Amazon’s @Author provides digital authors incredible fan access

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Authors who are hoping to go digital but never have to interact with their fans got some bad news from last week. They are creating a way for readers to ask questions about specific passages in the books they are reading:

The new program, called @author, lets Kindle users highlight a passage and then ask the author a question about it via their Amazon author page or Twitter. Only questions as long as 100 characters can be asked from within the e-book itself, but more in-depth curiosities can be posted to the author’s official page on Amazon.

Of course, only a handful of questions will actually be answered directly by authors, but other readers are free to chime in and offer their take. If the writer does respond, readers will be notified by email.

via E-Books Get More Interactive With Amazon’s New Author Q&A Feature.

Authors who ignore the feature could find themselves entirely left out of incredible discussions around their work, and missing a fantastic opportunity to connect with readers and turn them into fans.

Savvy authors can use this as not only a nice way to give a reader a thrill by talking with them, but also a source of invaluable insight into what characters, plot points, ideas, and passages are making an impact. This could be a gold mine of information and a powerful way to build a fanbase that helps promote your work to others.

This is just getting rolling, but you can see notices of participating authors on Amazon’s @Author Twitter account.

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Author contact info – Do you make it hard for your readers to interact with you?

Just for the record, you do not want to open your mailbox one day and find this waiting for you:

Dear Author,

I know it’s odd to receive a hand-written letter in 2011. Strange as it is for you, you have no idea the trials and tribulations I went through to send it. I had to go buy a stamp. Yes, they still make stamps. Then I had to go to my mom’s house and ask her for an envelope. Then I had to call my 4th grade teacher from 30 years ago and ask her how to actually fill out the information on the envelope that the post office needed to traffick this letter to you.

Why did I do all of this? Because finding your email address was an impossibility. I checked your blog. I checked your Twitter account. I checked Facebook and LinkedIn. They all link to each other and a dozen other properties. But nowhere on any of those properties did you bother to leave a good email address for you.

So you get a letter. Because it was easier to track down your physical address than figure out your email. And with all this effort, I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say to you. How ironic.



An ex-reader who’s moved on to easier pickings.

Want to make sure this doesn’t happen to you? Follow these easy steps:

  1. Search for your name on Google.
  2. Click the top search result that you own. And by “own” I mean “are able to make edits to”.
  3. On that site, find your email address. What? You can’t find it? Add it. Prominently.
  4. Go back to #1 and repeat for the rest of your owned pages.

Worried about spam? Stop. It’s almost 2012. There are ways to obfuscate your email address, but the best line of defense is getting a decent email program that fights spam. I’m a Gmail user and rarely have to deal with it. And my email has been public and exposed in un-obfuscated ways for years.

I also suggest a bit of investigation on the social media property you engage with most of the time. What links are you providing for someone who wants more information? You should have a common landing spot for all that stuff, and that landing spot should have an email address for you. Not a contact form. An email. Again, it’s almost 2012. Time to get savvy about this stuff and stop making it hard for people to get in contact with you.

No, I don’t want to send you a DM. No, I don’t want to message you on Facebook. Those are fine methods of communicating, but they pale in comparison to the original killer app — email. Do it. Now.

And you do know we’ve got a kick-butt author’s conference coming up in a few short weeks, right? It’s a day-long intensive that will give any author a comprehensive look at the digital publishing world. This post is the type of thing we’ll cover — real-world ideas, tips and techniques that you can walk away with and implement immediately. Because the future isn’t going to stop knocking on the door. Make plans to attend, or forward the link to an author you know who needs to be there!

They want YOU! Interacting with your readers and fans

Screaming Fan - NAMU 2008

Image by CC Chapman via Flickr

Our highly connected world leads to a natural leveling of the field. People aren’t limited to to a small group of friends they’ve personally met. Social networks make it easy to expand personal networks to thousands, if not tens of thousands of people. Remember the “promoting” post from last week? Yeah, you’re going to be come a highly connected person. Get ready.

This assumed familiarity (“Hey, you’re connected with Samantha on LinkedIn who knows Enrique, and we went to high-school together!”) opens the door to personal communication not possible a few short years ago. Readers, fans, peers, stalkers and the wide band in between will think nothing of reaching out to you as if you were regular drinking buddies.

No, you can’t opt out of this. Welcome to digital publishing… or specifically, successful digital publishing.

Don’t worry – your horde of readers and fans are a lot more like happy houseplants than screaming babies. Both need regular care, feeding and watering, but not constant attention.  With time, practice, and some good tools and techniques to master this skill, this interaction will become a natural part of your work.

If you’re worried about how your readers will see you, put that aside. If you’re a curmudgeonly old writer, you can be curmudgeonly in your interactions with fans. They dig that. If you’re aloof and regal, do that. You don’t need affectations or masks. People want to interact with you, so give them the real you. If they don’t like you so much but love your work… well, one less person to interact with. That’s not a bad thing.

The relationship between interaction and success in digital publishing is well documented. We’ll bring you case studies and interviews, as well as tips and tricks to keep you sane while the public clamors for your attention. Because you’ve got another book to write, right?

Interacting is the fifth phase of our Digital Publishing Lifecycle. We’re covering a different phase each day, and welcome your thoughts and input.

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