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.

Supreme Court to Weigh if YouTube, Twitter, Facebook Are Liable for Users’ Content

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether social-media platforms can be held liable for terrorist propaganda uploaded by users, opening a new challenge to the broad legal immunity provided to internet companies by the law known as Section 230.

The court on Monday took up a set of cases in which families of terrorism victims allege Twitter, Facebook and YouTube bear some responsibility for attacks by Islamic State, based on content posted on those sites.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has come under intense scrutiny from lawmakers in recent years, but this is the first time the Supreme Court has moved to weigh in on the foundational internet law.

The eventual ruling could have repercussions for businesses and internet users worldwide, said Anupam Chander, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

At issue are the “algorithmic processes for information dissemination that all internet platforms use,” Mr. Chander said.

The court agreed to take up Gonzalez v. Google, an appeal by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a young woman killed in an ISIS attack in Paris in 2015. Ms. Gonzalez’s family alleges YouTube, a subsidiary of Google owner Alphabet Inc., aided ISIS by recommending the terrorist group’s videos to users.

The court also agreed to hear a similar appeal, Twitter Inc. v. Taamneh, brought by family members of Nawras Alassaf, who was killed in an ISIS attack at an Istanbul nightclub in 2017. Mr. Alassaf’s relatives allege Twitter, Google and Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc. all provided material support to ISIS and are “the vehicle of choice in spreading propaganda.”

Lawyers for Google, Twitter and Facebook have said in court filings that they have made extensive efforts to remove ISIS content and that there is no direct causal link between the websites and the Paris and Istanbul attacks.

. . . .

Section 230 helped build the modern-day internet. The statute acts as a shield, saying that internet companies generally aren’t liable for harmful content user posts on their sites. Section 230 also allows companies to remove content they deem objectionable without liability, as long as they act in good faith.

In the Gonzalez case, the plaintiffs alleged Google knowingly allowed its algorithms to recommend and target ISIS recruitment videos to users, allowing the group to spread its message.

The case raises the question of whether Section 230 grants immunity for recommendations made by algorithms or if it only applies to editorial decisions—like removing content—made by representatives of internet companies.

“[W]hether Section 230 applies to these algorithm-generated recommendations is of enormous practical importance,” the family argued in their petition to the high court. “Interactive computer services constantly direct such recommendations, in one form or another, at virtually every adult and child in the United States who uses social media.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

There is a saying

There is a saying that if you get something for free, you should know that you’re the product. It was never more true than in the case of Facebook and Gmail and YouTube. You get free social-media services, and you get free funny cat videos. In exchange, you give up the most valuable asset you have, which is your personal data.

Yuval Noah Harari

The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Writers 2022

From Kindlepreneur:

Using social media to get our writing out into the world can be an amazing opportunity. It helps market our works and hopefully, gain a following that will continue to benefit from our writing.

But it can also be a curse. Because of so many social media platforms, most writers languish in obscurity and end up spending more time marketing their writing than just…writing.

. . . .

Organic vs Paid Social Media

Before we start discussing the different social media platforms for authors and writers, I want to discuss an important part of all platforms: Free versus Paid traffic. This is otherwise known as Organic vs Advertisement. Back when social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were first around, you could easily gain followers quickly. And when you posted, a majority of them would see it. But this was before the Age of Advertisement.

With its advent, social media morphed into a pay-to-play model. For instance, Facebook natural reach declined quickly and posts are rarely seen organically. HOWEVER…

This doesn’t mean that you can’t reach your followers organically. If reaching followers more effectively and efficiently is your concern, then advertising is the best way forward. This way you can spend more time writing and less time pampering your social media accounts for organic traffic. The truth is that gaining a following on social media organically takes a lot of time. Time that you’d rather spend writing.

On the flip side, putting money out there for ads can be scary. Especially when you’re not making a lot of money yet, or you’re not sure what you’re doing.

. . . .

List of Social Media for Writers

Social media is a wonderful tool for both professional and personal reasons. It helps you to keep in touch with friends, family, fans, and potential clients. There are many different platforms out there, each with their own unique features. These include, but are not limited to:


So, which one is best for you? It all depends on exactly what you are looking for and how much time and energy you are willing to dedicate to social media. Let’s take a look at some of the platforms available for authors and writers to utilize.

