Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What We Wish from Authors in the Internet Age

'work_computer_3664' photo (c) 2005, Pete - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

We are now comfortably in the 21st century, we have technology stuff that I pretend I understand and for the last 5 years I’ve spent more time pushing buttons on an e-reader than I have turning pages of a book. And it has never ever been so easy for me to spend money on books. Giving money to authors (well retailers who give it to publishers who, I assume, give some of it to authors) has never been easier for me! Well, if they let me - and sadly, they don’t always make it easy.

Now I’m sure lots of professionals can give some great advice on marketing and whatnot to authors - certainly better than I. But here is what I want, as a lazy reader, in order to give you money. And that, right there, is the simplest guideline all authors and publishers need: pretend the reader is a lazy git. A lazy git who wants to give you money. So long as you don't tax my Laziness. Because, ultimately, if you make it too much effort, I'll be giving my money to someone else; don’t make me work to get my hands on your book, make it easy for my Laziness to give you money.

Firstly, you need a website. Really really really need it. It’s the 21st century, join us in it. The first thing I do when I am recommended/come across a new author is google their name and click on the links. If your website isn’t up there, you’re letting other people tell me about you. They may not like you very much, they may be wrong, they may be rabid Twilight fans. Wouldn’t you rather have your say first? Or worse, you may not have a web presence AT ALL. Which is a little better than not actually existing, but not much. If I’ve gone through 4 google pages and still haven’t found your name? That’s bad. You’ve made me work to try and track down your books. The Laziness does not approve.

Now, if I find your website, it’s fairly imperative that it be updated and contain all your books. We have recently discovered the wonderful tool that is Fictfact, that tells us when new books are released and shows us all the books in a series. And we discovered that there were several series we read that had many many books we’d never heard of! Authors, why are you hiding your books from us? The Laziness does not approve of having to play hide and seek to find the things we want to buy.

Similarly, if I find your website, I’m sure there are many fascinating things there. Your blog. Links to other authors you like (I love them, helps me find more good stuff). Short stories. Web content. A series playlist/wiki. Fanart. Some pithy quotes, even pictures of your pet. Pictures of you in numerous daring poses/fancy dress... or what I took to be fancy dress but apparently isn’t. By all means go with all of them - but put your books first. The Laziness is here for the books so I can give you money, everything else is secondary (though fascinating. Except maybe for pictures of the pets). Don’t make me dig to find your books. Don’t make me work to give you money - the Laziness does not approve of that. Upon reaching your site it should take me, at most, 2 clicks to get to all of your books. 1 click for books, 2nd click for series. No more. More is a treasure hunt.

And your web decor shouldn’t get in the way. No links in pretty gilded frames or other difficult to see graphics, no links and words turned sideways to fit your screen theme, no eye-wrenching fonts or colour schemes and no links in random places on the screen because you want your site to look like a filmstrip/art gallery/wildebeest stampede. And, by all that is holy, no noise. I want to find your book in order to give you money - why am I playing an elaborate game of Hot or Cold to find these books? The Laziness, it does not approve.

Which brings me to something else the Laziness is tired of - having to be a finalist on the Krypton Factor (damn, am I aging myself with that reference?) to figure out what order your books should be read in. I actually had a series of just 2 books (at the time) and I had to google the first published dates to figure out which should be read first. There is a series of many many books where I have had to bookmark a fansite to keep a track of which book to read next. This is silly. Even if you don’t want to put “Book 7 of the X Series” on the cover, at least a list of all published books in the front would help, a hint, a clue, something! The Laziness does not want to play Sherlock Holmes before I decide which book to read/buy next.

And I realise this one is often out of the authors hands, but please try to release your ebooks globally. It is beyond depressing to get all excited for a release date, run to the computer, credit card in hand (with which I intend to give you money, I might add. And possibly buy a sloth. I like sloths, they’re cute) only to find that while the e-book has been released in the US, it will be 6, 7, 8 months before I can get my (virtual) hands on it, if at all. Paper had an excuse, e-books less so. It vexes me that I end up having to have paper shipped (and I don’t do paper any more, I like my e-reader) because the Internet tubes refuse to let it pass the Atlantic. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what less ethical people would do in this situation.