I'm attending AggieCon 38 this coming weekend, and one of the panels I'm on is the interestingly-titled "Pimp Your Book." This immediately brings to mind strobing neon dustjackets, chrome "spinner" bookmarks and hydraulic jack page-turners. Alas, that is not the gist of the panel--instead, the rather mundane topic is one of "High Tech Ways to Promote Yourself." Blogs, obviously, are front and center in this discussion. You're reading one now, a group effort conceived specifically for that purpose (the fact that the contributors offer lively and engaging commentary contributes in no small measure to a blog's success or failure). My own blogging efforts have just entered the fourth year as of last week, with my semi-venerable Gibberish having been online since March 17, 2004. Strange how recent that seems, looking back. Has that blog, or this one, resulted in any additional sales? Hard to judge. Sure, there have been a few click-throughs to Amazon.com that resulted in sales, but how can I tell if those folks wouldn't have bought my books at a convention or elsewhere? And I know that many of the regular readers of Gibberish first met me in person at a convention, or learned of me through a publication somewhere or other.
I also have a MySpace page, as well as a Facebook page. These "social networking" sites tend to be geared toward a younger set--particularly Facebook--or musicians in the case of MySpace, but there is a growing writer community that is taking advantage of these sites to construct a sort of satellite website to their existing author pages. My own homepage has languished since I switched ISP hosts six months or so back, to the point where my blog and MySpace are much more up to date. MySpace's biggest failing, however, is that so many people are trying to cash in on the promotional possibilities of the networking phenomenon that there is an overwhelming din of hucksterism. Not a good venue to get the word out on your book when every streetcorner crazy is shouting the same thing at the top of his lungs, virtually speaking.
Podcasts are also a nifty opportunity that more people are jumping on the bandwagon of. Ditto YouTube video casting. Even with the easy-to-use nature of current software and hardware, and relatively affordability of said tech goodies, pod- and vid-casting remain an arena few authors will ever venture into. We're writers, not face or voice talent. Some have naturally dynamic personalities, others (Peter Beagle comes to mind) have smooth voices that beg for broadcast. But does anyone really want to listen to me stammer my way through some random triviality on a story I'm avoiding writing by talking about it on a podcast? Doubtful.
The new in thing these days leaves all those other online opportunities in the dusty bin of that's-so-yesterday. Second Life crack for writers who can't seem to waste enough time playing World of Warcraft or Homeworld. It's the whole Sims series of games writ large--create a virtual character, and base him or her on yourself. Hold interviews and promote real-world books online, all the while promoting virtual versions of the same book to your virtual friends. I wonder how long it will take for Chinese companies to start buying and selling movie options and spin-off rights to virtual books in the real world, in much the same manner virtual treasures and gold are gamed online and auctioned off to the highest bidder via eBay. Myself, I don't even have enough time to blog regularly these days, much less write. Launching a virtual persona to promote my work would take away what little dedicated time I have left for my writing, thereby defeating the purpose entirely. Or maybe that's the point.
In any event, if you're going to be at AggieCon, drop in and tell me what a luddite I am. Like shooting fish in a barrel, I guarantee it.