Books are an industry ripe for a social media makeover.
Chances are, if you’ve had a good read lately, you’ve told someone else about it.
And with the sometimes predicted death of printed books through e-books, the publishing industry is experiencing the same kind of digital disruptive change experienced by other industries – and is desperately looking for new ways to engage with readers.
Hello Literary Angels – a newly launched Facebook-facing (with other social media to be added) service looking to allow readers, publishers and authors to have a group hug, and promote and excite in this new bits and bytes world.
L.A. is the brainchild of longtime computer/IT involved friends, Lisa Buchan and Mike Peters under the Vangelizer label.
“Literary Angels go forth and promote books,” Buchan says. “They let people tell others what they may like. The main idea is to present a way to socialise a book.”
Buchan says, as is especially being seen in the US with bookshops closing all over the place, there are increasingly few people working in the retail environment who can recommend books or genres for someone walking in off the street. LA is one way around this.
Like many things in life and the digital world, LA has a front end and back end. How it works is, after having read and enjoyed a book (hard copy or an e-book) a fan touches or scans a QR (quick response) code. This takes them straight to the book’s LA page, and the fan can in turn select, via Facebook, friends they wish to inform about the book.
The same fan is also able to give away, for free, one copy of the book (which, when you think about it is what often happens with a paperback).
These (non-gifted) friends may purchase the book, and in turn create a virtuous circle of recommended reading.
Meanwhile, at the backend a publisher, literary publicist or author (or all three) can see any action carried out on that angel.
These include who has downloaded a sample chapter, clicked on a back page, or clicked on the author page off Facebook.
“All this is incognito, as Facebook cannot give out personal attributes about a person without their express authorisation,” Buchan says. “The only time we do ask permission is when a person gives or receives a free e-book. That’s so people don’t set up a scam giving away thousands of books.”
In four months of beta testing, such permission hasn’t been an issue. Many avid readers like to be the first, to be noticed and noted as one step ahead. They’re happy to be identified as recommenders.
LA/Vangelizer’s business model is to charge a publisher and/or author. Publishers always have a publicity and advertising budget, the majority of which goes to the distribution and retailing side of things.
As publishers too look for a new way of connecting with readers, LA will pick up some of this spend, Buchan says.
She and Peters have test-crash-dummied Wellington author John Draper’s new book Minstrel Boy using Literary Angels under an e-book model, and an English publisher has LA for a hard copy book, Harry Potter on Location, a film location guide for the UK-made movies.
Buchan says as with all these types of new ventures, their team is learning by doing and as they do it.
Their main target is the Frankfurt book fair in early October.
“That’s when we’ll really launch publicly,” she says. “That will set the expectation, and we’ll be taking orders and getting angels out the door from late October.”