On Tuesday, March 16th, the news broke that Facebook plans to launch a platform for writers to publish content and earn income through monetization tools such as subscriptions. Here’s how Engadget summed up Facebook’s initial offering:

“It’s reportedly a free-to-use system that will tie in with Pages, letting you publish live videos, Stories and other material that goes beyond articles and newsletters. You can create Groups and check stats on your work, too. And yes, there will eventually be ways to earn money from your writing, such as subscriptions and ‘possibly other forms’ of income. Facebook is paying the test group to help get the tools started, according to the tipsters.”

J. Fingas/Engadget

Apparently the offering is meant to be an addition to Facebook’s Journalism Project. As such, it appears to be aimed at journalists and writers of short fiction/non-fiction rather than book publishers. There’s also a good possibility that this project is an attempt to draw users away from rivals like Substack, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

As an author, blogger, and longtime Facebook user, I have some thoughts about the potential of Facebook Publishing.

Continue reading “Facebook: Publishing Platform?”

Recently the Wall Street Journal (not exactly a bastion of the left-leaning press) broke the news that when Facebook tweaked its newsfeed algorithm in 2017 to reduce the visibility of political news, the company’s engineers intentionally designed the system to disproportionately impact left-leaning news outlets.

While assuring Mother Jones editorial director for growth and strategy Ben Dreyfuss that the algorithmic changes were not designed “in a way that favored or disfavored any single publication or class of publisher,” Facebook deliberately and knowingly wrote its algorithms to favor right-leaning pages while suppressing left-leaning ones– and this was done with Mark Zuckerberg’s explicit approval.

Indeed, the Zuckerberg who once claimed he would prefer to leave the politics to others has been doing anything but. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Zuckerberg is now an active political operator. He has dined with President Trump, talks regularly with White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and has pressed lawmakers and officials to scrutinize rivals including TikTok and Apple Inc., people involved in the discussions say.”

Flood waters and sign

Some time back, a friend posted in a group we both frequent. She was frustrated with the flood of conflicting marketing advice for authors, and listed some of the contradictory advice she’d heard.

  1. Socialize with non-writers on Facebook. Don’t try to sell. Make friends.
  2. Advertise on Facebook.
  3. Advertise on Amazon.
  4. Forget Facebook and Amazon. Focus on Goodreads instead.
  5. Forget Goodreads. LibraryThing is the place to be.
  6. Advertise on other sites.
  7. Give away books on Net Galley.
  8. Don’t give away books for free. It invites pirates!
  9. Give away one book to entice readers.
  10. List with genre sites.
  11. Concentrate on Twitter.
  12. Forget promotion. Sign up with KU.

While I can’t stem the flood of contradictory and often counter-intuitive advice, I can offer my experiences. I spent a lot of time sorting through a veritable avalanche of marketing advice to come up with my strategy. These are my answers, backed up with research and personal experience.

Continue reading “Throttling the Flood of Conflicting Advice”

Content warning: this post discusses suicide, depression, traumatic events, and Facebook’s unwillingness to protect their users from credible threats.

Facebook is Watching You-- For Your Own Good

Hello folks! I’m guessing that by now most of you have heard about Facebook’s new “proactive suicide detection” AI. Reactions have ranged from relief to disbelief to outright horror, but Facebook has already made it abundantly clear how little it cares about users’ privacy. It will not be possible to opt out of monitoring while continuing to use the platform.

Facebook says it trained the AI by finding patterns in the words and imagery used in posts, videos, and live streams that have been manually reported as a suicide risk in the past. It also looks for comments like “Are you OK?” and “Do you need help?” The AI will scan all posts for patterns that seem to indicate suicidal thoughts and forward “worrisome” posts to Facebook’s human moderators. “When necessary” the program will send mental health resources to the user or their friends, or contact local first responders.

Sounds fantastic, right? Well, at least if you don’t mind a Facebook algorithm and a team of dubiously qualified human moderators snooping through your most personal posts– regardless of your privacy settings. Aside from the fact that this is a massive violation of users’ privacy, here’s why this might not be such a great idea.