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March 1, 2006

Victoria Strauss -- Plog, plog, plog, plog, plog...

Is there anyone out there who doesn't know what a plog is? (With all the permutations of "blog" I wouldn't be surprised. Blog, blawg, flog, vlog, splog, plog--I'm sure I'm forgetting a few.)

At any rate, "plog" is a trademark of, and refers to "a personalized web log that appears on your customer home page." Through a new program called AmazonConnect, authors can now post blog-style entries that will appear on their books' detail pages, and also in the plogs of Amazon customers who've bought that author's books (at least, that's how I understand it. Amazon's explanation of the process is incredibly confusing). To make a long explanation short, it's yet another avenue for authorial self-promotion, and agents and publishers are urging their authors to jump on board.

A lot of authors feel ambivalent. Some have blogs already and aren't thrilled about having to maintain another. Some feel the plogs are too overtly commercial. Some are just tired of the pressure to self-promote. Readers seem to be ambivalent too. Many don't really want to read authors' blogs--especially if they're obviously self-promotional--or if they do, would rather seek them out on their own than have blog entries force-fed to them via their Amazon customer page.

There's been a good deal of talk about plogs; some representative opinions (including mine) appear in this article by Lauren Roberts at BiblioBuffet, and in the lively Comments section of this post at Miss Snark's blog. From this and other discussions, I gather that many authors, who aren't enthusiastic about plogging but feel compelled to participate, are using the plogs mainly as a way to direct readers to their own websites and blogs, or to occasionally announce news and appearances. Others intend to deal with the problem of new content by posting book excerpts and press releases, or by recycling previously-written material.

Evidently this has come to Amazon's attention, and they aren't happy about it. Last week I received an email from the staff at AmazonConnect.

We would like to take the opportunity now to give you some constructive feedback on posting practices that we feel do not contribute to a good customer experience.
  • Re-purposing or serializing material from your books (keep in mind that many of the customers receiving your messages have already bought your books…)

  • Flat marketing/promotional messages

  • Posting reviews in place of writing posts

  • Using brightly colored or bold type to write your full post (can be hard to read)

  • Filling your post with multiple links to other sites
Busted! Apparently Amazon wants us to be Good Dobees and provide real content for the plogs.

I do plan to plog, though I'll limit my posts to announcements and information on my new books. The reader feedback on plogs, both at the links above and elsewhere, has been a real eye-opener for me, and I don't want to risk alienating readers by bombarding them with information they may not want. It's a good reminder of why dashing down a new avenue of publicity the instant it opens up isn't necessarily a good idea. Better, I think, to wait and watch and see what develops.

Oh, and one more thing for ploggers to consider: this disclaimer, from Amazon's Conditions of Use:

If you do post content or submit material, and unless we indicate otherwise, you grant and its affiliates a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, and display such content throughout the world in any media.


Anonymous said...

Yeek, that last paragraph's a scary one. o_O It also might drive people away from using said plogs, if they know that whatever's written in a plog can be used by Amazon in any way they wish. >_< Admittedly it's not quite "sign your life away" territory, but it's still worrying to see a clause like that when they don't alow the plogs to be used merely as a promotional tool. >_<

Stacia said...

I've been plogged!

Oh, I hate it. My Amazon homepage looks totally different and, since I regularly go on Amazon to look up books by authors I dislike (don't ask), I'm being plogged by...well...authors I dislike!

This is worse than buying my Mom medical textbooks for Christmas and being bombarded with recommendations for them for months afterwards.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Victoria, for calling attention to that clause! I've been pointing it out any time the plog conversation comes up . . . but I'm a nobody -- this is the first time I've seen anyone w/ a real blogosphere audience take the time to warn about it.

The fact that writers are republishing excerpts from their books suggests they aren't even paying attention to the T&C. Who owns the excerpts once you've published them on your plog??? What a mess!

Anonymous said...

As a datapoint, Ann's link to her website in her plog got 66 hits during the month of February. Not a whole lot, but something.

Sam said... is a bookstore - a glorified bookstore, to be sure. But why does it need plogs now? I already feel the strain of having two blogs, (one for each pen name) a writer's space, yahoo groups, and a live journal, to mention but a few. Time is precious. I like to limit it to a few blogs and yahoo groups and that's it. I think readers have other things to do in a bookstore than to read 'plogs', don't you?
That said, a couple of my friends have them and keep them up religiously, so what do I know?

none said...

It's probably that clause that's causing some writers only to put up links to content--that way, they can still own the content. If Amazon want original material, perhaps they should reconsider the rights grab.

Frank Baron said...

I'm a reluctant plogger too. It's led to only one more sale that I know of. I'll probably do more, but only every couple of months or so.

Anonymous said...

So, if you flog your plog on your blog, and you're drinking grog, and you get bogged . . .

Never mind.

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