I started Broken River just before the door closed. The initial launch of books performed well, mainly because I was still able to get the message out on Facebook. I’d type up a post and hundreds of people would see it and interact with it. Around that time, about seven years ago, the site started implementing advertising, and all of a sudden anything you posted that included a link, or keywords to buy something, became throttled. You could see it happen right before your eyes. Cat picture: 155 likes. Book announcement: 234 likes. Announcement that book is on sale: 5 likes.
Over time that throttling became more explicit, and reached into the discourse itself. Facebook began privileging posts that used keywords (“congratulations,” etc.) in order to drive “positive engagement.” The wild west of the internet, at that point, was officially dead.
Once political discourse took over and the left and right formed their own reality tunnels, that window shrank even further, encouraging authors to shout their book every day AND become political pundits. If you were driven enough to get your work out there, you’d adapt to this.
I couldn’t, really. The whole thing felt gross to me. I’ve had a difficult time my whole life with pretending to agree with something that I just don’t. Combine that with a healthy paranoia and distrust of authority, and most narratives on either side struck me as missing key elements.
But that’s neither here nor there. This post doesn’t have a point, per se, other than I was thinking about those days when I could find something like Bizarro completely randomly, on a messageboard, by following a link. I could find artists by going down MySpace rabbit holes. I could post a thought on Facebook and get actual engagement from people, not just the same fifty “friends” FB decided constituted my “audience.”
I wonder often about how to break out of this ever-constricting medium. You’ll notice, every few months there’s some new crisis, and with it comes some new update that makes SM worse, makes them throttle you more.
I think once c*vid is over and everyone is safely vaxxed, it’ll have to be a face-to-face thing. We’ll have to go back to traveling around with our books, putting on live shows that are interesting, and putting in the legwork. We were promised an easier route to an audience, but it was brief. But that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world! It just means we have to keep searching.