Sunday, March 30, 2008

Getting a Name

One of the problems with having a life, two careers, and a blog is that the good ideas for new bits of bloggerel continue to pile up, but the time available to develop those ideas never increases. For example, a month ago BoysMom asked:
So how does the reader get the name, Bane? Is it necessary for the aspiring author to be independently wealthy in order to advertize? Or be a really good blogger? Or be famous for some other reason?
I tackled the questions of author-paid advertising and being famous for other reasons in this post, and took a stab at some related self-publishing questions in this post, but despite the best of intentions never returned to the fundamental question: how does a reader get your name?

The too-simple answer is, by reading things you have written. To which the perfectly reasonable rejoinder is: written where?

The weekly urban papers Dickens wrote for have long since either gone extinct or evolved into "alternative" rags, and while writers as recently as Hunter Thompson and P. J. O'Rourke got their starts writing for that market, most alternative weeklies now seem to be owned by the Village Voice media empire, which in turn seems primarily concerned not so much with journalism as with making certain all Americans everywhere have equal access to display ads for 1-900-BUTTSEX. The literary monthlies Twain wrote for are all long-vanished, too, except for The Atlantic, and even the pulp magazines that Asimov, Heinlein, and Sturgeon — and yes, Bethke — got their starts writing for are either dead or dying. So where do you write, if you want to find an audience?

To throw BoysMom's question right back at you: why not start with a blog?

I didn't finish writing about this topic because I'd gone off on a research mission from which I'd never returned. I talked to Vox, and some interesting ideas emerged there which I'll probably put into the comments. I talked to my agent, specifically in the context of Chris Muir's Day by Day, because I was hoping to make something good happen for Chris, and my agent's response was that right now, the conventional wisdom in the publishing business is, "What happens on the Internet stays on the Internet" — meaning there's a perception in the publishing industry that Internet audiences don't follow bloggers into print media. He then told me some ugly stories of some very high-profile six-figure blogger-to-novelist deals that had turned into some very expensive book flops.

But this whole story just didn't ring right to me, so I thanked him for his input and continued with my research. There are times my agent can be a little too influenced by whichever editor or publisher he happened to talk to last, and I think this might have been one of those times—

Because just a few days ago, Random House announced that they are paying a $300,000 advance to Christian Lander, the blogger who created the site, "Stuff White People Like." You can find more details in a New York Times article at this link.

Could the contents of this blog possibly be worth a $300K book deal? Could a blog launched in January possibly have attracted a book deal of that magnitude in less than three months? What do you think?