This is a post about social media, which is the most boring kind of post. But for writers in particular, it’s an essential one. And here is why: we are at a time when traditional media is a fucking shitshow. In general, sure, but also, specifically as it relates to book stuff. You’ll find far less book coverage than you used to in years past, in part because — at least, as I understand it — a lot of outlets have reduced the staff dedicated to book-related and publishing-related topics, sometimes cutting down to the bone. Unless you’re in the one percent of authors who sell a WHOLE LOTTA BOOKS or have a book that meets a particular threshold of that hard-to-define “buzz,” (or you’re “someone who knows someone”), you’re not really going to get out there with book announcements or cover reveals or excerpts. You might hit a few end-of-the-year or beginning-of-the-year lists but… most authors don’t, won’t, can’t.
As such, publishers are leaning harder into social media as an avenue to champion books. Thing is, they’ve already leaned pretty pretty hard into social media over the years, and it makes sense: for a long time, social media has seemed like this fertile ground of virality, right? Authors get on, authors make some noise, they get followers, the followers are readers, the readers buy the books, and holy shit, it’s free? Manna from Heaven, and it doesn’t cost the publisher a dime?
One problem: it doesn’t really work like that.
As I’ve noted in the past, social media doesn’t sell books. Okay, fine, it does, but not at the level we all want it to. It moves a copy here, a copy there, ten copies, hopefully more. And that’s good. Because in a sense, every book is a pebble thrown into the pond, and it makes ripples. Ripples (readers new and familiar) reach farther shores, meaning, those readers tell other readers, and that’s a good thing. It’s not some kind of HOLY SHIT YOUR BOOK HAS GONE VIRAL kinda thing, but it’s a slow and steady and reliable way to earn readership.
But… publishing doesn’t really crave the slow and steady. Some publishers are good with it! Some have a wiser eye and recognize the value of a long tail. But a lot of publishers are just stuffing a catapult full of spaghetti and hoping some of it sticks to some wall, somewhere, anywhere.
I’ve long noted that part of the real value of social media for writers is the community that comes from it — a community not just of readers, but a professional one, too. We’re lonely little weirdos, and it’s nice to have a virtual watercooler-slash-campfire around which to gather. We can hang with other writers, agents, editors, and from there, artists and film people and TV people and comics folk and — well, so on and so forth. A creative community forms from this, not one that’s ever a monoculture, but that’s a good thing. It’s good that it’s this unruly, shapeless thing, because that’s what leads to more interesting friendships. (And community is, ultimately, about these friendships. Fuck anyone who talks about this as if it’s about the “connections.” Said it before, we’ll say it again, but people are not just rungs in a ladder.)
So, does it work this way still?
Is social media serving the writer well? In… any direction?
If I had a button marked “sad farty trombone sound,” I would now press it.
I might even press it two, three times. Shit, I might lean an elbow on it for a few minutes, really let it rip.
It ain’t good out there.
Social media is a fucking turdfire for writers right now.
Why is this? Part of it is what Cory Doctorow brilliantly calls the “enshittification” factor — read about it here. The basic gist is, when a platform needs users, it serves the users. Then the users become the product, and are abused in favor or larger businesses who can use the users in proxy, and then inevitably, the platform fails the businesses along with the users and the whole thing violently diarrheas the bed. It is, one could argue, the core problem of unfettered and unchallenged capitalism: businesses grow like bacteria without competition, and soon they burst free of the petri dish, after which they infect everyone and everything, killing their hosts, and that’s the end of that. Our current mode of apocalyptic capitalism requires unrestrained growth to reward the wealthy at the top, which is ultimately impossible, and it fucks a whole lot of people over. Except the really wealthy at the top, who fuck off to their rocketships and moonbases after they ruin everything around them on Earth.
(That paragraph got a little out of hand, but you see what I’m saying, and more importantly, what the wise Mister Doctorow was saying.)
We are definitely at the part of social media where these platforms have all fully enshittified themselves almost in grand simultaneity.
Which is to say, they are bad for users, and in particular, bad for writers.
Let’s talk about how each platform is doing here.
