Monday, January 30, 2012

Marketing & Publicity for Authors: Part 1

The time is long past when authors – with the exception of megastars – can rely on their publishers to help with marketing and publicity. Most authors I know do a significant amount of marketing; I know I do. For the next several weeks I’m going to share a few things I’ve learned since the publication of my first book, and I invite you all to chime in and share your own experiences.

In particular I’d like to talk about the advantages of online tools, including some of the newer venues (like Klout and Tumblr). From the social networking sites to contact media like Skype, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of ways you could spend your time. Let’s see if we can demystify even a few of the options available today.

For this week: what are the must-have or maybe-have online tools for every author?

1.     A website. This is truly the only absolute in publishing today. I do believe a personal website is essential to every author. I’d go so far as to suggest that even before your first sale, you should secure a domain name and hosting. GoDaddy offers both for reasonable fees. The most versatile platform is a content management system like the one offered by Wordpress, which allows even the most non-web-savvy user to update and edit their content. Note: editors and agents are saying it frequently – they look for an author’s web presence (website) before ever signing a contract. Your website doesn’t have to be fancy, but it needs to be easy to find (your name as URL, for example) and easy to read.
my Facebook Author page
2.     Facebook. Love it or leave it, Facebook is an important place for you to connect with your audience and other authors, with publishers and editors. I have created an author page that is separate from my personal page, which allows me to separate content for those two audiences (anyone can “like” your author page – they don’t have to be a friend.) I post on my author page maybe three times a week, and on my personal page maybe once a week – but I often find links, learn news, or discover valuable information by scanning Facebook. You can configure your author page to feed directly to Twitter and your personal page, or vice versa.
3.     Twitter. Easy-peasy and actually fun, I tweet a couple of times a day and try to re-tweet and/or reply when I find tweets that grab me in some way. I like a combination of personal and professional, though my personal tweets I hope never stray into the negative, ugly, or icky.
4.     A blog. Really, a blog is nothing more than a platform for you to discuss issues you find meaningful or important – and gather an audience along the way. It’s not essential; but it is kind of fun. Here are the important things to note: be regular (I try to blog once a week); be generous (try to host others on your blog, and comment on/visit fellow author blogs); know your audience (are you blogging to teachers? teen readers? fellow authors? it’s hard to do it all); find your own voice (stay inside your comfort zone.) Blogger is an easy platform, and Wordpress has the advantage of a combined blog/website platform (caution: is the website platform; is the blogging platform.)

Now, some basic tips.

1.     SEO. This means “search engine optimization.” Links, keywords, blog titles, META tags, hyperlinks – all of these lead to search engines finding you, your website, and your books. And, baby, it’s all about getting readers to find your book when they google keywords. As an example, my first novel is set in Yellowstone National Park in 1904. My keywords might include Yellowstone, American history, geysers, bears, plus newer keys like Kindle young adult fiction or Nook young adult fiction.
2.     Branding. Basically this yourself. Find out who you are and let your readers know about you. Really, they want to connect with you. By connecting with you, they connect with a “real author”. In addition, you can play off something key to you – for example, I used my name by creating a fox logo and plastering it everywhere.
3.     Be nice. Your mom was right. Once you're out there, people do see you.

Next week - some of the more obscure platforms. Please do chime in and add your own discoveries!


Annie said...

Janet, I love how you said you never post anything "negative, ugly, or icky" on Twitter! That should be in their sign-up rules!

Janet Fox said...

Hah! Thanks, Annie. I think that should be on everyone's computer screen at start-up....:)

Blessy Mathew said...

Hi Janet! Thanks for sharing ways writers/authors can get their name out along with several different options for networking. It's nice how you've organized it all. Love all the tips you've included too.

Ashley Hope Pérez said...

I do love the fox logo! Did you design it yourself? It's brilliant.

Ashley Hope Pérez said...

Also... I love your press room. Makes it easier for folks to find and say good things about you and your books. This is all fantastic for us "new" authors. My second novel comes out tomorrow, and I feel like I'm still a rookie learning the ropes.

Janet Fox said...

Thanks, Blessy - I'm so happy you found it useful!

Ashley - I did design the logo - it's taken from a family heirloom. And I'm so happy you like the press room - that was an idea I picked up along the way. Thank you for noticing and mentioning it!

Katie Davis said...

Excellent tips, Janet!

Janet Fox said...

Thanks, Katie! (And congrats to you...:) )

mima said...

Hi Janet,
Thanks so much for taking the time to share some of these tips. I'm thinking of creating a website, and do use some of the more communal venues, but am fair boggled by all the choices out there. Your straightforward descriptions of such are much appreciated!