Being a writer right now is fucking weird. (It inspired me to write a post about that very thing only a handful of months ago.) It was never exactly a normal thing to be, but somehow it’s only gotten stranger. Book bans, so-called artificial intelligence, various strikes in the face of soul-crushing capitalism, and, of course, the gentle and stupid collapse of social media into a plethora of only partially-effective fiefdoms.
Word-of-mouth has always, always been the greatest driver of why people read this book or that book — we listen to trusted sources (our friends, our local bookseller, a reputable TikTok account, an itinerant Tom Hanks wandering the landscape whispering the names of obscure books in your ear), and then we read the book. Then we tell someone about the book because oh my god, you have to read THE DAUGHTER’S DOCTOR’S REVENGE, y’all, it’s the thrilleriest romanticiest spiciest sweetest scariest silliest murder-mystery-medical-body-horror-erotic-cookbook and if you don’t read it you’ll be missing out. Sweet sweet book FOMO.
Social media was never really good for authors to sell their books at a one-to-one basis, I don’t think. Meaning, your tweets were not Pied-Piper tunes fluting your village followers into the bookstore to buy your book. But it did a lot for book culture, which is to say creating ambient effect about not just your books, but the books you love, the bookstores you care about — it was not always the healthiest garden, but it was, still, a garden of books. An ecosystem of book culture goodness. And that is now…
Okay, I know it’s not gone gone. But Twitter is pretty much dead, throttled by the Emerald-Mining Nazi, and TikTok isn’t really for writers I don’t think, and Instagram is mostly for I dunno are we still posting photos of our food over there? I mean, I know I am, because I just posted a photo of a whole-ass potato I found in a bag of potato chips. This potato is now my son, and I have named him Gordon. I will not eat him. How dare you.
Anyway, long story short is, it’s hard to get heard. It’s hard to make you know about these books. It’s hard to make you care about them. Social media — again, a flawed nightmare realm in oh so many ways — also served as a tentpole for the bookish ecosystem, and that tentpole is now chewed by termites. Who are also billionaires! So, what the fuck do we do?
I don’t know, and I don’t have any certain answers, but I know what I think the answer might be, and it’s this:
With my newest book Black River Orchard coming out next week, it’s time I humbly ask you to join my cult. No, I don’t have the cult set up and running yet, but I’m gauging interest. The book itself has a cult in it, in a sort of suburban folk horror context, and evil apples are at the core of this cult, and man, it sounds like fun, having a cult. So I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we all form a cult, and I’ll be the cult leader guy, and we’ll just find a place in the woods, or maybe we can build a bunker? Or a tower? So many structures. Ooh! Ooh! A pyramid! Let’s build a creepy pyramid in the woods. Whoa, I didn’t say it’d be a sex pyramid. You said it’d be a sex pyramid. Let’s not worry about that part right now. Just know this: it’ll be a blast. There will be peace and love and various sinister structures made out of wicker and rattan. You want robes? We can do robes. But maybe robes are feeling staid right now. Maybe you want odd hats. I’m down with odd hats. They have creepy homemade masks in the book — so why can’t we do hats? A hat that looks like the top half of an apple? Maybe some bird skeletons bundled together? Shit yeah. Or a hat made of tree roots, or gummy worms, or whatfuckingever. I’ll put out a suggestion box.
See, this way we don’t need social media. We won’t even require the Internet. We’ll just have our weird little off-the-grid pyramid cult with our dead bird apple hats, and we’ll all read books and have endless book clubs and talk about them while ingesting various yard mushrooms. It’s gonna be great. And the first order of business is, to prove your loyalty to the cult, that you talk about Black River Orchard. This isn’t like Fight Club. First rule is, you have to talk about it. Tell everyone. Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors. Tell any parrots you see — they are excellent repeaters of information. Have you thought about going door to door and asking folks if they’ve Seen The Good And Glorious Path of Evil Apples? Well, get right on that. Talk about the book. Leave reviews places. Come to the book events. Pre-order the book if you haven’t already, and jump in on that pre-order giveaway campaign. Hell, pre-order ten, twenty of those silly guys. We’ll use them as currency in the new cult. Merch, too! Who needs the internet? We have our own word-of-mouth. And the words in our mouth are NEW CULT NEW CULT NEW CULT. APPLES, APPLES, APPLES. TEETH, TEETH, TEETH. Now put on your odd hat. Come to the pyramid in the woods. We have one week till the book comes out. One week to prepare for
ha ha ha I mean
one week to prepare for
PERFECTLY GOOD AND NORMAL TIMES.
Okay, see in the forest, cultist buddies!
* translation is, I might be a little more annoying this next week in the lead-up to the book, and that annoyance might be softened if we’re all in the woods getting high on tree bark and talking books in our weird pyramid, so apologies in advance if I’m extra noisy about this book, it just means a lot to me and it’s hard to get word out, but honestly, all of this would be fixed if you would just join my damn cult already, jeez