I’ve decided to reinvent The Millions. The blog world is crowded. I cannot possibly add to or improve upon the innumerable blogs out there that are about music or politics. So many of the things that I have a casual interest in are covered so obsessively in the blog world that it is hard to find something to write about in any sort of compelling way. Nor do I have much interest in cataloging my daily life. I know from experience that my life is capable of producing, tops, a paragraph or two of mildly amusing reading every few weeks, which does not a blog make. Plus, I would like to try to lure some people into reading what I write, and writing about what I ate for lunch today will likely not do the trick. As for the two of you (you know who you are) who read this blog regularly, I hope you will not be disappointed by my change away from that format. And finally, after some thinking, I have figured out what these changes will be. The Millions will be about books. For a book lover without a whole lot of free time (not to mention money) it can be very hard to consistantly find new and interesting books. To do so, in my experience, requires reading dozens of book reviews weekly and trolling book stores looking for the new and interesting (or the old and interesting). The internet improves this process slightly, mainly by cutting out some of the time required, but it offers little help in locating a book that you might like to take a look at. I have yet to find anyone that has had much luck with Amazon’s recommendations. I recently realized, though, that I am singularly qualified to write a blog about books. I work in a great little book store and therefore, in pursuit of my paycheck, I see with my own eyes the hundreds of books that come out weekly and I read reviews in dozens of newspapers and magazines. Finally, I have always loved books and I have always loved telling people about books, and now I have myself a little blog that can serve both of these loves. I hope to update several times a week, if not daily, and hopefully this thing will be chock full of interesting books at all times. So there it is… it feels good to get started on this thing, and if anyone has any comments, questions or suggestions let me know.
Amen. Dan Wickett writes an open letter to all the pushy publicists out there and all I want to know is where do I sign. Dan is writing about “the litblogging version of the Cold Call. An email from somebody I’ve never heard of, asking if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing their work, possibly interviewing them, linking to their website, etc.” It goes on, with justifiable frustration, from there.Like Dan, I’m extremely grateful to the publicists, publishers and authors who regularly read this blog and who, based on their knowledge of what sort of books I like to write about, will let me know about titles that might interest me. But I think the problem is that somebody has convinced publicists, authors, and other publishing-industry types that getting talked about on blogs is a key ingredient in the secret elixir of publishing success. Sure books now hit number one on Amazon thanks to the Internet presence of their authors, and bloggers individually or in groups have raised the profile of certain titles, but no bestsellers have been made by cold calling. No way. Bloggers care about the books they write about, so the publicists have to do a better job of making bloggers care. So with the knowledge I’ve gained from being the recipient of countless pitches – too many of them cold calls – here are my thoughts on how to promote a project to bloggers. Hopefully, the following tips will be useful to anyone, not just book industry types, trying to pitch something to a blogger.My tips for pitching to bloggers: Most importantly, read blogs. Why spend the time and effort pitching a project to bloggers if you don’t read blogs in the first place. If you don’t get blogs and how they work, how can you expect to use them to promote your project?As Dan suggests, stop pitching projects that aren’t appropriate to the content of the blog. It’s rude and borderline spammy.Do not pitch any blog that you haven’t been reading for at least a month. Bloggers are used to corresponding with their regular readers both on and off the blog, and, frankly, it’s very unlikely that I’ll mention your project if you just appear, out of the blue, in my inbox.Do not mass email. First of all, I don’t care what kind of fancy email program you use, it’s pretty obvious when I get a mass email. If you don’t care enough to write me a personal email, then why should I care enough to support your project?Finally, don’t oversell. If you are trying to let me know about something that you think I’ll be genuinely interested in, then your email and a link ought to be enough. If I say sure send the book (or whatever), then send it along, but don’t try to buy me off with swag, let your project stand on its own.I’d love to hear any other ideas people might have in the comments.See also: MJ Rose’s post “Don’t Do This” from today. Maud has encountered this as well. And Ed, too. Scott devotes a Friday Column to publicists.Update May 24, 2006: Mark has written a thoughtful counterpoint to the outpouring here and at other litblogs, which makes me think that the use of the term “publicist” was perhaps cavalier here and elsewhere. Please see my comment on his post as well as my more recent post-BEA post on the topic.