Your Destiny and Ours: How Readers of The Millions Are Changing Our Story

A year ago, I invited readers to join us in supporting The Millions. It was something we'd thought about for years, always hoping to put it off as we supported the site through other means. But in the end it was also a decision made in a hurry, as the editorial staff of The Millions had something like a collective premonition that a major shift was occurring, and reader participation would be essential if The Millions was to survive. I'm glad we did. We can now see a path whereby our readers might one day insulate us from the forces being unleashed by massive companies. But we aren't there yet. Today, we are again asking our readers to support the site, not because we are in dire straits but because 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 Membership page, sign up now, and become a part of our story. 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. We are also excited to announce that members now receive an exclusive monthly newsletter in which our venerable staffers let you know what they’re reading right now. It’s a great way to find new books to read! 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 also home to curious, thoughtful, sometimes long and untimely pieces that might not find a home elsewhere but that are important to our readers. We have various costs as well. Aside from fees for hosting and other services, we pay our staff writers. We also have a paid editorial staff. None of our staff is full time, but we believe that paying them is an essential part of the project. They are the beating heart of The Millions. As founder and publisher, I forwent payment in 2017 and will likely do so again in 2018. On the other side of the ledger, 2017 was a very complicated year. Amazon, long our largest source of revenue, sharply cut the fees it pays to members of its program. Facebook, once a large source of traffic, increasingly narrowed its algorithm to deliver traffic to us and sites like us in dribs and drabs. Twitter, with an increasingly algorithmic timeline, is headed in the same direction. The bottom line is that we see a path forward but we need you to join us on that path. As I wrote when announcing our recent redesign: I am now quite certain that the ONLY way that The Millions will be here five years from now is if our readers support us. 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. Finally, you will see that we offer what we call the Sponsor tier for corporations and institutions as well as for individuals in the books and publishing ecosystem who are thriving. We know that The Millions is important to the literary ecosystem, and this tier is for members of that ecosystem - corporate or individual - who have the means to ensure a future for small but essential places like The Millions. We were very lucky to have two Sponsors at that level in 2016. Having more Sponsors in 2017 would go a long way. Learn more here. And thank you to ALL of our Members over the last year. You helped make The Millions possible in 2017. We hope you'll decided to renew your Membership again this year.

The Millions Has a New Look!

Welcome to the new look of themillions.com! This is our first top-to-bottom redesign since way back in 2009 (has it been that long?) A redesign is always a big risk - change is hard for you and for us - but we recognized that as The Millions has evolved over the last eight years, there were things we wanted the site to convey that it wasn't conveying. The redesign is going to do two things: First, it's going to better showcase our excellent, longform pieces that we publish daily. You'll see that our article pages (like this one) are far freer of distractions. The articles are also better showcased on the front page, and - as before - you will always be able to find our most recent pieces at the top. Right now, items from our Curiosities link blog are in the main stream, and we are analyzing how well that flow works. Second, it's going to make it easier for you to find new books to read. We know that Millions readers often visit the site when they want to know what books are being talked about and when they are looking for a book recommendation. With that in mind, we now have a new section called "Find Books". It will collect Lists, Prizes, our Top Ten and other ideas for what to read next, in addition to a little serendipity (my last reload of the page suggested Ann Packer, Ocean Vuong and Alice McDermott - I'm intrigued!). Next time you need a new book to read, go right there and find one fast! What I love about this section is that it takes all the best ways to find a new book and puts them in one place. Want to see what your smart fellow readers are reading? Check out the Top 10 or Year in Reading. Want to see which books are getting a lot of buzz? Check out Prizes and our Previews and New Releases. Want to see a deep dive before you dive in? Read our excellent Reviews. Want something random? Check out our Lists or go crazy and click on Surprise Me! Please let us know what you think or if you encounter anything that appears not to be working as it should. (And remember that you can also get all of our content via RSS, Facebook, and Twitter if you'd rather.) Also and very important: We would not have had the confidence to undertake a time-consuming and costly redesign without our members. So a THANK YOU to them. I will write more in depth about our membership program in the coming weeks, but I want to get a pitch in here too, and I hope that you will consider joining. 2017 has been an especially difficult year for sites like The Millions as the big companies that we rely on for revenue-generating opportunities have increasingly squeezed independent sites. Josh Marshall was not wrong when he wrote recently that we are in the middle of a digital media crash. The Millions is feeling that intensely right now. I am now quite certain that the ONLY way that The Millions will be here five years from now is if our readers support us. If we can get to a place where we are covering our annual budget with recurring annual donations from readers, we will never again have to worry about the whims of Google, Facebook, and Amazon again. In order to make supporting us more attractive to you, we have recently rolled out an email newsletter that is just for members. In this monthly newsletter, our venerable staffers tell us what books they're reading right now - it's a very cool look into the reading lives of some of my most favorite writers. Please consider joining. The newsletter also includes special updates and sneak peeks. Our Members heard about this redesign in our newsletter first. Finally, a big thank you to our designers and developers at The Present Group, who were patient and thorough and inventive throughout.

