It’s “the dusk of 2012,” as Sonya Chung writes in her excellent piece for The Millions, “Confessions of an Analogian Writing for the Webs.” 2012 means that digital media is a reality, not a plausibility. Chances are, more than a few of our fellow book publicists are blue in the face from repeating how important social networking and short-form publishing is for an author’s long-term success. I hereby declare 45th Parallel’s “New Author” packet will now include a link to Chung’s essay; reading her argument for the digital byline will be as mandatory as filling in an author questionnaire.
I find myself wishing (praying?) that publishers would contractually obligate authors to pick and contribute to one digital platform other than Facebook (Tumblr, Twitter, blogging, Instagram). The contract would go further, requiring authors to commit to meaningful interactions on said platform for a full nine months preceding pub date, and nine months following. [I can just hear Jonathan Franzen gasping and wheezing over this kind of “distraction”] “Meaningful interaction” does not mean shouting your pub date or pre-pub blurbs into the Twittersphere. Instead, “meaningful interaction” implies you are using your digital platform to read and listen and absorb–just as you would in a conversation–before contributing. We don’t doubt our authors have something important to say (they are being published, after all, and we have signed on to rep their books). But if you expect others to read and listen to you, we recommend venturing out and engaging with the same communities you hope will buy/review/recommend your book. And in the dusk of 2012, we are blessed with an instant and seemingly endless medium through which to engage with our readers: the web.
Take a few tips from Chung, who admits, “In an ideal world, I would be living in the woods, writing novels and long stories and nothing else. But at some point, I realized that I didn’t have that luxury; that it was a good idea to take advantage of all these outlets for short-form publishing.” Later she adds, “Just be yourself. You will bloom in good time.” I couldn’t have said it better, so I’ll end my mini-rant there. Don’t miss Sonya Chung’s essay at The Millions. Consider it required reading.
UPDATE 11/7/12 Sonya Chung responds: “Thanks for your kind words; glad it might be helpful to you and other authors/publicists. I should say that, personally, I would respect any writer’s decision to not do short-form writing; I just wanted to share how it’s worked for me.” We at 45th Parallel should add that we too respect authors’ decisions not to do short-form writing, and realize that writing is an individualized process where one approach does not work for all. But we stand by the argument that a variety of relevant kinds of writing, timed to support and sustain the publication of one’s book(s), will inevitably boost reader awareness and sales. Thanks again, Sonya.