Even before Elon Musk took over, Twitter was a less-than-ideal place to try to hang your creative shingle. From uncharitable misreads to harassment campaigns, the waters were already chummed with blood. Still, Twitter made sense to writers. It was made of words! And we’re very lonely people! So a platform where we were able to microburst our random communiques into the world using words (and occasionally animated GIFs) worked well for us. It was fun, despite descending slowly into horror over the years.
Now, though, woof. Where to start?
First, the site defaults to the FYP (For You Page), which is an algorithmic regurgitate slurry where you can scroll and see page after page of tweets from literally no one you actually follow. It’s all weird promoted accounts, tweets “liked” by someone you do follow, or followed by someone you follow, or weird shit like “because you follow Tom Hanks, here is a tweet by an alt-right hair product influencer because the algorithm probably saw some tenuous digital connection between those two things, so congrats, here’s a stupid tweet.” I follow a lot of writers, but does the FYP give me a lot of tweets about books and writing? It fucking does not. It’s just a river of weird garbage and angry news stuff and not nearly enough WRITER STUFF.
(And of course, this only juices the algorithm further. It serves you a robo-selected slice of this garbage, which you must ingest because it’s all there is, and then the algorithm sees you slurping the twitter-gruel and thinks, AH GOOD, THEY MUST BE ENJOYING WHAT I’VE SLUICED INTO THEIR OPEN BEAKS, and it turns up the Sluice Knob to 11 because surely you want more, more, more.)
(It also seems that posts with links seem to be downgraded in terms of visibility. Which sucks when you want people to click a link to your book. Or, ahem ahem, to your really cool blog because blogs are still totally a thing, shut up.)
Second, Musk’s new “stick-on scratch-and-sniff verification check” reportedly is how you juggle your tweets back into the algorithm’s good graces. Regular blue-checks (aka, the ones that are not a reward but were supposed to tell people you were really who you said you were) have also been reportedly downgraded in the eyes of the Almighty Algorithm. So, if you’re a real person, fuck you. If you’re some jabroni with eight bucks a month (or eleven bucks or whatever it costs now) to spare, congrats, here’s your megaphone. (Also, do not pay for that service. Love yourself more than that.)
Third, you’re of course trying to get traction next to some of the worst people in the world, who have all been invited back to the platform by Musk. Y’know, Musk, who also gladly replies to alt-right weirdos named “Catturd,” taking their complaints and eagerly noting he’ll “look into it.”
Fourth, the platform is starting to break. It’s functionality is erratic as hell — this week has been stable when I’ve been there for the most part, but last several weeks, my mention tabs have been broken to the point where it was only showing me stuff from weeks ago, and wouldn’t update at all. Sometimes I get spinning icons or error messages. I suppose it’s not surprising, given how many people That Dude has fired. I think the janitor runs everything now. *receives note* Sorry, I regret to inform you they fired the janitor.
Just from a personal POV, while I’m not tweeting very much, when I do venture and Tweet Some Bullshit, it’s barely making a dent.
Given that the writer’s greatest challenge is Achieving Visibility, and the writer’s greatest enemy is Obscurity, that makes Twitter pretty shit for creative types right now. And it only seems to be getting worse.
Instagram is not entirely terrible.
Obviously I don’t like the parent company, but as a social media site it still brings me a modicum of joy to be there and scroll through photos of books, pets, and food. I can easily turn off unwanted FYP reels (and honestly, I think they made a huge mistake in their “pivot to video,” just jfc, just let TikTok be TikTok). Engagement there is still pretty good — a recent cover reveal for BLACK RIVER ORCHARD had (though it’s hard to measure precisely) roughly four times the engagement at IG than the post rec’d at Twitter, and that’s with a fraction of the followers. (~180k at Twitter, ~14k at Instagram.)
Thing is, though, IG is a visual medium, and we’re word jerks, so it doesn’t feel as natural, and is nowhere near as talky — plus, it’s hard to have actual conversations on IG. You can thread a couple replies but it’s not as easy to read or as encouraging for longer-term engagement. It’s a “drop a post and walk away as the building explodes” kind of place, not somewhere you go to to chat.
