Publishers need to improve web sites and help authors engage with readers

At a conference held recently in London, publishers were told they should focus more on getting to know their consumers by improving websites and making authors regularly engage with readers. I, and many authors I know, already do this to a great extent.

Many authors know that leaving the marketing of their books to their publishers is not enough. They realise the importance of having an informative, up-to-date website, a blog and the need to participate in dialogues on social networks like Facebook, Twitter etc. Part of the author's marketing is also giving talks and undertaking book signings most often organised by the authors themselves.

The Publishing Laid Bare conference was organised by Independent Publisher, Legend Press who accepts unsolicited submissions.  The conference highlighted the importance of direct contact with consumers, building a relationship with them and finding out about their reading habits.

The internet was highlighted as the prime resource for reaching consumers and social networking was focussed upon. Mark Thwaite, manager and founding editor of ReadySteadyBook, said: "Publishers need to start to think of their authors as brands. They need to teach them how to blog and tweet and will need to change contracts so that when they sign it is said that there is a need to do some digital marketing of their own."

However, he added: "Still, publishers' websites are not particularly great, search engines are terrible, updated covers aren't up there and blogs aren't updated regularly. They don't know how to use google alerts or RSS feeds, they've still got a lot to learn."