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:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Tiktok
Goodreads

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.

“Yep.”

“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

— Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, s.v. “blog,” accessed August 2, 2022, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blog.

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

Tor lands ‘masterwork’ by TikTok sensation

From The Bookseller:

Tor has landed a “masterwork” by The Atlas Six author and TikTok sensation Olivie Blake.

Publishing director Bella Pagan bought UK and Commonwealth rights with audio for Alone With You in the Ether from Chris Scheina at Macmillan US’s Tor division. It will be released in e-book by Tor UK and Tor US on 1st June and Tor UK will then publish in hardback and audio on 8th December.

The publisher said: “Alone With You in the Ether is a glimpse into the nature of love, what it means to be unwell, and how to face the fractures of yourself and still love as if you’re not broken. As Charlotte Regan works at a museum, and Aldo Damiani is a time travel-obsessed maths professor, it will appeal to just the same ‘dark academia’ audience who adored Olivie’s The Atlas Six.

Alone With You in the Ether has already been a self-published TikTok hit, with more than 13.5 million mentions of the hashtag #AloneWithYouintheEther. Atlas Six sequel The Atlas Paradox will be published this October and the last book in the trilogy will follow in 2023.

Blake is a pseudonym for LA-based writer Alexene Farol Follmuth. She said: “I wrote Alone With You in the Ether so that I, and others like me, could make sense of life from inside the constraints of a mood disorder, explore the vulnerability of art and time and wonder, and ultimately face our own fractures to find something worthy of love. I am honoured that this story has resonated with so many readers, and I’m unbelievably grateful that this book will now find a home with my incredible team at Pan Macmillan.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

This item raised the question in PG’s mind about whether he should try to be a TikTok sensation himself.

The OP does mention that the book was self-published.

A question arose in PG’s mind when he checked out the top-rated review of the book. For him, the photo used by the top-rated reviewer looked quite a lot like the photos of the author of the book, but PG could be wrong.

Dancing in the Name of the Lord

From The Cut:

For 40 excruciating minutes, Melanie Wilking, a trained dancer-slash-influencer with more than 3 million TikTok followers, sat in front of a camera, flanked by her weeping parents. It was a dramatic departure from her usual smiling choreographed videos, which for years she’d performed with her older sister, Miranda. Now Melanie claimed that Miranda had been pulled into what she described as a “cult.” “Miranda is a part of a religious group and she’s not allowed to speak to us,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. Her sister and the other group members are “not in control of their lives,” she continued. “Someone else is controlling their lives, and they’re all victims of this.”

Both Miranda and Melanie had moved to Los Angeles to dance a few years ago, and soon their TikTok videos had made them internet famous. But their paths began to diverge last year when Miranda was signed to 7M Films, a talent-management agency founded by a doctor-turned-preacher with a roster of a dozen young dancers whose stylish, high-production choreographed dance videos you might have seen on TikTok or Instagram.

Melanie’s video on Instagram Live came on Miranda’s 25th birthday in February, the second that had passed since the family said they had been cut off from her, and they were desperate to reconnect. The hope for any professional dancer signing with a talent agency is to book the right sorts of jobs and receive the right sort of coaching that could lead to fame. For Miranda, it seemed to work: She now has 1.3 million Instagram followers and she’s posted hundreds of slick videos produced by 7M creators, danced with Mario Lopez on Access Hollywood, and walked the red carpet at the American Music Awards.

Before all that, Miranda and Melanie had been a package deal. The Wilking Sisters, as they billed themselves, had been dancing together since they were little kids, even starting a dance camp in their own backyard in their Macomb, Michigan, suburb, when they were still in elementary school.

Both attended a performing-arts high school. After graduation, Miranda moved to L.A., landing background-dancer gigs and teaching at the International Dance Academy in Hollywood. Melanie followed a year later, finishing up her senior year remotely. For years, they filmed videos together for Musical.ly and later TikTok; performed together in dance competitions; taught courses in hip-hop, funk, and jazz together at studios across L.A.; and danced at in-person events for the very online like VidCon and TikTok Gala. Though the sisters are two years apart in age — Melanie is 23 and Miranda is 25 — with their long brown hair, matching aquiline noses and toothy smiles, and coordinated outfits, they looked in those days like twins.

By late 2019, Miranda had become involved with a few creators who would go on to be part of 7M, but it wasn’t until January 18, 2021, that she withdrew from her family, Melanie said to the followers watching her Instagram Live. She and Miranda had been scheduled to fly home to Michigan for their grandfather’s funeral, but 30 minutes before their flight, Miranda called their parents and canceled. At first, Melanie said, Miranda claimed she had COVID — Melanie was suspicious since they’d both come down with it just the month prior. “She even admitted that it wasn’t because of COVID, she was just making that up,” Melanie told the Live viewers. Kelly Wilking, the sisters’ mom, added, “And that she was sorry, and that we won’t understand.”

Just before the funeral, Wilking’s parents, Kelly and Dean, flew to California and spoke face-to-face with Miranda. According to the Wilkings, Miranda was withdrawn and defensive, a different daughter than the one they knew. She eventually “stormed out” of the meeting. It would be the last time they saw or talked to Miranda for over a year, they said.

Link to the rest at The Cut

Romania’s streaming start-up Voxa targets EUR 1 million and international expansion in 2022

From The New Publishing Standard:

Running a catalogue of audio and ebook titles in Romanian and English, the Romania-based streaming platform Voxa has a market capitalisation of EUR 6 million ($6.5 million), up from just EUR 3.9 million ($4.3 million) in November.

The 54% leap in capitalisation reflects the way Voxa CEO Catalin Mester has aggressively marketed the company within the Romanian market.

Attracting the desired EUR 1 million ($1.08 million) comes on the promise of further expansion within Romania and beyond. Voxa intends to launch in neighbouring Moldova in this current quarter (Q2) and in 2023 expand to further countries.

The decision to expand into neighbouring Moldova is unsurprising given the shared history and language, but where the third country might be remains to be seen, although Germany, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia and Hungary are known to be on the list.

Bulgaria is already home to Storytel, which dominates the market, but Hungary, Czech Republic and Estonia could offer Mester a chance to show off the Voxa potential to its fullest.

Another contender must be Serbia, where again a Romanian-speaking element would welcome the existing catalogue and Mester could likely bring on board Serbian publishers for the Voxa platform. Likewise Ukraine, but given the current situation there we can rule that out for the foreseeable future.

Voxa’s successful launch in Romania just six months ago has some impressive numbers to back the narrative, in mind Romania is a country of just 20 million people (helped by the fact that 15 million of those online).

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard and here’s a link to Voxa

No, there’s not a tight fit between Romanian streaming media and what TPV usually discusses, but, hey, its Romania and not Russia.

Which Social Media Platform Is the Best?

From Jane Friedman:

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest … Where do you start? How do you find the time? What do you post? Do you have to be on all of them?

Before you scroll through or dismiss this entirely, I’m going to ask you to take a moment to breathe.

Most of the advice that we see online is geared toward people who are trying to build a business and already use social media regularly. But what if you don’t spend time on social media? Maybe you have an account but it’s dormant, and all you want to do is sell some books and meet some other writers. Let’s start the very beginning.

We writers come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are working on building a portfolio and pitching articles. Others are building a following that could become a readership for a book we will be publishing. And still others want to approach influencer status and may be willing to spend more time on social media than the average writer.

Before diving in, consider your goals

Do you want to sell more books?
Hint: Take your pick, any social media platform will do.

Do you want to grow your email list?
Hint: Take your pick, any social media platform will do.

Are you promoting your blog or articles you’ve written?
Hint: Facebook and Pinterest might be your best bet.

Do you write poetry (micro work) that you want to publish directly to a platform?
Hint: Twitter and Instagram might be your best bet.

Are you trying to connect with people and share more personal information?
Hint: Instagram and Facebook might be your best bet.

Let’s break down the platforms.

Instagram

Best if you want a little bit of everything; writing, photography and/or video

Full disclosure, this one is my favourite because in addition to writing, I also love photography. I like taking pictures and matching them to my text. Even though I know that a lot of people won’t take the time to read what I write, there are enough that do. To date I’ve made a substantial number of contacts this way. As Instagram competes with other sites, more features are being added. You can create short videos (aka Reels) and longer live videos. As a bonus, since it is under the same umbrella as Facebook, you can choose to automatically crosspost on Facebook. This is where a lot of people start to have heart palpitations since it sounds complicated, but it really is as easy as sliding a toggle.

Twitter

Best if you want to focus on one liners and short text

If you have time, prefer to stick to text, and if you can think fast (the average lifespan of a tweet is 18 minutes), then Twitter might be the platform for you. This is where agents and editors like to hang out, so there’s a good chance that you’ll hear about the latest trends or what they are specifically looking for. I have also found that quite a few magazine editors post their wishlists on there, and some will even answer your questions. If you are trying to get a reporter’s attention, this is a great platform for that. This comes in handy if you are trying to be featured in an article.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

It’s My Blogiversary! How to Survive 13 Years of Blogging

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

I started this blog on March 13th, 2009. It was Friday the 13th. Obviously I have a need to tempt fate.

I knew pretty much nothing about blogging. I simply wanted a place to put the unpublished columns I had written for Inkwell Newswatch, a Canadian writers’ zine that stopped publication in January 2009.

It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t know how.

I settled on putting up weekly posts on Sunday at 10 AM. I can’t remember why. Maybe I pictured my fellow writers relaxing with a cup of coffee on Sunday mornings and surfing the writing blogs the way I did.

Later I read that “the rules” of blogging say that Sunday is the worst day to post to a blog.

But this blog has never followed the rules. And that’s probably the most important thing I’ve learned over the years: blogging has no rules; make your own.

The blog got a big “oomph” when Ruth Harris joined me in 2011. Her vast expertise in the publishing world — both as a Big 5 editor and a bestselling author — brought a whole lot more polish and knowledge to the blog. And I think she’s been as happy to break “the rules” as I have

Here are my own rules of blogging. I posted some of these on my 10th blogiversary. Not much about blogging has changed since then, except that blogging has lost its luster, and a lot of authors prefer to interact on social media.

But I think a blog still provides a writer with the best web presence. And nobody will put you in Blogging Jail if you break some unwritten rule.

1) Question Authority

“The rules” will come and go. So will gimmicks and tricks for SEO, ROI, SERP, and LMNOP . The only thing that stays the same is the value of good content.

When I started out, “the rules” said a blogpost should be 300 words long and you should blog at least twice a day. Yeah. How many successful authors do you know who do that?

We were also told that an author blog should follow the same rules as a blog about make-up tips for teens or how to make decorative pillows out of dryer lint.

And we were supposed to run advertising all over the site. I remember reading that the #1 failure of new bloggers was “failure to monetize.” (I had to look up the word “monetize.”)

How many successful author blogs are peppered with irrelevant advertising these days?

Also, you needed a niche. You could only blog about jelly doughnuts or training your cat to use the toilet. Otherwise, readers would get confused.

