I just finished a very grim read on Joe Konwrath’s blog. In his post “Over” he expounds the prediction that the age of book signings is over, that book launches and event venues are going quietly into the night of oblivion, and that the advent of the eBook era has rendered these previous forms of connection and interaction between readers and authors obsolete.
He could very well be right. Despite that, and the compelling support from fellow authors and writers commenting on the post, I believe in a slightly different future. Call me a neophyte Pollyanna, but I believe there is still a place for these face-to-face interactions between readers and authors—they just need to be changed/re-envisioned to remain valid in today’s rapidly evolving market.
Each of the below suggestions will work best if used in tandem with social media—blogging, tweeting, facebook, mySpace, Goodreads, online Bulletin Boards (BB’s) & Forums, ect…get the word out, and connect to your readers & community on a personal level. You could even arrange for signings, meet & greets, launches and events with geographically similar followers/authors, and hold a Bookworm Blitz at a local café, library, ect…
1st, book signings…rather than have stacks of paperbacks or Hardbacks, why not only bring a few of each—but a LOT of notecards with cover art from the book(s) you’re promoting to autograph for your readers on request. If you’re purely an eBook author, then just the notecards or similar material. Vistaprint seems to be a pretty reasonably priced print service for various sized promotional materials.
2nd, author meet & greets/interviews. Blog tours are gaining popularity, and you can always add in an extra level of immersion/interactivity by doing more than just sending text & images—you can record your voice or even videotape the interview using little more than a webcam, skpe (either normal/conference call, video call, or conference video call), a tape recorder, & a PC mic. You can choose to send not just your words, but yourself into the web. If you really enjoy it, you could create your own YouTube channel to broadcast your interviews along with book trailers & anything else you want. You can also meet & greet/interview in person by finding out geographically similar Twitter followers, FB fans, BB participants, and arranging a meet at a local venue.
3rd, book launches/events—It’s hard to imagine anything doing away with the RWA national conference or similar genre-specific Cons geared towards writers & authors in the industry, but if you don’t feel up to a large event (or possibly large expense) look into local writers/authors guilds, critique groups, or reading clubs—they may not be a large crowd, but it will give you an excellent opportunity to get them as individuals…and every author’s best marketers are his or her readers. Also, fellow authors can be very supportive of each other’s efforts. You might be surprised by how many might be willing to participate in a mini launch party to celebrate with one another following the completion of a work.
Do authors need to meet face-to-face with their reading audience to have a successful career? Absolutely not. Plenty of authors are doing just fine without making a single public appearance or video call/interview. It all depends on your comfort level, and whether or not you want to make that connection. Ebooks have made it possible to place your books in front of a worldwide reading audience & have sales take off without ever leaving your home; but thanks to social media, you can also choose to connect with them locally as well. The age of large scale signings, launches, and events may be be dying out & replaced by digital debuts, but there’s still an opportunity to reach readers in real life.
I believe there will always be a place & desire for authors and readers to meet in person, not just on-line, but whether or not the possibility of doing so is explored relies on individual choice.
PS: This is by no means an ‘expert’ opinion; merely my own.