Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Weekly Poll 2/3/10: Author's Online Presence

Poll Question of the week:


During a Twitter chat last week, someone asked if authors should maintain professional, reader-friendly websites to increase readership.  After some interesting responses, I started wondering if I am influenced by an author's online presence (or lack thereof).  My voters this week all indicated that they were not more inclined to buy an author's book due to an author's online presence.  On the surface, my answer would be that I agree with my voters.  However, after thinking about it for a while, I realized that while I may not notice if my favorite authors maintain quality websites or Twitter accounts or what not, I do allow an author's online presence sway my decision to buy a book if I've never read anything by the author before or if I haven't heard much about them or their books.  The primary example I have of this is my experience with Katherine Howe and her book, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.

Last fall, I happened to see a tweet made by Katherine B. Howe; in it, she said that her 600th follower would receive a signed page from a manuscript of her book, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.  Before that tweet, I hadn't heard of Katherine B. Howe or her book, but I thought it was exciting that I could win a signed manuscript page.  So I quickly pushed the "Follow" button in the hopes that I could become her 600th follower.  Only ... I was one click too late and hit the 601st mark.  Luckily, she took pity on me and still sent me a signed page.  When I got the page in the mail, I didn't only get the signed page--she had also included a hand-written note with a thoughtful message on the inside.  I was touched.  And so I ran out and bought her book.

Now I pay attention to authors who are online and how they treat their followers.  If they have a website, I check it out to see if it's maintained (current and professional looking) and I see if they allow for online chats with book groups (something I've never taken advantage of since I'm minus a book group, but I admire authors who take the time to add the personal touch like that).  If they're on Twitter or Facebook, I like to see if they interact with readers or if they simply post things like a billboard without actually commenting or reacting to any messages they receive.  While I don't expect authors to respond to every message, I think it's nice when they at least reply to one every now and then.  If I'm unfamiliar with the author and/or am not sure whether I want to get a book, I let the author's online presence sway me.  I won't necessarily negatively judge an author who doesn't have an online presence, but I'm turned off by anyone with a negative online presence.

I'm not sure if I'm alone in letting that affect my book-buying decisions, but it's kind of fun to read a book when you can also see what the author posts on a regularly (or semi-regularly) basis on sites like Twitter.  Even though I don't personally know Katherine B. Howe, as I'm reading her book, I feel like I have a doubly strong connection to the book because I've interacted with her.

Her book inspired what will be this Friday's post, which I'm excited about sharing with you.  Until then, I've posted the new poll question of the week in the left-hand sidebar and look forward to hearing your responses about what you find to be the most important aspect for a successfully written series of books.


Jenn (Books At Midnight) said...

Great topic! Hm, if an author has a more active online presence, it definitely makes me want to visit their site and read about his.her book, though the premise ultimately decides whether or not I'll buy the book. So I would say an author's online rep. is a factor, though not a huge one, and can indirectly cause me to buy a book. For the average reader though, I would guess it might not be such a big a deal, since I find many of the authors shimmying around the blogosphere. But who knows? It's all relative, I suppose. :)

And I'm 100% with you that if I have a relationship with an author, I feel doubly connected to the book too. I didn't really realize it until you pointed it out, but it's there all right.

Jessie Sams said...

I agree with your assessment--maybe it's just that Katherine B. Howe went out of her way for me that I got so attached to her and would've bought her book even if I hadn't been interested in reading it. I like to support authors who interact with their readers.

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