So, how are the various social media platforms doing?

From Chuck Wendig:

So, how are the various social media platforms doing? Are they worth your time as a person, as a writer, as seven possums in a trenchcoat? Given that community and audience are both found and earned through these social networks, I figure it’s worth taking a gander at them again as I’ve done a number of times over the last year — in part because the social media landscape has broken into a number of little islands thanks to various tectonic shifts beneath the internet crust and we’re all just trying to find a place to rest our digital heads at night. Also in part because, as a writer, I need to find not just a place to HAWK MY WORDY WARES, which is of dubious value, but rather a place where I can meet writers and readers and agents and publishing folks and bookstore people and in general contribute to a larger, greater, cooler bookish ecosystem.

That said, as always, this is all purely my perspective. It is zero percent useful wisdom and one hundred percent just some bullshit that passed through my head like a cloud of stupid. I am not to be listened to. I’m just some jackass with a blog. Proceed with that situational awareness.


So, to jump to the start, I’m on Threads now.

It’s fine!

That’s more or less my capsule review. It’s fine! It’s fine. It’s fine.

Some general thoughts about it:

a) It’s obviously tied to Instagram and Facebook and therefore is tied to Zuckerberg which is bad and not good. No, it’s not awesome having to pick your social media platform based on which billionaire sociopath upsets you the least? But it is what it is, I guess. Our choices in life do not always amount to great ones, woefully.

b) If you want the place where the celebrities, the brands, the media outlets, are all going, it’s probably there. It’s got a big crowd — a lot of transfers over from Instagram, I guess? Despite the big crowd I don’t think it feels that peppy as yet. I can’t actually tell how many people I’m following (?) but it seems like a good group. That said, I do see a lot more general activity happening on Bluesky. Still, Threads is not precisely quiet, either, and even in the week since I’ve joined it looks to have picked up a bit.

c) There is a “who you follow” feed, which appears to present the posts of your followed accounts in the order they are posted. But it defaults to an algorithmic FYP feed, which shows a random disgorgement of… I mean, I assume it’s whatever the Insane Robot That Governs The Place wants you to see. It definitely seems to prioritize verified accounts over non-verified.

d) There does seem to be a pretty good bookish crowd of writers and readers.

e) The vibe there is… I dunno, is it wrong if I say, Ruby Tuesdays? Applebees? Like, if Twitter is currently your local Nazi Bar, and Bluesky is your local Eclectic Diner, this definitely feels like a popular-but-functional chain restaurant. People are having a nice enough time and it feels pretty reliable. It’s the “Hey, let’s go to Chili’s” variant of social media. Sometimes, you want that, and that’s okay, no shame.

f) The one thing I like about it in theory but not in practice is the granularity of how you can see your engagement — there’s All, Follows, Replies, Mentions, Quotes, Reposts, Verified, Dunks, Trolls, Posts By People Who Don’t Know What They’re Talking About But Probably Mean Well, Devil’s Advocates, Robots, Dog Photos, Replies From Stalkers, and People Who Still Think NFTs Are Cool. Or something like that. Point is, it’s definitely more granular but… I also don’t feel like each tab works great, and I’m really not seeing a lot of actually existing replies, and the overall GUI of those pages feels noisy and hard for me to parse, for some reason. That might just be me, though.

So, it’s fine! I don’t hate it. I don’t yet love it. It exists and I’m using it and have found some value there and in part that value is finding friends who are using it, too. Which is nice. I wasn’t going to join it but… real talk, writing is a lonely gig and sometimes you want to feel like there’s a room you can go into and hear some voices. Further, publishing is in a place where it’s still not sure exactly how to navigate the shattered social media landscape, and as much as I hate to say it, that means it’s (yet again) on writers to actually carve out their spaces and — well, we’re all just trying to either not die in the abyss or, at the very least, find other people dying in the abyss with us so we can commiserate with one another as we sink softly into the pudding of oblivion.

(Also, The Pudding of Oblivion is my next next novel, out in 2026.)

At the very least, Threads is not Twitter.

. . . .


I continue to not be on there or literally see anything that happens there and I’m probably better for it, and you’re probably better not seeing me there, and I think that’s a good decision we’re all making. I do understand that BookTok is currently *checks notes* kind of in control of publishing, whether it realizes it or not, and as such, I guess I should probably be there and be paying attention? At the same time, I can’t control it, and I suspect it would just cause my brain to swell up like an overfed tick and then it would pop and there’d be anxious brain goo everywhere. So, again, I remain here. Without the Tiks or the Toks to keep me warm at night.

. . . .


If you need to know what your racist aunt or that guy from high school is up to, Facebook is your jam. I dunno. It seems to throttle links now and ennh. I use it as a walled garden to keep up with family and friends, that’s it.

Link to the rest at Chuck Wendig

X remains primary social media platform for publishers

From The Bookseller:

Publishers say most of their social engagement still comes through X, formerly known as Twitter, though they are now actively engaging with alternatives such as Threads, BlueSky and Mastodon.

Since business magnate Elon Musk completed his buyout of the networking site in 2022, there have been a number of changes, notably to the platform’s verification policies, stripping verified blue ticks from accounts which hadn’t signed up for its paid-for subscription service. Links to articles also changed to only show the associated image without the headline, making it difficult to share news. This has prompted the book community’s use of the platform to dissipate, but most publishers still see X as their main social media platform as it still has the largest number of active users and newer alternatives are not yet set up for scheduling.

Jack Birch, senior digital marketing manager at Bloomsbury, told The Bookseller: “The users that have left Twitter/X since Musk’s takeover have not gone to a specific destination; they have fragmented across different platforms such as Blue Sky, Mastodon and Threads, as well as other platforms. As a company, we felt that Threads had the potential to be the biggest competitor to X, given Meta’s history of running successful social media apps and an existing audience that they could convert (cleverly linking Instagram followers to Threads at the click of a button). We hoped Instagram and Facebook users could pivot to a text-based social network, as well as pick up people leaving Musk’s X. However, after initial enthusiasm, interactions and impressions have dropped off a cliff.”

He believes that despite the press for dwindling numbers on Twitter/X, it remains the place for “influential media figures” such as journalists and celebrities and is still where “news breaks first”. Birch also cited how two of the more recent campaigns, Ghosts: The Button House Archives and The Rest is History, “performed exceptionally well on X, partly due to pre-existing, established fandoms, as well as each book’s content suiting the platform”.

He said that Bloomsbury believes Mastodon and Blue Sky are “currently too complicated for the general user to have wider popular appeal at least at the moment”. He added: “Our social media management platform, Sprout Social, does not currently allow us to schedule posts on these two platforms. With all of this in mind, we have put more energy into our Instagram and TikTok channels. Though content usually takes longer to produce, we are seeing excellent returns on engagements and impressions. As a company, we also have direct relationships with Meta and TikTok, and are able to solve any issues that may affect our accounts.”

“The social media landscape has always changed very quickly, but, since Musk’s takeover of X, it is even more unstable than it ever has been before. We have a large, and engaged, social media following on Meta, TikTok and X; it is still there where we see our key audience.”

A Bonnier Books UK spokesperson said: “We’re continuing to use Twitter/X across a number of our imprints, and so far it is proving fairly resilient with an active community of readers, media and influencers. Ultimately, we’re committed to going where our readers take us, and to ensure that we offer our community the space and the content to connect, debate and celebrate their love of stories – whatever the platform.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG suggests that, regardless of social media platform, traditional publishers are going to be small fish compared with real celebrities, tech companies or just about anyone else with the slightest bit of talent. For one thing, a talented social media influencer can maker significantly more money than the CEO of a book publisher.

He’s pressed for time at the moment, but feel free to compare the number of X followers of publishers with television networks, online news sites, newspapers, popular authors or just about any other provider of information or entertainment and post your discoveries in the comments.

What Makes a Great WordPress Theme for Authors?

From The Book Designer:

Before we get to the 10 best WordPress themes for authors, let’s get one thing out of the way.

Yes, you need an author website!

Too much enthusiasm? I think not. 

Over the years  I’ve seen way too many authors miss out on opportunities to engage with their audience and even sell more books because they don’t believe that they need a website, or they feel that being on social media is enough. Or, they don’t want to be on the internet at all. I kind of understand the reasoning behind the last one, but you still need a house, even if you’re never at home. 

. . . .

Now let’s talk about the best WordPress themes for authors and finding the best one for your author website.

When it comes to author websites, any ol’ template won’t work. As writers and authors, we have specific needs that not every template provides. For this list, I selected themes that met the following criteria:

  • Multiple layout options: You don’t want your website to look like your author neighbor across the internet street. 
  • Shop/Store option: Having an easy way to sell your books directly to your readers built into the theme (even if you don’t need it at first) will make life easier. 
  • Theme Support: It’s tough when you have questions but can’t find anyone to answer them.
  • Blog style options: An author has to write, so please give her some options.
  • At least a 4 out of 5-star rating (at the time of this article.)
  • Regularly updated
  • Detailed documentation

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

After the excerpt above, the OP goes through each of his Ten Best WordPress Templates.

PG has his opinions, but, since he’s not an author, share your opinions and selections in the comments.

Why This Ghostwriter Loves His Haters

From Publishers Weekly:

Whenever someone chooses to leave social media, you hear the same refrain: it’s gotten so negative, I can’t stand it. To me, that’s a reason to stay.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather hang out with people who like me in real life, and I’d certainly rather hear praise than criticism. But when it comes to building an audience online, it’s better to be hated than loved. For better or worse, social media rewards engagement, and negativity fuels engagement.

You may have heard the old saying, “All publicity is good publicity.” But I’m here to tell you that the best publicity of all is absolute hatred. Your online haters can inadvertently give you effective marketing, spread your name to new groups, give you opportunities to respond persuasively, and sharpen your brand.

Once you recognize this, haters also lose some of their power. They may try to bring you down by making you feel small or unworthy. If they make you feel bad, provoke you into an ill-tempered response, or drive you offline, they win. But once you realize they’re inadvertently boosting you, it’s an opportunity to turn that dynamic around.

I’ll give you an example: the online trick shot group Dude Perfect. These five guys have filmed themselves doing everything from calling and making a hole in one to sinking a basketball from a skyscraper. They’re good, and their online comments reflect viewers’ utter disbelief. And not just stunned amazement or polite questions about the veracity of videos—they deal with everything from scorn to conspiracy theories. This is a level of mastery everyone should aspire to and something I write about in my book So Good They Call You a Fake.

In an interview on Good Morning America, Dude Perfect member Cody Jones said the group loves it when people call their shots fake because it makes what they do “seem even more ridiculously impossible,” leading to more publicity and clicks on YouTube. Online haters are literally putting money in their pockets.

Now, not all online hate is created equal. When people are responding to you with racial hate and bigotry, their comments obviously provide no value. It’s best to report and block these people rather than engage with them.

The haters I’m talking about are people who come at you because of what you do. They’re the ones who criticize you because you’re talented or smart or successful—and they simply can’t stand it. For that reason, they try to cast doubt on your achievements and minimize your talents. These haters and trolls, who tend to move in packs, will latch onto something you say and begin circulating it among themselves, adding their own put-downs. But their attacks merely serve to elevate your standing online.

I’ll give an example from my social media feed. Last year, I was musing on the flaws of some popular movies, which could help authors more effectively write books. I went onto what was then still called Twitter, and shared a thread of my observations about how Captain Marvel, Rey from Star Wars, and Bo Peep from Toy Story were examples of what fans call a Mary Sue—a character with no flaws or weaknesses. I argued that this robs them of narrative arcs and obstacles to overcome, and ultimately is a disservice to viewers who want to see a strong female character.

My core audience—people who want to improve their writing or just enjoy well-told stories—loved my posts, but soon a new audience of haters found them and were determined to argue with me because I had criticized popular female characters. These haters seemed to be responding more to one another than to anything I’d written, high-fiving one another with each withering reply.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Since PG had never heard of Dude Perfect, he did a little investigation for the benefit of visitors to TPV.

X remains primary social media platform for publishers

From The Bookseller:

Publishers say most of their social engagement still comes through X, formerly known as Twitter, though they are now actively engaging with alternatives such as Threads, BlueSky and Mastodon.  

Since business magnate Elon Musk completed his buyout of the networking site in 2022, there have been a number of changes, notably to the platform’s verification policies, stripping verified blue ticks from accounts which hadn’t signed up for its paid-for subscription service. Links to articles also changed to only show the associated image without the headline, making it difficult to share news. This has prompted the book community’s use of the platform to dissipate, but most publishers still see X as their main social media platform as it still has the largest number of active users and newer alternatives are not yet set up for scheduling. 

Jack Birch, senior digital marketing manager at Bloomsbury, told The Bookseller: “The users that have left Twitter/X since Musk’s takeover have not gone to a specific destination; they have fragmented across different platforms such as Blue Sky, Mastodon and Threads, as well as other platforms. As a company, we felt that Threads had the potential to be the biggest competitor to X, given Meta’s history of running successful social media apps and an existing audience that they could convert (cleverly linking Instagram followers to Threads at the click of a button). We hoped Instagram and Facebook users could pivot to a text-based social network, as well as pick up people leaving Musk’s X. However, after initial enthusiasm, interactions and impressions have dropped off a cliff.” 

He believes that despite the press for dwindling numbers on Twitter/X, it remains the place for “influential media figures” such as journalists and celebrities and is still where “news breaks first”. Birch also cited how two of the more recent campaigns, Ghosts: The Button House Archives and The Rest is History, “performed exceptionally well on X, partly due to pre-existing, established fandoms, as well as each book’s content suiting the platform”.

He said that Bloomsbury believes Mastodon and Blue Sky are “currently too complicated for the general user to have wider popular appeal at least at the moment”. He added: “Our social media management platform, Sprout Social, does not currently allow us to schedule posts on these two platforms. With all of this in mind, we have put more energy into our Instagram and TikTok channels. Though content usually takes longer to produce, we are seeing excellent returns on engagements and impressions. As a company, we also have direct relationships with Meta and TikTok, and are able to solve any issues that may affect our accounts.”   

“The social media landscape has always changed very quickly, but, since Musk’s takeover of X, it is even more unstable than it ever has been before. We have a large, and engaged, social media following on Meta, TikTok and X; it is still there where we see our key audience.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Are influencers shrewd businesspeople or fame-hungry narcissists?

From The Economist:

The internet and its cultural impact are most often viewed through the lens of the “tech bro”, the (usually male) geniuses and fraudsters behind the corporations reshaping the world. Biographies, memoirs and salacious tell-alls about these big-tech bosses have shaped readers’ understanding of how the online world changes the offline one. But these books rarely mention the principal figures who have shaped the experience of being online: social-media influencers.

Influencers—the (usually female) people behind the most popular accounts on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube—have large followings, often in the hundreds of thousands or millions. People like Jackie Aina, Matilda Djerf and Molly-Mae Hague earn a living from a combination of sponsored posts (#sponcon), commissions made through affiliate links and by creating their own brands, from fake tan to eyeshadows to loungewear lines. According to Forbes, more than 50m people globally describe themselves as influencers; Goldman Sachs predicts the industry will double to nearly $500bn by 2027.

Though they shape digital culture, influencers are too often dismissed as fame-hungry pseudo-celebrities, who post about the minutiae of their lives and mindlessly promote branded products for eye-watering sums. But a new crop of books takes the influencer industry more seriously by exploring the way social media’s most popular users are reshaping the global economy and changing what the average person views online.

Taylor Lorenz, a technology writer for the Washington Post, is a leading voice on social-media trends and internet culture. Her book, “Extremely Online”, argues that influencers hold huge power: “Tech founders may control the source code, but users shape the product.” Charting the history of the influencer (once called “e-celebs” or “ceWEBrities”) from the 1990s to today, Ms Lorenz argues influencers rose by making fame and luxury less “sealed off”.

Like reality-tv stars, early influencers created a new, niche sort of celebrity, popular enough to draw scrutiny but still unrecognisable to most. Ms Lorenz makes the case that, despite its bad rap, influencing has “given more people the chance to benefit directly from their labour than at any other time in history”, regaling readers with stories about “mommy bloggers” turning the pain of parenthood into six-figure businesses and teens becoming multi-millionaires off short comedy skits.

Influencing has also spilled into politics, with the rise of social-media activism and influencers gaining followers by posting about social issues and news. (This sometimes leads to political candidates courting them in order to sway younger voters.) She also examines influencers’ new role in traditional media, with tv and film studios harvesting stars and storylines from the content on these accounts. Some TikTokers, such as Addison Rae, have starred in films, as well as reality television. Take “The D’Amelio Show”, about teen TikTokers Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, now in its third season on Hulu.

Ms Lorenz’s take on influencing is optimistic. She is not alone. “Bad Influence” reflects on a decade of influencing, and also paints a honeyed picture of influencers’ function in culture. “We are photographers, videographers, copywriters, directors, editors, models and marketing team all rolled into one,” Oenone Forbat, an influencer, writes in her memoir, which offers intimate details about the haphazard quality of influencers’ fame. However, despite its Panglossian sheen, the strength of “Bad Influence” is its meditation on the deep-seated paranoia that comes with being constantly exposed to so many people.

And there are plenty of reasons to be anxious: for every fan, there is a critic. A vehement one is Symeon Brown, who looks at the industry’s underbelly, full of scammers, surgeries, racism and exploitation, in his entertaining “Get Rich or Lie Trying”. Mr Brown, a journalist, tells gory stories of influencers who took part in scams. Sometimes people who get tricked end up becoming “influencer scammers” themselves. He chronicles the experience of one woman losing tens of thousands to the now-defunct Trump University, which ran real-estate training programmes; she then launched a similar scheme. He argues that this is influencers’ real impact: making exploitation more accessible, widespread and far wilier than it was in its pre-internet days.

