are you experienced? technology changes idea of author-brand
Having lots of stuff doesn’t make you happy. Which is why there seems to be this growing movement afoot to get rid of as much stuff as possible. It’s like they say (although I’m kind of paraphrasing here): declutter your mind – and your ass will follow.
I think this taps into an ongoing sea-change in the culture: an emphasis on the collection of experiences over physical objects. One of the driving motivations of human beings isn’t the desire to own more stuff so much as the desire to feel more alive, and for past generations we’ve tried to feel more alive through the experience of owning lots of cool shit.
Technology (among other things) has rattled this paradigm. Have laptop, can travel. This gives us a level of mobility and freedom – provided we find a way to take advantage – that was previously unimaginable. In this kind of scenario, stuff no longer defines us. Stuff weighs us down.
Technology has transformed the way we think about music and books: two of the things that used to accumulate, for many of us, into massive physical collections. It’s not that we defined a record album or a novel as an object instead of an experience; there just wasn’t any cause to make those kinds of distinctions in the first place. The object was the experience. The experience came inside the object.
Music stopped being an object a while ago. And now we’re seeing a similar transformation with our reading material. A book no longer has to be in traditional book form in order to be experienced. The forms, in fact, will vary; the experience of the book, be it on your iPhone or iPad or Kindle or in print, will be what defines it.
An author-brand used to be a kind of object: an unchanging set of assumptions and expectations about the kind of book that the author produced, defined not just through the writing itself but the artful packaging of the books and where those books were placed in the bookstore (“fantasy” or “science-fiction” or “romance” or whatever).
What happens when we don’t buy books based on the covers anymore? When we don’t even go to the bookstores but buy them quite literally out of thin air?
As an author, you are defined through the ongoing experience that you provide for the reader. That is how you will catch new readers and maintain old ones. This experience has been severed from the physical forms of books and now exists as a kind of energy that moves between you and your readers via cyberspace, which will eventually become so integrated with daily life that it will no longer be referred to as ‘cyberspace’, or a separate kind of space at all. Your author-brand becomes a living thing that streams out to your readership who then reflects it back to you who then streams it back to them and so on and so forth.
What kind of experience will you provide for your readers?
How will they experience not just your novels, but you? How will they experience you in order to find your novels in the first place?