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The 35 Writers Who Run the Literary Internet

The debate as to whether the Internet is good or bad for literature doesn’t seem any closer to resolution now than when it began, years ago, but the fact remains that some people in the literary world are excellent at using Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and even Instagram or Pinterest to communicate with readers and get people interested in what they’re writing. These aren’t the writers who have hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers but only tweet when they have a book come out, or the ones who write a guest blog post every year to get their names back into the conversation.

Some are young authors, others are firmly established. Some of them are publishing industry veterans or new media superstars who want to use their clout (or Klout) to talk up writers they love, while others command small armies via their Tumblrs. Some start hashtag trends, while others have scored book deals with their clever tweets.

Whatever it is they do on the Internet, these 35 people do it better than anybody else in the book world, and that’s why they help steer literary conversations and tastes.

EmmaStraub

Emma Straub

It isn’t easy making it onto the New York Times bestseller list with your second novel, but Straub did it with The Vacationers — the perfect book to bring with you on your summer getaway. Straub also has spent the last few years cultivating one of the strongest Internet presences of any writer. She tweets, she’s on Tumblr, she writes for Rookie, and she pops up even when she doesn’t have a book to promote.

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Neil Gaiman

It isn’t simply the over two million Twitter followers that make Gaimain an online powerhouse — it’s that he seems to genuinely enjoy interacting with his fans. The fact is, he had a massive following long before anyone knew what “social media” was, and doesn’t really need to tweet or use his Tumblr with such frequency to promote his work. That he spends so much time online, regardless, is what makes his noticeable presence very welcome.

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Colson Whitehead

It feels like a lot of big-name authors only, begrudgingly, join Twitter after their publicists bug them enough. Anybody who follows Colson Whitehead knows he’s the exact opposite. Although he’s been hiding from social media for the last few weeks, it seems likely he’s  just taking a break after a lot of book touring, and will be back soon.

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Emily Gould

In terms of talking books on Twitter, Gould gives you great stuff like this. Factor in Emily Books, her “Cooking the Books” video series from a few years back (which is mentioned here because it was great and should make a comeback), and her Tumblr, and Gould might have one of the most compelling Internet presences of any writer.

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Lincoln Michel

He coedits Gigantic magazine, and since taking over as the online editor of Electric Literature, he’s been transforming the site into a daily must-read for book lovers. He’s also pretty hilarious on Twitter. batuman1

Elif Batuman

The handle alone (@BananaKarenina) would be enough to make the author of The Possessed one of the best writers to follow on Twitter. But whether she’s commenting on literature, news, or events taking place in Turkey, the New Yorker contributor always has something smart and witty to say.

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Jami Attenberg

The bestselling author of, most recently, The Middlesteins gives readers a glimpse into her life with personal posts on Twitter and Tumblr, blogging about getting her bike back or posting great pic after great pic of her wonderful dog. To those who keep up with her online, Attenberg is more than just a novelist: she’s somebody you’d want to have as a friend.

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Tao Lin

No matter how you feel about his divisive books, Lin has made a career out of knowing how to get anything with his name on it to go all over the Internet. He’s got a bunch of “scholars” on Rap Genius, gets lots of people to favorite and retweet even his most basic tweets, and publishes all the time on sites like Vice and Thought Catalog. Lin has used the Internet in ways that people will probably study ten or 20 years down the line (if they aren’t already).

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Parul Sehgal 

Closing in on 10,000 Twitter followers, this New York Times Book Review editor’s growing influence — even beyond her venerable newspaper post — is evident in the over 1.5 million views her TED talk, “An Ode to Envy,” has received.

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Cheryl Strayed

Two words: “Dear Sugar.” But even beyond that, Strayed is a bestselling author who uses her influence online to talk up other writers and books. That’s a big reason why she’s built up such a massive and loyal following that continues to grow. q2raqezv

Lisa Lucas

Recently named the full-time publisher of Guernica, Lucas takes every opportunity on Twitter and Instagram to promote her online magazine’s great articles, as well as the great novels and comics she loves.

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Isaac Fitzgerald

The former editor at The Rumpus has built up quite a following for BuzzFeed Books since taking over the vertical last year. With 22k followers on Twitter, a hefty email newsletter, not to mention his own personal Twitter account with over 8400 followers, Fitzgerald’s plan to keep it positive when talking about books seems to have a larger group of fans than naysayers.

