From Goodreads, May 15,2011:
My editor tells me that it is essential for a writer to have a website. If I’m reading her correctly, the biggest impetus is to give readers a chance to contact the author with questions and comments. Obviously, it also serves as advertising. So I spent a while browsing other authors’ sites and blogs. They varied from pretty basic to very professional with buttons and videos and direct channels to where the author’s books are for sale.
When I grew up (and it may help date me to know that when I wrote as a teenager it was with a portable typewriter balanced on my knees) a book came out in print. Then people read it. If you were highly moved by it, one way or the other, you maybe wrote a letter to the publisher, which was forwarded to the author, who maybe wrote you back. I think I did this twice (and I read thousands of books).
Now writing seems to be much more of a dialog between the authors and their readers. Anyone can write a review and have people reading it. And authors can respond in real time to inquiries. E-books and self-publishing blur the line even further between writer and reader. Books can be written, published, critiqued and revised in an almost cooperative way. When I reformatted Lies and Consequences for the fourth time, trying to make Microsoft Word play nice with Smashwords, I did a quick edit to fix a few of the most egregious problems noted by early reviewers – thank you Ann Somerville and J.R. Tomlin.)
Still, I know Lies and Consequences has been downloaded at least 850 times, and I’ve seen 18 reviews and no messages. And really, reviews should be written with other readers in mind, not the author. So what do readers really want in the way of author contact? Is a message drop the critical thing? Do readers like to hear about work in progress, author bio, and random blogging, or is it really all about the books? Would a free short story be a big attraction? I’m musing these questions as I decide if readers really want the additional exposure.
Goodreads is a nice forum for interaction, and I’m glad I found it. But I’m old-school enough to wonder if we aren’t getting too caught up in the illusion of personal connection through the keyboard. Would it not be better to let the work stand on its own? Are authors’ egos and lives and minutia really relevant to the books they write? Or am I just a Luddite in this new connected world?
May 22st … after thinking about it …
Well, guess what. I’m convinced. So now I have to build that website…bear with me.