io9 has an article on a recent publishing conference, the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference which was held in New York back in February.
The author of the io9 article quotes John Scalzi, author of Old Man’s War, talking about blogging and building a community of readers, vs. simply rushing to put up a Web site to promote a book once it’s published. I think this is important. There’s a whole lot of selling going on on the Web, but after the initial visit to such a site, why go back? We know how and where to find stuff if we want to buy it. He also talks about not blogging just about the writing process (which he calls “incredibly boring”) but about other things that interest people that keeps them coming back. He also talks about using the blog to build community and have conversations with people. I think we can all think of one or two writers who’ve lately been in the news whose Web sites are strictly marketing venues. And we don’t appreciate it. We DO appreciate authors who respond to readers and fans, and with luck I will someday have the chance to be one of those authors.
Scalzi talks about interaction with his readers working for him since he’s been blogging since 1998, and that maybe that window has passed. I disagree. I think blogging and engaging with readers will always be popular. People wrote fan letters in the days before the internet, then there were the fan boards. I don’t see the desire to connect with an author diminishing in the future. (Although as Margaret Atwood says, “‘Wanting to know an author because you like his work is like wanting to know a duck because you like paté.” Maybe, but why would you not want to know someone whom you find interesting?)
Further down Patrick Nielsen Hayden, editor at Tor Books, talks about Twitter being the newest thing, and now is the time to pounce on it if you are so inclined. I’m having visions of flash fiction becoming the new standard length novel. If Twitter is going to be the medium of the future people’s attention spans will be reduced to nanoseconds, from the current 30 seconds they appear to be. I can’t say I have any interest in Twitter, although I guess that could change in the future. I guess. Yes, you can engage more immediately with readers, but do we really want our lives to be ruled by this? It’s instant messaging on steroids. How do you get away from it and get anything done?
There is a long video on the io9 site if you want to see it (forty minutes worth) as well as other videos posted at the conference Web site.