Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Victoria Strauss -- The Blooker Prize (no, that's not a typo)

Just ran across this--Lulu, a POD publishing service provider (which, depending on your bias, can be called with equal honesty a vanity publisher or a self-publishing service) has initiated Blooker Prize. (The entry deadline was yesterday, so obviously I'm discovering this rather late.)

If you're not familiar with the concept of a blook, the contest website FAQ defines it thus: "...a book with content that was developed in a significant way from material originally presented on a blog, web-comic or other website."

The FAQ continues: "...traditional publishing houses, ever in search of the next big name author, have begun to mine blogs and websites for new talent." Hmmm. Sounds to me like the same old promise offered by manuscript display websites, which want writers to believe that agents and editors eagerly surf the Internet in search of manuscripts. 'Tain't so, folks. Sure, there's always an exception or two or three--but as a rule, the Internet is not a primary source of book-length literary material.

(And by the way, "traditional publisher" is a meaningless term. Here's why.)

One sentence on, Lulu's self-interest becomes clear: "It is becoming ever easier for bloggers and other independent web publishers to make the transition into print by using web-based publishing services such as Lulu...[Lulu wants] to raise the visibility of the growing number of talented writers who are using blogs and websites to develop quality content." And perhaps to persuade them to use Lulu to quickly print up a few copies? Only printed, bound books are eligible for the contest--anything in electronic form does not qualify.

I don't mean to cast aspersions on this contest, which is entirely legitimate, or on Lulu, which is a straightforward, reliable service that doesn't use deceptive wording and doesn't try to present self-publishing in an overly rosy light. However, I do think the contest feeds a delusion that seems to be very common these days: that a blog is a meaningful source of self-promotion or exposure for aspiring writers.

Six or eight years ago (an equal number of centuries in Internet time), the same expectations centered on author websites, which for a little while exhibited the same kind of delirious proliferation that's now happening with blogs. But the problem with a blog is the same as with a website--or with a book: there are just too many of them. You can't self-promote without an audience, and the sheer volume of material out there means that the audience is spread pretty thin. Unless you work hard to publicize yourself, or already have some kind of following or name recognition, the odds that anyone will find you are slim.

Blogs are great. If you can make a blook of your blog, that's great too. Just don't expect it to be a magic ticket.

3 comments:

Debbie Ridpath Ohi said...

You're absolutely right in that authors shouldn't expect their blogs to be a magic ticket to insta-publicity. However, I do find that having a well-established blog has brought me both writing and illustration assignments. "Well-established" is the key, of course, and involves both time and effort.

Just discovered your blog through Sal Towse's blog, by the way. :-) Looking forward to reading it!

Frank Baron said...

Shucks.

You mean I have to write killer stuff and send it to publishers? They won't come to me and plead for my services?

Well, shucks.

Dawno said...

I am familiar with the story of two blooks by the same author. The first was self published and the second was published by O'Reilly. The author was Wil Wheaton. He had some celebrity going for him, pretty agressive personal marketing at cons, readings and signings, a popular blog with loyal followers (and even a forum at one time with a large number of members) and even with that going for him, the O'Reilly book didn't sell all that well.

If Wil couldn't do it I can't imagine the average blogger would be able to do any better and probably a lot worse.