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Monday, July 2, 2012

Should readers play a part in publishing choices?

What you read and how you read on eReaders is being noted.

According to a lengthy report in The Wall Street Journal, Amazon, Nook, Kobo and other e-readers observe reader habits through their devices and reading apps and are beginning to organize the data and learn from it.

Fiction and nonfiction are read differently, for instance.  Barnes & Noble learned that while novels are generally read all the way through, non-fiction is read in parts and readers often quit non-fiction books before finishing.

It makes a big difference if you are already hooked into a series.  Kobo found that George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons (the fifth book in his popular Game of Thrones series, Random House) was a particularly engaging book: Most readers read it from start to finish at an average speed of about 50-pages an hour.

Will the development and release of more e-reading data by retailers to publishers help publishers develop better and better-selling books?

Farrar, Straus & Giroux publisher Jonathan Galassi defended the sanctity of books as creative works that “the reader shouldn’t have anything to do with.”

 As WSJ points out, others in the publishing industry embrace the idea of input from readers.

After all, readers are their market.

One firm that is going in actively for reader-sourced data in making publishing decisions is Sourcebooks, which calls the process "agile publishing."

Indie authors are adopting an even more innovative approach. If your readers aren't happy with your book, it's easy enough to withdraw it, rewrite, and republish.  Elle Lothlorien, a self-published author, wrote an alternate ending to her book Sleeping Beauty in response to author demand. 

As USA Today wrote: Elle Lothlorien knows how to keep her readers happy. If some don’t like the ending of her book Sleeping Beauty, then there’s another option: Sleeping Beauty with a different ending. How cool is that?

And then there is Coliloquy, a new start-up that creates books that allow readers to customize characters and plot lines.  In their promo, they call is "active fiction": their digital platform links authors and readers, allowing the novelist to invite reader engagement, and shape his or her story line accordingly.  The result? Innovative digital fiction that moves beyond traditional publishing.

As Digital Book World comments, while this is certainly a fringe experiment in new modes of publishing for now, Coliloquy might have something to teach other publishers: Most readers finish the books and about two-thirds re-read them.


Mark Hubbard said...

I read this article over the weekend and think Coliloquy's idea is awful. It's the death of the author, and as a reader, it's the one time I want to be led.

I would have no enjoyment at all in reading a book in which I get to influence character or ending.

Joan Druett said...

But doesn't it happen already, with adaptations of classics? Think of all that updated Shakespeare, and all the versions of Pride and Prejudice ...

But you have a point. As a teenager, I really wanted to change the ending of Gone With the Wind. Now, I realize that it was the perfect ending, and anything else would have been a disaster.