Writing in the Online World: Changes in Audiences and Their Reading Habits
Whether you’re already a published author, or you’re just getting started writing, you can’t afford to ignore the realities of the writer’s new online world.
You may have always read “real” (paper) books, magazines, newspapers and other reading materials, and feel that e-books (electronic books) and online written material lack the texture, scent, and comfort you associate with paper books and other reading. You may already be an author of traditionally published or self-published books and have successfully sold copies to enthusiastic family, friends, and broader audiences. Possibly, in decades past, you hand-wrote or typed your manuscript, while chances are that more recently you have used computer word processing software with its greater ease of producing a manuscript. You likely have expanded your research beyond the library to the internet.
But why, you wonder, is there such a fuss, indeed a demand in the publishing world for authors to embrace the “online” world of the internet beyond manuscript typing and some research? Is it really necessary? What’s the big commotion about, anyway? Why should authors write on their own blogs/websites and social media, sell their books as e-books as well as traditional books, and write for online e-zines, writers’ communities, and so on?
Changes in audiences and their reading habits:
• It’s a busy, electronically connected world: In our busy world, with many different media vying for the attention books, magazines, and newspapers used to hold, readers are in a hurry, looking for material that is entertaining and quick to read. With growing experience of laptops, cell phones, tablets and other mobile devices, readers are looking for the convenience of having a majority of their reading needs met in one or two simple, easily-to-carry formats. We communicate with both friends and business contacts through emails, texting, and on social media on a single device; why not read in the same way?
• Online bookstores: As more and more reading and all kinds of other life activities are done online, readers’ shopping habits have been changing, with a growing preference for giant one-stop online bookstores such as Amazon or Chapters-Indigo . It is becoming ever easier for authors to publish and sell their books on these online stores. Even before the development of these online giants, there was the growth of “big box” brick-and-mortar bookstores, stepping into the market space previously held by independent bookstores. Readers got used to shopping big box, and it was an easy step to start using mega online bookstores.
• Niche-market independent bookstores: The growth of big box bookstores seemed destined to destroy the mom-and-pop independent bookstores—but surprisingly, there has been a rebound of niche-market indie bookstores, many of which are quite willing to sell self-published books, especially from local writers or writers in their niche, as well as selling books from small publishers. In fact, a number of the big box stores have been losing significant market share to the online bookstores and to the indies. Now indie authors can sell their books in e-format online while still supporting, and being even more strongly supported by, independent bookstores.
• Online book searches and marketing: With the growth of online bookstores, it is increasingly obvious to authors that they need to market online as well, as that is where an ever-increasing portion of readers are searching for reading material. A large majority of readers go first to the internet to find new titles, even if they may end up doing some of their actual purchases at a local bookstore. Along with websites that specialise in reviewing new titles, the big online bookstores put a great deal of focus on reviews and on determining what books are the new best-sellers in every imaginable genre. Online bookstores also have unlimited “shelf space” and they offer not only reader reviews but also multiple choices in format (hardcover, softcover, audio, e-books, video, mixed media, video games, etc.).
– Libraries: Libraries, too, have become strong proponents of online writing and reading. Almost all libraries now provide access to thousands of titles which members can “borrow” just as they do traditional books and other materials. And they can borrow those materials by downloading them on their computers, tablets, e-readers, or smart phones from wherever they are.
• New technologies: Younger readers have grown up in a world where seemingly endless new forms of media and technology are being introduced. These young readers are tuned into these forms, and while they still enjoy reading paper books from time to time, they love having the convenience of e-books and other online formats. They spend a lot of time on social media, where they discover mention of new book titles, authors, interesting websites, etc. They also tend to get most of their “news” from online news sites and social media rather than traditional TV, newspapers, and radio. That “news” can include the writing you want to share.
• Authors need a “tribe” – an audience. Without an audience that looks forward to your writing, your words, wonderful as they may be, will most likely fall on deaf ears—or almost no ears. Marketing and promotion are becoming essential activities for writers. You are in charge of getting the attention your work needs and deserves. There is literally a world-wide audience out there, and no matter how small your writing “niche” may be, there are bound to be potential readers in many places around the globe. You are the one who needs to find this audience and give them reasons to stick with you and to spread their enthusiasm about you by word of mouth—and online is the way to find most of them.