Good morning, bibliophiles! Today I’m here to talk to you about your online presence. It doesn’t matter if you’re a book blogger or an author, well-established or a super-green newbie, to make it in this industry, you need to have an online presence. You may hate certain aspects of it, but the truth is most of your marketing and networking is done online, so it’s a necessary evil you must embrace if you want to experience a modicum of success.
In today’s post, we’re going to go over the different aspects of your online presence, some pros and cons, and I will give you some tips on how to make the most of the internet community.
I’m going to talk to you as someone who walks both sides of the fence – a book blogger and an author. Almost everything I’m going to go over today can be applied to either part of the industry. It’s wordy as hell, but there is a lot of good, FREE information here to help you with your online presence.
Ready? Let’s go!
Regardless of your end game, your website is a super-important tool in your internet tool box. As a book blogger, while posting reviews and spotlights, I always go straight for an author’s website when looking for info. As an author, my website is the hub by which my readers can access anything to do with my pen name. Here are a few things you can do to make your website a little more user-friendly.
KISS Your Domain – Keep It Simple, Stupid
This one is for authors in particular because I don’t really run into this much with bloggers. If you’re naming your domain name after your book series, no one is going to be able to find you unless they already know about it. Not easily, anyway. There are very few authors this has worked for and most of them have still reverted to having their sites mapped to a domain name that matches their pen name. Take Karina Halle, for example. Her website for a LONG time was named after her Experiment in Terror series – experimentinterror.com. While this worked out okay for her for a while, now that she’s more well-known, her main website is http://authorkarinahalle.com. EIT still exists, but it’s a secondary website. As someone who is only moderately familiar with Halle’s work, I would never have found the EIT website when looking for info on the author.
I run into this far more than you’d expect. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with having your domain named after your series. Just make sure you also have a domain name set up as your pen name and map it to your website. That way, readers and book bloggers can locate your site easily. The longer they have to look to find you, the less likely they are to stick with the search. When establishing your website, it should be done in such a way that assumes every visitor has never heard of you before.
Also, you want to make sure you have an easy-to-remember website domain. You’re not always in a position to be able to hand off a business card, so the chances of someone checking out your website when the name is ubercomplicatedseriesname2checkout4books.com is very slim. However, they’re not going to have much of an issue remembering johnsmith.com.
Just remember: KISS.
Your Website Shouldn’t Look Like an Episode of Hoarders,
But Dont Mistake ‘Neat’ for ‘Barren Wasteland’, Either
Ick, I really hate clutter on websites. Finding a good balance may feel like a difficult task, but it’s one I highly recommend investing some time in. If your website is a hot, disorganized mess, your readers are far less likely to spend any length of time on it and it looks very unprofessional to potential agents or publishers who may be scouting your work.
Make Sure You Dont Need Navigation to Find Your Navigation
When your readers go to your website, can they see your basic navigation without scrolling anywhere? Everything your reader needs for navigation should be visible and obvious in the top 1/3 of your website. When setting up your navigation, go into it with the assumption that you reader has no clue how to scroll down. Make your navigation as simple as possible and plainly visible on first glance when your website loads. Authors, if a blogger is looking for info regarding your books, do they have to dig to find info on your titles? If they’re digging any longer than fifteen seconds, chances are, they’re moving on. Everyone likes a good deep-dive every now and then, but not when they’re just looking to find out when your next book is due out.
Organization is key as well. Even if you’re the author of twenty different series, they should all be in one place, not each with their own menu item in your navigation bar. One big thing I would recommend to authors is move your blog to a secondary page. The blog should be a feature of your website, not the other way around.
