Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Take on FiledBy Author

I saw the hype about FiledByAuthor in PW, on Twitter, in my Google Reader. Most of the hype simply said that the site had 1.8 million writer profiles on there and that it was set up as a resource/community for writers and readers. So I checked it out, signed up and created my profile as a reader. I even uploaded a profile picture and added some books to my “favorites” list. However, the thought occurred to me mid-way through this process that I might be wasting my time. What benefit do I, as a reader, gain from FiledByAuthor?

Digging deeper into how the site works, I discovered (shockingly) that I am not necessarily the target audience. Apparently, FiledBy aggregates content about authors from all over the internet and packages the information in the form of author profiles with a picture, bio, list of works. After that, authors are asked to pay a subscription fee to verify their listing and add extra features to the profile. According to the website, publishers can also elect to pay this fee on behalf of their authors. Carolyn Kellogg of Jacket Copy pointed out that the author information on this website will not be removed at the request of an author. She talked with a co-founder of FiledByAuthor, Peter Clifton and asked why FiledBy does not offer an opt-out. Clifton answered that he hopes people will prefer to participate, but that FiledBy has every right to create a directory of authors using available information from the internet. However, in Carolyn’s opinion, “to be truly author-friendly, it has to demonstrate that it values intellectual property.”

Tricky. If an author decides to participate, he or she is out at least a hundred bucks and now has another site that needs regular updates and attention. On the other hand, opting out means having no control over the information, correct or otherwise, listed on FiledBy. It might look like the author does not care about reaching readers. Of course this all depends on how many readers actually sign up.

I get the idea behind FiledByAuthor. Publishers encourage their authors to have a web presence and to market themselves online. Many authors don’t have the time or inclination to do as much as they or their publishers would like. FiledBy offers an all-in-one resource for author information. As a resource, it is pretty comprehensive. I did some test searches on German authors whose English translations are out of print, and they turned up results! Even some German children’s book authors are in there.

Final conclusion: As a basic resource for ISBN and publication info, this is a great site. The interface is simple and easy to navigate. However, the marketing and community aspects have yet to impress me. Urging people to come to you, rebuild their profile information and invest time means you have to offer something there that is more valuable than what they find somewhere else.