Deb: Use this blog!

Our readers have spoken: the next selection for our 49 Writers online book club discussion is Nancy Lord’s Rock, Water, Wild. Pick up your copy soon, in preparation for our online discussion March 1 and 2. In the meantime, we’ll apply the old arm twist – it shouldn’t be hard – for an interview and an occasional visit from Nancy during the discussion.

Now, a question for writers: Would you rather have your book featured in an online book club discussion, or would you rather do a reading at your local independent bookseller? If you’ve been following our recent discussion of changing policies at Title Wave, Alaska’s largest independent bookseller, initiated in a post by featured author Joan Kane and followed-up by Andromeda, you’ll understand why I’m asking.

Title Wave used to maintain a robust calendar of author readings and signings, featuring both local writers and some from Outside who veered north on their tours. It won’t be what it has been. Among the comments (and please, continue to comment) on this development, two threads emerge: to what extent should/must we embrace online substitutions for in-person promotion, and in what ways might we salvage in-person author promotion and interaction in Anchorage (and elsewhere)?

Marketing and enrichment are the two major benefits to writers and readers from in-store events. It used to be that scheduling lots of signings and readings caused a marketing ripple. Stores placed ads and spread flyers, which got the author’s name out. Putting author faces to names led to booksellers hand-selling titles. But the book culture has changed. The ads got too costly. With staff cuts, hand-selling happens less often (though those nice people at Mosquito Books are still doing a great job with my books). Readers are far more likely to select books based on online buzz and reviews than from chatting with their local bookseller. You may scream at your screen, “Not me! Never!” But at the end of the day, a fact is a fact.

Beyond the fact that people connect differently than they did fifteen years ago is the fact that big publishing likes big names. Look no further than our own Sarah P. to see a book tour blown into a celebrity mega-event. Another example: the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation is featuring Freakonomics co-author Stephen J. Dubner at an upcoming luncheon. I made a mental note to attend, till I noted the cost: $45. Now people pay that and more to see Larry the Cable Guy, so on one hand I like knowing authors command at least that much clout. But it’s another manifestation of the exclusive author-celebrity club that most of us won’t be invited to join.  (Dubner’s book-signings are free.)

Ideally, we’d never have to choose between great online and in-town promotion – we’d have access to both. In comments to our recent posts, ideas are still popping up (keep them coming!) for new in-person models of bringing authors and readers together in Anchorage. Add yours; next week we’ll pull the comments together and see if there’s a way to make something happen.

In the meantime, writers, use this blog and others to connect to your readers. Your book doesn’t have to be chosen for book club discussion. What if, whenever you comment on this blog or others, you use the name/URL option, including the URL to your author website so readers can find you? (If you have a Bogger ID, you’d accomplish the same: with one click, readers can learn about you and your book). What if you wrote an occasional guest post, or requested an interview?

Interact. Engage. Reach your readers. Hand-sell your own books. Use us.

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