“A lot of what I have achieved is about timing and luck, but it is also, and I hate to say it, about a big social-media following.”Sophie Turner, 2017.
Creating, managing, and maintaining an audience is more necessary than ever if you wish to forge a career that relies on any form of feedback from an audience, no matter how direct or indirect. In times past it was the breakthrough that created the audience; now, you have to have an army of rabid fans already assembled in order to get that breakthrough. Gone are the days where an argument with a bank clerk over a bounced cheque can lead to a modelling contract. Now, it’s constantly writing dribble on Twitter or posting some stupid short video on Vine or Tik-Tok or whatever the new fad of the day is.
It is an understandable choice from a business perspective: businesses want to see a return on their investment; and investing in someone with an established, provable audience makes for a higher chance of getting that return.
This is why YouTubers predominantly known for screaming at video games can publish self-help books. It is why beauty vloggers can write—or more accurately have their name slapped on a book written by someone else—a children’s novel despite and be asked to ‘write’ two more. They have an established audience, sometimes in the millions, that allows them to in effect cross the platform even though their talents might not match up to their new field. And it is why EntirelyForced and his less-than-triple-digits followers can barely gain more than a half-arsed glance through a paragraph of his (or her) groundbreaking novel by an unpaid, overworked intern before being thrown back into the slush pile.
This marketability-by-established-popularity, an incredibly clunky phrase coined by me, has even crept into the way in which film studios determine which actors to cast or reject. In the same interview as the above quote Sophie Turner recalls an occasion where she was cast for a role ahead of another actor who, in Sophie’s own words, was a better actor than herself. Yet Turner was more popular, had more followers on Instagram, had a bigger in-built audience, so she was the one who got the part. Perhaps Turner’s comments were meant to serve as some sort of self-deprecation, a play at humility. Or maybe they were words of truth spoken by someone only too aware that it is the number of followers under her name that allows her to have the career she is having. Certainly Turner did not have an established global fanbase when she was cast in Game of Thrones. But being a focal character in a record-breaking show has certainly given her exposure of which very few can dream of receiving. Subjectively, one must ask if an unknown Sophie Turner, Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke or some others walked into an audition without the tag of ‘stars in Game of Thrones’ on their CV and gave the rather limited performance that they do in the show, would they be held in such high esteem? Fortunately, for them at least, it not something on which they need hypothesise too much.
All of this is to say this is not a critique of any one actor or vlogger, nor indeed even a critique of the business decisions made regarding those people. It is simply a point to raise the question: ‘how does one become famous without already being famous?’ Perhaps a secondary question also comes from this: ‘how do those who wish to have their work published but not be in the public eye succeed in such a world where exposure is king?’.
For the second question, I do not know, yet I would trade all of EntirelyForced’s happiness for a chance to find out that answer. I do not wish to be ‘out there’; I want to be that speck disappearing in the crowd. If I am to be known, I want it to be for my words and not for giving a tepid performance of Loevborg and a soon-to-be even worse one as Ross.
As for the first question, I have the answer. And it is this:
Here is my Twitter and Instagram accounts. Follow those and I might one day remember the favour when I am raking in millions for those novels that have otherwise been in the slush pile for the past two years.