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.

How Authors Can Leverage Facebook Ads to Sell More Books

From Jane Friedman:

When authors want to advertise their books, three advertising platforms spring to mind for most: Facebook ads, Amazon ads, and BookBub ads.

And while each of these platforms can be amazing in their own right and even more so when used holistically together, without a strong foundation (i.e. a great book that has been edited and proofread, a strong book description, right pricing for your category or genre, a professional-looking book cover that fits in your genre, etc.), no amount of advertising can sell a poor quality book.

Once you have a strong foundation, the truthis that advertising takes time to perfect; it takes testing; it takes patience, persistence, and, ultimately, it takes money.

However, let’s brighten things up.

When you get your ads dialed in, they can truly transform your career.

As an example, my wife is an author of fantasy novels. Before we started advertising her debut series of books, we were lucky if they pulled in $40 per month!

Last month, this same series earned $8,550 in royalties, with $5,200 of profit—and that’s with just one series of three books; the fourth book is due out later this year.

And the advertising platform that did the brunt of the leg work was…

Facebook ads.

Let’s dive into it. Here’s what you’ll learn.

  • Why Facebook offers authors an incredible opportunity to position themselves in front of their ideal readers
  • When to use Facebook ads
  • Are Facebook ads worth your time and money?
  • How to create scroll-stopping Facebook ads
  • My top 5 Facebook ads tips for authors

The Facebook ads opportunity

Facebook’s biggest and most valuable asset is data. As an advertiser on Facebook, you can tap into this data and pinpoint the exact people (readers) you want to reach with your ads.

As an example, if you know your readers:

  • Live in New York
  • Are female
  • Aged between 45 and 55
  • Work as an accountant
  • Have been a newlywed for 6 months
  • Recently moved
  • Enjoy French cuisine
  • Own a dog and a fish
  • And do yoga

You could potentially target them! Now, I wouldn’t recommend being this granular with your targeting; this is just an exaggerated example to show you how much Facebook knows about its user base. In fact, I have seen better results by leaving my targeting fairly open. I trust Facebook enough to go out and find the right people to position the books I’m advertising in front of.

So what sort of targeting should you be doing with your Facebook ads?

Targeting is a big topic and what works for one author won’t necessarily work for another. However, myself and many other authors have seen the best results by targeting:

  • Author names
  • Book / series titles
  • TV shows
  • Movies
  • Genres (e.g., romantic fantasy)

As long as your targeting is relevant to the book you’re advertising, it’s worth testing. That’s not to say that every target you test will be a winner, but the more relevant you can be, the higher the chance of your Facebook ads converting into sales and therefore providing you with a positive Return on Ad Spend (ROAS); in other words, profit.

When researching potential targets, I can’t recommend enough that you keep track of all your tests in a spreadsheet. I have built my own Targeting and Tracking spreadsheet which you can use for free; it’s included in my Author Ads Toolkit, which comes with several other valuable resources.

It’s also worth noting that Facebook ads allow you to advertise not just on the Facebook News Feed, although that is where you are likely to see the majority of your traffic coming from, but also on Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories, Instagram Feed, Facebook Messenger and many more.

. . . .

Before we move on, let’s first take a quick look at what a Facebook ad actually looks like.

Sample Facebook ad

This is one of the ads I’ve run for my wife’s series of fantasy novels.

If you’ve spent any length of time scrolling on your Facebook News Feed, I’m sure you recognize the layout and style of this ad. As you can see, Facebook wants their ads to fit in with an organic post (i.e., not an ad) that you might see from one of your Facebook friends.

. . . .

When to use Facebook ads

Facebook ads can be extremely powerful in many scenarios; whether you use them in all these scenarios or just one or two will depend on your ultimate goals and your strategy for building a career as an author.

Here are the 6 scenarios I like to use Facebook ads for:

  1. Book launches
  2. Promotions (e.g., $0.99 sale for 7 days)
  3. Evergreen sales (e.g., continuously advertising Book 1 of a series)
  4. Cross-series Retargeting (e.g. retarget people who have seen Book 1 of your series in a Facebook ad with Book 1 of another of your series in a similar genre)
  5. Same-series retargeting (e.g. if your books can be read in any order, retarget people who have seen one book from your series in a Facebook ad and show them another book from that same series)
  6. Building your mailing list (e.g., giving people a free copy of one of your books in exchange for their email address)

By no means do you need to use Facebook ads for each of these scenarios! Start slow and then build at a pace that works for you once you begin to see results.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Bookstagrammers Demand Publishers Pay Up

From Book and Film Globe:

Last month, The New York Times published a glowing story about BookTok, TikTok’s book community, and its impact on the publishing industry. If you’re not familiar, picture 10-second book trailers, and videos of women crying as they throw a copy of a tragic romance across the room. And it works—the Times piece reported that sales for one such tragic romance, Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles, is currently selling about 10,000 copies per week, a nine-time increase from its best sales in 2012, when the novel won the Orange Prize.

“Many Barnes & Noble locations around the United States have set up BookTok tables displaying titles like ‘They Both Die at the End,’ ‘The Cruel Prince,’ ‘A Little Life’ and others that have gone viral,” wrote Elizabeth A. Harris. “There is no corresponding Instagram or Twitter table, however, because no other social media platform seems to move copies the way TikTok does.”

Bibliophiles on other social media platforms had a thorny response to that last bit. Bookstagrammers, which is what people who run book-focused Instagram accounts call themselves, spoke out the loudest.  “Don’t erase bookstagrammers and BIPOC literary creators because we’ve been here doing the work,” said one of my favorite bookstagrammers, @booksteahenny, in an Instagram story.

. . . .

Last month, The New York Times published a glowing story about BookTok, TikTok’s book community, and its impact on the publishing industry. If you’re not familiar, picture 10-second book trailers, and videos of women crying as they throw a copy of a tragic romance across the room. And it works—the Times piece reported that sales for one such tragic romance, Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles, is currently selling about 10,000 copies per week, a nine-time increase from its best sales in 2012, when the novel won the Orange Prize.

