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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Platforms...and I ain't talking shoes

The evolution of technology over the last decade has changed every aspect of our lives. I grew up in the 70's and 80's. When Mom wanted us home, she yelled (or hollered--I grew up in Alabama). If we were too far away, we knew it was time when the street lights came on. In high school, we passed notes in class or whispered in the hallways. When "the cute guy" finally called, you stretched the phone cord as far away from the kitchen wall unit as you could to get privacy. I remember shutting myself in the pantry or the laundry room. If you were lucky, you actually had your own phone in your room. Wow.
In college, we relied upon bumping into one another on campus or getting a message through friends. Back then, we read newspaper book reviews or asked for a suggestion from a friend to pick our next great read. Technology has changed this for the good, I believe. I can text my daughter and know where she is in seconds. I can Facebook old friends and see pictures of their children and read updates on their lives en masse. I can snap a picture of my gaped-tooth son right after he's lost his first tooth and text it to his grandparents to share in the milestone. These are all good things.
But the changes go beyond our personal lives. They've permeated our professional lives, too. My son's teacher emails me the assignments he's missed because he was sick. My husband can view invoices online and read forums from other professionals in his field to get the pulse of his industry. His cell phone makes him accessible 24/7. Lawyers e-file documents now instead of racing to the courthouse to file them on time, and doctors read x-rays and test results from the comfort of their homes.
Publishing has not escaped this two-sided coin. The e-book has both revolutionized and terrorized the industry. Rumors swirl of brick and mortar stores becoming obsolete as people carry around their Kindles, Nooks, and iPads. But e-publishing also greatly reduces cost, allowing houses to take chances on books that they simply, and literally, wouldn't put paper behind.
One of the biggest changes, I believe, is the way authors use social networking. One of my favorite authors tweets her book-signing locations or links to reviews of her latest novel. Her webpage sports photographs of her book jackets, which link directly to several on-line bookstores where you can purchase her book with one touch. Authors, agents, editors...most of them tweet, blog, and have websites. It isn't enough anymore to simply be a good writer. You have to know how to sell yourself, and social networking is the medium. I began this blog as an online journal but now realize that it, like my Facebook page and the website that I'm furiously working on, is essential. And not just to sell a book, but to even have an agent consider representing you. You must have a platform. It makes good business sense, of course. But it requires people like me--who just want to write and write and write--to become experts in marketing and branding themselves. Who knew when I typed that first word?

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