THE BLOG

Savvy Authors Surfing the Web to Bridge the Digital Divide

07/17/2013 05:35 pm ET | Updated Sep 16, 2013

Book clubs are popping up all over the internet as more people become entrenched in their digital lifestyles. As people move their social circles to the web, it makes sense to build literary connections online as well. I started an online book club over two years ago because I found that many of my friends on Twitter liked to read which forged an instant bond as we talked about books. Two of my first online book club tweeters continue to be two of my best online friends today.

One benefit of an online book club is that you can have the authors join the discussion and people can chat from all over the world, have Skype calls or Google+ hangouts. Savvy authors are connecting with book clubs and readers to talk about their books during their launch. Jennifer Miller who penned The Year of the Gadfly, found a great way to celebrate her book hitting the paperback version. She's going to attend 100 book clubs in one month! She started at the beginning on July and has planned a combination of live, in person events with online chats and Skype calls.

This wasn't Jennifer's only book selling innovation. She also did novelade stands, using the classic lemonade stand set up with a table of books. Today's authors have much of the burden of marketing and selling their books and since Borders closed and independent bookstores are disappearing as well authors have fewer locations for book signings. The big publishers send very few authors out on big book tours so it's up to the authors to find ways to connect with readers and sell their books. Online book clubs are the perfect venue.

The Huffington Post hosted a wonderful online book club series with traditionally published author John Green who wrote The Fault in Our Stars. The Fault in Our Stars was a perfect choice for an online event since John Green is a social media aficionado with over 1.5 million followers on Twitter and is a YouTube powerhouse but also because TFIOS (as the fans call it) was one of the hottest books last year. The topics discussed are interesting, deep and ripe for discussion. Green created a cohesive Tumblr page to answer questions for fans that is locked with a password clue from the book since he is very careful about spoilers on the web.

Oprah also moved her book club online with Oprah's Book Club 2.0. Here books can be discussed, interviews with authors are shared and you can dive into the list of over sixty books that have been past book club selections. Being chosen as a one of Oprah's books had been the golden touch for such books as Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Where the Heart is by Billie Letts as well as breathing new life into classics such as The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

All these events have two things in common: books and the internet. So while people are mourning the death of the traditional book and bookstores, we can also celebrate this brilliant new way that readers, authors and their books are connecting in this new frontier. Books are reaching a new renaissance as the possibility for online popularity can push a book from an author's mind, to their computer and straight into the hands of their fans as happened with indie phenom Hugh Howey. Hugh wrote his WOOL series of books and self-published them on his website. Fans found them and went crazy for them creating online buzz and unheard of book sales for a self-published author. The pure quality of content gave Howey's books legs and found readers as he published them in five small novels in serial manner. Fans couldn't and still can't get enough as they flock to his website to check his word count on his next writing projects.

John Green and Hugh Howey may have gone about publishing their books in different ways yet ultimately the online connection with their fan base is what sells their books. Creating a connected bond between reader and authors is bridging the digital divide and enriching the lives of both the reader and writer. Whether by online book club, website, Facebook page or Twitter feed, today's authors are finding ways to bridge the new challenges of the book world and succeeding.