Why Authors Need a Genuine Online Presence

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


Guess what?

The story of my life!

The story of my life!

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.

That's not quite what I meant

That’s not quite what I meant

Now that's a bit more accurate!

Now that’s a bit more accurate!

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,

See how much she loves that book!

See how much she loves that book!

they will discuss that book with their friends

You have just GOT to read this book

You have just GOT to read this book

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.

Go ahead. Find your book.

Go ahead. Find your 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?


Before genuine online presence

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.


After genuine 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 Authoritywhich 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.

Let me explain

Let me explain

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.

Yeah, it can sometimes feel EXACTLY like that!

Yeah, it can sometimes feel EXACTLY like that!

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 about sums up my reaction too

That about sums up my reaction too

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.

When is a Penis Not a Penis?

Well, the answer to that question is simple for m/m authors and readers. When you are reading about a penis in gay romance. In a standard m/m book, there are penises flying around all over the place.

I know! Who could ask for anything more?

I know! Who could ask for anything more?

Yet the word “penis” is typically never used. We can all understand why. “Penis” is a cold, anatomical term, and in a good m/m book, authors want to produce heat not a chill, and readers expect to be aroused not anesthetized.

I don’t want to read about how John licked the head of Gary’s penis.



However, when John starts licking the head of Gary’s cock, well,


M/m readers (and authors) love a nice hard cock or dick. That’s a given.

So, then what’s wrong with more flowery terms for a good stiff one?

Most m/m readers HATE (I can’t emphasize that word enough) more poetic descriptions of a penis. I know this from personal experience. I have to admit that in my first book, I used more flowery descriptions, but that was because I thought readers would get tired of reading about Justin’s cock or Spencer’s dick. I was wrong.

From some well-written reviews, I learned that if  readers came across a “throbbing member” or a “steel hard rod,” they cringed. If a “swollen manhood” gets anywhere close to them, they bat it away.

Yes, it's true!

Yes, it’s true!


This holds true for other anatomical body parts such as ass and balls. Plundering a nice tight butt as a pair of balls slap against his ass is a SCORE! But if it’s a “hole” that’s being pummeled as “jewels” smack around, it’s a fail.

Flowery and poetic descriptions of genitalia is a standard in het romance. Why then do most readers of gay fiction not feel the same way?

I think it’s because gay sex (and maybe even the readers who love to read about it) enjoy the primal, animalistic quality of man-on-man sex. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that sex between a man and a woman isn’t primal or can’t be portrayed that way. I just think there is an inherent beast like quality to two men rutting around each other and going at it like two bucking broncos.

Yeah, something like that!

Yeah, something like that!

In those instances, phrases like “throbbing member” just don’t work, but a nice hard dick will always do the trick.

M/m fiction is an escape, a fantasy about how two men fall in love and have some great sex, but within that fantasy, I think readers enjoy the reality of actual verbiage used during sex. Men don’t grab each other’s “raging manhoods,” and their hands don’t travel below the belt to his “lower half.”

Men grab each other’s cocks. It’s that simple, and it’s that simplicity (and frankness) that m/m readers prefer.

Those are just my thoughts on the subject. What do you think?

Why Authors Need an Author Brand

As a relatively new author in the writing business, I’ve discovered I have a lot to learn. When my first book was published in October 2012, I was naturally ecstatic.

Yep, that's about how broad my smile was

Yep, that’s about how broad my smile was

After all, I had achieved a very important goal I set for myself when I decided I wanted to be published. I thought all I had to do to be successful was just keep writing and getting my books out to the readers.

I was


There are so many fantastic authors out there in the m/m genre, and as a new guy, people had no idea who Jacob Z. Flores was. I had no clue that I needed to tell them. Sure, I wrote up an author bio that gave readers some insight to who I was, but I didn’t do anything else. After all, I didn’t see myself as this big corporate entity like Apple or McDonalds.

Why would little old me need to set up a brand?

Well, I needed to let readers know who I was, and that’s what an author brand does. It tells readers what type of books they can expect to read from me. It also gives them something to remember. After all, we associate the golden arches with McDonalds and the bitten apple with, well, Apple. I had given my readers nothing to associate with me.

EpicFail 2

Luckily, a dear friend and fellow author pointed out what I wasn’t doing. She became my Yoda, and I her willing padawan.

And her first question was a doozy!

Who are you as an author?

She had me take a good, hard look at myself. Not just the person I was at home, but the person I was as an author. I needed to discover what there was about me that set me apart from the other amazing authors out there.

Let me tell you, that was not only difficult but terrifying. I had no clue what set me apart from everyone else. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing unique about me. So, I turned to my friends and asked them how they would describe me.

Talk about opening a can of worms!

Talk about opening a can of worms!

I freely admit that I can be pretty stubborn and pissy at times, but did my best friends really have to jump all over those qualities right off the bat? Apparently so! It’s a good thing I love each and every one of them! Once they were done giving me a hard time, I learned some interesting things about myself. I won’t bore you with all the details, but there was consensus on the fact that I could be very sweet but also very spicy.

That was something I could build on!

Like a good padawan, I discussed being sweet and spicy with my Yoda. What did she say?


Yeah, so she didn’t like the sweet and spicy that much. But, hey, it was my first try. Luke Skywalker didn’t lift his space ship the first time he tried on Yoga’s swamp planet. I couldn’t expect to be successful on my first attempt either!

But I was on the right path. And through extensive training in the force, the phrase “sinfully charming” was born, a better combination of sweet and spicy that was neither feminine nor generic.

What does “sinfully charming” mean as my brand?

