Over Christmas, I blazed through and finished the incredible steampunk book Leviathan (amazon affiliate link), by Scott Westerfeld. I loved it. It’s an alternate fantasy/sci-fi telling of the events of World War I, from the perspective of two young people. Technically, it’s a “young adult” book, meant to be read by teens. (Don’t let that discourage you. The best fiction seems to be coming out of this genre.) What came next is the part I want to talk about, and also the part that authors need to think about in the current world.
The first thing I did after finishing the book was rush to see if Scott had a blog. (Obviously, he did). Second, I checked to see if he had a Twitter account (Obviously, he did.) Third, I went to see in both places whether he engaged with people. (He did).
The Opportunity for Authors
Things have changed. Fans are no longer silent onlookers in the experience of books (or art of any kind). They are participants. At the 2009 Tools of Change conference, Bob Stein came up with this new definition of a book: A book is a user-driven media where readers and sometimes authors congregate.
Let that sink in. A book doesn’t have to be a rectangle of paper. We know this. Trust Agents isn’t just paper. There’s an audio download, a kindle ebook version, etc. But that’s just one facet: the media.
If a book is a media where readers and sometimes authors congregate– CONGREGATE –it means that authors get the opportunity to build relationships in a whole new way with readers. It means that the stories don’t have to stay linear, that the ideas don’t have to stay on one side of the page, that the experiences don’t have to end at the edge of the page.
Not all authors won’t want to interact. Several are already trying their hand at the Twitters and Facebook Fan Pages of the world. Some are just trumpeting their book’s virtues. Others are interacting and making relationships happen. Some authors just want to bury themselves in their writing and produce content. That’s not a bad choice, as such.
But the opportunity to empower your audience to actually be a community is a huge one, and shouldn’t be shrugged off without consideration. Not only could authors create differently, should that be of interest, but at the very least, they have the chance to build relationships of value, that will work in their favor for future projects.
I see that when I see how Scott Westerfeld and Paulo Coehlo interact with people on Twitter. I see several other others taking the opportunity to make relationships happen. And then, I see several who either use the tools to simply crow about their books, and/or I find several who don’t bother with the tools at all.
Seems like a missed opportunity to me. What about you?
Oh, and I strongly recommend picking up Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. It’s a really well done book. I can’t wait to read book two, but then, I see he’s been out researching its setting on his blog, so I know I’ll have a while to wait.