Rule-makers are always underestimating readers. I slowly found out an author can blog about anything. Authors blog to attract readers who will like our books. So we can write about anything those people would like to read about.

We simply have to make sure that what we say is honest, well-written, and helpful.

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

Communities: Why They’re Important and How to Build One

From Digital Pubbing:

As an author, your community consists of your readers, your fans, people who support your work. In addition to selling more of your work, or having a successful launch, your community can be a great place to share ideas, engage and connect with fans, and give people with shared interests a space to belong.

You can build your community, whether you’re an author or some other sort of content creator. I’m a podcaster, and one of my favorite parts of podcasting is interacting with our listeners and our community.

. . . .

There are a lot of places where you can build your community and give them a central place to hang out and reach you. One interesting one is Substack, or some sort of newsletter service. Substack has an interesting case study about Caroline Chambers, a writer whose cookbook proposal was rejected, but she turned the proposal into “a thriving reader-support Substack.” As of the time of writing, she had over 11,500 free subscribers and 3,000 paid subscribers, and she started earning money for her work within a year of moving to Substack.

The gist is she posts once per week, easy to follow recipes that people can use when they don’t feel like cooking. She shares her newsletter on social media often, and runs regular promotions. Her call-to-action (CTA) is “Subscribe for $35/year, the price of a cookbook.”

You can choose to make your community free or paid. Sometimes when you have to pay, the community is called membership. The Membership Guide has a lot of resources, mostly related to how journalists can create membership programs. With membership, the idea is your readers are your equals, and you deliver content they value. For membership programs to work, make sure you listen and experiment and offer flexibility.

Link to the rest at Digital Pubbing

PG would be interested in comments about using a Site/Service like Substack vs. a blog + mailing list to build an online community.

Metamorphosis: Facebook and big-tech competition

From The Economist

There comes a time in every great bull market where the dreams of investors collide with changing facts on the ground. In the subprime boom it was the moment when mortgage default rates started to rise in 2006; in the dotcom bubble of 2000-01 it was when the dinosaurs of the telecoms sector confessed that technological disruption would destroy their profits, not increase them. There was a glimmer of a similar moment when Meta (the parent company of Facebook) reported poor results on February 2nd, sending its share price down by 26% the next day and wiping out well over $200bn of market value. That prompted a further sell-off in technology stocks.

Along with low interest rates, a driver of America’s epic bull run of the past decade has been the view that big tech firms are natural monopolies that can increase profits for decades to come with little serious threat from competition. This belief explains why the five largest tech firms now comprise over 20% of the S&P 500 index. Now it faces a big test.

Since listing in 2012 Meta has exemplified big tech’s prowess and pitfalls. For a glimpse of the caricature, consider the American government’s antitrust case against it first launched in 2020. It describes an invincible company in a world where technology is perpetually frozen in the 2010s: “this unmatched position has provided Facebook with staggering profits,” America’s Federal Trade Commission wrote in its lawsuit.

Examine the firm’s fourth-quarter results, though, and its position seems rather vulnerable and its profits somewhat less staggering. It comes across as a business with decelerating growth, a stale core product and a cost-control problem. The number of users of all of Meta’s products, which include Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, is barely growing. Those of the core social network fell slightly in the fourth quarter compared with the third. Net income dropped by 8% year on year and the firm suggested that revenue would grow by just 3-11% in the first quarter of 2022, the slowest rate since it went public and far below the average rate of 29% over the past three years—and below the growth rate necessary to justify its valuation.

Meta’s troubles reflect two kinds of competition. The first is within social media, where TikTok has become a formidable competitor. More than 1bn people use the Chinese-owned app each month (compared with Meta’s 3.6bn), a less toxic brand that is popular among young people and superior technology. Despite attempts by Donald Trump to ban it on national-security grounds while he was president, TikTok has shown geopolitical and commercial staying power. Just as the boss of Time Warner, a media behemoth, once dismissed Netflix as “the Albanian army”—an inconsequential irritant—Silicon Valley and America’s trustbusters have never taken TikTok entirely seriously. Big mistake.

The second kind of competition hurting Facebook is the intensifying contest between tech platforms as they diversify into new services and vie to control access to the customer. In Facebook’s case the problem is Apple’s new privacy rules, which allow users to opt out of ad-tracking, in turn rendering Facebook’s proposition less valuable for advertisers.

So are Meta’s problems a one-off or a sign of deeper ructions within the tech industry? Strong results from Apple, Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft in the past two weeks may lead some to conclude there is little to worry about. Apple’s pre-eminence in handsets in America and Alphabet’s command of search remain unquestionable. Yet there are grounds for doubt.

The competition between the big platforms is already intensifying. The share of the five big firms’ sales in markets that overlap has risen from 20% to 40% since 2015.

. . . .

Even in e-commerce, where Amazon remains pre-eminent, serious challengers such as the supermarket giants (Walmart and Target) or rival online platforms (Shopify) are making their presence felt. In any case, Amazon’s thin margins and vast investment levels suggest that consumers may be getting a better deal than investors. Although a strong showing from the cloud division divulged on February 3rd may buoy the e-empire’s market value by more than half as much as Meta lost, the cloud business is unlikely to stay as lucrative for ever. Alphabet, Microsoft and Oracle are already trying to compete away some of Amazon’s lofty cloud margins.

. . . .

The second change involves how investors and governments think about big tech, and indeed the stockmarket. The narrative of the 2010s—of a series of natural monopolies with an almost effortless dominance over the economy and investment portfolios—no longer neatly reflects reality. Technology shifts and an investment surge are altering the products that tech firms sell and may lead to a different alignment of winners and losers. And, as in previous booms, from emerging markets to mortgages, high returns have attracted a vast flood of capital, which in turn may lead to overall profitability being competed down. Given the enormous weight of the technology industry in today’s stockmarkets, this matters a great deal. And the mayhem at Meta shows it is no longer just an abstract idea.

Link to the rest at The Economist

PG recently signed up for Walmart’s Free Delivery service. So far, he’s been able to get some ordinary household items delivered that are substantially less-expensive than the same/similar items offered on Amazon for PG’s Prime Account.

Fighting Fake News, In Court

From Persuasion:

In November 2020, Ruby Freeman served as a temporary election worker to help count the vote in Fulton County, Georgia. “The times when I’ve decided to work for the county, I did so because I thought I could help and because I knew I could do the job well,” Freeman said in a statement issued through her lawyers. “What I didn’t know was that it would turn out like this.”

Meaning… this:

After the election, President Trump energetically pushed the bogus claim that Georgia’s election was rigged. Citing grainy images from a security camera, lawyers for the Trump campaign alleged that Fulton county workers had counted illegal ballots. Within hours, the claim was debunked by Georgia officials, including the Republican secretary of state’s office and the state Bureau of Investigation. The video showed “normal vote processing.”

By that time, however, various MAGA-friendly outlets had already published the accusation. They did not retract it. Instead, one of them, Gateway Pundit, identified Ruby Freeman by name, accused her of “voter fraud on a MASSIVE scale,” and added, “Maybe the Georgia police or Bill Barr’s DOJ may want to pay Ruby Freeman a visit.” The article concluded with two photographs of Freeman over the headline, “CROOK GETS CAUGHT.” Over the following days and weeks, Gateway Pundit continued to drive the story, with headlines like, “Has the FBI Spoken with Ruby Freeman or Ralph Jones Yet? And If Not, Why in the Hell Do We Have an FBI?”—complete with additional photos of Freeman.

Not surprisingly, Freeman’s life turned upside-down. “We know where you live, we [sic] coming to get you,” was one of many threats she received, according to her litigation complaint. Strangers camped out at her house, knocked on her door, harassed neighbors. She bought security cameras and deactivated the social media accounts for her business. On January 6, 2021, the day of the U.S. Capitol insurrection, the FBI recommended she evacuate her home. She did not return for two months.

“Right now, I can’t imagine ever going back to election work,” she said in her statement. “My life has been disrupted in so many ways.” Freeman’s daughter, Shaye Moss, who was an employee of the Fulton County elections department, endured similar torments, including messages saying she should die for her “treason,” threats to her grandmother and 14-year-old son, and protests at her office demanding her firing. “I’m afraid to be out in public,” Moss said in a statement provided by her lawyer. “Now I’d rather get my groceries delivered than go to the store because even that makes me nervous.”

Although Gateway Pundit is a well-known trafficker in falsehoods—PolitiFact rates 80 percent of the site’s fact-checked articles mostly or entirely false—it’s a major conservative website. Usually, litigating against such an outfit would be prohibitively difficult for an ordinary citizen, even if the case were watertight. The result: zero accountability.

With the help of a new legal aid project, however, Freeman and Moss are breaking that pattern by suing Gateway Pundit for defamation. (They’re also suing One America News and Rudolph Giuliani in a separate action.) That project—called Law for Truth—could have interesting implications for super-spreaders of toxic disinformation.

Launched in December by Protect Democracy, a nonprofit group in Washington, Law for Truth creates a pathway for victims of political libel to fight back. It’s based on the observation that traditional defamation actions have been one of the few ways of holding purveyors of fake news accountable.

. . . .

“Yet, as effective as defamation suits were when they were deployed, very few were filed relative to the sharp uptick in injurious defamation,” Ian Bassin, Executive Director and co-founder of Protect Democracy, told me. The underenforcement of defamation law is a kind of market failure, he argues. Law for Truth provides a remedy by “essentially creating a nonprofit plaintiffs’ bar focused on ensuring accountability under the law” for defamatory political disinformation.

No, the effort cannot halt the plague of disinformation. But it may change today’s lopsided odds against victims. “There is a real sense of impunity among some of these outlets,” said Rachel Goodman, who leads the Law for Truth legal team. “We think it would be good for defendants and potential defendants to understand that there are significant liability risks for spreading these lies.”

. . . .

Traditionally, civil-liberties advocates have cast a wary eye on defamation actions. All too often, litigation—actual or threatened—has been exploited by powerful interests to harass journalists and intimidate critics. Donald Trump is no stranger to this tactic, having promiscuously threatened to sue his critics both before and during his presidency. Taking journalists to court is a tried and true weapon of authoritarians. Just such abuses were the reason that, in 1964, the Supreme Court slapped down Alabama state officials’ use of libel law to stifle civil rights advocacy.

What the last few years have demonstrated, though, is that underenforcement of defamation law can be just as damaging to free speech as overenforcement. In the world of social media and fake news, spreading lies is trivially easy and often profitable. Russian-style “firehose of falsehood” disinformation campaigns are a staple of the MAGA movement. The prospect of losing your reputation and your safety would deter just about anyone from participating in politics—which, of course, is the point of MAGA’s campaign of intimidation against honest public officials.

Increasingly, civil-libertarians are taking this new reality on board. “There should be a right in a democracy to be involved in discussing and trying to influence matters of public concern without having to sacrifice your reputation,” Nadine Strossen, a New York Law School emeritus professor and former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, told me. “That can have a negative impact on the free exchange of ideas and democratic activity.”

