We’ve heard the expression "on-air personality," but what about "on-Internet personality?" If there was such a term, Andrew Shaffer would be it -- though you may have only heard of him if you run in book publishing circles. An author in his own right, Andrew made a bit of an Internet splash lampooning several publishing celebrities: infamous literary agent Andrew Wylie, and acclaimed novelist Jonathan Franzen.
While these accounts may have started as parodies, they've actually evolved over time into alter-egos, and Andrew has no shame in continuing the charade. "Writers have used pseudonyms for years," he says. "Can you imagine tweeting back-and-forth with Stephen King's pseudonym Richard Bachman?" I’m not sure that I can, but I do love how Andrew uses these accounts to poke fun at the publishing industry. Evil Reads, the blog off-shoot of Evil Wylie, does just that.
Ironically, he didn’t start off as the funny man, but rather as the cliche aspiring writer, toiling over dreadfully serious short stories and novels. Eventually he switched gears and started writing and illustrating humorous greeting cards through his company, Order of St. Nick. Only when his cards were featured on "The Colbert Report" and FOX News did things click. "I thought, 'Hey, maybe I should try incorporating my sense of humor into my writing!'" he says.
Playing to his strengths finally gave Andrew his big break. Andrew's first book, Great Philosophers Who Failed At Love, was recently published by Harper Perennial. Just knowing that the book started its life as a series of Friedrich Nietzsche Valentine's Day cards pleases me greatly.
You've developed a bit of a reputation as having Twitter multiple-personality disorder. Which persona is closer to the real you? Evil Wylie, Emperor Franzen or Andrew Shaffer?
I would have to say Evil Wylie. The "Andrew Shaffer" account is a fictional construct for the most part, based on what I think a fine, upstanding young gentleman of a certain socioeconomic class would say online. Evil Wylie is unfiltered.
You seem to really understand social media and the Internet. How do you think the digital landscape impacts publishing and book promotion?
Social media allows me to tap into a network of writers, agents, editors, and other publishing professionals – but Twitter is the world's largest water cooler. Anyone who tweets or blogs with the goal to drive book sales is going to be disappointed. If that's all it took to sell books, John Green (@realjohngreen, who has over one million followers on Twitter) would be outselling Stephenie Meyer, who doesn't even have a Twitter account. For traditionally published books, mainstream press (reviews and interviews on TV, radio, and blogs) is still the most effective route to reaching potential readers.
If you weren't writing, is there anything you'd rather be doing?
I used to perform stand-up comedy. In an alternate universe, I like to think that I live in New York and perform weekly at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater, where Lorne Michaels is about to recognize my talent at any moment and cast me as a featured player on Saturday Night Live.
How long have you been using Squarespace? How did you find us?
Up until a year or two ago, I had been using Blogger for my various websites. The upside was that it didn't cost me a dime. The downside was that my sites looked cheap. I asked the Twitterverse for recommendations, and that's how I learned about Squarespace. I've switched four of my sites over to Squarespace so far.
Why does Squarespace work for you? What's your favorite feature?
First, I was able to import all of my old blog entries from Blogger. Second, and most importantly, Squarespace's templates are very professional and endlessly customizable. I know just enough HTML to be dangerous, but Squarespace's point-and-click interface allows me to spend my time designing my website instead of punching in code. Another favorite feature is the integrated visitor statistics. I've relied on Google Analytics for years, but it's so much easier to view visitor information from within Squarespace's menu that I hardly visit Google Analytics anymore. Oh, and did I mention the form builder, which has allowed me to collect data from customers and readers without the use of a separate survey website? I could go on and on.
What's next for you?
I'm writing some essays for Wiley-Blackwell's pop culture and philosophy anthologies. I'm also working on a second book for Harper Perennial.
Where can we find you online?
My main hangout is www.orderofstandrew.com, which has links to my other websites, such as my greeting card site and Evil Reads. You can also find me on Twitter @andrewtshaffer, @evilwylie, and @emperorfranzen.