"Authors who want to engage their readers do so. Those who don't, don't." Those were my words during a recent discussion of what publishers might do help authors connect with their readers. Someone had mooted the idea of publishers creating forums, but whether a publisher provides forums won't make the difference.
The Internet is littered with forums, and there are plenty of other venues for becoming involved in a broader community. Here are just some examples that come to mind:
User Group Events
Authors need to be careful however, and readers must have reasonable expectations. A wise author once said to me:
"I believe we sell a book, not consultancy."
Everyone must earn a living, and authors cannot afford to be caught up spending all their time responding to an unceasing barrage of reader queries. Readers must respect that writing is rarely a profit center, and that consulting engagements do cost more than a book.
Authors wanting to engage their readers find their own venues and become involved in the communities they serve. Publishers can encourage involvement, but the realization of it is always down to the individual author. My own experience is that engaging with readers leads to delightfully surprising opportunities, but engagement must be balanced against the realities of needing to make a living at one's day job and put food on the table for one's family.