[CLOSED] Help Wanted: The Millions is Looking for an Intern

This position has been closed. The Millions seeks an extremely part-time intern or interns to help out around the virtual office with a couple of specific tasks. This is an exciting opportunity to get to know the literary internet and engage with a readership that boasts a laundry list of influential, brilliant folks in publishing, media, and academia -- not to mention the most engaged, avid readers you’ll find anywhere. The gig: We are looking for someone who can help us with a few specific things for 1-2 hours per week: Maintaining our (already extant) prize calendar and writing very short paid prize posts (i.e., announcements of shortlists and winners of major literary prizes), averaging two posts per month Working with our social media editor to schedule gems from The Millions’ extensive back catalog and populate an archive of social media posts Scheduling a handful of weekend “Curiosities” and Tweets You are: A voracious reader with a solid knowledge of contemporary fiction A culture vulture and up to date on the literary/arts issues of the day An engaging writer both under and over 140 characters Very organized, responsive, and able to make the most of your time with not a lot of oversight More details: The Millions has no dedicated office, so this is a remote position and can be done from anywhere in the world. The internship does not come with a stipend. However, prize posts are paid, and you will have the opportunity to pitch and write pieces for the site and be paid as a staff writer. To apply: Please send the following materials to [email protected]. People of color are strongly encouraged to apply. Resume Three sample Curiosities. Twitter account(s) you use; any Facebook pages you’ve had the opportunity to run; your Tumblr, blog, etc. (Essentially, show us that you have experience using these tools, even if it’s just your own sparsely followed, but very entertaining Twitter account.) The deadline is Tuesday, August 22.  We look forward to hearing from you! Image credit: Flickr, brizzlebornandbred

Counting Down to the Second-Half Preview

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. If you love our two annual previews -- if they inform your reading month after month -- please consider supporting The Millions today so that there will be many, many previews to come. 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. So, for the previews, for The Millions, please consider supporting us today. 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. Thank you.

The Millions Membership Drive: Update

Late last year, we tried something new: we asked Millions readers for support. The response has been very positive and it's a thrill to see that so many of you value what we're doing here. We are grateful that many readers have decided to contribute to The Millions since November. A very special thank-you goes to our two Sponsors at the $500-per-year level. Our Sponsors have the opportunity to dedicate their support to anything or anyone they wish, and we've created an acknowledgment area on the membership page. The amount we've raised so far provides us with some helpful breathing room as we look to become less reliant upon the internet giants who, as sources of revenue, tend to control the destinies of places like The Millions. It also helps The Millions produce the big features that are highly valued by readers: Year in Reading and our Most Anticipated list. If you'd like to learn more, see my original post, and here's our member page if you've been thinking about participating but haven't yet had the chance. And thank you, as always, for reading.

Now More Than Ever: Support The Millions Today

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.

