Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Building relationships with readers is a valuable way for an author to grow book sales.
The Goodreads book recommendation site has recently extended its author tools with a new feature called “Ask The Author” that allows authors to answer fans’ questions.
The way Ask The Author works is that readers visit participating authors’ pages on Goodreads and submit questions to authors. When open for questions, an author can read the incoming queries and choose when to post the answers. The questions are all private to the author to you until the author chooses to make them public. That means, if you’re an author, you don’t need to answer every question that comes in. And you can control the flow of the answers.
The questions you (the author) choose to answer appear in the newsfeeds of all of your followers. Goodreads also directly informs the questioner that his or her inquiry has been addressed. A log of your questions and answers shows up on your Goodreads profile page.
If you’re a fan, in order to submit a question, simply visit the author’s Goodreads profile page. The author may or may not be taking questions. If the Q&A session is active, you can submit a question. If it has ended, readers can select “More answers from…” to view all of the questions the author has answered in the past.
What makes Ask The Author different from most live online author Q&A sessions is that the content is archived in Goodreads so the answers don’t disappear and people can look up the questions and answers on their own time.
At the 2014 BEA Conference, Patrick Brown, Director of Author Marketing at Goodreads offered some tips for authors to get the most out of this new feature.
1. Set Expectations
Whether you are willing to answer questions for a day, or for a week, please let your readers you’re your parameters. Maybe you only want to answer questions about your new book—make that clear. You’re not obligated to answer all your questions, but you do need to be a good citizen and let your readers know what kind of questions you’ll take.
Goodreads suggests guiding your readers to ask following types of questions:
• The author’s writing process
• The author’s favorite writers or influences
• Questions about specific characters or moments in books
• Questions about author’s writing life (not personal life)
2. Post Interesting Answers
You’re a writer–so write your answers in your unique voice. People like your books because they’re interesting. Don’t bore your readers online! If your books are humorous, your fans will expect funny replies. Be yourself—but make reading your answers worthwhile.
3. Distribute Your Answers Over Time
The answers in Ask The Author get posted in a newsfeed. So if you put a little time between your answers they won’t all appear in a clump and your fans will receive them on a more consistent, regular basis.
4. You Can Ask Yourself a Question
If there’s something you really want your readers to know, but no one is asking, then go ahead: ask yourself then create an answer.
The feature launched in May, 2014 in a limited capacity with 54 well-known authors. Those authors included Margaret Atwood, Khaled Hosseini, James Patterson, Dan Brown and Jeff Kinney. But now all authors can be part of this new feature.