Why Do Authors Still Approach Traditional Media Outlets?
Roger Sutton made waves this past week for writing “An open letter to the self-published author feeling dissed,” which begat “No, I don’t want to read your self-published books” by Ron Charles, itself a G-rated echo of Josh Olson’s “I will not read your fucking script.”
If you care about my thoughts on Sutton’s and Charles’ pieces, read “Dearest Writer: Nobody Owes You Shit” by Chuck Wendig, who said exactly what I would have if I had his writing chops and wasn’t too lazy to write something myself.
There’s one thing about Charles’ piece that I would like to discuss here. It’s a question Sutton asked after Charles contacted him:
“And if old media is so passe, why do they care so much about what we think?”
We talk all the time about traditional media, how they aren’t relevant and don’t push sales as in days of yore. Blah, blah, blah, and more blah… But . . . .
We still go to them.
Why? Follow-the-Leader (a.k.a. The Domino Effect), Following and Conversation.
Follow-the-Leader (a.k.a. The Domino Effect)
The traditional media outlets feed Ego, but they also can initiate the Domino Effect. One example: When Ann Scott Tyson’s book American Spartan (which shares the work of Jim Gant, whose work Steve shared in 2009) was released earlier this year, there was interest,but not as much as expected, and I was told some journalists didn’t like Ann’s story. Some press, but not a ton. Then, after a Nightline producer worked for what felt like years digging into the story, a piece from Nightline appeared. After that? Domino effect. Outlets from around the world asked for interviews with Ann and/or Jim—or in the rush to not be left behind, wrote their own stories without interviewing them (instead pulling information from other blogs and sites which also relied on outside, unconfirmed information instead of interviews, thus leading to the spread of misinformation). This included outlets and journalists contacted upon the release of the book, who didn’t write/report on anything to do with it until it felt like everyone else was . . . At that point, their actions indicated that they couldn’t be left out. Someone else started the Domino Effect and they followed.
So, the justified thinking is, if I can just get that one major media outlet, everyone else will follow. It happens all the time. More followers than leaders, but . . . If you connect with that one leader . . . Jackpot.
Those in it for the follow-the-leader category don’t often have a following of their own—or, they have a following but lack the direct connect. For example, they could be a well-known author who has always relied on his publisher for press and doesn’t have his own site or e-mail list. As with the just-starting out author, he doesn’t have the vehicle to just post or e-mail an article or announcement in order to reach his audience. Instead, he has to rely on the middle men.
This is just because it feels good to talk to someone smart.
I saw the image to the right on a friend’s Facebook page via Grammarly this week. I’m not saying authors or media outlets are sexually attracted to each other, but there is an intellectual attraction in some cases. It’s refreshing to speak with someone who takes the conversation to a level that teaches us something about ourselves, during which we learn in addition to share. It’s why Steve has visited Hugh Hewitt in-studio a number of times (yesterday being the most recent visit, with Giora Romm, author of Solitary). Hugh takes the time to read the book (you’d be surprised how often this step is skipped) and goes beyond the book. He understands the topic at a deeper level and wants to discuss it at that level. There are a few other outlets/individuals that do the same. Charlie Rose comes to mind. (And this holds true for print, too. Conversation isn’t sitting solo in video or radio worlds.)
If Old Media Is So Passe . . .
So do we need the traditional media outlets? No.
Should we continue going to them? For the conversation, yes. There’s value in it because the author and host benefit from sharing such a conversation—and that conversation will frame a book or other work/topic for listeners/readers in a way that a review or blurb or article won’t.
But the rest? If you build your following, follow-the-leader becomes less and less necessary. It’s like weaning a baby from the bottle. The bottle is good in the beginning, but at some point you’ve got to get off it and going it alone. It offers a set amount of nourishment for a certain amount of time. If you stay with it as a long-term strategy, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.
Bottom line: Get thee a following and a good conversation.