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Doree Shafrir’s new novel ‘Startup’ is all about sex, lies and digital media

Shafrir says books about people striving to work in print magazines feel “dated.”

Willy Somma

When BuzzFeed News writer Doree Shafrir embarked on her first book, she took the age-old advice, “write what you know.” But even though “Startup: A Novel” is about the New York tech and media scene, she says it’s not about BuzzFeed at all.

“It’s not a satire about the place I work,” Shafrir said on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. “There’s some BuzzFeed-y stuff in there. I see it more broadly, as a satire of the whole startup world, although my boss, Ben Smith, was like ‘Ooh! Is it a roman à clef?’”

“I think he was actually slightly disappointed when I said no,” she added. “Like, he wasn’t a character in the book.”

Instead, “Startup” traces what happens when a 24-year-old tech reporter uncovers a scandal involving the 28-year-old CEO of a mindfulness app. Shafrir said she specifically wanted to tell a story about today’s New York — not Silicon Valley and not the New York of the past.

“So many of these coming-of-age-in-New-York stories have been set in the magazine or publishing world,” she said. “I don’t think that many 22-year-olds graduating college these days — maybe they go want to work at But the dream of working at a print publication felt very dated to me.”

You can listen to the new podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

When the time came to start promoting “Startup,” Shafrir said she wasn’t shy to reach out to her network of friends in media. And the weirdest place she wound up talking about it was on “Matt and Doree’s Eggcellent Adventure,” a podcast about in vitro fertilization she hosts with her husband, Matt Mira.

“We started the podcast because we felt like there was a need for it, but then it turned into ‘also, a book marketing vehicle!’” Shafrir said. “We set a goal for our listeners: We said, ‘If we get 1,000 preorders, we will do a bonus episode.’ And we got 1,000 preorders. And then we said ‘If we get 1,500 preorders, we’ll do a second bonus episode.’ As of Monday, we’d gotten to 1,500.”

The “Eggcellent Adventure” podcast has been running weekly since October. The idea for it arose when Mira, a comedian who frequently appears on “The Nerdist” podcast, talked on that show about doing IVF.

“Once he started talking about it, all these people came out of the woodwork,” Shafrir said. “I started seeing men on Twitter tweeting at him, ‘Hey man, thanks for tweeting about it, my wife and I went through it and I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it.’ I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy!’”

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