You have to admire the online chutzpah of HarperCollins and Nick Douglas. Having sourced the contents of Twitter Wit entirely for free from the microblogging service, the publisher is now attempting to crowdsource its marketing campaign. And so boldly!

Contributors to the book, edited by the former Valleywag editor and Gawker blogger (pictured), received a "congratulations" email today (below) from a HarperCollins marketer, which suggested they "flood Twitter with so many tweets about the book that no self-respecting Twitter addict will be able to resist buying a copy." Attached was a link to an "online buzz kit" consisting of various graphical badges (see image at left).

Bizarrely, this seems to be working (see image below), even though contributors get no royalties from the book, just a free copy. Flattery might have something to do with, as might ambition: Remember that Facebook status update that might turn into a movie? Surely the Twitter crowd is smart enough to draw some deals like that. Writes Douglas,

If even one [contributor] gets noticed enough to get their own book deal, I'll feel supremely lucky... Some of the people in the book are working on TV pilots, movies, books... mostly independently of their tweets. But the user @arjunbasu, who writes all these self-contained stories on Twitter, is looking to do that in particular in a book.

There you go: HarperCollins' campaign is about empowerment, not exploitation. Remember that as you gratefully flood Twitter with promotional messages. Also: It's always been this way.

(Top pic: Douglas, by Cameron Walters)