“Many Barnes & Noble locations around the United States have set up BookTok tables displaying titles like ‘They Both Die at the End,’ ‘The Cruel Prince,’ ‘A Little Life’ and others that have gone viral,” wrote Elizabeth A. Harris. “There is no corresponding Instagram or Twitter table, however, because no other social media platform seems to move copies the way TikTok does.”

Bibliophiles on other social media platforms had a thorny response to that last bit. Bookstagrammers, which is what people who run book-focused Instagram accounts call themselves, spoke out the loudest.  “Don’t erase bookstagrammers and BIPOC literary creators because we’ve been here doing the work,” said one of my favorite bookstagrammers, @booksteahenny, in an Instagram story.

Link to the rest at Book and Film Globe

PG notes that you no longer need to be a traditionally-published author for publishers to profit by your work without paying you much.

14 Ways Authors Express Gratitude

From BookBub:

Authors often say that engaging with readers is one of the most gratifying aspects of their career. And while authors provide readers with entertainment, information, or an escape from reality, readers provide authors with an audience (and revenue), word-of-mouth exposure, or support. Since readers fuel an author’s expression and success, how can a writer thank fans for supporting their work?

A little bit of recognition can go a long way to foster a relationship with fans and maintain a dedicated readership. From sharing fan art to running giveaways to sharing discounts, there are many ways authors can show readers appreciation. To help you brainstorm ideas on how to communicate gratitude, we’ve compiled a list of methods authors use to applaud, reward, and connect with their readers. We hope these examples provide inspiration for your own approach to engaging with readers!

1. Show off fan art

Leigh Bardugo reposted fan art of two of her book’s characters, expressing gratitude for how this wonderful depiction by @sartagos “revived” her spirit during a tough week.

. . . .

2. Run book giveaways

Jillian Dodd frequently runs giveaways for her readers. In this one example, Jillian kept the entry method simple; fans could enter to win an angsty paperback stack by following Jillian on Instagram and BookBub and tagging a friend in the comments of this post.

. . . .

5. Give away fun items and gift cards

Sarah Nicolas chose three lucky winners to receive a gift card to an Etsy shop selling masks and embroidered bookmarks.

Link to the rest at BookBub

Using TikTok to Sell Books

From Writers Helping Writers:

Almost every teenager in the United States knows about TikTok—the video-sharing social media platform with hundreds of millions of active users. And with the increasing popularity of the #BookTok hashtag, which readers use to talk about their favorite books, many YA authors are turning to TikTok to promote their work.

I began posting on the platform in August of 2020 and have since amassed nearly 225,000 followers (a number that is still growing by hundreds each day). TikTok makes it incredibly easy to go viral with minimal effort. Just one fifteen-second video can get you tens of thousands of followers; all you need is a decent strategy. Here are some tips that earned my videos millions of views:

1. Use Hashtags to Your Advantage

Many users believe that using popular hashtags (such as #fyp) will be enough for them to go viral. That isn’t entirely true. While there is a slight chance those hashtags will give you thousands of views, it is highly unlikely they will help you reach your target audience. Using hashtags such as #author, #writingabook, or anything relating to your genre will be much more effective. The first video I posted with those hashtags garnered nearly half a million views.

2. Post Consistently

If one of your videos does go viral and you disappear off the platform for the next few weeks, you’ll probably end up losing hundreds of followers. Your goal should be creating bonds with your fans so they’ll feel more inclined to buy your books, and one way to do that is posting at least once a day.

3. Don’t Just Promote

Believe me when I say this—nobody wants to hear you blatantly promote your book 24/7. A promotional post once in a while is fine, but your followers will get bored if everything on your page is just you talking about your book. Keep your content related to writing, but switch it up. One way to do that is by posting writing tips. Those are amazing choices for videos because they give you credibility. Not to mention, if you help someone with their writing, they’ll want to repay you in any way they can—like buying your book. Half of my followers wouldn’t be following me if it wasn’t for my writing tips.

4. Use Trending Sounds

This is probably the #1 factor that will help boost your videos. If you see that a sound has over ten thousand videos under it (most of which are recent), use it. You can even put it over a video of you talking (just lower the sound to zero if you don’t want it to be heard) and it will still boost your views.

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

Twelve Years

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

On April 2, 2009, I started a blog with this:

This post marks the beginning of an experiment. I will post sections of a work in progress—a book tentatively titled The Freelancer’s Survival Guide—here, on my website.

If you go back and read that original post, you can see how tentative I am about the whole concept of an online blog. Two friends, Michael J. Totten and Scott William Carter, had a meeting with me and Dean and talked to us about new ways of publishing.

In 2009, blogging—with a donate button—was new. This was before Patreon, before Kickstarter, before all kinds of innovations. And now, twelve years later, blogging the way that I do it has become…well, not passé, exactly, but not necessarily the preferred modern way to do things.

Old hat. Old fashioned.

Weird how time flies.

And it flies fast. I was going to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the blog, but Allyson Longueira, who runs our company WMG Publishing, got diagnosed with a brain tumor and was in surgery around that point. We weren’t sure if she was going to survive, and we had to keep the business alive at the same time.

Then, last year, on April 2—Well, you were all around in 2020. You know that’s when the entire world was shutting down. We were worried about survival once again, and certainly not in the way that we expected.

So here we are in 2021. Most of us are excited about getting a vaccine. We’re using words like “opening up” and “returning to some semblance of normal,” because the past year has been anything but.

Reflecting on that time and those changes is almost impossible. Trying to imagine this world from the perspective of 2009 is well, I’m either afraid I would have believed me and panicked or (more likely) I would have reacted like the character in Julie Nolke’s YouTube series “Explaining The Pandemic To My Past Self.”

Really, when you think about all that happened since January of 2020, well, yeah. Really hard to believe.

But the pandemic was easier to live through because of innovations we didn’t really have in 2009. The Kindle was just premiering then. We didn’t have Zoom. We didn’t have much social media (maybe that’s a good thing?) and we certainly weren’t as connected online as we are now.

. . . .

Just today (as I write this), I got an email from a friend who is very invested in traditional publishing. He’s worried about how something he published will play “in the field.”