Facebook Page or Group for Writers

Facebook is one of the largest social media platforms. It not only has the largest user base, but is also one of the most widely used for all demographics. No matter what you write, your market definitely exists on Facebook.

With Facebook, authors have three ways to market their books and writings:

  1. Using your Personal Facebook Profile
  2. Creating an Author Page
  3. Joining or Creating an Author Group

Your personal Facebook profile is exactly what it says. Some have had success with this. Personally though, I prefer not to mix business with my personal life.

An author page is your official writer page where you can post about your works or anything that is happening in your genre or subject matter. This tends to be the preferred choice for most writers. With a Facebook Page, you have more control of the social media marketing aspect of your writing. You can also dictate whether your followers have the ability to post on your page or not.

A Facebook Group could be a good fit for you as well, especially for beginning or newer authors. Creating a group of like-minded fans of your genre can keep you relevant and always attracting new readers. It allows you to interact with your groups followers. However, it will require a lot more time because with good groups, you need to mediate and keep the group clean and on target.

. . . .

Twitter for Writers

As of right now, there are very few platforms anywhere that are more watched than Twitter. From celebrity gossip to presidential politics, Twitter has become a place where you can experience it all. It is a huge arena to exchange ideas and get your author brand out there. From a business standpoint, Twitter can be a powerful tool if utilized correctly.

Twitter provides a fast-paced platform for you to pitch your writing. By limiting the amount of characters that can be used, Twitter encourages the elevator pitch format. Get your point out there. Bring in followers. That simple.

It’s also a great place to build a following. You see, many Twitter users act on a follow-for-follow policy. So, all you need to do is find and follow those who may be interested in your work or those who you are interested in. Normally when you follow an individual, that person will follow you back. You help each other build fan bases. An I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine kinda thing. Building a following has never been easier.

Examples of Writers Using Twitter Effectively

  • JK Rowling: Rowling does it best when she’s roasting trolls both at Hogwarts and online.
  • Stephen King: Stephen’s tweets normally have been promotional and friendly in nature. He does like to make political statements here as well. Many of which have garnered him a much larger following.
  • Jodi Picoult: She spends her Twitter time taking down nasty Internet trolls and defending those who are discriminated against in society.
  • Rick Riordan: When not promoting his work, Rick uses Twitter for other means. By reading through Rick’s Twitter feed, you will find that he is a huge fan of self-deprecating humor and the latest in science and tech.

Link to the rest at Kindlepreneur

What Blogging Has Taught Me About Writing

From Writers in the Storm:

Four years ago, when I shared the results of a writing experiment with my Wednesday night writer’s support group, one of the members (Jenny Hansen, “High Priestess of WITS”) asked if I would write a blog post about my findings. I had no idea what I was in for when I said yes.

Over these last four years, I have gone from an occasional blogger on the WITS calendar to a regular contributor. Guest posting on Writers in the Storm has provided more than a platform to share my writing journey. It’s also taught me some valuable lessons.

Blogging is Different

The first lesson WITS taught me is that blogging is a different animal compared to other disciplines, especially when you’re writing to educate rather than entertain. I tend to write in a narrative style. That works out fine for personal essays and fiction, but not so much when you’re trying to educate.

Jenny would never blab about it, but my first effort was rough. It took several rounds of edits to forge my words into something more coherent and easily digested.

She taught me to organize my thoughts into a logical outline and make sure my points are clear by using examples to drive them home. A little exposition is fine for context, but don’t go overboard.

This leads me to my next lesson.

Keep it Focused

In the beginning, I had a tendency to pick a broad topic and include far too many details. The reality is you can’t cover everything in 800 to 1200 words. A better idea is to break broader subjects up into a series of posts.

People are drawn to WITS because the knowledge is served up in bite-sized pieces that are easily processed and incorporated into their writing life. Actionable advice is the very best kind.

I’ve also learned it’s okay to distill things down to the basics and leave some questions for the reader to research on their own.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

How to Promote a Book on Social Media: 13 Tips for Indie Authors

From Ingram Spark:

Social media writer’s block. It’s a thing! You have no problem hammering away at an 80,000-word novel, but when it comes to a 280 character tweet? Forget about it! You end up posting about what you had for dinner or what you did during the day, and nobody seems to be listening… or following. If that sounds like you, then these 13 social media marketing tips are just what you need.

