Ellen has a very thoughtful question: "I've become a smarter book-buyer because of the economy. I'm more likely to read three chapters in the cafe at Borders before letting go of my money. If the writing isn't good, I don't buy the book. If the writing is great, I'll buy it no matter what it costs. But that raises a question -- could Kindle increase sales by eliminating our ability to loan out our precious books? And won't Kindles and Sony e-readers affect the used book market?"
For those unfamiliar, the Kindle is Amazon's latest attempt to control the world. It's a small electronic book that uses cell-phone technology to download book texts, and it's great (except it doesn't do graphics). The Sony e-reader is a bit less expensive and bit sturdier, though I'll admit I like using the Kindle more. Ellen's question is one publishers have been rolling around -- there's no forwarding from one e-reader to another, so will these tools keep readers from passing along books to friends? That could cut down on the readership of a book. But at the same time, if an enthusiastic reader tells all her friends to read the latest Paul Coelho novel, could they all purchase and download it, thereby increasing sales?
Both are good thoughts. And to this point, nobody knows what will happen. However, I used Brazilian author Paulo Coelho as a specific example because of his recent discussion at the Frankfurt Book Fair last week. Mr. Coelho takes the approach that getting his words out there in electronic form will bring him new readers, and that will lead to more people buying books. So he gets his words out there in the ethernet, and gives them away quite a bit, and he believes that is what has led to his worldwide success. "The more you give, the more you gain," he told everyone at the opening event of the Fair. It's an interesting approach -- and it has certainly worked for Coelho, who has now sold over 100 million books.
Jim has a question about author websites: "Because of the e-world in which we live, an author having a website is like having a phone or a television. But how we present ourselves on our sites is the key. I'm an abstract artist as well as a writer, and I'm wondering if it's best to have a different site to promote my art, or to promote both on the same site. Are people put off by sites that are too busy or that offer too much?"
I agree -- an author should have a website, since it offers the opportunity to connect the writer to the world at large. In my view, having a professional website is probably one of the essential ingredients of contemporary marketing. And that means thinking through who you are as a writer, what your voice is, who your audience is, and how you want to communicate with them. Surely a romance writer needs a completely different look and feel to the site of a mystery writer. There is often a "sameness" among writers' sites, and I think that's why so many websites aren't as effective as they could be. Just as your unique writing voice makes you stand out in store shelves, a unique site voice/look/approach can make you stand out on the web.
For that reason, I would say it's tough to combine a "book" site with an "art" site. Those are two different audiences, looking for two completely different results. (When you're looking for a book, do you stop in an art gallery?) Better to link the two together in some way, so that those readers interested in the author's artwork could also go check the other site.
Lindy asks, "What are the most important elements a new author should have on a website? What makes an author website successful?"