Things have changed a lot in the publishing industry since my first book was published many years ago. In those days, the author wrote a book and sent it off to a publisher (via an old-fashioned mail box). Many publishers, even the big ones, didn’t require an agent. I sold my first three books to Avon without an agent. There were a lot more publishers back then, too, so the odds of getting published were better. Once you got accepted, the publisher bought your book and they handled everything, including the promotion and publicity. They made sure your book was distributed to bookstores around the country. Authors were really only expected to do booksignings and appear (or speak) at conferences. If they were a big name, the publisher financed a book tour. Authors might appear on radio and TV shows if they felt comfortable with it. Believe it or not, but many publishers wanted authors to coordinate with them on all promotional plans. They didn’t want us “going rogue.” I guess they didn’t want authors to do something stupid or tacky that would hinder their sales or make them and the publisher look unprofessional. The author did a few weeks of this “face time” with the readers and then he/she went home, wrote another book, and answered fan mail.
Fast forward to 2013. Authors are expected to do ALL their publicity. They are not only expected to have a website but they’re expected to have thousands and thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook, and they are expected to have an entertaining blog with hundreds of followers. Some agents and editors won’t even consider an author’s work if they don’t see these “built in” readers before they offer a contract. They want to know that the author is going to do a LOT of legwork to sell their book and bring in the bucks. Many serious authors are asking themselves, “When will I ever have time to write another book if I have to keep up all this social networking and do all this promotion?”
So I ask:
What do readers want? Would they just like us to spend our precious time writing another book they can enjoy? Would they be happy meeting us at a conference or a booksigning? Or do readers want to be “friends” with authors on all these social networking sites and know the intimate details of our lives? What does a reader gain or lose from getting to know a great deal about an author?
What do authors want? We all appreciate our readers for we know we’d be nowhere without them. We love hearing from readers who like our books. But how many authors genuinely enjoy spending a good portion of their day social networking? How many would rather spend their time writing another book and leaving the promotion end up to a publisher, interacting with readers only at booksignings, trade shows, and conferences? What does an author gain, or lose, from getting more personal with their readers?
All aspects of the book industry have changed and continue to change. What do you as readers and authors believe are the pros and cons of this new social networking world? Where do you think it will go in the future? What do you want, and expect, from each other now?