The power of social media

Nowadays, the success of a novel largely depends on the publicity it gets. It depends on whether it’s featured in newspapers and magazines, where it’s placed a bookshop or if it makes the Waterstones top picks or the Richard and Judy book club list. It depends on whether publishers invest in posters and advertising or on the competitions they run on their websites.

But it also depends on social factors – on who’s talking about it online, on the number of people reading it on the train, on casual conversations around the office. And it’s this social platform that offers the greatest scope for authors to promote their books directly to their readers.

One of the best recent examples of authors that have really made the most of the tools at their disposal is John Green, the bestselling author of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, ‘Looking for Alaska’ and ‘An Abundance of Katherines’. Most people will have heard of his books. But what you might not know is the role that social media played in his commercial success. Continue reading

High street vs. online book selling

Last week, I wrote about the perceived threat to the publishing industry from self-publishing (here). This week, I wanted to look at another issue facing the sector – the decline of the high street bookstore in favour of online super-sellers such as Amazon.

One of the main issues facing high street bookshops is that the simply can’t afford to compete with Amazon on prices. There are a number of measures and initiatives being put in place to combat this (see here for more info on something Waterstones is trialling), but the fact is that books are generally cheaper online thanks to low overheads and running costs of e-sellers.

There are notable exceptions to the rule, and impulse buyers, author signings and loyal booklovers with a preference for seeing and feeling a book before buying have and will continue to ensure that bookshops remain a feature on our high streets. However, these shops are increasingly facing even more competition. Major supermarket chains in particular are starting to encroach on their territory and are also able to offer popular books at cut prices.

One fear associated with the decline of bookstores is that readers won’t have the same capacity to discover new books, resulting in falling sales and a shrinking market. While I’m a proud supporter of high street book stores, I’m feel that this is an area where social media can really come into its own. For a while now, Twitter has been a great source of information and a major platform for conversation. Bloggers and professional reviewers are constantly pouring out a stream of opinion about new books and trends, which should help to drum up enthusiasm for a book prior to its publication and beyond.

Author John Green, for example, showed just how effective social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube can be in driving sales in the run up to the launch of The Fault in Our Stars. Extensive vlogging, tweeting and audience engagement activity led to massive pre-orders, and the novel topped the Amazon best sellers list before Green had even finished writing it.

Hopefully, moving forward the industry will find a happy medium that works for everyone and every business model – and that continues to do so for the foreseeable future.

A review of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars

It’s been a while since a book made me laugh and cry to such an extent as John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Usually, I find books dealing with illness a bit off-putting and frankly a little depressing. However, The Fault in Our Stars managed to tackle the topic in a way that was fresh, funny and yes, incredibly touching.

Narrated by 16-year-old terminal cancer patient Hazel, the novel is a classic boy meets girl structure with a twist. The reader experiences falling in love for the first time through the narrator’s eyes. Hazel’s story is a very real account of living with a terminal illness and the author certainly doesn’t shy away from controversial or potentially upsetting topics.

I literally couldn’t put this book down. I finished it in two sittings, and it’s worth mentioning that the only reason it wasn’t just the one is because I had to go to work. For me, the most emotional part of this book wasn’t the love story between the two star crossed lovers embodied by Hazel and Augustus, it was the way that Hazel and her parents deal with her terminal diagnosis.

I cried, I laughed out loud and I was so engrossed that by the end, the characters felt real to me. The Fault in Our Stars has already attracted great reviews from critics and I’m 100% there with them. I’d definitely recommend it.