The publishing industry has fought to keep self-published authors from communicating with their ebook readers
Amazon, in particular, has taken every measure possible to keep authors and ebook readers apart, offering zero means of communication after readers purchase ebooks from its Kindle Store.
Admittedly, Amazon now own Goodreads, a book social media site, so there is a chance for authors to connect with readers there. However, it offers little more than Facebook or Twitter can do. On top of this, Goodreads is a site that has long had a terrible reputation for trolls.
What is missing on social media, is that it is about connecting with readers as a general audience, which is not at all as beneficial as an author connecting directly with readers who bought and read a their ebook.
Why can’t authors include a means of contact in their ebooks? After all, an ebook is an electronic file, which can contain hyperlinks to the Internet and email. Well, ok, an author can include a link to their website, but how useful is that?
Wouldn’t it be better if ebooks offered a way for readers to follow, join or subscribe to an author?
Yes, it would be, and at last, there is some movement on this front.
While Amazon continues to keep the walls up between authors and readers, other retailers and aggregators are making moves to break down the barriers.
Draft2Digital is the first publishing platform to include a page in its ebooks called ‘New Release Email Notifications Signup’. On this page, just after the end of the book, readers can subscribe to receive emails about the author’s new releases via Book2Read.
Smashwords introduced a new service called ‘Smashwords Alerts‘. While it is a notification service for new books by an author, sadly, it is site based, and not included within the content of an ebook. I am not sure how many readers are registered and use the Smashwords Store to buy ebooks, but I would doubt it is a huge number, especially when compared to iBooks or B&N.
As both Draft2Digital and Smashwords aggregate to Apple, B&N, Kobo, Scribd, Inktera and others, it is obvious that unlike Amazon, these retailers allow a subscription page to be included in the ebooks they sell. For this reason, I am a little disappointed that Smashwords have resisted this opportunity.
Authors don’t need names and email addresses
Privacy is a big issue, and this must always be respected. But if aggregators are storing subscription data, either in email lists or as on-site registrations, it could allow for an additional brick to be knocked out of the wall in the future. Sure, new title notifications are fine, but how often do authors release a new book? Once a year?
It would be much better if aggregators allowed an author to send a newsletter.
The aggregator would retain the data of course, but act as a mail exchange for authors and allow perhaps two newsletters per year to be sent to an author’s subscribers.
Well, one can hope.
But let’s take all this a step further
Apart from an occasional one-hour book signing in a bookstore, authors have generally been kept well away from readers by publishers and now online retailers. For self-published authors, book signings are a rarity and the main thrust of their book marketing endeavours have been with the only logical tool available to them, which is, of course, social media.
Now, let’s use a little imagination here.
What if social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter became points of sale. What if an author’s Facebook Page had something as simple as one-click book buy links? What if Facebook decided that they could make money out of buyers of any number of products? What if Twitter added buy buttons? What if authors could manage their marketing and promotion via social media, but achieve an end result? A book purchase.
What if, what it, what if. But I think you get my drift.
Self-publishing is in its infancy and finding its feet. Publishers, retailers, aggregators, authors and readers are all still on a learning curve that has a long way to run yet, so the only constant ahead will be change.
Allowing authors and ebook readers to connect directly will be an enormous change and will have a huge effect on the market, but it is one change I eagerly await.