And links are hard to post there, and there’s no virality via a “reboost” function — which is probably good in that it cuts down on the total noise, but it’s harder for users to repost something they like without using a separate app for it.
(Reminder: I’m there as @chuck_wendig)
Facebook: the OG of toxic social media platforms!
Great for keeping in touch with weird family members, maybe, and also not bad for maintaining some communities, but for a long time it was pretty shitty for writers. You’d make a public page and then they’d want you to pay to boost any of it, so you could only really reach a fraction of your actual followers. (In a sense, the Twitter Blue checkmark bullshit is similar — if you want to reach all your followers, you gotta pay up. “Sure would be a shame if something happened to your engagement,” the digital goon says, slapping a blackjack into his open palm.) I’ve heard that FB has maybe loosened its grip on this a bit? I cannot confirm, but I know some writers who have reported increased engagement with their public page followers again.
Still, FB sucks, and Zuck sucks, so, I dunno.
I’m not on there, so I don’t have a good watermark. It certainly seems like it’s good for the book community, what with the existence of BookTok going strong there and helping create displays in bookstores big and small. And some writers have really done well over there. For my mileage it, like Goodreads, is better off serving readers rather than writers — nobody really wants us over there gallumphing about awkwardly to music while trying to shill our books. That feels like a fundamental misread of what makes BookTok cool? I dunno. YMMV!
But I know there are also privacy concerns too, so, shrug. You do you.
Tumblr certainly seems to be a bit resurgent? Also very word-based, blog-based, has an easy signal boosting function. Feels useful for writers but I haven’t been over there and am wary of committing excess text to a space I don’t really own. But maybe a good place for reposted content? Dunno!
Newsletters are great for writers, but only for them to speak to existing readership-slash-fanbases. A good way to let the people who like you know where you’ll be, what you’re doing, what books of yours are coming out, what you’re eating, what cryptid you just summoned to eat your stupid neighbors, whatever. Not ideal for earning new readership and creating public visibility.
(I don’t have a newsletter but this site serves as one.)
Unfortunately some newsletter services cost you money, and it’s hard to know what the return is on that. You’ll also likely find that the “open and read” rate can dip fast and stay low, because newsletters arrive via email, and if your email is like my email, it’s a BIG OL’ SHIT RIVER. It’s a lot of noise, and newsletters tend to get lost there. As such I can only subscribe to a few before it gets overwhelming, but maybe that’s just my completely broken brain.
I think it has a shot, and I know some writers seem to be doing okay there in terms of engagement — it’s a little quieter but fairly easy to use. Less easy to understand, maybe, given that the diffuse nature of the servers is confusing. Further, moderation varies wildly from server to server. Some places seem to have a lock on it, whereas others have users experiencing some pretty heinous shit, often out of nowhere. Hard to judge the entire experience because it isn’t an entire experience — it’s a series of fragmented shards, and you don’t carry your following/followed with you.
Find me there at mastodon-dot-social — @chuckwendig.
(Engagement on that cover reveal was… fine? ~56 likes, ~16 signal boosts, at ~11k followers. Could be better. Pretty quiet, but doable.)
I liked Hive at the start. Even despite the security concerns it had some stuff I really liked, and the community was peppy, and the engagement high. But then they shut down to fix some stuff, and came back weeks later with lowered engagement — engagement that I think was further hampered by the fact that some of the things that did work and were cool no longer work at all. And they’re things that actually foster engagement, so it feels like salted earth. I hope it comes back and does well, honestly, because it’s a neat platform that has (or at least had) the “stickiness” of Twitter, but right now, it’s kind of a mess, and also has become a ghost town. They also really need a desktop app.
I find I’m checking it less and less. Which is sad! I wanna keep the party going.
I’m there as @chuckwendig.
(The cover reveal over there, posted a week ago, was somewhat peppy, actually — even with quieter vibes, it had ~150 likes with ~6k followers, vs ~370 likes at ~180k followers. So that’s really not bad. Better than on Mastodon, I think. As a sidenote, reason I’m estimating these numbers a bit is because they seem to fluctuate, particularly on Twitter.)