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David Gutowski

Aside from running Largehearted Boy, Gutowski has amassed significant followings on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest — and he has a whole lot of Link Karma on Reddit. It’s fair to say that Gutowski understands how to use the Internet.

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Rebecca Schinsky

Take her over 20k Twitter followers, add the fact that she’s the director of content at Book Riot, and suddenly it becomes really easy to understand how Schinsky is so instrumental in steering so many conversations happening in the literary world.

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Mat Johnson

Even if you don’t follow Johnson, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen his tweets in your timeline. Always witty and smart, the author of Pym is just as good with 140 characters as he is at writing novels. 

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Maris Kreizman

Over 100k people following her blog, Slaughterhouse 90210, can’t be wrong. Kreizman’s ability to get people interested in books — by combining quotes with stills from television is — second to none. Add her Twitter account and her job helping people realize their publishing projects on Kickstarter, and you’ve got a person who makes the intersection of literature and the Internet as fun as it should be.
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Ashley Ford 

Ashley Ford doesn’t have a book out — yet. The thing is, she’s really good at getting people interested, excited, and most importantly, emotionally invested in what she has to say on Twitter. This Buzzfeed writer has built up a pretty significant following, and those of us listening right now will be happy to gloat that we were following her way back when as soon as her first book hits. Ford teachers writers a valuable lesson: don’t hold back and don’t be afraid to get personal.

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Melissa Broder

We’ve already explored this poet’s uncanny ability to tweet magic, but it bears repeating. If you haven’t followed her yet, what are you waiting for?

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Teju Cole

Much has already been made of Cole using Twitter better than practically every other author out there, but his online presence goes beyond that. His association with publications like The New Inquiry — helping to boost the young site’s credibility while also producing some of the most interesting pieces that will ever grace your screen — shows that if any writer really “gets” how to work on the Internet, it’s Cole.

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Jennifer Weiner

Using her influence as a bestselling author, her close-to-100k Twitter followers, the editors who publish her, and the writers who she gets into public spats with, Jennifer Weiner gets people talking like very few authors can. Sometimes she does it with just one tweet.

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Sarah Weinman

There’s a good reason why this writer and Publishers Lunch news editor is closing in on 200k followers on Twitter: whether it be the latest Amazon dispute or a debut author getting a seven-figure deal, Weinman is usually the first to know and report on most big publishing news.

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William Gibson

The jury is still out as to whether Gibson is a prophet or not, but the Neuromancer author has a lot of feelings about social media, some of which he posts on his very lively Twitter account.

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Saeed Jones

With his latest collection of poems due out this fall, you’d think this 2013 Pushcart Prize winner and LGBT editor at Buzzfeed would be, you know, busy. But as any of his over 13k followers can attest, Jones makes time for Twitter — and he’s one of the only people, let alone writers or poets, that you need to follow on there.

 

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Maud Newton

After years of blogging and tweeting enough to grow a following that is currently at 169k Twitter followers, Newton’s reach was impossible to deny in June, when you could not escape somebody sharing her Harper’s cover story (which is behind a paywall) on their Facebook wall or taking pictures of it to post on Instagram, or the news that she had sold a book based on the piece to Random House.

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Maria Popova

We don’t want to make this list about money, but it’s worth mentioning that Felix Salmon’s math had Popova netting somewhere around $400k from Amazon sales of titles mentioned on her site, Brain Pickings. Even if that number was nowhere near right, the sheer frequency with which you see people sharing literary links from her immensely popular site proves how much power Popova has. roxane-gay Roxane Gay

Gay suggests books on Goodreads, writes about things she cooks (and, even in those same pieces, a whole lot more) on her Tumblr, and tweets all the time. Between all of that, her widely published essays, and her fiction, readers just can’t get enough of her. 

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John Green

Have you ever gone to Tumblr and looked at how many posts are tagged “John Green“? It’s a rabbit hole worth falling down at least once. Then there’s the 2.85 million people who follow him on Twitter — making Green easily one of the most popular writers on the Internet, and one who’s always interacting with fans.

