Discover more from The Elysian
The one where I go full-send on all the social media apps
I once went full-send on Instagram to the point where I had 25k followers. Then one day I decided I hated it all and deleted everything.
It was around the same time that I was the owner of my own magazine and everyone knew everything about me and I was disrupting my enjoyment of life by always taking pictures of it and I wasn’t convinced any of it would actually help my writing career at all.
It didn’t—as I discussed here—but I’m still enticed by the idea that it could. That armed with the right technology — be it Substack, Medium, Patreon, Wattpad, Twitter, Clubhouse, Discord, Reddit, or TikTok — a writer could go straight to the source, circumventing “the man” altogether and publishing their work directly to their own audience.
As you are now aware, this is what I intend to do in a few months’ time and, as a result, I have gotten rather intense about the whole thing. That is to say, I got on all the apps that writers get on (except Instagram, RIP) to find out which could actually help me on this quest.
First I was introduced to TikTok, and let me just say that this seems exhausting. I don’t even know what there is that would be interesting about me or my life. I’m just sitting here on my laptop having imaginary fantasies in my head — like all the time. Am I supposed to post videos of that?
I could see how Reddit, kboards, and the like could be interesting for asking questions of other writers who maybe have done something similar — especially since no one seems to answer my questions on Twitter (maybe because people only answer if you have a big following??). But everyone seems to be anonymous in both places which doesn’t exactly lend either to quality community building.
Plus, I’ve already been raked across the coals on kboards for writing this article in which I ascertain that self-publishing probably isn’t the best thing to do — immediately before deciding that it’s definitely what I’m going to do. (In my defense, I did say that serial novels are the dream, just that they haven’t really been done successfully… yet. #challengeaccepted)
I am going to keep watching some r/Substack and r/Wattpad boards on Reddit to see if anybody says anything interesting on there. But unless people start sharing success stories I can learn from, I’ll probably delete it altogether — even if I did spend an inordinate amount of time designing my little Reddit avatar.
Ok but then there’s Medium and Substack and I think both are the gold standards for writers. The problem with Medium is that it isn’t a great place to gather followers. Despite getting 944 reads (defined as someone reading an article all the way through) on my Medium articles each month with one of my articles getting 8,000 reads and another getting 1,200—that has only translated to 280 Medium followers and probably seven newsletter subscribers. Medium, it seems, is great for getting eyes on a particular article (and making money from it), but not so great for gathering a following.
Substack though, I am really excited about — and that is why I’m building my newsletter here. Though it does require some other kind of media that funnels into it (like a social media account), if you know where to find people, Substack can be a great place to catch people like they are in a butterfly net and now they are part of my little butterfly kingdom. I have only published one post using Substack so far (this is my second) and I saw four unsubscribes and seven subscribes (mostly from my LinkedIn following who were like, ‘oh, you have a newsletter?’).
The other thing that I love about Substack is that people are obsessed with it — there are so many people doing it and there are whole communities of Substack writers talking about Substack writing. And I love it! It reminds me of blog rolls back in the 2000s. Remember when we were all so into blogs and followed each other’s blogs and talked about blogging? That’s all happening now with Substack. It has a cult following and the cult is FUN.
My own little newsletter list is what is leftover from the 3,000 newsletter subscribers I used to have back in my blogging days. Once I shut down my magazine in 2016, I only published articles to my list once in a blue moon and never attempted to add to it. As a result, my list dwindled to the 1,828 I have now. (Thank you TO THE MOON AND BACK for still being here!!!)
Which leads me to Clubhouse which I am into. It’s like podcasting only without the egotistical moderator who is turning every conversation into their own private therapy session. Plus, we can all join in on the conversation! (If you aren’t on Clubhouse yet and you want an invite, just reply to this email. I have a few extra I can share!)
I joined a Clubhouse room this week that was called something like “ask an editor anything.” An editor from Hachette was in there talking about how she selects novels for publishing so I dutifully raised my digital hand and asked how much a publisher is looking for a good story vs. how much a publisher is looking for a good platform.
She said that she as the editor is only looking for a good story, but that she is only one of 10–20 publishing execs who have to buy-in to a book in order to publish it. And the other 10–20 are really only interested in whether or not that book will make them (the publishing house) money. This is a business deal after all — and when an author comes with a built-in following that is a huge plus.
She then went on to say that not all platforms are created equal. An Instagram following, for example, is useless to a publishing house because following photos doesn’t equate to following writing — it’s not a guarantee of sales. Twitter, however, is much more their jam. If a writer has 30 followers on Twitter, but they are very engaged with one another, then that is potentially 30 book sales.
