Is the age of the “Influencer author” good for books?

Are we suffering as a culture from a sort of “Influencerenza” infection that is taking over most forms of art? Is publishing these multi-platform people through traditional channels (generally reserved for those of us still living in our little “pioneer villages” of art in which we dress up in period clothes and go about our business for others to watch and think of as quaint) helping our industry compete or slowly driving it further into irrelevance?

The biggest draw for publishers bidding for books by influencers is that they have committed audiences ready and waiting. Gleam understands the importance of these figures: on its website, it lists authors’ Instagram and Twitter followings beneath their biographies. When publisher Fenella Bates acquired the rights for Hinch Yourself Happy in December 2018, she noted Sophie Hinchcliffe’s impressively quick rise on Instagram, having grown her following from 1,000 to 1.4 million in just six months. Upon publication in April 2019, the book sold 160,302 copies in three days, becoming the second fastest-selling non-fiction title in the UK (after the “slimming” recipe book Pinch of Nom).

Anyone who has harnessed such an audience to sell products, promote a campaign, or otherwise cultivate a successful personal brand is an exceptionally desirable candidate to a publisher that wants to sell books. What’s more, the mechanics of social media means the size of these audiences is easily measurable, making the authors “cast-iron propositions” for publishers, said Caroline Sanderson, the associate editor of the trade magazine the Bookseller, who has noticed a huge increase in the number of books written by social media stars over the last couple of years.

Marche on Rooney and the times in which we live and write

Stephen Marche, who I know many of you love (or love to hate), is a very smart writer who likes to go deep with his thoughts on subjects (especially given where he publishes most of them). Here he is talking, ostensibly, about the Sally Rooney juggernaut, but really about voice in fiction.

So Sally Rooney's racist? Only if you choose to confuse fiction with fact |  Nick Cohen | The Guardian

If literary careers are like games, and they are, then Sally Rooney has won: the massive bestselling debut, the even more massive, even more bestselling follow-up, the successful television adaptation, the profiles, the prizes. “I write to you from Paris, having just arrived here from London, where I had to go and pick up an award. They never tired of giving me awards, do they? It’s a shame I’ve tired so quickly of receiving them,” she writes in her new book Beautiful World, Where Are You (no question mark). Her own celebrity, for Sally Rooney, is evidence of insanity, both in the people who envy it and in the society that values it.

“Okay, it’s been a small experience in its own way, and it will all blow over in a few months or years and no one will even remember me, thank God,” she writes. “And then that’s it, I’m finished, and the next flashy twenty-five year old with an impending psychological collapse comes along.” Her new novel is, in a sense, the collapse that has been impending. Sally Rooney has jumped through the world’s hoops, and found, at the end, the emptiness of all hoops.

But Beautiful World, Where Are You is more than a young, healthy, successful, rich, famous woman in love complaining about youth, health, success, wealth, fame and love. It arrives at a particular moment in literary history, a point of transition, or properly speaking two simultaneous transitions. The literature of the voice is dying. The literature of the pose has arrived. The basis of literary style has shifted.


My new book

My new book was officially released last week. It’s called Problematica: New and Selected Poems, and it represents 25 years of me screwing around in the poetry world. I’m telling you this because there’s probably only three or four major review spaces left in Canada and, given how many books come out each year, it’s unlikely any of them will feature it.

Order from any of the links below with preference given to indie bookstores or the publisher website.

Also, here’s a clip of me reading a poem from it.