I’ve got a question to which I don’t – yet – know the answer. One of the biggest problems with the new publishing paradigm is the fact that the tools publishers have to make themselves known by are common to all social media and internet users. Any individual voice consequently gets lost in the noise.
Hence we see the phenomenon of some really good books – the blood, sweat and tears of really talented authors – often languishing, purely because there’s no way they can be discovered.
It seems to me there are two ways for everyday people – such as writers – to get prominent in the web. One is to ‘go viral’ – something that happened to a couple of my posts three times in the last fortnight. Suddenly my blog was flooded with hits at ten times the usual rate. But after leaping about the house a few times going ‘woohoo’ – I remembered that these things don’t last. A ‘Redditlanche’ in particular is really only good for about 12-24 hours.
Virality is driven by a particular quirk of human psychology and which doesn’t bestow lasting discovery, because the same phenomenon that provokes ‘virality’ also provokes transience.
Virality is really about quick entertainment and sharing the fun. And to some extent it’s also about the gladiatorial spectacle of watching the reactions of somebody who’s had no training in media relations, no experience of fame, and whose contribution (inevitably) doesn’t reflect long-practised talent but is often some chance off-beat moment. The key feature is transience. Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame, these days, is more like five seconds.
There are one or two exceptions to this – people who’ve gone viral and then leveraged that to go further. But they are the exceptions that prove the general rule. That’s not really the answer for writers – or any other artist – wanting longevity. The other way people get ‘famous’ on the web is because they’re already well known outside it – thus, in effect, have access to promotional tools that aren’t those of social media.
People go looking for them on the web – they don’t have to promote themselves so much. There’s doubtless a fair degree of synergy there too; once you’ve got established prominently, your voice is a bit louder than that of everybody else on the web. That works for some authors, of course. But most authors aren’t prominent in their own right, and they – and their publishers – struggle to get the material shifting via electronic means.
What’s the answer? As yet, I don’t know. I’m working on it. You?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015