Before digging in, let’s answer the elephant in the room:

Why do authors need to be on social media?

Think about it like this: You have this great idea for a new surfboard company; you’ve taken out a loan, and you pour your heart and soul into this company. And then you open your store… in Kansas City. Unless you’re a mail-order business, you probably aren’t going to sell a lot of surfboards. It’s not that your surfboards are bad. The more realistic reason you aren’t selling any is that you have your audience all wrong. Social media helps you target and find your audience.

If social media content doesn’t come naturally to you, you aren’t alone. As a writer, you spend the majority of your working time away from other people. When you finish your book, it can be difficult to switch into social mode.

The first thing you should think about is this: you probably didn’t just finish your book without setting author goals. You should apply this principle of having goals for your social media marketing as well. 

You wrote a great book! Now use the 13 tips below in your social media marketing strategy to start finding readers for it! Don’t let the number scare you—these are quick goals and require a daily time investment of no more than 10 to 20 minutes.

Let’s get started!

1. Ask Yourself: Who Are You Writing For?

Is your goal as a writer to sell 1,000,000 copies?

Great! Lots of writers have done that. But no writer who has sold 1,000,000 copies just steps out the door and says, “my audience is everyone.” They know who their book was written for, and they go after those people in their book marketing. 

Before you think too hard about what you’ll say, consider who you’ll say it to. You don’t start any social network with followers, after all. So, where do you find your target audience? 

Start by following people you actually want to follow. Don’t follow 5,000 people just so they’ll maybe follow you back.

Follow people you genuinely want to interact with—and people who would actually interact with you. 

Once you’re following them, show you have an interest in what they’re saying by responding to their tweets and engaging in conversations. Never forget, social media marketing is a two-way street. When you understand who you’re writing for, your social media presence will start to grow organically.

There are several free and paid tools to help you. The most obvious places to start are social networks—namely Facebook and Twitter.

2. Find a Consistent Voice

You’re a writer, so you probably know all about your writing voice. That voice should carry over to social media as well. Don’t post uninspired tweets—show that you really enjoy doing this, and you aren’t doing it because someone is twisting your arm.

Knowing who your audience is and what they’re saying about you does another important thing for your book marketing: it helps you find the right message to communicate.

Maybe you’ve sold a few hundred books already, but you have zero interaction when it comes to your social accounts. You speak to your readers, but no one seems to care. When you know who your audience is, you can begin making a message that’s directed to them, and that they actually respond to. You should always be yourself—but be yourself in a way your readers can connect to. 

If you notice that all your readers who follow you are 20-somethings, then maybe it’s time to stop live-tweeting every time Murder She Wrote comes on TV; if they’re mostly on the East Coast, then they probably won’t understand all of your In-N-Out Burger references; if you get negative sentiments from a tweet you posted about not wanting to have a baby, then you can probably assume that many of your readers are parents and you should lay off the topic.

3. Create a Social Calendar

Your social media shouldn’t be random—”I’ll post when I feel like it or when something pops in my head.” It should be strategic. There will be times where you’ll add something in the moment, and there’s nothing wrong with that. At the very least, you should be scheduling one social media post a day on Twitter, and two posts a week on Instagram and Facebook. 

When you’re creating a schedule, it helps to be thematic. Mondays are for tweeting quotes, Tuesdays are for posting reviews, etc. Knowing the type of post you will publish on any given day will help you avoid having social media writer’s block.

Link to the rest at Ingram Spark

10 Tips for Authors on Using Social Media from a Literary Agent

From BookBub:

As a literary agent, I’m lucky enough to go to a lot of writing workshops, where I usually dish advice about one of two things: query letters or social media. When it comes to social media and publishing, digital platforms have a special place in my heart.

After all, Twitter played a big role in how I got discovered for my first publishing job, when the lovely team at Quirk Books reached out after noticing the brand I’d cultivated for myself. I also found author Samira Ahmed via a Twitter pitch event, and after signing her as a client and selling her debut, Love, Hate & Other Filters, it went on to become a New York Times bestseller.

So yeah, I’m a bit biased. But I’ve seen the good social media can do for a career firsthand.

