Hanging in There

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few months about this little newsletter and you, its readers. Most of you signed up ages ago and probably mostly forgot about it for a couple of years while I published sporadic updates about the publication of my books. And yet you’re still here years later, which amazes me whenever I check my list of subscribers. Thank you.

Even more of you hung in there through a behind-the-scenes switch from MailChimp to MailerLite, neither of which I really liked. They were built for a purpose—to sell things to people—and that has never really been what I wanted my newsletter to be. Those services have robust systems for things like “onboarding sequences” and “segmenting” and “A/B testing.” If you are in the market for marketing, there are plenty of newsletter services like these that have you covered and do a very good job. It is true that I want you to buy books, mine or the books I recommend via Bookshop. I just don’t want to onboard you or segment you. It sounds terrible.

Many of you hung in there again when I moved the newsletter to the promised land of Substack, and more of you joined us on the ‘Stack. Welcome again! Happy to have all of you. Substack began to lose its shine for me when it started adding social media features. I use social media, but that’s not what I want from my newsletter either. (I’m currently on Mastodon and Instagram. I burned my Facebook and Twitter accounts to the ground long ago, but I am perhaps foolishly considering enabling Threads and joining Bluesky. Am I nuts? Are you all on those platforms? I’m going to enable comments on The Wingback blog, so tell me there.) Then it became clear that raking in money for Substack was more important than the experience and care of its users. We’ve seen this play out before. Platforms and websites keep pulling the rug out from under me, and I’m tired of hopping around the internet in search of a home.

Welcome, Again, to the Wingback

So here we are, back at the self-hosted website (kristenhallgeisler.com) I set up when I began freelancing in 2006. This is where The Wingback is first published each week, followed by copies on Substack, Medium, and LinkedIn to help people find our quiet corner of the internet. Then I share links to The Wingback on socials, if I remember.

I like it here. I like having you all here. I like it so much I’m going to invest a lot more of my time and consideration here, and I really hope you’ll not only hang in there yet again but that you’ll tell other bookish types about this little corner of the internet where we really think about what we read. Wingback chairs are not required, though I do recommend one for some high-quality reading and thinking. But any way you like to read and think is fine.

Humans Writing for Humans

All of this means I have a plan for making changes in 2024, and all of the changes are for me and for you, dear reader. Not for optimization or to conform to the expectations of a platform or any of the rest of it. We don’t need to be optimized; we’re pretty great as-is.

First up, I have disabled search engine optimization (SEO) advice on The Wingback. SEO analysis has been The Thing for a while, and it would tell me if my sentences were too long (always), too full of asides (chronically), and repetitive (it’s called anaphora, and it’s a rhetorical device). Using best SEO practices was supposed to improve my search results via Google and the like, but it never really did even on the rare occasion when I tried to do it right. I am not competing with, like, Best Buy or Target. Now that all of the search engines are using AI, the results are becoming more awful by the day. I usually ignored the SEO suggestions; now that I know it’s a losing game, I’m going to write the way I write for the readers who have stuck around and, I hope, a few new readers who also appreciate humans writing for humans. If you and I are here, there must be more.

Second, I have removed Google Analytics from the website. This is mostly because I don’t need Google all up in my business, and neither do you. I think that covers point two.

There will be other changes that are more evolutionary. I’m planning on creating new things for members (I like that word better than subscribers), like access to maps of Paris for the Memoirs of a French Courtesan books and an online writing room. Maybe some readalongs. The goal is for The Wingback and all of its parts to be less and less like a newsletter and more like a club. The kind of literary club we probably wanted to be part of at some point but couldn’t because of our identity, our resources, our limited social energy, or whatever. I’m still working on that part.

You don’t have to do anything. Just sit in your real or imagined wingback chair and read and think and let me know in the comments or via email ([email protected]) what you’re reading and thinking about. Keep hanging in there, everyone.

Order KHG’s latest translation, Memoirs of a French Courtesan Volume 1: Rebellion, available now as a paperback or ebook.