Well, it tells readers that I’m nice and also naughty, and that they can expect a combination of those qualities in their interactions with me, and in the books that I write. It also gives me an excuse to share all those photos of hot, barely dressed men on my social media sites and on my blog. Not that I needed an excuse, but now, I can say it’s just part of my brand. 🙂



But, I wasn’t done yet. As my Yoda explained, I had defined myself but I had more work yet to accomplish.

I hear ya, Homer!

I hear ya, Homer!

What do I have to do now?

Create the Brand, I Must

But wait? Isn’t that what I just did?

Apparently, not! I had only just begun. You see, I now had to think about the colors that would be associated with the brand, and the image that I wanted people to associate with Jacob Z. Flores, the author. This was pretty important.

Colors are powerful association tools. McDonalds’ colors are red and yellow. Apple’s color is white. We remember that because that’s a part of their brand. Now, I had to decide what colors I wanted readers to associate with me.

At this point, I became overwhelmed and just wanted to rush through the process. My Yoda, however, would have none of that.


Yoda was right. I had to take my time. My author brand would be with me forever. I couldn’t rush the process. This was the career I wanted. After all, writing is what I want to do full-time, and I needed to make sure I got the brand right. Because my brand was going to be with me a very long time.

I took a deep breath and asked myself: what did I envision when I thought of “sinfully charming”?

Well, the image I saw in my head was a hot, barely dressed man in a tuxedo. That meant black and white were definitely in the running. How charming is a man in a tux? Yum! As for the sinful part, well, red was the natural answer.


Finally, I’d done something right!

Not only had I gotten my colors, but I also had my visual. Now, all I needed was a tagline that captured the “sinfully charming” nature of my author persona and my books. Once I had that, Yoda put me in contact with the fabulous A.J. Corza who took the abstract ideas and created this.



Which I think perfectly captures the “sinfully charming” author brand.

So, now I have my brand, and my website now reflects it as well. My readers have an idea of who I am and what they can expect from me and my books, and hopefully, I’ve given them an image they can remember. 😉

By combining that with well-written books, I’m doing my best to carve out a place for Jacob Z. Flores in the world of m/m fiction.

And that is part of the business.

P.S. This post has been


Why Authors Must Set Goals

When I first started as an author, I had a naive view of the industry. I expected the long hours in front of the computer, slaving away at the keyboard, and I was ready. I had my comfy chair in the living room set, my trusty laptop ready to go, and plenty of snacks (often cookies, sometimes chips. Okay, perhaps even a Snickers bar or three) to give me sustenance when I needed it.

I was a man with a


Or so I thought.

a man with no plan

What was that plan again?

It turns out I really had no plan at all. Oh, sure I had tons of stories to tell and endless characters just ready to be set loose in those worlds, but that wasn’t a plan. That was my product.

Yep, that's me. The Homer Simpson of the author world

Yep, that’s me. The Homer Simpson of the author world


I had no direction for my career.

That’s when I had to ask myself the big question:

Just what was my writing goal?

That might seem like a silly question for an author to ask him/herself, but it isn’t really. How can we know if we’ve accomplished something if we’ve never set a goal to be met?

I think many writers tend to look in the here-and-now and not in the future. I know that’s what I did. I had my head buried in my computer and in the stories I wanted to tell that I wasn’t cultivating my career in the way that I should have. After all, I was an author not a business person. Writing was my craft. I didn’t need to focus on anything else.

But I was


Just like any other profession, I had to take stock of where I was and where I wanted to be. After all, the only way to get where you want to go is by charting a path.

So, just what was my writing goal? Well, I want to be a full-time author. No big surprise. Writing is what I enjoy doing the most.

What I had just done for myself though was give myself a goal, an end product to be reached. Now that I had that goal in mind, I could now plot a course to get there. I couldn’t just magically arrive at a self-sustaining writing career. There’s no genie in a magic lamp for that!

Sorry Barbara Eden, I've got to do this one myself

Sorry Barbara Eden, I’ve got to do this one myself

I had to lay the ground work to get there. That involved more than just writing books, lessons I learned by talking to other authors and attending the Dreamspinner Conference in Chicago, where I attended a very enlightening session led by fellow (and prolific) author Andrew Grey.

Apparently, writing books was only a fraction of what I had to do. If I wanted to play in the big leagues, I had to bring my big league game.

Setting Goals and Meeting Them

But didn’t I already do that when I said I wanted to be a full-time author? Yes, but that was my end goal. What I had to do now was figure out how I was going to get there.

Just what is that puzzle piece?

Just what is that puzzle piece?

In order to be a self-sustaining author, I realized I needed to write more books than I was currently publishing. I had to take stock of my full time job and family commitments and come up with a plan for the year that would help get me there.

So I have planned to write 240,000 words before the next Dreamspinner conference in 2014. That translates into roughly four books. Whether that’s a lot or not doesn’t matter. The goal fits in my life, which is important, but more importantly it moves me forward on my ultimate goal to being a self-supporting author. Additionally, the goal gives me motivation to meet it and perhaps even surpass it.

If I can write four books, great! But what if I end up writing 300,000 and produce five books. Then, I’ve exceeded my goal and gotten myself even closer to my end goal.

Now that's a win!

Now that’s a win!

So, now I strive to write 1,000 words a day, and I force myself to keep track of my progress. When I exceed my daily goal, I reward myself with a cookie, or chips, or a Snickers bar. If I don’t meet it, I drown my sorrows with a cookie, or chips, or a Snickers bar. But the important thing beyond the rewards or punishments is that I’m holding myself accountable.

That is a great place to start.