If you were granted a brief position of absolute and unlimited authority over the United States, what kind of changes would you make? What would you keep the same?
Would you ever consider running for president?
The problem is that if I were given a brief position of absolute authority of the United States, we'd lose my favorite thing about the United States, which is the orderly and consistent transfer of power that has kept us so stable over the last 200 years. (Except for that whole Civil War bit.)
But I would eliminate all the Bush tax cuts (including those for the middle class), change the way we index inflation to cut the growth of social security and medicare payments over the next twenty years, create medicare death panels, make handguns very difficult to get (including extensive background checks and like a $1,000 tax on every handgun sold), create a public option for health insurance, and close Guantanamo. Oh, and get rid of the penny and the nickel.
I think that would make everyone sufficiently unhappy with me.
I would not consider running for President. That job seems terrible, and also you have to ask rich people for money all the time, which is one of my least favorite activities.
How much money have you made from TFiOS? (approximately)
I think I will be violating a contract if I speak to that very directly so I'll speak to it very indirectly but still be as honest as I can:
I'd say that on average authors make about $2.25 for a hardcover sale and between 60 and 80 cents on a paperback sale (I'm assuming a trade paperback). ebooks vary a lot, but let's say it's a $2.25 average*. The Fault in Our Stars has a LOT of books in print (like a million?), but I have not actually sold nearly that many because a lot (more than half?) of those copies are sitting in warehouses or at Target or at your local independent bookstore where you can pick up a copy today!
But the overarching answer to your question is "a lot." More than I ever expected to make from writing, certainly, and much more than all my previous books made combined.
But I'm conscious of the fact that writing is a very inconsistent and unpredictable business: People who had Oprah books and made millions of dollars then went on to sell only a few thousand copies of their follow ups. So I've always had other ways to buy diapers for my kid, and I intend to keep those other jobs, both because I enjoy them and because there's a financial consistency to them that's very important to me. I've never wanted to be just a writer; it seems very stressful to me.
- Edit: That's probably too high. I'm not very good at the math of this stuff.
Has your sudden (and I assume unexpected) increase in profits changed your life at all? Is it all being packed away into a college fund for Henry, or do you find yourself more willing to spend money on things just for fun?
I bought a Chevy Volt, which I've wanted since 2007. That's it. Everything else is more about saving money for the kids' college and for our retirement.
The Volt was a total indulgence, though, and I got the EXACT one I wanted, which was really exciting. I spent all this time designing it online and bragging about it to my friends and making them drive it and discussing all of the excellent features, and then finally one day my friend Chris said, "Dude, this is a $33,000 car. Don't get me wrong. It's a nice car. But you need to stop freaking out about it. It's not a Ferrari."
BUT IT IS A FERRARI TO ME.
You have so many hats...
COWER BEFORE MY HATS YOU PERIWINKLE.
You are absolutely one of my favorite people ever. Thank you for your books, especially TFIOS. I read it constantly and cry like a baby every time.
Question for you, did you ever expect your books to become as well liked and popular as they are now?
Thank you for your AMA (:
No, of course not. For about five years before my first book came out, I worked at Booklist Magazine, which is this amazing magazine that reviews 300-400 books EVERY TWO WEEKS. And when you see thousands and thousands of book reviews come back every year, you realize that many great books come and go and that almost none find long-term readerships.
So I could never have expected this, particularly with the kind of books I write (no vampires, no explosions, etc). I've been very, very fortunate, and can only try to pay back the generosity of my readers by giving them good books.
What made you choose Liverpool as your football team?
The probable honest answer is, "They were good when I was a kid," but I don't really remember CHOOSING them. I just remember liking them.
But also: Best supporters. Best songs. 5 European championships. Stevie G. 18 league titles. Who else are you gonna like?
The Liverpool 'glory days'
Hmmm. As a moderator of /r/reddevils, I can't really agree with you on the last part...19 league titles!!
Let's just admit it: 20.