If you take Hive and Post, it’s like Twitter bifurcated its psyche into two spaces: the first, the fun fanbasey wacky goodtimes half, and the second, the SRS BZNS news half. Post is droll and dry and all the global misery of Twitter without any of the fun. It’s not a bad place to get caught up on the news, honestly, but for writers I don’t see it doing much. At least not for writers who aren’t writing the SRS BZNS. For us silly story jugglers, I’m not seeing it really catch fire. It’s hard to see engagement and measure it, which is really a death knell for these platforms — we really want to see who’s liking things, who’s reboosting them, and so forth. It should be as easy as possible and not in any way difficult.
I’m there as @chuckwendig.
(The cover reveal over there had little engagement.)
It’s new! It’s basically Twitter! Its tweets are called, uhh, spouts? Which, as a writer, I hate a whole lot because it just sounds weird. But I also get it, okay, fine, spouting off. Whatever, I’ll cope.
It’s very new, so I have nothing to really note here — I’m there @chuckwendig. It’s buggy and sluggish right now. (Or, if you prefer, buggish and sluggy. Which is now the name of my new series of kids’ picture books, look for them in 2030.) Christopher Bouzy is, I believe, fairly trustworthy in that he’s the figure behind BotSentinel, a service known for figuring out who’s real, who’s not, and identifying/tracking harassment on social media.
YMMV, and I know it’s not fully open yet.
The Internet In General
Certainly there are other social media places out there — forums and the like. But the thing that strikes me is, it feels a little like the Internet is breaking. The wheels, coming off. Email sucks. Google results are increasingly awful, full of gibberish, half of which seems generated by some gabbling AI ChatGPT clone. And of course that’s the other thing — the “release the dogs” aspect of AI suddenly intruding all aspects of our digital lives feels like the whole thing is doubling down on Doctorow’s enshittification theory, that it’s all just getting worse and breaking faster. Links going to nowhere, services failing users, hacks exposing massive swaths of user information. It’s not great, Bob.
First conclusion is, this post is way too fucking long.
Second conclusion is, it’s unclear how much of this even matters. I mean, it matters in the sense that our communities are in massive disarray. We don’t have them as writers anymore, not entirely. They’ve been chipped away at, fractured, left in cookie crumbles. There are writers I’m friends with who I haven’t seen online in months. Sometimes it’s because they left, other times because The Fucking Algorithm hasn’t shown them to me, sequestering them to some dark and distant corner of the social media manse. So, it sucks.
Thing is, in terms of actually selling books and earning readership, it’s bad to lose that, but there was always the question of how truly necessary any of this was. It seems to me — and no, this is not universal, but it’s pretty solid — that the books that do well are the books that publishers got behind. Yes, some writers did so well on social media they earned followings and readerships — I’m among them, I think, though it’s certainly not 1:1 where every follower becomes a reader. But you look at some of the biggest books of the year and track the authorial social media presence… it can be low, even non-existent. Books don’t require social media to exist. They require publishers who believe the books and then choose to manifest that belief with effort and money.
Which really, is the tricky part, because a lot of this feels like, “Hey, if you wanna solve climate change, you better do your part, citizen.” Which isn’t wrong. Of course you need to do your part to not fuck up the planet. BUT, it’s also not us individually doing Most Of The Up-Fucking Of Said Planet. It’s giant systems and corporations in place that are very hard to dismantle individually — and with publishing, it’s also very hard for us individually to magically make a book a huge or even moderate success. We can do our parts. We should do our parts. But our part isn’t the make-or-break component. That lies with publishers, and not even publishers on social media, but publishers working the well-trod paths with bookstores and distributors and relying on old-school advertisements and such. Social media in this sense has been a bit of a stalking horse for publishers — something to hide behind without investing in any make or break aspect of it. If it works, yay, we did it. If it doesn’t, well, that’s just social media, man.
