Central Clearing House for Book Contacts

A reader wrote to me the other day with an idea for creating a central place where any reader could contact any author with book-related questions. It would be a social media type idea along the lines of Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, but with a book focus. The way this idea works is that a reader could leave a question on the central site and then the author would receive a notification through e-mail about the question. The question and its answer would remain public. That way, other readers with the same question would see the answer and not have to ask the author about it again.

This blog fulfills the idea that the reader has to a certain extent. When I receive e-mails from readers, I determine whether the question has enough interest to affect a large number of readers. When the question is better answered publicly, I put an answer up here, rather than answer it privately. Of course, there are times when a reader question needs and deserves a private answer. Using the blog approach does make it easier for me to handle some questions discretely, but nothing would keep me from including an e-mail address for that purpose in the book. The problem with this blog is that reader need to know to look here for answers. Even though I publish the URL for this blog in all of my books, readers still managed to miss it somehow and I get queries in e-mail about the availability of such a central knowledge store.

Wrox provides a centralized location for readers to exchange information of the sort that the reader mentioned, but it’s not as well known as the social media sites and I didn’t think to include the URL for it in my book (the publisher does include it as part of the Introduction). My experiences with Professional IronPython, Professional Windows 7 Development Guide, and C# Design and Development tell me that the concept is good, but reader participating is often poor. I actually get a lot more input on my blog.

I like the idea this reader has because it provides a social media type approach to a pressing need authors have to service reader requests for information. The problems are figuring out how to present the idea publicly, implement the idea in software, and then to make the site popular enough that it actually does what it’s supposed to do.

Of course, I’m always looking for input from you on making things work in a way that’s easy for you. What do you think about this concept? Is it possible to create such a site and have it become a success? Would you even frequent such a site? Let me know your thoughts on the matter at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.


Having a Reader Focus

I get a number of reader e-mails each month about writing in general and becoming an author in specific. A lot of people write to say that they feel they have one or two books in them. In fact, it’s entirely possible that most people have one or two books that they could write, but becoming an author is more than simply having a good idea. In fact, it’s more than even having talent or education. Yes, good ideas, talent, and education all help, but what an author really needs is a reader. Actually, a whole bunch of readers is important.

When I start to consider a new book idea, I write down goals, topics, and needs that a reader would have (see my post entitled Developing the Reader Profile). There is none of me in that list. It’s the reason I spend so much time encouraging you to write. The more I know about you, the more often I interact with you, the better I become as an author. The whole purpose of writing a book, any book, is to serve the reader. Fiction books provide entertainment and possibly some enlightenment, while non-fiction books tend to educate, enlighten, and possibly entertain the reader. A book that doesn’t serve the reader is doomed to failure. That’s why many vanity books fail. Most vanity books are written to serve the author, not the reader.

It’s fairly common for me to write back to someone about their book idea and get a response that discusses an author need. In all reality, it’s a human response. Giving up self in order to serve another, especially someone who you have never met (and may never meet), is one of the hardest parts of becoming an author. Writing is about helping others in some way, not about making money or becoming famous. There are millions of authors, but there is only one Isaac Asimov (replace Isaac with your favorite author). Authors who make tons of money and achieve lasting fame are extremely rare, but the contributions made by authors as a whole to society could never be met by the few famous authors out there.

Of course, I don’t mean to discourage anyone either. Creating a piece of literature that helps even one person is a rewarding experience. The thank you e-mails I receive each month are worth their weight in gold. It’s not that I want applause—it’s simply makes me happy to know that some bit of information I have learned the hard way has helped someone else do something interesting.

Developing the relationships I have with readers has also helped me considerably over the years. I’ve learned a great deal about places I’ll never see from people I’ll never meet. Working with people from various countries has also broadened my horizons and has enabled me to see things from different perspectives. All of these benefits, and many more, come to the author who has a reader focus. If you really want to be successful, make sure you write for the right reasons and with the correct viewpoint. Let me hear your reader focus questions at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.