Sidebar Menus Have Become Glitter Graphic Mass Graves
You also want to be careful with sidebar graphics. You don’t want to bury something important. Readers should not have to wade through a mile of animated sidebar graphics to find the form to subscribe to your blog or the link to your Facebook fan page. All those widgets may seem like a good idea, but when your website gets too “busy”, readers don’t want to look at it. When in doubt, the minimalist approach is always best. Book bloggers, if you’re a proud tour host, be a proud tour host! We love that! Just put all those lovely badges either in your footer or on a page designated just for your mad hosting skills. Having a sidebar rolling three menus deep and jam-packed with graphics results in loss of content space for you/your books and a ridiculous loading time. Again, if I’m waiting for your site to load any longer than fifteen seconds, I’m moving on.
I recommend that any book blogger or author go through their site once a month and take stock of what you have, what you need to keep, and what can get tossed or moved to a better location. Once you’ve made your assessment, clean it up! Anything that you don’t need, either get rid of it, or find a more appropriate place for it than the dumping ground you’ve turned your sidebar menu into.
Here’s a list of what I consider the sidebar must-haves for my clients:
– Search Box
– Facebook Link or Widget
– Twitter Link or Widget
– Subscription Widget for Blog (if your website has one)
That’s it. Everything else can either go or be moved. For the record, I suggest moving things over scrapping them (there’s a reason you have them on there in the first place, just find a better, more organized home). If you’re a blogger and you want to show off your network, do so on your About Us page or your Contact page. Or you can go totally unique and create a page just for your network. If you’re an author, you really don’t need an image of every book you’ve written in the sidebar. Those belong in your Books/Bookshelf section. There are plenty of ways you can showcase your latest release or upcoming release without having an entire library of cover images in your sidebar.
Although clutter on websites is not a great idea, you also want to make sure your site has a well-balanced look about it. You don’t want to strip everything off of it and leave it looking like the dust bowl during the Great Depression. Just make sure you have the basics and that the links to everything else you need are featured in the top third.
Everyone Likes ‘Em Easy
One thing I stress to my clients is although you want your website to be gorgeous and have all sorts of nifty bobbles to play with, you also want to make sure it’s easy to maintain. The more time you have to spend fixing and adjusting things is more time you take away from writing or reading.
After being a loyal customer who paid astronomical hosting costs for more than four years at HostMonster, they up and decided to scrap the editor they supplied for building their websites (Page Wizard) and replaced it with another (can’t remember the name). Now, this would not have been a problem except that it meant when I needed to go in and make an update to the website, I lost everything previously built and had to start over. See, when they made the change to the new software, they did nothing to make the pages backward compatible. All of the PageWizard content vanished the second I opened the new editor. That was when I cut my losses and started looking elsewhere.
I landed on WordPress’s doorstep. As my own personal preference, I happen to LOVE WordPress. I find it incredibly easy to manipulate and build on. When they make changes to their administrative dashboard, it’s always easy to learn my way around again and I’ve yet to lose any content. Also, WordPress has super-cheap domains and super-cheap domain mapping, all of which is managed from one dashboard.
One thing I also want to throw out there: Just because you are building your website on what is considered a blogging platform does not mean you have to have an actual blog. I’m currently working on a website for a client and she doesn’t want a blog at all, but we’re still building her site on WordPress. Just some food for thought, and that brings us to the next point.
To Blog or Not To Blog, That Is The Question
This is something I am seeing more and more of in the author world. Authors who either don’t have the time or desire to use a blog. I’m here to argue the points for why, from a marketing perspective, I find blogs to be a good idea. Book bloggers, you’re welcome to take a breather here because you all already know why blogging is so awesome. *high fives all around* Authors, grab your coffee and take a seat.
I don’t know where blogging got its bad name. I’m sure it has to do with a vast majority of the bloggers in other industries being trolls (a good number of movie bloggers are just AWFUL), but I want you all to pretend that you’d never heard a single bad syllable about blogs or blogging.
There is nothing wrong with blogs. Your Facebook profile is a blog. Your Twitter is a blog. Tumblr. TSU. Google+. All of them. It’s just blogging in a micro-capacity. In fact, Twitter even classifies itself as micro-blogging. Anytime you’re posting content into a “feed” of information, that’s blogging. The difference is when you have a blog on your website, you have your own laser-focused audience in cyber space. Your posts aren’t getting lost in a sea of blog posts never to be seen again.
