Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Authors: e-network or die? (part 1 of 3)

This is the futurologists' mantra that's being foisted upon businesses and individuals in many industries. The publishing industry is one of those witnessing tectonic technology shifts in business models; first, with the digitisation of the presses, and more recently, with the exponential surge in e-book sales. Now it's the authors themselves who are being targeted for change.

In this three-part blog I'll be discussing whether a prospective author needs a large online following – website, Facebook, blog, Twitter - before approaching a literary agent.

Part 1: Crystal ball gazing (or, if you can tell the future, how come you haven't won the lottery?)

If you pay me a subscription fee, your book has more chance of selling (image:

A tsunami of advice for authors is rolling across cyberspace, typified by FUTUReBOOK’s recent blog, ‘If you won’t have a blog, don’t bother sending us your manuscript.’ Here, Steve Emecz, of MX Publishing, suggests that authors should become a brand, using social media to market themselves. He equates an authors desire to sell books with their willingness to self-promote because ‘good blogs sell more books’.

BookBrunch creator Liz Thompson, using the London Book Fair Spotlight blog, states that ‘social media is not an option for authors but a necessity’, and that ‘having a content-rich website is now de rigueur for established writers and newbies alike.’ She goes on to mention Philippa Gregory, bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl, who has a 17,000 army of Facebook followers, and who tweeted an abridged version of The White Queen in the voice of one of the characters.

In her Publishing Perspectives blog, Hannah Johnson writes about online promotion strategies presented at the eBook Summit. She reports that publisher Farrar, Strauss and Giroux has launched a literary blog with the goal of helping young authors advertise their wares. An industry panel spoke about using ‘online content as a way for authors to get discovered and build fan groups.’

Another approach for authors using technological means to advance their sellability would make agents’ lunches with publishers a rather noisy affair. Richard Curtis of e-reads suggests that instead of the traditional discussion about the author’s manuscript, and how it would fit into a publisher’s portfolio, an agent would bring along their iPad to show off the prospective authors dexterity with social media techniques, topped off with a self-made video pitch from the author.

All these opinions seem to be generated from self-proclaimed futurologists or web-based organisations trying to muscle in on traditional publishing turf. Although publishers are running flat-out to catch up with the e-book explosion, I have yet to read from anyone from the ‘old ways’ who says that they need authors to be popular before being published.

In the second part I'll let you know how literary agents respond to this.


  1. Oh for goodness sake everyone should calm down.
    PS I did speak to someone who said authors need to be popular.

  2. Hi Su. Let me know who they are - I'll send the boys round. Seriously though, I'm interested in who their clients are, and what sort of profile they have.