Bloggers, Voices, and Sales

While we’re on the subject of blog importance, however inflated, I agree in the main with Lauren Beckham Falcone’s article. Blogs provide fresh and original voices online, but it takes something truly special and distinguished to connect a blogger-turned-author with a broader readership. I think Ana Marie Cox’s book tanked because there simply wasn’t a market for Animal House-style political satire. It was the book, stupid.

But I also believe Cox’s hype kinda killed it. Nobody cared about how cute or charismatic Cox was (just as they didn’t when Jay McInerney was thrown all the publicity money for The Good Life, which also tanked). And the book didn’t sell, despite Cox receiving something in the range of five New York Times articles (along with ancillary media attention that most authors would kill for) during the week the book was released.

But, more simply put, this was not a book that interested people outside of Washington and New York wonks.

What matters most of all is voice, and whether a voice can connect to a significant readership.
I find it curious that Pamela Ribon’s success was unnoted (and, as she told me recently, is generally unobserved). Her first novel, Why Girls Are Weird, sold because she was able to communicate topics to people in a fresh and interesting way. Her blog helped, but ultimately it was about the book connecting with an audience.

This doesn’t suggest that writing books should be entirely about connecting with mainstream audiences and, of course, all this is idle conjecture on a Sunday afternoon. I’m certainly no marketing expert. But I should point out that, for publishers who believe that quirky voices don’t sell or connect with an audience, Mark Z. Danielewski’s Only Revolutions hit #13 this week on the New York Times bestselling list — observed yesterday by John Freeman.

It all boils down to this:

1) Write book that connects with audience
2) ?
3) PROFIT!

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2 Comments

  1. For the record – whatever records are being kept – I liked Jay McInerney’s book, certainly I liked it better than Claire Messud’s similarly themed book; for my money, his navel-gazers slouching towards September 11, 2001, were more interesting/sympathetic than hers.

    As for the relationship between blogging and book sales: Ah, who knows? My weekly blog on writing is regularly among the top ten of its sort – among 400,000+ blogs on MySpace – but will it translate into sales? Again, who knows? I do it, for the only worthwhile – to me – reason for doing any kind of writing: It pleases me and readers seem to enjoy it.

  2. Dog Days tanked neither because there was no market or because it was overhyped. It tanked because it was almost entirely unreadable. There was no finished MS when the deal closed, and it was a scramble to get it written after that, and it shows in the final product, which was embarrassing to all concerned.

    I think a distinction needs to be made with the whole blogs-into-books movement (Anonymous Lawyer, Belle du Jour) which seeks to somehow novelize a blog (with the same woeful results of novelizations of movies and TV shows), and writers who blog, or bloggers interested in writing beyond the narrow confines of their blogs. I’m thinking of writers like Laila Lalami and Tod Goldberg who are serious, dedicated authors who focus on craft and turn out work that would stand on its own merits with or without a blog. I’m betting she’s probably already earned out (or come close) for Algonquin.

    A blog might help make a publisher willing to pay a little special attention to a book, but anyone who pays big money for any reason other than a great book deserves what they get. Blogs are a door-opener, a calling card, but beyond that the book must stand on its own.

    (Written by someone with an obvious horse in this race.)

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