I know I have to redo my sidebar; there are at least a dozen links over there now for blogs that have closed their doors or gone static. According to my somewhat nebulous blogging rules these should all be removed (Writeminded is the latest to close their doors) but it's too depressing to acknowledge how much of my blogroll Twitter, Facebook and all the other social media trends have eaten alive. Thing is, I keep thinking how Rosina Lippi came back to blogging, and Romancing the Blog is supposed to be eventually returning, and then I don't want to delete anyone's links, just in case.
I've been keeping some form of online journal for nearly ten years, almost as long as I've been a professional writer. As a result I've watched a lot of trends come and go, evolve, get snatched up by Google, etc. From what I've observed over time, the very nature of an online presence trend virtually sentences it to eventually be abandoned en masse for whatever new/shiny/improved thing that next comes along and catches everyone's fancy. Remember when every author simply had to start a blog, and then create a MySpace page, and then do a podcast, and then make a book video? Not so much anymore now that the herd has stampeded their way to flood Twitter and Facebook. No doubt the next leap from there will be Buzz or Vook or some Publishing variation of FourSquare.
For obvious reasons, I'm not going to be named the poster child for traditional online author self-promo. I've never been cool enough for LiveJournal; articulate enough for podcasts, or technosavvy enough to do book videos. I've always felt far too old to intrude on MySpace; same goes with Facebook now. Even if I liked it, which I don't, Twitter is for people with keyboard phones and working thumbs. I've tried lots of other things over the years, too, only to discover that web sites, list-servs, chat rooms and writing communities are huge time sinks that don't justify the time or cost involved, or for other reasons were impossible for me to maintain.
I'm not all about my limitations, though; sometimes I think I get it right. Back in 2000 when everyone was predicting that e-books would kill print, and squabbling among their writing organizations about segregating e-pubbed authors, I guessed that electronic books were going to be a big part of the future of Publishing. That's why I started self-publishing free original e-books online as promo for my print novels, and subsequently founded most of my readership on that free content.
Ten years ago I also suspected online journaling by authors would be big someday, which is why I've been a blogger for so long. The power of free print books has also helped build my readership, and the blog has given me a chance to identify interested readers and put real books in their hands.
I want to keep moving forward instead of resting on my laurels and stagnating, so I constantly think about how I need to change. The keyword here is think, not leap -- I'm not a bandwagon jumper. I want to build the bandwagon myself. And drive it. And decide where it goes. And get off when I decide it's not taking me anywhere I want to go. Which, yes, makes me a huge control freak, but it also keeps me from wasting my time. I've looked at taking some new directions with self-promo that haven't been done yet and that might work really well, as long as I can figure out how to do them myself (again, I have control issues, I admit it.)
One of the great things about blogging is that I get most of my ideas right here on PBW. You guys know how much I love to give away books. Thanks to your thoughtful comments on my Time to Read post, I packed up a bag and paid a visit to the local hospital this week, and (after getting permission from the charge nurse) handed them out on the maternity ward. I'd have never thought to do that without you ladies reminding me of how much I used to read when my kids were babies and I was nursing every couple of hours.
You would not believe how grateful the new moms were to have something to read other than those boring handouts they give you in the You Just Gave Birth! bag. Plus I got to admire some adorable little ones. Tomorrow I'm going to hit a couple of tattoo parlors (yes, I know, how did I make that leap? You guys made me think about other captive audiences.) What do you do when you're sitting there being inked for an hour or two? Reading a free book might be fun, especially if the characters are tattooed, or tattoos are an integral part of the plot, as they are in my Kyndred novels.
Anyway, you have to change with the times or turn into a fossil; I get that. I wouldn't still be in print if I didn't. Not matter how unfashionable it becomes, I'm not giving up blogging; I enjoy it too much. That said, I'm also ready to try some new things. I still believe not following the herd gives you the space you need to be innovative and original -- and even more importantly, noticeable. While everyone is busy doing what everyone else is doing, focusing on what you can do on your own actually gives you a better chance of standing out. Combine that somehow with doing something that you love, and you won't mind the work involved. In fact, you'll probably look forward to it.
What do you guys think will be the next big trend for author self-promotion? Let us know in comments.