Link to the rest at The Economist

Terror and the Secondary Trauma of Social Media

From The Rand Blog:

Like many, I’ve recently been using social media to follow the war in the Middle East. As a habit, following news like this makes a certain amount of sense—social media has often been one of the better sources for breaking information on emerging crises.

Many aspects of this war are unique, but what is increasingly common is that my social media feeds, along with those of many others, are populated with extremely graphic images, many of which, having seen them, I fervently wished I could unsee. Yet I still felt compelled to follow the news, to seek out ever-more visceral videos and details of this unfolding human tragedy.

I am far from alone in my exposure to this extreme content. And while it may seem like being an active, informed citizen requires such immersion in raw imagery, I am also a social psychologist and should know better.

Immersive Sensory Experiences Tied to Secondary Trauma

The effects of a traumatic event—and the events in Israel and Gaza are certainly that—are, as we psychologists well know, contagious. That is, their effects can spread well beyond their initial victims. In war, those victims include those who are displaced, injured, and killed, as well as those who have lost a loved one.

The idea of secondary trauma recognizes that people indirectly exposed to an event like war can suffer as well.

Take, for example, drone operators, who endlessly scan live footage and take split-second orders to fire rockets at suspected terrorists, then commute home in time for dinner. Even though they are not physically exposed to harm, these immersive sensory experiences become associated with real trauma.

That jarring disconnect, especially because it often goes unacknowledged, becomes its own form of trauma for people in critical roles such as emergency rescuers, social media content moderators, law enforcement, and intelligence analysts.

Secondary trauma was, for a long time, largely confined to people involved in the initial event, like first responders. Thanks to technology, however, it can now afflict anyone with a smartphone.

And now, as graphic images from Israel and Gaza proliferate on social media, it is likely that these images are having significant negative impacts on the mental health and well-being of many—especially adolescents and young adults, who already struggle mightily

And Social Media Choices Help Spread Secondary Trauma

The proliferation of traumatizing social media content is, make no mistake, a deliberate choice. People post war dispatches for many reasons, such as to expose atrocities, but also to deceive and to serve as propaganda. Hamas attackers have hijacked victims’ social media accounts to sow even more terror.

For their part, social media platforms have actively encouraged the spread of misinformation—this after layoffs shed their ability to weed it out.

Social media algorithms also drive people to extreme content, even when they’re not actively looking for it.

The global mental health impacts of this war are only just beginning. But, like its casualties, they will likely be staggering. Social media companies could and should do more to moderate the virality of such content, but they have largely abdicated this responsibility.

Many have withdrawn from the business of providing news—that is, accurate and relevant information—leaving behind a toxic stew of false and misleading posts. Communities might need to seek out less-toxic alternatives to the digital town square.

That mental health and health behaviors are contagious is both good and bad news. Parents should look to improve their own social media habits and model a healthy digital lifestyle for their kids. Digital health companies could also shift their focus from individual to public health.

Young people are in many ways their own best hope. Today’s youth are active and enthusiastic about shaping the world they will grow up in. Policymakers would do well to prioritize younger voices, concerns, and ideas when thinking through proposals toward building a less-traumatizing form of social media.

Trauma is often described as a shattering of one’s assumptions or worldviews. That is, when events collide with our expectations, beliefs, or hopes, we are forced to reconsider what is truly possible.

This latest war—set in a world still emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, grappling with social isolation and mental health crises—has provided plenty of traumatizing developments, with the grim promise of more to come. Mitigating their impact on global mental health might require some combination of regulations, “healthy” social networks, or personal behavior change.

Link to the rest at The Rand Blog

TikTok is changing the way books are recommended and sold

From The Economist:

First the camera pans across eight books arrayed with hundreds of sticky tabs, flaunting that they have been closely read and meticulously annotated. Next a description runs across the screen: “Books I would sell my soul to read again for the first time”. The music crescendoes, and a manicured hand reveals the books’ covers in time with the beat, featuring authors including Simone de Beauvoir, Elena Ferrante and Sally Rooney.

The user, who is called “buryme.withmybooks”, does not say why she likes them, but that does not matter. On TikTok hyperbole is the name of the social-media game. Around 9.3m people have watched the video and almost 400,000 people have saved it for future reference.

TikTok, which has more than 1bn regular users, is making a mark on the world of publishing. Much of this is done through BookTok, the app’s community of users who comment on books. It is among the largest communities on the app; videos with this tag have been viewed 179bn times, more than twice as many as BeautyTok (beauty enthusiasts splinter into various groups). Adding #reading, #books and #literature pushes views to more than 240bn. Whoever said books are dead has not spent much time on TikTok, nor in bookstores, which now have whole displays touting titles “as seen on TikTok”.

Last year in Britain one in four book buyers used TikTok. The slice of sales directly attributable to the app is still small. Video platforms like TikTok and YouTube drove only around 3% of sales in 2022 in Britain, according to Nielsen, a research firm. But TikTok’s influence is significant and growing. The largest group of book buyers—women aged 54 and younger—are more likely to use the app than their male peers. TikTok recommendations influence their purchases, creating new literary stars and unearthing unlikely past ones, too.

TikTok is not the first online platform to alter the publishing landscape. Wattpad, a self-publishing firm founded in 2006, helped writers publish stories and reach readers online. For years Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (now X) have allowed authors to connect with readers—and sometimes score a book deal in the first place.

However, TikTok functions slightly differently. One way to think about BookTok is as a book club for the internet age. Just as stars like Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama can cause copies to fly off bookstore shelves by updating their lists of recommended reads, BookTok does something similar. However, the tastemakers are not usually celebrities but attractive #bookgirlies doing #readingchallenges, often in artfully lit bedrooms. (Although Ms Winfrey’s book club is now on TikTok, too.)

In many ways BookTok has become a new artistic genre, where emoting about characters and plots is glorified, even required. (Unlike those buttoned-up professional literary critics, who do not tend to write about how books make them cry.)

Some old-fashioned bibliophiles may suspect that BookTok is less about books than about people seeking attention by promoting them. But BookTokers are already swaying bestseller lists. Novels categorised as “romance” have enjoyed the biggest boost, as happened with previous technological shifts, including the rise of e-books. Colleen Hoover’s “It Ends With Us” went viral on TikTok in early 2022 and has sold over 1m paperback copies in Britain. Six of the ten bestselling titles in America last year were written by her, too. They pick up similar themes, such as women lusting after hard-to-get men and “trauma bonding”, subjects that fare well on the video-sharing app.

But BookTok favourites are often older releases, with some, including Ms Hoover’s most popular, written before the app was invented. For example, an aesthetic known as “dark academia”, which glamorises gothic-style universities, tweed and classic literature, has brought attention to a 544-page novel published in 1992 called “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt.

The popular Netflix show “Bridgerton”—big on colourful costumes, light on substance—created new fans of period romance and, in turn, inspired young readers to rediscover classic books such as “Pride and Prejudice”. In August Jane Austen’s novel won “Best BookTok Revival” at TikTok’s inaugural book awards. (How Austen would have felt about this honour is another question.)

Because TikTok is so visual, the app has an outsize impact on sales of physical books in particular. E-books do not make such attractive visual props. According to a survey by Nielsen, 80% of Brits aged 14-25 prefer print. BookTokers show off annotations and flick through pages. Filming themselves finishing a book in a single day against a backdrop of hundreds of them on shelves is all part of the performance, and viewers will be extra impressed if the book looks thick.

Many authors remain puzzled by the app. Ms Hoover does not have a TikTok account, and neither do many of her other bestselling peers. Publishers, happy for new sales, are also a bit perplexed;their official TikTok accounts are unpopular by comparison. The challenge is how to keep up. It is not as simple as commissioning more books that make people cry, squirm or shudder and then hoping that people film themselves doing so. Although some editors are doing that anyway.

Link to the rest at The Economist

Admission: PG’s first response to the OP was to dismiss it.

However, he quickly decided he was having a bout of oldcrockitis and needed to open his mind to new possibilities.

While PG is close to 100% ebooks for his personal and business reading, he thinks it’s interesting that BookTokers are drawn to physical books.

He admits that ebooks may get misplaced for a long time on his various overloaded electronic reading devices, but the physicality of a hardcopy book certainly makes it more noticeable around the house/teenage bedroom and somewhat less likely to be forgotten or ignored.

And for a video, a physical book works as a more interesting prop than a Kindle.


What did Colleen Hoover put in this book? #booktok #fyp

♬ Jaws Theme – Jaws

#BookTok Helped Book Sales Soar. How Long Will That Last?

From Publishers Weekly:

Adult fiction has been publishing’s steadiest-selling category for the past 18 months. Unit sales of print adult fiction books were up 8.5% in 2022 over 2021 at outlets that report to Circana BookScan, making it the only category to post an increase last year. In the first six months of 2023, adult fiction was once again the only category to register an increase, with sales up 4.2%. The biggest driver of those gains, of course, has been books that have the backing of BookTok.

But a new analysis by BookScan shows that BookTok’s effect on sales is diminishing. The most notable sign of that softening came in July, when, for the first time, sales from the roughly 180 BookTok authors BookScan follows fell compared to the prior year. The 4.5% July sales dip means that year-to-date sales, which had been up by as much as 38% through May, were up 23% through July. (Total adult fiction unit sales have fallen every week since late June and are now up only 1.4% through August 12.)

BookScan analyst Kristen McLean estimates that monthly BookTok author sales comps for the rest of 2023 will be at or below 2022 levels, and that final sales will be close to the 2022 totals, when the BookTok authors tracked by BookScan sold about 47 million copies. In 2020, the first year BookScan tracked BookTok authors, sales for the group totaled 13 million copies, which then skyrocketed in 2021 to 27 million copies.

BookScan also took a look at how BookTok author sales were faring by examining trends within a July 2021 to July 2023 window. In that comparison, sales of adult authors, after increasing 9% between July 2021 and July 2022, were flat in July 2023 compared to July 2022, while sales of young adult authors were down 1% in July 2023 after increasing 4% between July 2021 and 2022.

McLean explained that BookTok author sales couldn’t continue to increase at the rate they had when the platform started to become a major discovery engine in 2020. She noted that books by BookTok authors are facing some of the same headwinds that the industry in general is, including consumers reading less in the period since Covid restrictions were lifted.

Even if BookTok sales are softening, McLean said, it remains the industry’s most important platform for discovering new writers. “BookTok is really, really important for book discovery,” she emphasized, noting that in today’s social media–driven world BookTok is especially important as a place to find books for younger readers. There is one caveat, however: McLean said not as many new authors are making the type of splash that new authors did in 2021 and 2022.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

The rise of BookTok titles has meant less visibility for other titles, whether they’re longstanding authors or debuts.

From The New Publishing Standard:

“The rise of BookTok titles has meant less visibility for other titles, whether they’re longstanding authors or debuts.”

That’s per a post in The Guardian this weekend that takes yet another look at the BookTok phenomenon, happy to report easy-come quotes, but as ever short on analysis for what it means for the industry.

. . . .

“Groups of teenage girls regularly gather (in Waterstones Piccadilly, London) to buy new books and meet new friends, both discovered on the social media app TikTok.”

. . . .

Caroline Hardman, literary agent at the Hardman & Swainson agency: “It’s driving the appetite for romance and ‘romantasy’ in a really big way, so it’s having a strong effect on what publishers look for too.”

“When traditional publishers try to muscle in on the BookTok market, it never seems to work out quite the same way as an organic, viral recommendation.”

“BookTok is overwhelmingly a factor in Gen Z reading habits. In a poll of more than 2,000 16- to 25-year-olds, almost 59% said that BookTok had helped them discover a passion for reading. BookTok and book influencers significantly influence what choices this audience make about what they read, with 55% of respondents saying they turn to the platform for book recommendations.”

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

Stop the world, I want to get off!

Boo Hoo. Publishers can’t figure out BookTok, so authors who are under contract with clueless publishers have next to zero visibility for the most likely purchasers of the latest .

It’s social media. TikTok will be old news some day, but social media is an important fact of life for this quarter’s revenues if you’re trying to sell to demographic groups who spend a lot of their time and get a lot of information, including information about what books are cool from social media.

BookTok sells way more books than The New York Times does, so all the times various publishers have taken the NYT book review editor to an expensive lunch don’t mean anything anymore. Besides, 95% of teenage girls have never read the New York Times or any other newspaper. They also don’t read print magazines targeted toward teenage girls.

When your readers have moved online, you better get online savvy or hire online savvy in a big hurry. That Mount Holyoke freshman who is an unpaid summer intern probably knows more about social media than the rest of the marketing department combined.

Some of the influencers on TikTok make money by promoting various products. Have your intern find out who they are and what they would charge to hype your next romantasy release and hire a few.

See what happens to sales on Amazon (because the outdated and weird publishing supply chain to book stores will take far too long to report how many books are being sold in bookstores and not returned and BookToker viewers are unlikely to spend a lot of time in bookstores anyway).

If a BookToker sells some books, send more books and more money and repeat. See, social media can be your friend after all.

Wattpad Authors Who’ve Gone From Page to Screen

From Jane Friedman:

This summer, Wattpad is running their 14th annual Watty Awards, the company’s annual global writing competition. It’s open to writers in nine languages across 11 genres. In addition to cash prizes, one winner will receive a book deal from the Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group, and nine winners will receive adaptation opportunities with Wattpad WEBTOON Studios. (Judging closes on August 8, 2023.)

I asked three past winners about their experience of seeing their work adapted for the major streaming services. They are:

  • Ariana Godoy, best known for Through My Window, which has more than 350 million reads on Wattpad and has been adapted into a hit film from Netflix and Wattpad WEBTOON Studios. The film is one of the top five most viewed non-English films of all time on the platform. Ariana is a Latina immigrant from Venezuela who was an elementary school teacher before leaving her job to write full time.
  • From Malaysia, Claudia Tan is a new adult romance writer, graduating from Lancaster University with a BA in English Literature and History. Her Perfect series on Wattpad has accumulated over 163 million reads, and nabbed the People’s Choice Award in the Wattys Awards in 2015 and 2016. The series has also been published in French by Hachette Romans and Perfect Addiction (86 million reads on Wattpad) was adapted into a feature film from Wattpad WEBTOON Studios and Constantin Film. The movie was released internationally on Amazon Prime in March 2023 and debuted in the top 10 most-watched movies all over the world, according to Flixpatrol.
  • Beth Reekles is the author of The Kissing Booth, which she first published on Wattpad in 2010, when she was 15 years old. The story won a Watty Award in 2011 and went on to accumulate almost 20 million reads before being published. Reekles signed a three-book deal with Penguin Random House and was named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential Teenagers in 2013. Produced by Netflix and Komixx Entertainment, The Kissing Booth went on to become one of the most watched films in the world when it was released on Netflix, according to the streamer.

. . . .

Jane: What was your initial motivation for writing and publishing on Wattpad?

Ariana Godoy (AG): I’ve loved reading since I was a kid. Growing up, I didn’t have money to buy books so I would read the few stories that I had over and over. When I found Wattpad and realized it was free, I was thrilled because it had thousands of stories for me to enjoy, and I was even more excited when I realized anyone could post their work. Seeing other authors achieve success motivated me to post my first story in 2009.

Claudia Tan (CT): I mostly wanted to use it as a training ground to hone my writing skills. I was also keen to find a home for the types of stories I wanted to write, but before Wattpad, had no audience.

Beth Reekles (BR): I thought—why not! I was already on the platform as a reader and enjoyed writing, so figured I had nothing to lose. The ability to be anonymous also really appealed to me.

How much were you involved in the adaptation of your work to the screen?

AG: I was quite involved. It was a bittersweet process because as an author, that first time you see the script, it kind of shocks you and it takes time for you to adapt and understand that movies are just a different format, a different way to tell your story. Working with the team and the amazing cast has been incredible, they really pour their heart out to represent the story and I think they did a great job.

CT: I was asked to review the early versions of the script, but changes were up to the studio and the director to implement.

BR: I got to meet with the scriptwriter/director, Vince Marcello, early in the process and give feedback on the script. It was clear that he really understood the characters and the story and I knew I could trust him with The Kissing Booth.

Was there anything that surprised you about the effects of having your work available on a major streaming service?

AG: Oh, definitely. I didn’t expect the movie to get to the top 10 in so many countries and it was amazing to see how many messages I received from fans. I was shocked that my little Spanish story was discovered and enjoyed by people from all over the world!

CT: To be able to capture a wider audience for my writing has been really rewarding. As an author from Malaysia this was a major achievement, and an opportunity that not many people from here have.

BR: Only that I wasn’t able to get a DVD/physical copy (I’m a big fan of keeping DVDs of my favorite movies)! That said, seeing my work on Netflix felt like a natural progression as I started my writing career online.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG had not thought about Wattpad for some time. He’s glad to hear that authors are finding readers there and being scouted by others who take their writing seriously.

The ripple effects following layoffs and shuttered imprints

From Nathan Bransford:

Yesterday I took the Surfliner down to Comic-Con in San Diego to moderate an excellent panel with film literary mangers and book literary agents on the state of publishing and book to film.

The vibes were noticeably grim. Hollywood is mired in strikes (which everyone supports) and book literary agents, already contending with things taking forever even when they work, are facing fewer people to send books to, with significant layoffs at Penguin Random House and an imprint closing at HarperCollins (more on this in a sec).

And AI is looming as a threat, both from the theft of tech companies using books as training materials without permission (the subject of several lawsuits), and publishers potentially outsourcing some functions all the way up to AI writing the books themselves. Publishers are indeed putting downward pressure on word counts due to the cost of paper, with one agent on the panel noting that publishers were balking at a 120,000 word count for a fantasy novel, which used to be totally standard. Some of these changes are absolutely pandemic holdovers, though agents suspect they represent the new normal.

