Tag Archives: author page

We are the Internet

Full disclosure: I saw a design like this on chezapocalypse.com for their Cthulu themed YA Romance novel Awakened and I loved it.

As more information archeologists dig into the web, content creators have been getting the short end of the pickax. Dependent on services to host our treasures, we’re finding them hidden, buried behind copyright claims, closed off to adventurers who once sought to share them. The internet is still their dig site of choice, but it feels like we’re being shut out of it.

Last year, YouTube launched an Auto Content ID system to seek out copyrighted material from videos. It matched waveforms to a sound library. It protected YouTube from litigation, but it had an adverse impact on content creation.

These measures were to stop users from uploading entire albums and films scene by scene. Problems arose when critics needed to show b-roll from theatrical releases, DVDs, and video games to discuss them. Better safe than sorry, the copyright bots gave warnings to videos that used clips within the guidelines of fair use.

In the aftermath of Content ID, YouTuber Angry Joe wondered if game publishers were taking advantage of these changes to quell criticism, claiming infringement to censor bad press. His fear was that these new restrictions would reduce his show to a talking head with no visuals (fortunately, this wasn’t the case).

The panic generated by Content ID is one example of how artists are at the mercy of corporate entities.

Earlier this year, Facebook changed the way posts from Pages appeared in News Feeds. They wouldn’t show up until the Page Manager paid to push them. Authors trying to build a following were destined to be nickeled and dimed. With every link and every book announcement, they’d have to pay a micro-transaction.

These changes limit all the social elements from an author’s platform. Why post an amusing anecdote if you have to pay to promote? Why share a life event if it will reach less than one percent? Why upload a clip of an embarrassing karaoke duet if it’s not within your budget?

Unless your followers are checking your page, commenting and liking on their own, your voice will be reduced to a marketing drone. Your Page will be a graveyard for links to be buried in. I’ve written about Facebook’s changes at length, but I fear they’re part of a broader trend.

Hail Hydra!
Hail Hydra!

The FCC have proposed changes to their net neutrality policy, lifting regulations that make internet service providers neutral on the flow of info. ISPs will have the ability to charge websites more for express traffic. Data with financial backing will get to its destination faster than upstarts can afford to compete with.

I’ve written a satirical short on the subject, but these are my genuine feelings on it.

If Facebook is the only social network that can afford to stay in the fast lane, they’re the last ride we’ll get to see our friends. If YouTube is the only video-sharing service on the motorway, they can control whatever we say. If Netflix is the only streaming service on the Autobahn, we’ll be paying more to ride along. Less entrepreneurs on the expressway means less competition, and higher costs for everyone.

At the turn of the century there were a dozen search engine options. This ruling will make sure that Google will always be the only game in town.

Think about it like this: if BuzzFeed is the Walmart of the internet, your blog is the mom and pop shop in its shadow. If UpWorthy is the big chain restaurant your site is the hole in the wall struggling to make a name for itself. If ViralNova is Fox News your blog is late night public access television. They’ve got readers, sharers, and advertisers. They can afford to give service that you can not.

These changes to net neutrality will make it even harder for the little person to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

I have an irrational fear that the Internet will devolve into the worst parts of television: news feeds becoming cesspools of advertisements, ad walls blocking entry into every site, commercials running before every captcha.

Our participation will be limited to voting on talent competitions. Meaningful content will hide behind subscription costs. Unique perspectives will shrink. Unique voices will be drowned out. The tone of the conversation will shift from sharing ideas to buying and selling. Content creators will be reduced to consumers.

There’s a lot of money in making us feel ugly, lonely, and incomplete. Advertisers give us these problems so they can sell us the solutions. The more bandwagons we’re exposed to the more isolated we feel. The more attractive figures we’re shown, the more our mirrors distort. The higher our expectation for happiness, the more depressed we get.

The formula for advertisements has had a toxic effect on how we see ourselves. The net is one of the last refuges from it. Sure, ads are prevalent, but there’s a counterbalance. In this marketplace of ideas we’ve found more positive ways to promote ourselves.

Authors might send me annoying auto-DMs on Twitter, but they’re never going to make me feel like shit to sell a book (unless they’re in the self-help business).

We’ve had a free press for some time, the trouble was none of us owned one. The internet gave us free expression we had never known. Now that we’ve tasted it, we’re never going to spit it out.

There’s a reason I called my fears “Irrational.” I’m not panicking about these proposed changes to net neutrality, because I know I’m not the only one with something at stake. I’m not the only blogger, video-logger, or podcaster whose livelihood is on the line.

