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Bestselling Author Shea Serrano Is Live Tweeting Giving Out $100 Bills To Fast Food Workers

The bestselling author of ’The Rap Yearbook’ is sharing his success with fast food workers and thrift store customers.

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Shea Serrano, Twitter

It’s been a good year for Houston writer Shea Serrano, even if you take into account the end of Grantland—the web outlet he was a staff writer for until it folded in October. His Rap Yearbook became a surprise bestseller, selling out its entire 20,000 initial print run on Amazon and Barnes & Noble before it was even released. (We talked with Serrano about the book on the day it was published, and he had plenty of smart stuff to say about rap, both inside and outside of Texas.)

The way that Serrano utilized his Twitter following to market the book and make the experience of pre-ordering something of a participatory group activity has been the subject of some fascination. Sure, The Rap Yearbook is a terrific read, but it’s also very much a niche product, so marketing poses its own problems. This led to Wired profiling the Twitter campaign after the book reached the New York Times bestseller list.

That participatory element is something that Serrano is bringing to the financial impact that having a bestseller makes on a person’s life. Specifically, he’s live tweeting his experience of driving around Houston as he delivers fourteen $100 bills to strangers who work at fast food restaurants or are shopping at thrift stores. As Serrano explained on Twitter on Thursday, the idea occurred to him after the bookmarks he made to accompany The Rap Yearbook sold:

As of today, after deductions for printing and shipping and paying Arturo (the guy who drew the art for the book, which was the art we used to make the bookmarks), the bookmarks you all have bought have generated a net profit of $533. That’s great, and perfect timing for Christmas. Here’s the thing, though: a bunch of dope stuff has happened for my family and me this year. And I’m sure much as the boys would like an extra $533 worth of gifts, they don’t need them. They have enough. So the plan is I’m gonna take that money, add in $477 to make it an even $1000, and then give it out to ten people who maybe need it more.

Now, I know $100 per person isn’t a great deal of money, but it’s at least an extra gift or two or a light bill or whatever. I was trying to think of the best, fairest way to give it out, and so I had an idea. The average fast food employee makes $7.91 per hour (per payscale.com). I love fast food. I’m a big fan of it. I eat it all the time because I am dumb. I’m literally eating it right now as I type this out. I worked at a fast food place for two years before I left San Antonio. But so if we give it to people at fast food places, that’s basically the same as them working 12 or 13 hours. So i’ma go to the drive thru of 10 fast food places in Houston, order some food, and when I pay for it I’ma just give the person who happens to be working the window a $100 bill and tell them Merry Christmas and then drive away. I wanted you all to know because you’re a part of this so if you end up not doing anything nice for anyone else, you can at least know that you did this.

That’s a nice way of framing this process—and it keeps the idea that Serrano’s success belongs to the people who treated buying his book as a worthy cause in the forefront. And so Serrano has been conducting the process he described (modifying it a bit to include people who shop at thrift stores and work in sit-down taquerias) and sharing the experience on Twitter—with an extra $400 from people who liked the idea kicked in via PayPal, making that $1,000 he mentioned a cool $1,400.

As of 11:20 on Friday morning, Serrano’s dropped three of the bills on unsuspecting strangers, and the video makes clear how charming this project is—people are shocked, happy, and Serrano seems downright bashful as he hands people hundred dollar bills two weeks before Christmas. It’s all a pretty sweet thing to watch play out—and you can follow along with the rest of Serrano’s giveaway on Twitter.

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  • Jed

    i’d be more impressed if he wasn’t broadcasting his own virtue all over the intertubes.