Virtual Self Promotion (VSP), is a daunting process. Basically, it is trying to control anarchy. This document tries to give some direction, or, at the very least, an education in that regard. To begin, you should read these 10 Social Media Tips for Authors; wisdom by the master in VSP, Guy Kawasaki. When considering your mission to VSP, writer Nick Belardes offers these four rules to live by:
Rule 1: VSP is time consuming. Take a deep breath.
Rule 2: VSP is rewarding. Be prepared to meet people.
Rule 3: VSP is a daily exercise. Get ready to work out.
Rule 4: VSP always changes. Be innovative.
Here are some of the basic sites, tips and rules to maximizing some of your VSP.
Like the classic real estate mantra, “location, location, location,” the lynchpin to your online presence is Web site, Web site, Web site. Every author should be on the internet, right? Well, yes – a web presence (meaning some place where your information exists on the internet) is vitally important to the marketing and promotion of your work. You need to understand the options. Surprisingly, sometimes the most expensive way is just plain wrong. Conversely, the easiest and most inexpensive way, is not always the right way. But you do not really have to spend a bundle creating a whiz-bang Web site in order to establish a web presence and get your name out there.
Before jumping into the deep end of the pool, and running off to spend money to buy a Web site, let’s take a few minutes and go through what the options are and what the benefits and detriments are of each one. Regardless of which option you choose, you should register the domain name (URL) for your own author name (www.firstnamelastname.com) on a service such as www.godaddy.com, www.domains.google, or Host Gator. This will secure your personal name so no one else will be able to use it as a URL. You can always redirect this URL to any of the options listed below. If you’re going to build a website soon, it might pay to discuss registration with a web designer, or web developer first, before registering. Here is one article on how to hire a web designer/developer. There are a lot of choices. You may want to troll other author web sites to see who they use.
Blogging and Social Networking
There are many ways to get a completely free Web site. There are a number of web sites that offer low cost templates for web sites.
Another popular option is to create your own “blog”, or weblog. A blog is like a running datebook for your events, thoughts, or other writings. Two very popular services, blogger.com, and wordpress.com, will allow you to set up your own. There are costs involved, but it will be on an a la carte basis, so you can pick and choose features. Setting up a blog is a significantly bigger time investment than creating accounts on social media networks. To make a blog really worthwhile, you should aim to write new blog posts at least once a month. A blog that hasn’t been updated will quickly lose its audience. While blogs are very popular a blog isn’t necessarily the best way for you to establish your web presence. There are some ins and outs to using a blog correctly, including learning how to use the blog software properly and setting up the right template (visual style) that suits your needs. Blogging WILL take time and discipline, but it can help build your audience. You can read a very good article on blogging at Mahalo. You can cross-link your blog and your social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. and connected to certain online accounts via an “RSS” feed will add valuable content in increase your exposure.
Social networking sites, like Facebook, Twitter, or GoodReads are also free, but they aren’t the best place for new authors to promote themselves. Appearing on those websites might make you seem more like “just another struggling artist,” rather than presenting a successful professional image. In addition, they take a fair amount of time to administer — time that will take away from your creative writing, or your personal appearances. Regardless, we will learn more about both blogging and social networking below.
A Full Blown Proprietary Site
In order to create a freestanding full-on Web site you will pay more, but you will have more options. You will pay for the domain name, your own URL (web address), a server on which to host your Web site, the cost to design and build web pages (sky’s the limit) and the costs of ongoing maintenance. Ongoing maintenance is usually done on a subscription basis. While each of these costs may in its own way be small, in aggregate it could add up to a few hundred dollars. Caveat emptor, hosting may look inexpensive, but the costs add up when you start adding things like web site builders, custom email, security, and “push” marketing features.