I know you can do it on other platforms, but, again, I’m a WordPress girl, and one of the things I love is the ability to publicize new content on other platforms. Some call this “pushing” to other platforms. On my author website, I have my blog posts set to push out to Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. This makes it so even though it’s going to my focused audience (those already subscribed to my blog), it’s also going out into the sea of blog posts mentioned earlier. Every time I publish a new blog post, I always end up with new followers as a direct result of pushing the post to other platforms. Over the years, I’ve built up a nice little audience on my website as a result.
Your blog is a chance for you as an author to form a somewhat personal bond with your readers. Your blog is a way to grant your readers a glimpse into your life and your writing process without inviting everyone over for tea and crumpets. It’s like having lots of company and none of the muddy shoes. When I blog, sometimes it’s about my writing, sometimes it’s about my socks. It all depends on the my mood when I sit down to start drafting my post. I even had a post recently which discussed my new obsession with Funko Pop figures (You guys, it’s bad. Like, a full-on addiction.). Although it doesn’t have anything to do with my writing, the posts about random, everyday life get just as much traffic as the post where I discuss how hard it was for me to adopt the Oxford comma.
One of the biggest benefits to the Age of the Internet is authors are now accessible. They once sat atop lofty pillars in our minds, always out of reach. My first time contacting Anne Rice, I swear I thought I was going to have a coronary event. I was PETRIFIED. She’s Anne Rice! She’s untouchable! Through blogs and social media, authors are now able to form a personal relationship with readers while still maintaining control over the flow of information. The ones who share that connection with their readers end up growing a faithful following. Look at Ilona Andrews. They blog regularly and not always about writing. The readers participate in the conversation, creating a dialog that would have been impossible twenty years ago. Having that sort of open door policy on your website allows readers the connection and, frankly, it breeds consumer loyalty. A deeper connection means they are much more likely to follow your writing and buy your book when it becomes available. They no longer view you as a name with no face. You’re not just the writer. You’re the mom or dad, the brother or sister, the day jobber, the nerd, the surfer, the sun worshipper…whatever category or label they share a bond with you over, it makes you human. It makes you attainable.
And no one is saying you need to spill every intimate detail of your day on your blog. Blog as if it’s a journal where you never put anything DEEPLY personal. You’re looking to create a connection, not create a stalker.
If you want your blog to be successful, I recommend posting AT LEAST once a week. More than that is better, of course, but at least once a week will keep relatively regular traffic coming to your site. I’ve just recently gotten back into the habit of posting on my blog daily and the difference in traffic is dramatic. As I mentioned before, I blog about everything. I’m a giant pop culture nerd, so the subject matter of my posts range from my writing to tv, movies, music, what I’m reading, what’s been annoying me, fangirl moments, etc. You name it, I blog about it. I do this because, as I mentioned, a blog is a way to connect, not just another platform on which to peddle your wares.
To circle back, I want to reiterate: Your website should be your central hub as an author. All other social media should just be an extension of your website. Think about Myspace for a moment. In 2006, Myspace was THE place to be if you were an artist of any sort. If you didn’t have a Myspace page, you were screwed. Now? Myspace looks like Robocop’s Detroit. Nothing but badness and ruin on that server. Social networks run the risk of no longer being relevant or cool. Your website, however, isn’t going anywhere. Don’t neglect it. Treat is as the irreplaceable tool it is.
Mind Your Brand!
A brand is not just about picking out a cute logo design. What we’re going to talk about here is your brand. You. The author. The person.
What is your brand?
