Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Wired weekend

Two things made this last weekend memorable: Pottermore opened to muggles everywhere (I suppose that should be general public, but you get the idea) and I listened to an exhaustingly informative Digital Minds Conference as part of the London Book Fair in an otherwise deserted Westminster. This meant that all the tourists could photograph themselves in front of the House of Commons near red telephone boxes without causing civil servants to bump into them. It seems that the publishing industry remains one where technological expertise is as valuable as strategic partnerships between authors, readers and booksellers. The formats change and the technologies available may update, but the simple relationship between buyer and seller remains at the heart. I’ve been lucky enough to have the support of book collectors, buyers, fan sites and bloggers, all of whom have made The Whicharts and Five Farthings successful titles.

Much of Sunday’s debate centred on the changing reading experience from page to e-book and how publishers might use this change in reading culture to their advantage. I have to compete in a crowded marketplace and persuade the reader to give up both their money and their time to buy and read my books. That’s an awful lot to ask, especially as I’m not terribly well-known and can’t exactly do author tours or request that my authors open a Twitter account. For anyone coming to the site for the first time, please note that both of my authors are dead and that I specialise in vintage fiction. My books are rare and, I hope, set out beautifully with wonderful cover art, but they don’t have an interactive website or ‘extras’. So, where do my customers come from? Fan sites for readers and book collectors have helped, as has fan fiction for Noel Streatfeild and many readers are understandably keen to read ‘Ballet Shoes for grown-ups’ as The Whicharts is. What else? Well, mentions of the books on Twitter can result in extra sales, but word-of-mouth recommendation is also useful. I’ve found success on blogs to be some of the most lasting publicity. Random Jottings mentioned The Whicharts in 2010 and it seems that people are still finding their way to my website from the review.

If thoughts become more coherent, I may continue this with how authors and publishers use Twitter, but I have books to pack and another title to edit.

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