Though Garth made his first appearance yesterday with his post about the Illustrated Pynchon, I’d like to formally welcome him aboard. I’ve known Garth for a long time – at least a dozen years, I think – and we’ve always talked about books, so I’m glad he decided to join us. He’ll have other reviews and dispatches up soon. Let the hazing commence.
I do this every summer don’t I? If you haven’t noticed, posting has become a bit sparse at The Millions, and I expect it to be more sparse as the summer wears on. We’re leaving Chicago soon, and we’ll be heading to temporary digs in Washington, DC, before finding a permanent place to live (the final destination is as yet undetermined though we’ve narrowed it down somewhat.) So, essentially, I’ll have a lot of stuff going on and so blogging will take a back seat. And anyway, it being summer, I’d guess that most folks will be enjoying themselves outdoors and on the road rather than in front of the computer. So, look for just a couple of posts a week give or take until the fall months roll around, and maybe by then I’ll be unveiling some changes at The Millions. Or perhaps it’ll stay the same.In the meantime, here’s a small cache of links for your purusal.An old link, but new to me. Slate commisions pulp covers for classic novels. (via BoingBoing)The Book Critics Circle blog decries litbloggers linking to Amazon. (My response is in the comments.) The Literary Saloon weighs in as well. (via Scott)Alan Cheuse presents his “summer reads” at NPR and shares some background on the selections at the Happy Booker.
Today, we are officially adding a new regular contributor to The Millions. Those of you who have been reading The Millions for the last several months will be familiar with Sonya’s writing (collected here). Particularly recommended are Sonya’s essay on the complications of choosing a book cover design for her forthcoming novel and her clever piece about flirting with books. Her bio:Sonya Chung is the author of Long for This World, which will be released by Scribner in March 2010. She is currently at work on a second novel, Sebastian & Frederick. You can learn more about Sonya and her work at www.sonyachung.com.Welcome Sonya!
The Millions notched its fourth anniversary this weekend, and I’m very pleased that the site is still going strong and more popular than ever. As much as I’d like to take full credit for this, much of it should go to my contributors who really stepped it up last year and who since the redesign at the beginning of this year have, in a few short months, really taken the site to another level.I should also thank the readers of The Millions whose participation in the comments and whose emails to me help make working on the site a tremendously fulfilling endeavor. In fact, just peeking at the site’s stats and seeing how many regular readers we have makes me feel very grateful to know that so many readers appreciate what we’re doing here.And what is it that we’re doing here? As ever, The Millions and its fellow book blogs continue to evolve. One of the most interesting developments over the last year is how several bloggers have become regular fixtures in newspaper book sections across the country. Some of these folks were critics before they were bloggers, but some, like Ed, began down that path with their blogs. Even as blogs have been increasingly accepted as legitimate voices contributing to the greater literary discourse, there are still those who question their value and accuse them of cliquishness and worse. Hopefully, though, book blogs will continue to matter enough to enough people that they will continue to be targeted by such attacks. I’d rather The Millions be criticized than irrelevant.The Millions, of course, has never been particularly controversial. Fomenting arguments has never been a big part of the site’s mission, as much fun as it to sometimes get involved in those battles. The mission of this blog is to act much like your favorite independent bookstore might. As I’ve written before, “one should be able to walk into [a good] bookstore and be able to grasp, based upon which books are on display and based upon conversations with staff and fellow customers, what matters at that moment both in the wider world and in the neighborhood.” I hope that when people “walk into” The Millions they get that same feeling from those of us who write the posts and from their fellow readers who leave comments.Deeper than that, at the very core of The Millions, is that we should seek out good books to read and pass them along to like-minded friends. As I wrote nearly four years ago when I decided that the site needed a manifesto to give the then bumbling proto-Millions some shape, “this isn’t about compulsory reading; this is about making sure that whatever you read will serve a purpose for you and that, as often as possible, this purpose is to bring you the curious sort of joy that only a book can.” There’s more there too.All of which is to say, I hope The Millions still feels relevant and worthwhile amid the millions of blogs that crowd the Internet. To me, our mission is still worth pursuing. Thanks again to all of you for another great year. Let’s have another.Previously: An Historic Day; The Millions Turns Two; Thanks for Three Years from The Millions.
First, the answer to the question you want answered: When will you publish your second-half preview? The answer: tomorrow! By this time tomorrow, you will be diving into our unparalleled preview encompassing dozens of the most hotly anticipated titles coming in the next six months.