But! The agents are still acquiring and selling. It’s tough out there, things are taking a long time, but readers are still reading and no one thinks AI can replace a good human any time soon. And it’s always been tough out there. There are no golden eras.

About those layoffs… Like several other publishers, Penguin Random House instituted a buyout program for employees over 60 years old with 15 years of experience, but they’ve now extended that to significant layoffs, including some incredibly successful longtime editors such as Daniel Halpern, leaving authors like Amy Tan in the lurch. The New York Times headline frames it as a “changing of the guard,” but that implies there will be some kind of a shift to younger editors who will step into these longtime editors’ shoes, and I am pretty skeptical that’s the case.

. . . .

This all is contributing to what I wrote about a few months ago about the vast game of musical chairs that’s going on in the publishing industry. Whenever editors are laid off and imprints are shuttered, not only do agents have fewer places to submit to and it’s harder drum up multiple bids that increase advances, but the remaining editors and support staff at publishers now have a huge amount of extra work to manage books in the pipeline they didn’t personally acquire, so they then have less time to acquire and oversee their own projects, let alone manage their incoming submissions, so things slow down even more. Authors who have lost their champion face an uncertain future with their new editor.

So while it may not seem at first blush like a huge deal for one imprint to close and some veteran editors to be laid off, the ripple effects can be extremely significant.

. . . .

Meanwhile, book merch is very much a thing that’s growing in influence, and publishers are putting a huge amount of care into packages they send to book influencers, which also raises some thorny questions that risk undermining trust in influencer recommendations.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford

PG says the entire literary establishment continues to grow more cockeyed every year.

Does it ever occur to publishers to develop their own “book influencers” on social media? Is it actually that hard? Why can’t an editor be a social media influencer?

An agent should certainly be a social media influencer. For one thing, such an editor would be in a much stronger negotiating position with publishers if dealing with the agent’s authors carried with it the implicit benefit of top-level social media support.

PG says social media requires work and some native talent, but is it that difficult to follow book influencers for a while to learn what works and what doesn’t?

Blogging Ideas For Beginners

From Write to Done:

Identifying blogging ideas for beginners is one of the most open-ended, arguably enjoyable, tasks you will have as a new writer. Blogging ideas span all topics, nichés, and fields, so wherever you are in your journey, you can find your own best starting point.

If you dream of starting a blog but aren’t sure where to start, in this article I list more than twenty-five blogging ideas for beginners, tips for starting, and platform recommendations.

#1 – Book Reviews

If you write, you likely read, and creating a blog on each book you finish is a great way to create consistent content.

#2 – Movie Reviews

The same can be said for movies or TV shows. Only forty-five minutes or a few hours in length, writing posts on your reviews of movies is a helpful way to launch your blog.

#3 – How-To Guides

We can’t exclude how-to guides with our list of blogging ideas for beginners! Whether you want to teach your audience how to cook or how to write a poem, guides are a simple place to start. 

#4 – Analyzing Characters

When it comes to blogging ideas for beginners, if you’re feeling brave, you can push yourself with a deep dive into the analysis of your favorite protagonists.

#5 – Writing Tips

If you have quite a bit of writing experience, writing on one writing tip per blog will be valuable for other writers.

#6 – Publishing Information

Additionally, once you choose a specific publishing route, sharing what you know about the details of your publishing method will help future authors. 

. . . .

#8 – Pros And Cons

What do you love about writing? What are the downsides? A realistic view of the writing life could be one of your best blogging ideas for beginners.  

#9 – Poetry

Sometimes it’s fun to use blogs for a different genre of writing than you may typically share. Poetry is a safe option if you’re not quite ready to share your prose.

. . . .

#13 – Insights On Writing

Blog ideas for beginners can be as simple as sharing the last insight you had as you edited your work-in-progress.

#14 – Lessons From Your Life

Do you lead a unique life? Use your blog as an online journal.

#15 – Fiction Based On Real Life

We often see unique situations in real life. The mattress on the side of the road. The abandoned building. Use these situations for short story inspiration. 

#16 – Character Backstories

If you dream of becoming a full-time novelist, consider sharing the backstories of your characters.

#17 – Character Short Stories

Similarly, consider writing short stories for various peripheral characters who don’t have much page time in your novel. 

Link to the rest at Write to Done

The Merch-ification of Book Publishing

From Esquire:

to your local bookstore, hitting the library, or logging on to Amazon. For others, however, it involves opening up a thoughtfully designed box that includes a copy of the book, alongside gifted items like a custom tote bag, a scented candle, beauty products, and maybe even a box of tea. If you’re a book influencer, the latter is often the case.

One might say that Sally Rooney started it all when it comes to covetable book merchandise that takes over the internet, though she’d likely reject that attribution. I anxiously awaited the release of Rooney’s latest novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You back in September 2021. I placed my pre-order at my local bookstore because, at the time, I thought that this was all a reader could do. Oh, how wrong I was! Leading up to publication day, I started seeing authors, journalists, and generally cool internet people post about the Beautiful World tote bag and the Beautiful World bucket hat and even the Beautiful World umbrella. Although sometimes, as a writer, I receive an ARC or a promotional bookmark (for these, I am grateful), I knew there was no way I was getting my hands on any of that premium merch. Instead, I showed up at a coffee cart pop-up in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, (sponsored by AirMail and Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Rooney’s publisher) and won myself a tote bag the old fashioned way—by answering a Rooney-themed trivia question correctly. (“What’s the most commonly consumed beverage in the world?” Tea, of course).

In the months after the book’s release, the tote was often a conversation starter around New York City. When I stopped by a bookstore, sometimes I’d get a comment from a bookseller about the merch frenzy. A few writer friends asked how I managed to get my hands on one, while strangers who didn’t know about the book even commented on its beautiful design. It was a noticeable reaction for a simple canvas bag. In the year and a half since Beautiful World and the merch-induced frenzy of its release, the promotion of books via social media marketing and influencer relations has become even more elaborate. Now, many publicity and marketing campaigns are created with influencers in mind, with TikTok video-worthy PR boxes and branded swag that’s designed to create a social media moment upon a book’s publication. The question, then, isn’t if influencer culture is changing book marketing and publicity, but how.

mma Cline’s latest novel, The Guest, published on May 9. In preparation, Cline’s publisher, Random House Books, distributed advanced reader copies (ARCs) to book influencers, packaged alongside a tube of Supergoop sunscreen, a box of Tate’s Bake Shop cookies, a pair of sunglasses color-coordinated to the book’s cover, and a handful of other goodies, all aptly themed around the novel, which takes place at the end of summer on the East End of Long Island. The influencer mailing also came with a coveted Random House Books tote bag. Marisa Gates, the content creator behind the TikTok account “smallcasualbooktok,” posted a 15-second-long video displaying the contents of the box in February, remarking that The Guest is her most anticipated book of the year. The views, and the enthralled readers in the comments, quickly followed.

“I wish all books came like this,” read one comment. “I have never been more jealous of anyone ever,” read another. Gates, who later posted a full review of the novel in a separate video, never anticipated that her platform would grow to this size, or that she’d receive these types of responses. In fact, she told me that, “as someone who is anti-capitalism and [anti-]overconsumption,” her goal when starting her account was to show how one can build their book collection by using the public library and buying books secondhand. After nearly two years on TikTok, she now has nearly 6,000 followers on the platform. Book publishers frequently pitch her on forthcoming titles to review, which are often sent with accompanying swag, including items customized to reflect a book’s title or cover art, as well as related products from other brands that fit with a book’s theme, e.g. the Tate’s cookies, a brand founded in Southampton, N.Y.

Link to the rest at Esquire

PG has his doubts about how effective videos are for selling books, but is happy to hear/see information that shows videos, separate and apart from other advertising/promotion activities do move the sales needle.

There’s also the platform issue. If ten people view the video, creating it was a waste of time.

Should an author spend substantial time and effort to develop and grow a large online presence as opposed to working on another book? What about paying a successful BookToK influencer to advertise/plug the book?

Substack for Writers: Is It Worth Joining?

From Making a Living Writing:

When it comes to making a career as a writer, you have probably come across Substack as an option.

Substack is an online platform that lets writers publish their work while also offering subscriptions so they can make money in the process. For writers looking to make extra money or find a way to make a full-time income, Substack is a great option.

If you are looking for advice and tips on if it is worth it to join Substack for writers, we will be going over all the basics of this platform, including how much money you can make and how to get started.

Table of Contents

What Is Substack?

Substack is a subscription newsletter platform that lets writers publish newsletters and get paid if they choose to. You can also offer a free newsletter if that is what you would prefer to do.

It is a place where thought leaders start to create content and get paid for sharing their emails to their audience. You do not need to be an expert in order to start to publish your newsletters, you can simply sign up and start publishing right away.

Substack has a loose approach when it comes to censorship and for that reason has drawn criticism and attention, but it is also why many writers and journalists have come to this platform.

Substack decided to use the subscription model to fight against clickbait and rage-filled articles. When there is a subscription model, companies do not have to rely on advertising to make their money. If they do not need advertising, then they do not need to worry about getting clicks to make money.

That way, it’s a win-win for almost everyone, especially for writers and readers.

If you care about the nerdy details of a company, you can know that Substacks was started in 2017 by Chris Best (one of the original co-founders of the famous messaging app, Kik Messenger), Jairaj Sethi (also from Kik), and Hamish McKenzie who was a tech reporter.

As you can imagine, three people who were involving in writing and communication would make a good app for writers in the first place.

Why Writers Should Use Substack

Now that you know the basics about Substack, you probably understand why it is a popular platform for writers.

There are a lot of platforms out there for writers to share their art and grow an audience. However, there are not a lot of platforms that pay writers for their time and energy to create their content.

Or, the ones that do pay writers have a terrible pay rate which does not end up being worth the effort.

With Substack, you are in charge how much you make from your subscribers and it is more possible to earn a living through this platform instead of some other platforms.

Some writers who use Substack:

  • Roxane Gay with a newsletter called The Audacity
  • Heather Cox Richardson who is a historian
  • George Saunders
  • Blake Nelson
  • Daniel M. Lavery
  • Chuck Palahniuk
  • Salman Rushdie

Pros and Cons of Substack for Writers

If you are a writer and you cannot decide whether you want to use Substack or not, let’s go over some of the pros and cons to joining and help you make your decision.

Pros of Substack

  • A great way to build a portfolio and grow your brand as a writer
  • Able to get paid for your hours of writing and work
  • You own your content, mailing list, and payment relationships
  • Can publish some posts for free to give readers a good idea of what your content is like
  • Get paid directly instead of waiting for an editor or publication send you money months later
  • Reliable income from your subscribers

Cons of Substack

  • Will need to get people onto your list through your own efforts
  • Not a guaranteed way to make money or build an audience
  • Will need to keep up with a publishing schedule to keep subscribers happy

How Much Money Can You Make With Substack?

As of writing this article, there are 500,000 subscribers representing one million subscriptions on Substack. That should give you a good idea of how many people use and trust this platform to host their content and get subscribers.

Keep in mind, not everyone is making good money on the platform, but if you are willing to put in the work, you can make decent money.

Substack gets paid by taking 10% of your subscription revenue (and about 3% or so in processing fees), which means you get 90% of your revenue. Generally, beginner writers charge around $5 per month of $50 per year for subscribers, but you can hunt around to see what other writers in your niche are charging.

You can offer monthly or annual subscriptions to your subscribers, depending on what make sense for you. You can also choose to offer your newsletter for free, which is an interesting idea for writers in the beginning while they try to build their reputation.

The sky is the limit with how much you can make, but you will still need to attract the readers yourself and convince people to pay you for your writing.

There are a ton of writers out there are who are at least making a nice side income with their writing on Substack.

It is easy to set up your account and start getting paid, compared to other ways to make money with your writing.

If you do not end up liking Substack, you can quickly and easily move your subscribers so if you are not happy, you can switch platforms and still bring your readers.

Link to the rest at Making a Living Writing

“More adults use it than Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok or Reddit”: How LinkedIn is increasingly driving content discovery for publishers

From What’s New in Publishing:

At a time when publishers are moving past seeing social media platforms as traffic drivers, and even a major publication like BuzzFeed News shut down because of a sharp decrease in Facebook referral traffic, LinkedIn is giving publishers a reason to smile.

According to AOP’s latest survey, Digital Publishing: Outlook and Priorities for 2023, LinkedIn is currently the leading choice for publishers to drive content discovery.

Unsurprisingly, 44% of B2B publishers are dependent on LinkedIn, investing in the platform to promote their content. And while consumer publishers invest across multiple off-platforms, LinkedIn maintains a leading position, coming in just a hair behind Facebook overall when it comes to driving content discovery.

And while Facebook is still the leading source of referral traffic, its importance as a referrer for news sites has been declining.

“Publishers are coming round to the potential of the platform”

Echobox’s latest white paper on 2023 Social Media Benchmarks also paints a similar picture about LinkedIn’s growth and increase in referral traffic. 

“Year on year, the number of people using LinkedIn grows; and year on year, more publishers are coming round to the potential of the platform, not only for recruitment, but for content distribution,” the report states. 

Link to the rest at What’s New in Publishing

Why Authors Should Ditch Mailchimp and Move to Substack

From Jane Friedman:

If you’re an author who’s been using Mailchimp to grow your list and improve sales, it might be time to ditch Mailchimp and move to Substack.

This is a big decision. I understand.

After all, as a small publisher, I recently made the decision to move our Every Day Poems publication to Substack, and it took some real work to successfully do so.

Why did I risk relocating a publication that was approaching its twelfth birthday?

Two big reasons I started the ball rolling

  1. Mailchimp has seriously raised its prices since it was taken over by Intuit and since it has pivoted to be a heavier e-commerce service. Regarding pricing, I asked Mailchimp for a solution that might be appropriate for their customers who are part of the creator economy, and they said, “You could delete subscribers.” That just didn’t seem like a sustainable solution if the goal is growth.
  2. One of our T. S. Poetry Press author/illustrators started a few Substacks last fall and immediately built her lists into the thousands (from nothing!); we watched her book sales start climbing. That sales trend has continued for her and for another author of ours who also moved to Substack.

The bottom line?

We saw a chance to cut costs and increase sales. What’s not to love.

Beyond that, we want to suggest 5 more reasons you might want to ditch Mailchimp and move to Substack.

5 reasons to make the move

1. You can get paid, instead of paying. Substack is technically a subscription service, and while you can offer your newsletter for free, you can also offer it at a minimum of $5 a month or $30 a year. Some people charge more. Sure, you can charge for your Mailchimp newsletter, too, but you have to pay to play. If your lists are in the thousands at Mailchimp, this can become quite pricey.

We went for the 5 & 30 model at two of the Substacks we now run. And while we lost paying subscribers when we made our initial move, the revenue has since tripled. That’s partly because we also added a new offering: The Write to Poetry. It might also be due to Reason # 2 below.

2. You’ll be in an ecosystem instead of a silo. Substack sends your newsletter to inboxes, just like Mailchimp, but it also publishes your content to the Web. This is extremely important for creating an ecosystem instead of a silo. All your free posts are easily likeable and shareable and, if you allow comments, can provide for engagement.

On top of that, the Substack network allows publications to recommend other publications—sort of the way blogs used to have sidebars where they recommended other blogs. If you really hit it big, you might even get recommended by Substack (that happened for us with Every Day Poems, and we picked up a lot of subscribers when it did!)

3. You can have searchable archives instead of invisibility. Substack has excellent SEO, and your archives (even your paid ones, if you toggle to discoverability) are discoverable by search engines. With Mailchimp, there are no archives except in people’s inboxes. Not optimal.

Does it make a difference? Our Substack stats show that it does. We’ve gotten new free and paid subscribers via Google searches that landed people right on our regular content—content that with Mailchimp would not have been findable by search engines.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG would be interested in the thoughts of others on the Mailchimp v. Substack discussion. He does admit being a bit disappointed in Mailchimp’s performance in the last couple of Mrs. PG’s book releases.

Why You Should Start Promoting Your Writing Before You’re “Ready”

From Jane Friedman:

Years ago, I had a freelance article go viral, or at least modestly viral, racking up over 50,000 Facebook shares. I received my first-ever invitations to appear as a guest on podcasts and even NPR. I also received dozens of friendly and often deeply personal messages from readers, plus a handful of job offers, right out of the blue.

The funniest thing? That piece was published by mistake. It was 2016, and I’d only just begun to freelance for national publications. I emailed a pitch to a certain online publication’s general inbox, AKA its slush pile. Within a few days, an editor got in touch accepting the idea, but then he hated the draft I turned in. It was too essayistic, he said, and I would need to rewrite the piece as a reported story. I turned in a new version a few weeks later, and a long period of radio silence began. I didn’t hear from the editor again until one random, rainy night when I was standing in line at Kroger, waiting for the clerk to drag my Lean Cuisines across the scanner, and my phone pinged with an urgent email.

The piece would be running tomorrow, the editor announced. Could I please review the draft immediately, sign off, and send in a bio?

Still in line at Kroger, I thumbed open the draft, and a thin trickle of terror ran down my back.

The draft he’d attached was the old one—the one he’d hated. I didn’t know whether to mention this or not. By this point, I’d all but given up on any version getting published, period. In the parking lot, I called a friend on the phonewith no preamble, and he advised me to let it ride. Let the piece come out, get the byline, move on.

The next day, I went to check the site for the piece, except I never made it there because my Twitter notifications had blown up, and I had Facebook DMs from radio stations asking if I would come on their shows.

This felt amazing. Exhilarating. Bewildering. In any case, I was so green that I didn’t realize the piece was unusually successful. I thought this level of attention must be what happened every time you write for a larger publication, which is enough to make me laugh now. I’ve never had a piece gain so much traction since. And today, several iterations of the internet later, I honestly wonder if essays even can go viral anymore. Short-form video is so far and away the dominant currency.

The point is: I wasted that viral opportunity in 2016—fully, completely, in the most comprehensive and self-esteem-annihilating sense.

At the time, I did not have an author website. I didn’t have a blog or an email list. All my socials were set to private, and my personal email address took some serious digging to track down. When NPR got in touch, for instance, they had to do it by Facebook DM, and the message went to my junk inbox, which means I almost missed the chance to do an hour of national media. Oof.

Why didn’t I have a basic online presence in place?

I expect the answer is obvious: I was worried what people might think. It was such early days. I’d barely published. What if my old college friends saw me taking myself seriously, how cringe would that be? What if my coworkers or neighbors saw I’d made a website for myself, wouldn’t I seem deluded? Bless her heart, I imagined them saying. How important does she think she is? Look at her spending actual time on LinkedIn!

And so when the chance came to start building a real, meaningful following, I missed it. In my effort to appear nonchalant—which probably wasn’t convincing anyone, anyway—I guaranteed that I would derive as little benefit as possible from publishing articles, from all the work involved, and from all the time and angst it cost me.

Fast forward to 2018, when I was attempting to sell a nonfiction book proposal, and all I could do was tell publishers the piece had hit. I couldn’t speak of an email list, or a Twitter following, or an Instagram account, full stop, much less Instagram followers.

Not coincidentally, my proposal kept getting rejected. One rejection from a major publisher specifically cited my Twitter follower count, still a mere three digits. When I complained to a bestselling friend, he gave it to me straight: “If you’d gotten serious about building a following years ago, you wouldn’t be in this position now,” he said. And he was right.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG says some people are better-suited for doing social media well than others.

If PG felt he needed help on Twitter or Facebook, but didn’t want to spend the time or lacked the inclination, he would be inclined to hire somebody to draft messages/posts/etc.

For PG, most people on Facebook tend to be boring. Ditto+ on Twitter. For that reason, he seldom signs on. He tends to only spend time on social media he posts on in his differing personas, but he’s not an ambitious young author who wants to be traditionally-published (gag reflex, gag, gag).

What Is a Meme?

From The Grammarly Blog:

Perhaps you’ve heard of a meme but don’t quite “get it.” Chances are, though, you’ve seen a meme and related to it—even if you didn’t know what it was called. Memes are a cultural phenomenon often used as a form of social commentary.

What makes a meme successful isn’t its length but rather its ability to resonate with a particular audience and capture a cultural moment or trend. Here, we’ll define and explain what a meme is and offer a few tips in case you want to try your hand at writing your own meme.

What is a meme?

Now, you might be wondering how to pronounce the word meme. The correct pronunciation is meem (rhymes with dream)The modern-day definition of a meme is a humorous image, video, piece of text, or GIF that is spread across the internet, typically on social media, and often with slight variations. Memes can be created by anyone and can be about anything, from current events, to mundane tasks, to pop culture references.

The length of a meme varies. Because they can take the form of images, symbols, text, videos, or GIFs, they can be as short as a single image or phrase and as long as a multi-minute video with an elaborate narrative. Some memes have short-lived bursts of popularity on social media, while others endure for years.

Memes appear almost everywhere you find digital files being shared, including:

  • Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok
  • Online communities like Reddit and Tumblr
  • Messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, Discord, and Telegram
  • Image-sharing sites like Imgur and Flickr
  • Online forums and discussion boards

Where do memes come from?

The concept of memes traces its roots to biologist Richard Dawkins’s 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. Dawkins defined a meme as a cultural unit that spreads from person to person, much as genes spread through reproduction. The term meme itself comes from the Greek word mimema, which means “that which is imitated.”

Dawkins’s book shows that examples of memes go back centuries. But these days, when we think of memes, internet memes are usually what come to mind. The first internet meme is widely considered to be the “Dancing Baby,” a 3D animated baby doing a cha-cha dance that became popular in the late 1990s.

What’s the purpose of a meme?

Memes serve a variety of purposes, including the following.

  • Providing humor, analogy, or entertainment
  • Expressing emotions and feelings
  • Conveying cultural references and social commentary
  • Fostering a sense of community and belonging through shared experiences

Link to the rest at The Grammarly Blog

For those who don’t remember:

Twitter will let media publishers charge per article starting in May

From The Verge:

Full-time Twitter CEO and part-time Tesla enthusiast Elon Musk said on Saturday that users of his social media platform will be able to avoid media subscriptions and pay per article starting “next month.” Musk says that Twitter’s forthcoming “one-click” service “should be a major win-win for both media orgs & the public” by allowing media companies to charge a higher per article price to readers who wouldn’t necessarily pay a full subscription rate.

Musk didn’t say what percentage Twitter would pocket for itself or what conditions media publishers would need to abide by.

As with all Musk timelines, it’s best to take the “next month” estimate as an absolute best case scenario for the arrival of Twitter’s pay-as-you go micro-transaction service. But I don’t doubt Musk’s urgency. Twitter is in a race to grow revenue even as it alienates long-time users and antagonizes media organizations — both of whom are actively testing waters elsewhere. The latest Twitter alternative du jour is Bluesky, which recently added Twitter royalty Darth, Dril, and AOC to its ranks. 

Twitter’s pay-per-article announcement comes at a time when Musk is attempting to lure creators to the beleaguered platform. In addition to courting individual podcast creators directly, Musk is also urging creators worldwide to begin monetizing their content with Twitter Subscriptions (previously known as Super Follows) with a promise that “Twitter will keep none of the money” for the first 12 months. 

Link to the rest at The Verge

Inside Kenya’s booming podcast scene

From Chatham House:

I am eating a pre-hiking meal of oatmeal with espresso on the side at a local coffee house while waiting for my hiking buddies to join me at 7am on a Sunday. Even though it is January, we are experiencing an intense heatwave and I am trying to calculate how many litres of water I will need to face the challenge ahead.

The plan is to trek the 16km-plus out-and-back route through the seven Ngong Hills, lying in the Great Rift Valley about an hour from Kenya’s capital. During the group catch-up beforehand, I give a quick rundown of my latest favourite podcasts and remember one I had come across that Emily, an avid art lover, would enjoy, Art Fraud.

The smartphone revolution

Storytelling is a core part of Kenya’s history and a surge in the number of podcasts in the region comes as no surprise. We love a good story. Podcasts are especially popular with the under-35s living in urban areas.

Improved technology coupled with better access to the internet and more user-friendly software have led to a boom in podcasting. This is helped by the growth in 4G and 5G wireless access available in parts of Nairobi and its outskirts.

Smartphones are the real reason the popularity of podcasts has taken off. In Kenya, 46 per cent of connections were made by smartphones in 2021 and this is predicted to grow to 68 per cent by 2025, according to figures from the GSM Association, which represents the interests of the mobile network industry.

According to a podcasting report by Baraza Media Lab, which I work for, and made in collaboration with Africa Podfest, some of the most popular themes in podcasts are culture, media and the arts, health and wellness, current affairs and news, science and technology and business in that order.

People listen to them while carrying out their daily tasks such as working out, running errands, on the commute to-and-from work or school, or in their leisure time. It is an exercise that continually raises awareness, entertains, educates and helps unravel some of the most complex issues from around the world.

. . . .

Spotify’s popularity increased when it teamed up with the mobile money service Mpesa which is available to anyone with a registered SIM card and a mobile phone.

This mobile money payment option is used by millions of Kenyans each day and it allows more customers to buy audio and streaming services. Other streaming platforms demanded debit or credit card details, or PayPal and E-wallet apps which are rarely used in the region, for the prepaid option.

With as many as 68 languages spoken in Kenya, podcasts are now being produced in Sheng’, Kamba, Maasai, Kikuyu, Kiswahili and Luo among others.

While radio is still the most popular medium for news and entertainment, audio storytellers are using podcasts to share topics that range from local and global news, politics, money management, sex education, lifestyle to sports and that cater to their audience profile.

Podcasts have provided a platform for women, young people, disabled people, LGBT+ groups and other marginalized communities to share their experiences without editorial distortions that can apply on mainstream media platforms. This moves away from Kenya’s traditional media platforms that are mostly privately owned, supported by large budgets and studio-structured production and which rely on advertising to hold their bottom line.

Link to the rest at Chatham House

How BookTok makes money

From Vox:

Walk into a Barnes & Noble these days, and you’ll see a peculiar sight. Instead of Barnes & Noble branding everywhere, there’s BookTok branding everywhere.

Tables of books emblazoned with BookTok signs, pushing the books that are popularly recommended on TikTok’s reading community. A little reading journal for sale titled BookTok Made Me Read It. A special display just for Colleen Hoover, who went from indie romance author to queen of the bestseller list after blowing up on BookTok. There’s a little sign over her name that says “BookTok.”

Loosely speaking, BookTok is a community of people on TikTok who focus all their content on books. They pan their cameras across shelves of beautiful hardcovers, analyze the tropes of their favorite genres, recommend their favorite books, record themselves throwing their favorite books across the room in a fury of emotional overwhelm. The stereotype is that BookTokers lean young and emotional, but as users are quick to point out, the community is huge. Search the #BookTok tag long enough, and you’re bound to find a BookToker who talks about books that appeal to you.

What all BookTokers have in common is that they are a hot commodity. Barnes & Noble is leaning so hard into the BookTok angle right now because, simply put, BookTok sells books. It’s one of the only things that does.

“It’s one of the strongest drivers that we’ve seen in the US market in the last couple of years. It is the only area of the market right now with very strong growth,” says Kristen McLean, the primary industry analyst for books at the industry tracker Circana BookScan. “When I look at the data, there’s no other area of the US publishing market that we can pin that’s seeing that level of year-over-year growth right now. That’s the third year of growth for these authors.”

During lockdown, as Americans with extra time on their hands began picking up books to keep themselves busy, the US book market grew at unprecedented rates. The post-vaccine market appears to have corrected itself. Before the pandemic, it was common for the US book market to grow at rates of 3 or 4 percent. From 2019 to 2021, it grew 21 percent. In the first three months of 2023, according to Circana, it has declined 1 percent — except for the authors whose books blew up on BookTok. So far this year, they’re seeing an increase of 43 percent over their 2022 sales figures.

In a market where it’s notoriously difficult for anyone to make a living, BookTok is helping a select few people make a whole lot of money. That state of affairs raises a surprisingly knotty question: How much of that cash is making its way back to the creators who made the videos that are generating all of these book sales in the first place? And how is it getting to them?

Link to the rest at Vox

Here’s an example of a BookTok feed (PG hopes it only plays audio when you’re on this post of TPV.)

You may have to click on the speaker icon to hear the soundtrack.

TikTok’s influence on the books market is small but growing rapidly, says Nielsen

From The Bookseller:

One in four book buyers used TikTok/BookTok in 2022 and these consumers accounted for nearly 90 million book purchases last year, according to findings from Nielsen’s latest Books & Consumers survey.

Each month, the market measurement firm surveys 8,500 UK consumers aged between 13 and 84. Details from these surveys have been extrapolated to estimate the UK’s consumer book purchasing market in the year to March 2023.

In a presentation delivered at the London Transport Museum today (Wednesday, 22nd March), Nielsen revealed that UK consumers bought a total of 348 million books in 2022. This represents a 2% decrease over five years: in 2018, total UK book sales stood at 355 million. In terms of spending, 2022 sales clocked in at £2.5bn, £250m of which were printed book sales. This represents a 4% increase on 2018, when total spending came in at £240m.

Overall, TikTok’s influence remains relatively small. In 2022, just 3% of all books purchased, roughly nine million, were originally discovered via video assistance platforms (which Nielsen counts as YouTube and TikTok).

And while it is difficult to put a specific figure on the platform’s overall influence on the books market, Nielsen reports that sales of titles which feature the word “TikTok” in their subtitles (for example, “TikTok made me buy it” or “The TikTok sensation of the year”) totalled approximately £46m in 2022. This figure is based on top 100,000 bestseller list data and includes work by the likes of Colleen Hoover (£15.9m), Alice Oseman (£9.9m), Taylor Jenkins Reid (£2.5m), Karen McManus (£2.0m), Ali Hazelwood (£1.4m), Ana Huang (£1.3m) and Elena Armas (£1.2m).

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

How TikTok broke social media

From The Economist:

Is tiktok’s time up? As the social-media app’s chief executive, Shou Zi Chew, prepares for a grilling before Congress on March 23rd, TikTok’s 100m-plus users in America fret that their government is preparing to ban the Chinese-owned platform on security fears. Their anguish contrasts with utter glee in Silicon Valley, where home-grown social-media firms would love to be rid of their popular rival. With every grumble from Capitol Hill, the share prices of Meta, Snap, Pinterest and others edge higher.

TikTok’s fate hangs in the balance. But what is already clear is that the app has changed social media for good—and in a way that will make life much harder for incumbent social apps. In less than six years TikTok has weaned the world off old-fashioned social-networking and got it addicted to algorithmically selected short-form video. Users love it. The trouble for social apps is that the new model makes less money than the old one, and may always do so.

The speed of the change is astonishing. Since entering America in 2017, TikTok has picked up more users than all but a handful of social-media apps, which have been around more than twice as long (see chart 1). Among young audiences, it crushes the competition. Americans aged 18-24 spend an hour a day on TikTok, twice as long as they spend on Instagram and Snapchat and more than five times as long as they spend on Facebook, which these days is mainly a medium for communicating with the grandparents (see chart 2).

TikTok’s success has prompted its rivals to reinvent themselves. Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, has turned both apps’ main feeds into algorithmically sorted “discovery engines” and launched Reels, a TikTok clone bolted onto Facebook and Instagram. Similar lookalike products have been created by YouTube (Shorts), Snapchat (Spotlight), Pinterest (Watch) and even Netflix (Fast Laughs). The latest TikTok-inspired makeover, announced on March 8th, was by Spotify, a music app whose homepage now features video clips that can be skipped by swiping up. (TikTok’s Chinese sister app, Douyin, is having a similar effect in its home market, where digital giants like Tencent are increasingly putting short videos at the centre of their offerings.)

The result is that short-form video has taken over social media. Of the 64 minutes that the average American spends viewing social media each day, 40 minutes are spent watching video clips, up from 28 minutes just three years ago, estimates Bernstein, a broker. However, this transformation comes with a snag. Although users have a seemingly endless appetite for short video, the format is proving less profitable than the old news feed.

TikTok monetises its American audience at a rate of just $0.31 per hour, a third the rate of Facebook and a fifth the rate of Instagram (see chart 3). This year it will make about $67 from each of its American users, while Instagram will make more than $200, estimates Insider Intelligence, a research firm. Nor is this just a TikTok problem. Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive, told investors last month that “Currently, the monetisation efficiency of Reels is much less than Feed, so the more that Reels grows…it takes some time away from Feed and we actually lose money.”

Link to the rest at The Economist

How to Write for the Web: All Writers Need to be Web Content Providers Now

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

These days, pretty much all writers need to learn to write Web content. Yes, even if you’re a Victorian romance author whose readers care more about reticules and spatterdashers than retweets and SEO. Even if you don’t have your own blog. Any website needs content.

. . . .

Like it or not, all writers need to become “Web content providers” these days.

Yeah, I know. Sounds a lot less creative than “author” doesn’t it? And harder.

But it actually isn’t. Writing Web content is a little different from writing a traditional essay or magazine article, but it’s not hard. You just have to learn some basic guidelines.

Learning to Write Web Content Involves Unlearning

Especially what you were taught about paragraphing.

According to Mike Blankenship at Smart Blogger, the paragraph has gone through radical changes in the 21st century.  He says the 100-200 word standard paragraph has disappeared.  Now your average paragraph should be between two and four lines. You can go over and under — some paragraphs can be just one word long — but stay close to that average and you should be fine.

But don’t make them all the same length. Blankenship says, “Too many same-sized paragraphs in a row will bore your reader. It doesn’t matter if it’s too many small paragraphs or too many long paragraphs, the effect is similar.”

I had to unlearn a whole lot of what I was taught about writing prose back in the 20th century in order to be an effective Web content provider today.

. . . .

Back in the 20th century, good writers…

  • Learned to use topic sentences and avoid cutting to a new paragraph until there’s a new topic.
  • Wrote for people who paid money for a number of words and read every one.
  • Wouldn’t put a title on a serious essay that looked like a cheap tabloid headline.
  • Avoided repetition.
  • Would never offer an outline instead of an essay.
  • Substantiated information with footnotes.
  • Never heard of tags, keywords, or SEO.

But the majority of people don’t read on the Internet; they skim. In fact, most people don’t even skim the whole article. Farhad Manjoo famously reported that only half the people who visit a website read past the first hundred words.

So how do you get them to come by…and stick around?

Forget all of the above and learn some new tricks:

1) Write Intriguing Titles

This is probably the most important aspect of learning to write Web content.

Mystery author C. Hope Clark once said in her “Funds for Writers” newsletter: “You might be surprised at the key factor I use in deleting or holding to read: The quality of the subject line. Hey, when time is crazy limited…the words have to snag me as I rush by. That means first and foremost that the subject be crisp, sharp, attractive, intriguing, or whatever adjective you want to use that gives me whiplash. It has to shout, “HEY, READ ME OR YOU’LL REGRET IT.”

She’s right.

Headers are the most important element of a blog’s content, and it’s the one most novelists don’t get. We want our blogs and newsletters to sound creative and literary like our books, not cheesy like a supermarket tabloid. But tabloid journalists are good at what they do. They have only a moment to grab a reader going through that checkout line, so they need an irresistible hook.

In our case, headers need to snag a reader in the endless stream of content Web browsers can choose from.

So how do we do that?

Here are 8 ways you can grab a Web reader’s attention with your story about, say, a writer who suspects her bathroom is haunted.