In marketing, when we talk about a company’s brand (in this scenario, the author is the company), we’re referring to what the company wants to be known for in the public eye, what their reputation says about them. When people think of John Smith, what’s the first thing they mentally associate John with? Here on Pure Textuality PR, our brand is integrity, honesty, and hard work. We swear by it, we live it, and when people hear the name Pure Textuality PR, I want them to associate that name with a certain level of quality and dependability. That’s our brand.
Your brand is how people in our community are going to see you. Since most of our marketing is done online, your personality is out there and, like it or not, it’s part of your marketing. How you conduct yourself, how your interact with people, will shape your brand. For instance, author Sidda Lee Rain is known as independence incarnate rockin’ a take-no-prisoners attitude and a seriously dirty mind (love this chick!). It’s what she’s known for, she stands behind it, and her readers expect it. It’s her brand.
That brings us to the most important lesson in figuring out what your brand is: DON’T FORCE IT. Your brand should be a natural extension of who you are, not you trying to sell a persona you’re never going to be able to keep up with. If you don’t lie about it, it’ll never fall apart, and it’ll allow you to be true to yourself while building up and audience who loves you for you.
This is an extreme case, but let’s take a look at Laura Harner, for instance. She was known as a romance writing MACHINE, the chick who could crank out an obnoxious amount of books in a short period of time. She prided herself on it. Turns out, she plagiarized. She wasn’t a writing machine so much as a photocopier. Her brand wasn’t true and when it came out, her brand fell apart. As far as I know, only two titles out of her sizeable catalog have been confirmed as being plagiarized (I stopped following the story after the second book was discovered), but it doesn’t matter. Two or two hundred. She blew her brand to smithereens and she’ll never be able to recover it.
Your brand becomes your stamp of quality, a statement to your audience: “This is what you can expect from me and I will never betray you in that.” As a professional, honor that brand.
Facebook Is The Devil
Honestly, if I could get away with never using their site again and still remaining successful and relevant, I would leave Facebook in a heartbeat. However, the truth is I can’t do that without my businesses, both PR and writing career, taking a massive hit, so it’s a game I have to continue to play. The nice thing is we’re all making strides to figure out how to make it work for us.
Previously, we posted a blog with helpful hints for making Facebook work for you called Increasing Your Facebook Reach Organically. I’ve included that below and I just want to add a few notes to it.
Learn The Fine Art of Scheduling Posts
Facebook does offer one great tool on the fanpages: the ability to schedule posts. Each Sunday evening, I spend about an hour pulling content to comment on and scheduling it on my page for throughout the week. That’s not to say you can’t post in real-time, but this will allow you to set up filler content in the event that you’re not available to post. As it says in the content below, posting regularly is a big factor in having a broad social reach on your fanpage. Scheduling posts allows you to post regularly without having to spend your day staring at your Facebook app. ALSO, if you do what I do and take one hour a week to schedule posts, you can include scheduling “filler” posts on your blog with this set block of time. *hint hint*
Link Your Blog!
If my previous information regarding whether or not to blog was enough to bring you over to the dark side, be sure to link your blog to your Facebook fanpage! The posts will automatically push to the fanpage and that’s one more post for the day.
Dont Spam Your Followers!
For the love of Pete, STOP POSTING THE SAME AD FOR YOUR BOOK OVER AND OVER AGAIN. Talk to you readers. Involve them in your process. Discuss the weather. Talk about your furbabies. Ask the readers’ opinions on global warming and why we’re here (that’s right, go ahead and get existential on ’em). TALK. Dont just post the Amazon links to your books thirty times a day. Your advertisements should be the background noise to your conversation, not the other way around.
Make Sure Your ‘About’ Section Is Up To Date
I check my About section once a month. And I end up finding something I need to update almost every single time. When was the last time you checked yours? Last time you updated it? I bet it could use a set of eyes right about now…
~ Previously Posted 10/29/2015 ~
Facebook Hates It When You Share Links to 3rd Party Sites
Yeah, they really do. By sharing that 3rd party link, you’re pulling people away from Facebook itself and that’s the last thing their investors want. There is a very simple solution to this. When you post your status on your fanpage, put (((LINK IN COMMENTS))) at the end of your status, and put the 3rd party link in the comments. Simple as that. Your reach on that post will be MUCH higher than if you had included the link in the actual status itself.