I stared at the email. What field? I wanted to ask. Because you can play in the remaining sandboxes of traditional publishing, but that “field” has gotten narrower and narrower.

Since it’s no longer a monolith, and it’s possible—no, better—to publish without it, the very idea of worrying what the curators think startled me.

Yet, when I reread the original post that started this entire publishing blog, I see that attitude underlying every sentence.

I was writing a blog that would become a book, and doing so with the online support of the readers. I honestly didn’t think anyone would read the post, let alone send in a few dollars to back what I was doing.

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.

PG’s brain doesn’t do anniversaries very well. Ditto for birthdays. BC (before computers) whenever he got a new paper calendar/schedule book at the beginning of a new year, he copied all of his annual reminders from his prior calendar into the new one.

Now, of course, he has recurring annual reminders on his digital calendar (and still fumbles an annual event once in awhile).

The them of Kris’ post got PG looking back and he discovered that he started TPV over ten years ago.

His first post referenced a web post that is still up – here’s the link

His only observation is the more things change . . . .

How Crying on TikTok Sells Books

From The New York Times:

“We Were Liars” came out in 2014, so when the book’s author, E. Lockhart, saw that it was back on the best-seller list last summer, she was delighted. And confused.

“I had no idea what the hell was happening,” she said.

Lockhart’s children filled her in: It was because of TikTok.

An app known for serving up short videos on everything from dance moves to fashion tips, cooking tutorials and funny skits, TikTok is not an obvious destination for book buzz. But videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s have come to dominate a growing niche under the hashtag #BookTok, where users recommend books, record time lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending.

These videos are starting to sell a lot of books, and many of the creators are just as surprised as everyone else.

. . . .

“I want people to feel what I feel,” said Mireille Lee, 15, who started @alifeofliterature in February with her sister, Elodie, 13, and now has nearly 200,000 followers. “At school, people don’t really acknowledge books, which is really annoying.”

. . . .

Many Barnes & Noble locations around the United States have set up BookTok tables displaying titles like “They Both Die at the End,” “The Cruel Prince,” “A Little Life” and others that have gone viral. There is no corresponding Instagram or Twitter table, however, because no other social-media platform seems to move copies the way TikTok does.

“These creators are unafraid to be open and emotional about the books that make them cry and sob or scream or become so angry they throw it across the room, and it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with,” said Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble. “We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales — I mean tens of thousands of copies a month — with other social media formats.”

The Lee sisters, who live in Brighton, England, started making BookTok videos while bored at home during the pandemic. Many of their posts feel like tiny movie trailers, where pictures flash across the screen to a moody soundtrack.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Tips for Working With a Social Media Assistant

From Writers in the Storm:

I’ve heard many authors—myself included—express our frustration and dismay at the expectation that we will not only produce wonderful books, but also carry out what amounts to a second full-time job as our own marketing team. Most of us don’t mind holding events, whether live or virtual, where we get to engage with readers. Nor do we mind interviews, written or recorded, where we can talk about our books and our writing process. But what so many of us do hate is the seemingly bottomless pit of social media engagement.

Facebook, with all those reader and writer groups. Instagram. Twitter. Pinterest.

“Likes” and “follows.” Comments and messages and shares.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone else could do all this for us?

Someone else can—for a price, and with a few caveats. Whether they call themselves virtual assistants, social media consultants, or author assistants, there are people who will manage your social media for you.

. . . .

Unlike publicists, who seek media coverage on your behalf, or direct marketers, whom you pay to advertise your book on their sites, a virtual assistant takes over tasks that you could, if you wanted, do yourself or learn how to do yourself. They may do it more attractively, strategically, or frequently—but they have no special credentials like the high-level media connections of a good publicist or special access to important gatekeepers. What you’re buying, in effect, is time—and the freedom to use that time in other ways.

The questions are: How much is that time worth to you, and are there other benefits, besides freeing up your time, that a virtual assistant can offer?

. . . .

I decided to investigate these questions when I thought about how I wanted to launch my second book, coming in April. My debut (April 2020) had a great launch despite the onset of the pandemic, but I wanted to expand my thinking to consider what I did not do—or didn’t do very well.

The obvious gap, for me, was in the realm of social media. Like many others in my cohort, I didn’t grow up with social media and secretly wished I didn’t have to use it. Being both naïve and overly-aggressive (a bad combination), I made some mistakes the first time around that I still regret. For example, having misunderstood the absolute meaning of “no self-promotion,” I am now banned forever from two of the biggest reader groups on Facebook.

I’ve learned a few things since Queen of the Owls made its way into the world. I now understand that social media is a long game, not a quick grab. It’s about the slow, steady development of connection and engagement. Like all relationships, it takes time and commitment. You have to show up every day, not just on birthdays and anniversaries. And that means a serious investment of energy.

Not everyone wants to do that. After all, there’s no end to what we, as authors, might do to reach out to readers! Another thing I’ve learned is that no one can, or should, do everything. I advise those who ask me: “Just do the stuff that’s fun for you, and outsource—or forget—the rest of it.”

. . . .

Sometimes the answer is clear. If you want to pitch to the book review editor at The New York Times, you need a professional publicist to do so on your behalf—and even then, there’s no guarantee. Many authors I know are unhappy at what they now consider to be a poor “return on investment” after hiring a publicist at a cost of anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. They’re wondering if there isn’t a middle ground between spending that kind of money, which most don’t have, and doing it all yourself.

A virtual assistant—someone who can manage author promotion on social media—can seem like an attractive option.  At a cost far below that of a publicist, with a direct appeal to readers that can actually be tracked, social media assistance is a rapidly-growing alternative.

And for those of us, like me, who do have a publicist, a social media assistant can—maybe—take over an important piece of the book promotion that publicists don’t do and that many of us authors don’t do very well.

. . . .

I encountered a number of models—different ways of working, with different price tags and different strengths and drawbacks.  I ended up selecting someone who seemed to be the best fit for my needs and style. While she hadn’t worked with authors, specifically, she was creative and flexible, which were two priorities for me.  I didn’t want someone with an expensive prix fixe package who required a three-month minimum commitment, as many did. I wanted to be able to explore and ramp up slowly, which this VA allows me to do.

