Friday, May 20, 2011

An Online Presence

The other day I did something SHOCKING and STRANGE.

I bought a book.

"That's not shocking and strange!" you might exclaim.

Well, true. It's not. Especially for me. But here's the kicker: I bought a book written by an author I had never heard of. This author had NO blog, NO Twitter, NO Facebook. NOTHING.

Does your face look like that when I say I bought a book from someone with no online presence?

Probably not.

Because chances are, you have, too.

How many times have you gone into a bookstore or logged onto Amazon and just picked up a book not for the author's name, but because the book looked interested? Most people buy books that way.

I bring this up because I was lurking in the background of a YALitChat recently, and saw several people ask variations of the same question: how many followers do I need to have on my blog before an agent or publisher will notice me?

The answer to that question is simple: none.

Calm down. CALM DOWN. A blog, or Twitter, or Facebook are not a book. An agent will not sign you because of your blog. A publisher will not pay you an advance because of your online presence. They want a book.

"But!" some of you say, "But! They might want me more if I have a book and an online presence!"

Maybe. I can honestly say that I've bought some books only because I knew the author through her online presence first. And we all know of stories where someone was "discovered" because of her blog (or whatever). But chances are, that's not the reason why you'll be found. Sorry. But, statistically, MANY more writers are "discovered" because their book is good, not because of their online platform. (And wouldn't you rather be known as the writer with the amazing book, rather than the writer with the blog?)

You want a number? Okay, how about this: Hyperbole and a Half started out as a blog, and the author recently announced she had a book deal. This is a case where I'd be willing to bet money that the blog had an impact on the book deal. You want to know how many followers Hyperbole and a Half has? 52,555. Fifty-two thousand, five hundred and fifty five. So, sure. Get that many followers and you've something significant.

(Honestly, though? Hyperbole and a Half still doesn't have a book deal because she has over 50k followers on her blog. She has a book deal for the same reason she has over 50k followers: because her work is effing hilarious.)

Long story short? Numbers don't matter.

Think about the analogy I gave above. Think about yourself when you go into a bookstore. Don't you usually buy a book because the book looks good, not because you know the author online?

Yes, online social media can help. But you should do it because you like it, and you should do it in such a way that writing always comes first. You never have to apologize for not being a good blogger, or for not even having a blog. In the end, never forget: the book sells the book. Not the online media. And for you aspiring authors, the same principle applies: your book will land you an agent and a book deal. Not your blog.
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