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Sunday Times Books LIVE

Richard de Nooy

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Platform Fatigue

platform fatigueWith the exception of the ultra-famousest and bestsellingest, most writers have to make an effort to promote their own books. There are myriad ways of doing so, ranging from light-hearted banter on Twitter and Facebook (If you think I’m funny, buy my book) to the butt-clenchingly, toe-stubbingly annoying hard-sell shtick preferred by some US authors (I will keep plugging my self-published tome until you unfollow, block or arrange to murder me).

Back in the old days, when the web was little more than a basketball net compared to world-wrapping dragnet it is today, South African authors posted their blogs on BooksLIVE and spent many merry hours commenting on each other’s posts and discussing literature and more frivolous matters into the wee hours of the night. BooksLIVE was our literary salon; a place where we could meet to engage with one another, often oblivious to whoever might be listening in or reading over our shoulders.

Then someone alerted me to GoodReads. This was back in 2007, when my first book was published. It wasn’t always easy to connect with readers via the site, because even then they were wary of literary gnomes bearing tomes.

Then Facebook arrived on the scene and we all set up shop there, trying to connect with one another as we had done in the past, reaching out to readers, we hoped. We kept blogging here, but our comments and discussions now took place under our Facebook posts, where they could only be read by friends and acquaintances.

Then came Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr and you name it – the list of platforms keeps growing.

A recent discussion in the Good Book Appreciation Society on Facebook has convinced me that it is pointless to try plugging your work – in whatever way – on all these different platforms. I think the modern web dictates that we – writers, publishers and other bookish folk – need to seek a single, perhaps slightly exclusive place to post our blogs, reviews, excerpts and discussions. A place where readers are welcome to eavesdrop and read over our shoulders.

In short, I think we bookish folk all stand to benefit from returning to our literary salon. Here’s why:

- This is where we post our blogs. More comments = more attention for our writing/thoughts/discussion.

- Unlike Facebook, this is an open platform where anyone can read which books and topics are hot and happening.

- It’s almost impossible to keep track of the discussions on all the other platforms, to keep liking and retweeting and sharing stuff. Enough!

- By choosing a single platform, we not only create an exclusive space that is unique and interesting to others, but also save ourselves hours and hours of time spent scrolling through threads flung far and wide across the web.

- And most of all, I miss the sense of community and solidarity we once had here, the intensity and depth of the discussions, and the razor-sharp puns and jibes that were exchanged.

That said, I will of course be posting the link to this blog on Facebook and Twitter.

However, I have decided to ditch Google as my homepage, replacing it with BooksLIVE. I hope some of you will do the same.

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://rachelzadok.bookslive.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rachel Zadok</a>
    Rachel Zadok
    November 20th, 2014 @15:47 #
     
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    I hear you. I have had such platform fatigue this year I took a break. The hiatus from twitter and Facebook was bliss. I got so much done. It feels like hard work to go back there. And to be honest, I only went back because I felt guilty. People kept sending me messages "are you okay", "I'm worried about you". I felt like I'd abandoned people, but I was happy writing alone in my garret, reading books. I like your idea of reigniting the BooksLive forum. At least here, there isn't a constant stream of postings to scroll through, trying to connect.

    SSDA is also setting up shop on BooksLive soon. By shop, I mean SSDA is getting its own blog page.

    See you around the water cooler.

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  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    November 20th, 2014 @15:51 #
     
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    "That said, I will of course be posting the link to this blog on Facebook and Twitter." - That made me laugh.

    I live in a small town, so if I want to talk books I have to go to the internet. Lovely people where I live. But not all people can meet all needs and if I want to have a book life - the web is where I must go. Which is probably very different for people who live near places that have book launches and tons of art events.

    Perhaps, despite living in a city, you understand a bit of what I mean. Isn't like you can attend an RSA launch whenever you'd like, either.

    Anyway, I do miss what Books Live was, too. I lurked for ages before I had an account to comment. Different platforms meet different needs.

    I know this morning I was a bit down when I thought I was going to be completely excluded from any meaningful discussion. Took the rules to mean if you were published by X you can't discuss any books published by X. If your organisation has excepted donations from A, B, and C - then you can't talk about any book relating to A, B and C. Which, if interpreted that way, meant my mouth was zipped. Anyway, much to my relief, the rules are not as tight as I believed. So, yay.

    Would be nice for Books Live to gain back some spark, though. Books Live has tried - including the new 'win for best comment'. Which is fab. Guess we will see.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    November 20th, 2014 @16:00 #
     
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    Thanks for joining me at my table! I really believe we all stand to benefit by gathering our wits at a single literary salon. What can I order you? How about a nice pun & tonic?