So far, it seems to be working well. I come up with the concepts and she executes them—a division of labor that’s letting me keep to a reasonable budget, since she charges by the hour. On the other hand, there are possibilities I’m electing to forgo, such as analytics, story reels, optimization strategies, and so on—on the premise that no one can do, or cover, everything. For now, I’m simply outsourcing the creative part, which requires skills that would take me too long to learn to do well.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

PG will disclose that he consumes very, very little social media because he finds the signal-to-noise ratio to be much worse than when he wanders around parts of the web that he knows well. (He’s logged into Twitter 3-4 times since it first appeared and logs out in less than five minutes.)

That said, not everyone is like PG (thankfully) and some people enjoy checking into various social media platforms on a regular basis. Some of those social media fans buy books, so indie authors will be interested in reaching them with useful (and professional-looking) information.

Therefore, PG is definitely not a qualified social media guru, observer, expert, etc., of any sort.

He is an observer of humanity in general, however.

As he observes humanity, he can easily discern expert thumb-typists using smart phones. He doesn’t think any can beat his speed when he’s using a proper keyboard, but admits that he uses all ten digits while they use two, so a reasonable person would expect differences in speed.

(PG just tried to visualize a thumb-typist hitting 60-80 WPM which PG could easily do after he got warmed up in former days and could not imagine human thumbs moving that fast on teeny digital keyboards. For five minutes or two hours.)

Having worked with a few extremely intelligent college students over the years, if PG were to hypothetically consider using a Social Media Assistant, he might explore the college population. They’re likely to be intelligent and very familiar with the various platforms and the unwritten norms that govern interaction on those platforms.

Working as a Social Media Assistant for a celebrity like PG is much better fodder for a post-graduation résumé (AKA resume) than hustling for tips at a local restaurant, reshelving books in the university library or acting as a telephone operator for the antiquated university phone system at night when no one used it. (Note – The foregoing are a few of the jobs PG held when he was in college during the Pleistocene Epoch. (Sub-Note – PG never put any of those jobs on his résumé.))

PG is interested in comments from the always-intelligent and aware visitors to TPV concerning the social media challenge/opportunity facing authors these days.

One question just popped into PG’s mind (which was not otherwise occupied) – Can you still buy social media followers?

Several years ago, when you for-sure could buy social media followers and PG was in one of his experimental moods wanting to know if social media was useful or not, he gave someone something like $25 and gained over 10,000 followers very quickly. He didn’t notice any improvement in his life, so he didn’t give the person/organization any money after that.

Then he saw a mention of a small, very cheap little program (he doesn’t remember the name of it) that claimed to be able to increase your social media followers by automatically following people who followed you and following people it found online based on a few keywords selected by the purchaser. He gained another 10,000 or so followers very quickly with that program until it stopped working or was banned from social media in general.

Suffice to say, some of PG’s skepticism concerning social media arises from those two experiences. (He wonders if Kim Kardashian got started doing the same thing.)

(Which lead to PG wondering if the reason he never became a social media superstar was that he never though to post a photo of himself wearing a swimming suit.)

All the Things I Don’t Know

From Writer Unboxed:

As I was brainstorming ideas for today’s post, I thought about lessons I’ve learned, wisdom I might share. After all, my fourth novel was recently published, and I’ve got another three under contract. By most measures, I’m doing all right at this writing and publishing thing.

At the same time, I thought, how much can what I’ve learned really help writers who are not quite as far along in their careers? After all, one of the things I’ve learned is that everyone’s process is different. Knowing how I got where I am is no recipe for you getting where you want to be.

So today, instead of telling you what I know, I thought I’d delve into a much bigger, broader topic: what I don’t know.

. . . .

I don’t know if social media sells books. Sure, I can tell you that I’ve built a following on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook. I can tell you that people comment with “This sounds great!” and “I can’t wait for this book to come out” and “AMAZING!” Do they actually buy the book? Some of them, probably. But do I comment on other people’s posts with “This sounds great” and never get around to buying the book myself? Absolutely.

Yes, I have a general feeling that I’m selling more books than I otherwise would because I engage on social media with readers, other writers, and the book community — but there are no hard numbers to back this up. I cannot at all quantify what 15 minutes on Instagram adds up to, sales-wise. I can only say that’s 15 minutes I can’t spend on something else. So I engage on social media because I like it and because it’s fun. Because I can’t prove it does a lick of good otherwise.

I don’t know how to tell if my writing’s any good while I’m writing it. My most recent book was without question the hardest one to write, squeaking out just barely in time for its deadline, a flat-out mess of a process during which I was still researching while writing (the worst) and staying up after midnight every night for months to push, push, push forward. When I finished I was relieved. What I wasn’t: sure that the result I’d been pushing for was any good at all. This story has a happy ending — my editor read it and immediately said it was my best work yet, and readers seem to agree — but I can’t forget that feeling of looking at the completed draft and just having no idea whatsoever if it was my best work or my worst. Thank goodness I have a team of people I trust, but hoo boy. Should it feel this uncertain four books in? I don’t know. Does it? Oh yes.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Writers 2020

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.

Therefore, I’ve constructed this guide to help authors understand the erratic world of social media for writers and authors. I’ll show some of the better social media platforms for writers, how to best approach them, and which writers are doing it right –so you can see what it looks like when done to a level that will bring real success.

That way, if you choose to use social media to promote your writing, you’ll know what tactics to use and who to follow so that your efforts will not go in vain.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The best social media platforms to give your writing the best chance
  • How to effectively use social media for your writing career, so you’re not wasting time
  • The #1 reason why most writers fail at social media and how to fix this

. . . .

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. So, if you decide you want to build your social presence in an efficient manner, then be sure to take a course to help you.

. . . .

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:

  • Using your Personal Facebook Profile
  • Creating an Author Page
  • 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 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.

Choosing between a Facebook Page or Facebook Group can be a difficult decision at times. Here is an article that breaks down just what the difference is between the two, pros/cons of each, and which should you pursue.