A Very Special Millions Correction

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The Millions recently published guest contributor Ed Simon's list of nominations for America's national epic. Ed had included Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited; editor Lydia Kiesling ruthlessly cut the entry, feeling that it was too cute to cross genres. Now that the Nobel Prize Committee has upheld Ed's judgment, we run his argument in its entirety below, with our apologies for denying his prescience. As the Laureate says, "We're idiots, babe." Highway 61 Revisited (1965) by Bob Dylan – There is a temptation to claim that when it comes to Dylan, the greatest epic isn’t any individual album, but rather the entirety of his collected output, or maybe even better, the substance of his very life. After all, his story is almost absurdly archetypical American, a tale of rugged individualism and self-invention in which our young hero went east rather than west. His is a story about young Robert Zimmerman, suburban Jewish kid from Hibbing, Minnesota, hitch-hiking to Morris Plains, New Jersey, where he received a folk benediction from the hillbilly Okie troubadour Woody Guthrie dying from Huntington’s disease in a state hospital. As a result, he acquired the bardic name Dylan and moved to Greenwich Village where he would reinvent American music. Performing for half a century and with 37 albums, Dylan reconciles American contradictions more than any other performer before or after. He has been the firebrand revolutionary singing for civil rights and the reactionary Christian fundamentalist revivalist; he played folk modeled on the oldest songs in the English language and he went electric; though as he put it with characteristic impishness at a 1965 press conference, he primarily thinks of himself “as more of a song and dance man.” While the argument could be made for several different albums as Dylan’s American epic, it is Highway 61 Revisited which most fully embodies the grandeur and the shame of what the word “America” means – it is prophetic in its evocations. He riffs on Genesis when he sings “God said to Abraham, ‘Kill me a son,’/Abe says, ‘Man, you must be puttin’ me on,’” but as in the original God is serious, so is Dylan’s, continuing with, “Well Abe says, ‘Where do you want this killin’ done?’/God says, ‘Out on Highway 61.’” The songwriter’s genius for what critic Greil Marcus has called “the old, weird America” understands that collapsing biblical history into American is a fundamental strategy for expressing the strangeness of this country. Why shouldn’t Mt. Moriah be on America’s most iconic highway? In his lyrics, which skirt just this side of surrealism, there is a panoply of strange characters, including Cinderella, Bette Davis, Albert Einstein, Cain and Abel, Eliot and Pound, Ophelia and Robin Hood (just to present a smattering). Dylan’s lyrical logic is myth logic, but all the better to be recounted in the language of dreams. The road is the medium of the hero’s journey, and Highway 61 isn’t the only one on the album; there's also “Desolation Row,” where “They’re selling postcards of the hanging,” calling forth nothing so much as America’s brutal racial legacies. And of course there is the opus “Like a Rolling Stone.” The electric masterpiece whose performance Pete Seeger tried to prevent at Newport by attempting to cut the electrical cables with an axe, the track which inspired a concert-goer at the Manchester Free Trade Hall to scream out at Dylan, “Judas!” – the rock song which birthed rock music. A six-minute long evocation of wounded friendship, rage, and rebellion. How does it feel, indeed?

[CLOSED] We’re Hiring: The Millions Needs a Social Media Manager

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We are no longer accepting applications for this position. For the first time ever, The Millions is hiring a paid part-time social media manager. This person will helm our Twitter feed, Facebook page, and Tumblr, and help shape the social media presence of the site. This is an exciting opportunity to get in front of a laundry list of influential, brilliant folks in publishing, media, and academia, not to mention the most engaged, avid readers of literary work that you’ll find anywhere. The job: We are looking for someone who can spend a minimum of five hours per week, apportioned any way you see fit. (You will ideally have the flexibility to participate in “Make a book a dad book” hashtag games on Twitter from time to time.) The basic responsibilities are: Posting to our Twitter account, Facebook page, and Tumblr Curating our “Curiosities” link roundup Brainstorming with editor and publisher about how to get our essays and criticism onto readers’ screens You are: A voracious reader with a solid knowledge of contemporary fiction A culture vulture and up to date on the literary/arts issues of the day A social media superstar who voluntarily spends a lot of time online An engaging writer both under and over 140 characters Very organized, responsive, and able to make the most of your time with not a lot of oversight Reasonably technologically savvy (experience with Tweetdeck or other social media management tools required; experience with Wordpress and email marketing platforms nice to have) Compensation: $500 per month. After six months there will be possibility of expanding the position and renegotiating this rate. The Millions has no dedicated office, so this is a remote position and can be done from anywhere in the world. To apply: People of color are strongly encouraged to apply. Please send the following materials to [email protected]: A resume Three sample Curiosities, using the format we use on the site Twitter account(s) you use; any Facebook pages you’ve had the opportunity to run for schools, publications, companies, etc.; your Tumblr, blog, etc. (Essentially, show us that you have experience using these tools, even if it’s just your own sparsely followed, but very entertaining Twitter account.) The deadline is Friday, August 5.  We look forward to hearing from you! Image credit: Flickr, brizzlebornandbred

