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'Direct, personal communication with potential readers'

21 August 2006

It is getting harder and harder for new authors to find a publisher. The explosion in the number of writers, as shown by the rapid growth in creative writing courses of all kinds, the large number of writing books being published, and the success of sites such as WritersServices, have all demonstrated that there is a huge thirst for publication.

Internet book sales, as Amazon and Abebooks demonstrate, have shown huge growth. Email has become the standard means of communication and 50 billion emails are now despatched daily worldwide, up from under 12 billion in 2002. That's before the massive explosion in email use which will come when countries such as China and India, with their vast populations, come fully online.

In short, it is clear that the web offers writers a wonderful new way to reach readers.

So, if you are trying to achieve publication, how do you promote your work online? Whether you want to attract the attention of an agent or publisher, or go for self-publishing, the web, with its infinite possibilities, provides the solution.

What's more, improvements in print on demand technology have now made self-publishing a cost-effective option for many authors. The catch of course is still how you can reach readers and sell your books.

Anthony Thornton's book The Libertines: Bound Together shot into the bestseller lists as a result of his own web promotion. It's an inspiring story. 'In December 2005 I finished a book, The Libertines: Bound Together. Yet, because I was a first-time author, there was no advertising campaign and no guarantee that the book I had spent three years writing would get media coverage.' So Thornton decided: 'Bound together would have its own site... This website was based on the design of the book and looked pretty slick. But the slickest website in the world can do nothing if nobody knows anything about it.'

Thornton set up and then responded to every email he received. 'I sent a message to each one thanking them; it was a simple courtesy. Suddenly, it mushroomed: first there were five people a day, then 10, then 15, then 25 people wanting to be 'friends' with the book. Some asked questions: each received a reply. All my spare hours were spent talking to people who seemed almost as excited about the publication as I was... Two weeks before publication, the book hit Amazon's Top Ten bestselling pre-orders...

'It had leapfrogged many books with huge amounts of money spent on advertising and marketing. It had become a bestseller thanks to direct, personal communication with potential readers that has been made possible by the Internet.

'It's a future where authors are there for their readers. Bound Together continues to sell, and I still reply to emails and answer questions. It's a pleasure, being able to receive instant feedback. For non-fiction writers in particular, the internet will become a forum to talk about their book. Readers' reactions may change the very nature of books themselves. Readers' suggestions could be incorporated into later editions, and ideas, chapters and even whole manuscripts could be road-tested online, making readers part of the writing process.'

The future looks bright for writers, and this time around there will be no dotcom boom and bust, but rapid growth fuelled by what the web can actually deliver.

If you are interested in setting up your own website, WritersServices will shortly be launching a new service which will empower you to do so.

See also WritersPrintShop, our top-rated self-publishing service.