(The converse is also true, she said. If a person has 1.2 million followers on Twitter but they never respond to anything anyone else says and they are just posting links and ads, then that person has passive fans who are unlikely to spend money on that person’s book.)
She also mentioned that if a writer has no social media platform whatsoever, that is a red flag. A publisher needs to see that if they invest in a writer, that writer will be able to go on Jimmy Fallon and participate in Reece’s book club and be able and willing to promote themselves and their book and make it all successful for the publishing house.
All of this is to say that Clubhouse is an amazing place to learn from people at the top of your industry. At least until it becomes overrun by influencers — and let’s face it, that’s already starting to happen. But go to my account at @ellegriffin and look at who I am following. They are all really interesting people that start really interesting Clubhouse rooms that are worth a listen.
Ok but then there is this fanfiction world we need to talk about — and this is endlessly exciting to me. All these writers are talking about writing all the time. And they’re all writing books and sharing chapters and I had no idea about any of these communities until I wrote this article about Skinwalker Ranch and became an accidental member of the paranormal community.
Now I’m inundated with newsletters about paranormal hotspots and ufology — it’s like I’ve been accepted as one of their own. I was even invited to speak on a paranormal podcast (I declined, of course. What would I have to say about it all apart from, “yeah I think this is all crazy and hilarious and really fun to write about.”) My favorite part, though, has been the fan art which has been coming to me regularly. I mean, how cool is this?
None of this would happen in the traditional “me-to-you” world of social media (Instagram, TikTok—basically anything where I am posting things and you are just watching, what is that all about?) But it happens all the time in the “we” worlds of fanfiction, gaming, and paranormal communities (Discord, Wattpad — basically anything where everyone talks together).
This led me to Discord which has been super fun to explore. Mostly because people actually answer my questions in there! I discovered this community of creators (artists, writers, coders) who are all trying to make a living from their art and are exploring all the ways one can do that. It is basically a fan group for this newsletter (and the Clubhouse room of the same name) which I have really loved and learned a lot from.
So, of course, I now have a discord that you can totally join if you want. I have no idea what we’ll talk about on there, but perhaps it will make us all kind of a community? And wouldn’t that be fun? And also not too stressful because we can just log-on whenever we want and chat like old friends? And wouldn’t that be great (for me) because I could actually get to know the people I am writing this thing with?
This is all an experiment of course. If it all runs off the rails I may decide on some future date to delete the whole thing and return to my hermitage. But then, I’m kind of excited by the possibilities and I’m geeking out on the idea of publishing my books myself and really going full-fanfiction style with it. (Can we really all read it together and talk about it?? That sounds too good to be true.)
The opportunities for a writer online are endless. But they are only just getting started and there are not many use cases to support them. But I’m happy to be a case study and we’ll see how this all works together.
So here, join my discord and let’s chat. (And please reply to this email if that link doesn’t work and I’ll get you a new one.)
And thank you for reading!
I’m reading this book called Gingerbread and it’s the best book I’ve read in a long time. Just to give you an idea of how strange and beautiful it is, at one point the narrator discusses a clemency clause—whereby someone can agree to marry a man about to be hanged and become his wife, thus saving him from the gallows. Here’s a quote on that:
“Many viewed public executions in moral terms, or in quasi-cosmic terms, as a gesture toward some sort of equilibrium. Others approached them as spectacle, but due to the clemency clause, public executions occupied a space in Harriet’s great-great-great-grandmother’s life not dissimilar to the blind dating and speed dating of today. Plenty of opportunity for a realist who has some idea of what she’s looking for.”
After reading this article about how the pandemic is ruining my body I bought this laptop stand so that now I don’t have to sit crouched over my laptop like an old man.
I know I’m late to the Glennon Doyle party but this article all about her was fascinating and now I get it.
Twobird is the only thing I use for email now. It’s basically email, Evernote, and to-do lists all in one. (Think being able to write notes and articles right in your inbox without having to email yourself — and then checking them off when they’re done.)
Writing goals this week
First book: I decided to go with Patreon and publish my book on my own website because it’s so pretty. I also discovered a way to make the experience really zen (where you can automatically read the next chapter after the last one — like watching Netflix!) Now I’m just waiting to see if this artist wants to illustrate it. And I have to do some research on book printing….
Second book: First chapter is done! Manuscript is at 2,045 words.
Articles: Submitted two articles to two magazines. Wrote this newsletter.
Rap song: No progress made.