  1. Stir emotions: “The Tragic Ghost that Haunts my Bathroom.”
  2. Offer useful advice: “How to Make Sure a Building isn’t Haunted before you Sign that Rental Agreement.”
  3. You can sensationalize: “Why This Woman is Afraid of her own Bathroom!”
  4. Or appeal to sentiment: “This Story of a Cat and a Flapper’s Ghost Will Melt Your Heart.”
  5. Maybe stir up some greed: “How Wendy Writer inked a 7- Figure Deal with her Haunted Bathroom Story.”
  6. Paranoia is good: “Is Your Bathroom Haunted?”  Or “Who or WHAT is Flushing Your Toilet in the Middle of the Night?”
  7. Curiosity, too: “10 Things You Don’t Know about Poltergeists.”
  8. Or you can appeal to thriftiness: “Save Money and Time with a Do-It-Yourself Exorcism.”

. . . .

2) Promise a Fast Read

Everybody’s in a hurry online.

Author Jillian Mullin  wrote in the Web Writer Spotlight: “Generally, an average Web user only spends 10 to 30 seconds reading Internet content. People rarely read web pages word-per-word. Instead, they scan the page for related keywords, bullet points, subtitles, and quotes.”

That’s why one of the best ways to let people know you’ve got a quick, easy-scan piece is with a numbered “listicle” like “The Top 10 Best Ghostwritten Books” or “5 Signs Your Computer is Possessed.”

The other thing is to learn to harness the power of white space. A page with lots of white space can be taken in at a glance.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

3 easy ways to subscribe to your favorite authors online

From ZD Net:

At least once a week, I get emails from readers asking how they can more easily follow my musings. 

Sadly, not all websites are created equal, which means it’s not always that easy to follow or subscribe to a particular writer. 

However, even if a website doesn’t offer an RSS-type or mailing list-type subscription feature, there are ways to keep abreast of what your favorite writers are doing.

Why subscribe?

First, let’s answer this simple question. The main reason to subscribe to your favorite authors is to ensure you don’t miss a word they’ve penned. In this world of constant content, sites tend to publish more and more, which means your favorite author’s posts could get lost in the shuffle. By subscribing to a particular author, you guarantee that you won’t miss out when their work is buried by the deluge of articles.

Another reason to subscribe to your favorite authors is that you can receive all of their updates in a single location. Instead of having to visit all of those websites, you can (in some cases) use a single app to view them all.

. . . .


This is the most reliable means to subscribe to an author. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and works with a reader app to collect all of your RSS feeds into one place. There are two things you must know about using RSS. First, you must install one of the many available apps capable of viewing RSS. Here’s a shortlist of apps to choose from (some of which are free and some have an associated cost):

  • Inoreader.
  • Feedly.
  • NewsBlur.
  • Akregator.
  • Tiny Tiny RSS.
  • FreshRSS.

You will also find that some email clients (such as Claws Mail and Thunderbird) have built-in RSS support.

. . . .

Google is your friend

If those sites do not support RSS, there’s another alternative that can actually serve as a sort of catch-all. Let’s say your favorite writer works for multiple sites and even their own site. Now, let’s say either only one or two of those sites offer RSS, but the others do not. What do you do?

You use Google — not the way that you’re thinking. 

You don’t have to google your favorite author every day. Instead, what you do is create a Google Alert. These alerts will automatically generate emails for you (sent to your Gmail inbox) based on the terms you add to the alert. 

So, you can create a Google Alert for the name of your favorite author and every morning you’ll be treated to an email that collects everything published by them on the previous day. I use this feature quite a bit and have found it to be incredibly reliable.

Link to the rest at ZD Net and thanks to C. for the tip.

On TikTok, Even Canadians Don’t Want to Be Labeled Canadian

From The Wall Street Journal:

Canada is days away from passing a law to force digital platforms such as YouTube and TikTok to showcase more Canadian content.

While that might sound like good news for Canadian artists and content producers, many see it as about as welcome as a polar vortex.

“I prefer not to be certified as Canadian,” said Toronto TikToker Oorbee Roy, whose feed highlights the South Asian mother’s attempts to learn skateboarding, sometimes while wearing a sari. She worries that resulting algorithm changes by the platforms will reduce her global audience. “I don’t really think this is going to help me,” she said.

Professional content producers such as streaming services have different beefs. They don’t want quotas for Canadian content. And there is the confusing question: What makes content Canadian?

For more than 50 years, Canada has required domestically licensed television and radio stations to air a minimum amount of domestic programming known as Canadian content, or CanCon. Those rules arose from a government report calling for stronger cultural policies to unite a nation amid a “formidable” flood of American broadcasts, music and literature.

The new law will extend the concept to content served up to Canadian users by Google’s YouTube, ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok, streamers such as Netflix Inc. and Walt Disney Co.’s Disney+, and music service Spotify Technology SA.

The idea, said Peter Menzies, a former official at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, is to promote Canadian artists, tell Canadian stories and “defend Canada from being completely swamped by American programming.”

In other words: more Canada. “I think we’re pretty good at what we do, so we should see a little bit more of us,” said Pablo Rodriguez, Canada’s heritage minister.

But Ms. Roy and other Canadian YouTube and TikTok creators are concerned that being labeled Canadian would be bad for business. The platforms have said the legislation will compel them to reconfigure their algorithms in Canada to ensure Canadian-made content gets preference over foreign stuff.

The Canadian artists contend this is the opposite of how algorithms are supposed to work: to match content with people’s interests.

“People will start to resent Canadian content that is being forced on them,” said Justin Tomchuk of Montreal, who makes short animated films he uploads to YouTube under the name Umami. “The algorithm will notice, ‘Oh, these Canadian users aren’t engaging with this video so much.’ And then, on a global scale, the algorithm could start deprioritizing my videos.”

. . . .

Defenders of the current system, which applies to traditional broadcasting, said Canadian-content rules created an ecosystem that yielded shows such as “Schitt’s Creek,” “The Kids in the Hall” and “Second City Television,” which became hits in the U.S. But Alan Cross, a Canadian radio personality and music historian, said that on the music side, in the 1970s and early 1980s, “a lot of substandard stuff made it to air only because of the quotas.”

Under the current rules, officials use a point system to judge whether a song, TV show or film is Canadian. Some rulings have been head-scratchers. A 1991 decision deemed an album by Canadian rocker Bryan Adams, “Waking Up The Neighbours,” not Canadian enough. The regulator said that while Mr. Adams was Canadian, his songs didn’t qualify because they were co-written by a non-Canadian and recorded in London.

“Second City Television” created the beer-drinking, flannel-wearing characters Bob and Doug McKenzie because the public broadcaster, Canadian Broadcasting Corp., asked for two more minutes of Canada-centric content to meet quotas. Cast member Dave Thomas said in a 1996 CBC interview that he told network executives he could “put up a map of Canada, drink beer, fry back bacon, wear some parkas. Would that be Canadian enough for you?”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

In the shallow world of BookTok, being ‘a reader’ is more important than actually reading

From GQ:

I did my best to stay away from BookTok for as long as I could but, in my defence, I was stranded in the rural Irish tundra for Christmas and I’d already worked through the latest series of Emily in Paris. Of course, I’d heard all about how it has allegedly changed the books industry forever and made some authors millionaires practically overnight. But I didn’t need another addiction in my life, I already have Coca-Cola and Byredo candles. Yet, there I was, scrolling and scrolling. BookTok had got me.

It became my latest obsession in much the same way that one might become obsessed with sticking your tongue in plug sockets. But there was just something about watching the same twenty books being flaunted again and again; people openly confessing to owning hundreds of unread books; the flagrant abuse of sticky tabs in novels that absolutely do not require that much citation; bookshelves that are so perfect that arouse suspicion; people calling themselves “certified bookworms” but, like, entirely earnestly; frequent references to people’s “yearly reading goals”; something called New Adult? It was like entering a parallel universe where reading wasn’t just something that someone did for fun, it was a lifestyle, an aesthetic, people were “readers” like Lorraine Kelly is “Lorraine Kelly”. But one thing just wouldn’t leave my head as I scrolled endlessly through this cursed landscape: I think I’m responsible for this.

Way back in the 2010s there used to be a community of book lovers on YouTube. The collective, known as BookTube, was very much a precursor to today’s BookTok. Some of the pillars of BookTok (books hauls, unhauls, challenges, reading wrap-ups) were pioneered on BookTube and, for a while at least, it was a cosy and wholesome corner of the internet. I used to be a BookTuber, one of the bigger ones actually, it’s kind of the reason why I was able to have some legitimacy when I transitioned into writing about books as a career.

I stopped making BookTube videos because the community had become overrun by commercialism. Near the end of the 2010s, many of the major BookTubers had essentially become pawns in the hands of publishing houses. They’d receive boxes upon boxes of books that they’d then “haul” (basically, just show off) and then you’d never see those books mentioned again. The act of reading became replaced by the act of being a reader. Actual reviews became few and far between and many of the smaller, genuine readers on the platform jumped ship. It feels like BookTok has got to the same place, only much faster.

At the end of 2022, the bestselling author Stephanie Danler (Sweetbitter, Stray) wrote about trying to traverse BookTok as an author. Her experience was somewhat fraught. She wrote that TikTok is “not a social media app but an entertainment app. On it, you can’t just show a book by Clarice Lispector. The successful accounts performed being a ‘woman who reads Clarice Lispector.’” Danler also goes on to make the claim that “being visible on these apps is antithetical to the act of writing.” I find it difficult to disagree with Danler’s summation of BookTok. There is an uncanny falseness behind it all, a showy nothingness that only approximates bibliophilia. Who doesn’t want to be seen as literary? Being perceived as having read a lot of books warrants a fair share of cultural capital. If you can fake it, then why not?

Link to the rest at GQ

The State of Social Media (As It Pertains To Writers In Particular)

From Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds:

This is a post about social media, which is the most boring kind of post. But for writers in particular, it’s an essential one. And here is why: we are at a time when traditional media is a *******************. In general, sure, but also, specifically as it relates to book stuff. You’ll find far less book coverage than you used to in years past, in part because — at least, as I understand it — a lot of outlets have reduced the staff dedicated to book-related and publishing-related topics, sometimes cutting down to the bone. Unless you’re in the one percent of authors who sell a WHOLE LOTTA BOOKS or have a book that meets a particular threshold of that hard-to-define “buzz,” (or you’re “someone who knows someone”), you’re not really going to get out there with book announcements or cover reveals or excerpts. You might hit a few end-of-the-year or beginning-of-the-year lists but… most authors don’t, won’t, can’t.

As such, publishers are leaning harder into social media as an avenue to champion books. Thing is, they’ve already leaned pretty pretty hard into social media over the years, and it makes sense: for a long time, social media has seemed like this fertile ground of virality, right? Authors get on, authors make some noise, they get followers, the followers are readers, the readers buy the books, and holy ****, it’s free? Manna from Heaven, and it doesn’t cost the publisher a dime?

One problem: it doesn’t really work like that.

As I’ve noted in the past, social media doesn’t sell books. Okay, fine, it does, but not at the level we all want it to. It moves a copy here, a copy there, ten copies, hopefully more. And that’s good. Because in a sense, every book is a pebble thrown into the pond, and it makes ripples. Ripples (readers new and familiar) reach farther shores, meaning, those readers tell other readers, and that’s a good thing. It’s not some kind of HOLY **** YOUR BOOK HAS GONE VIRAL kinda thing, but it’s a slow and steady and reliable way to earn readership.

But… publishing doesn’t really crave the slow and steady. Some publishers are good with it! Some have a wiser eye and recognize the value of a long tail. But a lot of publishers are just stuffing a catapult full of spaghetti and hoping some of it sticks to some wall, somewhere, anywhere.

I’ve long noted that part of the real value of social media for writers is the community that comes from it — a community not just of readers, but a professional one, too. We’re lonely little weirdos, and it’s nice to have a virtual watercooler-slash-campfire around which to gather. We can hang with other writers, agents, editors, and from there, artists and film people and TV people and comics folk and — well, so on and so forth. A creative community forms from this, not one that’s ever a monoculture, but that’s a good thing. It’s good that it’s this unruly, shapeless thing, because that’s what leads to more interesting friendships. (And community is, ultimately, about these friendships. Fuck anyone who talks about this as if it’s about the “connections.” Said it before, we’ll say it again, but people are not just rungs in a ladder.)

So, does it work this way still?

Link to the rest at Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds

Open Road Media: A New Version of Its Marketing Offer

From Publishing Perspectives:

Our Publishing Perspectives readers may remember our announcement in July that New York City-based Open Road Integrated Media had begun offering a service beyond its core “Ignition” marketing plan called Open Road Activation.

Late in the day on Thursday (January 11), the company messaged the news media that it has opened its new year with an updated version of the new offer called “Activation 2.0,” which is being referred to as a “redesign” of the July “Activation” product.

Although Open Road is seated in the States, the service is open to international publishers, with the one caveat that most of its consumer base—which by last summer reportedly comprised  some 3 million users—reads in English. In July, we were old that publishers in the United Kingdom were utilizing the company’s original “Ignition” program quite regularly, and Open Road’s personnel in the past have been at London Book Fair (this year, April 18 to 20).

The summer release of “Activation” stepped up the original “Ignition” offering to allow publishers to choose D2C (direct to consumer) components both from the company’s existing newsletters and from those newsletters’ associated sites. Open Road says its visitors to those sites are providing 1.2 million monthly page views, with stickiness at close to four minutes for the average visit. “Classic mystery” seems to be the main draw, followed by social and military history. And overall, the Open Road marketing scheme has developed as one of the most advanced uses of consumer data for retail outreach based in an independent company, as opposed to being seated in a given publishing house’s own marketing offices.

Descriptive text about “Activation 2.0” indicates that its key advantage is segmentation of the user base on the receiving end of Open Road’s marketing pieces. “Countless” specific segments, the company’s material says, “are available to be engaged, from readers of classic mystery, cyberpunk, and military history to vegan cooking, middle grade, Christian nonfiction, book club reads,” and more. 

Examples of what Open Road calls “hyper-specific segments” include neuroscience, birds of prey, ancient Greek history, mixed martial arts, and “Parisian enthusiast.” 

What may be of interest here is that Amazon reportedly has, since the autumn, appeared to be limiting to three the number of categories in which a book might be ranked. A publisher might think of “Activation 2.0’s” segmentation as a way to reach at least the Open Road consumer marketing base with a broader range of categories and “hyper-specific segments.”

Open Road says that the first iteration of “Activation” has been used by “Big Five imprints [including] Doubleday, Simon & Schuster, Harper, Flatiron, St. Martin’s, Tor, and Knopf, as well as independent  publishers and university presses [including] Sourcebooks, Astra Publishing House, Hearst Books, Blackstone, Soho  Press, and Yale University Press.”

What may be just as interesting to publishers as categorization in “Activation 2.0” is a new feature that Open Road says allows choices of specific points of emphasis such as “title awareness” and the less concise phrase “performance plus.” 

Activation 2.0 also offers email placements “enabling publishers to build or sustain momentum on individual titles by slotting them into targeted ‘Spotlight’ emails featuring 10 titles each.”

There are also options in display advertising in the company’s D2C newsletters–with an option of similar ad placement on each newsletter’s associated site. On those associated sites, publishers can also consider co-branded home-page takeovers, certainly one of the most successful techniques for annoying one’s users yet developed in the digital world, guaranteeing at least momentary visibility while the cursing user searches for the “X” to close the takeover.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG’s reaction is that there are a lot of much bigger businesses that provide much better segmenting that he thinks is going to be delivered by the company mentioned in the OP.

Amazon, Google and Facebook come immediately to mind. PG would be happy to hear from any others who know more about what Open Road is actually doing.

PG went to their home page and was massively underwhelmed. He couldn’t find any free online analytics site that could tell him anything about how many people go to/search for the company.

Finding Connection on Twitter

From Publisher’s Weekly:

People from many different industries have watched the rapid erosion of Twitter. While it remains up and running as of this date, millions of people have abandoned or shut down their accounts for reasons ranging from owner Elon Musk’s reinstatement of former president Donald Trump’s account to overall disenchantment with the role social media plays in our lives.

But for me, Twitter has and always will be a platform that helped me find my way in book publishing, and not just because my @TheBookMaven account has more than 200,000 followers or because I created #FridayReads, which is used by book professionals of all types to share current reading choices. By “finding my way in book publishing,” I mean less my personal career than my overall views about our own industry and its changes in the 25 years I’ve written about, and worked in, the book world.

More ways exist to work in book publishing than ever before—and Twitter helped people find out about them. Twitter, a platform that originally limited posts to 140 characters, was the place where writers, authors, and book lovers wanted to hang out and share pithy thoughts about new titles, new contracts, and new colleagues.

I will never forget the first tweetup of BookExpo 2010, organized by the delightful and well-connected sales rep John Mesjak. Not only did he take care of designing special ID tags for the Twitterati involved but he found a venue that helped us all feel safe exclaiming loudly as we identified people we’d previously only known online.

There would be many more tweetups, which quickly became simply IRL encounters. Within my deliberately delimited world of writers and book people, I’ve seen a couple meet online and later marry, watched writers gain agents through answering calls for queries, and heard about hundreds of coffees and drinks and dinners arranged via DMs. Personally, I’ve eaten the best pancakes in Brooklyn while discussing reading metrics with a librarian for her dissertation and organized lunches at the Algonquin that led to long-term collaborations and friendships.

However, none of those things has kept me tweeting for nigh on 15 years; neither has the daily dopamine high from responses. What’s kept me and many of my favorite colleagues on what is often referred to as “this hellsite” is that the connection we find there has inspired us to advocate for change. Brief conversations about something that rankled might turn into larger discussions about how to make it better, be that something book contracts, bookstore practices, or submission standards.

As Twitter grew, so did the topics, including #WeNeed-DiverseBooks, #PublishingPaidMe, #ShopIndie, #ReadMore-Women. #OwnVoices, #OpenPublishing, and—my personal favorite—#DecentralizePublishing.