So, let’s spend a little time together talking about how you can use social media as an author. Because the work starts long before the book sale — and it’s not all about selling books, despite what you may have heard.

1. Community over sales

This is the social media hill I will die on. Using Twitter is great for getting the word out about your book. But if all you’re doing is tweeting or posting your Amazon link again and again… nothing is going to happen. That’s not how you get sales and that’s not how you should be using social media to engage with the book world.

Instead, use social media as a means to:

Get involved in the writing community.

Get to know other writers. Talk to industry people. Meet booksellers and librarians. Even if you don’t have a book out yet or a deal in place, laying the groundwork here is so important — not just for future sales and support, but for the emotional benefit of finding your people in this quirky publishing landscape.

Use as a tool of endearment to connect with readers.

Okay, I realize saying something like “tool of endearment” makes me sound like some kind of heartless start-up bro, but here’s what I mean.

As an avid reader myself, when I look at my bookshelves at home, there are certain books I refuse to give away or let people borrow. These books are by authors I’ve become close with on social media. They’re the authors I’m most vocal about, whose books I push when I write the occasional freelance post or appear on a podcast.

Through interactions on social media, these authors have become endeared to me. And that level of personal connection is something no publisher or advertisement can buy you. It’s an emotional connection.

So use social media to communicate with your readers — your community. Respond to their tweets and their emails. Ask for their opinions, and run the occasional Ask Me Anything (AMA). That close tie will make them your fiercest advocates.

2. Share, don’t make it all about you

But how do you start to engage with the community? How do you get book people interested in what you’re saying and what you’re all about? By sharing.

Look, no one wants to hang out with that person at a party who is only talking about themselves. You know that person. They make every office party about them. We’ve heard the story of your vacation like a dozen times, Chet. Let someone else talk.

Share blog posts. Advice. Dish about what you’re reading. Make recommendations. Tweet articles that are interesting. Boost up other people.

If it’s all you, all the time, it is going to be hard to build a following.

Link to the rest at BookBub

Substack is Anti-Social Media, and the Next Social Media

From Hello Stranger:

At it’s core, Substack is a newsletter provider with a user-friendly interface. It’s a place for writers and creators to build and email list, write a newsletter, and cultivate a relationship with readers. The added bonus? Top fans can opt for subscribers only content, and writers get paid.

Substack claims to be a place for independent writing, separate from the toxic world of social media. Here in the Substack utopia, your content has value beyond clickbait. Substack’s claims of empowering independent writers and journalist have lead to headlines like “What is Substack Really Doing to the Media” and “Why We’re Freaking out About Substack“.

(The jist of all these articles more or less, is that Substack is not actually upending mainstream journalism, and is in fact, another iteration of social media. All of this according of course, to the major publications and media threatened by Substack itself. Hm.)

. . . .

Is Substack actually good for small creators and writers?

Substack claims to be changing the way we write, and upending social media. But is Substack actually helping small creators and writers? What does an independent writer or creator without a large platform stand to gain by using Substack?

In short, yes. Substack can be a great tool for a small creator or independent writer. But like any platform, social media or not, Substack comes with its own set of limitations.

What is Substack?

Launched in 2017, Substack today has over half a million paying subscribers. This statistic does not include the hundreds of thousands more of subscriptions to free publications.

Substack cuts into the subscription-based news industry, generally dominated by publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post by giving journalists who have already garnered a following on social media the means to go independent by starting their own subscription-based newsletter through Substack. While there is some heated debate as to whether or not Substack offers any real chance at income for the average independent writer, several notable journalists have switched to independent writing through Substack.

For most people, Substack subscriptions will not become income replacement. Still, Substack functions as a tip jar similar to Patreon and a way to create content outside of the influence of a social media algorithm.

Essentially, Substack is a platform for anyone to have their own small publication. You can either offer your content completely free (and at no cost to you as a creator), or you can paywall your content through a subscription. Personally, I use a combination of majority free content, with 1-2 subscribers-only articles a month.

Substack and subscription-based content: why it matters

Fundamentally, Substack is both anti-social media, and an iteration of social media itself.

