Maybe we’re free.
Maybe long form journalism is back, and we’ll return to an attention span that dare I say, feels luxurious.
[I’ve been reading Booth by Karen Joy Fowler for about a month (thank you library renewals), but finally got a physical copy of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and my librarian so gently said, “a little bit, a little bit” getting quieter the second time, when I asked her if I should be nervous about the potential for tears.]
Maybe instead of scrolling before bed we’ll pick up a novel that’s been called “a tomb” in one blurb or another.
Maybe there’s actually no void to shout into? Tell me why the antonym of void is fulfillment? Maybe we’ll be fulfilled.
Maybe in the used bookstore, when we play bookshelf roulette—close your eyes and point, close your eyes and skim the spines with a finger, close your eyes and have a friend walk you around the store until you say stop, to pull out the first book you touch—we won’t worry that we haven’t seen a publishers marketplace announcement, a cover reveal, or a too-humble-it’s-gotta-be-a-performance-we’re-not-all-that-shy, “I’m not great at talking about my work, but if y’all might consider preordering…”
Maybe the fact that we never got an edit button will make us less likely to judge everyone for grammatical errors (ugh, grammar).
Maybe this means the hand-sell will reign once again. (And if the hand-sell becomes *the sell* maybe we’ll get more independent bookstores in bookstore deserts).
Maybe someone will create a newsletter just like this one that we all read that’s titled, “the best things I’ve read this week.”
[See also: maybe we’ll actually read the essays in Memoir Monday, or LZ Sunday Paper, or The Sunday Long Read, or I’ll finally subscribe to Griefbacon]
Maybe we’ll return to having favorite literary magazines. Are we firing up those subscriptions? Is that the sound like a neighborhood of generators I hear, or is that just my anxiety humming along?
Maybe we’ll value our librarians recommendations, or our teachers, or our professors.
Maybe we’ll fight MORE for each other in “real life,” alongside on the internet. (Have you pledged to HCPUnion yet?) Same for accountability, generosity, transparency.
Maybe we’ll have to shitpost in our group chats.
Maybe I’ll miss all the tweets I bookmarked for crowdsourcing books about a certain topic or theme, bookstores with the best poetry sections, syllabus creation, or anything created & shared with community in mind.
And maybe I’ll miss the ones with prompts too.
Maybe bookstagram will have another boom, though the bust I feel when I look at how hard I worked to make my page aesthetically pleasing and hazy orange in 2017 burns in my chest.
Maybe someone (me? no, not me) will create a Tumblr for those “staff recommendation” notes in bookstores and they’ll take submissions.
Maybe we’re not free because everyone tries Mastadon, or Tumblr, or makes a LiveJournal joke.
Maybe we’ll recognize people outside of the tiny circle of their profile image. (Are we all MySpace Tom’s to one another?)
(While incredibly dry) Maybe more of us should read Merchants of Culture and look at publishing before the big blue bird. Though it was mostly singular (white) men following their singular (white man) tastes, so, not great. And agents, for all the tweeting about them being the literary gatekeepers, have only really been actors in the publishing playing field for fifty or so years in the capacity and role they currently play. Lots of players will be making adjustments, and probably need to. BUT still, the books everyone wants to publish, are books that become backlist. Books that live a long shelf-life for a long period of time. And I’m going to be honest, our current publicity cycles do not cater to this hope. So, perhaps without the big bird and his musk (and with the changes that losing Twitter would create in “content” and “copy,”) publicity would (and could!) become something altogether different. Maybe media outlets worry less about content (pithy shopping lists! galleries! quizzes!) and turn back to making space for saying something.
Maybe print magazines will gain the traction they’ve lost over the last few years because the ability to share on Twitter is less of a push to publish, publish, publish online.
Maybe there will be a “quiet book” boom because not everything will have to be broken into a bite size, Tweetable, idea or concept or line. (Though I don’t want to lose the flash boom we’re in right now either).
Maybe we summon in a golden age of meaning making, harkening through a golden age of essay collections by meaning-makers, and then ~a writing renaissance~
Maybe we lose access to everyday human history—something that has been mostly inaccessible to the everyman at every other point in history. (sigh).
Maybe we give people time (& nuance! complexity! everyone’s favorite MFA synonyms of these two words!) to make, to mean.
Maybe I, as a publicist, lose access to quickly seeing who’s where and doing what based on their Twitter bio, and maybe we all lose access to “calls for pitches” or submission openings or the beautiful transparency of examples (put them on your websites!). Lately, for example, I’ve been collecting freelancing guides. Here are a few: Chelsea’s, Freelancing with Tim pitching guides, & Aidan Moher’s pitch & sell freelance features.
[And here is Siân Griffith’s list of online writing workshops too.]
Maybe some writers will get breathing room to work on a larger project because they’re not consumed with a ceaseless need to constantly share new shorter work to feel relevant.
