Prepublished Author Presence
I still remember Sue Grimshaw, editor for Random House, saying that an author who isn’t published yet doesn’t need to spend time on a web presence. He/she should be writing. This was only a few years ago, but now I’m sure Sue would agree things have changed. It’s all about platform and discoverability. So I put a call out to some of my writer loops and asked what some of my prepublished author friends are doing on the web to get noticed. Here’s what some of them said:
Contemporary romance writer, Wanda Fittro has a blog which she updates every Friday. It’s cleverly titled A Writer Called Wanda. She won the Readers’ Choice Award at the 2011 Missouri Literary Festival. She’s on Twitter and Facebook but confesses that it’s a bit of a mystery to her. She mostly retweets her friends tweets and announces when she has a new blog post. How much time does she spend online?
“Not enough probably,” Wanda confesses. “Maybe 30 minutes a day re-posting things on Facebook and Twitter and then about an hour a week on my blog post.”
What Wanda’s doing right: Having a regular blog post each week. Every Friday her readers can look forward to something fresh! That’s a good way to build readership.
What she can improve: Give her Twitter and FB friends fresh material too. Retweets will only make you a blip on someone’s timeline.
Recent Red Pencil Thursday volunteer Lynn Holt has just established her online presence. She’s new enough not to have garnered any writing awards, but she’s off and running with a Blogger blog and has connected Twitter and Facebook to it.
“I chose Blogger,” she says, “because I could create static pages that simulate a real website. I’ve posted the first chapter of my WIP, an AboutMe page, a Contact page and a fun one called Green Apple Grill where I share some recipes from the story I’m working on.”
What Lynn is doing right: Her Work in Progress gives readers a taste of her voice and the Green Apple Grill page is an engaging bonus. She’s pushed the Blogger platform to the limits and it does have the feel of a website. And she has an all important Contact page.
What she can improve: Her Twitter and FB skins are similar to her blog but not identical. The standard Blogger template does seem to work with her brand of humorous mystery/romance, but it’s not unique to her. When she gets ready to spend some money on it, Lynn should consider ways to make the connection between her social networks more visually seamless.
Award winning author Angela Drake has multiple blogs because she wears many different hats. Angela says, “On-line presence is the RESUME today. Blogs, websites and social media are where potential editors turn to see if you have what they are looking for. An art editor doesn’t want to wade through music stuff and vice versa… so I’ve created separate blogs (resumes) to target each area of my freelance.”
Her fiction author blog is The Writer’s Studio. She put everything together on her own. “When I first wanted to start a blog I asked my techy daughter,” Angela says. “Knowing her mom’s limitations she sent me to Blogger and I’ve never looked back. I do want to explore the multi-page function with blogger but for now what I have is working. I TRY to limit myself to 2 hrs in the morning for promos and catching up with who is where. Keep in mind I am doing this for multiple blogs… not just one so everything takes longer than the average single-blog/website author.”
What Angela is doing right: She’s smart to separate her different interests into different blogs. She’s posted her goals, both professional and personal, which I can totally support.
What she can improve: Looking at her blog, I get no sense what sort of romance she writes. Your cyber-home is your brand. Make sure everything communicates who you are and what you offer.
Doren Cassale has just staring started tweeting and is researching websites for what to build. “I have bought dorencassale.com, which I haven’t built anything on,” she says. “I have an engineering and a design background, so I am building my own site. Right now, I spend an average of 20 minutes/day on social media and building my site, but that means basically a few hours here and there on some weekends…it’s not really a daily thing. I tweet maybe every two days or so.”
What Doren is doing right: She bought her domain name. That’s huge. What if you get “the call” and someone else owns the rights to yourname.com? Researching other sites before building your own is a good idea. You discover what works, what doesn’t and refine your own brand.
What she can improve: Her Twitter site is a cipher. She needs to upload a profile pic of herself or some icon to represent her. She can also change the background and the black space to something more visually interesting. Twitter gives users 160 characters to identify themselves. She should definitely tout the fact that her manuscript finaled in the Winter Rose contest from Yellow Rose RWA right up front. The Prime Directive of Promo is “Blow thine own horn. Toot thine own bugle, for verily no on else shall toot it for thee!”
Everyone who tweets should take a look at TweetDeck or Hootsuite. You can set posts to go ahead of time and schedule your tweets for the entire week in one session. Then just pop in daily to respond to others’ tweets.
SDKeeling writes middle grade fantasy and has won a few local competitions. She says, “I haven’t spent any money putting together an online presence–just time. I began building my online presence in December, 2012 by learning my way around Twitter and starting to build followers, starting a WordPress blog and setting up an author Facebook page. I spend maybe half an hour a day? Most days it’s less than that, but when I write a blog post or go actively seeking Twitter followers I might put in several hours.”
What SD is doing right: I’d love for SD to share how she built her Twitter followers to an impressive 3500+. Something I notice she does is quote from other books and makes good use of hashtags.
What she can improve: Her blog mimics a website with static pages, but there is no excerpt from her manuscript. Also, just looking at the blog, I don’t get that the book is geared toward middle graders. Don’t get me wrong. The site is beautiful and intriguing, but it doesn’t seem to be directed at in her reading audience. Take a look at some of your favorite middle grade authors’ websites and see how they tailor their presentation to their readers.
Here are all her links:
Author Blog: http://lisamedley.wordpress.com/
Author Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/lisamedleyauthor
Twitter: @lisamedley or https://twitter.com/lisamedley
Lisa says, “I set everything up on my own. I’ve had a family blog for years on Blogger but migrated everything to WordPress and started a new Author Blog, Facebook, Twitter account, Goodreads & Pinterest. I have the most active presence on Facebook and Twitter.”
She spends maybe fifteen or twenty minutes a day on Twitter and Facebook. She only blogs when she has something to blog about.
What Lisa is doing right: She’s covering all her bases and I notice she’s the only one of our volunteers to be on Goodreads. Now that Amazon has acquired that site, it’ll be even more important to an author’s “discoverability.” (While we’re on the subject, if you’re on Goodreads, I’d love to connect with YOU! Here’s my profile page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1047085.Mia_Marlowe )
What she can improve: Her website is dark and atmospheric, which really suits the tone of her stories. However, from a readability standpoint, white lettering on a black background is hard on the eyes. When I researched for my own site, I found a huge pushback from readers about dark backgrounds and light lettering. If there’s a way to lighten the background of your blog to a soft gray, it would make your blog more accessibile.
Thank you to all of my volunteers today. I appreciate you allowing us to “go to school” on your efforts. As a reward, I hope you’ll all pop over to all the links and click to “Like,” “Follow” and “Subscribe” to them.
Please share your thoughts and if you are a pre-published author with a web presence, feel free to share your own links in the comments!