The Law for Truth model is not without risk. “We have to keep in mind that whatever tools we create are going to be used by people whose cases are not quite as strong,” Walter Olson, a litigation expert at the Cato Institute, told me. “We need to think about what happens when people put together large financial kitties to sue in the other direction. Think about ten years from now, once it’s been fully accepted to raise money by saying, ‘We’ve got a list of media outlets we can destroy using litigation.’ It will be used to beat up on some small publications or writers who don’t have very good means to defend themselves.”

To avoid this danger, it will be important for initiatives such as Law for Truth to stay within the boundaries of existing defamation law, not stretch those boundaries with novel or expansive claims. “The two women in the Gateway Pundit suit have almost the paradigm of a defamation case,” David French, a writer, lawyer, and Persuasion advisor who formerly led the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told me. “The simple fact of the matter is that we do have large-scale, harmful lying that puts Americans, in some cases, in fear for their lives. The law has always had mechanisms for responding to that. The institutionalization of efforts to protect individuals who otherwise might not have resources to defend themselves is an important development.”

Link to the rest at Persuasion

PG has substantial concerns about using defamation suits in the manner described in the OP.

What has been called, “Lawfare”, in the US takes advantage of the fact that courts in many major cities are terribly backlogged with pending cases.

There are a lot of reasons for this that PG will not bore you with, but one of the many unfortunate results of this situation is that taking someone to court, even if your case has substantial merit, is an extraordinarily long and often expensive project.

Experienced defense counsel know how to make the person/organization that filed suit because he/she/they felt substantially wronged spend a great deal of money over the years that it may take the controversy to be heard by a judge or jury on the merits.

Additionally, in large metropolitan courthouses, criminal cases take precedence over civil matters because of guarantees of speedy trials, the great harm that can be caused to an innocent person who is incarcerated without just cause prior to trial, etc. In the many metropolitan court systems in which a given judge handles both criminal and civil cases, the civil cases are, of necessity, bumped down the trial calendar due to a continuing stream of criminal trials that must take precedence.

Regarding the OP, defamation cases can be used by wealthy individuals or by wealthy groups of individuals motivated to attack political enemies to punish the defendant financially even if the case is dismissed by the person who filed it prior to coming close to going to trial.

BookTok: A Safe Haven for Young Female Readers

From Jane Friedman:

It might well be impossible at this point to host a children’s publishing event without offering at least one session focused on TikTok—or, more specifically, BookTok, the community of young book lovers on the platform. At The Bookseller’s children’s online publishing conference last fall, a panel discussed the power of BookTok and why it’s pushing YA books up the bestseller lists. The latest title to fly off shelves because of BookTok is They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, the second best-selling book of 2021 overall in the UK children’s market—and number-one bestseller in the US.

The marketing power of BookTok starts with peer-to-peer recommendation.

All book marketing research shows that people are strongly influenced by what friends suggest they read, and that describes TikTok on a global scale. But the twist with TikTok is that it goes beyond a simple recommendation or just flashing a book cover. Instead, BookTokers focus on a book’s plot, themes, and genre—the real meaty heart of the book, not necessarily the aesthetic. Panel moderator Charlotte Eyre (children’s editor at The Bookseller) said, “TikTok is about conveying the emotion” felt while reading the book. Author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, an avid consumer of BookTok videos, says, “I really like living through [BookTok readers] as they’re experiencing the emotions.”

TikTok remains a positive place for young people.

TikTok creator Faith Young, whose audience is 97% women, said, “I sort of describe it as the last wholesome place on the internet. It’s just become this safe haven for young women.” Young, who is 22, described growing up as an uncool teenager who spent all of her time reading books in the library. She then discovered her people on TikTok. Georgia Henry, a children’s specialist campaign manager at Rocket (a UK marketing agency), said that, given her job, she hardly ever has time to pick up a book for relaxation, but whenever she goes on BookTok, “I just want to curl up with a cup of tea and open a book and lose myself in a book, and it’s just really inspiring.” Young audiences are now walking into bookstores and libraries in significant numbers to buy and read books. (If you haven’t visited a brick-and-mortar store lately, try it. You are sure to find a display based on BookTok.)

. . . .

However, as with all social media, TikTok requires authenticity and may come more naturally to younger authors. Àbíké-Íyímídé said that posting on TikTok feels like an extension of her overall creator skills—skills she’s built up over time as a Gen Z author. She and her author-peers are using what they know about internet culture and applying it to their publishing careers in how they talk about books and engage with readers online. “Especially as Gen Z we can see when something is inauthentic,” Àbíké-Íyímídé said.

Publishers can use the platform organically and succeed. 

Young said that one of the first accounts she followed on TikTok was Penguin Teen because they have a designated person who creates their social media posts and also shares about her own life. “An important part of TikTok is feeling like you know the people that you follow,” Young said. “It wouldn’t work if [publishers] have loads of different people creating videos.” Similarly, she really likes the content coming out of Sourcebooks Fire, one of her favorite publishers. “They recently casted—no, hired—a new head of social media, and she already had a big following on TikTok, and she now runs their TikTok, and that felt very authentic and I really like their videos.”

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Color PG skeptical about TikTok. He has visited a couple times, but didn’t find much that interested him. He has, however, read more than a few horror stories about young people getting into bad situations on TikTok.

About Gen Z folks understanding “internet culture,” PG suggests that there are a zillion internet cultures. ISIS and Al Qaeda have internet cultures. Left-wing and right-wing radicals have their internet culture. English-speaking romance readers have their own internet culture. Ditto (likely) for German-speaking romance readers.

PG will grant that there are lots and lots of internet sub-cultures and some authors of books for female teens may be familiar with female teen online sub-cultures, but PG suspects that it’s easy to age-out of a subculture based on age and stage of life.

PG is happy to be further enlightened by those more familiar with TikTok.

As far as traditional publishers and authenticity – that’s a bridge too far for PG.

Millions of followers? For book sales, ‘it’s unreliable.’

From The New York Times:

A book by Billie Eilish seemed like a great bet. One of the most famous pop stars in the world, Eilish has 97 million followers on Instagram and another 6 million on Twitter. If just a fraction of them bought her book, it would be a hit.

But her self-titled book has sold about 64,000 hardcover copies since it came out in May, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks most printed books sold in the United States — not necessarily a disappointing number, unless Eilish got a big advance. Which, of course, she did. The book cost her publisher well over $1 million.

It’s difficult to predict whether a book will be a hit. A jar of tomato sauce doesn’t change that much from year to year, making demand reasonably predictable. But every book is different, an individual work of art or culture, so when the publishing industry tries to forecast demand for new titles, it is, however thoughtfully, guessing. Because there are so few reliable metrics to look at, social-media followings have become some of the main data points publishers use to try to make their guesses more educated.

An author’s following has become a standard part of the equation when publishers are deciding whether to acquire a book. Followings can affect who gets a book deal and how big an advance that author is paid, especially when it comes to nonfiction. But despite their importance, they are increasingly seen as unpredictable gauges of how well a book is actually going to sell.

Even having one of the biggest social-media followings in the world is not a guarantee.

“The only reliable part about it,” said Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble, “is that it’s unreliable.”

An author’s platform has long been something publishers look at — does she have a radio show, for example, or a regular guest spot on TV? But as local news outlets and book coverage have dwindled, the avenues for book publicity have shrunk, making an author’s ability to help get the word out more crucial. And when an author speaks to her followers about a book she wrote, she is talking to people who are at least a little bit interested in what she has to share.

“It’s become more and more important as the years went on,” said Marc Resnick, executive editor at St. Martin’s Press. “We learned some hard lessons along the way, which is that a tweet or a post is not necessarily going to sell any books, if it’s not the right person with the right book and the right followers at the right time.”

Take Justin Timberlake. His book “Hindsight” was acquired for more than$1 million, but when it came out in 2018, Timberlake had bruised vocal cords and was unable to promote it as planned. The 53 million Instagram followers he had at the time weren’t able to make up for it. “Hindsight” has sold about 100,000 printed copies since its publication three years ago, according to BookScan, not nearly the number his publisher was hoping for.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., is no global pop star, but she has a significant social-media presence, with 3 million Twitter followers and another 1.3 million on Instagram. Yet her book, “This Is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman,” which was published in May 2020, has sold just 26,000 copies across print, audio and e-book formats, according to her publisher.

Tamika D. Mallory, a social activist with more than 1 million Instagram followers, was paid more than $1 million for a two-book deal. But her first book, “State of Emergency,” has sold just 26,000 print copies since it was published in May, according to BookScan.

Journalist and media personality Piers Morgan had a weaker showing. Despite his followers on Twitter (8 million) and Instagram (1.8 million), “Wake Up: Why the World Has Gone Nuts” has sold just 5,650 print copies since it was published a year ago, according to BookScan.

It’s difficult to know why this happens. Sometimes, publishing and marketing executives say, there is a mismatch between what people post about on social media and the subject of their books. Perhaps the books don’t provide anything beyond what they’ve already put on Instagram. It could be that the author hasn’t pushed the book to his followers effectively, or that those followers (the ones who aren’t bots, or paid for) aren’t terribly engaged with what he posts.

Or maybe the book isn’t that good. Social media is only one part of why a book does or doesn’t work, just as it is only a piece of why a book is acquired — publishers were interested in Billie Eilish’s book not just because of Instagram, but because she is Billie Eilish.

In an effort to mitigate these issues, some book contracts now specify the number of posts required before and after a book is published.

“In addition to hearing from the agent and reading the manuscript, we want to hear from the celebrity that they are invested in the book,” said Barbara Marcus, president and publisher of Random House Children’s Books. “To say, in the nicest way possible, what would you say about this project and where would this fit in with all the other things you’re doing?”

Link to the rest at The New York Times (via The Baltimore Sun)

The Behaviors and Attitudes of U.S. Adults on Twitter

From The Pew Research Center:

Roughly one-quarter of U.S. adults now use Twitter, and the site has become a space where users get news, discuss topics like sports, engage in personal communication or hear from elected officials.

Pew Research Center recently conducted an in-depth survey of U.S. adults who use Twitter, looking to better understand their behaviors and experiences on the site along with their attitudes towards the service. The survey included a subset of respondents who shared their Twitter profiles for research purposes, allowing their survey responses to be matched to their actual Twitter activity.

As in many of the Center’s surveys of technology and online platforms, this study finds that Twitter users report a mix of both positive and negative experiences on the site. For instance, 46% of these users say the site has increased their understanding of current events in the last year, and 30% say it has made them feel more politically engaged. On the other hand, 33% of users report seeing a lot of misleading or inaccurate information there, and 53% say inaccurate or misleading information is a major problem on the site.

The analysis also reveals another familiar pattern on social media: that a relatively small share of highly active users produce the vast majority of content. An analysis of tweets by this representative sample of U.S. adult Twitter users from June 12 to Sept. 12, 2021, finds that the most active 25% of U.S. adults on Twitter by tweet volume produced 97% of all tweets from these users.

