There are few things creepier than a 48-year-old man trolling the web trying to make friends with teenagers. But it's my job.
Upon selling my book, I was told, and then told again, that I needed to establish "an online presence" if the book was to have any chance of achieving nonfailure. And then I got a few dozen emails about it. Book publishers have embraced cybermarketing based on the belief that it is the best way to reach young readers, and also that it is largely free.
So starting in the fall, I made my first baby steps on to the internet, which I had previously viewed as little more than an information and porn superhighway. I've had a personal website for a number of years, but there was nothing there except a Hubble photo of the cosmos that I occasionally used to send people large files.
www.larrydoyle.com, circa 2006
I made some improvements on that, and also created a site specifically for the book. But what I really needed to do, I was told, was get a MySpace page.
I was afraid of MySpace. I had become convinced that should I even visit the site, within moments the FBI would crash through the ceiling with evidence I had ogled underage blurbs. But I did what I was told. I set up an account and put up some information about the book.
Not good enough. I needed to make my page more "personal" so that people would know it was operated by me and not some HarperCollins cybot. So I did that.
Now, I was told, I needed to "make friends."
This involves poking around and finding people who share similar interests and begging them to be your friend. I was leery of this, being old and creepy, and also selling something. I had heard that MySpace had recently suffered cool depletion due to "commercialization" and here I was running around the place with a commercial. Anyway, I got over that.
I soon discovered why MySpace has become so commercial. It is ideally suited for it. One can search across millions of profiles using multiple terms to find folks who "share similar interests" (or as they are called in marketing, the target demo.) So I started furiously befriending Simpsons fans, Beavis and Butthead fans, fans of my cover artist Evan Dorkin, fans of my blurbers Tom Perotta, Kurt Andersen, David Schickler and Dave Barry. There were far too many Simpsons fans (53,600,000, though some of those are repeats and a startling number are Jessica Simpson fans) and so I would cross-reference with people who were Simpsons fans and enjoyed reading (3,570,000), for example, or who also worked in bookstores (345). I learned a few interesting things:
- Of 35,700 Beavis and Butthead fans, 24 are booksellers.
- A phrase you see an awful lot is "anything by Dave Barry."
- There are a huge number of MySpace users who are between 96 and 101 years old. And almost none over 30.
The most interesting thing I learned, however, was that a lot these people are interesting. And funny. And, inexplicably, I now actually consider many of them friends.
Gotta go. I think that's the FBI.
PARTY PIX: We had a party for the book last night at Housing Works in New York. Ron Hogan of GalleyCat was there, and took some pictures of some old guy I don't recognize and a couple of real life Beth Coopers.