Lydia Kiesling Is the New Editor of The Millions

We have some news. I am very pleased to announce that starting today, our longtime staff writer Lydia Kiesling will be moving down the virtual hall and taking over my virtual office as editor of The Millions. Lydia has been a vital part of this project since 2009 and so recalls the tail-end of our "book blog" days and has been a major contributor to the site's transformation and growth over the subsequent six-plus years. She is a special talent, and I have complete confidence in her ability to inject new energy and ideas into The Millions while maintaining the quality and tone that we are known for. Lydia's unique voice and intelligence has won over new readers to The Millions even as she has become a writer to watch beyond the confines of this magazine. I don't doubt that Lydia will surpass what I have done as editor. I am moving on because it was time to move on. Thirteen years is an epoch and I am rather set in my ways. I owe it to The Millions and our readers to open the door for something new. What should you expect? We are not planning any big overhaul or shift in focus, but you will soon see a new and vital editorial voice underpinning what we do. If you write for or pitch pieces to the site, or communicate with me in my capacity as editor, those inquiries should now all go to [email protected] I can still be reached for inquiries related to the business side of The Millions and other inquiries not related to editorial. Please join me in welcoming Lydia! Thanks for everything. -Max Here are some words from our new editor in chief: I'm thrilled to be stepping into Max's shoes! The Millions is one of the most meaningful presences in my life--not only because it's allowed me to fumble toward my own voice as a writer, but because it's afforded a glimpse of the amazing multiverse of readers and writers that find a common home online. This site has been a part-time labor of love carried out with full-time intensity for more than a decade. Briefly, it’s my hope to continue Max's support for an incredible group of staff writers and editors, to be proactive in the search for new voices, and, ideally, to find ways to pay more people more money. Above all, I want to keep the lights on, not only for excellent, unmissable book coverage, but for those signature Millions essays--things that seem unlikely and unpitchable, and wind up being unforgettable. I can only hope to live up to Max's very high standard.

Help Wanted: The Millions Needs Curiosities and Social Media Interns

The Millions (virtual) back office is looking for some help again. The site continues to grow, and that means we have an opportunity to add two more book-loving people to our team. We are looking for someone who can help us with a few specific things. The new Millions intern will contribute to our "Curiosities" link blog and will help man (or wo-man) our Twitter feed, Facebook page, and Tumblr. Through those avenues, the interns we seek will have an audience of hundreds of thousands and will be introducing The Millions to new readers every day. In return for a very modest time commitment, our interns will also join a great group of creative thinkers and have the opportunity to get their work edited by the working writers among us and potentially see their pieces published at The Millions. As is the case with our crew of regulars, our intern will be compensated for the pieces he or she publishes on the site. Several past interns have also transitioned into other roles on our staff. The Details: Responsibilities: Posting to our "Curiosities" link blog Posting to our Twitter account Posting to our Facebook page Posting to our Tumblr Coming up with new ideas for fun ways to utilize the above Here's what we're looking for: A voracious reader - Our ideal candidate will be well-read and have a solid knowledge of contemporary fiction. A social media superstar - Again, Twitter, Facebook, (Tumblr, blogging, etc.) Experience with Wordpress is a huge bonus. Experience with Photoshop would be enticing, but is by no means required. More details: This isn't going to be anything close to a full-time gig. We're thinking 5-10 hours a week realistically, plus as much time as you want to spend writing for us. We think the internship would be a great fit for a college or grad student, but are certainly open to hearing from non-students of any age whose schedules will allow them to do this. We're looking for a one-year commitment, though we can be flexible on the duration. The Millions has no dedicated office, so this is a remote position and can be done from anywhere in the world. The position is unpaid, but any long-form pieces that you write for the site and are approved for publication will be compensated using the same system we use to compensate our regular writers. And there will most probably be some free books here and there and also opportunities to attend interesting literary events. Why should you do this? The Millions is read by hundreds of thousands of people every month. Our readership is a laundry list of influential, brilliant folks in the publishing and media industries as well as in academia, not to mention the most engaged, avid readers of literary work that you'll find anywhere. Aside from learning about how a site like The Millions operates, you'll have an opportunity to write for all these people, and you'll get experience running a Twitter account with 230,000 followers. How to Apply: Please send the following to [email protected] A resume Three sample Curiosities, using the format we use on the site If applicable and you are willing to share, we would like to see the following: Twitter account(s) you use; any Facebook pages you've had the opportunity to run for schools, publications, companies, etc.; your Tumblr(s) (Essentially, show us that you have experience using these, even if it's just your own sparsely followed, but very entertaining Twitter account.) In addition, show us the other cool stuff you are responsible for online, your blog, etc. The deadline is (slightly less than) one week from today: end of day 7/29. We look forward to hearing from you!