Earlier this week, novelist Kit Reed wrote an essay for Critical Mass about authors and the “pressures” of the online world: “Author blogs range from feisty to funny to flat-out narcissistic,” she mused, “but who has time to read them all? Or start one? But apparently, I must. How else do I achieve viral marketing? A Technocrati rating? The YouTube Hall of Fame?” It’s a common lament—one of the BookExpo panel discussions in which I took part last month revolved around the question of how authors can manage to promote themselves without getting caught in the trap of what Mark Sarvas called “thinking about the marketing rather than the writing.”
Over at Booksquare, though, Kassia Kroszer argued that while authors should become more proactive in creating a space within the market where their writing can flourish, publishers need to pick up the blog slack, too. “Talking about books on your website the same way you talk about books in your catalog simply isn’t cutting it,” she warns, and she encourages publishers to adopt a new voice that more directly engages readers with authentic passion for the books they put out. It’s sound advice; you’ll recall that I’ve become a big proponent of editors in particular taking their enthusiasms public. If you think that’s the marketing department’s job, just remember: We are all marketers now.
Blogging isn’t an end, but a means to an end—just one tool (and not always the best one) that you can use to spread the message that you are (or you publish) an interesting person who has something to say about the human condition worth paying attention to. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, you need to step back and consider some very fundamental questions about why you want to be a writer or a publisher. It would be great if we could just drop a book on the table and expect everyone to be bowled over by its intrinsic rightness—but we all know that’s not going to happen. So we’ve got to go out into the world, and present our authentic selves in such a manner that what we have to say will resonate with others when they come across us in their own wanderings.