Thursday, July 28, 2005

Using the Internet as a Marketing Tool

I attended a writer's conference at the NYC Small Press Center in the Spring where hopefuls sought out advice from panels of editors, agents and writers about how to get their manuscripts read, their books published and the books resulting from that publication sold. All in all, it was a fairly pathetic scene of folks desperate to do anything to get into print.

The topics ranged all over the board, but mostly centered on the age-old question: what do the publishers want? What's the latest trend, is chick lit still selling, and the usual practical questions: do I have to have an agent, what can an agent do for me, what should I do if my agent isn't performing?

Generalizing (as I am wont to do), I found that the consensus was that publishers are buying fewer and fewer titles, their editors are overloaded and don't do very much to edit the manuscript, and agents are being forced to assume some of these duties. I hope being an agent is more fun than it looked on the faces of the agents on the panel, most of whom looked as though they had been told they have terminal cancer.

One of the "trends" that several agents and editors (and the publisher of Soft Skull Press) extolled was the Internet. According to them, the 'Net will allow the trendy, edgy writers of the future to emerge. Of course, this assumes that editors and agents are monitoring the Internet. Considering that many of the 756 agents approached so far don't even have functioning web sites, I'm skeptical that the super agents of the future are trolling the 'Net for inspired new voices, but hey, surprise me.

The interesting thing about this proposition is that Internet publishing has become something of a Robinson Crusoe enterprise: thousands of solitary bloggers and writers commanding their own islands of one. I've had contact with hundreds of them, some from trying to trade links, others posting on their sites trying to draw traffic over to mine. The results are interesting, with several types emerging:

The clueless loner who can't interact with others
The callow hipster who knows it all
The damaged psyche who needs a vent
The frustrated writer who can't find an agent or publisher

Hmmm, that last one sounds uncomfortably close!


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