Stephen Elliott (who I get the feeling you’ll be hearing a lot about on here) wrote on The Rumpus yesterday about why he created an app for his book, The Adderall Diaries. The app includes sixty pages of book tour diaries, a video interview, and a news and events feed. Also included is an interactive discussion board, which Elliott claims is the most important feature of the app. I couldn’t agree more with him.
I haven’t made the switch from paper to screen yet, nor do I think I ever will make a full transition. But what Elliott is doing is absolutely revolutionary, and I’m sure that the concept will at the very least pique the interest of those who stand adamantly by the physical page. More authors should begin adopting Elliott’s model, or they risk losing out on the opportunity to independently engage a growing and very influential screen-reading audience.
The days when the author can curl up in her study and craft novel after novel and allow a publicity agent to take care of all of her marketing endeavors are slowly (SLOWLY) coming to an end. With advances in social media and technology, authors should be, and have begun, utilizing their resources to connect with their readers. It’s about personalizing your body of work, thus personalizing your own image.
Worded like that, it almost sounds scripted, like any other marketing ploy. But, really, it’s not. This is about genuinely connecting with your readers. Elliott has found ways to interact with his readers that many writers just aren’t doing. He sends out an incredibly intimate email — about his dating life, his opinions on the publishing world, and his fantasy football team — everyday to subscribers of The Daily Rumpus; he’s got a Twitter account and consistently interacts with his followers; and now he’s created this app for his book.
Undoubtedly, the discussion board is the most important piece of The Adderall Diaries app: it’s yet another way that Elliott can engage his readers and vice versa. Encouraging discussion around his book allows for this virtual book club to compare their experiences as they read, ask Elliott questions, talk about Elliott’s bookstore appearances, discuss the book’s literary elements (possibly reinventing the concept of lit-crit?), and a handful of other things. If you can reach out to your reading demographic and pull them together to discuss your book (and this goes for any product) and get them excited about it, then you should be doing it. And so Elliott is.
I foresee this sort of thing becoming very popular. If they haven’t done so already, publishing houses will certainly begin creating apps for their books and encouraging dialogue around the books on discussion boards. In this age of social media it’s inevitable, and a no-brainer. And authors’ agents and editors will encourage them to share their creative process with their readers. Soon enough I believe we’ll begin seeing Tweets like, “Just finished chapter 3 for the eighth time… I think”, blogs that document an author’s appearances and experiences along a book tour, and videos of authors interviewing their readers. The opportunities for engaging one’s readers are endless.
That said, when the time comes that the major publishing houses are adopting ideas like the book app on a large scale, the Stephen Elliotts in the literary world will have to step up again and introduce us to other innovative concepts. But I’m not worried. This is really a luxury that authors and smaller presses have now. And so long as there are Stephen Elliotts kicking around, there will be inventiveness and forward thinking, and there will be a thriving literary scene that’s unafraid of throwing itself into the maelstrom of innovation and adapting to the shore on which it lands.
*Both photos courtesy of The Rumpus