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Bridging the Virtual Divide

Author Amish Tripathi’s Facebook group page is buzzing with activity these days.

Written by AmritaJain |
August 25, 2011 3:33:55 am

Authors are using social media to go beyond just marketing their books. They are also gathering feedback,discussions and critique

Author Amish Tripathi’s Facebook group page is buzzing with activity these days. The author whose book,Immortals of Meluha,was well received by readers,released the sequel to the book,The Secret of the Nagas recently. To some of Tripathi’s posts,more than 100 comments follow. The discussions begin with the book,move on to the writing and the inspirations. Similar discussions ensue on Tripati’s Twitter page. Tripathi isn’t selling his book on Facebook or Twitter,at least not directly. All he is doing is engaging in “a meaningful conversation” with his fans. But like Tripathi,a new crop of writers is using social media to get invaluable feedback.

Writers are progressively realising that being a presence online makes for a fantastic interaction opportunity. Using social media to promote a book is old news,but using it to bridge the gap between writer and reader seems like the next step in evolution. “What happens after I write a book and sell it?” asks Edinburgh-based author,Lin Anderson. Anderson,who attends a number of book festivals and conducts library appearances around the country,feels that readers like to hear about the inspirations for a book. Anderson’s Twitter account is fairly active and she answers to a number of comments and questions on the site. “I also answer all fan mail to my website,which usually surprises many people,but I like to make contact with my readers. I think there is a gap between readers,and many authors like to work in isolation. I don’t know what works best,but being available to your reader is a big learning. Some of the more popular authors might be deluged with contact they can’t respond to. However,I have noticed that some of these writers employ someone to tweet or blog for them,because they believe it’s important to keep contact. After all,if people don’t buy and read our books,we couldn’t operate as writers.”

Author Ashwin Sanghi agrees. He had begun his journey as an author by self publishing his first book online. In the last five years,Sanghi says his online identity has matured. “It is not independent of my writing,in fact,it is integral,” he says. Sanghi is on Facebook by his pen name Shawn Hegel,which he used for his first novel,The Line of Rozabal. On any given day,Sanghi tweets around eight to 10 comments on Twitter. On Facebook,his availability is 10-15 per cent higher and he blogs and replies to emails as well. “That turns out to be 40 to 50 quality interactions per day,” he says. Sanghi’s Facebook page is a corporate author page where he does not need to sit and add or reject people. “My personal page is different. That is not open for everyone,but as a writer,I think I need to be fairly accessible to my readers online. Which is why I am very active on my online pages.” In fact,for the cover of his next book,Sanghi plans to conduct an online poll.

“Facebook offers the questions and opinion poll option. That for me is excellent. I often use it to get immensely valuable feedback from my fans and my interaction also goes beyond books. Often we have had threads discussing philosophy or topics of personal interest,” he says.

The plus point of this is the marketing leverage it garners. “You engage the reader and that could make your book sell,” says popular American crime writer,Lawrence Block,who is quite active on Facebook. “I have been using Facebook for two years now,but I have been blogging and tweeting for only two months. I get a lot of comments,many of them provocative and interesting,it’s quite enjoyable to hear from readers.”

On Harry Potter’s birthday this year,JK Rowling had a new offering for her fans. Pottermore,the interactive website had finally opened for fans. The website promises to provide users with interactive reading experiences where readers could closely follow Harry. It is said to include 18,000 words of content that has not been published. The fan reaction to Pottermore is evident on social networking sites. Some sport euphoric status messages,thankful of their registration being completed,while some show caution.

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