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  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    November 20th, 2014 @18:00 #
     
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    Now that is one thing Books Live lacks (and I hear they tried) a like button.

    Can't have everything, I suppose. ;)

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  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    November 21st, 2014 @09:20 #
     
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    Awesome Richard. We're delighted to hear this.

    You've also given me something of a boot up the backside to investigate new commenting systems for Books LIVE.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    November 21st, 2014 @10:14 #
     
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    Hey Richard, good idea, I think lots of folk have platform fatigue. And also what has been kind of a downer is that articles posted on Bookslive that could potentially kickstart a convo, just get liked. And then possibly are discussed elsewhere or not even read, just liked. So would be nice to have some real Lively Books and Lit Scene discussions back on Bookslive.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    November 21st, 2014 @10:20 #
     
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    BTW - something I posted on FB, but should ask here, is what writers' organisations exist in SA? Got a small response, the one that interested me most was from Raks Morakabe Sekhoa

    "There is a need to form a writers' union in South Africa, or, at the very least, an overarching federation of South African Writers. There are a number of African-language writers associations, too, e.g. Moaba Sesotho Writers Association, Usiba Writers' Guild, there was Mhlahlandlela Writers Assoc, Bhala Writers Assoc, etc. All these could come together and form a structure they could affiliate to but still continue with their own individual original mandates...Let us talk some more...

    Prof Andries Oliphant, oliphaw@unisa.ac.za. He is President of SAWA. We've chatting about the kind or some such org I referred to above. Funding permitting, it'd be great for all those interested to attend the 4th Africa Century International African Writers Conference where we always give a platform to discuss state of organisation of writers in SA. The Conference is on 7th Nov 2015, celebrating 24th anniversary of the then-OAU declared International African Writers Day. The venue may be Mangaung, still to be confirmed. So, between now and Oct 2015 there's plenty of time to mobilise resources and interested/concerned parties to make/break this long overdue structure. Any takers?"

    Jen - this is something to do some research on perhaps? And if anyone knows anything more please add here, maybe I should have started a separate post.

    I didn't think that SAWA was operational, but could be wrong.

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  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    November 21st, 2014 @11:27 #
     
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    Hmm. Interesting stuff, Colleen, thanks. I'll see what I can find.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    November 21st, 2014 @13:01 #
     
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    @Jennifer - It'd be really handy if we could reply to specific comments (this being a case in point). A like button for comments might also be handy, as an indicator that the post is getting traction.

    @Colleen - Always interesting to discuss collectives of this kind. I've often wondered whether we writers shouldn't just team up and publish our own anthologies, possibly on the basis of crowdfunding/advance sales. But that's a whole 'nother story.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    November 21st, 2014 @18:51 #
     
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    I don't twit, and have grown rather fond of Fibbie, as I call it, because it incorporates my non-book interests (I always felt slightly guilty posting cat pics on Book SA). But I do do do miss the literary salon effect. And the laughs. One thread was so funny, I published it (with permission from the participants) in the benighted university textbook that ruined much of this year for me. So yes, I hear you. And will come round this water cooler more often, esp if this is where you're going to be hanging out.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    November 22nd, 2014 @15:04 #
     
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    There were some fabulous threads back in the day, Helen. Which one made it into the textbook?

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    November 23rd, 2014 @09:09 #
     
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    In addition to individual posters' platform fatigue, BooksLive may also just be suffering from normal internet growth and from its hybrid form. An initial small community gave it its salon feel (this familiarity between posters could be intimidating to outsiders). When 'outsiders' join, the salon has to expand and become an arena. I recall, for instance, one or two mobbing incidents, or the dismissal of critical ideas that did not find favour with the salon, etc. etc.

    New members also come with expectations that may clash with the initial salon. In reality, it's not a salon, but a commercial books portal that covers every form of text. So a reader will join and expect certain things from the discussions, may troll the discussions because she believes we're all dolts talking k-k in any case, and so on.

    There's a form of exclusivity that has gone missing - and I think this is part of commenting culture, of the ability to be a reader-writer. Cf Walter Benjamin's The Author as Producer. Every reader can be a writer now, and it wreaks havoc with traditional notions of 'writer' and certainly with us and our sense of comfort in the initial salon that Bookslive offered.

    So, in addition to people's platform fatigue, Bookslive is also victim of its own growth.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    November 23rd, 2014 @11:48 #
     
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    If there was a LIKE button here, I'd have pressed that Rustum. Nail on head.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    November 23rd, 2014 @14:22 #
     
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    Very true, Rustum, but this exchange is already a lot more enlightening than the rapid-fire joke-a-ramas we have on Facebook. Personally, I intend to spend more time commenting on fellow writers' posts here, partly because I have a yen for more depth in the mad sprawl of the web. I have no real desire to reestablish what we had here, but it would be wonderful to engage in discussions that aren't instantly swept off by the great e-tide. The fact that some have already returned to share their opinions here seems to confirm that others feel a similar need. So I'll just keep doing my thing and see where it takes us.

