When I first ventured into the writing business professionally last year, the advice I heard most often went something like this: get online, build your website, use social media, and develop an online presence. Naturally, I took that advice to heart, and I thought it would be
Just like I had learned about setting goals and creating my brand, I also learned that fostering an online presence wasn’t so easy. Just like with everything else that is worth doing and doing well, it requires time, effort, and finesse. And if you know me, I like to speed through projects and often do so with the grace of a bull performing the Nutcracker in a China shop.
Why is an online presence so important for an author?
It’s important because in this fast paced digital world, an online presence can generate word-of-mouth advertising. Naturally, when people really like a product, such as a book,
they will discuss that book with their friends
Their friends may even buy said book on that recommendation, and if your writing is good, all these readers will soon want to
Readers have voracious appetites. They know it, and they freely admit it!
Well, if an author has an online presence, then more readers are aware when new books by that author are out. If readers are unaware, how are they going to find a book, much less buy it? Sure, they might stumble across the book.
Readers have tons of authors and books to choose from. Just hoping they stumble across it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble isn’t very efficient marketing. Is it?
Take me for example. When I self-published my first book, I had a less-than-zero online presence. Book sales reflected that. Even though the book received some great reviews, people just didn’t know about it. Why? Well, I hadn’t done the advance work of creating an online presence.
When I built a better social media presence, the sales for my next book 3 were infinitely better! By the time, my next two books, The Gifted One and Moral Authority, which was a second edition of my self-published book I mentioned earlier, were released, sales were even better because my social presence was that much stronger.
Because of my online presence, more potential readers were aware of my books.
Because of my online presence, more readers were talking about my books after they read them.
Because of readers’ word-of-mouth, other potential readers heard about my books and became aware I existed. In turn, they started buying my books.
See how that works?
It sounds easy. Right? Well, it’s not. There is a catch, and it was a lesson I needed to learn–an author’s online presence must be genuine!
What does a genuine online presence mean?
It’s quite simple really. Authors need to interact with their readers, fans, and other authors in their social media networks, and those interactions must be sincere.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen authors blast their Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or other social networking site with their self-promotions.
While touting our books is part of the profession, it cannot and should not be all the author does with his or her social media.
Self-promotion isn’t genuine at all, and it can be annoying. Think about the constant advertising you see in print or online. How much attention do we pay to those?
That’s why authors have to do more than just blast their social media with their latest release, review, or blog stop.
If that’s all, an author gives, they will likely not see much in return.
How does an author establish a genuine online presence?
It really comes down to these five tasks:
- Share tidbits about your life–What’s happening in your life? What movie did you just see and love or hate? What photos would you not mind sharing with the public? What made you laugh today? What did you hear in the news that made you angry? Offer the reader parts of your life that show you are a real person. Readers love that, and they respond to it
- Comment on your readers posts/updates–By doing this, an author involves her/himself in their readers lives. Is a reader upset about something? Offer some words of comfort. If a reader is celebrating some milestone, offer congratulations. If readers say something funny or touch upon a topic you enjoy talking about, join the conversation. This builds rapport and helps readers remember you. Just keep in mind that you can’t only talk to the same five people all the time. You should diversify who you talk to. If you have a huge list of friends, there’s no way you can reach them all, but if you cycle through the list, especially those who post constantly, you can reach a good number of them.
- Join online writers or readers groups–This helps increase your presence substantially. A readers group puts you right with the people who you want to be with. Find a group that loves the genre you write and join. Get involved in the conversations. Explain why you love this book or that book. That will also put you on a reader’s radar, when they are contemplating what book to buy next.
- Promote other authors–When you promote other authors, you show that you are a part of a community. It shows that you are not just looking out for yourself, but that you genuinely care about the success of your peers. Also, when an author promotes other authors, those same authors will remember you and will promote your latest release, review, or blog tour. This means you will reach all their friends and could garner some new readers.
- Be real–Readers and authors can spot a fake quite easily. They can tell when an author is simply going through the motions instead of taking a real interest. That is why all authors should work to foster sincere relationships online. Be yourself and be polite. Remember, social media is not the place for authors to air their drama or attack other readers/authors/review sites. If you must vent, find a loved one or a good friend. Authors shouldn’t broadcast their discontent for all to see. Doing so has a way of coming back.
How does an author do all this and keep up with his/her writing?
I won’t lie. Fostering a genuine online presence takes time and dedication, but it is a must. Thirty minutes to an hour every other day can do wonders. Yes, it takes time away from writing, but if all an author does is write and doesn’t get involved with her/his social media, then who will read the finished product?
Believe me, I have noticed a difference.