If you have a couple minutes, I would suggest checking out this pretty cool interaction between a novelist and his (non-) fan at Yahoo! Answers. In an exchange that could only happen in this social media era, a high school student asked Yahoo! users to summarize a novel he had been assigned for summer reading. The novel is ‘The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To’ and the author is DC Pierson, who currently holds the thread’s most-liked response.
Instead of posting a diatribe on the immature and attention span-deficient nature of today’s youth like you might expect from an author, Pierson’s pitch, in my opinion, hits the target perfectly:
“I’m not going to sit here and act like I didn’t sometimes not read assigned books for class in high school. Even though it’s referenced once in my book, the book you’re avoiding reading, I’ve never actually read ‘The Scarlet Letter.’ So I’m sympathetic to your plight. But I think you’ll find there’s a ton more sex, swearing, and drugs in my book than anything else you have been or will be assigned in high school, and I don’t mean in the way your teacher will tell you ‘You know, Shakespeare has more sex and violence than an R-rated movie!’ I mean it’s all there, in terms you will readily understand without having to Google them. Plus not once to I refer to anything as a ‘bare bodkin’ or anything like that.”
This anecdote brings to mind three points:
- Yahoo! Answers, if it wants to, can become what Quora set out to be: a forum for smart answers from the most reputable or notable sources. I’m surprised that Yahoo! hasn’t incorporated more of Quora’s social strategy into their own platform, or at least devoted some energy and resources into seeking out awesome answers such Pierson’s.
- You could not draft a better answer than the one Pierson gave. It’s targeted content marketing at its finest. You don’t have to take my word for it. Look at the positive responses it has received from other commentators on the Yahoo! thread, or from the TechCrunch community, or Gawker. Pierson has been able to drum up a nifty bit of positive PR for himself.
- Why does the book publishing industry continue to struggle? Obviously, it take longer than a blog post to answer that question, however with social media-adept authors such as Pierson, who clearly have a good grasp on the topics younger people like to read, shouldn’t we begin to see some upswing eventually? In my opinion, book publishers have not placed enough focus on innovation. While the music industry is certainly no beacon, there have been some bright spots with socially infused platforms such as Spotify. Wouldn’t it be cool to see what passages your friends were reading on their Kindle, similar to the Spotify Facebook plug-in (Lendle is a step in the right direction). Or how about an interactive experience with the author? Not a traditional Twitter Q&A, but what about someone who writes the first three chapters of a book, and then takes fan feedback to essentially crowdsource the plot? I’m not saying that these are good ideas, but the publishing industry seems fine with translating the traditional reading experience onto a piece of hardware and stopping there. Yes, reading a book has historically been an individual venture. Does it still need to be?
It has yet to be determined whether Pierson’s plea worked, as the student has not responded, but as TechCrunch noted, it might be because he is now feverishly flipping through the book’s pages.