Patricia-Lockwood

Patricia Lockwood

Since her poem “Rape Joke” went viral last year, Lockwood has been all over the Internet, mostly thanks to the new fans (she can count over 44k of them on Twitter) both that work and the release of her latest collection, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, have earned her.

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Rachel Fershleiser 

A book evangelist, Fershleiser spends her days doing literary and nonprofit outreach at Tumblr, and takes any chance she can to talk about the “Bookternet.” She tweets all the time, has given a TEDx talk on the literary Internet, and, of course, she’s very active on Tumblr. 9dc846717c614ff4eb5a893494b2e6d6_400x400

Bethanne Patrick

Ever tag your #Fridayreads? You can thank Washingtonian Magazine Books Editor Patrick for making that one of the most continuously popular hashtags on the Internet. Oh, and she also has 189k Twitter followers. That’s a pretty big deal.

Anna Holmes

Anna Holmes 

There’s a little site called Jezebel that she’s the founder of, but this New York Times Book Review contributor tweets only great stuff at her over 21k Twitter followers.

 

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Liberty Hardy

There are plenty of awesome indie booksellers on Twitter, but Liberty is like a book suggestion machine, and her Twitter game and Book Riot contributor status prove that she can get people just as interested in books online as she can IRL.

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Don Share

Closing in on 10k followers on Twitter, the Poetry magazine editor has a pretty hefty personal following of his own, but add in his publication’s reach on Twitter and Tumblr, and Share’s Internet presence suddenly becomes that much more impressive.

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Lauren Cerand

There are publicists, and then there is Lauren Cerand. Going above and beyond just promoting the clients she works with, Cerand could also serve as a great life coach if she decided to get out of the book business. But in the meantime, her personal blog and her Twitter both serve as reminders of why Cerand is so great at what she does, and offer up plenty of tips on how to live a little bit better.

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Zadie Smith

No Twitter, no personal blog, and close to 35k fans following the  Facebook page that her publisher runs for her; Zadie Smith really has zero personal Internet presence, save for maybe her sporadic posts on the New York Review of Books website. Yet while Smith might not have a clever Twitter handle, she’s all over social media proxy, with her many fans sharing quotes, articles, and her live talks (with fellow Internet-shy authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or Karl Ove Knausgård) all the time. She’s one of the few big-name writers who has managed to develop a huge Internet presence without even seeming to spend much time online.

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32 comments
PaulHerman
PaulHerman

Chuckle! Jason, for an article about writing, yours falls short not only literarily but grammatically. Your run-on topic sentence (61 words!) is orphaned by a lack of supporting detail & a conclusion congruent with the opening: Is the Internet good for literature?

Since no editor in the world of professional publishing would accept phrases like "as to whether" or "the fact remains" I guess the answer to the debate is: the Internet's egalitarian publishing access debases literariness.

bejebus
bejebus

i gotta say i looked at those feeds and some of the tweets i saw, maybe most, were shite.

prduysings
prduysings

Okay; nice to show this list of successful people with figures of their prominent media accounts, but no details on how they got there.

So how did they get to be so successful on the practical side? Please do tell - anyone?

DaleAndersen
DaleAndersen

I didn't see Billy Shakespeare or Joey Conrad on the list, Jason.

SteveGlines
SteveGlines

How come Tim Gager and meg Pokras aren't on this list?

Tegerian
Tegerian

Who the hell are these people.

IAmQuarterback
IAmQuarterback

Could also title, "Why Literature on the Internet Feels Like High School All Over Again." 

JosephCrouse
JosephCrouse

haha i just checked vox day has more followers than any of these

JosephCrouse
JosephCrouse

larry coriea gets more hits with one post than the plonkers

JosephCrouse
JosephCrouse

hahaha no most of the Baen authors have way more presence than these social justice wanabees

baggy_beasts
baggy_beasts

No Finnegans Wake . . . ? 

All of the internet is in there . . .

lynda
lynda

I would add Sherman Alexie to the list. In addition to being a terrific writer and performer, this man was made for twitter. 

BTorresSF
BTorresSF

So there are no Latino writers worth following? Very typical, but disappointing, to leave Latinos out of the literary scene.

