Wednesday, November 07, 2012

ClanCast: Connecting Readers With Their Authors

Is an author or book promotion, just a case of putting an author in front of a camera asking a few questions and posting the result on their web site. Does that image and insight into the author’s thinking make the difference? We have seen book promotion on television stumble along for years, usually subject to the usual discussion on a sofa and the author holding their new book in one hand whilst fixing the eyes on the camera and smiling. Celebrity authors can easily get the right exposure and do it with style and litter the studios of every chat show clutching that new release. ‘Star’ acts such as JK Rowling can even command their own show, set in their own surroundings and probably with well scripted questions and answers. We have also see the video author tour and distance signing,  but does it really engage and is a computer generated signature, merely technology looking for a problem? 

How do we connect authors to readers and is it just all about the promotion of the latest book or about maintaining and developing a continual connection with a fan base? In a period when the book festival and reading groups are thriving, how do we bypass the literary mass gathering and TV and radio Chat show and make author events engaging and happen on the internet? Is it possible, or is it a step too far for technology?

The music business faces the same issues. You would think all musicians are natural stage performers, have an engaging persona, are articulate and can make that insightful video engaging. Apparently, without the guitar and mike, many are cliché driven, fail the test and so it’s a case of letting the music do the taking, but as that is audio and often visual, it’s no problem.

So we come back to authors and connecting them with the readers, artists with their audience, writing idols with fans, literary talent to a new potential buyer.

Facebook and Twitter often works and some authors have developed huge followings, but do you want to know what they had for breakfast and that they are stuck in a BBC lift. We also now have these new social networked authors using their new powers to advertise other material and get paid for it. Does a Justin Timberlake endorsement carry more weight than a slot on the One Show or Graham Norton’s sofa? 

Secondary endorsement is not new and Oprah and even Richard and Judy have launched their own special endorsement programmes. But is the message always one way and do readers merely want to see and listen then read or engage, or ask questions and get closer to their writers?

Michelle Paver is no slouch when it comes to connecting with her readers. She experiments in many ways and is prepared to be grilled by her fans live on Skype and via on-line chat through Litopia’s Clancast events. These are different in that they announce a day and time and stage a ‘live’ author global event with the likes of Michelle on screen alongside a live chat feed and being interviewed by the accomplished Peter Cox and her fans. The resultant footage is then edited and posted on YouTube for those who couldn't make it to the live event and those who just want the memory to watch. With average some 7 to 10 thousand hits on YouTube they would appear to hit the mark. 

Its interesting to look at her track record on YouTube:

  •          A 4 year old Orion published a video of Michelle talking about her book around the recording of the audio by Sir Ian McKellen., This clever piece has since had some 11K  hits.
  •          Peter Cox has done four Clancasts/ videos of Michelle which have received 11K, 6.5K, 7K and the latest some two months old 7.6K of hits.
  •          The rest appear to be in a different league with; two guardian interviews with Michelle receiving 500 and 270 hits, a Richard and Judy interview 583 hits, Puffin book video 410 hits, a Waterstones video 2K of hits, meet the author video 27 hits and a Cheltenham Festival video 15 hits.

Peter  Cox says, ‘The ClanCast events really grew out of the natural relationship that exists between Michelle and her readers.  As such, they're simply enabling something to happen on a bigger scale.  Production values are less important, we've found, than the human values that fandom represents.  Participants want authenticity, not necessarily slickness’.

One fan in New Zealand stayed up all night just to take part!

We are not saying one is right and the rest are wrong, but we are saying that perhaps the one way communication isn't as effective as the interactive event. Also authors and agents need to think about continual dialogue and not just around the book launch. It is after all about connecting authors to readers and authors aren't just for Christmas.

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