Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have potential to get adults excited about reading books. Many adult readers enjoy connecting on a personal level with the authors of the books they read.
September is National Literacy Month, and adult educators are always looking for ways to get their students excited about reading books. The answer may be online. In a report titled Emerging Technologies in Adult Literacy and Language Education, the National Institute for Literacy notes that social networking sites give students the opportunity to read and write in an authentic, real-world situation. The report fails to mention the added potential these sites have to excite students about reading books by allowing them to get to know authors.
Book authors have taken to the internet to connect with their readers on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. This personal connection has made reading books a more meaningful experience, many readers say.
"It's great to network with authors… it shows they care and makes us more loyal," says Wanda M. of New York.
"I also like seeing some of the daily minutiae that authors go through, whether it's picking up kids, groceries, whatever," says Colorado librarian Sarah W.
Many readers agree that social networks humanize their favorite authors. Through Facebook and Twitter, readers get to know writers in conversations about everyday matters.
"Conversation is key," says Susan Mallery, bestselling author of Finding Perfect (September 2010). "I don't look at Facebook and Twitter as a way to publicize the release dates of my books, though they do help get the word out. I look at them as a way to make meaningful connections with readers. The truth is, if a reader loves my books, chances are good that we could be real friends because we share a sense of humor and we're moved by the same stories. I am what I write."
Mallery's website for the Fool's Gold series of romance novels could be a case study in how to engage readers in the world of the book. She makes reading fun. The Fool's Gold cheerleading squad is comprised of caricatures of some of Mallery's Facebook fans. She has created wedding websites for the couples who find love in her books, so that readers can see wedding pictures and even sign the guestbook. The site has lots of videos, too, making it an interactive, multimedia experience.
"The connection goes both ways," Mallery adds. "I ask my readers online to help me brainstorm sometimes while I'm writing, so they're a part of the process. My Facebook fans created a character from scratch, a veterinarian who will show up in Fool's Gold next year. I'm thinking of writing a Christmas book for him as a way to thank my fans for their friendship."
This opportunity to participate in the process gives readers a thrill when the book they influenced hits the shelves.
"[Participating] in new characters…is exciting and makes me look forward to getting my hands on the author's future reads," says Shawn L. of Washington, DC.
Readers have also found that social networks are a great way to discover new writers.
"I've met authors I wouldn't have known about… through seeing relationships between authors, some of which are very funny," says Heather M. of Georgia.
Sharon S. of Massachusetts adds, "It's also a lot of fun to connect with other readers who enjoy the same author. "
Susan Mallery shares one final thought: "Social networking can be a powerful way to connect with readers, but only when it's backed up by a good book. In the end, it always comes back to writing books that readers will love."