How an author creates mystery, buzz, anticipation, and a community of die hard fans that do his marketing for him

Quite by accident I came accross the first book in a trilogy (my mother-in-law got it for $1 from a book fair). In fact, I didn’t realise it was a trilogy until I got to the end of the book.  It was a very interesting story (read about it on Wikipedia), and I enjoyed the sequel too.  But you can imagine my disappointment when I found out that the 3rd book wasn’t due to be published for 18 months!

I don’t want to talk about the book today, I want to talk about the author.  The author is John Twelve Hawks.  This is a pen name, the true identity of the author is a mystery.  On his/her official website, John Twelve Hawks explains that this pen name enables them to step out of their normal style of writing and to talk about issues that are controversial.

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

Both John Twelve Hawks and his American publisher state that he has never met his editor and that he communicates using the Internet and an untraceable satellite phone, usually employing a voice scrambler.

How exciting!

There’s more.  Today I got an email from the John Twelve Hawks website (I signed up to be notified when the 3rd book is published), which suggested that because the author wants to remain anonymous, he can’t appear at book signings for the 3rd and final book in the trilogy, so he wants us, the fans, to be John Twelve Hawks on his behalf!

The John Twelve Hawks Email I Received This Morning:

Dear Readers of the Fourth Realm trilogy:

As many of you know, THE GOLDEN CITY — the third and final book of the Fourth Realm trilogy — will be published in the US on September 8th.

I’m dedicating this final novel to my readers, and would like to mark its publication with a fun and highly unusual event by you and for you. Instead of the typical bookstore signing, I’m inviting you to create an “I am John Twelve Hawks” event in early September — one of many held around the world. I’d like you to be me, John Twelve Hawks, to read from THE GOLDEN CITY, answer questions about the trilogy and highlight ideas and scenes you think are notable.

Anyone who has visited knows how much I enjoy hearing from my readers. Your encouragement has sustained and motivated me for years. Because I am committed to living my life according to a philosophy that underlies the themes of my writing, I cannot publicly promote my books with events where I show up in person. I’m not going to change that now — and yet I’d like to sponsor a chance for fans of the Fourth Realm trilogy to gather, celebrate and talk about the ideas that matter to you and to me.

You’ll be able communicate with me — over email — to prepare yourself to be John Twelve Hawks. And everyone who participates will receive a signed copy of THE GOLDEN CITY from me as a “Thank you.”

You (and your friends!) should find a bookstore, bar, or some other public place. Read from the book, lead a discussion, take questions, act out a scene — do whatever you think is the right thing to celebrate THE GOLDEN CITY. If you record the event on video and post it to YouTube, I’ll check it out and post it on the website we’re building –

Be creative, have a party, include music — make it the kind of book event that you would want to go to.

If you’re interested, send me an email at and let me know what you have in mind. I’ll help you get ready — and I would be honored if you would become me for one night.

Thank you,
John Twelve Hawks

What can we learn from this?

  1. What event can you organise to generate some buzz and anticipation? (It’s scary to think that no-one will turn up, but sometimes you’ve just got to set a date and go for it!)
  2. How can you create a bit of mystery for your business?
  3. Can you find the die-hard fans of your brand/products and help them to do your marketing for you?

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