Content creators won’t be written out of the code, lost in the tag clouds, or blacked out of the search terms. We’re the draw that gets users to come. We’re the stream of ideas the world gets its revenue from. We’re the sugar that lets people stomach your advertisements.

We won’t bite our tongues, hold our criticism, or muzzle our dissent. We’ve grown accustomed to the sound of our own voices. You can buy all the microphones, all the loudspeakers, and all the stages in the world, and you’ll still be a whisper in the crowd. In here, your lobbies are meek, spam our email accounts automatically sort into the junk bin. Your agenda is lost in the choir, your pundits are outnumbered, your interests bore us. Your slant has been flattened, your closed communications are open to interpretation, your opacity is an emperor with no clothes on.

Shut us out at your own risk. We won’t come to your party if you make it too exclusive. We won’t think it’s cool if you leave us to talk to ourselves. We won’t buy anything if you price us out of the bar.

The internet is the closest we’ve come to equal representation inside the system. We’re not giving up our seats at the table. We like life outside of the bottle, we’re not going back in. We know our place, it’s everywhere. Our vines stretch past your walled off gardens. You can cut us off at the knees, but it won’t limit our reach.

We ARE the internet.

The Facebook Bait-and-Switch

How Facebook’s changes have made it tough for an author to build a following.

The Facebook Bait-and-Switch

Introducing the Facebook "Pay" button the only way authors can reach anyone
Introducing the Facebook “Pay” button the only way authors can reach anyone

In the past, Facebook provided a great free service for authors. Allowing us to create fan pages to reach our readers, it let us keep separate accounts for our friends and families. Choosing to “Like” our pages, audiences got updates on projects, saving our other accounts for personal status.

As brick and mortar book stores crumbled at the feet of e-readers, social-network-self-publishing seemed like a viable option. Author pages became a yard stick for agents to measure the worth of a client. Traditional publishers changed their contract criteria. Now it wasn’t about how many awards a writer had won, or how many short fiction collections they’d been featured in, it was about how many smiling icons they had at the bottom of their profile page.

Social media gurus preached, “The keeper of the publishing gates will look at how many followers you have and judge you accordingly.”

We thought we were paying Facebook, by keeping the social network relevant. As far as we knew, money was exchanging hands. Advertisers were paying to reach users outside of the ones who’d “Liked” their product, while we ground along winning ours one by one.

When we shot trailers for our books, Facebook was where we premiered them. Our revenue came from iBooks and Amazon, but Facebook was where we made our sales. Not limiting us to 140 characters, we filled our elevator pitches with the details that gave our stories meaning.

Writers put everything they had into their author pages. Some used them as a substitute for a blog. Why not? Instead of linking readers to an off site destination, Facebook could make that connection. Livelihoods depended on what they were offering.

Facebook gave authors a broad reach, then they chopped off our arms. Why? So they could sell us all prosthetics. They hooked us on a free service. Made it crucial to our business, then made us pay for what it once was.

It’s a classic bait-and-switch grift.

The Facebook Bait-and-Switch
The Facebook Bait-and-Switch

In the span of a month, my posts went from reaching half of my followers, to five percent of them. Rather than entice me with membership only features, they’re charging for ones they used to give away for free.

Why not pay? Because I don’t trust their brand. I could shell out the cash to reach 100% of my followers, but next month they could throttle me back and ask for a larger chunk of change. I’m just building a following, I haven’t even tried to sell anything.

Recently, I wrote an article on how the hate group leader Fred Phelps accidentally struck a blow for gay rights. Despite having nothing to do with the type of fiction I write, I want all of my followers to see the piece. Still, I’m not going to pay to boost it.

I’m not going to pay Facebook to promote my author page either. Why, because I want to represent myself on social media, finding readers through a direct connection. I don’t want to depend on an impersonal algorithms recommendation.

I’ve considered abandoning my Facebook author page in favor of posting on my personal one. It’s a broader audience, a few friends with shared interests are among them, the rest are relatives, classmates, and coworkers. This is a temporary solution that might cost more “Friends” than it gains. I’ve already written about getting flack for it.

Embracing Facebook’s monopoly on networking, we let it step all over us. While social media gurus still sing its praises, this author has been priced out of it.

Face Palm

Authors should consider which social media plates to spin and which ones to let come crashing down. It’s hard enough to balance life and work with writing. Social networking can eat up even more of that time. You need to be selective about which services you invest in.

At this point, I’d tell new authors that building a following on Facebook is like building your house on sand.