Wednesday, September 26, 2007

HarperCollins' Author Assistant

According to a recent Publishers Lunch, HarperCollins has launched a web-based tool called Author Assistant. It’s a way for their authors to communicate with fans online. In other words, another marketing tool for authors. It’s starting with 40 Avon Romance authors. Those authors will be able to create web pages with features like bios, blogs, Q&A, photos, links, and widgets.

According to Carolyn Pittis, SVP for Global Marketing Strategy and Operations, they plan to add other features in the future, including a video component. Pittis recognizes that a lot of authors are already working on an online presence, but says:
authors are not experts on search engine optimization. The point of what we're trying to do is to use the author's content to cross-market them within our network.
The good news is that HarperCollins says the authors will own any content they create for their pages.

You can find out more at the Avon site.

One thing I find annoying is having to register. There are so many sites where you have to sign up that there’s no way I could remember my sign-in name, let alone password. If they want you to connect with their authors, they should make it open and visible to the public. Yes, I know they want to capture the email addresses. They can do that without making you register. Having to sign up puts a block between author and reader.


  1. It sounds like an interesting idea, but I'm not sure that HarperCollins aren't taking as much as they're giving here. This business of authors not being "experts on search engine optimization" is a bit disingenuous. Unless you're unlucky enough to have a name like "Johnny Cheap Meds" or "Phil Real-Estate", you're not going to have much trouble getting your site to the top of Google.

    I wouldn't like to see authors being discouraged from building their own independent websites, on which they can market their books in their own way. (Obviously this isn't stopping that from happening, but how many authors are going to want to spend time updating TWO sites?)

    And what about authors who have books out with more than one publisher? Are they going to be able to promote their other work, or is this going to be presenting an edited version of their careers?

    I don't doubt that this can be a great marketing tool for authors and publishers alike, but an author's first online marketing tool should always be their own website, over which they should have full control.

  2. Have to agree with you. The publisher is getting as much, if not more, out of this deal. But it is another avenue authors can use to promote their books. And if the house will make it easier to do some of the "whiz bang" stuff like videos, etc., then that's helpful for authors.

    I agree that authors need to have their own website under their own name where they can do their own promos for all their books, their appearances, etc. A lot of authors maintain multiple sites. They have their own domain site, they have a MySpace site with blog, they have a blog on Amazon and on Publishers Weekly, plus a listing on their publisher's site.

    This new thing with HarperCollins seems to go a step beyond just a listing. I'm hard pressed to believe they'll allow their authors to publicize books from other houses to be promoted there, though. We'll see.

    Whether they do or not, authors need to maintain control of their own marketing. You're right on that!

  3. Wanted to step in to clarify things :)
    1) The site is where the authors go to log in and access the tool for creating web content. Since the press release we've seen confusion and so are changing the login box to reflect that.
    2) Once authors update content, it goes to an in-house managing editor to look over (they suggest SEO type changes but generally just copy edit) and then goes live immediately.
    3) The consumers/fans access the sites by typing in for example you can go to to see her new site and all the content. For the list of 40+ authors go to and look at the press release. The authors are listed in it with links.
    4) The idea of having a publisher create the tool is so the content becomes database driven and therefore it can be used not only on the author site but also the imprint/genre area, the hc homepage and maybe syndicated in the future. It allows the publisher to cross market and expand the fan base of authors.
    5) As far as SEO. Of course authors will be found by those typing in their names or book titles. BUT isn't a goal to reach those who do not know about you? How about the romance fan that loves paranormals and wants more but doesn't know who to look for? By using great meta information, teaching authors to use key words in their text and headers, etc. their chances of being found in alternative ways grows exponentially.
    6) Authors using the AA tool are encouraged to list all of their titles and recommend authors and books that are not HarperCollins. Fans love an author, not the house. They should see the whole author on the web, not a part :)

    Anyway, hope that's helpful.

  4. Thank you very much, Anonymous, which I assume is someone incognito from HarperCollins. I appreciate your information and for giving the correct URL for visitors to find an author and view their page. And I'm also glad publishers are working to give their authors a way to create a strong online presence.

    I think this information is so important, I'm going to post it as a blog entry tomorrow to catch those viewers who might have read the original post, but not gone into the comments section.


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