MySpace: Where Authors Meet Fans
Over the weekend, the NYTimes had a reflective piece by author Pagan Kennedy about using MySpace to discover her fans. She talks about the usual isolation of writers from their readers and compares them to musicians:
Usually, writers don’t interact much with their readers. Even at bookstore appearances, we may not run into the hard-core fans, who often are suspicious of group activities and would rather just meet on the page. When we write, we’re alone. We stare at the computer screen, picturing our imaginary audience as we type. Mine look like this: a horde of faceless yet well-educated drones sitting in rows of acrylic chairs in an all-white lecture room that resembles one of the sets in the old TV show “Space: 1999.”
In this way, we’re the opposite of musicians, who know their audiences intimately. A drummer in an indie band might gig five nights a week. Afterward, whether he’s in Cleveland or Culpeper, he sticks around in the bar with local friends, then crashes on a sofa supplied by a fan. For bands, social networking started long before the Internet.
Then she goes into ways in which authors and fans are interacting online – playing games, reading each others’ blogs, offering advice and support. And mostly, discovering that their readers are real people:
As for me, I’m still grappling with the revelation that my readers are carrying on lives in places like Brooklyn, Oakland and Portland. Somehow I had imagined that they slept in beehive-like pods in a space station just past the moon; they awakened only when I needed them to file into the antiseptic room to hear my story. These readers, however, turn out to be just the opposite of the drones of my imagination. They sell broccoli-themed greeting cards; they carve their own rubber stamps; they are pioneering new methods of fortune-telling that involve Smarties candies. And more than a few of them have ventures of their own to promote. In fact, if you want to buy Shakespeare-themed thong underwear, I know a guy who can hook you up.
It’s hard for me to imagine that MySpace is really the best space for authors and readers to find one another, but maybe it is just on account of sheer numbers. But here we are again with the fact that the net is transforming artist/fan relationships in ways that offer new rewards for artists. It’s ironic that the internet is so often accused of depersonalizing interaction and lessening the sense of presence amongst interactants. In cases like this, there’s nothing that enhances the sense of presence as much as the internet.
And how interesting to think of rock bands as the new model for all artist-fan relationships.