So, really, no meaningful conclusions or actions to be had here except — well, shit, it’s hard to be a writer at any time in history and in my opinion it’s only getting harder, because the internet is increasingly noisy and increasingly shitty. Which is also maybe me just getting older and more resistant to new things, but I also don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way? Sound off if you have further thoughts to add to this conversation.
I’m gonna stop typing now because this really has gone on too long. I mean, WTF, Wendig, shut up.
ANYWAY HEY HI buy my books. And leave reviews. Because otherwise I die in the howling pit of obscurity, and that would be sad. For me, at least.
BLACK RIVER ORCHARD, coming 9/26.
And earlier than that, GENTLE WRITING ADVICE, arriving in June.
32 responses to “The State of Social Media (As It Pertains To Writers In Particular)”
No shade on Cory, but must pause in my reading of your missive above (and I do love your missives) — but this, I felt, was brilliantly stated in late December by a certain Cathrynne V. in https://catvalente.substack.com/p/stop-talking-to-each-other-and-start … found via Mastodon, FWIW.
That article hits the nail on the head.
Maybe it’s my age (51) talking, but once the “monetize EVERYTHING” vibe started taking over, things started to head into hell. I met my husband of 11 years on a message board; I found out about you and other writers/authors/artists on Twitter. It feels like everything that is good/creative/entertaining about the internet is being ground down into nothing by billionaire dopes, and it’s a drag. I do have hopes for Spoutible – if, for nothing else, that right out of the box Christopher Bouzy has been, like, “we’re not putting up with racist etc. bullshit”.
Well done Chuck. Yes it was a long post, but it was full of information. Particulalry, you explained why I go to one of my social media places it just doesnt seem to be worth showing up after all. It doesnt’ look like it should, that’s for sure. I am selling more books locally, through craft fairs (which let me in as I do everything apart from physically typset and print them.) I think I’ll stick to local, and real people , and hope I go viral that way.
Good luck with your books.
I follow a lot of writers and writer groups on Twitter. When I see the same promo umpteen times in a day, I mute. I get sick of having it shoved in my face. I understand why they do it, but they have to find a happy medium, otherwise, no one will see it. As for Post? Meh. I’m there. I’m bored. I get maybe five likes on a photo (I’m also a photographer; I don’t advertise my books there). Currently not worth the time, but we’ll see what happens. I did post a good flash fic there to test the water; it got TWO likes. *eyeroll* Facebook? I don’t sell books there. No one cares, and it’s BORING (yup, all caps). I only remain because of a few good friends.
Dear Chuck Wendig,
A very dear friend of mine introduced me to your writing about five years and a lot of catastrophes and kittens (whether self-created or real or worse, both) later, neither you, the creator and maker, nor I, your reader, are entirely the same.
Dude, it’s been quite a ride. I’m still here, and I’m still reading.
And…you left off Reddit. Almost everything I read about writing is on a subreddit. What’s great about Reddit is if you have a weird niche, there’s a sub for it and you can engage with the people most likely to read your books.
There’s r/books, r/writing, r/horror, r/horrorlit, r/weirdlit, etc., to name a few. (And I confess that I like r/bookscirclejerk because they make fun of Brando Sando)
As far as Facebook goes, I think it’s smart for writers who aren’t Stephen King level sellers to actually friend their readers. I’m “friends” with several writers I like on Facebook. Their posts always show in my feed and I’ve preordered books as a result. I think Facebook pages or groups are a waste of time for writers.
A group of writers I “knew” tried VERO for a while. I may try it again. And what about Pinterest? Reddit?
Hey, JJ, how would you use Vero to promote your writing? Don’t know about Chuck, but I for one would love to hear more about what you tried. I’m getting started there to help me improve my photography & images. Using it to promote books hadn’t even crossed my mind…
Somebody suggest Substack recently.
I’m right there for your point about community. Being able to see the words of “real” writers and occasionally interact was a real boost when I thought I was a novellist. Hey, it turns out the pros have tough times too! Sometimes things don’t work out the way they want! Who’da thunk? I miss Twitter for that aspect, but wild horses wouldn’t drag me back there. I checked.
