Squawk Radio

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Eloisa on Book PR...

I was in New York City today, parboiling myself in 90 degree weather to talk to people at my publisher (Harper Collins) about a PR angle for my next book, Kiss Me, Annabel, coming out in December. Before I became a writer, I envisioned that a writer sat at home writing in his lonely garret, before he sent off his tome to a big city. There the book was bound in such an exciting way that everyone picked it up, and the lonely writer became a lonely millionaire overnight and married a young blonde, and lived happily ever after.

Squawk Reality Check!

PR is more and more important to writers. One of the fascinating thing about the lunch today (as I've experienced it, most important work in NYC gets done while eating), is that an author's website is growing in importance to the publisher. It's always been important to the reader. But my sense is that the website is becoming the number one promotional tool that can influence readers. Advertisements in magazines such as People or Redbook have been shown to make little difference in sales. There isn't much clear evidence that a publisher sending little gifts out to booksellers makes much difference. But the website does make a difference: and yet it stands in an odd position in relation to the publisher (the entity presumably responsible for promotion). Websites belong to authors, are created and paid for by authors.

See the problem? Publishers are now vitally interested in a promotional tool that is pretty much outside their control. I happen to love my website, and pour money into it (quiet sob). It works for me. I feel as if it's a great way to give some extra value to my readers, sort of a present for reading, if that makes sense. But many authors have little interest in paying a website company, or writing up monthly updates, or running a contest, or answering fan email from a site. After all, these are business-oriented things to be doing, and have little to do with my romantic idea of the lonely writer in the garret. What's a publisher to do then?

My guess is that they take the author out to lunch and try to talk him or her into ratcheting up their website, or getting one in the first place. I can just see the conversation:

"Yes, Mr. Hemingway, we know you've been having a bad year. One could even say, depressing, but we truly think that your Bookscan numbers would be so increased by a website that you would feel so much happier.. Why, it's practically suicidal not to have a website these days. What? What did you say? No, sir, we're not suggesting anything, sir!"

What do all of you writers and readers out there think? How do you feel when you google an author and she or he doesn't have a website? And what are the best author websites out there (skip the Squawkers! We are justly proud of ours, but we'd love to know about other terrific websites).

Eloisa James, 4:19 PM