Social media apps like Facebook and Instagram are designed to keep users on the app as long as possible in order to sell ad space. Instagram and Facebook quite literally use your content to keep people addicted to the app, then sell ads, profiting without compensating creators. This ad-based model of content prioritizes clickbait over quality. Basically, social media today is designed to keep you scrolling, not provide value.

Substack is different in that as a provider, they don’t depend on ads to make money. Your content is not ranked by how long people spend on an app, and it doesn’t feed into the attention economy. Collectively, we’re tired of being used by social media.

Substack’s subscription model prioritizes the quality of content. If you don’t write something good and interesting, there’s no incentive to subscribe to your publication or newsletter. If your content is especially good, readers will forward it to a friend, or share it on Facebook. If they stop enjoying your content, they’ll unsubscribe.

Substack seems to put writers and creators first in a way that Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook just don’t.

What are people subscribing to Substack for?

There are sort of two ways and reasons people subscribe to a Substack style subscription based newsletter; they either find clear value in the content, or they are interested in supporting a person.

Celebrities and influencers can likely make money through simply providing additional access to them as a personality through a paid online dairy, while smaller writers and journalists will be able to write, and have to write, quality content to build a subscriber base. The savviest Substackers, and those who already have become and online personality with a social media following, will likely use a combination of both access and value to gain and retain subscribers.

Link to the rest at Hello Stranger

PG is not certain how he feels about Substack.

On the one hand, he’s happy to see people making money from their creative talents.

On the other hand, he tends to fall into the information-wants-to-be-free camp and has done so for a long time.

When PG’s online wanderings bring him to a Substack account behind a paywall, he tends to head off into other places. He hasn’t ever paid for a subscription to a Substack feed/stream/newsletter, etc.

While acknowledging his virtually non-existent use of/exposure to Substack, PG suspects that were looking at a classic 1% v. 99% situation with 1% of Substack authors earning meaningful sums of money from their writing, while some of the 99% get a dribble here and a drabble there and the rest are ignored by anyone other than close friends and relatives.

However, as always, PG could be totally wrong.

He would love to hear from lovers of Substack as as readers plus those who are using Substack to earn some money and feel its a worthwhile endeavor.

Feel free to submit links to your own Substack if it’s working for you, articles that explain why/how Substack is a good idea. You can use comments to do so, although PG does have a WordPress plugin that short-circuits Russians and others from stuffing comments with links to websites of dubious repute.

If you have a bunch of links to places that will shine light on PG’s Substack ignorance, feel free to send them to PG via the Contact PG button up at the top of the blog.

How to Painlessly Generate Dozens of Blog Ideas

From Writers in the Storm:

Writers ask me what to blog about all the time.

Recently, I was brainstorming story background (world-building) ideas with a writer. We were having a lot of fun just playing with the story. She stopped and stared at her screen full of ideas. “These are all great blogging ideas!” Her gasp of surprise was delightful.


“But … why didn’t I see this before?”

The answer is in that pesky word — blog — and in our subconscious understanding of what that means.

We imagine the movie Julie and Julia playing in our heads. Or maybe we think about a writer rambling on in a self-indulgent manner, and we self-sabotage our creative process.

Here’s the trick: each author’s blog should be as unique as the writer and their story.

Let’s re-define blog for writers

Merriam-Webster says:

Definition of blog

computersa website that contains online personal reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks, videos, and photographs provided by the writer

alsothe contents of such a site

2:a regular feature appearing as part of an online publication that typically relates to a particular topic and consists of articles and personal commentary by one or more authors

//a technology blog

— Dictionary, s.v. “blog,” accessed August 2, 2022,

Blog is short for weblog.

Let’s focus on the second definition:

a regular feature appearing as part of an online publication that typically relates to a particular topic and consists of articles and personal commentary by one or more authors

Sounds a little like a magazine or newspaper column, right?

Think “Dear Abby” or any other feature article that you’ve loved to read over your lifetime. Yes, cartoons absolutely count. Why? Because cartoons tell a story. Like a serial radio drama, cartoons unveil a story slowly over time. Blogs can do the same thing.

. . . .