High-volume tweeters differ from less prolific tweeters in important ways. A majority visit the site daily, and roughly one-in-five say they do so too many times to count on a typical day. Their use of Twitter also carries a more overtly political valence: They are more likely than others to say the site has increased how politically engaged they feel in the past year.

They also respond differently to the presence of certain negative interactions on the platform. High-volume tweeters are roughly twice as likely as others to say they have personally experienced harassing or abusive behavior on the platform (24%, vs. 11% of less active tweeters). But they are less likely to view the overall tone or civility of discussions on the site as a major problem (by a margin of 27% to 42%).

Link to the rest at The Pew Research Center

PG was an early adopter of Twitter (he has a tendency to try out a lot of new online services) and was also an early unadopter of Twitter.

As PG just examined the Twitter accounts with the largest following, he saw a lot of pop musicians, some over the hill, and a lot of other people he’s not interested in hearing from. Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Barack Obama are the only ones who might have something to say that’s interesting for PG, but, of course, you don’t really have the space to say anything of note in 280 characters.

Yes, you can insert a link in a Twitter message, but PG has no trouble naming a great many sites that offer curated links that have a high probability of being of interest to PG. The curated link sites will definitely include anything Bill, Elon and Barack have to say on any matter of substance.

But PG is likely not representative of any demographic of a size that interests advertisers, so he’s happy to let Twitter be Twitter and make money for tattooed entrepreneur Jack Dorsey and other shareholders as well as whoever buys Twitter from its present owners. He’ll continue to abstain.

San Francisco TikTok creator makes 1934 murder mystery novel ‘Cain’s Jawbone’ sell out worldwide

From SFGate:

In 1934, English translator Edward Powys Mathers, renowned for his cryptic crosswords, came up with a new puzzle: a 100-page murder mystery entitled “Cain’s Jawbone.”

To solve it, readers must correctly identify all six murderers and their victims, but doing so requires rearranging the book’s pages, which are published out of order. Only three people have ever correctly figured out the answer: two in the 1930s, and one last year.

Then the relatively obscure book became a worldwide sensation after a viral post on the social media app TikTok.

“I decided to take this nearly impossible task as an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream and turn my entire bedroom wall into a murder board,” San Francisco TikTok creator Sarah Scannell says in a video posted Nov. 14, which reveals the 8-by-5-foot “murder wall” she created in her bedroom composed of the pencil-annotated 100 pages taped up and connected by string.

Days later, the book sold out at retailers worldwide.

At press time, the TikTok has 4.6 million views, 1 million likes, 36,600 shares and 5,340 comments. On Nov. 18, the publisher of “Cain’s Jawbone,” Unbound, announced a reprint on Twitter, and pointed to the cause of the sales spike: “To all who found us through @saruuuuuuugh’s TikTok, welcome and thank you!” 

. . . .

The TikTok begins with Scannell grabbing “Cain’s Jawbone” from the wood shelves of San Francisco independent bookstore Green Apple Books before revealing the murder wall in her apartment (which is also mine, as I am her roommate).

. . . .

The book sold out on Amazon within 24 hours of the initial TikTok’s posting, Scannell said. It was relisted the next day with its price doubled and with shipping delays. Presently, it’s listed on the online behemoth as out of print, with limited availability. As of Friday, publisher Unbound surpassed 5,000 open backorders in the U.S., 2,500 in Canada and 3,000 from U.K. book retailer Waterstones alone — its own website sold out of its stock of 600 within 24 hours. Two days after the initial TikTok’s posting, Joey Goodman, who works at Green Apple Books, tweeted at Scannell to let her know that her TikTok “wreaked havoc” on online orders.

Link to the rest at SFGate and thanks to DM for the tip.

BookTok has passion—and enormous marketing power

From The Economist:

A young woman holds up a book and smiles. “This is day one of me reading ‘The Song of Achilles’,” she says. The video jumps forward. “And this”, she moans, her face stained with tears, “is me finishing it.” Another clip, entitled “Books that will make you SOB”, offers written notes on how assorted stories got readers to cry, such as “I can’t think about it without bawling” and “ended up crying sm [so much] i had to change my shirt”. This is BookTok, as the literary wing of the app TikTok is known. Imagine the emotional pitch of a Victorian melodrama, add music, and you have the general idea.

BookTok is passionate. It is also profitable—at least for publishers. Bloomsbury, a publishing house based in Britain, recently reported record sales and a 220% rise in profits, which Nigel Newton, its boss, put down partly to the “absolute phenomenon” of BookTok. On Amazon, BookTok is so influential that it has leapt into the titles of books themselves. The novel “It Ends With Us”, for instance, is now listed as “It Ends With Us: TikTok made me buy it!” Evidently TikTok did a good job: the romance is riding high in the top 100 in both Britain and America.

The medium is not quite as gushy as it might seem. Much of the overdone emotion is ironic, and some of the videos are very funny—particularly those with the hashtag #writtenbymen, which poke fun at the male gaze. Nonetheless, many would make mainstream book reviewers tut. But why should the young women who are BookTok’s stars care what fogeyish literary types think of them? Until fairly recently, their perspective was marginalised in both fiction and criticism. White men dominated both—even though most novel-readers are female.

. . . .

BookTok has helped upend that hierarchy. Selene Velez (pictured), a 19-year-old American student, is behind @moongirlreads_ (an account with 185,000 followers). She focuses on authors who aren’t typically “taken as seriously” as others. “I’m a woman of colour,” she says. “I try to promote authors of colour.”

At the same time, BookTok pushes back against publishing amnesia. Books are imagined to confer immortality on authors—to be a “monument more lasting than bronze”, as the Roman poet Horace wrote—but the lifespan of most is startlingly short. Dig out a list of bestsellers from 20 years ago: not only are today’s readers unlikely to buy them, most won’t have heard of them. Many of the books will have joined the legions of what W.H. Auden called the “undeservedly forgotten”.

Link to the rest at The Economist

PG found a list of The New York Times Adult Fiction Bestsellers for November 11, 2001. Here it is:

1 THE KISS, by Danielle Steel.

2 ISLE OF DOGS, by Patricia Cornwell.

3 MIDNIGHT BAYOU, by Nora Roberts.

4 THE CORRECTIONS, by Jonathan Franzen.

5 BLOOD AND GOLD, by Anne Rice.

6 A BEND IN THE ROAD, by Nicholas Sparks.

7 BLACK HOUSE, by Stephen King and Peter Straub.

8 THE BEST-LOVED POEMS OF JACQUELINE KENNEDY ONASSIS, selected by
Caroline Kennedy.

9 THE MITFORD SNOWMEN, by Jan Karon.

10 JOURNEY THROUGH HEARTSONGS, written and illustrated by Mattie J.T.
Stepanek.

Is Facebook Bad for You? It Is for About 360 Million Users, Company Surveys Suggest

From The Wall Street Journal:

Facebook researchers have found that 1 in 8 of its users report engaging in compulsive use of social media that impacts their sleep, work, parenting or relationships, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

These patterns of what the company calls problematic use mirror what is popularly known as internet addiction. They were perceived by users to be worse on Facebook than any other major social-media platform, which all seek to keep users coming back, the documents show.

A Facebook team focused on user well-being suggested a range of fixes, and the company implemented some, building in optional features to encourage breaks from social media and to dial back the notifications that can serve as a lure to bring people back to the platform.

Facebook shut down the team in late 2019.

A company spokeswoman said Facebook in recent months has begun formulating a new effort to address what it calls problematic use alongside other well-being concerns, such as body image and mental health.

The company has been public about its desire to address these problems, said Dani Lever, the spokeswoman, in a statement. Some people have struggles with other technologies, including television and smartphones, she said.

“We have a role to play, which is why we’ve built tools and controls to help people manage when and how they use our services,” she said in the statement. “Furthermore, we have a dedicated team working across our platforms to better understand these issues and ensure people are using our apps in ways that are meaningful to them.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files series has documented how Facebook knows the products and systems central to its business success routinely fail and cause harm. For some people, such as teen girls or human-trafficking victims, the risks can be significant. These documents highlight the company’s research into possible negative impacts on a broader swath of users.

Facebook is owned by Meta Platforms Inc. A restructuring announced in late October highlights the company’s focus on the so-called metaverse—an online world featuring extensive use of virtual reality—that goes beyond traditional social media.

The research into social-media use that may negatively affect people’s day-to-day lives was launched several years ago with the goal of mitigating harmful behavior that the company was increasingly identifying on its platforms.

The researchers on the well-being team said some users lack control over the time they spend on Facebook and have problems in their lives as a result. They wrote that they don’t consider the behavior to be a clinical addiction because it doesn’t affect the brain in the same way as gambling or substance abuse. In one document, they noted that “activities like shopping, sex and Facebook use, when repetitive and excessive, may cause problems for some people.”

Those problems, according to the documents, include a loss of productivity when people stop completing tasks in their lives to check Facebook frequently, a loss of sleep when they stay up late scrolling through the app and the degradation of in-person relationships when people replace time together with time online. In some cases, “parents focused more on FB than caring for or bonding with their children,” the researchers wrote.

“I’m on Facebook every day, every moment. Literally, every moment; just not when I’m in the shower,” a 22-year-old woman told the researchers. “I lose the notion of time.”

In March 2020, several months after the well-being team was dissolved, researchers who had been on the team shared a slide deck internally with some of the findings and encouraged other teams to pick up the work.

The researchers estimated these issues affect about 12.5% of the flagship app’s more than 2.9 billion users, or more than 360 million people. About 10% of users in the U.S., one of Facebook’s most lucrative markets, exhibit this behavior. In the Philippines and in India, which is the company’s largest market, the employees put the figure higher, at around 25%.

. . . .

The researchers said in the documents that most of the people who use Facebook compulsively said they used multiple social-media apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, which are also owned by Meta, Facebook’s new corporate parent, along with Twitter and Snapchat. Some of the troublesome aspects for users on Facebook, such as feeling pressure to respond to messages and frequently checking for new content, are also widespread in smartphone use, the researchers noted.

“Why should we care?” the researchers wrote in the slide deck. “People perceive the impact. In a comparative study with competitors, people perceived lower well-being and higher problematic use on Facebook compared to any other service.” The other services in the comparison also included YouTube, Reddit and the videogame World of Warcraft.

Facebook’s findings are consistent with what many external researchers have observed for years, said Brian Primack, a professor of public health and medicine and dean of the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas. He said there isn’t a consensus on causality but that most of the evidence “should be concerning to people.” His research group followed about a thousand people over six months in a nationally representative survey and found that the amount of social media that a person used was the No. 1 predictor of the variables they measured for who became depressed.

“Everything is pointing in a certain direction,” he said. “There’s only going to be a certain amount of time Facebook can say there is nothing causal out there.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (It should be a free link, but if it doesn’t work, PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

PG notes that one of the standard publicity practices recommended to its authors by traditional publishing is to be active on social media. Facebook is always mentioned.