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  • Anne Townsend
    Anne Townsend
    November 23rd, 2014 @15:00 #
     
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    I feel safe on Bookslive. Being the recluse that I am, I've hardly met anyone on here in real life, but as Helen pointed out a while back, this is a place to suss out who you may have something in common with before you approach them face to face.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    November 23rd, 2014 @17:21 #
     
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    Dear Richard and All, what a pleasure to read Richard's post and everyone's comments beneath. Thanks for keeping the faith in this wee platform.

    As Rustum notes, Books LIVE's mission is two-fold: on the one hand, to cover as much trade books news as possible within our market; and on the other, to help writers alert one another - and the world at large - to their musings and doings.

    We once tried a Like button for individual comments, but it posed technical problems on the threads, and we found that - for a while, at least - not having such a button meant more actual comments, which was the point of BOOK Chat.

    When Facebook disintermediated the conversations on millions of websites, including ours, many simply replaced their commenting systems with Facebook's own. We didn't for a number of reasons, one being that it's impossible, using FB, to show a "global" view of all comments on a network in a single place, which our system allows (thus the "BOOK Chat Latest" widget on our homepage), and another being that the friction inherent in our system made it more immune to spam, easier to moderate (that is, easier to keep as a safe space) and more likely to host intelligent back-and-forth.

    But as Jennifer points out, BOOK Chat is due for a technical refresh, and we'll be investigating this in the new year.

    Meanwhile, for me at least, a blog post is still the best way to make a writerly point - it's more weighty than an update, and more suited to conveying one's public, as opposed to social, persona - and I think Richard's move back into the environment of the blog presages quite a few others', among writers, across the world.

    Ever in the vanguard, then, Richard ;)

    I and the Books LIVE team look forward to hearing more.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    November 24th, 2014 @11:16 #
     
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    Thanks for those warm words, Ben. Here's hoping that more writers will return and comment on each others' blogs here, allowing readers and other interested parties to follow the discussions if they so wish.

    Regarding the technical upgrade: it might be handy if we could respond to specific comments under those comments, as I mentioned above. For instance: I'd like to thank Anne for her comment and express the wish that she (and others) continue to feel safe to comment on posts here. In the past, we usually dealt with bullies/trolls by only entering into discussions with those who post under their real names.

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  • Steven Boykey Sidley
    Steven Boykey Sidley
    November 25th, 2014 @13:51 #
     
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    'Pun and tonic' - Ha, de Nooy. So I have just today asked Ben to give me a microsite here (done and dusted), partially sparked by Richard's migration from all other platforms to this one. But I will continue to post on GBAS and RAGBL, where I have made many friends. But this site has a slightly different texture, so I look forward to posting reviews, kibitzing, etc. And if I happen to mention one of my own books, at least I won't get whacked on the peepee (although I don't intend using this as a bully pulpit). My first review, btw, is up - Ian Mcewan's The Childrens Act.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    November 25th, 2014 @21:32 #
     
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    Hello Richard, the deathless comment thread that actually made it into my university textbook is extracted from these comments (Sven's -- who else -- comment onwards), and I worked it into a chapter on genre, thanks to the participants who kindly gave permission. I had to leave out Rustum's "Fuck Colouredness" comments, to my great grief -- I wasn't allowed to swear, plus my audience had a little trouble with irony. But it WAS fun. http://helenmoffett.bookslive.co.za/blog/2010/03/17/stuff-that-authors-and-editors-need-to-know-3/

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    November 25th, 2014 @22:18 #
     
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    Excellent, Steven. Lovely to have you on board. I enjoy your succinct reviews in the FB groups and look forward to reading more from you here. The pace is pretty sedate, which means there's less pressure to respond immediately. I tried clicking on your moniker to read the review, but perhaps the blog isn't live yet.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    November 26th, 2014 @06:37 #
     
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    What a wonderful thread, Helen! I think it may have slipped by when I was sipping on Facebook's new nectar. It's wonderful to see how much time everyone put into their comments, which are each blog posts in their own right. Isn't it strange how we've let the climate on Most Popular dictate form and interaction? Almost unwittingly, I've started rating what I write on the basis of "likes received" and shifting my focus to stuff that scores.

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  • Steven Boykey Sidley
    Steven Boykey Sidley
    November 26th, 2014 @08:52 #
     

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