In addition, if you try to do this without having a web master, you will find that you may quickly become a prisoner of your own website. Being a web master is not particularly difficult, but it does require a set of skills that you may not have. However, if you are somewhat technically inclined, and you want to be the master of your online presence, there are a bevy of web building programs out there that offer packages to build your own site. They are competitively prices – some have better customer services that others. Here is an excellent article by a web developer who has tried many of the popular web builders.
Conversely, if you are a writer, you may be better off remaining a writer, and concentrating on your stories, your message, creativity and style. There are webmasters, designers/developers for hire that offer services specifically for authors. Some are very good, but they can be expensive. You are welcome to pursue this option if you choose.
A “Hosted” Page
Instead of becoming yet another blogger, or creating yet another Facebook identity, or spending a ton of your money on creating a custom website that may be far more than you need, a good middle ground is to have a “hosted” page.
A hosted page is a page that has your specific personal information, but is hosted on someone else’s website. This generally means that someone has already taken the time to create a website and the software they are using allows them to publish one or more pages specific to you. Generally, that software also allows you, the author, to update your own information when it changes. It’s the best of both worlds!
A hosted page liberates you from the requirement of learning new blog software (since you can update everything using your web browser), relieves you of the need to figure out how to program a Facebook page, and frees you from the financial requirement of creating a Web site from scratch.
A very good solution for a hosted site… If you are a member of the Author’s Guild, (rates for membership are based on your income from writing) you can subscribe to AuthorsGuild.net. You need to have been published to be a member. So if you have published, or you have a signed agreement, this might be a good solution for you. For about $80 annually you can have a very serviceable site. There are a series of templates and simple tools to present a lot of information to interact with readers, including a blog and event calendar.
Regardless of the type of web site you choose, you should follow to key rules. First, include an “opt in” email sign up form at the top of your first screen for news. This will allow you to send news to browsers of your web site. Secondly, you should set up bookseller affiliate “Click-to-Buy” links. This involves a simple sign-up process. You earn on each sale and each bookseller will provide you with a click-to-buy button to feature on your blog or site. In addition to the revenue, you will be able to see how many people who click on the button on your site actually end up buying your book.
For relationship reasons, it is important that you provide your readers some options by linking to multiple booksellers. You should include: Amazon.com, BN.com, Books-a-Million and IndieBound.org, which feeds out to independent bookstores. You should also provide a specific link to the independent bookseller nearest to you. You can do this either through IndieBound, or you should discuss with the webmaster at your local bookseller. For bulk orders you should contact 800CEORead or BookPal
Barnes & Noble: http://affiliates.barnesandnoble.com/
Sample Web Sites
Some good examples author sites from your fellow clients are:
John Arden’s proprietary site is a simple design with some good information about his speaking schedule and his books. Note the variety of bookseller choices.
Carmine Gallo Carmine’s proprietary site is full blown corporate site with Carmine as the brand. Books are featured prominently.
Don Glickstein Notice Don’s use of multiple booksellers on his proprietary site.
Joan Williams Book featured throughout this proprietary site. Note particularly attention to give the consumer choice for ordering, including local independent store.
There is an awful lot of hype about using Social Media to build your personal audience. I have ranked these in order of importance.
- Facebook There are two types of Facebook pages. A personal page and a “fanpage” that is separate from your personal page. For most authors, I recommend just having a personal page – Fan pages are geared more to those who have a major celebrity status where additional security and firewalls need to be considered. When you begin a personal facebook page, you can send emails to your friends to join. Your friends and family will also send you connections to some of the people in their social networks. Then use to make announcements.
- I suggest that you post at once ever week or so – you don’t want to overdo it, but you don’t want to be a stranger either.
- There are lots of people on Facebook who don’t use any other form of social media. Connect to them. But don’t add thousands or the Facebook people will delete you. Add people slowly, like you’re using a crockpot.
- Your page will take some time to grow organically. Don’t expect huge increases in “likes” overnight.
- It really isn’t a bad thing to get in touch with old friends. They might buy your books too.
- Give your fans access to write on your wall.
- Ask Questions, respond to comments.