Mastodon is quieter, but it reminds me more of the Twitter I joined. Folks having fun, for one thing – I follow Big Ben, who just chimes the hour every hour – BONG! BONG!
But I have the advantage of having given up on actively trying to sell my books, and just accepting I’m a playwright. That’s not an option for everyone, I guess, though I think everyone SHOULD accept that I’m a playwright.
As always, thank you for your words.
I signed up for Mastodon in 2016, I think because you mentioned it. I forgot about it, but a few months ago signed in again and found it still there. I like the non-commercial aspect of it, but so far I follow only a few people, including some writer named Wendig, whoever he is, and it’s awkward to find more people to follow. But, as you say, it seems to have some potential. As social media, anyway. As for selling books, that’s my least favorite part of the job!
If you think it’s bad for trad-pub authors, it’s ten times worse for indies. We depend on these platforms to make connections and do shout-outs for each other because we don’t have big industry peeps (or even small ones) backing us up. We don’t got no money, honey.
With Twitter shitting the bed, I was forced to make a Facebook author page. I refuse to give them any money and I don’t have it anyway. We’ll see what happens—when my trilogy is done, I have something outlined that could potentially pop through to a small press other than my own or even traditional publishing, but writing takes time. I wonder if there will be an internet at all when I’m through. 🙁
I appreciate the deep dive into the social media landscape. Even as a reader, my experience with books is to walk into a used or indie book/comic store and just pick what looks interesting (last I checked, we still had those in my area). I find recommendations on Reddit or Goodreads, as well, but it pales in comparison to that classic experience of walking into a physical place and seeing what obscure thing there it to discover. Online there’s just too much noise to sift through, and I’m hoping this shakeup will make publishers realize what readers are looking for: a good story with real themes found in a real place.
I am on the user side of book consumption. I do read quite a bit of SF/Fantasy/whathaveyou.
Twitter was good to me since I could find and interact with authors. I miss that. I won’t go on FB or Insta because of how Zuckland has become the way advertisers figure out who you are and associate everything together. I haven’t killed my accounts but I have nuked all the cookies and never go there.
I deeply miss Author Twitter but it is gone. Nov 2022 or so with the Journalist banning fiasco was the last straw for me. My morals just wouldn’t allow me to support elon/twitter in any way after that.
I try to follow authors on Mastadon, that is how I got here. I don’t get the same feed, I am on a server that is more focused on bikes, urbanism and transportation but I do have strong interests in SF/Fantasy/… authors.
Now I am trying to remember to put all the authors I like in lists and check on their publications regularly. I know I can’t trust Amazon to do that for me. Hopefully I will find more of the writers I look for.
Yeahhhhhh. It’s ROUGH out there.
Re: Mastodon: you’re interested in the community aspect and willing to go through the trouble of migrating your account (summary: your followers come with you automatically, your post history doesn’t, and you’ll have to rebuild your followed list) I am really liking the wandering.shop instance. It really does have the feel of BarConning it at, say, World Fantasy, to the point that I actually do go look at my federated timeline just to see, hey, what are the neighbors up to? And I’ve been pleasantly surprised, going by boosts and likes on my own posts, how much people there are clearly doing the same.
But Mastodon is purely social for me right now, a place to hang and chill more than a place to promote, and I know that’s a whole different equation.
I haven’t looked specifically for writerly things on Discord yet but it appears to be another one rising to fill a void. It used to just be game chat but now…it’s expanding. Not sure if it’ll get there like the others but it’s one to watch.