Link to the rest at Kindlepreneur

How to Reduce Your Workload with a Facebook Auto Poster

From Hootsuite:

Let’s face it. Facebook is just one part of your marketing strategy. You have so many other things to do, not to mention a life you want to enjoy. And you have only 24 hours in the day.

That means it’s time to look at automating some of your Facebook marketing efforts. One of the first, easiest things you can do right now is start using a Facebook auto poster to automatically publish your posts. You’ll spend less time on the platform and more time doing other tasks.

. . . .

[A] Facebook auto poster is a tool that publishes your Facebook posts at a scheduled time you’ve established previously.

There are many Facebook auto posters out there. You can choose one that satisfies your needs.

But no matter which tool you opt for, make sure it covers 3 essential features:

  • Options to publish now or schedule for posting in the future.
  • Automatically publish scheduled posts on multiple Facebook pages, groups, and profiles you’ve created at the same time or at staggered intervals.
  • Allow to publish all types of content: Text, links, images, videos.

Besides these features, you may also want to consider a clean and intuitive interface, detailed reporting and dashboards, or the ability to manage multiple Facebook accounts from one place.

. . . .

1. Simplify your workflow and save time

If you ever search for time management tips, you may know this quote: “Work smarter, not harder.”

It may be a bit cliché, but imagine this situation: You’re doing Facebook marketing, and have to post a lot on this platform. Are you pleased with continually copying and pasting the same post into different groups?

The answer is a loud No.

By scheduling your posts ahead of time, you’ll save yourself a significant amount of time to do other things. Your work process becomes simpler because a Facebook auto poster takes on the tedious tasks for you.

2. Reach multiple time zones and post at the best time

The best time to post on Facebook is between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.

Note that this can be different depending on geographic locations (9 a.m in the United States is 11 p.m in Australia, don’t you know?).

That means you need an auto poster to ensure your posts will be published at the time with the highest engagement rates. You don’t have to log in to your account at 3 a.m; you can set it up once and let it run, only tweaking once in a while as necessary.

3. Maintain consistent scheduling across all platforms

Consistency is the key to building and growing your followers on Facebook.

Why?

Because if you consistently show up in your audience’s feed, you are more likely engage them with your brand. By doing that, your organic reach can increase, and your posts may get shown to potential new followers.

Whether it’s a slow news week or the biggest holiday season of the year, posting consistently benefits your business.

Link to the rest at Hootsuite

Five Mistakes That Even Experienced Social Media Managers Make

From Agorapulse:

Social media marketing is never done: It is a continuous process that requires constant attention and effort.

There are also no set rules as to what should be done to achieve certain results.

There are things you can certainly do wrong though, even if you think you are an experienced social media manager.

Here are five mistakes even experienced social media managers do (I certainly did all of those!) and how to fix them.

1. Not Scheduling Social Media Updates

I know, for some social media managers reading this, scheduling is an integral part of their workflow.

How can someone achieve a consistent social media presence without creating a well-balanced schedule of social media updates?

The truth is lots of brand-owned social media profiles don’t really have a consistent schedule. Many social media managers fail to create a schedule regularly. (Yikes.)

Scheduling is not that easy to manage if you’re always in a rush or don’t have a strategy.

I’ve been there many times … You schedule creative social media updates weeks ahead and then overlook the day when your schedule has been exhausted. Time flies and a few weeks or even a month may pass before you realize you should have filled your schedule up with fresh updates.

To overcome this struggle, I’ve been using these two tricks:

Create a social content schedule for the following year

I tend to use a slower period for scheduling. This is when I sit down and schedule 1-2 updates a month for as far a year ahead. Usually, these are weekend updates or posts timed for a holiday or a seasonal trend (back-to-school, Black Friday, etc.) This way, I make sure I will not miss any.

. . . .

Set up a routine

Always schedule monthly updates on a specific day.

For example, always on the last Friday of the previous month or always on the 28th of each month. Doing so will help you to keep yourself accountable.

I also create a recurring calendar reminder to never miss the day.

. . . .

2. Cross-Posting the Same Updates Everywhere

As social media managers, we always have to manage more than one channel. At the bare minimum, your active social media profiles to manage to include Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

It is always tempting to create the same update and cross-post it everywhere.

Doing so will, unfortunately, create a few missed opportunities by making your updates less appealing (and hence easier to miss).

There are platforms that support mostly vertical images, and there are platforms that prefer square images. There are channels that tend to respond better to animated GIFs and / or micro-videos, and there are platforms that hardly support them.

I could go on …

Creating an original, well-crafted (visual) update for each of your channels is not only more effective but also very doable. For example, there are image creation solutions that allow you to resize your images with one click of a mouse (such as Snappa) and there are tools that let you create animated GIFs in minutes (like Bannersnack):

Link to the rest at Agorapulse

PG fails to check any boxes as either a social media pretend-expert or a more than a mini-social media user.

In the earliest existence of TPV, PG had a couple of WordPress plug-ins that automatically spit out a short blurb with hash tags on a couple of TPV social media accounts that PG seldom monitored. PG seems to recall that each of the plugins wanted some money to keep doing what they had been doing at no charge and he hadn’t seen any real benefit from the social media world, so he uninstalled them.

One of the fundamental principles of any sort of advertising or promotion activity is to know your audience, which includes knowing what the audience watches, listens to, clicks on, etc., etc.

While TPV is anything but a finely-crafted piece of self-promotion for whatever he’s selling these days, PG thinks he has a pretty good feel for the people who stop buy to check out what’s going on around here. He watches comments and, on occasion, traffic stats for the site and it’s doing what he thinks he wants it to do, at least today.

If PG woke up one morning and decided he wanted to be a social media star, he would probably ask a neighbor who teaches social media marketing at a local university to identify his smartest student, then hire that student on a part-time basis to help set up PG’s social media empire, launch it, then watch what the student did with social media on PG’s behalf for a few months to learn the ropes.

During PG’s online wanderings, he has read a zillion articles about how to be successful in social media, but he senses that he’s not feeling the rhythms necessary to really do it well.

If he were purely pragmatic, PG might conclude that he’s doing fine without social media and focus on the things he knows how to do and knows will work for him, but he has a soft spot for new gadgets (he can see several by just glancing at the far reaches of his large, wrap-around desk), so he still monitors bright objects like social media.

