Thursday, December 13, 2007

What Good is the Web Anyway for the Book Business?

The Internet has been around in full force for about 20 years and reporters are still trying to figure out how it impacts the publishing industry.

If you look at a recent article in the newspaper amNew York, you will learn that being a popular blogger does not necessarily make you a popular author.

But if you look at another article, this one in the New York Times, you will discover that having a hot property/topic/subject on the web can make you a best-selling author.


Which is it? The web is a bust. The web is a miracle.

I guess I would have to say neither and say it is time to stop writing these kinds of articles. Isn’t it obvious by now there is no foolproof, sure-fire way to sell a book? Those bloggers with big names, like Ana Marie Cox, formerly of Wonkette fame, and Jessica Cutler, formerly of Washingtonienne fame, couldn’t translate their on-line popularity into bestseller-dom. Their smaller-than-expected book sales even came after there had been dozens of articles written about them.

Yet the New York Times has a story today that argues some people who have given their work away for free on the web have become bestselling authors. Diary of a Wimpy Kid has been available at for three years. It was released in hardback in April and has gone on to sell almost 150,000 copies.

In some ways I find this encouraging. It means people aren’t persuaded by corporate media hype – at least not all the time. They find books that are quirky and distinctive, even though some of those books don’t seem commercial.

Of course, when I went out to sell my book (or my agent did) I tried to capitalize on the fact that I had a blog. I think I included a reference to it in my marketing materials. When the deal was announced on Publishers Marketplace, I characterized myself first as a blogger and then as a reporter.

It was a waste of time. Although I enjoy blogging for my ability to write about anything at any time, it certainly hasn’t raised my public profile in any significant way. That could be due to my shortcomings or to the fact that there are just too many darn blogs out there for one to really matter. (I prefer to think it’s the latter reason, not the former)

There just is a lot of noise in the world and the fantasy of using the Internet to break through is just that, a fantasy. Everything comes down to word of mouth, from movies to books to new restaurants.

I guess the phone is still a good invention.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On the book business, see the recent blog by local witch author T. Thorn Coyle: