Another wonderful story from the Tamar Valley Writer’s Festival about the increased opportunities for authors and readers to communicate with each other and the enrichment to both that can follow.
When Hobart-based children’s author Lian Tanner received a message on her website from a 16-year-old girl, she was thrilled to read she was a fan of her Keepers trilogy, but what she learned as she read the letter was the impact of her books on this teenage reader.
The young woman had spent most of her life in foster care and the characters in The Keepers resonated with her strongly.
This reader told Tanner that on her worst days she felt as if she were in chains. And when she felt really bad she would lock herself away in her room and read the Keepers books, which would make her feel better.
Tanner told this story at the recent Tamar Valley Writers Festival, held at Grindelwald, and explained how the distance between readers and authors had lessened in the age of social media and heightened online connectivity.
“My Keepers trilogy is about children who are kept in chains. I thought [this story] is the best thing that I have ever heard,” Tanner said.
Readers have more access to authors than ever before and, as a result, have a louder voice. Writers’ festivals, like the one Tanner was speaking at, book launches and social media have all contributed to the level of interaction we now enjoy with authors.
“Children expect to be able to talk to the author,” Tanner said.
“Children could always write to the author, and sometimes you’d get an answer and sometimes not, but now they can email or talk to them on Instagram, or talk to them on all sorts of platforms, and that is delightful.
“It’s great for the kids, but it is also absolutely delightful for the author,” she said.
Not only does this change in the way we interact with authors create a better relationship for both parties, but it also enhances word of mouth, which is one of the best ways for an author to sell books.
This word of mouth comes from the readers themselves, but also the booksellers, who know their customers so well. A good bookseller will know what to recommend when a customer is uncertain - or wants to try something new.
“What sells books is what the booksellers call hand selling - when you go into a book shop and they know you and say ‘you will love this’, or you go into a shop and say ‘what have you got for my 12-year-old child?’ and they say ‘try this’, or one of your friends says, ‘I just read this fantastic book...’,” Tanner said.
“There is nothing like word of mouth for selling a book.”
Which book do you continually recommend?
Johanna is a journalist and author of the book Business & Baby on Board.