Should You Hire a Social Media Assistant?

From Jane Friedman:

I hate social media. It’s an addictive rabbit-hole.

I just don’t have time. Social media takes away from my precious writing time.

I’m no good at creating those visuals and posts.

I hate all that self-promotion.

I’ve heard many authors—myself included—express frustration and dismay at the expectation that we will not only produce wonderful books, but also carry out what amounts to a second full-time job as our own marketing team. Most of us don’t mind holding events, whether live or virtual, where we get to engage with readers. Nor do we mind interviews, written or recorded, where we can talk about our books and our writing process. But what so many of us do hate is the seemingly bottomless pit of social media engagement.

Facebook, with all those reader and writer groups. Instagram. Twitter. Pinterest.

“Likes” and “follows.” Comments and messages and shares.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone else could do all this for us?

Someone else can—for a price, and with a few caveats.

What is a social media assistant?

Whether they call themselves virtual assistants, social media consultants, or author assistants, these are people who will manage your social media for you. Unlike publicists, who seek media coverage on your behalf, or direct marketers, whom you pay to advertise your book on their sites, such an assistant takes over tasks that you could, if you wanted, do yourself or learn how to do yourself. They may do it more attractively, strategically, or frequently—but they have no special credentials like the high-level media connections of a good publicist, nor any special access to important gatekeepers. What you’re buying, in effect, is time—and the freedom to use that time in other ways.

The questions are: How much is that time worth to you, and are there other benefits, besides freeing up your time, that a virtual assistant can offer?

. . . .

I now understand that social media is a long game, not a quick grab. It’s about the slow, steady development of connection and engagement. Like all relationships, it takes time and commitment. You have to show up every day, not just on birthdays and anniversaries. And that means a hefty investment of energy.

Not everyone wants to do that. After all, there’s no end to what we, as authors, might do to reach out to readers! Another thing I’ve learned is that no one can, or should, do everything. I advise those who ask me: “Just do the stuff that’s fun for you, and outsource—or forget—the rest of it.”

And there’s the heart of the matter: what should we do ourselves, what should we jettison, and what should we outsource?

Sometimes the answer is clear. If you want to pitch to the book review editor at The New York Times, you need a professional publicist to do so on your behalf—and even then, there’s no guarantee. Many authors I know are unhappy at what they now consider to be a poor “return on investment” after hiring a publicist at a cost of anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. They’re wondering if there isn’t a middle ground between spending that kind of money, which most don’t have, and doing it all yourself.

A virtual assistant—someone who can manage author promotion on social media—can seem like an attractive option. At a cost far below that of a publicist, with a direct appeal to readers that can actually be tracked, social media assistance is a rapidly-growing alternative.

. . . .

Below are five composite summaries of the models I encountered—what they offer, how they work, their strengths and drawbacks.  In all cases, it’s important to remember what a virtual assistant cannot do. Since a VA has no access to your phone, she can’t post photos of you doing book-related things. Her posts will, of necessity, have a certain “artistic distance” to them.

VA #1 is a self-published author of several books who has a side-business helping authors with services ranging from proofreading and editing to developing marketing plans, social media coaching, and query critiquing. Her experience and familiarity with the writing world made her an attractive choice. I also liked the fact she offered three options or levels of service, although her prices were at the high end. However, she also had a full-time job and a book of her own launching soon. I wondered if she would really be able to give me the kind of ongoing support I was looking for.

VA #2 is a polished professional, whose website and proposal were evidence of the strong visual style I was looking for. She also provided references so I could see the Instagram accounts of several clients she manages, and the same quality or “flair” was evident there. She offered an expensive prix fixe package, with no flexibility—although her proposal was comprehensive and strategic, and included features like a weekly Instagram Story Reel that other proposals did not. I was hesitant, however, because she had never done social media for an author, and the demographic that her posts seemed to be targeting was not mine. Her work seemed to be geared to a younger, more style-conscious audience, and I wondered if she would know how to target the kind of readers (and book-buyers) I sought to attract.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

As a preliminary opinion, PG thinks social media savvy is more important than book biz savvy in a good social media helper for an author.

How and when to work the social media platforms is ideally instinctive and intuitive for a helper. Mixing in the book stuff is probably not hard to do for a good social media jockey.

Social media is about grabbing a few seconds of favorable attention and maybe a click-through. If the helper can do that for the author or the author’s book, PG suggests he/she has done the job.

Perhaps careful crafting and curation could improve click-through on a post a bit, but PG suggests that three good-enough posts -not dumb or clumsy-looking – will provide more benefits than one expensive and time-consuming-to-create post. Once a post is up, its sell-by date is probably measured in hours, a couple of days at most.

For PG, social media posts are analogous to a quip. Make one good quip, get a bit of positive attention, then make another quip.

PG suggests that if you want to dip a toe into the social media assistant water, you may want to hire someone on a temporary freelance basis.

If PG wanted to grow larger in social media (he doesn’t), he would contact a friend who teaches digital marketing at a local university and ask the friend to suggest a couple of smart first or second year students who might want to earn some money on the side and create some examples of their work for their portfolio when they are looking for a real job around graduation. Such a student might write a case study or two based on what he/she did on social media for PG.

While most of the visitors to The Passive Voice are not likely to have a professor friend who teaches digital marketing, at least some live within a reasonable distance of a community college or other higher educational institution. PG doesn’t know whether any high schools (public or private) teach this sort of thing, but that’s another place where some talented social media devotees may be found.

If an author were to pursue this path she/he would want to see some examples of the prospective helper’s work and check out the helper’s social media accounts to see their content plus how many followers, likes, comments, etc., the prospective helper had accrued.

If a potential helper was located, the author would likely want to review each potential post prior to it going online to determine whether it looked like something likely to help sell books, gain followers, etc.

Posting something someone else has created to a social media platform is a task even the majorly technophobic can likely learn with the tiniest bit of practice or guidance.