MichaelLangan
MichaelLangan

Dear Flavorwire,

America is not the world, for Chrissakes.

lrr
lrr

The 35 Middling Millennial Writers Who Run the Literary Internet for the Middling Millennials.

"Middling Millennials. They are largely white women who are almost totally in the dark about their privilege, many bolstering a blinkered neoliberal feminism that demands a rectifying army of Mikki Kendalls and Djuna Barneses. They often confuse the act of literary engagement with coquettish pom-pom flogging. They are somewhere between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-three and are often found on Tumblr interspersing “fun facts” and JPEGs with quotes that, despite the lofty intent, are more self-help than literary. These relentlessly unchallenging digital shrines are frequently adorned with a bean-boosting “THIS” appended to the head of a calcified, well-tread, self-righteous sentiment that is reblogged — that is, if the MMs are not too busy Gchatting with others about the latest literary gossip. Some of the more pathetic specimens lean closer to forty and are often enlisted to interview esteemed authors before a small crowd under the mistaken impression that the interviewer is the center of attention. This group is not to be confused with the fine young minds and respectable hustlers who run and contribute to The New InquiryOpen Letters Monthly,JacobinHazlittFull StopHTML GiantThe American Reader, and Triple Canopy (to name but a few), who have all proven to be promising and proficient readers of a wide range open to lively and respectful challenge. 

DogtownJen
DogtownJen

I used to follow Rebecca S. and the BookRiot folks. But I got tired of the grouchy takedowns of other readers, authors, people who like this or that. The site posts some good articles but the people seem to spend a lot of energy wanting to assert some superiority over anyone who likes anything they don't. Sometimes the tweets aren't very well informed or they're just plain whiny. All that angsty grousing gets old.


MelissaParker
MelissaParker

So, what the title actually means is the writers who run the literary internet, but not including writers we consider too pedestrian, or authors of genre fiction, or graphic novelists, except of course our pet Neil Gaiman, who falls into these categories, but to whom we always give a pass. Both Anne Rice and Stephen King have serious internet presence, and Alan Moore is no slouch either. Usually I can overlook the Flavorwire snobbery, as I am a known book snob,  sometimes I even find it is even part of this site's charm, but this time it is just sticking in my craw so to speak.

M.j.Rose
M.j.Rose

I think Anne Rice should have made the list with over 1 million Facebook followers and fascinating articles and conversations that sometimes top 1000 comments.

rwrmj
rwrmj

@lrr Gee, that's funny. I see at least seven white males, at two of whom are older, three African American males, four African American females, one Asian male, perhaps two Jewish females, and one Indian female, not to mention a handful of what appear to be over 40 females. And many have several million followers and several best-sellers. Please spare us the politically correct, oh-so-tired banter about 'privilege." Everyone in America is privileged, compared to the rest of the world. Perhaps the title was a little hyperbolic, but that's the way people write them. If you don't like the authors, move on. There's plenty for everyone out there. 

DaleAndersen
DaleAndersen

White, in-the-dark,  pom-pom flogging females bolstering a blinkered neoliberal feminism. Pathetic specimens, all.


Well spoken, lrr

MelissaParker
MelissaParker

@GregorSansaClegane @MelissaParker  Sure, you can call them genre writers, but they are also currently critical darlings so Flavorwire has included them. If they were more popular with the public but less so with the critics/media, I don't think they would've made it. Most of the time, I enjoy the literary material on this site, but I do feel that there is a certain level of snobbery and disrespect shown for writers who are more beloved by the people than the critics. That is why I chose the examples of King and Rice. Granted, they occasionally mention King in a complimentary way,  but Rice is usually treated with dismissal bordering on mean spiritedness. That all adds up to this piece feeling like it isn't necessarily about who in the whole literary world has the largest/most influential/ most interesting internet presence, but which writers of the ones Flavorwire deems cool enough have a "significant" internet presence.

BabySuggs
BabySuggs

@GregorSansaClegane @MelissaParker - Seriously? John Green, anyone? Thanks to the fawning fanboys at the New York Times and elsewhere, who can't seem to write a decent YA novel review without contriving some way to bring his name up, even when it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, John Green has become synonymous with the entire YA genre. You would think no one else has published before or after him. Yes, John Green is beyond popular with the critics.

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