C. Max Magee: Appealing to the millions of book enthusiasts since 2003
Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
A favorite site of avid book lovers, The Millions has been offering an “omnivoracious look at books and culture” since 2003. During its 7 years of existence, The Millions has attracted a large staff of regular and guest writers from the US and Canada. Founder, Editor, and New Jerseyan, C. Max Magee has appeared on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” and is co-editor of the upcoming book The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books. Once a Twitter skeptic, Max now has over 6,500 Twitter followers including The New York Review of Books, CSPAN2’s Book TV, and NPR Books. In addition to having a Facebook page, The Millions also has a Kindle edition that updates throughout the day.
Q: Who decided on the name “The Millions”? Were there other names that you considered?
A: I picked that name back in 2003 when I didn’t even know what The Millions would be about, and certainly before I had any idea that it would grow into something that would last for years. The name is a play on my own name — Maximilian — and because I thought the site should be about all the millions of uncountable interesting things out there.
Q: You have some big name followers on Twitter. What does Tweeting add to your blogging experience?
A: I was a Twitter skeptic for a while, but I found it to be a great tool to help our pieces reach a wider audience. Running a basic magazine-site with very little in the way of bells and whistles can feel a little staid at times, but @The_Millions lets us have a presence in a faster-paced, off-the-cuff, conversational environment.
A: I never had any particular expectations when it came to getting publicity, but now that the site has matured into something that I think is pretty unique, I’ve often thought that the site is deserving of more publicity. In a lot of ways, The Millions and other sites like it refute the dominant narrative of dying media, dying literature, and dying culture. The site is also, in my opinion, a great example of how it’s possible to build something quite valuable and lasting online with little more than time and perseverance.
Q: The Millions has been around since 2003. What changes have you experienced in the blogosphere in the past 7 years?
A: The blogosphere is the same in some ways but different in many others. There is a much more professionalized element now that wasn’t at all as present in 2003. At the same time, there are still plenty of hobbyists and diarists blogging for their own reasons and without much care for attracting a big audience, let alone making money. It’s also true that in 2003 there was something special and iconoclastic about blogging, and many pundits rushed to try to figure out what this crazy new phenomenon meant. These days, though, I think it’s a fully assimilated part of the fabric of human communication, and it’s gone from cutting edge to boring compared to Twitter, social networking, and most other hot new things.
Q: The Millions has a large staff of bloggers from all over the US and even Canada. Do you keep in touch with one another? Do you ever have meet-ups?
A: We communicate via an email list, but for the most part the effort is quite decentralized. We haven’t had meet-ups, though that would be fun to do one day. A few of us have congregated in one place or another from time to time, though.
Q: Do you or do any of your writers attend blogger conferences regularly?
A: I don’t think any of us has ever attended a blogger conference. In fact, I’m only dimly aware that there are such things as blogger conferences.
Q: What do you think makes The Millions different compared to other book blogs?
A: We’ve been lucky to have attracted many dozens of interesting writers over the years, so we are able to keep the site very fresh in terms of the many different voices represented on the site. I also think we do a good job of keeping the subject matter diverse and fairly organic. I suppose that compared to other sites that pick their niches and cover them very well, The Millions offers a more omnivoracious look at books and culture that might perhaps be difficult for a smaller or more narrowly oriented site.
Q: Do you personally have a favorite blog post? Does The Millions staff have a collective favorite?
A: I have many favorites and I suspect our staff does too. You can’t really go wrong browsing through our Notable Articles. These are pieces that have been big favorites of our writers and readers alike.
Q: How often do you correspond one on one with readers?
A: I sometimes correspond with readers, but more often the interactions happen on Twitter or in the comment sections of our pieces. Most frequently, if I’m corresponding with someone who reads the site, it’s because he or she is interested in writing for the site.
Q: How much time do you personally spend blogging each day?
A: I don’t have as much time for writing as I did when the site was smaller, but I do spend a number of hours a week editing pieces and planning the coverage on The Millions.
Q: Do you screen writers for The Millions?
A: There’s not really a formal screening process (though that’s probably a good idea). Writers regularly pitch us their ideas or even send completed pieces, and we decide whether or not they’ll be a good fit based on subject matter, tone, and of course whether we think it’s good or not. In the early days, I was lucky enough to have a number of friends who were interested in writing for the site before I was ever even really looking for writers. Since we adopted more of a magazine format, writers have generally approached us on their own without us doing any soliciting of pieces.