I was captivated by this story in today's Portland Tribune: Writer Rene Denfeld investigated a murder in the Portland homeless-youth subculture, got caught up in the story, spent years doing interviews, and ended up writing All God's Children, which sounded like both a true-crime thriller and a sociological study. (Street kids and their issues aren't a problem endemic to just Portland, but it's certainly epidemic here.)
The writer of the Trib story, though, had left me wondering about a couple of things, and I didn't want to wait for the book to find out the answers. Sure enough, Denfeld had a website with contact info, and within a few hours I not only had the answers to my questions, but also a very nice letter that really made me curious to find out more about her experiences.
Editors like Miss Snark are adamant in their belief that every writer needs a website. So are most agents. But the real connection, the important one, is the one with the reader (aka potential customer). If I wasn't sure I wanted to read Rene's book before this, her letter cinched the deal.
And she didn't have to sit at a card table in a bookstore, hoping that someone showed up, just to make the sale.