Latawnya the Naughty Horse learns a lesson in this illustration from the book, "LaTawnya the Naughty Horse Learns to Say No To Drugs," which moved up from No. 5,000,000 to 3,944 in Amazon.com's sales rankings due to publicity it received on an Internet forum.
Internet makes quirky stars
Latawnya the Naughty Horse Learns to Say No to Drugs and book gets ironic attention
Even the most obscure things can become famous in the mob rule of the Internet.
Take for instance the story of Latawnyah, the Naughty Horse, who learns not to do drugs by watching the behavior of other horses who make the mistake of listening to the wrong people.
That's the central theme of a poorly written children's book that has become the subject of attention that can only happen on the Internet.
A school librarian discovered the book, published by a vanity publisher for author Sylvia Gibson, while cleaning up in the library. He found the poor writing in the book hilarious, so he posted a thread about the book in somethingawful.com forums.
And the momentum built itself.
First, responders to the post just reported how hilarious they found the book and its illustrations of horses smoking joints and drinking whiskey.
But then, it took on a life of its own. We have reached the time where pretty much anything can be known about anyone with a little Internet detective work, so fairly soon, the savvy users at somethingawful.com were doing detective work to find out more about Gibson and her motivation for writing the book.
It turns out all the book's characters are thinly veiled representations of Gibson's family, which led the forum users to express sympathy for Gibson's daughter, Latawnya, whom her mother had called "naughty."
And then it just got wild.
One poster found the book on Amazon.com. It sold out in two days.
Another poster made T-shirts from the illustrations of horses drinking whiskey.
Yet another poster found other books written by Gibson, including an apparently autobiographical book indicating that she thought the government was following, watching and "stocking" (which forum readers agreed probably was intended to be "stalking") her family for unknown reasons.
Another user found patent applications by the self-proclaimed "co-inventor" Gibson.
By the time the Internet hype reached fever pitch, the 40-odd page book was selling in Germany for 300 euros, which is very roughly $450.
Vanity publishers, for the uninformed, are publishers who will publish any book, as long as the author is willing to pay them for it.
Gibson's book attained a stardom she certainly probably didn't predict, and the reader reviews on Amazon.com are some of the funniest possibly ever written.
One forum reader posted an audio file reading of the book in dramatic voices that left many forum readers laughing out loud and calling for the reader to look for work doing voiceovers in Hollywood.
Someone else made a YouTube video reading of the book.
A month later in mid-June, there were 27,000 Google search hits relating to the book.
The hype brought the book's Amazon.com sales rank from 5 million to 3,944 in the space of a few days.
Vantage Press, the publisher of the book, said Amazon.com had called them about the book after receiving a lot of attention about it.
The publisher, however, didn't even recognize the title.
The hype over the book shows the power of the Internet and how something that grabs people's attention -- even just for their quirky qualities -- can become a phenomenon.
Alimah Boyd, publicist for Vantage Press, said the publisher has been getting a lot of requests for the book, but they can no longer reach the author, so they can't print more copies.