PG thinks it’s also a good idea for the author to “own” their social media accounts – their name and contact info on the account shows they’re the owner, they know the ID/PW for the social media account, etc. When one social media assistant goes on to bigger things, the author changes the password and hires a replacement.

One nice element that comes with a social media helper is that geography means almost nothing. She can leave the big city for small town life and still do everything she did for the author via the Net. A block away or halfway around the world, the working relationship can continue if both parties want it to.

PG admits that some of his attitude concerning the importance of social media knowledge vs. book domain knowledge comes as a result of working with a very large advertising agency in ancient times. (Printed advertising fliers were the latest thing and calligraphers were on their way out).

Advertising professionals often work on more than one account – insurance plus dog food was one of PG’s combos.

Agencies are also prone to move their employees to different accounts when it benefits the agency’s overall financial performance. Client A needs more agency resources, so creative, research, etc., professionals will be assigned spend time on Client A because Clients B and C shouldn’t need a lot of attention for awhile.

An advertising pro can figure out how to sell anything.

Smith lands Instagrammer’s guide to planning for Ebury

From The Bookseller:

Ebury Press editorial director Emma Smith has acquired Happy Planning, a “practical guide for those who like to prep” from Charlotte Plain, a.k.a. Instagrammer Princess Planning.

Smith bought world all language rights to the title directly from the author.

Plain is the person behind Instagram account and website Princess Planning, where she sells diaries, planners and stationery which aim to help organise and inspire positivity. Happy Planning will give readers the tools they need to plan every aspect of their life, from the weekly shop and daily meal prep to big occasions like weddings, parties and holidays.

The publisher explains: “Planning is about taking away last-minute panic pressure, gaining control and helping you to be the best version of yourself. Charlotte’s everyday approach has been so successful that she launched a business off the back of it, and is now sharing all of her practical and positive know-how in this book. As well as her planning mantras and toolkit, each section of the book is dedicated to an area of life that benefits from planning and is packed with personal learning experiences, planning methods, tips and tricks, practical guidance and interactive elements. It’s simple, positive and practical planning that will lead to a healthier happier you.”

Smith added: “We all need a good dose of practical positive planning in our lives (now, more than ever), so we are incredibly excited to be publishing an Instagram star”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG couldn’t resist visiting Princess Planning Ltd. on Instagram (192K followers). He found several Instagram star gems:

Weight loss is never just about losing the weight.

You have to lose the habits that got you there in the first place and replace them with better ones

Princess.Planning Ltd.

if 2020 was a chocolate it would be a turkish delight

Princess.Planning Ltd.

What would we do without traditional publishers to act as curators of culture?

It’s Not Easy Being a BookTuber

From Wired:

Daniel Greene makes a full-time living off his YouTube channel, discussing fantasy authors such as Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, and Jim Butcher. Talking about your favorite books all day might sound like a dream come true, but Greene says that building a successful channel is harder than people think.

“For a few years I was doing a video every day of the week, seven days a week, which was insane, while also being a software engineer,” Greene says in Episode 431 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I’m a workaholic.”

In addition to dealing with sponsors and reading hundreds of pages a day, Greene also spends hours editing his videos to look as polished as possible. He notes that when late night talk show hosts were forced to broadcast from home due to Covid-19, their initial efforts were lackluster. “Those are professionals, those are people who have been doing this for so long, and they couldn’t figure it out really quick,” he says. “It just shows that YouTubers do put time and effort in to make their content quality.”

The biggest challenge with YouTube is adapting to the site’s mysterious and ever-shifting algorithm. Greene is careful to balance less popular content with familiar standbys that he knows will bring in traffic.

“I get 20-30 self-published authors reaching out to me a week, trying to get me to read their books,” he says. “I would love to read their books, I would love to promote them to my audience, but if I did even a fraction of those, it would take up a huge percentage of my videos, and YouTube would see ‘OK, he had five videos this week, three of them were about these self-published books that barely got 10K views, we’re going to demote him.’ And eventually I wouldn’t be able to do this job anymore.”

Link to the rest at Wired

5 Basic Rules of Social Media

From Social Media Just for Writers:

It’s so important to converse with readers, friends, and influencers in your sphere. If you don’t allocate time to chat, you are missing the point.

Because at its essencesocial media is social. So, to engage in social media and not allocate time to socialize, well, it’s antithetical to the very premise of social media.

. . . .

Be a social butterfly, in the best sense possible. Social media was never designed to be a broadcast messaging system the way radio and television are. Conversations are the backbone of social media, and that is what distinguishes it, and that is what has fueled its dominance in marketing. The beauty of social media for authors is that it allows you to converse with your readership in a manner that was never possible before Facebook was created. Indie authors have a powerful medium with which they can market their books, converse with their readers, answer questions in minutes, and further their relationships with their loyal readers, even though it’s all done virtually.

Don’t attempt to be the prom queen; strive to always be authentic and care about others. Don’t talk solely about yourself. Social media is an inclusive media. You will get further and do better if you help others, including helping other authors in your genre. You can interview your colleagues for your blog and share information about their promotions.

Link to the rest at Social Media Just for Writers

The 22-Year-Old Blogger Behind Protests in Belarus

More under the category, “There are worse things than Covid.”

From The Atlantic:

In the videos posted last Sunday from Belarus, thousands of people can be seen streaming into the center of Minsk, walking up the broad avenues, gathering in a park. In smaller cities and even little towns—Brest, Gomel, Khotsimsk, Molodechno, Shklov—they are walking down main streets, meeting in squares, singing pop songs and folk songs. They are remarkably peaceful, and remarkably united. Many of them are carrying a flag, though not the country’s formal flag, the red and green flag used in the Soviet era. Instead, they carry a red-white-red striped flag, a banner first used in 1918 and long associated with Belarusian independence.

It was a marvelous feat of coordination: Just as in Hong Kong a few months ago, the crowds knew when to arrive and where to go. They knew what they were marching for: Many people carried posters with slogans like leave—directed at the Belarus dictator/president, Alexander Lukashenko—or freedom for political prisoners! or free elections! They carried the flag, or they wore red and white clothes, or they drove cars festooned with red and white balloons.