Facebook Hates It When You Share Pictures
This one doesn’t make sense to me at all. You and I both know that teasers and memes get shared constantly, all day, every day. I bet if you were able to peek behind the curtain, you’d find that memes drive more traffic on Facebook than anything else. However, when you share a picture on your fanpage, again, traffic is limited. As with 3rd party links, you can trick the system by posting your status and then putting the picture you want to share in the comments.
The one caveat to this is Facebook also knows that sex sells. When I post a picture of a bumpy-bellied man who seems to have misplaced his shirt, even if I share it as part of the status itself, the post will have a good amount of reach. However, if I post a picture of a house……crickets. Just be aware, if you start posting pictures of half-naked men, someone will get offended and someone will report your post. This can land you in Facebook jail, which means you’re locked out of your account for XX days and there is nothing you can do about it. No one wants that, so just be careful how graphic your picture shares are when surfing the sex sells wave.
Interaction is KEY
One of the biggest factors in how well a post is seen is the interactivity. The more likes, shares, and comments you have, the higher your reach will be. After I post something to my author fanpage or my blog fanpage, I immediately go like the post, and then I share it to my personal Facebook profile. That takes the views from 30 to 150 right away. From there, every person who likes the post or comments on the post, they then increase your reach my 50-100 views. Then it just becomes a snowball. More people see the post, more people like it, then more people see it, and so on.
Think about your giveaway posts:
To enter, just like this post and comment below!
Get an extra entry for every bibliophile friend you tag!
A giveaway post like this will generate a TON of traffic. I did a few jewelry giveaways on my author fanpage last winter. I posted my status just like the sample above, and my reach ended up being over 5,000 people on that one post. It helped my ebook sales and those giveaways were so much fun to do.
If you’re not consistently posting to your fanpage, you will see your reach go down to 3 or 4 people per post. And no, I am not joking. Even if you just have your social media and blog pushing to your fanpage, that’s still daily posting. Just make sure you run right out to the fanpage after your post goes up, like it and share it! Dont forget the snowball effect we discussed in the last section!
Another good idea is to schedule posts to go up throughout each day. Make it a part of your post-dinner ritual every night. Take a few minutes, write a few discussion type posts, schedule them to post the next day, and be sure to reply to comments when you get them. More likes/comments = more traffic. Snowballs, snowballs, snowballs!
Twitter is one we’ve talked about a lot lately. Rather than beating the hell out of that dead horse, I will just leave you with the link to Twitter For Dummies, a free document created by me for my bloggers that you can either read online or download here.
I love Instagram, but I will be straight with all of you. This is a time-wasting, albeit fun, app. For those not familiar, Instagram is micro-blogging, similar to Twitter, but with pictures. The problem is the links in the pictures description AREN’T CLICKABLE! This makes marketing via IG very difficult. That being said, IG is still a good way to connect with your readers. Again, much like blogging, it gives them a glimpse into your daily life. You have the option of keeping all of your pictures book related or not. It’s totally up to you. Just know if you’re going to use this platform, chances are pretty good it wont be generating any direct-click sales for you.
Instagram is another app that can be linked to multiple platforms. However, it only pushes to them when you select the social network icon at the time of posting. It will not push to other networks as a preset function.
I know, I know. Put the pitchforks away, please. I’ve heard it all:
“Goodreads is evil.”
“Goodreads is rigged.”
“All that ever happens on Goodreads is author bullying.”
Not hardly. Yes, there have been some cases, some very valid cases all of which I’m not downplaying at all, but a good portion of them were fueled by misrepresented screenshots by authors who cant accept when someone doesn’t like their book and were largely proven to be inflammatory. As a long-time user, I can say I have never seen any of this behavior happening first hand, and I’m on their site every single day. I’m not saying that just because I haven’t seen it means it’s not happening. I’m saying it’s not as prevalent as some would have you believe, that’s all.
