The Half-Life of a Book 06/05/21

The very kind and almost certainly handsome Colin Walker gives Black Gum a review over on his Muse Letter. Writing a book is important in this day and age because it forces you to think of deeper time. There’s a real error in our programming due to the immediacy of everything. The half-life of a tweet is thirty minutes, and the half-life of one of these blogs is a little over a year, but a book’s half-life has to be decades and decades. People don’t randomly discover a tweet you wrote five years ago unless that tweet contains a slur. But people are, randomly or not, discovering BG, and all the books I’ve written up to ten years ago.

This is why it’s important to keep a clear head when you’re creating this stuff. You put it out there into the world and immediately feel as though nobody cares, or at least I do. It’s only in retrospect that you realize just how many people, over time, engaged with your work. And when they’ve read a couple hundred pages (or, in BG’s case, about 100), that’s a deeper, more profound engagement than the tweet. It’s the medium’s blessing and its curse.

Of course you want hundreds of people to rush out and read your new book as soon as it comes out. That’s only natural. You’ve just spent time on it, and you think it’s pretty good. But I mean…just put yourself in other people’s shoes for a second. We’ve all kind of got a lot of things going on right now. And because a book is much longer than a song or a movie, and because it takes actual investment, it’s going to take 99.9% of readers time to get to it, let alone non-readers. There’s a lot of stuff out there.

So all you can do, and at this point we’re in a Simpsons-esque “don’t make me tap the sign” mode, is write the coolest shit you can and release it. Improve SEO, maybe, but other than that…people will either read it or not.

And sometimes, six years after you’ve self-published your little book, someone finds it and says something kind about it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Have a great weekend!

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