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly

Twitter is considering selling usernames through online auctions

From Yahoo Finance:

Elon Musk throwing more up against the Twitter wall and just seeing if it sticks. The latest proposal outlined in “The New York Times” has Twitter considering selling user names to generate some new revenue. Engineers have reportedly discussed running online auctions for in-demand names.

Now Elon tweeted last month that he wants to free up some of the 1.5 billion usernames that have remained inactive for a year or more. As of now, Twitter’s rules forbid the buying and selling of handles. This on– look, on the 30,000-foot view, looks like a good idea, but one that really tinkers with the margins. How significant could the revenue be for selling a few–

. . . .

I really think that it speaks to the larger picture of . . . the dire straits that it seems like Twitter is in at this point. They’re really struggling to diversify their revenue. They’re kind of throwing anything– everything against the wall and really seeing what sticks.

Link to the rest at Yahoo Finance

The Age of Social Media Is Ending

From The Atlantic:

It’s over. Facebook is in decline, Twitter in chaos. Mark Zuckerberg’s empire has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in value and laid off 11,000 people, with its ad business in peril and its metaverse fantasy in irons. Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has caused advertisers to pull spending and power users to shun the platform (or at least to tweet a lot about doing so). It’s never felt more plausible that the age of social media might end—and soon.

Now that we’ve washed up on this unexpected shore, we can look back at the shipwreck that left us here with fresh eyes. Perhaps we can find some relief: Social media was never a natural way to work, play, and socialize, though it did become second nature. The practice evolved via a weird mutation, one so subtle that it was difficult to spot happening in the moment.

The shift began 20 years ago or so, when networked computers became sufficiently ubiquitous that people began using them to build and manage relationships. Social networking had its problems—collecting friends instead of, well, being friendly with them, for example—but they were modest compared with what followed. Slowly and without fanfare, around the end of the aughts, social media took its place. The change was almost invisible, but it had enormous consequences. Instead of facilitating the modest use of existing connections—largely for offline life (to organize a birthday party, say)—social software turned those connections into a latent broadcast channel. All at once, billions of people saw themselves as celebrities, pundits, and tastemakers.

A global broadcast network where anyone can say anything to anyone else as often as possible, and where such people have come to think they deserve such a capacity, or even that withholding it amounts to censorship or suppression—that’s just a terrible idea from the outset. And it’s a terrible idea that is entirely and completely bound up with the concept of social media itself: systems erected and used exclusively to deliver an endless stream of content.

But now, perhaps, it can also end. The possible downfall of Facebook and Twitter (and others) is an opportunity—not to shift to some equivalent platform, but to embrace their ruination, something previously unthinkable.

A long time ago, many social networks walked the Earth. Six Degrees launched in 1997, named after a Pulitzer-nominated play based on a psychological experiment. It shut down soon after the dot-com crash of 2000—the world wasn’t ready yet. Friendster arose from its ashes in 2002, followed by MySpace and LinkedIn the next year, then Hi5 and Facebook in 2004, the latter for students at select colleges and universities. That year also saw the arrival of Orkut, made and operated by Google. Bebo launched in 2005; eventually both AOL and Amazon would own it. Google Buzz and Google+ were born and then killed. You’ve probably never heard of some of these, but before Facebook was everywhere, many of these services were immensely popular.

Content-sharing sites also acted as de facto social networks, allowing people to see material posted mostly by people they knew or knew of, rather than from across the entire world. Flickr, the photo-sharing site, was one; YouTube—once seen as Flickr for video—was another. Blogs (and bloglike services, such as Tumblr) raced alongside them, hosting “musings” seen by few and engaged by fewer. In 2008, the Dutch media theorist Geert Lovink published a book about blogs and social networks whose title summarized their average reach: Zero Comments.

Today, people refer to all of these services and more as “social media,” a name so familiar that it has ceased to bear meaning. But two decades ago, that term didn’t exist. Many of these sites framed themselves as a part of a “web 2.0” revolution in “user-generated content,” offering easy-to-use, easily adopted tools on websites and then mobile apps. They were built for creating and sharing “content,” a term that had previously meant “satisfied” when pronounced differently. But at the time, and for years, these offerings were framed as social networks or, more often, social-network services. So many SNSes proliferated, a joke acronym arose: YASN, or “yet another social network.” These things were everywhere, like dandelions in springtime.

As the original name suggested, social networking involved connecting, not publishing. By connecting your personal network of trusted contacts (or “strong ties,” as sociologists call them) to others’ such networks (via “weak ties”), you could surface a larger network of trusted contacts. LinkedIn promised to make job searching and business networking possible by traversing the connections of your connections. Friendster did so for personal relationships, Facebook for college mates, and so on. The whole idea of social networks was networking: building or deepening relationships, mostly with people you knew. How and why that deepening happened was largely left to the users to decide.

. . . .

Social networks’ evolution into social media brought both opportunity and calamity. Facebook and all the rest enjoyed a massive rise in engagement and the associated data-driven advertising profits that the attention-driven content economy created. The same phenomenon also created the influencer economy, in which individual social-media users became valuable as channels for distributing marketing messages or product sponsorships by means of their posts’ real or imagined reach. Ordinary folk could now make some money or even a lucrative living “creating content” online. The platforms sold them on that promise, creating official programs and mechanisms to facilitate it. In turn, “influencer” became an aspirational role, especially for young people for whom Instagram fame seemed more achievable than traditional celebrity—or perhaps employment of any kind.

The ensuing disaster was multipart. For one, social-media operators discovered that the more emotionally charged the content, the better it spread across its users’ networks. Polarizing, offensive, or just plain fraudulent information was optimized for distribution. By the time the platforms realized and the public revolted, it was too late to turn off these feedback loops.

Obsession fueled the flames. Compulsion had always plagued computer-facilitated social networking—it was the original sin. Rounding up friends or business contacts into a pen in your online profile for possible future use was never a healthy way to understand social relationships. It was just as common to obsess over having 500-plus connections on LinkedIn in 2003 as it is to covet Instagram followers today. But when social networking evolved into social media, user expectations escalated. Driven by venture capitalists’ expectations and then Wall Street’s demands, the tech companies—Google and Facebook and all the rest—became addicted to massive scale. And the values associated with scale—reaching a lot of people easily and cheaply, and reaping the benefits—became appealing to everyone: a journalist earning reputational capital on Twitter; a 20-something seeking sponsorship on Instagram; a dissident spreading word of their cause on YouTube; an insurrectionist sowing rebellion on Facebook; an autopornographer selling sex, or its image, on OnlyFans; a self-styled guru hawking advice on LinkedIn. Social media showed that everyone has the potential to reach a massive audience at low cost and high gain—and that potential gave many people the impression that they deserve such an audience.

. . . .

As I’ve written before on this subject, people just aren’t meant to talk to one another this much. They shouldn’t have that much to say, they shouldn’t expect to receive such a large audience for that expression, and they shouldn’t suppose a right to comment or rejoinder for every thought or notion either. From being asked to review every product you buy to believing that every tweet or Instagram image warrants likes or comments or follows, social media produced a positively unhinged, sociopathic rendition of human sociality. That’s no surprise, I guess, given that the model was forged in the fires of Big Tech companies such as Facebook, where sociopathy is a design philosophy.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

Social Media: The Year in Review Part 7

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I’ve been dreading this post, but not for the reason that you think. Somewhere, probably back in November, I had gotten the bright idea that I would do this post and find a social media site to replace Twitter for my promotion and news needs.

(As a former journalist, I found Twitter very useful. I followed journalists in real time, as well as old journalist friends, who would post nuggets, and I knew how to parse those nuggets. The unfiltered nuggets (in tiny bursts) is what I miss about Twitter, not the promotion, not the “social” aspect, not the “community” which I never found very welcoming in the first place. Anyway.)

In other words, I had put a lot of pressure on this post. I was sure that with a week or so worth of research, I’d have a new social media home.

I didn’t expect two things. The first is that nothing has really shaken out as the Twitter replacement. (And Musk hasn’t quit nor has he finished eviscerating the site, even after he promised he’d step down if people told him to…and people told him to.) The second thing is…I’m not sure I want a Twitter replacement. Yes, I miss the news (see above), but I don’t miss the hordes of judgement that would come with any kind of infraction or perceived infraction.

No one ever checked to see if the infraction actually did happen, as was the case with me getting banned by a lot of sf people because they believed that I had never done anything to help women in the field. Never bought stories from women when I was editing The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (an easy thing to disprove) and never wrote about women’s issues anywhere (also easy to disprove). And yeah, that was the first attack that really bothered me, mostly because I ended up blocking a whole bunch of people whose work I like and whose politics I generally agree with.

It bothered me for days, before I put on my sf convention armor and remembered that social media is like a large party, and I needed my game face on at all times.

I’m not fond of my game face. It goes against my rather blunt grain.

So I’m not going to use this post to find the next Twitter or the place where all the literary folk have gathered. I’m probably going to need to find a few places to land, but that’s separate research unrelated to this piece. In this piece, I’ll look at the changes in the social media landscape and what that means for the future.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

TikTok Figured Out an Easy Way to Recommend Books. The Results Were Dubious.

From Slate:

“Everyone always asks, so here you go,” Aaliyah Aroha wrote in the caption of what would go on to become one of her most popular TikTok videos. She appears, lip-syncing to a song from the app-favorite Unofficial Bridgerton Musical and holding a stack of books, as the words “Enemies to Lovers book recommendations” float overhead. The video, posted to her account, @aaliyahreads, which boasts over 216,000 followers, now has 2.5 million views and more than 431,000 likes.

Many book lovers who are in the market for their next read—especially readers who stick to genres like romance and fantasy—turn first to accounts like this. TikTok is teeming with book influencers like Aroha (her last name is a pseudonym), who use their platforms to peddle new releases, make book recommendations, share reviews, and more. But in 2021 and 2022, these content creators found a new way to hack the algorithm—and in turn, the publishing industry. That is, until they began to wonder if they had created a monster.

Among genre readers and editors, depending on whom you ask and their level of involvement with the internet, they’ll register tropes (refer to Merriam-Webster dictionary’s second definition—“a common or overused theme or device”) as the tags used to categorize fan fiction on the site Archive of Our Own (also known as AO3), the backbone of the tremendous fan wiki, or the internal lingo used in publishing offices to discuss new releases. On TikTok, tropes have become an internet shorthand to help people find their next read. Creators have hacked the phenomenon that is BookTok by using these tropes— “enemies to lovers,” “morally gray main characters,” “fake dating” (the trope where characters must present a facade of affection to​​ the world but end up actually in love—see Simon and Daphne in Bridgerton), “love triangles”—as search engine optimization terms to package their content and convey the “vibe” of a book.

And it works, too. “People want to get straight to the point, so they can read more and read what they know they like,” Aroha said in an email. “It’s a smart way to adjust to the way of society today. I also believe that it’s kept books alive, and people actively wanting to read.”

There’s certainly an audience for it. On TikTok, videos using #EnemiesToLovers as a tag have a total of 4.2 billion views, while #EnemiesToLoversBooks has 78.2 million. Books like It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover (#FriendsToLovers), The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood (#FakeDating, #GrumpySunshine), and People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (#FriendsToLovers) became print bestsellers in 2022 after being promoted across the app using these trope tags. There’s almost no avoiding it—trope-ification plays a key part in BookTok’s influence on the publishing industry, especially for the fantasy, YA, and romance genres.

This shorthand categorizes books in a hyper-specific way. On BookTok, romance readers can find a book in which the love interests are forced to share a bed, or fantasy readers can read books with a superpowered main female character (known online as a “magical girl”) or a protagonist who is the “chosen one.” This categorization allows fans to cherry-pick their own adventures or particular happily-ever-afters. It also streamlines the process of picking out books—and creating bestsellers.

Link to the rest at Slate

The Author-Creator Marketing Playbook

From Jane Friedman:

During my first full year of publishing, I made almost $200. I had three books in my catalogue and dabbled in Amazon Ads. In 2019, I made $412 publishing three more books. In 2020, I had my breakout year, generating $7,500 in revenue for my business. I was ecstatic. I had several months where I made $1,000 a row and I published six new books that year.

But something darker happened.

Almost all of that $7,500 in revenue went to Facebook and Amazon Ads. In fact, I spent $2,000 out of pocket just testing ads to get things working for my series. And once I got them working, I often had to spend 20+ hours a week managing them.

It was stressful—anxiety-inducing, in fact. At the time I thought it was the only way I could make it as an author. And I was willing to do whatever it took to turn my dreams into reality.

That was until I burned out. Suddenly it felt like I was writing more just to hit my next release than because I had a story to tell. I started to miss my deadlines, until I ultimately stopped midway through the next draft of my book.

But something else happened during this time, another algorithmic force leading me to my burnout. It was YouTube. I had started uploading vlogs to my YouTube channel in September 2020. By November 2020, I had nearly half a million views on the channel alone during that month and made almost $2,000 in Google AdSense. I also made several hundred dollars selling my books with no ads and no calls-to-action during my videos.

What followed was the greatest rollercoaster I have ever experienced. I started creating content to try and garner as many views as possible. I garnered 2 million views on my first two weeks on TikTok and started traveling the country to meet celebrities, taking the third door to access opportunities that ranged from meeting Elon Musk’s executive assistant to kayaking to the back of Joe Rogan’s house and on accident meeting one of the largest concert promoters in the world. I also started live streaming for a start-up platform run by Sean Parker, creating 1,000 hours of content on the platform.

This sounds like everything was going splendidly. But in reality, I didn’t have a broader creator strategy. I was simply a content producer, chasing the algorithmic highs and feeling despondent and, at times, worthless during the algorithmic lows.

. . . .

Pillar #1: Create where your readers hang out, but not everywhere your readers hang out.

For the longest time, I felt a pressure to be creating in “hot spaces” where everyone was getting all these sales in. But I realized that if I don’t typically consume content there, then there is a low-chance that I’ll enjoy creating there.

Some authors, particularly romance authors, may be reading this and saying to themselves, “I hate TikTok, but my readers love it!” That is a fair statement. But creating content where your readers hang out does not mean creating content everywhere. Romance readers have formed massive communities on virtually every social platform and consume content in almost every format. Specific subgenres, of course, are more predominant in specific spaces. But I would imagine that a podcast directed to a specific audience of romance readers could do really well, such as Heaving Bosoms, which has over 700 people paying them monthly for exclusive access to some episodes in their subscription program.

The key here is that although many target audiences exist in multiple locations on the internet, it is rare that an author has the bandwidth at the early stages in their career to create in multiple formats. Thus, it’s essential to pick a content format and continue leveling up and growing your audience until, if ever, you’d like to expand into other formats.

. . . .

Pillar #2: Create what you love, but have it be integral to your world.

If you take nothing else away from these pillars, remember to always make it fun. The idea of being an author-creator when marketing your books is to make the discovery process fun, not something that feels like a chore.

Creating content should be creative, something that enhances the worlds you are building instead of being a distraction. And if done correctly, it can be a fertile testing ground to see what new story ideas, characters, and problems your readers are most interested in.

However, many authors can sometimes have fun creating content that is, well, maybe not related to things their target audience is interested in. Or even more nefarious, things that their target audience is interested in, but doesn’t help authors build their unique brand.

The Tilt is a publication all about the creator economy started by Joe Pulizzi, one of the foremost experts on content marketing. The reason it’s called the Tilt is because each creator has to have a unique tilt or edge, if you will, over the competition in order to succeed.

What does this mean?

Well, let’s say you love creating true crime podcasts and you are a thriller author. Your true crime podcasts are maybe specifically focused on serial killers in the Southern United States. You have niched down your audience pretty well here and are likely appealing to law enforcement as well as true crime junkies in the South.

Yet, even with that niche there are dozens of podcasts that regularly focus on topics for this audience, such as Southern Fried True Crime. In order to succeed, you need to be able to do something different, whether that is combining two existing styles you love, niching down even further, or having some unique value-add that no one else in your market is providing.

Ideally, this content tilt is baked into the value proposition of your larger brand. The same things your readers will love about the things you write are hopefully the same kinds of things that can separate you from the pack and get people interested in your content. Tilting authentically is the key to being able to build a sustainable business as an author-creator: building a world that is true to you, has the potential to evolve and grow with time, and has many entry points for new fans, all centered around your stories.

. . . .

Pillar #3: Create how you want. Seriously, you write the rules.

I’m here to give you permission to post whenever you damn want. In the world of the creator economy, it’s all about building your dream. Not listening to the cookie-cutter advice of gurus that at times don’t have your best interests at heart. With that said, with each content format in the paragraphs below, I’ll detail best practices and why it’s probably useful to post short-form content more often than, say, podcasts for the purpose of discovery.

However, even the best practices are just guidelines. They don’t stipulate how often you need to post to tickle a specific algorithm just right. Instead, I’m focused on the psychology of cold audiences who discover your content and how to convert them into warmer leads (aka fans) that begin to look forward to your content. It’s this slow building flywheel that can lead to exponential growth due to cumulative effects.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

There is no end of “social media”

From Nieman Lab:

“Predicting the end of social platforms is the ultimate expression of a secret desire to put them back in the attic because we fear we will never quite learn how to use them.”

It seems that another one of those recurring news cycles when we talk about the “end of social media” is upon us. It happens almost once a year, like the holiday season. Yes, for those short of memory, this is not the first time such millenarist titles have been used.

Some headlines predicted the end of social media after scandals like Cambridge Analytica in 2018 or Facebook’s announced pivot to private messaging in 2019. Others forecast a new beginning for social media in the metaverse after Facebook’s rebranding as Meta last year.

Of course, there have been headlines about the death of specific platforms too. We read about the uncertain future of Twitter most recently, as #RIPTwitter gathered numbers in November. Many had probably forgotten that #RIPTwitter initially appeared in 2016, with doom-and-gloom predictions around the end of Twitter when Jack Dorsey decided to include an algorithm-based feed on the platform.

