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Finding readers in the e-book age

Kate Larsen

Most readers are positive about e-publishing but many writers don’t know how to reach them.
Finding readers in the e-book age
The changing relationship between writers and readers creating new and exciting opportunities as the digital revolution rolls on.

In preliminary findings from research by Writers Victoria intern Katherine FitzHywel, around 60% of people surveyed said they were positive about the changes though many writers were unsure how to capitalise on them.

eBooks are generally regarded as an opportunity to reach a wider market. While over half of the readers surveyed said that they still prefer to read printed books, the market-share for e-publishing is growing – and fast.

ePublishing simultaneously presents a fantastic opportunity and a massive challenge for writers. Most e-publishing retailers are still based overseas, which means Australian writers may never meet their publishers in person and may have to negotiate their book rights via email.

The ease and affordability of e-book creation has democratised the publishing industry. But while writers no longer need to wait for an elusive commercial publishing deal, readers can be turned off eBooks due to the proliferation of poorly edited books that flooded the marketplace once the gatekeepers started to fall.

Writers need to market their eBooks aggressively and creatively, with promotion and ePublishing going hand-in-hand. Social media is increasingly being used by both sides: by writers and publishers as a marketing tool, and by readers to communicate about and recommend the books they read. However, even as these meta-conversations continue to grow, both readers and writers are wary about over-marketing.

In an article for the Writers Victoria blog earlier this year, editor and ePublishing guru Euan Mitchell said that: ‘Social media can offer great ways to help build relationships with readers. But when it comes to selling eBooks, the many hours invested may result in relatively low financial returns. Plugs for your eBooks may be seen as spam that turns readers off.’

Finding the right balance seems to be the key. Social media and other digital platforms are clearly effective tools for authors to connect with their audiences, but can easily distract a writer from spending enough time actually writing. But 56% of readers said that they wouldn’t be more likely to buy a book just because the writer has a significant online presence.

Nearly half of the writers who said they were interested in marketing their work online were unsure how to go about it. Writers also reported wanting to find out more about which platforms to use contact readers, their demographics, reading habits and preferred themes.

Writers Centres are keen to help bridge the gap. In The Writers Toolkit in June, Melbourne writer Kelly Gardiner will present her tips on how to do this, as well as sharing free web tools and resources to help writers research, organise their writing and their time, manage the constant flow of online information and engage through social media.

About the author

Kate Larsen is the Director of Writers Victoria.

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