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April 22, 2007

Victoria Strauss -- Plogs, RIP

Via GalleyCat: Amazon has nixed its experiment with Plogs, which was unveiled with great fanfare a bit over a year ago. (If you don't want to click the link and are unclear on the definition of "Plog,", it was an Amazon feature that allowed authors to post blog-style entries that appeared on their books' detail pages and to Amazon customers who bought that author's books, via the personalization feature that tracks your book purchases and provides recommendations. Publicity + blog = Plog.)

According to Amazon's announcement of the change, Plogs will be replaced by a feature called Amazon Daily, which includes not just authors' blogs, but Amazon editors blogging on a variety of subjects. Unlike the Plog feature, it's available to all Amazon visitors (not just those who've bought books), is fully customizable (you, rather than Amazon, pick the topics you see), and isn't force-fed to you (instead of content popping up automatically on your entry screen, you have to go to a specific section of the site).

This is all good. I found it quite irritating to be smacked in the face by Plogs whenever I visited Amazon. When I do visit Amazon, I either want to buy a book, or am doing research for Writer Beware or one of my reviews--I'm not there to peruse authors' blog entries. If I am in a mood for blog reading, I'd rather just visit a blog--and probably wouldn't miss anything by doing so, since so many authors seem simply to have recycled other sources for their Plog entries. I'm pretty sure I wasn't alone in my annoyance with Plogs--it's one reason why, though I did sign up for the program, I never participated.

With the constant pressure on authors to self-promote, Plogging was seen by some as the Next Great Publicity Hope--just as MySpace and similar social networking sites are now--and I know many writers who scrambled to participate, sometimes at the urging of their agents or editors. I've yet to encounter anyone who feels that their Plog provided a significant publicity boost--though many think that it was part of what has to be a piecemeal approach: you do everything you can in the assumption that each new publicity avenue gives you the chance to put yourself in front of people you wouldn't reach otherwise.

There's no true way to know if this stuff works--because these days, who's going to volunteer to be the test case, the writer who eschews the self-promotion rat race, the writer who doesn't cultivate a public persona, the writer who simply writes? (God, that sounds attractive.) In the harsh world of self-promotion, we're all snatching at straws, reading runes, casting spells, and chasing our own tails, hoping that each new opportunity--websites! Blogs! Plogs! MySpace! Podcasting!--will be the one that will absolutely, indisputably, undeniably work. We're all Ponce de León, tramping alien territory in search of the Fountain of Sales--and those who enjoy the process are just as lost as those who despise it (though no doubt they would say otherwise).

At least now I don't feel quite so guilty about yielding to my desire not to Plog. MySpace, on the other hand...sigh.


Floyd M. Orr said...

I gave up promoting my own books. Now I just write reviews and advice columns for other authors.

Anonymous said...

Siince My Space is mostly inhabited by teens, writers who write YA (and some adult) seem to get the most bang for their effort out of it.

Those of us who write for elementary and preschool, can't see it doing us any good, and will concentrate on other avenues.

librarian, writer

Yasmine Galenorn said...

Actually, demographics on MySpace are shifting and it's a great way to keep in touch with readers (I've got three times as many signed up to hear news from me there as I do on my email newsletter), but it *is* a freaky-ass place.

Plogs can RIP...tried it, hated doing it, wished it would disappear but couldn't clear it out.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Victoria. I keep up with a blog on my website, but my Plog on Amazon was growing staler by the day, which I think is worse than having no Plog at all. Maybe five years from now, we'll have Internet promotion figured out. Right now we're simply trying to find our way without a map.

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