Author Privacy in the Digital World

by thiszine

I treasure my privacy. For an aspiring writer, however, treasured privacy might be a suicide wish for publication in today’s hyper-tech world where everyone is expected to “put themselves out there.” As Nathan Bransford points out, publishers want authors who are “Facebooking, Tweeting, blogging, and everything they can do to get out there.” New media is an obvious part of modern publicity and promotion, not only of one’s work, but of one’s self. To take it a step further, I think publishers want authors who can utilize new media in highly effective ways because new media is where the new audience is. Young people (the under 30s) are connected with technology in intimate ways and any author who can exploit that connection through regular blog posts, twitter updates, and a basic ability to put oneself out there continuously will naturally have a better chance to connect with those young people who will be the book purchasers of the future.

Would J.D. Salinger have survived the pummel of promotion today to become a beloved and enduring author, given his reclusive stance? If Thomas Pynchon had been twittering his life this whole time, what effects would that have on the reading public’s perception and acceptance of his work? (Imagine Pynchon tweets: #notanauthor Took baby to park, hung with other parents. Decided to include defecation sex scene for in-progress novel, Gravity’s Rainbow)

Then again, writers aren’t like pop music stars or actors. Their public image is still a private one, based on their writing that, in all likelihood, has less readers and fans than even a mid-grade actor like, say, Steve Bushemi. In her promotions for the film The Incredibles, writer and NPR commentator Sarah Vowell was asked about her experience on the red carpet. She said it was horrifying, with paparazzi chirping her name left and right while snapping pictures with enormous flashbulbs. “We don’t have paparazzi in public radio,” she said. Author privacy, though a little less private in today’s world, certainly still exists.

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