I follow multiple poetry accounts on Instagram and Twitter. Those accounts usually post short poems in Courier, the vintage-y black and white lines a welcome addition to my feed. These accounts will repost from other accounts and authors too, creating a social network of authors and audiences within each social media network. It was within these networks that I first saw Rupi Kaur’s book Milk and Honey.
I’ve never read the book, but I’ve read excerpts of the poetic novel and appreciated the single-line drawings. I know the book from the pieces I’ve read online and the popularity it garnered through social media and into the new world.
Technology has changed the way we read and write because it has changed the way we communicate. One study claims that most people now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish (though it’s unclear if that’s actually true). We’re in “the golden age of television.” We tweet 240 characters, max. We text instead of call. More and more, people are looking for shorter, faster, high-quality communication, be the subject entertainment (television!) or necessity (reply to my mother!).
That’s why Milk and Honey is such a perfect example of the new way that technology is marketing writing. I wasn’t introduced to it in a library, or by word of mouth from a friend. I didn’t walk into a bookstore and buy it. Instead, I read brief excerpts on Instagram and liked a few tweets on Twitter. Instead of utilizing the physical social network around me, I found a new author and a new story through the social media network around me.
Publishers and people studying commercial publishing maintain that word of mouth is still a better way to promote a book than social media, but this is my response:
I can go into Urban Outfitters–yes, that store sells this book–and buy a copy of the book and read it. And I know it exists not from word of mouth or going into an Urban Outfitters, but because my online social network mentioned it. A lot.