To be fair, most articles about the importance of social media for indie author also feature Facebook on a regular basis.

This doesn’t say that going on Facebook to view the pages of a few of your favorite authors will lead to bad self esteem, but, as he has mentioned before, PG shut down his Facebook account and quit using the service because he didn’t like the sense of being manipulated while using it.

YMMV, however.

7 Simple Social Media Tips for Successful Authors

From Digital Pubbing:

Gone are the days when authors relied on publishers for handling the entire process. With an increase in self-publishing, it’s crucial to implement the right social media tactics for effective promotion. In this choice, every aspect of the book including writing, editing, packaging, marketing, etc. is handled by the writer himself.

No author should underestimate the immense power of engaging with targeted readers through different social platforms. Social media ensures that there is no boundary to marketing and you can let people know about your book all over the world. Engaging with the right people helps you create a loyal fan base in the long run.

. . . .

Your readers are likely to have questions if you are just about to get your new book out in the market. Even with your old books, they might have some interesting takes. Organizing these sessions will help you improve your relationship with your target audience. You can also collaborate with fellow authors to organize these sessions together. This is an exciting way to connect with people who are looking forward to knowing more about your journey. Use platforms like Facebook or Instagram Live, Google Hangouts, etc. for organizing these sessions.

Remember that these sessions act as a medium to engage with your audience. The discussion doesn’t necessarily have to be about writing or reading. You can encourage users to ask varied questions outside this niche as well. 

. . . .

Writing a book is a process that demands consistent effort. Sharing this entire journey with your readers will help you build a strong connection. People are often caught up in the myth that writing is easy for authors who are already successful. You can show them how you deal with your phases of writer’s block before you come up with something exciting. 

. . . .

Chris Fox, best-selling author of books like Write to Market, 5000 Words Per Hour, and more, took up a 21-day writing challenge. He uploaded his entire journey of 21 days on YouTube. In the end, he published his book on Kindle and the people who viewed his journey were curious to know what came out of it.

. . . .

People love being asked about their opinion on a specific area. While posting consistently on social media, make sure you are motivating them to share their opinions. When are short of content ideas, post a snippet of your book along with an open-ended question in the caption. To encourage users to participate in the conversation, tell them about your view after asking the question.

Link to the rest at Digital Pubbing

PG notes that, if an author doesn’t feel comfortable doing this sort of thing or doesn’t like the idea of climbing the learning curve on various social media platforms, he/she can hire someone to help do the job.

A Google search for “Social Media Agency” disclosed a lot of organizations anxious to do the job.

Another option might be to advertise in the student newspaper of a local college or university.

Facebook is nearing a reputational point of no return

From The Economist:

Disaster struck the world’s biggest social network on October 4th when Facebook and its sister apps were knocked offline for six hours. It was one of the less embarrassing moments of the company’s week. The next day a whistleblower, Frances Haugen, told Congress of all manner of wickedness at the firm, from promoting eating disorders to endangering democracy. Some wondered whether the world would be a better place if the outage were permanent.

A share of the opprobrium heaped on Facebook is incoherent. Politicians are angry but so far seem incapable of co-ordinating reform to rein it in. And investors have kept buying the stock, regardless of the bad headlines. Yet the company should take no comfort from this. The blind fury unleashed shows that its reputational problems have got out of hand.

Some of this week’s criticism was tendentious. Reports highlighted internal research showing that Instagram, Facebook’s photo-sharing app, makes one in five American teenagers feel worse about themselves. They paid less attention to the finding that Instagram makes twice as many feel better about themselves. Facebook’s critics are right that it should be more open. But the firm has half a point when it says that the hysterical reaction to unsurprising findings will lead companies to conclude that it is safer not to do such research at all.

Other complaints are really criticisms of the broader internet. The question of how to regulate viral content for children goes beyond Facebook, as any parent who has left their child with YouTube knows. Likewise, dilemmas over how the firm amplifies attention and how to draw the line between upholding free speech and minimising harm. Facebook repeated its plea that Congress should weigh in on matters such as minimum ages, rather than leaving it to firms. It has made a better stab than most at settling free-speech questions with its “oversight board”, a pompous-sounding but quietly useful body which dispenses rulings on matters from misogyny to misinformation.

The most damaging claim this week gained the least attention. Ms Haugen alleges that Facebook has concealed a decline in its young American users. She revealed internal projections that a drop in teenagers’ engagement could lead to an overall decline in American users of 45% within the next two years. Investors have long faced a lack of open disclosure. Misleading advertisers would undermine the source of nearly all the firm’s sales, and potentially break the law. (The firm denies it.)

. . . .

But fury may matter. Facebook is nearing a reputational point of no return. Even when it set out plausible responses to Ms Haugen, people no longer wanted to hear. The firm risks joining the ranks of corporate untouchables like big tobacco. If that idea takes hold, Facebook risks losing its young, liberal staff. Even if its ageing customers stick with the social network, Facebook has bigger ambitions that could be foiled if public opinion continues to curdle. Who wants a metaverse created by Facebook? Perhaps as many people as would like their health care provided by Philip Morris.

Link to the rest at The Economist

A Writer Says Goodbye to the Twittersphere

From Publishers Weekly:

A novelist friend told me that social media is pretty much mandatory these days, otherwise I could expect to remain plankton in a sea of fish all swimming toward the same accolades. As a poet, I’m already used to being a small fry, yet as I move into writing journalism and creative nonfiction, I’ve wondered whether I should log back on.

I quit Facebook in 2014 after a manic episode that reared its Medusa-like head online. My wall was a mess of incoherent thoughts, followed by all the email rejections I’d ever received, copied and pasted from my inbox. For the grand finale, I wrote that I would stage a hunger strike to protest the government’s lackluster care for those living with mental illness. Soon after my last post—but not before I typed out the addresses, emails, and phone numbers of my closest friends (should the news media want to reach out to them for comment)—I was hospitalized and newly diagnosed with bipolar I.

As it turns out, extreme social embarrassment is an excellent way to curb a Facebook addiction. A true introvert and a perpetual validation seeker, I knew my pictures were never cute enough, my posts never witty enough, and I spent hours looking at the profiles of women that guys had dumped me for. “She rides an old-school motorcycle,” I’d think. “Makes sense.”

Post-hospitalization, my friends gently reminded me that their personal information was still online. I deleted my account for good.

My pact to stay off social was tested when I started looking for an agent. I scanned interviews and attended panels in which agents said that a strong social media presence was something they looked for in a client. I read manuscript “wish lists” that expressed a keen interest in working with influencers. I noticed that writers in my social circle had, on average, 20,000 Instagram followers, and some had upward of 50,000 Twitter followers.

At the start of 2021, I gave it a try. One agent advised writers to pick a platform and get good at it. I guessed my strong suit would be Twitter. Like an endless Pez dispenser, I can come up with wisecracks all day. With a few quips queued up, I started an account, waited for something spectacular to happen, and pressed delete the next day.

It just didn’t feel right. As a 41-year-old woman, I chafed at the idea of building a “me” brand. I also objected to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for moral and ethical reasons. I didn’t want to support men who had supported the rise of hate groups, conspiracy theorists, and a racist megalomaniac who committed human rights atrocities at the U.S.-Mexico border that this country has yet to properly acknowledge or reckon with. Both Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey put profit before people—demonstrating how easy it is for tech to manipulate government and destabilize democracy.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG may have mentioned that he quit using his Facebook account several months ago after changing a lot of personal information about himself to information about nobody. He expects that anyone who may stumble upon his moribund account and knows him will likely conclude his account has been hacked.

PG used this tactic after being unable to locate any way to simply close his FB account. He changed his Facebook password to a long random string of numbers and letters without keeping a copy so he wouldn’t try to revive his account in a moment of weakness.

PG’s motivation for departing from Facebook World was an unanalyzed feeling that Facebook was getting a little creepy, almost stalking him during his online travels.

The recent disclosures of how much information which many might regard as private the company collects from its users has confirmed PG’s sense of FB creepiness.

So he’s off FB for good. If for any reason he decides he needs to go onto FB again to check out something, he’ll create a phony profile for that purpose, use it, then abandon it again.

Yes, PG regularly clears his browser cache of cookies and trackers. He also deploys a VPN that lets him appear to be logging in from Greece or Taiwan with an anonymous browser program that doesn’t keep anything when he wanders into places he suspects may try to track him in some way. He also has a bunch of burner email addresses he uses strictly for signing up for a single service (if you’re willing to use long nonesense Gmail addresses a few times as burner email accounts, PG hasn’t found any noticeable objection from Google so far. If he sees a report of Google cracking down on Gmail abuse in Taiwan, he may change this strategy.)

If PG were an author who was ordered to establish a social media presence in connection with a book or books, he might use some or all of these tactics to exploit FB without being exploited by FB in return.

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp Go Down in Major Outage

From The Wall Street Journal:

Facebook Inc.’s platforms including WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook were down Monday, with users receiving error messages when trying to access the sites.

“We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products,” Facebook wrote in a message posted on rival Twitter. “We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

The outage comes a day after the whistleblower who provided documents that formed the foundation of The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files series went public. Frances Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook, said she acted to help prompt change at the social-media giant.

Facebook shares dropped more than 5% on Monday amid a broad-market selloff.

Users began reporting problems late Monday morning, according to Downdetector, a site that monitors website outages. A spokesperson at Downdetector’s parent company, Ookla, said the outage to Facebook and its other companies was “widespread and global in scale.”

Facebook appeared to have made a change Monday morning to its network routing information, said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at the network monitoring firm Kentik.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

The sites appeared to still be down at about Noon US Pacific time when PG posted this item.

I couldn’t stop writing fake Dear Prudence letters that got published

From Gawker:

Sometime at the tail end of 2018, shortly after abandoning yet another draft of what was supposed to be my fifth Young Adult novel, I took up a different form of fiction: I started writing fake letters to Dear Prudence, Slate’s long-running advice column.

Part of the reason for this change was that I was getting too old for young adults. As the sun set on my twinkhood, the teenage characters in my unfinished drafts had become suspiciously middle-aged in their preoccupations. They were jaded about sex, fretful about the effectiveness of their skincare routines, and clumsy in their use of emojis. Maybe worse, in the time that I had been writing YA, the once pleasantly eccentric corner of book publishing had become a stronghold for cynical opportunists and people who seemed to despise the very idea of literature. It was all fucking with my head, and while I couldn’t imagine giving up on fiction entirely, I was starting to think that what I had spent my career doing wasn’t working anymore.

Writing fake letters to advice columns could not be considered a good career move; after all, it was unpaid and I wouldn’t even get a byline out of it. On the other hand, it was easy and creatively fulfilling. In my anonymous, fabricated letters to Prudence, I could follow the most demented threads of my imagination without having to anticipate the omnivalent flavors of opprobrium that might rain down on me from YA’s brigade of cultural revolutionaries.