Trans, neurodivergent webcomic artist/writer here, and one thing that gets to me is how social media USED to be a place where folks like me, who are awkward and socially anxious and generally Bad At People, but like to make things and share them, could stake out a little ground and make connections with creative colleagues and with readers in ways that were often unavailable to us offline. In the “real world,” you couldn’t get anywhere without some level of skill at schmoozing (which is something my brain doesn’t seem to be able to wrap itself around, no matter how hard I try). Online, you could just share what you were working on, maybe chat a bit, and then disappear to recharge till you were ready to be social again, and you’d still get some engagement and a few new eyeballs on your stuff once in a while. Now, “online” feels a lot more like “the real world,” but ratcheted up to a painful degree – not only do you have to navigate the overwhelming firehose of content every time you log in, but you also have to deal with schmoozing’s evil cousin: keeping up with whatever nonsensical tapdance-of-the-week The Algorithms demand of you, if you want your voice to be heard. Human interaction is hard enough to begin with. The current state of social media makes me not want to engage at all. Maybe I’m just being overly nostalgic about how things used to be, or the picture is different for younger generations who have grown up online, but I wonder how many different voices are being denied a platform or discouraged from trying, just because the skill set required to be On Social Media these days seems to have shifted closer to the skill set required for socializing offline, and it all feels pretty unforgiving when you don’t have a lot of spoons for that sort of thing.
Apart from comics I’ve got a few unfinished novels I’ve been picking at for years. I used to wonder whether I’d decide to attempt the route of traditional publishing or self-publishing once they’re ready… now I kind of wonder whether it’s worth the hassle and discouragement of putting them out there at all, or whether I should just enjoy the writing and keep the end results for myself.
I dunno. tumblr is still fun, at least. Trying to work up the nerve to jump into posting on Mastodon, but so far it seems like a nice place (or at least a place with nice pockets to hang out in).
As a writer, the diminishing lack of reach and engagement on all the standard sites has soured me on using social media as a promotional tool. Instagram is probably the best of the bunch on getting views/comments, but like you said, their shift to videos is annoying. My best tool right now is my Substack newsletter. I like that it gets mailed out to my list newsletter-style but also can be viewed online and commented on by anyone, including non-subscribers, like a blog. (Blogging was always my favorite from the very beginning anyway. RIP Blogger.)
As a reader, I don’t get my book recs from social media. There’s so much noise that my eyes kind of skim over book promo stuff now. I get most of my recs from a few trusted podcasts, publisher newsletters, and a few other bookish newsletters like Book Riot. I filter them all into a special email folder so when I’m looking for a new book, I can just go there and dig in.
I subscribe to several Substack newsletters that I read via RSS instead of email, and it’s great.
I, too, miss the blogging days.
Thanks for that Chuck. It sadly reinforced my burgeoning belief that there’s precious little I can do to push my books. I get little promo/marketingsupport from my publisher, lovely as they are for everything else. And they’ve just been taken over by another publishing house, so I don’t know what the consequences of that will be. When I sold my first book to a ‘real’ publisher back in 2013, I thought all my Christmasses had come at once, I mean, I’d jumped clean over the first hurdle, right? I’d got a great agent. That’s good, right? And then I realised that it was a long race and there were a lot more hurdles to go. I’ve got seven novels out now and I still don’t think I’m established. Thanks for having me on your blog (twice). Hopefully again sometime. All best.
I’m one of your followers-turned-readers, and if you’d ever like to sit around a campfire and incinerate marshmallows while debating how many non-POV protagonists one can thread through a single storyline before your readers start browsing DoorDash for someone who will deliver cow catapults, I’m totes up for it. And I agree with your assessment of the value (and ick factor) of social media, but I think there’s a lacuna in your analysis – namely, without social media, what happens to self-pubbed authors and small presses? If I’m remembering correctly, the stars of self-publishing and social media rose more or less together (if you don’t count vanity presses). And there are a host of publishers (mine included) who don’t have the ad budget or the bookstore reach to add muscle to book promo. There’s a whole niche in the writing ecosystem that evolved in tandem with social media, and whaddawedoNOW?
As just a reader I’ve fallen into Mastodon as my replacement. My federation (dice dot camp) is great and I just browse it for like minded content from my fellow TTRPG gamers.
One thing our admin broached recently was defederating mastodon dot social because it’s getting very big and is very poorly moderated. Finding a smaller server full of authors might be the way to go.