And yet, at most of these marches, few leaders were visible; no one ascended a stage or delivered a speech into a microphone. The opposition presidential candidate, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who probably won the contested election held on August 9, fled the country last week. How did everyone know exactly what to do? The answer, improbably, is a 22-year-old blogger named Stsiapan Sviatlou, who lives outside the country and runs a channel called Nexta Live on the encrypted messaging app Telegram.

On Sunday morning, Nexta—the word means “somebody”—posted a red and white invitation to the march. “Ring the doorbells of your neighbors, call your friends and relatives, write to your colleagues,” the message instructed them: “We are going EXCLUSIVELY peacefully to the center of town to hold the authorities to account.” The invitation also contained a list of demands: the immediate freeing of political prisoners, the resignation of Lukashenko, the indictment of those responsible for a shocking series of political murders.

People went to the Minsk march, and to dozens of smaller marches across the country, because they saw that message. On subsequent days, many went on strike because they saw another message on that channel and on channels like it. Over the past 10 days, people all across Belarus have marched, protested, carried red and white flags and banners, and gathered at factories and outside prisons because they trust what they read on Nexta. They trust Nexta even though Sviatlou is only 22 years old, even though he is an amateur blogger, and even though he is outside the country.

Or to put it more accurately, they trust Nexta because Sviatlou is only 22, and because he is an amateur who lives outside the country. In Belarus, the government is a kind of presidential monarchy with no checks, no balances, and no rule of law. State media are grotesquely biased: Memo98, a media-monitoring group, reckons that Belarus state television devoted 97 percent of all political news programming to Lukashenko in May and June, with only 30 seconds devoted to opposition presidential candidates. Political leaders in Belarus are routinely repressed, and their voices are muffled: Tsikhanouskaya was running for president because her husband, Siarhei Tsikhanouski, was arrested before he could start his own presidential campaign. Other candidates and politicians were also arrested, along with their staff. Some are still in prison. Human-rights groups have evidence of torture.

. . . .

Paradoxically, the Lukashenko regime is also the source of his unusual power. By suppressing all other sources of information, it has given him unprecedented influence. This also has its downsides. One member of the tiny but determined community of independent journalists in Belarus—I am leaving him unnamed because he remains in Minsk—pointed out that the administrators of Telegram channels outside the country (Sviatlou is one of several) have no way to check whether what they are publishing is true, and no way to coordinate what they are doing with anyone else. Although he does communicate with other channel administrators, as well as with coordinators in Minsk, mistakes are sometimes made. A couple of days ago, crosscurrents of information nearly led one group of opposition protesters into a public brawl with another.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

Yoast SEO Secrets of the WordPress Elves

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

Our fantastic webmaster, Barb Drozdowich of Bakerview Consulting, put a Yoast SEO plug-in on this blog when she rescued us several years ago. (After my disastrous attempt at turning this into a “monetized” blog. Note: Author blogs shouldn’t be monetized.)

Like most things about WordPress, I found the Yoast SEO secrets stuff daunting at first.

Some judgmental algorithms I call the “elves” wouldn’t give me a “green light” to publish my posts unless I passed muster with them. And they can be pretty fierce in enforcing their rules.

The elves have two tribes: the “readability” elves and the “SEO” elves. (SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.) That means getting Google and other search engines to notice you, and hopefully put your post on the SERP. (First Search Engine Results Page.)

Both tribes can drive a creative writer batty.

On the other hand, our blog keeps getting Google love and our Alexa rating is down in the 120K range. It was up in the 600K range before we started using the plug-in. (Most author blogs can feel good about being in the 1 million range.)

So the elves know what Google likes, and if Google likes you, your traffic goes up.

. . . .

Yoast SEO was originally called “WordPress SEO.” A man named Joost de Valk developed it as a WordPress plugin in 2010. In 2012, WordPress renamed it Yoast SEO. (I assume “Yoast” is a phonetic spelling of Joost’s Dutch name.)

The “readability” rules are based on Flesch Reading Ease Test and Flesch-Kincaid reading grade level. The Reading Ease formula was invented by Rudolph Flesch in 1948 to help people write readable military training manuals.

Yeah. Military training manuals. Not fiction. Or creative nonfiction. Or fun, punchy blogposts.

Which is why when I put up a blogpost every week it almost always involves a battle with the elves.

. . . .

With the Yoast plug-in, you don’t get a list of rules. You discover each one when the elves give you a red, amber or green light on your copy. If you get a red or amber light, you must scroll down and find out what you’ve done “wrong” according to the Yoast rules.

This is probably wonderful for training manuals, but I do find some of the rules are less than helpful.

The problem is that the elves will red-light a lot of poetic writing. I do worry about what that is going to do our language in the long run. Online content is 90% of what most people read these days, and if it’s always aimed at a 7th grade level, will we lose the ability to write and  read more complex thoughts?

. . . .

Here are the things the readability elves will ding you on.

Repetition

They give you an automatic red light if you start three sentences in a row with the same word. So never quote Charles Dickens “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom…”

Bad Mr. Dickens would never get a readability green light.

Long sentences

Any sentence longer than 20 words is considered too long.

Big paragraphs

Break up your paragraphs into two or three skimmable sentences.

A dearth of “transition” words

The elves love them some transition words. These are words and phrases like “And, But, Moreover, On the other hand, Therefore, Hence, Besides, Consequently,” or “In Summary.” They are the words a military training officer might use to make a point.

However, these are not words and phrases I use often, so I get the most scolding from the elves on my lack of transition words.

. . . .

The passive voice

If any more than 10% of your copy is written in the passive voice, you are on the elf poop list.

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

PG tried Yoast a very long time ago when it was still WordPress SEO, but removed the plugin for reasons he doesn’t remember now.

Perhaps he’ll try it again if he can get over its bias towards the passive voice.

Fast or Slow

PG just discovered an interesting and potentially useful website.

Called Fast or Slow, it checks how responsive your website (or, apparently, any website) is in responding to various locations around the world.

Fast or Slow

PG is not certain exactly how accurate it is, but it seems (to his untutored eye) to provide potentially useful data. It’s sponsored by Wordfence, a reputable website security plugin.