Wednesday, February 04, 2009

How an academic author earns global publicity, click by click

Bob Thompson of The Washington Post has an interesting longer piece about American-gone-to-New Zealand academic author Denis Dutton, best known at least in this office for Arts and Letters Daily, a site I have enjoyed since its launch in 1998, moreso in its early years. Thompson explores why Dutton has been so successful flacking his new book The Art Instinct. My only surprise is that there is any surprise -- Dutton was early onto the internet with a useful site, providing content when there wasn't much, and he must have worked extraordinarily hard. Coming up with a great idea for a website is easy. Making it successful and keeping it that way year after year is extraordinarily difficult.

Author after author comes to me with the same pitiful lament about the publisher's publicist who won't do enough to push the book. (It's the most vintage whine in publishing.) Please, authors, know that there is only one person who woke up this morning passionately in love with your book, and that is you. You are the publicist. If the book is to succeed, it is your job. Yes, publishers try their best, but they have hundreds of books to sell. At any given time you usually have only one.

So does this mean you should run out and found a website like Arts and Letters Daily? Maybe, but I certainly couldn't pull that off. It could mean more simply that you might have wonderful fun being creative about what you do have to offer the world, and how through that gift the world might also learn about your splendid books.


If you visit ALDaily now and wonder what all the fuss was about, it used to be better. It's okay now, but lots of sites aggregate good content and it has competition. But back in the day it was fresh and different.

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