- Michelle Good’s Five Little Indians is at 13 weeks on the bestseller list, and this is only her first novel;
- Some awards news yesterday:
- The Guardian censored a Judith Butler interview to protect the feelings of TERFs…? I love the Guardian, but this is pure shite;
- Do news reporters write the best crime novels?;
- Afghanistan literary scene primer;
- Original New York prospectus seems to have held up;
- Giller longlist comes out today, tune in here to watch it;
- Insta poetry in the time of clay pots;
- Booker prize shuffles jury;
- A Joy Harjo interview is always welcome;
- WTF is a “literary liberal“?;
- Wainwright prize for nature writing goes to;
- 35 (non-fiction and fiction) books coming in the fall;
- The book that shaped Nordic identity;
- Dante’s circles of the damned, but in real life;
- Genre-bending fantasy books;
- Remember when countries elected poets as presidents?;
- Could Sally Rooney be Sally Rooney if she wasn’t Irish?;
- The American counterparts to Sherlock Holmes;
- Meet the “crab novel” guy;
- RIP: Steve Vizinczey, author, dead at 88;
It turns out that TikTok is not just all half-naked young people dancing and ASMR videos, it’s also a way to turn backlist titles into best sellers. How come I always get assigned young publicists who seem like they should know about this stuff, but they never try it? Oh, right. Poetry. That said, you prose types who stand to make actual money from your work would do well to pay attention to what’s trending because that is apparently the level society has settled at: virality as good in videos, bad in bloodstreams.
BookTok content reaches an extremely large audience—videos with the #BookTok hashtag have racked up a combined 18 billion views. Once a book like It Ends with Us is recommended by influencers, TikTok’s algorithm ensures that it pops up on users’ feeds without them even searching for it. As of this writing, videos with the hashtag #ItEndsWithUs have a combined 73 million views.
BookTok’s power to promote books relies on its grassroots nature. Through self-made content, users create the sort of literary publicity that, in its sincerity, money literally cannot buy. Media-literate young people are especially drawn to promotion done by peers with no financial stake in a product. But publishers have taken notice and are responding swiftly. Atria’s chief marketing officer, Liz Perl, said it’s important to take TikTok seriously as a promotional tool because it’s “not just for kids anymore.” Perl said the publisher has been working closely with authors to “capitalize on this moment by creating more organic content, investing in more paid campaigns and working with a broad variety of book influencers.”
Kids are gearing up to head back into their petri dishes and bring you all sorts of pathological goodies. Enjoy the two weeks of six free hours a day, because after that I assume you’ll be sick for two months or have them back at home because not enough people in your community got vaccinated and now society is fucked. (Don’t we normally get a Giller Longlist soon? Maybe that will sustain us) Enjoy!
- CBC reviews 25 years of their flagship fiction program “Canada Reads Only Fiction Because That’s What Books Are — Only Fiction”;
- Today in Just Imagine Being Sally Rooney;
- British Academy Book Prize shortlist;
- Poet Amanda Gorman becomes face of Estée Lauder;
- How 1921’s fiction predicts 2021;
- Newly discovered scraps of paper reveal new take on Merlin;
- Why do we like mysteries that take place in schools?;
- New AI program distills research papers into a single sentence;
Here’s a strange and interesting piece on how 9/11 changed things for writers. Having been there that day right beside it when the first tower came down, and having watched 19 successive anniversaries and dreading the 20th to come, I wasn’t expecting this to the be first big article I’ve encountered on the whole thing. Did it change the way I write? Maybe? I don’t know. I’m glad to not think about it most of the year. Maybe it’s in there, percolating in my lizard mind, subtly nudging me towards the dire and dour. Or maybe that’s just my Scots-Irish heritage. Hard to tell.
We could speak of dread, hardly a new theme in our fiction, which flowered anew, along with a sense that while we were visible, our enemy (or enemies) was not. The English novelist Ian McEwan, the author of “Saturday,” one of the better novels about life in the years following 9/11, commented in the aftermath that “American reality always outstrips the imagination. And even the best minds, the best or darkest dreamers of disaster on a gigantic scale, from Tolstoy and Wells to Don DeLillo, could not have delivered us into the nightmare available on television news channels yesterday afternoon.”
Cormac McCarthy’s postapocalyptic novel “The Road,” he has said, was directly inspired by 9/11. Novels like Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven,” in which a fictional flu epidemic has devastated the world, and even Whitehead’s zombie novel “Zone One,” landed with fresh force. (Zombies became, in novels, film and television, something like national mascots.) There was a sharpened sense that the unease would never end.
No, probably not — a this article states, setting it up as the “side-hustle” of publishing. But from Rushdie saying he wants
“a slightly more complex relationship with readers” (dude, I would argue that your relationship with readers is more than adequately complex) to everyone with a built in audience who wants to more control and possibly to publish things that hover somewhere between tweets and books, it’s apparently the way to go right now.
Writers flirting with the Substack idea would be better seen, says Lawson, in footballing terms: they are probably going out on loan from their existing publishers, not transferring for good. He doubts that big names will turn their backs on traditional publishing.