- “Like” your favorite authors and other pages of interest.
- Link back to your website and other social media accounts.
- Link back to your book and author pages on your publisher’s Web sites.
- Facebook people like photos once in a while. So post some of yourself with your book. Or you with fans.
- You will be surprised how many people respond if you say something funny once in a while. I don’t know why it works on Facebook, but it does. And making someone laugh once a day isn’t a bad thing.
- Learn More at Facebook help.
- GoodReads is designed as community for readers. Go to goodreads.com to set up a free profile in their Author Program
- We recommend that you visit and participate at least three to four times per week.
- Connect with others by adding them as “friends.”
- Rate and review books you’ve read.
- Create and join groups with similar interests.
- Hold Q&A sessions with your “friends.”
- Post upcoming events such as book readings and signings.
- Share book excerpts or other writings.
- Authors can join. When you join, you’re just a reader. But you can update your account status to an author if you have a book published.
- Post video series. Have you ever lectured? Record them. Post them. Or post whatever other crazy video you want. Then let people know.
- Post book tour. List your book tour. It’s a free tool.
- Better than twitter? Like twitter, if you want to be successful, then interact. Many writers have much more success on GoodReads because they interact in reading groups who spread the word.
- Twitter – There is a lot of “virtual noise” on Twitter and the sooner you get comfortable with that the better. It’s like being at a massive cocktail party; you have to find ways to filter out the noise. Sites like SocialOomph can help.
- If you are unfamiliar with Twitter, take a look at their tutorial here, at Twitter Support.
- As you get started…
- Customize your background image.
- Import contacts from your e-mail account.
- Link back to your book and author pages at your publisher.
- Look, your twitter page is a billboard and so is your name. People will likely skim your page or just add you. Some people just look at city names. Are you listing your city? City people like city people. List that you are in the media or that you’re a citizen journalist or quilting expert? List what your occupation (besides an author). People don’t just always add authors. People add people they have something in common with. Very soon the net will be over-saturated with Twitter authors. Set yourself apart from others.
- You will want to invite people to follow your Twitter feed. The best way to start, is for you to begin following others on Twitter.
- Use directories like WeFollow and HighSpotInc. when choosing people to follow. Most followers aren’t going to knock on your Twitter door. You have to seek them. You have to want them. You have to add them. But don’t add 5,000 in a day. Your account will get suspended or limits will be imposed on you. Add a hundred or so at a time. If people follow you, cool. Those who don’t, then in a day or two, clean your list and delete those who don’t follow you. There are exceptions to this rule if you are following important media people or celebrities who you want to follow.
- WHOM TO FOLLOW: Here are some basic guidelines.
- Follow your favorite authors, like-minded readers, reviewers, and bloggers. This will often bring in their followers too, and you want to be a part of their conversations.
- Search for users who are tweeting the same topics as your book, or your profession by using SearchTwitter.
- Follow everyone who follows you. You can use sites like com and SocialOomph to autofollow everyone who follows you. These services can also send a nice welcome message to your new followers and schedule tweets to your account for later posting so you don’t have to be sitting on twitter every minute of the day.
- Participate in Follow Fridays #FF and Writer Wednesdays #WW. Recommend your favorite tweeters by using the #followfriday or #FF hashtag along with their user names.
- WHO WILL FOLLOW YOU: It will take time for your account to grow organically. Don’t expect a huge number of “followers” overnight. Now that you have read “Who To Follow”, you will know who will be finding you. The more you use Twitter, the greater the opportunity there will be for followers to find you. It will be all about what, and how often you post.
- HOW OFTEN DO YOU POST: When you get up to speed, I suggest that you tweet every day or so.