In 2018 the end of Tumblr was near, caused by content moderation that interrupted the pornographic lifeline of the platform. But fast forward to 2022, and Tumblr is still alive. Once the poster child of quirky blogging, Tumblr is apparently attracting Gen Z users — the same audience many commentators put in the doomscrolling-on-TikTok box.

Here’s my guess: for many commentators, predicting the end of social platforms is — consciously or not — the ultimate expression of a secret desire to put them back in the attic because we fear we will never quite learn how to use them.

Though writing this op-ed as part of a series called Predictions for Journalism, future-telling is not my area of expertise. So, I don’t know if 2023 is the year when social media will be over or not. As a guiding principle, I tend to be skeptical about any such turning points in the media industry.

The core argument supporting this latest end-of-social-media wave is the different approach TikTok has to content distribution. Since TikTok shows us content that is not published only by people we follow, for many, this is enough to make TikTok something completely different from other social platforms — an entertainment-focused platform that pivots around suggesting content based on users’ behavior more than on their networks.

Are we sure about this chasm between TikTok and the rest of the social platforms? Are TikTok’s way of distributing content and its stronger focus on entertainment enough to make the term “social” in “social media” fade?

Historically, entertainment has been fundamental in building communities and connecting people. In addition, I would argue that TikTok is not just an entertainment platform, given that it also offers news, educational content, and more.

TikTok doesn’t only suggest content based on the user’s behavior. Everyone has access to a feed featuring only content posted by people they follow. Despite views being the primary metrics of the platform, TikTok’s average engagement rate is very high.

Plus, if conversations aren’t crucial for TikTok, it’s hard to explain why TikTok was the first platform to imagine a tool to create content starting from people’s public comments — one of the most popular features on the platform.

So, if TikTok is still a social platform, though a very peculiar one, why have columnists and journalists been so ready to predict impending doom on social platforms?

Social platforms are evolving and we keep predicting their end simply because we are looking too closely at their evolution, mistaking their changes for endpoints. Social media are online platforms that allow the exchange of content among users, thereby connecting them as a network. It’s a powerful, world-shattering idea, and however many forms it will take in the future, the end of social media as an idea seems very unlikely, at least in the near future.

Link to the rest at Nieman Lab

How Will BookTok Change Publishing in 2023?

From Rolling Stone:

RIGHT NOW, ONE of the biggest hubs in the book world isn’t a city, or a Manhattan high-rise, or even one particular publishing house — it’s TikTok.

BookTok, a TikTok community of readers, reviewers, and authors, has redefined publishing’s relationship with book content creators. Since its rise in popularity in 2020, the group has been directly responsible for millions of book sales, hundreds of trending conversations around new releases, and an organic word-of-mouth marketing structure that has publishing entities desperate to get a piece of the action. White romance authors in particular, like Ali Hazlewood, Sarah J. Mass, and Taylor Jenkins Reid, have become (or remained) industry giants because of BookTok support — in 2022, BookTok darling Colleen Hoover even outsold the Bible by at least 3 million units. But a new wave of growth from BookTok has seen less prioritized issues like compensation, diversity, and collaboration with publishers become major sticking points. Yet BookTok creators say that while the community continues to have a bigger footprint in the book world, a failure to diversify could mean its eventual downfall.

. . . .

Marines Alvarez, a creator who has been focused on the book world for almost 12 years, describes BookTok as a wholly unique venture for book creators — one that uses discoverability and community interactions to set itself apart from other iterations like Bookstagram and BookTube.

“It’s so interesting to be involved in a community that’s more or less nascent,” Marines says. “[BookTok] is growing up a bit in terms of the discourse and conversations that we’re having, about like consumership and responsibility to an audience. It’s really exciting to see a community find its feet in that regard.”

While BookTok as a community has been around for a couple of years, it’s only recently that the group has been recognized for its tangible impact on publishing. In November, FutureBook, a publishing trade conference, named BookTook as its Person of the Year, noting that creators’ passion for books has directly impacted millions in sales. Kevin Norman, a creator who focuses on LGBTQ+ works, says a staying power of BookTok is that it’s easy for creators to tailor their content to a specific niche or subset of books — which can often push already-published books back on top of best-seller lists.

Link to the rest at Rolling Stone

The Mind of a Writer

I can’t explain the mind of a writer to you, Jeremy. Especially the mind of a writer who has been through more devastation than most writers combined.

Colleen Hoover in Booktok

Why Book Blogs Still Matter in an Age of Booktok

From Book Riot:

I’ve been on the bookish internet for more than 15 years, and in that time, I’ve watched platforms rise and fall. I remember talking about books on Livejournal, for Sappho’s sake. I started a book blog called the Lesbrary in 2011, because I couldn’t find an LGBTQ book blog that wasn’t 90% M/M books. Of course, I started an accompanying Tumblr for it at about the same time, because I spent most of my time there. Years later, I’d join BookTube, and years after that, I even gave BookTok a try for a bit before slowly backing away.

Over that time, I saw the bookish internet grow and evolve, allowing for more niche spaces (like a sapphic book blog, for instance), for different formats, for new personalities. I loved the passionate debates happening on Tumblr around representation, separating the art from the artist, and more prickly fandom disagreements…and then I loved those conversations significantly less when they popped up again and again, on Twitter and Tumblr and YouTube and TikTok, with absolutely no progress made over time.

All through these moments of dipping in and out of different bookish spaces online, though, I kept the Lesbrary. It began to seem more and more outdated. Who follows book blogs anymore? Who reads their online content anymore, instead of watching videos? (Hello, reader!) More significantly, I began to doubt whether there was a need for a sapphic book blog like mine anymore. More sapphic books are being published now than ever before, and more people are reading and promoting them. BookTok has a lively sapphic books section. I feel like I, in some small part, contributed to this environment, which I take pride in: if I can make the Lesbrary completely obsolete, I’ll be happy.

I haven’t packed up my blog and shuttered the windows, though. Because as I watched the same conversations play out over and over again on different platforms, I really started to understand how ephemeral most of them are. BookTube and BookTok are great for browsing and following, but they’re not easy to search. You might be able to find general topics (like queer books), but looking for something specific is trickier. The platforms just aren’t designed for that. TikTok especially is not meant to be a repository of knowledge, an archive of opinion. It’s a firehouse of content, and you’re meant to be keeping up with what’s new, not exploring what came before.

The newest platform is also usually populated with young voices, especially teenagers and people in their early 20s. Most of them have not lived through the Livejournal days, and they’re not digging into the WayBackMachine to see what was happening in their corner of the internet before they got there — I certainly never did. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does have some pitfalls, like repeating the exact same mistakes as the platform that came before, with the same arguments and schisms emerging.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

Monitoring the international publishing scene

From The New Publishing Standard:

Monitoring the international publishing scene can be depressing at times. A lot of times.

Because even in the 2020s a common theme being touted by events organisers, culture ministers, publishing execs and other authoritative figures that really should know better is that young people are not reading because they are too busy with their mobile phones, wasting time on social media when they could be reading a dry, dull-as-possible, micro-font text book written for a 1950s audience.

What is up with the youth of today? Don’t they understand that reading is something you have to do – a daily chore – not something you choose to do because it is pleasurable?

It’s no coincidence that this nonsense is being perpetuated in the least dynamic book markets, while conversely the dynamic book markets openly embrace social media, digital reading and the accessibility of mobile devices to expand reading.

This past week a useful survey from the UK Publishers Association (it happens!) took in the opinions of over 2,000 16-25 year olds (the so-called Generation Z) and confirmed what most of us in the western book markets are already acutely aware of – that social media drives reading and drives book sales.

The focus here was on the social media platform BookTok. Here’s what the PA survey concluded:

  • 59% of 16-25 year olds say that BookTok or book influencers have helped them discover a passion for reading.
  • 55% turn to BookTok for recommendations
  • 66% say that BookTok has inspired them to read a book that they would have never considered otherwise.

And bricks & mortar booksellers need not worry this is only drving digital book sales. From the press release:

The good news is that Booktok can also have a positive impact on physical bookshops, with nearly half (49%) of respondents visiting a physical bookshop to buy a book they have seen on BookTok. 

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

PG notes the OP is based on a research project conducted by the UK Publishers Association and includes a link to the press release describing that research project.

How much YouTube pays for 1K views, according to creators

From Yahoo Tech:

For the first time since YouTube started reporting its advertising revenue in 2019, the video platform saw a slowdown last quarter, with ad revenue dropping to $7.07 billion from $7.2 billion in Q3 2021.

Creators, though, seem to have been spared big drops in their rates.

Insider spoke with a number of creators to see how their earnings from YouTube’s ad revenue share program have changed over time. Most reported that their revenue per mille (RPM) rate — or earnings per 1,000 views — have stayed steady year over year.

Some creators, like Joshua Mayo, even saw their RPMs grow.

“It’s grown to this massive business that is very lucrative, and I’m very thankful for all of it,” Mayo said, adding that his RPM rate went from around $6 in October 2021 to $29.30 in October 2022, growth that he attributes to creating creating more content around personal finance.

. . . .

Eight creators recently shared how much YouTube paid them per 1,000 views, and their answers ranged from $1.61 to $29.30.

YouTube creators can earn 55% of the revenue from Google-placed ads on their videos when they join the YouTube Partner Program, or YPP.

To qualify for the program, they must have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time on their long-form videos.

Link to the rest at Yahoo Tech

When It Comes to TikTok, Authors Must Manage Their Expectations

From Publisher’s Weekly:

TikTok has upended the conventional marketing wisdom of publishers—which holds that noncelebrities’ books have a brief time after launch to see hitmaking sales before fading into obscurity—by suddenly catapulting books that have been out for years into the spotlight and onto bestseller lists. Authors have taken notice: with TikTok boasting approximately one billion active monthly users, and with BookTok content having received 74.4 billion views and counting, that’s a lot of readership and sales potential.

Or so it would seem.

Sara Raasch is the bestselling author of the YA fantasy trilogy Snow Like Ashes, the YA fantasy duology Stream Raiders, and the duology Set Fire to the Gods, cowritten with Kristen Simmons. She joined TikTok in early 2020, right before the pandemic hit. Thanks to a handful of viral videos, Raasch’s TikTok account quickly amassed more than 80,000 followers.

“I often tried to play to TikTok trends, and just shift them to fit books and writing,” she says. “I always saw the best uptick in views when I hit trends at the right time. Trends are increasingly difficult to play to, as they come and go so fleetingly and quickly get saturated.”

With such a large platform, one would think Raasch would see a major increase in sales, but she says this is not the case for her YA novels. “Not only did I not see any boost in book sales,” she notes—“the time I was spending making TikTok content was quickly sucking up my writing time.”

Raasch says that she tried a different strategy on her pseudonym account for adult romance novels. “I have had a video go viral on my pseudonym TikTok account [which has more than 2.2 million views as of this writing], and I saw a direct bump in sales because of it.” She suggests that she spent a lot of time on her YA account branding herself, but on her pseudonym account she only posts about books and doesn’t show her face.

“The success I garnered there plays entirely into the analogy of social media as a casino,” Raasch asserts. “High engagement is the jackpot you may or may not get, but if you play the game long enough—i.e., post consistently, play to trends, etc.—you might win.” She adds that she feels the success she’s had on her pseudonym account “was entirely luck,” but she continues to post there because she’s seen the potential payout.

Dante Medema, author of YA novels Message Not Found and The Truth Project, joined TikTok in February 2021 and now has more than 83,000 followers. “I have received some pretty amazing career opportunities through TikTok,” she says, citing connections with other authors and readers and lining up interviews and speaking engagements. “Overall, I think it’s had a positive impact.”

However, she echoes Raasch’s sentiment that engagement and views will vary. “It’s easy to get discouraged,” she says. “I think it’s about understanding that not every video is going to get a bunch of likes and comments.”

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly

We’re Witnessing the End of Social Media

From The Atlantic:

It’s over. Facebook is in decline, Twitter in chaos. Mark Zuckerberg’s empire has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in value and laid off 11,000 people, with its ad business in peril and its metaverse fantasy in irons. Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has caused advertisers to pull spending and power users to shun the platform (or at least to tweet a lot about doing so). It’s never felt more plausible that the age of social media might end—and soon.

Now that we’ve washed up on this unexpected shore, we can look back at the shipwreck that left us here with fresh eyes. Perhaps we can find some relief: Social media was never a natural way to work, play, and socialize, though it did become second nature. The practice evolved via a weird mutation, one so subtle that it was difficult to spot happening in the moment.

The shift began 20 years ago or so, when networked computers became sufficiently ubiquitous that people began using them to build and manage relationships. Social networking had its problems—collecting friends instead of, well, being friendly with them, for example—but they were modest compared with what followed. Slowly and without fanfare, around the end of the aughts, social media took its place. The change was almost invisible, but it had enormous consequences. Instead of facilitating the modest use of existing connections—largely for offline life (to organize a birthday party, say)—social software turned those connections into a latent broadcast channel. All at once, billions of people saw themselves as celebrities, pundits, and tastemakers.

A global broadcast network where anyone can say anything to anyone else as often as possible, and where such people have come to think they deserve such a capacity, or even that withholding it amounts to censorship or suppression—that’s just a terrible idea from the outset. And it’s a terrible idea that is entirely and completely bound up with the concept of social media itself: systems erected and used exclusively to deliver an endless stream of content.

But now, perhaps, it can also end. The possible downfall of Facebook and Twitter (and others) is an opportunity—not to shift to some equivalent platform, but to embrace their ruination, something previously unthinkable.

A long time ago, many social networks walked the Earth. Six Degrees launched in 1997, named after a Pulitzer-nominated play based on a psychological experiment. It shut down soon after the dot-com crash of 2000—the world wasn’t ready yet. Friendster arose from its ashes in 2002, followed by MySpace and LinkedIn the next year, then Hi5 and Facebook in 2004, the latter for students at select colleges and universities. That year also saw the arrival of Orkut, made and operated by Google. Bebo launched in 2005; eventually both AOL and Amazon would own it. Google Buzz and Google+ were born and then killed. You’ve probably never heard of some of these, but before Facebook was everywhere, many of these services were immensely popular.

Content-sharing sites also acted as de facto social networks, allowing people to see material posted mostly by people they knew or knew of, rather than from across the entire world. Flickr, the photo-sharing site, was one; YouTube—once seen as Flickr for video—was another. Blogs (and bloglike services, such as Tumblr) raced alongside them, hosting “musings” seen by few and engaged by fewer. In 2008, the Dutch media theorist Geert Lovink published a book about blogs and social networks whose title summarized their average reach: Zero Comments.

Today, people refer to all of these services and more as “social media,” a name so familiar that it has ceased to bear meaning. But two decades ago, that term didn’t exist. Many of these sites framed themselves as a part of a “web 2.0” revolution in “user-generated content,” offering easy-to-use, easily adopted tools on websites and then mobile apps. They were built for creating and sharing “content,” a term that had previously meant “satisfied” when pronounced differently. But at the time, and for years, these offerings were framed as social networks or, more often, social-network services. So many SNSes proliferated, a joke acronym arose: YASN, or “yet another social network.” These things were everywhere, like dandelions in springtime.

As the original name suggested, social networking involved connecting, not publishing. By connecting your personal network of trusted contacts (or “strong ties,” as sociologists call them) to others’ such networks (via “weak ties”), you could surface a larger network of the trusted contacts of trusted contacts. LinkedIn promised to make job searching and business networking possible by traversing the connections of your connections. Friendster did so for personal relationships, Facebook for college mates, and so on. The whole idea of social networks was networking: building or deepening relationships, mostly with people you knew. How and why that deepening happened was largely left to the users to decide.

That changed when social networking became social media around 2009, between the introduction of the smartphone and the launch of Instagram. Instead of connection—forging latent ties to people and organizations we would mostly ignore—social media offered platforms through which people could publish content as widely as possible, well beyond their networks of immediate contacts. Social media turned you, me, and everyone into broadcasters (if aspirational ones). The results have been disastrous but also highly pleasurable, not to mention massively profitable—a catastrophic combination.

The terms social network and social media are used interchangeably now, but they shouldn’t be. A social network is an idle, inactive system—a Rolodex of contacts, a notebook of sales targets, a yearbook of possible soul mates. But social media is active—hyperactive, really—spewing material across those networks instead of leaving them alone until needed.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic (via MSN)

PG expects social media to continue to evolve and develop, but doesn’t expect it to disappear anytime soon.

DeviantArt upsets artists with its new AI art generator, DreamUp

From Ars Technica:

On Friday, the online art community DeviantArt announced DreamUp, an AI-powered text-to-image generator service powered by Stable Diffusion. Simultaneously, DeviantArt launched an initiative that ostensibly lets artists opt out of AI image training but also made everyone’s art opt in by default, which angered many members.

DreamUp creates novel AI-generated art based on text prompts. Due to its Stable Diffusion roots, DreamUp learned how to generate images by analyzing hundreds of millions of images scraped off sites like DeviantArt and collected into LAION datasets without artists’ permission, a potential irony that some DeviantArt members find problematic.

As we’ve reported frequently on Ars in the past, Stable Diffusion’s web-scraping nature ignited a huge debate earlier this year among artists that challenge the ethics of AI-generated artwork. Some art communities have taken hard stances against any AI-generated images, banning them completely.

Perhaps anticipating a backlash, DeviantArt is making overtures to pacify artists who might be upset about their work being used to train AI image generators. The site is providing a special “noai” flag that artists can check in their image settings to opt out of third-party image datasets. (Whether third-party image scrapers will honor this flag, however, remains to be seen.)

. . . .

