Thierry Crouzet

Automatic translation from french

Between 2000 and 2010, after the explosion of the internet bubble and before the domination of social networks, we experienced the golden age of independent authors. This time is over. As I explained in a previous post I have tried too long to deny it. Here is a brief history of the internet that shows why what was conceivable yesterday is not today anymore.

During the golden age, my blog occupied the center of a vast network interconnecting thousands of blogs (in such a network, said distributed, each node occupies the center of the network - which must be imagined as a sphere). The readers jumped from blog to blog, helped by bloggers who established lists of friendly sites, which also spoke texts of other bloggers, in a form of open and multinodal correspondence.

Google and the other search engines were referencing our content, sometimes placing them at the top of their results pages, and constantly sending us new readers, renewing our readership, diversifying it, increasing it. I was an author, publisher, broadcaster. I was king in my kingdom. And when I published a book in bookstores, I was in the best position to make it known.

When social networks like Facebook or Twitter appeared, I adopted them with enthusiasm. They allowed me to create a parallel network and to announce to my contacts the new articles published on my blog. When I had a thousand friends on Facebook and posted a message, they all saw it.

Things began to deteriorate when Google penalized lists of friends sites, considering them as disguised ads. What worked very well since the appearance of the web, Google suddenly decreed outlawed (because Google wanted to pay the monopoly of advertising by link on the internet). As a result, the lists have disappeared little by little. With the end of the lists, another thing stopped, surfing.

Remember. At the beginning of the internet, we wandered from site to site, exploring the net like a territory, leaving us tempted by side roads and passing discovering wonderful landscapes. It's finished. No one surfs because links, yet the very essence of the web, are increasingly rare, because Google penalizes the content that publishes them.

And for good reason, now we go on Google, we enter a request, we go on the page found (in 80% of cases, a page belonging to Google - Map, YouTube, AdSense ...). We want another piece of information, we go back to Google, by the way eating tons of advertisements more than disguised. To monopolize internet traffic and maximize its revenue, Google has killed surfing, by the same blogs, at least the blogs interconnected step by step. Now to be found, it is necessary that our articles are chosen by Google (it is easier by paying), if not point of hi. Almost no chance that a wanderer will come across it by chance.

So it's the rat race. Companies spend money to put their pages at the top of the search. At my own scale, I'm crushed, I no longer exist on the net, I can not make myself heard, except in my community of faithful. During the golden age, the engines sent me 80% of my traffic, today more than 25%, often on old articles with provocative titles. So I lost my two first sources of fresh blood, surfing and SEO.

That's not all. Facebook is a centralized social network, that is to say that all the exchanges pass by Facebook, Facebook making law, exactly like Google which, in good dictator, makes law on the web. So when Facebook changes the rules of the game, I have nothing to say. In recent years, to reach all my friends, all those I accepted as such, I have to pay, otherwise my messages reach more than the friends with whom I interact regularly. I find myself screaming in the void and breaking the ears of the same people. Gradually my digital space has shrunk. Under these conditions, I have no chance of being an independent writer, unless I am satisfied with a narrow niche and spend most of my time cultivating it, even as my gardening tools have been removed.

If I were an artist with a storefront, I would adopt the top down marketing strategy, also known as the carpet of bombs, which is to flood the market with a product in a huge hype. Bad luck, I must adopt a less expensive method. First, I need a publisher. Already because I love my publisher, we talk together, we talk literature, we drink shots, we travel, we work and we laugh.

(Independence, to tell the truth, displeases me, it imposes doing everything yourself, I prefer to depend on people who know how to do better than I do what I do wrong, that's why we live in society, to help each other (in a deregulated world, we need help more than ever.) An interdependent knows that his actions impact others, he thinks globally, he feels the bonds that bind him to others, the independence would be the need to get rid of all the links, it's a dangerous chimera.)

I'll come back to my publisher. After helping me to complete a book, he talks to the booksellers, meets them, puts my text forward, asks them to read it, sell it to the readers who live around their bookstore and I have no chance to reach with today's internet.

From bookstore to bookstore recreates a network, also from library to library, from salon to salon. In topology, it is called a decentralized network (while the one that links blogs was distributed - highly decentralized, such as roads). This decentralized network structure makes it possible to push a book step by step while minimizing investments. In this diagram, my blog remains vital. It is a node of this network, one of its digital gateways, one of its entry points. My network has become hybrid, digital and physical. He looks in the field what has become almost inaccessible for an author on the net: the close by, propagation, virality.

Online, I continue to use social networks. Facebook to talk more than to make me listen. This could change if users stopped liking and used to share (a like is for the author of a post, a sharing to our friends).

Twitter and Instagram remain more open. Messages are not filtered, so they reach our potential audience. Unfortunately, Twitter is moribund and Instagram requires us to communicate with images while our job is writing. As for YouTube, yes, a video from time to time why not, but I remain a writer, I do not want to express myself in video, it's not my media. And unfortunately, these three networks are just as centralized as Facebook. When I invest time, it is above all to make them grow. That's why online I continue to publish on my blog, at least I'm at home and no one can dictate my law.

My last tool, the most interesting for an author perhaps, remains the newsletter , the direct link with my readers, a kind of life line, a survival blanket, of a robustness foolproof.

I'm here in my digital life. The net of before still exists, nothing technically prevents it, if not our uses which are recentralised. That's the problem. In a centralized media system, it is necessary to emit with a lot of power, so many means, either financial or provocative. I prefer to short-circuit the center, broadcast from multiple sources: my blog, libraries, libraries ... If I had remained purely digital (blog, ebook, POD ...), I would have choked.

I do not want to discourage anyone from attempting the adventure of independence or to pursue it, I say my feelings and justify it by referring to the very glorious last evolutions of the web (to continue to deny them would lie to me, lie to you , I am not one to get involved in a suicidal way). Now that I have a hybrid network, and I accept it, I can more serenely consider an online and offline activity, some texts being broadcast live, others via booksellers when publishers play the game. Game.

PS: My thinking has evolved in recent months under the influence of my editor Pierre Fourniaud and her devoted bookstore, the indefatigable Marie-Anne Lacoma. They work in the field as we bloggers once worked on the network. They cultivate knots, closer to the human. I understood that they were indispensable to me, as an author, but also in a personal capacity, because I appreciate them from the bottom of my heart.