The preview is a big effort with many people spending many hours to make it happen. And that’s also true of The Millions as a whole.
The Millions has been around for more than 14 years and has never made a living for anyone, but it has thrived. For a while there, it seemed to thrive almost against all odds. Even as economic realities closed in on other online magazines, The Millions had stayed a couple of steps ahead.
Last fall, however, we saw that these realities might soon catch up with us, as we became concerned that The Millions was becoming increasingly reliant on fewer and fewer revenue streams. Like everyone else, we saw that we were at the mercy of the usual suspects: Amazon, Google, Facebook. One small change from any of these giants could send The Millions hurtling to oblivion.
So we decided that we had to try something new: to protect our future, we invited our readers to supports us. Many did, and we are deeply grateful, but we know that many more have not.
Since we wrote in November 2016, the revenue situation has become that much trickier, as changes to the programs we rely on have further eroded the revenue picture and we have scrambled to make up the shortfall. The more we can get our readers to contribute, the more stable our footing will be.
It’s a very quick and simple process and we have a number of tiers that should be manageable for any budget. The three main tiers are annual recurring donations. There is also a monthly option.
And please note that we have a Sponsor tier on our Support page that allows for contributions at a higher level. This tier is for corporations and institutions as well as for individuals in the books and publishing ecosystem who are thriving. We rely on their support especially.
Millions Readers: Max here. When I last wrote in these pages, I was introducing our talented new editor, Lydia Kiesling. Since then, we have added a number of new staff writers (Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Zoë Ruiz, Il’ja Rákoš, Ismail Muhammad, Chigozie Obioma) and a new social media editor (Kirstin Butler). We also have exciting projects in the works that we hope will usher in a new era at The Millions.
As is likely not news to anyone reading this, it is very challenging to maintain an independent, culture-focused online magazine.
Today, we are asking our readers to support the site, not because we are in dire straits but because now, more than ever, we believe it is time for you and us to take our destiny into our own hands as much as is possible. Please visit our new Membership page and sign up now. It’s a very quick and simple process and we have a number of tiers that should be manageable for any budget. The three main tiers are annual recurring donations. There is also a monthly option.
The Millions is a unique place. Over the last nearly 14 years, we have helped launch many great writers, and we have improved the reading lives of many thousands. We have helped countless books, small and large, find their audiences.
The Millions is home to curious, thoughtful, sometimes long and untimely pieces that might not find a home elsewhere but that are important to our readers.
It is likely an accident or an anomaly that The Millions grew to occupy its current role and has survived as other independent sites have failed. One truism that has emerged over the last decade on line is that sites and services that are not supported by readers and users are destined to fail. The Millions has managed to avoid this fate thus far. We have never had a source of outside funding — no quiet benefactor or behind-the-scenes corporate sponsor — nor, before today, have we asked the readers to support the site monetarily in any meaningful way.
Instead, the site has survived on various forms of online advertising, options that seem to grow more constrained by the month, and we have increasingly relied upon Amazon’s affiliate program. And while Amazon’s program has been a good fit for The Millions, many an online business has failed when an online giant changed the rules. It is not inconceivable that Amazon could alter or even eliminate its program without warning. Such an event would effectively shut down The Millions overnight. The bottom line is that The Millions, under its current model, could one day need to shut down unexpectedly. A reader-supported Millions won’t ever have to worry about that.
Rather than ask for your support at some future moment, when The Millions is under duress, it has become clear to us that it makes much more sense to ask for your support now, when we are doing well, producing great work, and hopeful about our big plans for the future.
What will we do with your money? First and foremost we’ll ensure that we can stick around for many years to come. But we’ll also use it to get better. One way to do that is to keep paying our staff writers and make The Millions an attractive place for them to write. Financial stability would also enable The Millions to take more risks and expand what we do.
Some final notes: We have been thinking of taking this step for quite a while, but, frankly, have been nervous about how best to present the idea and execute it. Jason Kottke’s recent decision to go this route helped us shake off some of these concerns and take this step (please read Jason and support him as well!). Also – to be clear – we are not putting the site behind a paywall, nor will we ever.
For those who subscribe, we’ll look at offering site-related updates and perhaps a more robust newsletter at some point down the line, though the plans on that are not firmed up at this time.
Finally, a small number of you have supported us in an ongoing fashion via Paypal. We are going to cancel those “subscriptions” and will email you with instructions for subscribing via this new system, should you be interested.