There's a lot of discussion these days of virtual book tours vs. get-in-the-car-and-drive events. I know not what others may think, but as for me, I show up in person when possible.

A name on the net is just a name. A picture helps, live-chats help, and web cams help, but you matter more when they've met you, when you feel more like a friend and less like a presence. It's psychological, of course. We all like to feel that we're important, and when important people travel to visit us, we're impressed. (Note that I didn't capitalize Important. I'm not there yet!)

I get web invitations every day from authors who want me to read their blogs, check out (and buy) their books, become their friend. But that's just it: we're not friends. I "friend" you and you "friend" me and then we forget each other's names. There has to be a connection, and people love to say, "I met her when she came to town."

It can be done online, and I'll be the first to admit it's easier, cheaper, and more wide-reaching. A response to a blog or a website might strike a chord. I met Deb Baker online when I visited her website after reading her first book. But the clincher wasn't her response to my comment. By chance she was coming to a nearby town for a signing. I traveled there to meet her and we ended up going out for a drink after the signing. Yes, I liked her work and her friendly response online. But meeting in person cemented that relationship, and now I tell my audiences at presentations about her books. She gained an ally because she drove to another state and sat in a bookstore for two hours.

The only editors I've ever met, including those who edit my books, were at conferences. Being there makes you a real person to the editor, and like everyone else, they form an impression from the meeting about whether they'd like to spend more time with you.

There has to be a balance, of course. We can't market without the Internet in today's world of publishing. But the strength of the Internet is also its weakness. You can reach lots of people, but so can everyone else. How do you stand out from the crowd?

That's a subject for those more web-savvy than I. For now, I'll keep traveling, meeting bookstore owners, librarians, agents, editors, and readers. That way when they see my name, there's a face, an impression, an experience to accompany it. Hopefully one of those is enough to make me memorable.

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