Authors using Internet to promote books

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(Host) Readings, signings and newspaper reviews used to be all it took to publicize a new book.

But times have changed and the number of fiction readers is in decline.

To counter that trend, authors are increasingly getting involved in promoting their books – and using the Internet to do it.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports on the online efforts of two Vermont authors.

(Zind) When Chris Bohjalian’s first book came out 20 years ago, promoting it was a quiet affair.

(Bohjalian) “You sold it through very polite readings and book parties at nice apartments at book stores and the publisher took out an add in the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle and there would be reviews and that was essentially how you sold books.”

(Zind) Now as he gears up for next month’s release of his new novel “The Double Bind”, Bohjalian is preparing to promote it to a degree that would be completely foreign to writers of an earlier generation.

(Bohjalian) “I am dramatically more involved with promoting a book than I was 20 years ago. The reality is that marketing my books in 2006 and 2007 is a sizeable time commitment.”

(Zind) Like other writers, Bohjalian has had to adjust to an unpleasant reality: The percentage of Americans reading fiction has dropped nearly twenty percent over twenty years.

He blames the decline on the Internet.

(Bohjalian) “The Internet has done what radio, film, television, VCR’s and DVD’s couldn’t do, and that is to give readers an alternative to literature that they find more compelling than pulp and ink.”

(Zind) Becoming more actively involved in marketing is a matter of survival for today’s writers.

(Kira Stevens) “Those authors like Chris who really get involved have a tremendous impact on the sales of their books.”

(Zind) Kira Stevens is Marketing Director for Shay Erhardt Books, Bohjalian’s publisher.

Stevens says authors are increasingly taking advantage of the technology that drew their readers away in the first place: The Internet.

(Promo announcer) “It begins with a box of old photographs, black and white, faded, dog-eared”

(Zind) This video on Bohjalian’s Web site uses images and sound to draw people to the printed page.

Bohjalian has pioneered another method of reaching. Through his Web site, he makes himself available to book groups. It’s estimated that nationally there are two million of these small discussion groups.

(Bohjalian) “I probably do three or four reading group speaker phone chats every single week. They’re a great deal of fun! And I think that’s been a great way for me personally to reach out to readers and to sell books.”

(Zind) Promoting books on his own Web sites has been an adjustment for Bohjalian.

New authors like Tinling Choong, have come of age in the Internet era.

The Vermont writer’s first novel, “Fire Wife,” comes out this week.

(Choong) “It was actually very natural for me to think about an author Web site.”

(Zind) Like Bohjalian, Choong says her Web site has a function beyond promotion. It’s a way to reach out and interact with readers and offer them more information about her and her work.

(Choong) “Having a Web site will allow readers from beyond the traditional venues like bookstores or libraries to come into contact with my book.”

(Zind) The Internet is affecting writers in another way. Chris Bohjalian says his own royalty checks show an increasing number of people are downloading his books online.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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