Blogging, Bookselling, Writing: Everything is Weird
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
I cannot stand writing about writing ( 'writering', naturally). Meg Furey agrees:
Melville’s Moby-Dick contains hundreds of dull-ass, dryly written pages on ship parts, whale books and the minutiae of whaling. When I come upon an essay about a writer writing about writing on Medium, I abandon ship faster than I should have Moby-Dick. Why? Because there are other writers to read. Writing is a matter of doing and I’d rather read the writers who explore things we cannot see, who endeavor to find something new, who chase the fucking whale and live to write about it.
Lest it sound like pure nastiness - it isn't! She also sneaks in some real advice - stealthily done, but very handy.
Following from the above, my prohibition against writering also extends to bloggering. Fortunately this 'exit interview' with Bookslut's Jessa Crispin says everything I might ever want to say. She confronts the stark reality of book (or review) blogging, how it has changed, and the choices you need to make to keep going:
When I realized the sacrifices I was going to have to make in order for it to make money, it wasn’t worth it. It used to be you could get an advertiser for a month; now it’s all directly linked to how many pageviews you get. So you can’t write about obscure literature that only ten people care about and make eight cents. You have to write about the books that all the people already know about. And then it just orients you toward clickbait
For those looking for a checklist of 'reasons to quit blogging', Crispin basically provides them all:
- Takes a lot of time
- Takes a lot of money
- You can't make money back without making certain sacrifices (above)
- You run out of ways to get people to do things for free
- The blog becomes your identity, which can be limiting
- You're perpetually struggling to be taken seriously
- You can lose interest in what you're blogging about
- You might have achieved your goal (e.g. get a book deal, job in publishing, etc)
To that, I'd add:
- It can be easier and more lucrative to blog on other platforms (someone else's site, Medium, etc)
Just in SF/F alone, we've had a few high profile departures recently (lights candles for SF Signal and My Bookish Ways). But, lest this all sound too grim: I don't think this is a bad thing. The bloggers themselves have every right to their hard-earned retirement. And for blog-readers, it is easy to get stuck in your 'goat path' of visiting the same sites over and over again. There are plenty of new opinions, recommendations, etc. all coming into the market. Now's a good time to poke around and encourage new and different voices.
Influencering and Social Media...ing
One of the better pieces I've found on marketing with influencers (that's marketing-speak for 'bloggers', 'youtubers' and 'people with a lot of instagram followers'):
If you don’t understand the blogger – their motivation for blogging, the way they work and their audience – then you cannot tailor the unique content you need to in order to gain traction.
The article walks through the steps, plus some nice, sensible, do's & don'ts.
"12 Ways Book Publishers Can Improve Facebook Engagement" applies to pretty much everyone, actually. It isn't publisher-specific. Nor is it ground-breaking. I actually think it works better in the reverse. If you're thinking of starting a Facebook page for your business/imprint/whatever, read this! And ask yourself, "do you have the time to do all 12? Regularly?" Social media is a commitment. Like a puppy!
If you are already doing the 12 basic steps above, then "11 ways to track online-to-offline conversion" is pretty handy. Is your Facebook page selling books? Time to find out!
1 in 5 online Americans use Amazon Prime to watch video. That's a lot, although still not near the 1 in 2 that are using Netflix. Good lord, America. GET SOME SUN.
Weirdly, Netflix peaks with the youngest internet users (practically 80% of 16-24 year olds) and goes down from there. Amazon's best demographic is the slightly older (and $$$$er) 25-44s. Nice chart here.
And, hey, now Wattpad is getting in on the action. Say hi to Wattpad Studios.
Leonard Riggio is stepping down from Barnes & Noble. I worked at B&N as a kid, and I vaguely remember references to him, but it wasn't like the part-time high school floor-meat in Kansas City ever ran into the sainted chairman. But, his (old?) quote about getting beat-down by Amazon is pretty right:
We’re great booksellers; we know how to do that. We weren’t constituted to be a technology company.
Things like bn.com (I remember its launch. I'm so ollllllld), the Nook, they were always notable for being a) really well-constructed and b) invariably second to market. That's definitely not how tech companies work. This is a sweeping assumption, but they were always a company that did things really well, but never first. And that sure came back to haunt them.
"How the Marvel Cinematic Universe Keeps Failing Asian-Americans". Really interesting, and more about Daredevil than Doctor Strange.
"Parenting DC Comics". So help me, I think this is great writing, but I can't figure out what the 'call to action' is. The author doesn't want us to boycott, so... what are we supposed to do?
"Difficult women". Why is Sex in the City losing its place in the TV pantheon?
"I'm not competing with George R.R. Martin", says Steven Erikson, for Wired, who make the headline, lede and opening six paragraphs about George R.R. Martin. Despite that, great interview. I'm not a Malazan fan (don't tell r/fantasy), but Erikson's always has very interesting interviews.
"The Virtual Afterlife of Arcades" is fascinating (if hard to read).
"The art of Secret Societies", also very cool.
"What women want at hackathons", NASA put together a list. Helpful for anyone planning any sort of creative or collaborative event. Or just living in the year 2016.
This occasional, irrational, round-up of stuff is also available as a newsletter. Enjoy!