Volume I, Issue 4 -- November, 2000
Looking for Geoff Dyer on the Internet
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Introduction:The Internet seems an ideal place to publicize literary works, and to obtain information about them. Official author-web pages, complementing publishers' efforts, are not uncommon, and unofficial pages continue to proliferate. Book excerpts or even complete works are available, both for free and at a price. Many other sites -- such as the complete review -- also offer additional information, reviews, and interviews. Information about a vast number of authors and works can be found. It is a marketing dream, one would imagine, capable of delivering information to a huge audience. However, the question of how effective these pages and sites are remains unclear. Indications are that, while stephenking.com might be a useful marketing tool and the Internet may have been a boon to authors of certain genre-fiction, serious authors of literary fiction do not fare quite as well.
British author Geoff Dyer is a case in point. A young, talented author, his books are widely reviewed and generally acclaimed (though Out of Sheer Rage was named one of Salon's Worst Books of 1998). He writes both fiction and non-fiction, and frequently publishes in newspapers, magazines, and now on the Internet (at both FEED and Contentville). He is not a household name and perhaps unlikely to hit the bestseller lists anytime soon, but he has a solid reputation and his work seems to sell well enough in both Great Britain and the United States (at least well enough for him to continue to be published).
Dyer publishes some of his work on the Internet (see articles in the L.A.Weekly or FEED, for example), and some information about him is available as well. Overall, however, he and his work are not particularly well-represented on the Internet. More significantly, what information there is does not seem to attract much interest.
Possibly the lack of interest is because there is too little information about the author available on the Internet, or it is too difficult to find, but as the analysis in this piece will show this does not appear to be the case.
This general disinterest raises worrisome questions: Does no one with Internet access care about quality literature ? Is the Internet a forum that will only further crowd out talented authors ? Or is the public simply and solely not interested in poor Mr. Dyer and his work ?
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1. Geoff Dyer at the complete reviewThe complete review is a review forum, but beyond merely providing reviews of selected titles it offers more detailed information about the books under review and their authors, as well as links to additional information. Where possible more than one title by an author is reviewed, and for a number of authors there are Author Pages, providing a broader overview of a writer and his or her oeuvre. Though only a limited number of books are under review (482 as of October 15, 2000) the complete review has established itself as a popular and useful information site.
The complete review provides information, and the Internet appears to be an ideal place to freely disseminate this information. One goal of the complete review is to offer information about "good books", and so there is an editorial focus on quality rather than popularity. It is to be expected that a number of books under review will not attract huge audiences. Similarly, many of the literary titles might consistently be edged out of the complete review's bestseller list by more popular general-audience titles. It is, however, often surprising which books (and authors) fail to attract attention. One such case is that of Geoff Dyer.
Geoff Dyer has received fairly extensive coverage at the complete review: six of his books are under review (see links) and there is a brief Geoff Dyer page on the site (first posted January, 2000). In fact, the complete review offers the most extensive information about Geoff Dyer that is freely accessible on the Internet. What is remarkable -- and disheartening -- is that no one seems to care.
Despite having six books under review, and offering a Geoff Dyer page, interest in all Dyer-pages remains low. Dyer's author page, while not among the least popular at the complete review, is never among the top ten author pages available, and receives only a fraction of the views as the most popular ones (in the summer of 2000 these were Zbigniew Herbert, Patrick White, Iain Sinclair, and Amélie Nothomb). With only 104 views in August, 2000 (consistent with previous totals), the Geoff Dyer page had the same number views in an entire month as the current record number of views for a single review in one day at the complete review (Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash registered 104 views in one day). Page views at the Geoff Dyer page increased to 128 for September, 2000 -- but what seems to be an impressive increase is, in fact, again a disappointing one when compared to the overall increase in page views of all author pages over the same period (over 36 percent).
Individual titles fare, relatively speaking, even worse, ranking fairly low among the now 450+ titles under review at the complete review (see the section on Interest in Dyer's Books). Relative positions are, of course, determined by the competition, and the most popular titles at the complete review tend to fall into categories from which Dyer's books are absent -- bestsellers, plays, books receiving a great deal of media coverage, quirky titles. However, Dyer's books also do fairly poorly in absolute terms (i.e. in the number of page views). (A variety of possible reasons for this situation are explored in this piece, including the possibility that the pages are inaccessible or hard to find.)
Certainly some literary subjects easily attract a large audience, even on the Internet. The most accessed article at the complete review Quarterly has been Harry who ? (explaining why the latest Harry Potter book is not under review at the complete review): one day (!) page view totals have exceeded 250 for this article, despite the fact that the article first appeared in August, 2000, almost a month after the actual publication of the book (and thus presumably after the height of most of the Harry Potter frenzy). Information about Harry Potter is apparently always a draw, regardless of what that information is and when it is provided. Information about Geoff Dyer attracts nowhere near as much interest.
Ideally, the Internet is a democratizing forum, making all information equally easy to obtain. The marketing advantages that big-name authors have should, theoretically, be minimized by the amount of information available about all authors and all books. In fact, however, (relatively) few people seem to be taking advantage of the opportunity the Internet affords to "discover" new authors and information about titles that do lie somewhat out of the mainstream. At least some of Dyer's books can be found in most book-superstores (as well as in independent book stores), both in Great Britain and the US, and he receives a reasonable amount of press coverage, both in terms of reviews of his work and in publishing his own work in the media.
There is less information about Dyer on the Internet than about big-name authors, but the complete review (among other sites) does provide a fair amount of information -- and it's Dyer pages are relatively accessible and easy to find. Anyone interested in Dyer should stumble across them. Given the low numbers of people who do, it seems that people are not actively seeking out information about Dyer.
Additional efforts at the complete review to drive users to discover Dyer's books have so far also proved unsuccessful. Featuring him on an author page should help attract notice (there are only seventeen such featured authors at the complete review as of October, 2000). Several of Dyer's books have been featured on the monthly Editors' Choice list, and one (But Beautiful) is on the oft-consulted list of Top Rated books, but this seems to have done little to increase interest in his work. (But Beautiful is generally the most-viewed Dyer review, so there might be some correlation there.)
Despite numerous pages at the complete review devoted to Geoff Dyer and his work these have failed to find a large audience, even when compared to other review and author pages at the complete review (see the section on Interest in Dyer's Books). Possibly this is because the pages at the complete review are not the ones that Internet-users seek out when looking for information on Geoff Dyer; however, as the next section shows, this seems unlikely.
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