Writers Taking on 2011: The Power of the Readers and Social Media (part IV)

(Part I, Part II, Part III)

There has been a shift in attitudes and power in the publishing industry since the advent of the Kindle and social media. Where once publishers had the power to decide what people should be reading, and what constituted a good book, now readers have the power. “For decades they’ve been telling readers what they should be reading. 50 percent of the time readers don’t want what they’re selling,” Bond says. “Readers are now starting to dictate what they want to read. Publishing company’s need to catch up.

McGuire agrees, adding that “Publishers have traditionally considered their clients to be book sellers, not readers. That has to change: publishers have to be much closer to their readers. Those that succeed in connecting with readers will succeed in the long run.” Since writers now have the ability to bypass agents, editors, and publishers and still make a profit, if the publishers want to maintain any sort of control over the process they’re going to have to re-think their contracts and relationships with authors.

“Writers should get a certain percentage for paper book sales and a higher percentage for electronic sales,” O’Neale says. “I also think the publishers should spend more money helping the writer understand social media and self marketing. Don’t just publish a book and wait to see what happens. Writers need to be taught how to market themselves because it helps both the writer and the publisher. Some publishing houses do actually offer free courses for their writers, but certainly not the majority.”

Readers want to connect with writers, and social media has given them an interactive, effective way in which to do so. “Facebook, Twitter, blogs have made it so much easier for people to talk about the stuff they love. So word-of-mouth – the most effective means to sell a book – has moved online to a large degree. Or, at least, tons of word-of-mouth is happening online,” McGuire says. “So the publisher’s job is to foster that, to encourage that, to help connect the people who love a book or a topic with the writers of those books or topics.”

As a reader, a writer, and blogger, Stacey O’Neale has experienced the immense benefits of social media from a variety of perspectives. “I love the interaction with writers and readers. I’m on twitter everyday (several times a day). I can talk about my website and get readers involved. I ask them questions for articles I write, make them aware of contests, ask who they want me to interview, etc. I love the feedback I get and enjoy answering questions.

“As a fan, I love when my favorite authors hang out on twitter. Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments series) is always answering fan questions about her books. She takes the time even though she’s a bestseller. Connecting with your fans is the best way to grab more. Every writer should be on twitter, facebook,  and blog – period,” she says.

And while the Kindle and its competitors are good for writers, making it easier to get the word out to potential fans, and to bypass the traditional publishing channels, it is also ideal for readers. “I love them. I’m a big reader so I always carry a book with me,” O’Neale says. “I can easily carry a reader in my purse no matter where I am and it’s lightweight. Now, when I’m out and about, I have more reading options. It’s like carrying a bucket of books without a bucket.” Recent eReader wars have brought the price down from nearly $400 at the technologies introduction to a low of $140 this holiday season.

Not everybody, however, is ready for the new technology. “Not every reader will like ereaders and tablets, and sometimes some readers will prefer one reading format (say: paper) over another (say: digital),” McGuire says. “In the same way that we listen to music on a stereo, on a car radio, on an iPod, or from computer speakers, so too we’ll read in different ways depending on circumstances (if we choose to).”

Others enjoy the physical experience of turning the page just as much as the intellectual experience of reading the written word. “I prefer to read paper books because I form emotional attachments not only with the intellectual content of a book, but also its physical feel and design. Reading on an eReader feels much more impersonal and less like something you can curl up with and lose yourself in.” This stigma against digital books is still prevalent, but as the reading experience increases with new technologies that make reading interactive, more and more people will find themselves cuddling up with their eBooks.

4 Responses to “Writers Taking on 2011: The Power of the Readers and Social Media (part IV)”
  1. Gabriel Scala says:

    I love how you draw the reader into this discussion – an important (the most important!) component of the writing/publishing game that almost always gets left behind or forgotten. Thanks for the thoughtful post and for the trackback.


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