What a great blog Norm. I echo everything you wrote and hope you will indulge me in adding some of my own comments.
Marketing, or promoting a book, is sometimes a larger part of an author's experience than actually writing the book that he/she is promoting. Ironic, isn't it! Especially since an author, particularly of fiction, must write more and more books to reamain viable in today's publishing world. Sometimes, they have to write more than one a year. The big-name publishing houses are now often owned by big business and books have become a product - a commodity - and the big business wants to make money on their products. Who can blame them. Authors are also judged on how well their last book sold and if those numbers aren't 'good' then they are not likely to be asked for more of their product since the last one didn't fare so well. So you see the catch-22 the author is in. The last book written must sell well enough for the next one to be even considered. Imagine all the time and effort and author spends writing and promoting, often at the same time.
These days authors are often asked for their platform, even by agents, before the full manuscript is even read. Marketing departments will want to know how to promote or sell the book to their clients which are typically the larger conglomorate bookstores. Often the sales person for the publisher gets a minute or less per book to grab the attention of the buyer at the bookstore. So that saying, don't judge a book by it's cover - well, that happens more than any writer cares to admit. Yet writers rarely get input on the cover of any of their books let alone the titles.
Promotion isn't excactly a foreign concept to those in the arts. There's an old saying that all publicity is good publicity or "-that there ain't no such thing as bad publicity," although I think politicians, especially today, would disagree with this sentiment. But consider Britney Spears and all the bad publicity she's received; it seems to have worked in terms of selling her recent song. I grew up in Los Angeles, Venice to be exact, and I like to tell people that I went to the high school where the movie Grease was filmed, although years after I graduated. Those of us who grew up near 'Hollywood' are all too familiar with the many young people that came to the area looking to be discovered like the fabled story of Lana Turner sitting in her tight sweater at the counter. Us locals knew that was more of a myth perpetrated by some movie studio or marketing department but it worked.
So, how far should an author go in promoting his/her book--specially today when audiences' attention spans are shorter than ever and more and different types of media are competing for those shortened attention spans? In fact, surveys over the last few years reveal that the average person is reading less and less - despite the success of such books as the Harry Potter series. In fact, more people today want to write a book than read one.
Perhaps the most famous and drastic act of promotion occurred on October 30, 1938 when Orson Welles developed a scheme to promote H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds by adapting to the format of a real news broadcast, resulting in mass panic. As a result of the promotion sounding and 'feeling' like a real news broadcast millions of listeners really thought that the Martians were invading. It was a marketing success but a public safety disaster. (For more information, on this go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orson_Welles).
Promotion, like the poor, death, and taxes, will always be with us. How authors can most effectively promote their works seems to be a debate that will last just as long.
Think blogging will help?