By: Chris O'Brien | Co-Founder of Long Overdue
I don't hear many people say they love Facebook. Or, even if they do, there always seems to be a disclaimer.
I love keeping up with people, but I could do without the ads.
I love seeing my friends' baby photos, but I can't stand all of the political posts.
But when it comes to deleting our Facebook pages, we usually hang on. I mean, how else would we keep track of birthdays?
And for writers specifically, there's the question of, "How else would I share my work?" If not Facebook, then Twitter. If not Twitter, LinkedIn. At the end of the day, I need somewhere to share links to my writing. To get the word out about a new blog post.
My argument today isn't going to be anti-Facebook. But I do want to explore a couple of questions.
As writers, do we put too much emphasis on using Facebook?
What would a social network built entirely for writers look like?
There Should be Hundreds of Online Social Networks
"Back in my day," it was just Facebook and Myspace. Those were the only two social networks - unless maybe you count YouTube.
Fast forward to 2020, we've got Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok.
We're starting to see topic specific social networks too. Strava is the social network for cyclists and runners. Goodreads is for reading books. National Novel Writing Month is for aspiring novelists.
By the end of quarantine, I'm convinced we'll see a social network for bird-watching and baking sourdough bread.
The rise of these topic specific social networks is why, I believe, Facebook dedicates so much of their advertising space to Facebook Groups. Like this one below for "Found by The Hounds," a Facebook Group specifically for Bassett Hound owners.
The commercial ends with, "Let's find more that brings us together."
I think it should have a second line: "But like, please do that here on Facebook."
Because let's say a dog company like Petco or Chewy built a new social network specifically for dog owners. And within that site there were groups for owners of golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, pitbulls. For anyone whose main use of Facebook was to share photos of their dogs, they would now have a new home just like readers have with Goodreads or cyclists with Strava.
Now, to be fair, Facebook is a $750 billion massive company. I don't think they're shaking in their boots over someone making a social network for dogs. Plus Facebook could always do what they did with Instagram and WhatsApp, just acquire any new social network.
But over the next five years, I think we'll see hundreds of social networks the same way we saw smart phones go from only Apple and Blackberry to now over 200+ brands, or how ecommerce went from Amazon and eBay to thousands of sites where we can order directly online. "Social network" is really just a type of business and over time we'll see more and more that are topic/genre specific.
What Would a Social Network for Writers Look Like?
In short: I think it would look and feel like a local bookstore.
You wouldn't imitate Facebook and Twitter's design, because writing has a different pace. The author Sven Birkerts has a great book on this called "The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age" where he talks about the different mode we're in while reading, say, Where the Crawdads Sing vs. aimlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. He argues that one activity nourishes the soul, the other keeps us in this fast-paced, notification heavy mindset.
"The soul needs silence, time, and concentration--precisely what is required by the counter-technology of the book. The object you hold, an instance of this counter-technology, is built to resist the cataract of distractions engulfing our lives."
Let's Slow Things Down
I'm amazed at how many news sites have three different ads pop up right when you get there. They even have ads in the middle of an article (course, I did just slip in a Facebook Groups ad in the middle of my post). Or you get that pop-up saying you need to disable your ad blocker to continue reading. What kind of reader experience is that??
Ads worked in the physical newspaper. It wasn't disruptive to the reading experience. It's not the same online.
On this new social network for authors, there would be no ads. Ads take you out of that soul-nourishing pace of reading/writing.
From there, I'd put the authors front and center on the homepage. Maybe set it up by city/state so people could easily find authors in their local area. Click on the author's photo, head to their page with an author bio. Learn about them, read a story of when they started writing, why they love writing. See the books they've written and the books they're currently working on. You'd be able to subscribe to an author and support them directly.
From the writer's perspective, they have a place to share their work. And as people subscribe, the author can grow an email contact list to share their updates or maybe even send something like, "Hey, I just finished my rough draft. Could I have 5 volunteer readers to help me with feedback and edits?"
The writers would be a wide mix of people. Some would be authors who want to self-publish on Amazon. Others might be looking for a traditional publisher. Others might be family members who want to turn their parents/grandparent's stories into a book and just print 5-10 copies for friends and family.
In any of these scenarios, the book publishing/printing stage is often mysterious and confusing. So I'd encourage editors, proofreaders, cover designers, artists, book formatters, and publishers to also join the site. This way writers would never be on an island when they've finished their manuscript.
It ends up being not just a social network for writers, it's a social network for creating books.
Because I believe everyone who wants to write a book can and should be able to do it. And if you build a helpful, encouraging, and supportive community for authors, then you start to remove the different barriers.
And that's what we're going to build with Long Overdue Books. It's not finished yet, and it's definitely not at a Facebook level of polish, but I'm proud to share our work in progress.
If you have a few minutes today, feel free to check out the new "social network for creating books" - www.longoverduebooks.com