The new arms race: author website upgrades by Matt Rees

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I have a new book coming out in the UK next spring. So it’s time to start looking around to see what new web gadgets and gismos authors are expected to shell out for from their meager advances to keep their “web profile” current.

It’s a new arms race. Just as the Soviets bankrupted their (morally bankrupt) regime trying to keep up with US developments in mass destruction, writers have to divert their attention from the writing of books and trawl the (morally questionable) web, wondering if people will think they’re bad writers just because they didn’t hire the most expensive web designer.

Many top writers still have websites whose homepages are essentially just tacky ads for their latest book. Those are sites you’ll never return to. You go there, read the author bio, and maybe click on “BUY THE BOOK!!!” Ha, as if.

So web designers are trying to figure out ways to get you to come back to a site which, by definition, ought only to be worth visiting every year or so, when the author actually publishes a new book.

Hence, you may download the Haruki Murakami screensaver, or Bret Easton Ellis “wallpaper,” or play a Huckleberry Finn “vocabulary game” to entice you to visit the site of Jon Clinch, author of “Finn.”

And here I thought writing my own blog and this blog and maintaining a Facebook page and tweeting and updating my profiles on CrimeSpace and Goodreads and Red Room was enough to keep me busy. It turns out I had a big stockpile of ICBMs, when everyone else was moving on to chemical smart-bombs.

Though, come to think of it, I had all these new-fangled sites beat two years ago when I proposed my Palestinian detective Omar Yussef for Palestinian president. It’s the kind of “Extra” feature Bret Easton Ellis would kill for (or, to judge by his latest “Imperial Bedrooms,” perhaps he’d just sexually torture someone to within an inch of their life). I just needed to put a button on the site asking readers to “Vote for Omar for President of Palestine.”

Of course, Omar hasn’t been elected to head the Palestinian state. But that’s only because there isn’t a Palestinian state. If there were, Palestinians would elect Omar immediately. Just by clicking on my website.

So I’ll be spending the winter preparing some new videos about my new book “Mozart’s Last Aria.” Writing up some “Extra” features for the site about how I came to write the book, why I did it that way, why I didn’t write a slasher novel set in a zombie future. Perhaps there’ll be an “Extra” opportunity for you to Skype me and ask me to play your favorite Mozart piece on the piano while you watch.

Or perhaps there won’t.

Someone has to stop the madness sometime. Don’t they?

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