- WHAT TO TWEET
- Networking on Twitter is a great way to promote yourself as a citizen journalist and can provide much needed street cred. Twitter will turn you into a news bite journalist. If you have a blog where you do some type of diary, or reporting, then you should match your Twitter profile with a name that is similar to your blog. You will use Twitter to send followers to your blog. Journalists like journalists and if they like what you’re doing and happen to be writing a related article, they might ask you for an interview. Twitter followers will follow twitter followers. Report on something that relates to your work. People will follow you if you’re good at reporting. Or just network with them. ReTweet their news once in a while. Tweet with authors, reporters and journalists. They’re people like you.
- With your publisher’s cooperation, offer a free downloadable eBook sample chapter with no strings attached.
- Use IttyBittyURLor HootSuite to shorten your URLs
- Use hash tags to reach more people who are conversing on like topics (e.g., #mystery, #books, etc.)
- Use Twit Pic and yFrog to post pictures.
- Want to stay on top of your market and find stuff to Tweet about? Then go to com and search for your category. There are thousands of them up there. Here are a few to consider: socialmedia.alltop.com, Twitter.alltop.com and publishing.alltop.com.
- Don’t feel like you have to respond to every tweet, but I generally try to respond to all tweets that are replies to mine (you can find these under @replies on your home page).
- Use Twitter to teach mini lessons. Delve into your area of expertise, or just talk about book publishing or about your experience in getting a book published.
- Share sites or blogs that would be of interest to your followers. Be their “filter” to new/exciting information.
- Offer advice: use Tweetdeck or Twitter search to see who’s asking for info on your area of expertise and then offer
- them some help/insight. This is a great way to build relationships!
- It’s not all about YOU. People want to know useful stuff. It’s getting repetitive but there’s a reason, it’s important.
- WHOM TO DELETE? There are lots of spammers. But don’t delete them all. Just don’t follow them all in return. There are a lot of marketing freaks out there. Try to distinguish which are legit. Follow a few. You never know how readers will find you through other Twitter lists you are on. And don’t delete bizarre followers just cause you don’t feel you associate with “Vegas Taxi Drivers.” You might get some cool followers that way.
- LinkedIn Be sure that your professional profile is updated, and add the name and title of your book. Since this is your professional profile, you will want to be discreet in how you promote your book. Just list the facts, but you will certainly want to include the URL for your web site. Spend time updating your professional contacts.
- Pinterest is a pinboard-style photo-sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, and hobbies. Users can browse other pinboards for images, ‘re-pin’ images to their own pinboards, or ‘like’ photos. There are several ways to register a new Pinterest account. Users can either receive an invitation from a friend already registered. Alternatively they could request an invitation directly from the Pinterest website, however, this may take some time to be received. An account can also be created and accessed by linking Pinterest to a Facebook or Twitter profile. When a user re-posts or “re-pins” an image to their own board, they have the option of notifying their Facebook and Twitter followers; this feature can be managed on the settings page. Users who choose to log into Pinterest via Facebook must currently be using Facebook’s “Timeline” format. Pinterest is particularly popular among women.
- YouTube This is a good choice if you have author talks, or demonstrations. It’s a good idea to check in about once every other month to respond to comments, friend requests, or to add favorites.
- Post videos of interviews, readings and book trailers.
- Invite your fans to contribute relevant videos to your channel.
- Comment on other people’s videos, subscribe to other channels, make “friends.”
- Link to your YouTube channel from your website or social media accounts.
- Link back to your book and author pages on your publisher’s web site and to our other sites.
- Learn more at YouTube Support.
- Redroom is a litblog site. Be a part. Then go blog there. And add them on Twitter (@redroomdotcom). They will help promote whatever you post on their site.
- Wikipedia can also help with optimizing your profile, but it can be both a blessing and a curse. Before you consider walking down this digital path, you should read the Wiki policy on Neutral Point of View. If you still want to adding Wiki, you should discuss with your agent, web designer, or an independent publicist. They will be bound by the Wiki article philosophies. Some good examples of Wiki profiles from fellow clients are: Carmine Gallo, Jean-Benoît Nadeau, and Larry Schweikart.