Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Connecting With Fans And Editors

Back at the end of May I was fortunate enough not only to get to sit with and introduce Shelagh Rogers, the master of ceremonies for the 2010 Canadian Bookseller Association Libris Awards which were held in Toronto during the annual CBA National Conference, but to also sit down with one of the nominees for an award that evening, Kelley Armstrong.

Kelley was nominated in the Young Readers' Book of the Year category for her novel The Awakening, which was published by Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House.

I took the opportunity to interview Kelley for The Writing Show podcast. That episode went live this week and you can check it out by clicking here.

My initial intention had been to talk to Kelley about the wonderful manner in which she connects with her fans on so many different levels. For one, she is approachable, personable and friendly -- one merely has to meet her at a convention or book signing to discover that.

But she is also actively engaged with her fans online via her website as well as through various social media outlets, truly giving her fans unique and exciting opportunities to connect directly with her as well as access to "never before seen" material and content that she creates for her fans. (Yes, she writes stories meant to be delivered directly to her fans for free so they can get their fill between novel releases)

She has, in many ways, transcended the author/reader relationship without sabotaging her success as an author whose work is available in print form through traditional publishing channels. Instead of replacing the sales of her works, Kelley's efforts add to it, and simply give those fans eager to consume more, more.

But, interestingly, about half-way through our interview, Kelley's editor at Random House Canada came up to say goodnight to her. That sparked a wonderful discussion about the incredible degree of respect and admiration Kelley feels towards her editor, who works with Kelley on all 3 of the different series of books she is writing.

It's refreshing to see such a successful author pause to acknowledge that their work is refined and made better by being paired with a masterful editor. It's great to see a popular author, and one with a huge fan base who might be tempted to pull an Andrew Wylie and try to skip part of the supply chain, recognize the value added to their work by a partnership with a good editor and publishing imprint. [Just a quick aside, but I'm wondering if the phrase "pulling a Wylie" might come into popular use and not refer to the coyote who always failed to get the roadrunner, but instead to the recently talked-about agent and his stand-off with publishers]

Yes, technology makes it easy to cut certain people out of the supply chain -- but it might not always be the right thing for the long-term, wide-reaching life of a book of piece of writing. It's great to have the choice and the option of a decidedly different type of distribution, but one must carefully weight the benefits and value that a distribution system has.  I'm not saying, of course, that all direct distribution is a bad thing, or all traditional distribution is a good thing -- just that there are times when the traditional publishing/distribution supply chain provides a better quality product or service, and there are others where it doesn't.

One must always weight the options available with the proverbial grain of salt.  And Kelley Armstrong, who is intimately aware of all the digital and direct to consumer options available, demonstrates how an author can leverage both traditional publishing and new media at the same time to connect with her fans on multiple levels. She, of course, is connecting with her fans without losing the connection with her agent, editor, publisher and booksellers. I would speculate that this is leading to an increase in overall sales of her books via all channels. (And yes, Kelley does mention in the interview her experience and observations about how her younger readers, especially those of the "born-digital" age, consume both the ebook/digital content and the print content with decidedly different purposes)

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