Maybe virality dies. (And then we can’t use that to bet on book deals three years out either. How will we survive it? You mean to tell me there would be no … “Cat Person” … book deal? After I explained the WHOLE phenomenon and the accompanying “Cat Person draws specific details from my life” to my non-Twitter-having best friend who STILL does not get it. I’ll give up Cat Person, but you can never take Crane Wife from me, over my cold, dead Twitter form. Anyway Cat Person was published in The New Yorker y’all, it wouldn’t have suffered a loss if Twitter never discovered it).
Maybe publishers will stop asking about platform when they really mean follower count, even though engagement is what matters.
Maybe I’ll have anxiety about how to bring in new clients without a flashy 10k next to my name. (I do). Maybe though I’ll ride on the hope that I’ve built something that stands on its own already.
Maybe engagement is something we stop talking about anyway, especially as a reason to offer someone a book deal.
Maybe I’ll miss tagging one of my clients in a thread and seeing a comic appear a few hours later.
Maybe we do more groundwork for our books. And I don’t mean send more emails. I mean we (publishing) actually stops betting with our little P&L sheets based on competitive titles. And we stop seeing success as a metric we determine by looking at what books parented-in a space for the one we’re considering. And instead we acknowledge the web is a wide world and audience is a word that we’ve flattened into the idea of performer, then spectator, when really a reading audience (and my closest friend Tory Tarpley would kill me if I talked shit about cinema, so throw in theater goers, and film goers, and museum goers, and concert goers) is one person seeking out a form of art to feel (whether we know what to expect or not), and that is so often what marketing and sales and publicity misses. I won’t even say we look to art for connection because some of us have been handed over and over and over again, art that refuses to see us. We simply want to feel. And where, where is feeling in your excel spreadsheet? And how often have you seen a tweet (a thread!) that hit some thumping part of you, only to wish you could read more?
Maybe we’re reminded that the relationship between writer and reader isn’t one-sided but reciprocal.
Maybe there will be something like The Grind, but for sharing books & work.
Maybe someone will teach the class: How to take what you wanted to write in a Twitter thread and make it into a book proposal.
Maybe we’ll have another boom in books about taking walks.
Maybe we won’t have a place to complain about the think pieces about the demise of “big bird.”
Maybe, maybe, maybe we stop gauging the power of what we’re saying by the number of likes it has. (There is in fact no algorithm to determine how well a book sold based on Goodreads reviews or mentions on social media—so many readers aren’t on Goodreads, aren’t on Twitter, have never made a social media profile at all. Though, truth be told, my dad is asking for the new Colleen Hoover for Christmas (& my mom cannot get her hands on a copy, but Colleen Hoover shares an editor with Emme Lund so I’ve been tempted to ask Emme’s editor Mel, but then that’s weird, so I haven’t—publishing is such a small world, y’all), my cousin told my dad about Hoover and she also has no Twitter, no TikTok, only a Super Target).
Maybe Target will open its big red bullseye shelves to independent presses if a publicist can convince them. (New 2023 goal unlocked).
Alas, Reels will still just be uploaded TikToks, but entire Instagram tweet-meme accounts will have to actually become funny.
Maybe Taco Bell Quarterly starts mailing custom sauce packets with what they would have tweeted.
Maybe I’ll write that book I’ve been talking about. Maybe you will too.
I said something to a class last week that I had never actually said aloud previously. I said I spent ten years trying to be “discovered” by the publishing industry. After I graduated from state school with my English degree, I was blogging, I started a Bookstagram, and eventually—say 2014, I had garnered enough followers and engagement on both Wordpress and Instagram (about 10k) that big four publishers started sending me books and PR packages. I got personalized notes on company letterhead, and so I reviewed their books, featured them on my pages, etc. I thought each new publicist in my email was a step closer to getting into this industry I so desperately wanted to be a part of without moving to New York City. I expected them to eventually be like, “wow, she’s good, let’s hire her.” That, of course, didn’t happen. Instead, I cold emailed and became a thirty-something intern and apprenticed my way up.
By the time I got my first paying job in big publishing, I had edited on a literary magazine, ran social media for a lit mag, audited MFA classes in my undergraduate program, had a book blog for ten years, had such a successful Bookstagram that someone in my MFA program started calling me “Bookstagram” instead of my name so I deleted my account. (Yes, I could kick myself for that decision now), I was studying in an MFA program, I had taught high school English for six years, had lived in Australia and worked in a bookstore there—I had done arguably every publishing-adjacent job I could think of, and no one came calling.
And I think (from the DMs I’ve gotten the last few days), that the big question on a lot of writerly minds is, how will I get my work in front of people (discoverability!) without the ability to share it on Twitter? And friends, I don’t know yet. What I do know is that writers are agile. We’re great at rerouting, revising, reenvisioning.
Great post, Cassie. I can’t imagine what (and how long) it will take to truly kill off social media, but it does seem like something’s got to give. That Atlantic article was eye-opening. We never saw it coming, did we? And what’s coming next is hard to imagine--but if it brings meaning back and sidelines volume and mindless parroting and evil intent, I’m all for it.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!! This is just what I needed! xo