A few people wrote to me today just now to ask if an internet “meme” I made this evening (see below) was about something else, something going on in my life perhaps.
Well, it’s this: despite blitzing my Facebook and Twitter followers (over 2000 of them in total) with the news that I published a new book two weeks ago, a lot of people still hadn’t heard about it.
And that’s not for lack of effort on my part. I’ve been doing as much promotion work as my time and resources allows (although, admittedly, it isn’t much; I do most of my promo work in the spring and summer, when I don’t have as many responsibilities at the college).
It’s also because Facebook deliberately suppresses things like my book announcements. When I post something on Facebook, only 16% of my followers will actually see it. For me to reach 100% of my followers (or others beyond), I’d have to pay them. This is called “The Promoted Posts policy“.
I get that Facebook is a business, not a charity. And so is Twitter. Really, I do. But I don’t have the kind of advertising budget that, say a big international corporation has. I’m just one person with a lower-middle-class income and not much spare time.
With the end of “net neutrality“, this kind of problem will not just be a Facebook problem. It will be an everybody and everything problem. The end of net neutrality means that that big internet companies will be allowed to suppress everybody’s internet content, unless they pay to have their web site prioritized (which other big companies can do, but independent individuals like myself cannot do). This will make it even harder for me to get the word out about my work, even on my own web site.
That’s how this sort of thing affects me personally. In fact I can measure how it affects me very precisely, by comparing the reach of my book promotion efforts five years ago, to the reach of those same efforts today. It’s a lot less.
And you can bet if affects every independent artist you know, as well. I’m somewhat lucky in that my ability to write is “protected” by the fact that I’ve a steady day job. But there’s quite a lot of artists out there who are working as artists full-time, and they make art (music, clothes, books, poetry, theatre, etc.) full time, for a living. They are going to be hurt by the end of net neutrality a lot worse than I am.
Here’s what you can do about it.
First of all, get active. Phone up your MP or Congressman, or a professional lobbyist. Write to local newspapers or magazines or any public organ where people will read what you write. Encourage others around you to do the same.
For those who, like me, are independent artists worried about how the new economics of the internet will make it harder for them to market themselves: do all of the above, and also keep doing awesome things anyway. Remember your Aristotle: excellence is its own reward.
For those interested in my books: sign up to my mailing list. (If that link doesn’t work, try the form on the bottom of my front page, here.) You’ll hear directly from me when I have a new project released or soon to be released. Sometimes you’ll hear about projects by friends of mine, too. And the suppression effect of the end of net neutrality won’t affect it. (At least, I hope not.)
And for those who are not themselves independent artists, please spread the word as often as you can about the work done by the independent artists who you admire. Talk about their stuff with your friends. Write reviews of their stuff on relevant web sites (Amazon, Goodreads, BandCamp, DeviantArt, etc.) Go to their concerts and gallery shows and readings, and bring all your friends with you. That sort of thing, more than anything else, is the kind of practical help that those independent artists actually need.
Also, feel free to use this image of mine here to give the artists in your life some encouragement. They need that, too.