A Small But Important Change to the Big Idea

John Scalzi

If you read the Big Idea posts — and you should! — you’ll know at the end of each post there is the post-essay informational part, which includes links to booksellers, excerpts from the book, and then links to the author’s personal site and Twitter presence. Well, starting today, I’m making a change to that last part: I’m rearranging it to be “Author Socials,” which will list the author’s personal site if they have one, and then link to whichever social media the author wants to point to; not just Twitter but Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Tik Tok, etc.

There are a few reasons for this change. The first is that thanks to Twitter’s new owner and his generally chaotic leadership of the site, a number of authors are either no longer on Twitter or want to send traffic its way, and also, there are a number of readers who feel similarly. I want to accommodate those folks, and not make them grudgingly point to or visit a site they would prefer not to. The second reason is that while Twitter was for a long time the place authors and readers hung out online to chat and interact, there are now active communities of readers and writers on many different social media sites, so it makes sense to point people to where the action is, and where the author themselves are likely to be.

A third reason is that, bluntly, Twitter is likely dying, may not be around for much longer (or at least, not around as it was originally developed and used). It makes good sense for me not to tether the Big Idea feature to a sinking ship. I don’t ask people to link their MySpace account, after all. Mind you, under the new policy they could (MySpace still exists! Sort of!), but I’m not giving MySpace preferential treatment.

Nor, any longer, am I doing the same for Twitter. If an author wants to list their presence on Twitter as part of their socials, great, we’ll add it in. But if they don’t, that’s cool, too. And if an author has no social accounts online at all, including their own web site, that’s fine as well. Although you really should have your own personal site, folks.

This is not the first time I’ve made a change like this with the Big Idea. Early on in the development of the feature, the commerce links pointed only to Amazon, because it was easy and everyone used Amazon anyway. Then Amazon started being, well, Amazon, and it made sense to widen out the number of commercial links I offered so people could avoid using Amazon if they liked, and to drive the point home that there were other commercial options available online. So this new change is in keeping with what I’ve done before.

For the day-to-day experience of the Big Idea, I don’t know if this changes much. The author essays will still be the main draw, and the post-essay matter is pretty much an afterthought to that. But if you are intrigued enough to want to check out the author on their socials, moving forward you’ll have more options. I think that’s a positive thing.

This change began today with Piper J. Drake’s Big Idea, but please note that there are a number of upcoming Big Ideas that have already been delivered to us that may still just have Twitter and the author’s site, and not any other online presences. It’ll take a little while for this change to become fully integrated, and for me to make sure people requesting Big Ideas in the future know about it. So be prepared for a transition period. At the end of it, again, it’ll be a small change, but one that makes the feature better for everyone.

— JS

12 Comments on “A Small But Important Change to the Big Idea”

  1. The point about having a personal website is worth a bit more discussion, maybe even an actual posting.
    It’s nowhere near as expensive as a lot of people imagine, at least for the basic money costs. Mine costs around $35/yr for the hosting and $20/yr for the domain registrar. And that’s Canadian dollars!
    The bit that will cost you is the time to create the content that makes it worth visiting.

  2. You may want to adjust the template a bit by inserting spaces around the pipe characters that act as separators, and non-breaking spaces in site names with multiple words.
    On small screen devices the lines are wrapping weirdly, for example “Author socials: Personal” on one line, “Site|Facebook|Instagram|Tik Tok|Twitter” on the next.

  3. I noticed that today’s post (Piper J. Drake) had no link to Kobo, even though the book in question was available there. Was there any interesting reason for that?

  4. Nope, other than we’re not posting every possible retail link because we have other things we want to do with our day. If an author specifically wishes to have a Kobo link, we can do that, however.

  5. This idea might be somewhat vintage:
    If you want to give your readers the possibility to order books from other sources than Amazon, wouldn’t it also make sense to give them the ISBN-13?

    Wings Once Cursed and Bound
    ISBN-13: 978-1492683865
    Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s

    If you for example ask your bookseller for ISBN-13 978-3-462-04581-9 and said bookseller will order literature in German for you, you should all be able to see what classic I am reading right now (partially thanks to Netflix).

  6. If I understand this correctly, you are “rearranging” the links to social media sites, and eliminating the links to sales sites (I have not yet checked the Piper Drake post, so I could be jumping the gun, but I’m responding specifically to what you wrote).
    If this is the case, it’s a pity, because I buy (bought?) from those links. I don’t have enough time in my day to chase authors through dozens of social media sites AND read their books. (Obligatory Moment Of Silence in memory of GEnie.)

  7. Ah. Having now read Piper Drake’s Big Idea post, I see that “rearranged” does not, as I had thought, mean “replaced.” Thank you! Please consider previous comment withdrawn.

  8. Just wanted to add how much I like the big idea posts. Lost count of how many books I’ve bought because of them. You’ve cost me a lot of money, Scalzi!

  9. These are authors. Shouldn’t there also be a segment for “Author’s Antisocials”?

    One caution on listing ISBNs: The ISBN is edition/cover specific — you may recall that a couple of decades back, that meant that each of the four hobbits illustrating alternate mass-market-paperback reissues of The Fellowship of the Ring had a different ISBN even though the interiors were identical! — and is at least supposed to be format-specific (a Kobo ISBN13 is supposed to be different from the epub from the Apple Store and from the Kindle edition at Amazon). Plus it’s just slightly North American-centric; many, but not all, search systems in other nations (say, Germany) will accurately substitute on a 978 ISBN, but many others will not. And that assumes that it’s not a self-published/small-press-published-in-electronic-edition-only version that doesn’t have an ISBN at all.

    Unfortunately, there really isn’t a universal, used-by-everyone identifier. The closest it gets is the Library of Congress card number, but even that has multiple-edition problems (and it’s even more American-centric).

  10. I don’t know about the ISBN being slightly North America specific. The longer ones should work internationally.

    Yes, they are bound to the edition of the book. One place they used the ISBN a lot was during my school time when the German teacher (first language class – like Enlish classes in the USA) wanted us to order a book to read for class.
    I see the advantage there: This way she couldn’t just make sure that we all order “Der Richter und sein Henker” [“The judge and his hangman”] by Friedrich Dürrenmatt but also the same editon. This way it was easier to give us as homework “read pages … up to …”

    Today it usually also works fine when I just enter the title of a book into the search field of my local seller. Usually, because it might have some quirks. When I enter “Old Man’s War” into the search field I’ve got to scroll until hit 25 to find it. Which is strange because “The Ghost Brigades” make a hit before the novel explicitly named this way does.

%d bloggers like this: