Wednesday, September 26, 2007


From one of my daily enewsletters. I think Publisher’s Marketplace:

“HarperCollins has taken a big step towards enabling their authors to communicate easily and thoroughly with fans online with the pilot launch of a web-based toolset to create author pages called Author Assistant. Beginning with 40 Avon Romance authors, "based on their strong community and existing connection with fans," the house plans to roll out the program to all US-based imprints and authors within this fiscal year.

“Participating authors create a set of web pages that can include such features as biographical information, blog posts, coming attractions, Q&As, photos, links to other articles and posts, browse inside widgets, and even a map of other Harper authors that fans have in common. The current feature set "reflects the basics of what authors need to publish content on our site," according to SVP for Global Marketing Strategy and Operations Carolyn Pittis, who says they plan to add numerous other features, driven in large part by "what authors want." One one of the most likely additions is a video component, as well as feeds to provide third-party syndication.

“While they "aren't trying to replicate every web 2.0 feature" one can think of, Pittis says they "definitely expect we'll be adding more two-way features." For now, "it's really an author to consumer project" though they understand that fans are eager to participate and communicate back in today's web world. "It all comes back to the question of what's the purpose of a publisher's web site. This seemed like the right first step...saying that there needs to be a way authors can keep their fans up to date on what they're doing."

“Pittis says the program has "a lot of enthusiasm in house" and helps to "simplify and speed up" the process of getting information about their authors and books online. It also lets the house use its natural strengths to draw traffic and cross-fertilize among different authors on their list. As Pittis notes, though many authors have been savvy about putting themselves online in various ways, "authors are not experts on search engine optimization. The point of what we're trying to do is to use the author's content to cross-market them within our network."

“The announcement notes that "several authors have played a key role in the development process, providing feedback and recommendations during the entire process of development." Avon publisher Liate Stehlik says those efforts included a small live focus group early on with a few authors and broader interaction with more authors at the RWA convention. Authors own any content they create for their pages.
AuthorAssistant home

* * * * * * * * *
Now it’s me again. So this is where we’ve been going all this time. Into the author’s bedroom and kitchen to see what they’re REALLY like, what toothpaste they use and what they think the secret of the universe might be. (Wasn’t that settled? Isn’t it 7 or 49 -- some number like that? Well, most romance readers are interested in less abstract issues anyway.)

In other words, nowadays we’re not just supposed to write a book and go around the nation (at our own expense) reading from it in deserted chain bookstores, but now we’re supposed to sit at our keyboards and nurse the readers through the books while rocking and singing lullabies. I’m losing my interest in being an author real fast. Good thing I still enjoy to write a decent sentence or frame a memory or propose an insight. But I’m beginning to think that Emily Dickinson had the right idea. Stay secret.

What the heck is going on? I proposed at the Festival of the Book that people are hoping a peephole into other lives will help them figure out their own. That’s the kindest thought I have. This new techie development is beyond vanity press, which is only paying someone to print one’s book. This is vanity website, which I suppose rises from a kind of an Oprah impulse, a natural development of books that range from narcissism (like O.J.’s did/didn’t) to earnest attempts to help other people by describing one’s own anorexia, alcoholism, or bad relationships. Maybe it comes with the territory of “misery” books, expanding the explanation to Officer Krumpke about why one is bad to a plea for sympathy.

This is INTERACTIVE vanity, mixing fan base, support group, and political caucus in that way Oprah has taught us. Of course, at heart it is commercial and soon the sale of books and quack remedies will follow the prose. I had a parishioner once who explained to me (after driving a thousand miles to “be with” me though I was no longer a minister) that public self-disclosure is always an invitation to personal intimacy. Evidently she was right, though I reacted to her proposition to come live with me (along with her kids) with horror. Until blogging I’d been pretty guarded, and even now I try to write an essay rather than a confession.

For those who can’t stand not knowing, I provide the below bit of my own domesticity. It’s a construct. I’m choosing the images, deciding whether or not to tell the cats’ names, whether or not to tell about my flannel sheets. There are lots of “ing” words to show transit, process. No big words. If you diagrammed this, it would be mostly prepositional phrases -- PRE (before) POSITIONAL (relationship). In time (season, morning), in my house (bed, computer, lamp). This is a passage that implies change. And maybe underneath is aging as an issue, time passing rather quickly and alone except for cats. You’re supposed to be able to figure that out for yourself. You’re supposed to read it in your own house and STAY THERE without a website all about me.

“When I go to sleep the tortoiseshell cat is curled up in my arms, purring. When I wake up I’m in the same position but the cat in my arms is yellow. They switch in the night somehow -- both of them purring and snoring and slipping in or out from under the covers, but without me being aware of it. It’s fall now. Time for the electric mattress pad and the thick nightgowns. Coffee and bran muffin when the paper comes at 5AM, then back to bed while the tortie curls in the window, basking under the computer lamp, and the yellow cat settles into my reading chair, now nicely warmed by my bottom.”

Personal enough for you? This does not mean I want you to come be my cat. It means I like to write. It does not mean that if I write a book about myself, I am selling intimacy. It means I like to write. Maybe the best protection is a false identity.


Cinematheque Films said...

The scary part is the word: FAN. It's a cultural nightmare. According to the marketing paradigms, and the ideology of the whore, the FAN has some kind of right to not simply your work, but to your life. The whore sells Himself because he can't differentiate between who he is and what his work is.

Publishers enable this monstrosity.

My email is filled with this junk. Delete, delete, delete: How many wives have you had. How many marriages. How often divorced. Are you gay. You must be gay. Die fag. How DARE you lie to US. We're the sacred cows. You can't LIE to US. We demand the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

One would think somebody was forcing these people to read me. Just like someone is forcing them to watch TV they don't like, either.

Turn It Off if you don't like it is not a part of their psychology. There is no responsibility in it for the reader or the audience. To find his own truth. To be challenged by anything he might not know.

He's the consumer therefore what he consumes is about Him.

Fan comes from the word fanatic.

It can hardly be surprising that some eager bumblebee at some publishing hive would assemble writers building websites for fanatics (why is it that the web bookclubs are ALL female) who think they own you AND the truth.

These people don't want the truth. They can't handle the truth. -- Tim Barrus

prairie mary said...

Check this out for another sane comment on the haywire way we look at authors instead of what they write. This one is by Stephen Elliot and was in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Prairie Mary

Whisky Prajer said...

Ah, but where you see "crisis", I see "opportunity"! These writers, who are busy writing the work, could hire other writers to keep up the blog 24-7. The writer's writer could cook up a zesty counter-life to the one the writer is actually living. A new genre could come from this: Author Fiction, or somesuch. In fact, I'm wondering if this isn't how the idea is being pitched to the writers in question...

Richard S. Wheeler said...

It's a game people play. Attack NY publishers no matter what. If they are slow to make use of the Internet, assail them. When they make use of the Internet, attack them. If they stick to their business model, using the profits of highly marketable books to support valuable books (especially those with public service potential) that have limited market potential, attack them.