Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Warning, rampant opinions ahead:
Forums are fun, hell I spend a lot of time on them; nobody could say that I don't like forums. But they are an online tool with a specific function and they have more than their fair share of problems. Forums tend to get bugs, are vulnerable to attack and breaches of security and have quirks of use that make them irritating even to those who embrace the technology.
Phaze forums have been up and down and are changing to a different provider, Chippewa/Lady Aibell's forums have fallen and can't get up prompting a welcome return to direct email communication, meanwhile Cobblestone are referring writers more and more to their forums. Do you find forums make things easier and improve communication?
My take on it is this. Forums are a complimentary technology. They allow peer-to-peer communication and audience participation. When people go to the publisher's website the forum says 'come in, sit down, stay a while--we value you.' But when it comes the business end of things, to edits, royalty statements and all important communications between a publisher and an author, my request would be: please use email. I think it is a courtesy of communication to send private information directly to the person who needs it rather than making them come to you. The economics of e-book writing mean most of use write for more than one house and we do not all want to hang out in the clubhouse.
It may be marginally easier for a press to put material on a forum for everyone to come and get, but is if significantly easier for the author to be sent this information directly--and the effort is very much appreciated as an sign from the publisher that they see each writer as business person with whom they have an specific reciprocal relationship. Of course then you have issues with bouncing emails and authors must make the effort to keep their email address information current and their spam filters properly adjusted, that is the other side of the coin.
In the end, if my books are a sale-able commodity where would the publisher rather see me: at their yahoogroups, forums and chats, or at my desk writing the next book? Or do I have the horse and cart in an incorrect configuration here? (It wouldn't be the first time).