“If you take crime fiction, which sells hugely now,” he says, “the big names have long-established series, so if Substack signed up, for the sake of argument, Ian Rankin, Peter James and Val McDermid, they might get a new book out of them but they couldn’t have their backlist. And that’s where the value is for a lot of crime authors.”
That said, Lawson thinks readers would definitely shell out for a Substack subscription if it was the only way of reading their favourite author’s newest novel. But he wonders if the model is sustainable.
Parasocial? Is that more or less than social? Cause I can barely handle social. It took me the last 25 years of writing to realize that collegiality doesn’t equal friendship. That’s 25 years of being too earnest and getting burned by assholes, people. Don’t tell me there’s a whole other level to this. Wait, is this about obsessive fans thinking their your pal? Whew. Don’t have to worry.
Parasocial interaction (PSI) was defined in 1956 as “a kind of psychological relationship experienced by members of an audience in their mediated encounters with certain performers in the mass media, particularly on television.” These days, I’d argue that social media has taken PSI one step further and many authors with public-facing social media presences can also find themselves in the role of those performers or recognizable public figures as defined by Horton and Wohl in 1956. Most people may not see anything wrong with a little bit of minor fame, but issues arrive when readers and audiences begin to see public figures as real people they know personally. How we treat strangers differs from how we treat people we perceive as friends, and this is where boundary crossing can arise.
- FTR, the first stranger who finds out I’m a poet and tries to connect with me by saying they have attended a “poetry reading,” the one on Amazon, is going to end up with Ex-Lax dropped in their coffee when their back is turned;
- A Different Booklist gets a new home;
- Wolsak & Wynn rebrands Poplar imprint to spec… ooooh;
- From Alicia Keys song to graphic novel — girls on fire;
- Digging in data solves mystery of decline in US thriller sales;
- Q: Do romance novels ruin relationships? A: No. (cf. The Simpsons)
- NYer looks into the big business of library ebooks;
- CBC Short Story Prize is open for submissions;
- Our man Coupland gets heat for defending Elon Musk;
- Sheila Heti talks trusted first readers… I have two… then after that, a circle of second readers, each with a different aesthetic and absolutely zero compunction to coddle me;
- B&N riding this wave to the bank;
- Anne Enright talks wild success Sally Rooney;
- On Le Guin and worldcraft;
- Little bookshelf oddity pr0n;
- Salmon Rushdie will serialize his new novel on substack… goddammit, I guess I need another friggin app?
- “It’s okay if you don’t like to read” [quotes mine]
- The science behind why you suddenly need to poop upon entering a bookstore… look, I wish I had made this up, but I didn’t, so just go read it and share my pain about the state of science and journalism;
- Dear pious folk: there’s big money in old prayer books;
- Fran Lebowitz on her “sudden fame” via the old RCA box;
As someone married to a thriller writer, I have been relatively lucky to have my quirks and mannerisms appear mostly as aspects of the good guys. Mostly. That said, I am married to a writer and I am getting what I asked for. Stories of mine get YOINKed all the time — mostly little details or interesting tidbits… the stuff that feels like real life. In fairness, ideas and expressions of hers also appear in my poems. That said, I have this one piece of advice for you as someone who knows a writer: if you tell them a story WITHOUT saying, “Now, this isn’t for use in a novel” first, I don’t know that you have any moral avenue of objection. It’s what they do, and you knew that going in, and their experience of hearing the story without being told it’s not for use in their art is really just their experience of hearing something one day. We do it all the time, in all artistic genres. God knows, some science article comes up with a vaguely poetic image like “wolf moon” or some shit and two years later all the lit journals are filled with crappy poems about the wolf moon. Because what writers do is process reality and hand it back to us for context that we can use as decoration for our minds. Anything they hear or see is just another part of their day tucked away for future use. But I do think most writers will respect a “please don’t use this” request. Beyond that, everything said and done in and around them is fair game. So beware, is what I’m saying.
Contemporary entertainment is a hall of mirrors, an endless flow of simulacra: reality shows, biopics, documentaries, Instagram posts, Youtube vlogs. Podcasts and docuseries and movies process the same real-life events (Tonya Harding, the O.J. trial, Theranos), responding to one another, building on one another, until the metanarrative is part of the entertainment. I guess it is no surprise, then, that our fictionalized characters have starting launching protests about how we’ve used them. A woman named Alexis Nowicki recently wrote a Slate essay outing herself as the inspiration for the viral short story “Cat Person,” and Amanda Knox, who was falsely accused of murder by Italian authorities, wrote an Atlantic article about a movie that (very) loosely transposes her story. Tom McCarthy, the director of Stillwater, did acknowledge in a Vanity Fair interview that his movie was “directly inspired” by Knox’s case. I still can’t decide if this was all marketing — McCarthy trying to stir up the true-crime audience and situate his film amid the flow of Amanda Knox content — or naiveté, an artist assuming that people will understand that inspiration is about the spark of an idea, not the act of appropriation.