I’ll admit to not having been familiar with the story of horror writer and now-legendary Reddit user Dathan Auerbach until I read about him in a recent blog post by Matthew Cavnar, the vice president of business development at Vook—one of our favorite e-book publishing companies.

Cavnar, by the way, happens to be a great writer, so I’ll let him tell the story of how the Reddit community helped to turn Auerbach into something of a self-publishing sensation. (And for the benefit of those who may not know, Reddit is a hugely popular online forum and social news website that was founded in 2005. The crowd-sourced actions occasionally undertaken by its users range from heart-warming and life-affirming to seriously controversial. It’s also a major time-suck—you’ve been warned!)

Here’s Cavnar, writing for the Vook company blog:

“Last year, I quietly achieved super-lurker status on Reddit, when I discovered its NoSleep subreddit, a subsection of the site that features user-generated spooky stories. Some claim to be true, some are proudly fictional—but more than a few are absolutely terrifying and mysterious. And the form of Reddit, the way it features an initial user post and then nested comments to which the original author can reply, can heighten the narrative: Some authors pretend to update their story in real time, others interact realistically with their questioners. And Redditors can vote stories up and down, making it easy to find  the community’s favorites.

“Now Redditor Dathan Auerbach (user name 1000vultures), has become NoSleep’s first break out author success. On August 12, Auerbach released the Kindle version of Penpal, an e-book that collects the six-part horror novella he posted on Reddit over the last year. In the original posts, Auerback pretended to be relating a true story—and this faux-documentary approach made his tale of a young man slowly recalling horrifying events from his childhood even more powerful.”

The e-book version of Penpal is already a best-seller on Amazon, according to Cavnar, who then goes on to suggest that “Reddittors are quickly becoming e-book authors.”

I’m not sure I’d go quite that far just yet; it’s probably more accurate to predict that as time marches on, there’s a better than decent chance that more smart and popular Reddit writers will move into the self-publishing space. Incidentally, as Cavnar also points out, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian also has an e-book of his own about tech entrepreneurship; it’s titled Make Something People Love: Lessons From a Startup Guy (hyperink).

I wonder if junior literary agents are already lurking silently in the Reddit forums, hoping to find the next break-out author, just as they once did in the blogosphere?

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Incidentally, there’s another great twist to Auerbach’s story, and it involves a fantastically successful Kickstarter campaign. Click here to visit the Penpal campaign page on Kickstarter, or just check out the video below.


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