The world of “agony aunts” was not new to me. In my childhood, I would take the Washington Post and the local Montgomery Journal with my after-school snack, and while I’d tried to cultivate an interest in the news of the day, the advice columns were what really spoke to me. Part of this was personal. It was family legend that my grandmother had been published in the 1970s by Ann Landers, sincerely asking if she should divorce my grandfather for his secret smoking habit. Ann had advised her to chill, and they remained married, so I felt that in some way I owed her for my existence. (Then again, my grandfather eventually died from the cigs, so maybe Ann was to blame for that too.) In my pre-teen mind, Ann Landers and her sisters (Dear Abby was, in fact, her actual sister!) were figures similar to the Fates. To contemplate the ways in which their pronouncements had altered the course of history was to stare down a dizzying kaleidoscope of Quantum Leap what-ifs.

I was also intrigued by the question of fakes, for which Ann was always on alert. She operated under the thinking that Yale undergrads were the most common perpetrators of fabulist letters, and, for a time, refused to publish any letter bearing a New Haven postmark. This suggested to me an erotic glamor: I imagined dormitories full of muscular undergrads lounging around in their undies and collaborating on phony scenarios before hitting the showers together to celebrate their labor. It was with this dream in mind that I approached my task.

Over the next couple of years, I used burner email accounts to submit around 25 letters to Dear Prudence, at least 12 of which were answered on either the printed column or the podcast.

Though Dear Prudence has run in Slate since 1997, the role of Prudie was assumed in 2015 by Daniel Lavery — co-founder of the feminist website The Toast and author of a book about famous literary characters texting — who transformed the column into something of a tribunal, doling out po-faced judgment to guilty white cishets for crimes of allyship. Was it wrong for a letter-writer to call the cops when she saw a home invasion taking place on her street? (“You can’t go back in time and undo what you did, of course,” an unamused Prudie tsked.) Would it be morally acceptable for another to steal their parents’ phones and secretly delete objectionable content from their Facebook feeds? (“Go ahead and unsubscribe them with my blessing,” Prudie advised.)

More than being an heir to Ann and Abby, this incarnation of Prudie felt like an heir to Judith Martin’s Miss Manners, whose adjudications on minor questions of polity were, in their own way, more titillating than the seamier stuff offered up in more generalist columns. But rather than looking to Emily Post, Lavery’s Prudie was guided by the convoluted pieties of Twitter. This was fertile soil for the themes that I was interested in, which included Disney monomania, semantic disputes in queer relationships, and paralyzing anxieties around Brooklyn-style social mores.

Link to the rest at Gawker and thanks to D for the tip.

Research And Learning And Blogging

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I spent the morning researching things like BookTok and NFTs for writers and Substack. I was going to write about each, but you know what? I don’t want to.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been blogging now on the publishing industry—the indie publishing industry in particular (which some folks still insist on calling self-publishing)—for 12 years now. Which makes me a relic.

When I started blogging, it was something that everyone did because that was the way to attract readers to your fiction. You could make a living by writing a blog.

The rule of thumb for writer-bloggers was never write a blog longer than 500 words. Yeah, you see how that worked for me. I never write a blog that short.

But folks were making a small fortune blogging about topics not being covered by the mainstream media. Eventually, though, that niche went away or it disappeared behind a paywall like Patreon. Now that paywall includes Substack, which I am truly interested in.

Honestly, though, if I blog about it, it really isn’t fair to you all. My knowledge of Substack is an inch deep, which is an inch deeper than my knowledge of NFTs, and two inches deeper than my knowledge of BookTok. I haven’t even been to TikTok, although I’ve seen some great vids designed for TikTok.

I had planned—weeks ago—to learn all of this in depth, so that I actually could cite articles and experts and do a good analysis of the changes happening in the digital sphere.

I didn’t do any of it, I thought for lack of time. But I managed to research some other things which are important to my career and I also managed to learn some new skills that I will continue delve into. So really, lack of time isn’t the issue.

Lack of priority is.

And I realized, that’s where the blog is, as well as the end of this particular series of posts.

When I started blogging in 2009, the indie world was small and contained. I wrote about that in the previous blog. In indie publishing, rather like traditional publishing, we were all doing the exact same things, because there wasn’t much more to do.

New things came on the scene, and we all analyzed them. Sometimes we made group decisions about them (you have to try BookBub!) and sometimes we did our own thing, after a lot of analysis. But we were talking about the same programs or opportunities.

As new things proliferated by 2014 or so, those of us in the blogosphere tried to keep up. The problem was that many of those new things would disappear shortly after we researched them. I got paid $4000 by an app developer around that time so that he would design an app based on my Fey books. And then he literally disappeared. He paid me, said he started, and poof! gone as if he had never existed. (And he paid me by check, so he wasn’t trying to get my bank account information.)

Stuff like that happened all the time. And eventually, I started to tune out some of the new. It was either keep up or get my writing done. For some reason, I preferred writing.

A friend of mine who makes part of their living off online work advising people what to do with their indie publishing opted to do something different. They just interviewed everyone about every bit of new tech. My friend did not investigate the tech or even use most of it. The upshot of it was that my friend knew about the newest latest thing, but rarely used it themselves.

That put them in almost reportorial mode even though they had started off only interviewing things they recommended. And, let me say as a former journalist, the problem with reportorial mode is the one that I mentioned above. Journalists are, by definition, generalists. Their knowledge of damn near everything is only an inch deep.

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.

8 Critical Thinking Fallacies You’re Likely Falling For on Social Media

From Zarvana:

You may think that scrolling endlessly through social media is a harmless way to decompress after a long day of work and let your mind relax. And the latest research on the mental and emotional effects of sinking hours into social media suggests that it has a relatively limited effect on your well-being.

While social media may not be the cause for the increasing youth depression rates, it does have a perhaps, more insidious effect on our critical thinking skills. The average adult spends 2 hours and 24 minutes every day on social media. It’s impossible to spend that much time doing a single activity in your day without the repetitive behaviors associated with that activity carrying over into how you do other activities.

How Social Media is Undermining Your Critical Thinking Skills

Said another way, the way you engage with social media is, likely without you knowing it, training you how to think when at work, when interacting with friends and family, and when running into strangers on the street. Patricia Greenfield, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center in Los Angeles, puts it this way: “the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilized, characterized by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathize and a shaky sense of identity.”

When you thumb through Instagram or Twitter posts, you’re building cognitive habits around how you process and make sense of information. And research suggests that our habits for processing information on social media are far from exemplary. We know this because many people fail to identify fake or false information from true information. In one study, 44% of millennial participants failed to correctly identify whether information was true or false in at least four of nine questions.

The more time people spend on social media, the more likely they are to fall prey to false information. A study sponsored by the Reboot Foundation found that 36% of people who check social media hourly or more frequently held at least one wrong belief about COVID-19, while only 22% of people who checked social media once a week held at least one wrong belief.

Our use of social media limits the development of robust critical thinking skills. Professor Greenfield explains that the visual media we consume on screens “do not allow time for reflection, analysis or imagination — those do not get developed by real-time media such as television or video games.”

While identifying fake news is a key critical thinking-related challenge when it comes to social media, there is another challenge that goes beyond deciphering fact from fake. This is the challenge of determining whether the reasoning that underlies a post or article is rigorous and rationale. Unfortunately, social media is littered with posts that contain critical thinking fallacies. We must learn to identify them or we will fall prey to them not just on social media, but in every area of life.

Here are some examples of common critical thinking fallacies.

Examples of Critical Thinking Fallacies on Social Media

Our goal is not to convince you of any particular point of view found in the examples. Critical thinking doesn’t care about the answer. It only cares about the rigor behind the support for the answer. As we’ve explained, critical thinking is providing a robust answer to a question.

Undermining the Messenger Fallacy:

Many times, people on social media immediately dismiss an idea because of the person sharing it. This is a cognitive shortcut that leads to lazy thinking. There is no law of logic or nature that dictates that if people made statements that are wrong or false in the past, they can no longer make any statements that are right or true.

When you discredit ideas because of their source, you operate out of “stereotype thinking.” Stereotype thinking says that because a certain condition has been statistically probable in the past, it is true in the present. While stereotypes can help people make snap decisions when absolutely necessary, they create significant problems as we can clearly see from the stories of racial inequity that are becoming more visible.

Because most people fall prey to this fallacy, those arguing on social media often resort to a cheap and often irrelevant strategy for dismissing the ideas of those with whom they disagree. Rather than engaging in a debate around the idea shared by their opponent, they simply hurl personal attacks at the opponent. The goal is to discredit the messenger so that we will automatically dismiss the idea.

Here’s a simple, but common example:

@JoeBiden, you & your son Hunter are #MadeInChina  pic.twitter.com/0Z3eSM0Bpp— Marla Hohner (@marlahohner) July 1, 2020

The other consequence of this fallacy is that we are much more likely to reject an idea posed by someone we dislike even if we would have supported the idea had it been presented by someone we like – and the opposite is true, we are quick to support ideas shared by our friends even if they aren’t rigorous enough to warrant our support.

Correlation vs. Causation Fallacy

This is a more well-known fallacy that is beat into the head of every statistics student: correlation doesn’t mean causation. Just because two events trend together doesn’t mean that one caused the other. For example, let’s imagine hypothetically that you found data asserting that people drive slower in urban areas when it rains. The conclusion that most people would jump to is that the presence of rain causes people to drive more slowly. If your job is to eliminate the slow-downs, you might try to solve this problem by requiring drivers to go through rain driving training or increasing regulations on tire conditions during vehicle inspections.

However, it’s easy to see that a third factor may be the cause of reduced driving speeds. When it rains, more people in cities are likely to drive (rather than walk, bike, or take public transport and get wet), creating more traffic, which, in turn, could cause people to drive more slowly.

You can see how the tendency to believe that correlation equals causation can cause you to arrive at very different conclusions.

The logic used in this Twitter thread is that Democrats are the cause for riots and racist police brutality because the leadership in those cities and states are largely Democratic. While this could be the case, the data shared in this tweet only establishes correlation, not causation. There are many other possible explanations for how both of these facts can be true without one causing the other.

. . . .

Wrong Denominator Fallacy

Dividing the incidence of an event by a denominator helps achieve what statisticians call normalization of the data. For example, imagine you take a test that has 200 questions and you get 20 wrong and your friend takes a test with 100 questions and gets 11 wrong. If you simply compare the number of wrong answers, you would think you did worse. But you answered more questions than your friend, so you have to divide the number wrong by the total number of questions:

  • 20/200 = 10% wrong
  • 11/100 = 11% wrong

When you normalize the data by dividing by the right denominator, you can see the that conclusion is reversed: you did better, not worse.

Sometimes people run into critical thinking fallacies because they don’t normalize the data; that is, they don’t divide by a denominator. But a more subtle fallacy is dividing by the wrong denominator.

