LinkedIn for Books? Really?
Do we really want to be more connected?
My plan for next week’s Chicago Tribune column (which I write this week) was to conjure 600 words of gentle snark about a forthcoming social media app for books called Copper.
This had been my plan for several weeks, back when I first saw a blurb about the app that described its intentions to become “the LinkedIn for books.” The reflexive, animal part of my brain said, “hell no,” I put the story in a browser tab for future reference, and didn’t think about it until it came time to start drafting the column.
Pretty quickly I realized that while I was wary of what the app may bring, I also knew that I didn’t want to be the kind of public voice that dumps on something that doesn’t fully exist yet.
We have Twitter for that.
You can look at the company website linked above or read this interview with Founder/CEO Allison Trowbridge to get a fuller idea of what the app will involve, but LinkedIn for books seems pretty accurate. It’ll be a social space where authors can host and post, where aspiring authors can connect and share, and where readers can interact with authors and each other.
Maybe that sounds good to people? I dunno, I see some downsides.
I know this is going to sound strange coming from someone who started a newsletter in part so he could have a more interactive and mutual relationship with readers, but it may not be such a great thing to have additional access to big name writers which is what I assume would attract readers to the platform. Anyone who has been subjected to the weirdness of Joyce Carol Oates’ Twitter feed knows that more contact does not necessarily increase one’s fondness.
I’m also concerned that maintaining that kind of social media presence will become de rigueur for writers, essentially an additional tax on a writer’s time that is not actually related to writing. Allison Trowbridge says that one of her motives for starting Copper is her own experience with publishing her book, Twenty-Two: Letters to a Young Woman Searching for Meaning, and being told that she needed an online platform, but having no easy way achieving this. Part of me thinks that if it becomes a place where readers gather, Copper could be useful. Another part of me is worried that books from people with large followings and networks will become more likely to be published, further commercializing an industry that requires some non-commercial spirit to keep the really interesting stuff coming.
Copper does sound like it might be more author friendly than Goodreads though. I am pretty thick-skinned, but even I will not go look at the Goodreads comments about my books because I don’t want to spend the next several hours questioning my self-worth.
Some of the features being touted for the aspiring writers have me particularly concerned, that is if helping aspiring writers become published authors is the goal. For example, the app promises a way to get real-time feedback on your project so you can adjust as you go.
I cannot say this strongly enough: real-time feedback is the last thing someone trying to write a book needs. People in the midst of writing a book need support, encouragement, and understanding. They need snacks. They should also make sure they’re doing shoulder mobility exercises because if you don’t you may get “frozen shoulder” which requires eight weeks of physical therapy after an orthopedist says your less than 50-year-old shoulder looks like it belongs to an 85-year-old.
While someone is writing a book they do not benefit from “feedback” from your future reading audience. There is a time where outside eyes - provided they are trusted - are invaluable, but this is not until there is something that can be plausibly called a “book.”
I learned this the hard way in graduate school when I brought the first three chapters of a novel I thought I would write for my thesis to a workshop. It was about 65 pages and I was pretty happy with them. Even better, the chapters were praised by my peers and professor, who said that it looked very promising before proceeding to tell me in great detail what my novel was “about,” which almost instantly killed any interest I had in continuing to write the novel. I tried to flog it for the rest of the semester, but the thing was dead to me. Writing a novel is like solving a puzzle of your own design, where you don’t have a picture on the box, and it may not even be a jigsaw puzzle when it comes right down to it. The difficulty of trying to solve that puzzle is both the great pleasure and great frustration of trying to write a novel. It’s why (when I have the time), I still write novels even though the failure of my published novel to sell in sufficient numbers makes it a near impossibility that I’ll ever publish another one.
(Unless I do it myself.)
Subjecting writing a book to a real-time online focus group of your social media friends is just not a good idea.
To me, anyway.
But what say you? Copper says they’ll make it convenient to track your reading, share lists and recommendations, to commune with other like-minded readers while also having the opportunity to interface with published authors.
As a reader, for me, the book is the thing, and even that I like to experience for myself before I engage with others. I recently finished Jonathan Franzen’s new one, Crossroads, and thought it was terrific. I wish I didn’t feel a little sheepish about saying that publicly because let’s face it, the guy is a little cringe. I don’t feel the need to go duke it out on a platform in order to protect his honor. My identity isn’t wrapped up with the books I like.
What do you do on social media now that’s book-related? If anyone interested in Copper? Is so, what interests you?
As I sat down to write the column I realized that my perceptions were far too bound up with the writer part of my identity. What do readers like you have to say?
Who knows, all this may wind up in a future column when I’ve had a chance to think beyond the surface-level snark.
My Chicago Tribune column this week is about a new Led Zeppelin biography which turned out to be one of the saddest stories I’ve read in recent memory.
Also at the Tribune this week, Christopher Borrelli pairs a review of two books from the 1960’s, The Shattering by Kevin Boyle, and The Boys, a co-written memoir by Ron and Clint Howard about being kid actors in the 1960’s.
The buyers at Powell’s books share the books they’re most excited about this fall.
October is gone and Bethanne Patrick will tell us the five books we may have overlooked. So many books!
Over at BookRiot, Margaret Kingsbury has the scoop on “12 Must-Read November Children’s Book Releases” just in time for holiday shopping season.
Chicago’s inimitable Haymarket Books is also having a massive sale, 40% off all books between now and January 3rd.
Almost a 5% jump in one week up to $205.75 for the year. For every dollar of affiliate income up to $300, I’ll match it at the end of the year with a donation of my own. Make me give away my money!
If you’d like to see every book I’ve recommended in this space this year, check out my list of 2021 Recommendations at the Bookshop.org bookshop.
Recommendations are always open for. Wait times should be minimal and some will even be featured in the print edition of the Chicago Tribune.
1. Flowers for the Sea by Zin Rocklyn
2. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
3. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyemi
4. Cibola Burns (Expanse #4) by James Corey
5. Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman
Sarah C. - Lancaster, MA
Sarah is a repeat customer which bothers me not in the slightest. I’v already recommend this book to another reader this year, but if it’s the right book, it’s the right book, Lexicon by Max Barry.
1. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
2. Amoralman by Derek Delgaudio
3. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
4. The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware
5. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Daniel R. - Brooklyn NY
Have a wonderful week, one and all.