The #1 qualification for being a stellar blogger is that you need to have skill as a writer.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

TikTok Has Changed Everything, Especially Book Publishing

From Observer:

TikTok, it has become almost hard to remember, began a few short years ago (2016) as an app for sharing videos of yourself lip-syncing music and dancing. The extremity of its success (it reached one billion users in September and has been the world’s most downloaded mobile app since early 2020, with nearly half of its American users occupying the coveted under-twenty-five demographic) owes something to the universal seduction of music, and quite a bit to a concert of small technical features that make it very easy and effective to use, but most of all to its famously irresistible recommendation algorithm, which measures minutely what you respond to and trawls through its vast bank of freely surrendered videos to serve up for you what you may not even be aware you like. Digital advertising has long sought you out for characteristics you inadvertently disclosed in your online life; TikTok does the work ahead of time by hiving you into ever-more-specific niches. In contrast to previous social media platforms, which were, by definition, social, encircling you with the decisions of people you had chosen to surround yourself with, TikTok opens the tiny window in your hand to the entire inexhaustible world.

TikTok bills itself as an entertainment platform, setting out to “make your day,” and when we start to fault it for not doing other things I am reminded of how, for instance, the novel was for centuries disparaged as a low (women’s) form. All the ways we communicate operate on a continuum between pleasing and substantive, and sometimes real culture comes to us in the form of fun. Currently many artistic forms previously considered pop or commercial—comic books, genres like science fiction and romance, gaming—are getting their day in the sun as ways of communicating their own unique truths, often truths of people left out of the more prestigious mediums. TikTok’s accessible reward of virality does make it a very democratic form, unlike other platforms that multiply the benefits of already being famous: Tech writer Nathan Baschez memorably called it “by and for randos.” It invites people to craft a publicly irresistible face with the promise of a waiting public, and people rocket to visibility out of nowhere.

That TikTok is addictive and fun and confined to what it is doesn’t necessarily make it “bad,” but its ubiquity demands attention, and because tech always chases the next new thing, its signature characteristics are spreading beyond its little frame. Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta, which has achieved dominance in part by copying and coopting rivals, has characteristically in the last few weeks modified its main two platforms, Facebook and Instagram, to mimic TikTok’s strengths. In Facebook’s case, there will now be internal competition for the posts of your “friends and family” (which within memory Meta devalued news in order to prioritize—in a different kind of bid to keep your attention) via posts from strangers that promise virality. Instagram is now nudging you in the direction of seeing and lingering on more viral content from strangers, a measure it cycled back somewhat this week after complaints from Instagram tycoon Kylie Jenner (who makes a lot of money from her Instagram “friends”) and others. Cal Newport in The New Yorker interestingly pointed out what the social media giants have to lose if they surrender their carefully assembled social connections assets for these agglomerations of strangers.

Link to the rest at Observer

In the United Kingdom, TikTok Announces Its Own Book Club

From Publishing Perspectives:

There may be something in the British water supply driving people to start Book Clubs. Less than a week after London’s Booker Prize Foundation announced its new “Booker Prize Book Club Challenge”—devised to draw social-media attention to its shortlist—TikTok has announced a TikTok Book Club, capitalizing on the success of its #BookTok channel.

According to the company’s announcement, posted on Monday (July 18) to its United Kingdom news page, BookTok has had nearly 65 million views. “As one of our most active communities on TikTok,” the announcement reads, “BookTok has become the place to find #readingrecs and #readinginspo, share reviews and tap into fan culture, super-charging book discovery, and having a real-world impact on book sales globally.”

The club is to “serve as a virtual space for the TikTok community to discuss new titles together,” an interesting move by the platform to formalize its burgeoning book-fan channel and a potential new outlet to which publishers can present their upcoming releases for consideration.

The format is to involve a new title, announced monthly, “and we’re inviting fellow-booklovers to read along and come together in-app to share their experiences. There will also be a #Book Club hub in app, so users can easily find out about the month’s title, and start creating and sharing their own reviews, book aesthetics, or newest literary crush.”

. . . .

Book industry pros will note that in the BookTok world, “discussing new titles together” can mean chatting about a 205-year-old book. However, Netflix’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion directed by Carrie Cracknell is very new, indeed, just released on Friday (July 15). And that’s the prompt for the choice of Persuasion. It would be intriguing to have the new TikTok Book Club survey its participants at the end of the month to find out how many actually read the Austen and how many only watched the film, which has a screenplay by Ron Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow, and has been produced by Andrew Lazar and Christina Weiss.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Has TikTok burst the Zuckerbubble?