John, thank you for helping me become closer to my best friend, the girl that converted me to Nerdfighteria. DFTBA <3
I'm always really happy when nerdfighteria can deepen friendships, so thank you!
How awesome was Stevie G's goal line clearance yesterday!?
Saving a goal is as good as scoring one. 90% of Premier League players don't make the clearance there.
Hi John! What was the hardest part to write in The Fault in Our Stars? That book is extremely well written and means a lot to me. DFTBA! Thanks!
The end was hard. There were a lot of terrible endings before I finally got to the one that we eventually settled upon.
(Whenever I'm talking about writing and I talk about "we," I am referring not to the royal we but to my publisher and editor Julie Strauss-Gabel.)
Are you nervous about TFIOS becoming a movie? If you could make any of your other books into a movie which one would you like it to be?
I am nervous, yes, of course. But I also know that the people making the movie--from the producers to the director to the casting director to the screenwriters--really do genuinely care about the book and feel a responsibility to it.
But of course I'm nervous.
As for other books: I'm not in a hurry to see Hollywood make any of them, to be honest, but I've always thought KATHERINES could make a fun movie.
Are you doing any books signings or tours in the near future?
I toured a lot for TFiOS (I was gone more than 100 days this year), and I've missed almost a third of my young son's life traveling for work in various capacities, and it's just become too much.
I'll still go to Vidcon and I'm sure in the future I'll travel a bit more, but I've had to shut it down for my sanity and because I don't want to miss my kid growing up.
John, what is the most beautiful sight you have ever seen?
Seeing my kid for the first time. His eyes responding to the newness of light. There's a great mountain goats line about that: "I saw his little face contract as his eyes met light / Tried to imagine anything so bright."
What did you think of Swindon when you came to the UK, considering the fact most of the people who live there think it's a bit of a dump?
Are your books written as part of a nefarious scheme to combat water shortages by getting the population to cry buckets on command?
I really liked Swindon. My main goal as a writer at the moment is to make enough money that I can buy Swindon Town Football Club. (I am like 2% of the way there, but life is hopefully long.)
I don't think of my books as being particularly sad, except I guess Paper Towns, but I am a bit weird on that front. I did cry a lot when writing TFiOS, but a lot of that book was written in a furious burst of grief after the death of my friend Esther.
How often do people recognize you in public? Have you gotten used to it or is it still a surprise?
Also, at least it looks like spring here in Indy now!
I'm used to it. It happens a lot (at least once or twice a week), but people are almost never really intrusive. It's nice when people come and say hi. The only thing that freaks me out is when people figure out where we live and come to our house or leave stuff in the mailbox or whatever.
Will you ever post your zombie novella online? And are you at all interested in film making based on your success with YouTube?
It is online. I released it under a creative commons license so lots of people made it available in lots of formats.
Making a YouTube video is very different from making a film, at least when you make the kind of videos I do. I'm not really interested in filmmaking, but I love online video and want to continue working with people whose talents make it possible to make better video. Basically, I don't want to make, like, Iron Man 4, but I do want to make high-quality educational video like Crash Course (but hopefully improving all the time).
I'm a senior in high school and a longtime inspiring (edit: ASPIRING) writer. I'm worried though, that I won't make it as a writer because it doesn't flow out of me like tapwater; it takes a while. I'm a good writer but is it possible to be a writer like that? Sorry this is a mess. I am a huge fan; thank you for everything you do!
I mean, I write a book ever three or four years. That ain't tap water.
There are a lot of ways to be a writer. And if you write, you're already a writer. Nothing aspiring about it.
How involved have you been with the production of the TFIOS movie?
I've read every draft of the script; they've run casting ideas and auditions past me; I've talked extensively to Josh Boone (the director) about the book and the characters and what mattered to me about the story.
But I'm not making the movie, and I don't want to. I think Josh is a brilliant guy; I want him to bring his talents to this and create a movie that is good and interesting and beautiful. I don't want to get in the way of that. So I do try to keep my distance and let them do their jobs. I really believe it's going to be great, though.
Talk about your brother...is he pretty cool and handsome and talented or what?
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