Goodreads offers authors a new way to connect with readers

Ask a Questiof of AuthorsOne of the most intriguing announcements at Book Expo 2014 was about Goodreads’ new “Ask the Author” feature. If you’re signed up as an author on Goodreads, you can now host your own Q&A sessions, thus making new connections with your readers.

Goodreads beta-tested the program with 54 well-known authors, including James Patterson, Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, Khaled Hosseini and Isabel Allende. Now they’re opening up the feature to all authors.

Patrick Brown, Goodreads Director of Author Marketing, offered suggestions on how to get the best out of this new feature. Among them:

• Set expectations early: Tell your readers which topics you’ll answer and when. Don’t feel as though you have to answer every question every day.

• Choose the questions you want to answer carefully, and post legitimate answers to them. You have control over which questions you want to show up on your page. Choose questions whose answers you’re happy to feature on your profile.

• Participate in the Goodreads reader community. Ask questions of other authors and review their books. You don’t have to give star ratings to every book you discuss. Just be thoughtful. Sometimes showing up with a thoughtful comment on another author’s page inspires interest in your own work.

Check out the list of bestselling authors already answering questions on Goodreads. Very impressive.

The Power of Social Media in Building an Audience

Yesterday when I opened my iGoogle page, “today’s spotlight video” looked something like this.

Because I love both soul and gospel music, I clicked on it–and became an instant fan of an unknown singer who doesn’t even have an album out yet. (LaTosha Brown. Check her out. Fabulous!)

As LaTosha tells it, as of the day-before-yesterday, her video had been viewed 310 times. Today, that number is 496,642–an instant fan base! Her record company, PortoFranco Records, is scrambling to get this cut on iTunes so some of those fans can actually buy the single.

Kindle Singles Books are not as accessible as music in this way, but there’s cause to believe that short pieces, priced low and marketed through social media, could become for authors what this single song is for a talented, upcoming musician: a way to develop an instant audience for their work.

Earlier this year, Amazon launched Kindle Singles, a division that is actively seeking articles, essays and stories of 5,000 to 30,000 words. These pieces, which are being reviewed and quality-controlled by editor David Blum, are being priced between $.99 and $4.99–impulse buyers’ pricepoints. Publishers Weekly recently reported that six of the 75+ published works on this platform have already reached bestseller status among all Kindle books.

Kindle Singles has terrific potential. It provides a new platform for long-form journalism and could revive the world of short stories. And most importantly, it could build audiences for those emerging voices who have been abandoned by traditional publishers.

How To Become the Go-To Expert

One of the best ways to promote your nonfiction book is to position yourself as the expert in your field. How do you do that?

One simple way is through HARO — short for “Help A Reporter Out.” This ingeniously simple site connects journalists working on a story with people who can serve as experts for that story–all for free.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you’ve written a book about    indie films. If you’re a subscriber to the daily HARO newsletter, you would have recently seen this post from a reporter doing a story for a national entertainment/lifestyle magazine:

What does the term “indie” film mean? Need expert to define, explain which films meet this criteria and what the term “indie film” means today–at the box office and to studios and to creative types in the industry.

You respond via an anonymous email address directly to that reporter. If your credentials are good and your ideas solid, you might get a follow-up interview. Ideally, you become the expert quoted in the article. Nice!