Link to the rest at Zarvana

Serialized Books Are a Burgeoning Business at Substack

From Publishers Weekly:

The subscription e-newsletter platform Substack has already made its mark on the media business, but will it do the same for book publishing? Authors including Elle Griffin, John McWhorter, Maggie Stiefvater, and Matt Taibbi use the service to serialize new books or publish short stories exclusive to their newsletter audiences, but to date, the platform is still only dipping its toes into the book business. Still, Substack provides authors—the latest of whom is Anand Giridharadas, an editor-at-large for Time, political analyst for MSNBC, and former New York Times correspondent—with some interesting options upon which to capitalize.

Giridharadas will serialize the first two chapters of his 2014 book, The True American: Murder and Mystery in Texas, in his newsletter, The.Ink, which goes out, he said, to an audience of “tens of thousands” of free subscribers and a smaller list of paid subscribers. The book, PW wrote in its starred review, “follows the encounter between Mark Stroman, a racist ex-con in Dallas who went on a killing spree targeting men he wrongly thought were Arabs after 9/11, and Raisuddin Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi-born convenience-store clerk who was shot by Stroman but survived.” It is, our reviewer said, “an affecting story of forgiveness and redemption” centered around “the author’s penetrating portraits of the two men.” The book has sold nearly 15,000 copies in all print formats at outlets that report to NPD BookScan.

Over the course of eight days, Giridharadas will publish the first two chapters of the book—each one focusing on one of its two principal characters and broken into four newsletters each—in both text form and audiobook segments, which will also be offered free of charge via Audible. (The first installment was published today.) The excerpts will be sent via newsletter and live in blog form as web pages on The.Ink, hosted by Substack. Giridharadas will also open his paid subscriber Zoom sessions to all for virtual book club discussions beginning on August 31. The arrangement is particularly interesting considering that the book has already been published—and that its publisher, W.W. Norton, greenlit the project without any licensing fees.

. . . .

Giridharadas saw the possibility of a new audience now, but “books only land once, and in this case, I had this ongoing frustration or sense of a missed opportunity.” So he contacted Norton, telling them he wanted “to give this book another shot at the conversation, and to land in the conversation now that these very dark portents of the book have have kind of materialized and become not fringe-y things but central things.”

At first, Giridharadas said, he and his publisher talked about “very conventional things, like, do I write a new foreword? Or do we reissue the book with a new cover?” But Norton didn’t see a reissue as the way to go.

“In this case, we chose not to reissue,” Alexa Pugh, v-p and publishing manager at Norton Trade Paperbacks, wrote in an email to PW. “One of the first (though not only) things we look for in a reissue candidate is the need to refresh the package to appeal to a new readership, often a more modern one if the book was published many years ago. But we agreed that the cover has held up nicely since it original publication in 2014, which lent support to the idea of pursuing a different method to get the book back out there. We also saw other ways that Anand could make the connection to current events outside of adding new material to the book itself in a new edition, such as through the book club he’ll be conducting as part of the newsletter campaign.”

Ultimately, both parties landed on using Giridharadas’s newsletter, which he launched last August, positing that its intimate nature, and the personal connection he has developed with its readers through it, would be their best shot at bringing the book back into the conversation. It was a new arrangement for both parties, and not without its challenges. Giridharadas, for one did not like the idea of licensing the content. But Norton agreed to let him reuse the first two chapters without any financial arrangement. Pugh noted that Audible “was also happy to coordinate with us” to include audio excerpts matching the serialized chapters at no cost.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Advance copies of Sally Rooney’s unpublished book sold for hundreds of dollars

From The Guardian:

When advance reading copies (ARCs) of Sally Rooney’s new novel Beautiful World, Where Are You were sent out in May, there was a flurry of social media posts. A lucky selection of editors, writers and influencers flaunted their copies; others bemoaned not having been granted one. Soon listings for proof copies (which are clearly marked “not for resale”) started to appear on trading sites such as eBay and Depop. One copy, listed on eBay by a seller in North Carolina, sold in June for $209.16. Even the canvas tote bag that Rooney’s publicists had been sending out with the ARC copies was fetching prices in the region of $80.

As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week, advance copies of popular and classic novels have long been collector’s items: a rare proof copy of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stonefor example, or classics by authors such as Ernest Hemingway or John Steinbeck can sell for up to £30,000, while Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroadswhich will be published in October, sold earlier this month on eBay for £124.

But this high demand for ARCs of books that are yet to be published has only emerged recently, fuelled in part by the rise of book bloggers and influencers.

“Part of the purpose of proofs is to make people get to feel like they’re in an exclusive club,” said Adam Howard, who works for Scribe Publications. “But it happened with the Sally Rooney on a scale we’ve never seen before.”

Posting under hashtags such as #Galleybrag, Instagram influencers show off the advanced copies of novels to which they were granted access. Among these, Rooney’s forthcoming Beautiful World, Where Are You is by far the most prized. Given the social currency that a selfie with an advance copy of the novel can carry, Howard is not surprised that people are prepared to pay large sums to get their hands on it.

“When a book appears on social media months before official release, other bloggers and readers go mad for it,” said Dan Bassett, a Bristol bookseller and blogger who is regularly sent galley copies of forthcoming titles. “This has led to people selling them though market places, with others asking people like myself if I would sell it to them.”

However, the sale of ARCs is a legal grey area. Advance copies are clearly marked as not for sale, and publishers remain their legal owners. This means that technically, a publishing house could recall an ARC at any time – but this is largely unheard of. And since proofs of big releases have only recently become such a hot commodity, publishers have not traditionally had to police ARC sales stringently – and have generally been willing to turn a blind eye to a small number of proofs being sold in charity shops.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

It’s not exactly a conspiracy theory, but if PG was hired to do some on-the-cheap promotion for an upcoming traditionally-published book, he might use a few social media accounts to do exactly what’s described in the OP, then have someone contact the Guardian books editor with a hot tip and some screenshots.

Banned Hashtags You Should Avoid In 2021

From Kicksta:

Hashtags are an important part of any business’s Instagram strategy, but it’s important that you monitor which ones you’re using. You don’t want to accidentally use a banned hashtag, as it can derail your entire Instagram marketing plan. If you’ve been using many different hashtags and other organic Instagram growth strategies and your account hasn’t been growing much (or at all), you might be accidentally using banned hashtags.

. . . .

Banned hashtags are hashtags that Instagram users have reported because the posts using them go against Instagram’s guidelines. This means that any post that uses that hashtag will be hidden, which will only hurt your organic reach and growth efforts.

Banned hashtags are always changing, based on community reports and Instagram’s investigations. Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t publish a list of the currently banned hashtags.

. . . .

Instagram bans hashtags because of reports from users. Typically it happens because people are posting inappropriate content and using certain hashtags. Some of the hashtags that are banned, though, are ones you wouldn’t necessarily expect, like #beautyblogger. Sometimes, though, close alternatives are still okay. In this case, #beautybloggers, with an “s” on the end, is not banned and works just fine.

Link to the rest at Kicksta

As a disclaimer, PG claims no expertise with respect to Instagram, including Instagram hash tags.

As a further disclaimer, PG is not a #beautyblogger or a member of a group of #beautybloggers and, although PG is somewhat hesitant to predict the future in absolute terms, he has a very high degree of confidence that he will never use a hashtag like #beautyblogger for anything he does online.

In the interest of scientific inquiry, he checked out a list of banned Instagram hashtags at the OP to see if #book or #books were prohibited. Visitors to TPV will be relieved to learn that, as of the date and time PG made this post, both #book and #books appear to be just fine in the opinion of the Instagram Hashtag Police (#hashtagpolice).

However, you will want to make certain that, in addition to #beautyblogger you don’t use any of the following hashtags beginning with the letter “B” lest you be “shadowbanned” from Instagram:

  • #besties
  • #bikinibody
  • #boho
  • #brain

Remember, you can always rely on TPV for the latest updates on all things online because PG (AKA #bikinibody) is constantly on the alert.

What Authors Have Found in Substack

From Publishers Weekly:

When I first moved to California, it was a dream come true: an office right on the beach in Santa Monica in January. At break time, I ran out onto the sand to the water’s edge and stared in awe at the surf, the sun, and the people playing at the edge of the world. My colleagues chuckled and made comments along the lines of, “You must be new.”

I soon learned that the company I had joined, like so many others, was a bit of a way station for many of its employees. “What do you do?” I’d ask, to replies of, “Oh, I’m an actor,” or, “I write for TV,” or, “I do stand-up comedy.” Not a week went by without someone asking me for some time off to rush to an audition. It seemed LAX was overrun with arrivals dreaming the same dream. Nowhere did I see this more than in the restaurant scene, from Geoffrey’s in Malibu to Ivy at the Shore in Santa Monica or Eveleigh’s on the Sunset Strip: everyone working the tables was an actor or writer or artist of some form.

Fast-forward to present-day Silicon Valley, land of a different dream. As venture capitalist Mark Suster recently put it, “The culture is driven by the 20-something irreverent founder with huge technical chops who in a David-versus-Goliath mythology takes on the titans of industry and wins.” The airports here disgorge a stream of would-be entrepreneurs who dream of creating the next unicorn, or billion-dollar startup. And, just like in Hollywood, reality hits soon and hits hard, with many making ends meet through side gigs in the euphemistically named gig economy, be it via DoorDash, Instacart, Lyft, Uber, or other such services.

What is a self-respecting aspirational author to do in such a world—one turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic? It takes time—an enormous amount of time—to write. It’s not trivial to be an ersatz taxi or delivery driver and write competently at the same time.

Yet most authors know it doesn’t pay much to write. Not all things beautiful, whether writing a book or painting or raising a child, are rewarded financially. The rewards are in the doing and in what the author or the painter or the parent brings to the world around them. Enter a new option: the paid subscription newsletter, the best-known version being Substack.

Originally designed to address the crisis in journalism, wherein the ad-supported business model evaporated like the morning dew and the incremental value of professionally written content drifted down to near nothing, paid newsletters give journalists a chance to be compensated directly for their hard work. Many of these writers were recently let go from their media houses. Others, with strong personal brands, believe they can be paid better as independents in control of their own work. A grand experiment is underway, with traditional media outlets like the New Yorker and the New York Times decrying the unravelling of the fifth estate. Look closer at what is actually happening and you’ll see something else—something that looks very familiar to the waiters in L.A. and the Uber drivers in Silicon Valley. For many writers on Substack and similar platforms, writing a paid subscription newsletter is the new side gig.

Take my example. Having published one book on strategy, I was looking for a way to write the next one. I had so much material and needed time, lots of time: time that was flexible enough to allow me to juggle the responsibilities of raising little children and of contributing to paying the bills, all under pandemic lockdown. Every little bit helps, and being paid while writing makes my dream of publishing the next book that much more of a reality. Or the example of JJ Ding, author of the ChinAI newsletter, who juggles graduate studies with corralling a community of dedicated English-Mandarin translators to make the world of AI research underway in China better understood outside the country, reducing the fear and mistrust between China and the U.S.