“It’s not user friendly.”
Really? I don’t run into any problems with it. Ever. Never ever. Once in a great while the server overloads from traffic and you cant get on, but those episodes are getting fewer and farther between.
“I can’t make any sense of how that site works.”
Have you tried? Because, again, I don’t run into any problems with it, and I am on there EVERY SINGLE DAY. It’s one of the easier sites out there, it’s just a matter of following the rules. For example, one standing rule is that you cannot change a book cover post publication. Period. Stop asking and stop getting pissed when they say no. ((I bring that up because it’s the one I run into most often.)) Anything else? Ask the Goodreads Librarians Group. They’re a fantastic group of individuals who have never turned down a request of mine (again, within the confines of the site’s rules) and they usually fix whatever I need fixed within twenty minutes or so.
I use Goodreads every day, and as an author, you should be, too. Readers are. LOTS of them. No one is saying you have to play on there all the time, but:
If You Have a Series, Label All Of Your Books Correctly
Readers have the ability to click on the series name and pull up every book in your series. One of the worst Goodreads fouls I see regularly is authors who don’t bother to properly catalog their books. This results in the reader not being able to see all the titles you have available in that series. This is an opportunity missed and the only one who suffers is the author.
If You Have Duplicate Listings, Merge Them
Again, Goodreads Librarians Group. They’re made of magic and unicorns and everything awesome, I swear to the gods of old. They’ll merge duplicate listings, combining star ratings and reviews (so no content is lost).
UPDATE YOUR PROFILE!!!!!!!!!!
I know. It’s a lot to keep all of these profiles up to date, but you come across much more professional when you do. And this is a super-easy one. You can include your bio, website link, Twitter link, and you have the capability of linking it to your blog should you decide to keep one. From there, you only ever have to add books after that. If your web address changes, take the two seconds to update it. If you deleted your Twitter account, take the two seconds to update it. If you profile says you’re a professional chipmunk trainer and you’ve since given up the life to pursue writing as a full-time career, TAKE THE TWO SECONDS TO UPDATE YOUR PROFILE.
Amazon’s Author Central
If you have books published to Amazon and you haven’t set up your Author Central page, you need to do this and do it now. If someone searches your name on Amazon, this is the profile page they can view. Much like your website is to the internet, your Author Central page is your central hub on Amazon. All the books you’ve published on Amazon should be listed here.
And Amazon doesn’t automatically add books, so, if you’ve got twelve books out and your Author Central page is showing only three, you need to go in and update it. In my Amazon travels, I see soooooo many of these pages that don’t get updated.
Side Note: Let your readers know that you have an Author Central page. Let them know that there is a Follow button below your picture. If they follow you, Amazon sends them an email when you have new release or preorder go live.
I find Google+ to be a valuable asset for finding communities. Writers, bloggers, readers, fans, etc. Basically anything you can think of can be found in the Google+ Communities. Depending on what you’re up to is going to gauge how much use this network is for you. As a PR company, it’s good for blogger groups when I am looking to get a new mix of bloggers involved in a tour. As an author, not so much. It hasn’t done me any good at all as an author. As I’m sure other platforms do, WordPress shows you the websites that refer your visitors to you and Google+ has never come up.
This certainly isn’t everything you can do to enhance your online presence, but it’s a start. We offer a FREE consultation service to determine where your online presence needs help. We then email you with an assessment and to-do list for the aspects of your online presence that could use some work.
To take advantage, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Online Consultation and include your pen name(s) in the body of the email. We will get back to you with an assessment within 24 hours.
There is no charge for this and does not obligate you to purchase any services from Pure Textuality PR. It’s merely guidance. 🙂
Thank you all for stopping by! We hope to hear from you!