Also, DeviantArt will let artists opt out of letting their images train DreamUp in the future, but each artist must fill out a form that requires human review first. This policy has led to significant pushback among DeviantArt members, some of whom have threatened to delete all of their work and deactivate their accounts.

DeviantArt’s DreamUp information page also takes a defensive tone, stating that DeviantArt did not consent to third-party AI image models (such as Stable Diffusion) that scraped their site to make their models work. And further down the page, the site attempts to debunk common misconceptions about how AI image synthesis works.

Link to the rest at Ars Technica

For those not familiar with DeviantArt, it’s an artists’ social network. It’s also a place for those who might might want to commission an artist to produce something like a cover design for a fantasy or science fiction novel.

PG’s understanding is that a great many artists who create images with computers/tablets+computers, etc., show some of their work in order to attract visitors to their websites. Of course, everything an artist puts up on Deviant Art is a digital image.

Based on the Ars Technica article, it sounds like DeviantArt really screwed up the launch of its AI Art tool.

Of course, standard legal advice is that a creator should read all contracts, terms and conditions, terms of use, terms of service, etc., prior to uploading any creation to a website or other online destination.

One of the things a creator may find in the T’s&C’s is a provision that says the site owner can change the T’s&C’s at any time without notifying the creator in advance.

Here are a few sample provisions from Facebook’s Privacy Policy which is referenced in Facebook’s Terms of Service for your edification and enjoyment:

On our Products, you can send messages, take photos and videos, buy or sell things and much more. We call all of the things you can do on our Products “activity.” We collect your activity across our Products and information you provide, such as:

  • Content you create, like posts, comments or audio
  • Content you provide through our camera feature or your camera roll settings, or through our voice-enabled features. Learn more about what we collect from these features, and how we use information from the camera for masks, filters, avatars and effects.
  • Messages you send and receive, including their content, subject to applicable law. We can’t see the content of end-to-end encrypted messages unless users report them to us for review. Learn more.
  • Metadata about content and messages, subject to applicable law
  • Types of content you view or interact with, and how you interact with it
  • Apps and features you use, and what actions you take in them. See examples.
  • Purchases or other transactions you make, including credit card information. Learn more.
  • Hashtags you use
  • The time, frequency and duration of your activities on our Products

Information with special protections

You might choose to provide information about your religious views, political views, who you are “interested in” (which could reveal your sexual orientation) or your health in your Facebook profile fields or life events. This and other information (such as racial or ethnic origin, philosophical beliefs or trade union membership) could have special protections under the laws of your country.

(PG Note: You have to click to a separate page to continue reading the Terms of Service)

(The Facebook Docs continue.)

Friends, followers and other connections

Information we collect about your friends, followers and other connections

We collect information about friends, followers, groups, accounts, Facebook Pages and other users and communities you’re connected to and interact with. This includes how you interact with them across our Products and which ones you interact with the most.

Information we collect about contacts

We also collect your contacts’ information, such as their name and email address or phone number, if you choose to upload or import it from a device, like by syncing an address book.

If you don’t use Meta Products, or use them without an account, your information might still be collected. Learn more about how Meta uses contact information uploaded by account holders.

App, browser and device information

We collect and receive information from and about the different devices you use and how you use them.

Device information we collect and receive includes:

  • The device and software you’re using, and other device characteristics. See examples.
  • What you’re doing on your device, like whether our app is in the foreground or if your mouse is moving (which can help tell humans from bots)
  • Identifiers that tell your device apart from other users’, including Family Device IDs. See examples.
  • Signals from your device. See examples.
  • Information you’ve shared with us through device settings, like GPS location, camera access, photos and related metadata
  • Information about the network you connect your device to, including your IP address. See more examples.
  • Information about our Products’ performance on your device. Learn more.
  • Information from cookies and similar technologies.

Learn how to upload and delete contacts on Facebook and Messenger, or how to connect your device’s contact list on Instagram.

Information we collect or infer about you based on others’ activity

We collect information about you based on others’ activity. See some examples.

We also infer things about you based on others’ activity. For example:

  • We may suggest a friend to you through Facebook’s People You May Know feature if you both appear on a contact list that someone uploads.
  • We take into account whether your friends belong to a group when we suggest you join it.

Information from Partners, vendors and third parties

What kinds of information do we collect or receive?

We collect and receive information from Partners, measurement vendors and third parties about a variety of your information and activities on and off our Products.

Here are some examples of information we receive about you:

  • Your device information
  • Websites you visit and cookie data, like through Social Plugins or the Meta Pixel
  • Apps you use
  • Games you play
  • Purchases and transactions you make
  • Your demographics, like your education level
  • The ads you see and how you interact with them
  • How you use our Partners’ products and services, online or in person

Partners also share information like your email address, cookies and advertising device ID with us. This helps us match your activities with your account, if you have one.

We receive this information whether or not you’re logged in or have an account on our Products. Learn more about how we connect information from Partners to your account.

Partners also share with us their communications with you if they instruct us to provide services to their business, like helping them manage their communications. To learn how a business processes or shares your information, read their privacy policy or contact them directly.

Off-Facebook activity

How do we collect or receive this information from partners?

Partners use our Business Tools, integrations and Meta Audience Network technologies to share information with us.

These Partners collect your information when you visit their site or app or use their services, or through other businesses or organizations they work with. We require Partners to have the right to collect, use and share your information before giving it to us.

Lawyer PG notes all the links to other places sprinkled through Facebook’s TOS. Each of the links includes yet more information that is part of the TOS. While PG didn’t click and read what was to be found in each of the links in the Mother TOS, PG will note that the links can include information and definitions that changes the meanings Mother TOS substantially.

PG doesn’t know whether Facebook’s Terms of Service as a whole are great, sorta-great, somewhere-in-the-middle, sorta terrible or terrible because he swore off of Facebook a long time ago. He has more than one Facebook account that contains information that has nothing to do with PG-in-the-flesh if he finds out about something Facebook is doing that may be of interest to PG or visitors to TPV.

PG hasn’t read Deviant Arts’ TOU, TOS, etc., but these are some of the concerns that artists who use Deviant Arts as a marketing platform are likely thinking about at the moment.

This reminds PG that he hasn’t taken a look at KDP’s Terms of Use for awhile. He thinks he has copies of such documents from some earlier exploration of them, so he may check out the latest and see what Zon’s lawyers have altered, likely as a result of some disaster, minor or major, that transpired under an earlier TOU.

This will take PG awhile to finish, so don’t hold your breath waiting for it.

Signal is the latest app to roll out a Stories feature

From Tech Crunch:

End-to-end encrypted messaging app Signal is rolling out a new Stories feature to all users on Android and iOS, the company announced on Monday. The official launch comes a few weeks after the company first began beta testing the feature with select users. Signal plans to release its Stories feature on desktop soon.

As with other platforms’ Stories features, Signal Stories allow users to create and share images, videos and texts that automatically disappear after 24 hours. Signal notes that like everything else in its app, Stories are end-to-end encrypted.

Signal users have the option to choose who can see their Stories by navigating to their settings. From there, you can choose to share your Stories with everyone in your phone’s contact list who uses Signal, anyone you’ve had a one-on-one conversation with in Signal or anyone whose message request you’ve accepted. You also have the option to manually hide your Story from specific people. If you would rather choose to share your Stories with a smaller subset of people, you can create a custom Story. In addition, you have the option to share Stories to existing group chats.

Link to the rest at Tech Crunch

Social Media Overload/Overlords

Here though, there are no oppressors. No one’s forcing you to do this. You willingly tie yourself to these leashes. And you willingly become utterly socially autistic. You no longer pick up on basic human communication clues. You’re at a table with three humans, all of whom are looking at you and trying to talk to you, and you’re staring at a screen! Searching for strangers in… Dubai!

Dave Eggers, The Circle

Hey Elon: Let Me Help You Speed Run The Content Moderation Learning Curve

From Above the Law:

It’s kind of a rite of passage for any new social media network. They show up, insist that they’re the “platform for free speech” without quite understanding what that actually means, and then they quickly discover a whole bunch of fairly fundamental ideas, institute a bunch of rapid (often sloppy) changes… and in the end, they basically all end up in the same general vicinity, with just a few small differences on the margin. Look, I went through it myself. In the early days I insisted that sites shouldn’t do any moderation at all, including my own. But I learned. As did Parler, Gettr, Truth Social and lots of others.

Anyway, Elon’s in a bit of a different position, because rather than starting something new, he’s taken over a large platform. I recognize that he, his buddies, and a whole lot of other people think that Twitter is especially bad at this, and that he’s got some special ideas for “bringing free speech back,” but the reality is that Twitter was, by far, the most successful platform at taking a “we support free speech” stance for content, and learned over time the many nuances and tradeoffs involved.

And because I do hope that Musk succeeds and Twitter remains viable, I wanted to see if we might help him (and anyone else) speed run the basics of the content moderation learning curve that most newbies run into. The order of the levels and the seriousness of each can change over time, and how it all fits together may be somewhat different, but, in the end, basically every major social media platform ends up in this same place eventually (the place Twitter was already at when Musk insisted he needed to tear things down and start again).

Level One: “We’re the free speech platform! Anything goes!”

Cool. Cool. The bird is free! Everyone rejoice.

“Excuse me, boss, we’re getting reports that there are child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSAM) images and videos on the site.”

. . . .

Level Two: “We’re the free speech platform! But no CSAM!”

Alright, comedy is now legal on the site. Everyone rejoice. Everyone love me.

“Um, boss. We have a huge stack of emails from Hollywood, saying something about DMCA takedowns?”

Oh right. Copyright infringement is bad. Get another intern and have them take that all down.

Level Three: “We’re the free speech platform! But no CSAM and no infringement!”

Power to the people. Freedom is great!

“Right, boss, apparently because you keep talking about freedom, a large group of people are taking it to mean they have ‘freedom’ to harass people with slurs and all sorts of abuse. People are leaving the site because of it, and advertisers are pulling ads.”

That seems bad. Quick, have someone write up some rules against hate speech.

Level Four: “We’re the free speech platform without CSAM, infringement or hate speech!”

Bringing freedom back is hard work, but this is all going great. Do the people love me yet?

“Hey, so, the FBI is here? Something about 18 USC 2258A and how we were supposed to report all of that CSAM to some operation called NCMEC?”

Ah, right. Grab an intern and make sure they pass along those images. We obey all the laws!

Link to the rest at Above the Law

Facebook and the conglomerate curse

From The Economist:

In 1997, in his first letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, wrote that it was still “Day 1” for his firm. Day 2, he later explained, would mean stasis, followed by irrelevance. His rousing call to avoid complacency seems apt today. Silicon Valley’s five big tech giants, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft, have long been the bedrock of America’s stockmarket and economy, miraculously combining reliable growth and profitability. But after a torrid third quarter their market capitalisations have now collectively dropped by 37% so far this year. About $3.7trn of value has evaporated.

The law of large numbers made it inevitable that the tech giants would mature. Sales growth in the last quarter slowed to 9%—barely above inflation. As they have grown bigger, they have become tied to the economic cycle; a fact which the digital surge during the pandemic only temporarily masked. Penetration rates for smartphones, digital advertising and streaming are plateauing. With slowing core businesses, the giants are venturing onto each other’s turf, increasing competition.

Meanwhile, they are threatened by “conglomeritis”. The symptoms of this disease are bloating and egomania. Consider the recent orgy of spending on hiring, experimental ventures, vanity projects and building data centres. In March the five firms’ combined annual expenses reached $1trn for the first time, and the value of the physical plant of these supposedly asset-light businesses has reached $600bn, over triple the level of five years ago. Swollen costs and balance-sheets mean returns on capital have fallen from over 60% five years ago to 26%. Three of the five do not deign to pay dividends.

It is hardly unprecedented for successful companies to lose their focus, or to fail to control costs. In the 1980s rjr Nabisco’s executives splurged on jets and golf before being ousted by private equity’s barbarians. General Electric sprawled and had to be partially bailed out during the financial crisis of 2008-09. The best safeguards against such indiscipline are active boards and investors. When successful managers start to believe that they always know best, it is the board’s job to rein them in.

But here, the tech firms’ governance rules add a twist. Often they entrust disproportionate power to bosses and founders, some of whom enjoy special voting rights that give them near-absolute control. Such bosses often cultivate an image as visionaries, whose daring bets horrify myopic outsiders but end up lucratively transforming the world.

At the worst end of the spectrum is Meta, the owner of Facebook, run increasingly erratically by Mark Zuckerberg. Its value has dropped by 74% this year. Its core business is wobbly, attracting too much toxicity, too few young people and too little advertising. It has become clear that Mr Zuckerberg is betting the firm on the metaverse, an attempt to diversify away from social media, on which he plans to lavish 20 times what Apple spent to build the first iPhone. Because dual share classes give him 54% of voting rights, Mr Zuckerberg has been able to ignore the pleas of outside investors.

Link to the rest at The Economist

PG notes that one-hit wonders are more quickly exposed in the music business than in the tech business.

Publishing Wants To Cash In On BookTok. Creators Say No

From Rolling Stone:

NO ONE SAW BookTok coming. The TikTok community dedicated to readers was an organic effort that seemed to explode overnight, creating trends and an entirely new way to promote books on digital platforms. Less than two years after its creation, BookTok has been credited for directly increasing print sales across the United States, leaving publishers desperate to utilize BookTok’s energy for new releases. But a wave of creators say a new feature between TikTok and conglomerate Penguin Random House doesn’t celebrate BookTok — it’s a first attempt to exploit it.

In September, publishing company Penguin Random House announced a collaboration with TikTok allowing users to link books directly in the app, with the goal of expanding the community’s reach. The new BookTok feature combines information on a book and all of the videos about it into one central location. Isaac Bess, a spokesperson for TikTok, tells Rolling Stone that the link aspect was created to “to take book discovery and content creation to the next level.” The problem? You can only link to books published by Penguin Random House, which many creators say will lead to more exclusion for smaller writers, and less pay for BookTok.

BookTok uses its titular hashtag to unite users obsessed with all things reading. But what started as TikTokers simply talking about their favorite (and sometimes most tearjerking) reads has involved into a robust community that includes skits, reviews, callouts, and lists enveloping all facets of the book industry. Unlike other influencers, BookTok creators rarely feature sponsored posts, as their popularity relies on honest reviewing. Many of the most popular creators operate as critics rather than promoters, leaving fewer monetization options.  

Carmen Alvarez has spent seven years as a creator in book communities across multiple platforms, but says BookTok is entirely unique. The Latinx BookToker attributes the community’s success to TikTok’s algorithm and the pandemic’s sudden influx of free time, which she describes as a one in a million lightning strike. A major aspect of the TikTok community is its little regard for the publishing schedule, which means older books can, and often, have viral moments — shooting authors to best-selling lists years after their book was originally published. Alvarez tells Rolling Stone that in the past year, the community has seen an aggressive push by publishers who want a piece of the action.

“TikTok has capitalized on the fact that so many people search for information in a video format,” Alvarez tells Rolling Stone. “By default, the publishing industry really has pivoted. They’re partnering with influencers, doing this new feature now. It really seems like publishing is focused so much on TikTok because [the app] is the major place where people go to search out new reads.”

With only five major publishing houses in the United States, Penguin Random House’s attempted purchase of rival house Simon and Schuster embroiled the publisher in an intense battle with the Biden Administration over whether the purchase violates U.S anti-trust laws. TikTok creator Haley Thomas says Random House’s involvement makes her, and others on TikTok, both unlikely to use the new feature and actively concerned about how publishing companies might try to use BookTok creators without paying them. (Penguin Random House did not reply to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.)

. . . .

“Initially, I thought this new [feature] could have some utility,” Thomas says “But then it felt scummy, like, not only is this giant trying to gobble up every other publisher, but now they want BookTok?”

During BookTok’s birth in 2020, the publishing industry underwent a massive reckoning over the lack of diverse employees, authors, and published works. BookTok was not exempt from the same critiques. Almost all of the app’s biggest writers — Taylor Jenkins Reid, Colleen Hoover, Sarah J. Mass, Madeline Miller, and Ali Hazelwood — are white women. While videos about their books often bring new readers into the fold, the constant promotion of white writers and white characters has sparked pushback from creators of color. Maya Bonner, a Black BookToker, says the new feature only exacerbates the existing problem in the community.

“There’s people that are very attached to the big books, which I understand,” Bonner tells Rolling Stone. “They’re fun to talk about and everybody gets the references you make. But when those big books are all by the same author, or they’re all by the same straight, white people, it gets exhausting to never see yourself in anything.”

. . . .

“There’s so much diverse literature that’s coming from so many publishers that aren’t Penguin Random House. But [the feature] is limited to the very few tiny percentage of people who get this traditionally published format,” Alvarez says. “There are a ton of authors that are self published or with smaller publishers that aren’t going to be featured on there. And you can see that in play in just the default screen you pull up to search for books.”

The new feature comes right as the BookTok community is enveloped in a larger discussion about how creators are compensated. While many BookTok influencers qualify for TikTok’s creator fund — an internal pay scheme based on followers and combined weekly views — some in the community are calling for payouts from the publishing companies themselves.

“All I want is to connect with people and talk about books they hold so close to their hearts. But people are getting discouraged and burning out,” Thomas says. “I struggle when it feels like these giants keep getting richer and richer on our backs. I would love to see some way to have better compensation for the people that are putting in so much love and effort and true labor into what they do.”

Despite the heavy promotion of the Penguin Random House collab, few big name creators have chosen to use it in their videos. In a post announcing the feature on the publisher’s TikTok page, almost all of the comments expressed ire at the exclusion of all non-Random House titles. 

Link to the rest at Rolling Stone

Of course PRH is going to screw something like this up.

That’s one of the consequences of picking all your executives from a homogenous cultural background. They don’t understand how people beyond their narrow world think/act, etc., etc.

White bread with a few tokens all the way down.