Or there’s the example of Animatou Sow, author of the Crème de la Crème newsletter, who juggles writing books, posting Instagram stories, and hosting podcasts, which all feature her incisive cultural commentary, such as, “Books are the answer to rampant 21st-century charlatanism.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG was generally familiar with Substack prior to reading the OP, but is interested to hear from those more knowledgeable about whether writing a paid subscription newsletter on Substack actually generates much money for most people (excluding extreme outliers).

How Twitter can ruin a life

UPDATE: Yes, this is the second post PG has made on the same OP.

He may be losing his mind, but, in his defense, he was a long distance away from PG Central working from a motel room when he made the first post and now he’s home. Perhaps his subconscious was feeling that the same post in two different time zones would not be quite the same thing.

He apologizes to any who have been confused or irritated. Maybe PG’s medications differ in their effects when he’s outside of Casa PG or maybe he’s living in two different dimensions simultaneously. He does believe he’s married to Mrs. PG in each of these dimensions, however.

From Vox:

“In a war zone, it is not safe to be unknown. Unknown travelers are shot on sight,” says Isabel Fall. “The fact that Isabel Fall was an unknown led to her death.”

Isabel Fall isn’t dead. There is a person who wrote under that name alive on the planet right now, someone who published a critically acclaimed, award-nominated short story. If she wanted to publish again, she surely could.

Isabel Fall is a ghost nonetheless.

In January 2020, not long after her short story “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” was published in the online science fiction magazine Clarkesworld, Fall asked her editor to take the story down, and then checked into a psychiatric ward for thoughts of self-harm and suicide.

The story — and especially its title, which co-opts a transphobic meme — had provoked days of contentious debate online within the science fiction community, the trans community, and the community of people who worry that cancel culture has run amok. Because there was little biographical information available about its author, the debate hinged on one question: Who was Isabel Fall? And that question ate her alive. When she emerged from the hospital a few weeks later, the world had moved on, but she was still scarred by what had happened. She decided on something drastic: She would no longer be Isabel Fall.

As a trans woman early in transition, Fall had the option of retreating to the relative safety of her legal, masculine identity. That’s what she did, staying out of the limelight and growing ever more frustrated by what had happened to her. She bristles when I ask her in an email if she’s stopped transitioning, but it’s the only phrase I can think of to describe how the situation appears.

Isabel Fall was on a path to becoming herself, and then she wasn’t — and all because she published a short story. And then her life fell apart.

In the 18 months since, what happened to her has become a case study for various people who want to talk about the Way We Live Today. It has been held up as an example of progressives eating their own, of the dangers of online anonymity, of the need for sensitivity readers or content warnings. But what this story really symbolizes is the fact that as we’ve grown more adept at using the internet, we’ve also grown more adept at destroying people’s lives, but from a distance, in an abstracted way.

Sometimes, the path to your personal hell is paved with other people’s best intentions.

Like most internet outrage cycles, the fracas over “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” was enormous news within the bubble of people who cared about it and made barely a blip outside of that bubble. The full tale is amorphous and weird, and recounting its ins and outs is nearly impossible to do here. Just trying to explain the motivations of all involved is a task in and of itself, and at any rate, that story has been told many times, quoting others extensively. Fall has never spoken publicly about the situation until now.

Clarkesworld published Fall’s story on January 1, 2020. For a while, people seemed to like it.

“I was in awe of it on a sentence level. I thought it was beautiful and devastating and incredibly subversive and surprising. It did all this work in a very short amount of space, which I found completely breathtaking. It had been a long time since I had read a short story that I had enjoyed and that also had rewired my brain a little bit,” said author Carmen Maria Machado, who read the story before controversy had broken out.

In the first 10 days after “Attack Helicopter” was published, what muted criticism existed was largely confined to the story’s comments section on Clarkesworld. The tweets that still exist from that period were largely positive responses to the story, often from trans people.

But first in Clarkesworld’s comments and then on Twitter, the combination of the story’s title and the relative lack of information about Fall began to fuel a growing paranoia around the story and its author. The presence of trolls who seemed to take the story’s title at face value only added to that paranoia. And when read through the lens of “Isabel Fall is trolling everybody,” “Attack Helicopter” started to seem menacing to plenty of readers.

“Attack Helicopter” was a slippery, knotty piece of fiction that captured a particular trans feminine uncertainty better than almost anything I have ever read. Set in a nightmarish future in which the US military has co-opted gender to the degree that it turns recruits into literal weapons, it told the story of Barb, a pilot whose gender is “helicopter.” Together with Axis — Barb’s gunner, who was also assigned helicopter — Barb carried out various missions against assorted opposition forces who live within what is at present the United States.

Then, because its title was also a transphobic meme and because “Isabel Fall” had absolutely no online presence beyond the Clarkesworld story, many people began to worry that Fall was somehow a front for right-wing, anti-trans reactionaries. They expressed those fears in the comments of the story, in various science fiction discussion groups, and all over Twitter. Fans of the story pushed back, saying it was a bold and striking piece of writing from an exciting new voice. While the debate was initially among trans people for the most part, it eventually spilled over to cis sci-fi fans who boosted the concerns of trans people who were worried about the story.

Link to the rest at Vox and here’s a link to Clarksworld

PG admits that, while he has a couple of Twitter accounts under pseudonyms, he is not inclined to go there using his own name. For him, of all the major social media platforms, Twitter seems like the one that attracts hordes of aggressive crazies. He’s happy to hear contrary/alternate opinions, however.

Where My Money Comes From

From Jane Friedman:

While I’ve often revealed at conferences and workshops where my money comes from—complete with pie charts—I’ve never laid out in writing, at this site, what my earnings looks like. It is perhaps an overdue look, since I reach more people through this blog than I do through speaking engagements.

My 3 key categories of earnings

Most of my income arises from three types of work:

  • Consulting one-on-one with writers
  • Teaching in-person and online
  • Paid writing (newsletters, articles, books) and indirect income from free writing (advertising and affiliate income through my website and newsletter)

Since I started full-time freelancing in 2015, these categories have always remained central, although the mix and character of the work shifts.

What my top-line income looked like in 2016

Here’s what was happening in each of these categories.

  • Online teaching (26%): This includes (1) multi-week workshops I was offering directly, (2) multi-week workshops I was offering by guest instructors (I kept a cut of registration fees), and (3) webinars I taught for other companies, such as Writer’s Digest. While it looks like a healthy percentage of my income, my profit margin was low on courses taught by others.
  • Query-synopsis editing (24%): In 2016, I started attracting a steady stream of clients who were seeking help with their queries and synopses for submission to agents and editors.
  • Consulting (17%): I do two types of consulting: book proposal consulting and one-on-one consulting. It’s all done on an hourly, flat-fee basis, trading money for time.
  • Paid newsletter (12%): In late 2015, I launched a paid email newsletter (The Hot Sheet) with Porter Anderson. This was the first year we had a full year of subscription income, which we split down the middle after expenses. (The profit margin is excellent, about 90 percent.)
  • Freelance writing (7%): This included varied opportunities, including features for Writer’s Digest magazine. I also initially counted The Great Courses income under this, because it literally required me to write 100,000 words in three months. (I had to write the script for the course, then deliver on camera.)
  • Affiliate income (6%): I’m an Amazon affiliate and also started affiliate arrangements around 2016 with Teachable and Bluehost. I don’t work for this money; it’s passive income.
  • Book sales (5%): This is all income from Publishing 101, which I self-published in late 2015.
  • Conference speaking (3%): Some people think I get paid the big bucks for speaking. I do not. It represents the smallest of my revenue streams in 2016. But speaking (especially in person) is important for visibility and trust. It’s also critical for me to remain in touch with real writers’ everyday concerns, plus I get to hear and learn from other experts in the community.

If I combine these into my three main areas of income:

  • 41% one-on-one work (consulting and editing)
  • 30% writing (affiliate income goes in here since it’s powered by my writing and blogging)
  • 29% teaching and speaking

What my top-line income looked like in 2020

You’ll notice one big change here!

Here’s what was happening in each of these categories. And note that 2020 was the first full year that my husband joined the business as a full-time employee.

  • Online teaching (48%): In fall 2019, I began hosting my own webinars because I now had someone who could help with post-production and customer service. Some webinars I teach myself and others feature guest instructors. This move proved fortunate when the pandemic rolled around. I keep 50 percent of the net for webinars taught by guest instructors. I still continue to teach for a range of organizations and companies, so that’s still included here as well.
  • Query-synopsis editing (12%): I stopped taking on this work in the middle of 2020 to open up more room in my schedule for writing work. I still offer a query letter master class, though—that income now falls under online teaching.
  • Consulting (16%): In 2020, I was still accepting one-on-one consulting clients and book proposal clients. In 2021, I now accept only book proposal clients in an ongoing effort to pull back some of my time for writing (or at least make consulting time more profitable).
  • Paid newsletter (16%): I am now the full owner of The Hot Sheet. While this percentage doesn’t look much increased despite me now taking 100% of the net, it’s not because the subscriber base didn’t grow. Rather, it’s a reflection of how much the other areas of my business have grown—namely online teaching. Also, if this were a profits chart, not a top-line revenue chart, the paid newsletter would represent a bigger proportion of the pie.
  • Book sales (3%): This is income from Publishing 101, my Great Course, and The Business of Being a Writer.
  • Conference speaking (3%): This includes some virtual conferences and would’ve been more had it not been for the pandemic. (I’m not complaining, though! I needed to get off the travel wagon for a while.)
  • Advertising (2%): I recently started accepting advertisers in Electric Speed, my free newsletter.
  • Affiliate income (1%): Amazon has reduced its affiliate marketing payouts over time, and I’m more often linking to Bookshop—which simply doesn’t bring in as much income. (But one feels better linking to it.) I’ve also stopped actively engaging in or seeking affiliate marketing, not because I’m against it, but frankly I have a lot of other things I’d rather do.

If I combine these into my three main areas of income:

  • 51% teaching and speaking
  • 28% one-on-one work (consulting and editing)
  • 22% writing (advertising/affiliate goes here since it’s powered by my writing)

Yes, I realize this adds up to 101%. What can I say? My spreadsheet rounded things up.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG really likes Jane’s flexibility. She isn’t afraid to modify her work emphasis as market conditions and her personal desires change.

A handful of people stumble on a magic formula that works over and over again so long as they just keep repeating the same effort over and over again.

However, very few businesses are that predictable and unchanging over a long period of time.

Technology changes, what people want and are willing to pay for changes, etc., etc., etc.

For PG, this is one of the great weaknesses of the wash, rinse, repeat mindset of traditional publishing. They really, really want to keep doing things the way they did them before. Paying someone a few thousand dollars to run a social media promotion for a book is regarded as a big creative move (in an age where teens can become social media stars with a new angle and a new attitude and use their fame and followers to build a commercial business from scratch.

If you really don’t want to change, putting a new coat of paint on the old machine won’t fool anybody outside of your closed little world.