Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On Authors/Editors/Publishers Blogging

Communication I think is an underrated value: I don't hear people saying "let's facilitate communication better" when providing a particular service yet communication is the hallmark of the 21st century: mobile phones, wireless networks, and the Internet. Just the other day, I had a fight with my dad and perhaps the fight would not have ensued if there were better communication lines (albeit this isn't a problem that can be solved by technology... unless it enables us to read minds). Between email and blogging, we have the tools to bring people and networks closer, especially between creators and fans. I remember Elbert back in college kept in touch with various comic personalities from abroad such as Scott McCloud. It's about the same exhilaration as seeing your letter printed in the letters section of comics (alas, my age betrays me as not a lot of comics still has that: the fan letter section) except you get bonus points since creators are personally communicating with you!

Print for the most part has been a one way street. The author gets published and he sends his message to (hopefully) thousands of readers. Feedback is of course possible but there's a huge delay (and there are some authors who don't read reviews of their own books) or fan mail never reaches the author. The Internet has facilitated feedback as email is almost instantaneous. (Perhaps one of the best assets of email is that you retain your anonymity; you betray your actual location with snail mail but so far, the biggest disadvantage of email is spam.) Blogging, on the other hand, has changed the playing field, especially when readers can comment. The discussion isn't now limited to just one reader and the author but rather the author and an entire community. Fans can comment on other comments or they can expand on something the previous poster said. Sure, there'll still be J.D. Salingers and writers who want to keep their lives absolutely private but for those who go online (even as simple as providing a website and an email address), it's a real treat for the fans.

That's not to say it always works. Sometimes, an author gets too popular that it's actually detrimental to author-reader communication. I mean the likes of Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin can make a single post and it's flooded with hundreds (and even thousands) of comments. Sure, the authors might get to read all of them but replying to each one of them consumes too much time that they won't actually get to do their day jobs (and that means no books for us to read!). Author popularity I think has a "sweet spot" wherein you just have enough people commenting to start a lively dialog but not too much that it becomes overwhelming. (Of course this also assumes that the author in question is relatively friendly to fans; bitchy, cat-fighting authors are equally as inaccessible and probably will only attract trolls.)

But another side-effect of blogging is that we get to see other people in the book publishing industry: the publishers, the editors, the graphic designers, the bookstores, etc. The American Bookseller Association Omnibus Blog for example usually links to other book sellers. The Agony Column as of late not only interviews authors but various bookstores as well (personally I'd love to interview various local bookstore owners and write a feature article or even hold a podcast). The Self Publishing Blog talks about, duh, self publishing and the industry that surrounds it. The Digital Front explores electronically distributed gaming books. And then we also have something like Writing for Pay which tackles less-than-glamorous writers.

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