So many thoughts here. (1) Writing: I never made a lot of money, but for 50 years in the profession, I’ve always had good work — reporting, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, book publishers, blogs, print and online. I think I’ve adapted well to the changes in the industry, which, of course, have been many. Finally at the age of 72, my first book was published; what’s more is that the publisher sought me out. I’ve promoted it on social media, but haven’t relied on it. I’ve used mostly local connections (cat-related since the book is about cats), libraries and local press. I consider it my last frontier! (2) I’ve limited myself to Facebook and Twitter, since they’re both such a time-suck. I’ve found the biggest key to keeping sanity is AdBlock Plus. Seriously. I have no skin in its game and it works SO well. I do love my Facebook friends, but I’ve been careful who I’ve friended and kept them to my own varied interests. I have FB friends from all over the world through the cat fancy and I love being able to interact with them in real time. I started using Twitter more when my FB account was deactivated (long story, but I got it back). I can’t say I’ve experienced the Muskrat-related crap. I do take some delight in trolling Republicans and WombWatchers. Again, I’m selective who (whom?) I follow and have found a lot of thoughtful, interesting people. I will say the excessively long threads make my eyes cross; I’d definitely rather read an article or blog post. (3) Books in general. I’ll never live long enough to read all the books I want to read. Gawd, I love my Kindle. It’s ready to burst, as are the bookshelves in my office. It keeps me company during sleepless nights. SO many good books out there! The ability to instantly download a book still amazes me!
I’m just so glad I’m subscribed to this newsletter so I can hear your thoughts, Chuck! I miss the ole days of forums and blogging where I could realistically still hear from the people I wanted to. I think it’s lowkey bullshit that a lot of publishers have turned promotion over to the authors themselves to either prove their readership or drum up sales.
Honestly, this is a GREAT LESSON and reminder that unless you own your online space you have jack squat. I wish I never gave up on my personal website and moved to social media and just continued blogging from the 2000s. Anyway, never too late, they say. I’m happily renovating my current website so that it’ll be my online hub. That’s how it should be. website – HQ. Social media – amplification channels.
When I followed the link to the Cory Doctorow article, I get a plant page with “You’ve read your last complimentary article this month.” That has to be a new level of textbook irony
Ah, this will help: https://pluralistic.net/2023/01/21/potemkin-ai/#hey-guys
I got off twitter because it seemed to cause more harm than good to a lot of folks. SBF’s meltdown happened in part because of a twitter feud. More than one artist has lost gigs because they were mouthing off on the platform (and insta) and the powers that be had enough – whether because they were being icky conservatives or angry liberals, you can still piss off your makers and lose gigs. And twitter (and facebook to an extent) are all about people being ANGRY ALL THE TIME and it suuuucks.
But so yeah. I miss the authors I followed on Twitter. Reddit isn’t the same. Goodreads isn’t the same. the few newsletters are from folks I like, not folks i haven’t really heard of. It’s hard out there. And the more traditional media evaporates, the worse it is for all involved.
It’s no better for artists. (And an artist’s post got me here.) Instagram was supposed to be Twitter for artists, but the feed is now so full of suggested posts — yes, I know how to snooze them, but they return — that it’s annoying. Mastodon is annoying too. And if I want to put something out, it means I have to go to each platform and post (though Instagram does Twitter and Facebook). I’ve tried paying for Facebook ads and never got a sale, though I did get a complaint that I was a spammer! (I boost a couple of posts a year.) Right now, I’m waiting for things to shake out, but sometimes I miss Usenet.
Social media will never cease to be a pit of despair and mindless algorithms meant to keep thumbs swiping.
Just keep posting to your blog and keeping it a positive, accepting space. I find that I am more likely to “follow” – meaning regularly check blog sites/posts from people like you and Sanderson, who keep a blog and keep it updated. Social media is too noisy and if an author or artist is ONLY on a social site… like you mentioned above, they have a tendency to get buried. Creating your own space (after all you, as an artist, a creator, are a brand in a sense) is a much more impressive and less toxic/stressful environment. I come back to this blog week after week because I am interested in your voice, Chuck, and what you have to say.
Rely on WORD OF MOUTH. Not WORD OF THE ALGORITHM. The algorithm can go to Hell. People always find a way to share what they love and inspired by with others.
Yes yes yes!!!