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.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've been following filedby and the comments - especially after the LA times lashing... what people aren't understanding is that authors can manage all of their information: bio/books/presentation/picture/links etc for FREE. The money comes to play IF and only IF authors want to do things like put up a press release (which they pay much more for at other places). I just wish people weren't so quick to jump to conclusions before they fully research what's going on.

Hannah Johnson said...

I realize that authors can have a presence on filedby for free. my point, which perhaps was not clear enough in my post, is that filedby presents yet another site that an author needs to monitor and update, but does not offer as much value as other options, like a blog or even a regular website. filedby is a great resource for basic information about authors, but a real web presence requires quality content that is regularly updated. going to an author's site is not worth a reader's time if it only contains a list of books they've written.

a successful web presence establishes a dialogue with readers, where they feel like they have some sort of further connection with the author that they would not otherwise have. unless filedby is aiming to become a larger online community or social site for readers and authors to interact (which is a tall order and if filedby can become that, then more power to it!), then i think its value is limited.

Richard Allen said...

As a relatively new author, I would tend to agree with Ms. Johnson on this one. A website, no matter how unsophisticated, provides a venue for the author to interact with readers. Having said that, you still need to promote the website and gain attention. That takes time and energy away from writing, an unfortunate side effect.There is a proper balance and like all things in life you have to find what works for you.

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