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Promoting Your Book, Web Style

In the early days of the Web (way, way back in the mid-nineties... you won't remember that far back, sonny. But ask your grandad.) I often heard the Web compared to the fledgling radio stations of the twenties, and the first TV stations in the fifties. The point was that in the first stages of a brand new popular medium, it's anybody's game. Armed with enough verve, energy and vision, a team of talented entrepreneurs could conceivably create the first ABC, CNN or ESPN of the Web -- the station that everyone turns to, a household name for sports, information, music, whatever. It's the American Dream in cyberspace, and in the pioneer days it's all about being first and being best.

To a certain extent those pioneer days have already faded. The big stations on the Web are now well established, entrenched with big budgets and slick advertising campaigns -- Yahoo, Alta Vista, Hot Wired, even Happy Puppy. When you want news about your hobby, your favorite team, or just news headlines, you've already settled into your routine. For a new team of under-financed whizkids to come along and displace your favorite fly-fishing site, now it takes more than creative energy and vision. It takes money. Which makes it the province of business, not dreamers.


There are still plenty of areas where a single dreamer, alone or with a talented team, can cook up a world class website. And there always will be. And the one region where the dreamer will always find prime real estate on the Web is the field of self-promotion. Artists, musicians and dreamers of all kinds have discovered that the Web offers them a direct communication channel to their fans that no other media ever could. Writers especially are finding that they don't have to accept the meager advertising budgets behind their latest books. With a little vision, a little hard work and the help of cousin Earl, who really knows HTML and all that weird server stuff, you can launch a site superior in many ways to what your publisher can put together. A place to meet with your fans, put an excerpt or two up, and even leak news of the sequel.

Fine. But how do you get started? And what should the site look like? How big does it have to be, and updated how often? When in doubt, fall back on that fail-safe strategy: check out the competition. The Web is full of writers who have plunged in and created terrific promotional sites out of whole cloth, guided only by a desire to reach their fans.

In this issue we talk to a writer who has done just that. Ann Benson, author of The Plague Tales, a dazzling debut novel of pestilence and heroism in the 14th and 21st Centuries, struck out on her own with www.plaguetales.com, a website crafted without a big budget or the help of her publisher. You can share her thoughts on the ups and downs of self-promotion on the Web, and the genesis of her book, in our feature length interview, A Conversation with Ann Benson.

Looking elsewhere you'll find the most packed issue in the history of the SF Site, with nearly two dozen new articles, reviews, and columns. All this in addition to our regularly updated media coverage on games, authors, and new releases. Be sure to check out our in-depth July New Releases section. We also have feature reviews of The Plague Tales, Allan Cole 's latest rollicking new fantasy novel Wizard of the Winds, and the new book by Paula Volsky, The White Tribunal, the tale of a young nobleman who makes a pact with a demon to avenge his family.

Thanks for listening. As always, let us know what's on your mind.

John O'Neill
Managing Editor

Suite 101 Top 5 Sites

Suite 101 Top 5 Logo There are a lot of "best site" awards out there, and frankly we don't put much stock in them. Most of them are pretty arbitrary, and in our experience we've found it's our readers we have to listen to, not a panel of self-elected judges attempting to pass ruling on our design choices.

Nonetheless we find ourselves extremely pleased to win a Suite 101 Top 5 Site award in the category of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The difference is that Suite 101 is not a closed panel of judges but a dynamic group of 135 contributing editors and web designers who know what it's like to create and maintain content on a regular basis. They give their Top Five award for overall excellence in each of their select categories. Suite 101 is a group and a site we have always respected, and it gives me great pride to showcase their award this issue. Check out their website for a complete list of the winners, and take a closer look at Suite 101 while you're there.


Audio Tape Last issue we featured cover reviews of two of Audio publisher Infinivox's newest releases, unabridged readings of modern classic short stories, including Ian Watson's "Slow Birds" and Geoffrey A. Landis's A Walk in the Sun." They continue to publish top-notch work from some of the best writers in the field, and have just announced two new titles, "Rammer" by Larry Niven and "Kirinyaga" by Mike Resnick. If you've ever found yourself on a long car journey, and you've never had the stomach for an abridged version, these may well be just what you're looking for.

Ansible Ansible

There's no shortage of fanzines on the Web, covering every aspect of the SF and Fantasy genre. But very few of them have attained the longevity and level of professionalism of British fan David Langford's Ansible. Originally created as a paper fanzine in 1979, Langford has bought a version of his biting and insightful creation to the Web. Funny, critical, and a dictionary-perfect picture of irreverent, Langford's style will get make you laugh and get you riled up all in the same paragraph.

One warning though -- the in-jokes and self-referential humor of Ansible can be pretty thick. Expect to find much of it incomprehensible for awhile. But there's more than enough to keep you coming back.

Next issue

The SF Site continues to publish on a bi-weekly basis, with new issues posted on the first and fifteenth of every month. In our September issue we'll have an in-depth look at FASA's rich and wildly popular Battletech universe, continue the Philip K. Dick Reading List and of course our regular book coverage -- including the twelfth volume of Chaosium's Cthulhu anthology series, The Nyarlathotep Cycle, and The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons. Be sure to join us on Sept. 1. We'll be here.

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