Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Publicity Dilemma

Some days I admit to being a "gearhead" (the result of my Mechanical engineering degree). Most days, I love to get my technology fix (again, "gearhead"). For almost a year, I've walked around in awe at the sleek and elegant mobile device I've carried in my hand to connect to the world-- my iPhone. Like almost every review I've ever read on the supersmart device, I love my iPhone, too. But while I could go on and on about how I love the apps and the web Safari and the email access and everything else I seemingly need in my life technology-wise, I want to point to something else new and technology-related in my world ... being an author and facing the new world of the internet and the resulting publicity dilemma.

Over the past year, it has been interesting to watch and listen to the buzz flying around the publishing industry about books and the shift toward the digital revolution (or so I'd like to call it). The music industry has been walking through a world of quicksand in their rapid shift toward digital, battling everything from copyrighting to piracy to royalties. Meanwhile, the book publishing world has been standing by on their stacks of books and pages and words in print hoping to survive on the physical side of publishing words-- on paper, old-style-- and not get sucked into the quicksand of digital media, too. But, the inevitable has been happening at an accelerating pace, and the book (and newspaper, and magazine) world has been pulled into the digital vortex, too. Not only do e-readers and digital books seem familiar now, but old-style bookstores and bookshelves now have a different battle to fight-- that same digital revolution. And, of course, swept along in all of this, publishing houses and the books' authors themselves have to find their way through the muck of the web by embracing a new way of doing business and attracting readers--the new publicity dilemma.

Even though this video has been out for quite a few months, one of my writer friends posted the link on Facebook a couple weeks ago and I viewed it for the first time. As an author, I must say that in this new world of everything-internet, even authors have to find a way to plug into the web. Or should I say--especially authors. If you haven't seen this video yet, especially if you're a writer, take a quick watch (it's only about three minutes).

The old formulas of doing physical book tours and book signings are no longer enough. Now we have blogs and social networking sites (Facebook) and blog tours and book videos and Twitter. In another blink or two, we'll have some other must-use digital manner of connecting with readers. And in my mind, that's great. But maybe that's the techie in me talking. Oh-- and the amazing and rewarding ability to connect with people everywhere anytime.

I've been paying attention to this new publicity factor for a while and have two things to note.

1) Internet publicity is revealing. I don't plan to use an example here, but I'm sure you can think up one or two on your own from your own experience. But in my experience, the quest for bigger numbers and larger followings and more publicity often drums up gimmicks-giveaways and copy-and-paste canned question and answers, or, in other words, insincerity. Even through the veneer of a digital screen, source motives can still be seen clearly. Self-promotion is a touchy thing that easily becomes pushy and overbearing. I think consumers are smart. In this digital era, people want something real-- something authentic.

2) Internet publicity can be very well done (when it's authentic). Take, for example, John Mayer. As a musician who also happens to be very tech-savvy, he came up with a grass-roots way to connect with his core fans through his blog. Over the 2008 holidays, he held a holiday cake-baking contest. In exchange for fans sending in photographs of their creative cakes, he chose a few over the course of a month or two, and posted some photographs with his own comments. John also posted photographs of his own cakes he baked. And, to the best cake baker, he sent an autographed guitar as a prize. Click here for the link.

I have many note cards filled with my thoughts on this subject ... and since this posting is long already, I'll save more for next week.

Have a great week ... and a wonderful Valentine's weekend. -JK

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