From The Economist

“Instagram is well and truly in its flop era,” comments one TikToker—Gen-Z-speak for the platform, owned by Meta, falling out of favour with today’s youth. Reflecting on the disappointing earnings of his firm earlier this year, Meta’s boss, Mark Zuckerberg, acknowledged that TikTok was a big competitor. In the first quarter of 2022 the total number of downloads of the video-sharing app from the App Store and Google Play reached 3.5bn, according to Sensor Tower, a research firm (see chart). TikTok is only the fifth app to pass that milestone, and the only one not owned by Meta. Since 2018 it has been downloaded more times than any other app.

Link to the rest at The Economist

The 14 Literary Newsletters You Need in Your Inbox

From Electric Lit:

I get more email in a day than I can keep up with, let alone respond to. 

Most of us do. Collectively, we sent an estimated 319 billion emails each day in 2021. I’d love to know the breakdown of these messages. How many chains of rambling updates between old friends? How many are notes to confirm a long-awaited trip to visit family? My bet is these are in the minority, dwarfed by the vast number of promotions and automations. And I’m basing this on my own inbox. 

That’s one of the reasons why I love subscribing to newsletters. It isn’t the same as a note from a friend, but it also doesn’t require more time than reading—no input, no decisions, and no feeling guilty for inevitably getting behind on responding. Just a prompt to take a few minutes and read about whatever the topic.

Here are 14 of my favorite literary newsletters, the ones that I love seeing in my inbox as an excuse to sit for a minute and think about books, writing, and reading.

Fiction Matters

I first found Sara Hildreth’s Fiction Matters newsletter through the former English teacher’s Instagram account, which has a similar literary focus, and it’s become one of my favorites. Each Sunday, Hildreth shares smart, quick reviews of books she’s read, comments on literary news, as well as a round-up of what she’s loving, making, listening, or watching. The content is great, but the tone is wonderful—kind, warm, and relaxed, the perfect way to jump back into your inbox at the end of the weekend.

Also, the title here isn’t misleading. The newsletter features mostly fiction, with occasional nonfiction reads and recommendations. Most titles are literary fiction, but Hildreth does read across genres, as well.

Cost: The Fiction Matters newsletter is free, but there is a Fiction Matters patreon community if you’re looking for more.

. . . .

sweater weather

Electric Lit’s editor-at-large Brandon Taylor’s newsletter contains literary criticism that feels like a thought process, like his explaining an idea or unpacking a reaction and teasing it out to see how it works. 

Besides being a pleasure to sit with, these newsletters motivate me to read more carefully, to consider the media I consume in conversation, to stop breaking my brain scrolling—though if you, like me, aren’t always successful at this, Taylor is an amazing Twitter follow. 

In short: Must subscribe.

Cost: Free.

Electric Literature Newsletters

Electric Literature has three weekly newsletters, each arriving on a different day of the week. The Commuter, which goes out on Monday mornings, is a literary magazine with poetry, flash fiction, and graphic narratives. Each email includes one piece, as well as links to essays related to the broader topic, whether that’s aquatic drama or artistic influence. (Also, I can confirm, this email is a perfectly timed transition into the workweek even when you’re not commuting.)

Recommended Reading, which arrives on Wednesdays, features short fiction recommended by another author. It’s simple, but the personalized introduction to a story—explaining why it resonates, why the writer admires it—is lovely. I don’t know about you, but I tend to pay more attention, to engage more when someone recommends a piece to me.

Finally, the Friday round-up hits inboxes at the end of each workweek. This newsletter contains the best of Electric Literature’s essays, reading lists, and interviews, so you don’t have to worry about missing anything.

. . . .

Buzzfeed Books

The Buzzfeed Booksnewsletter sends out two emails each week. The Tuesday emails round up the best new books out each week. The list is usually broken up by genre—including nonfiction, romance, sci-fi, and more—with descriptions from members of the Buzzfeed team or Buzzfeed Books contributors. 

On Sundays, the Buzzfeed Books newsletter highlights reading lists from the week, like must-reads by AAPI author and audio fiction podcasts for every kind of reader.

Cost: Free.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit