Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Writer's Web

I touched on this in a previous post but wanted to revisit it because I think it's crucial to the success of the modern author. What I mean by the Writer's Web is not that vast conglomeration of information that is the internet —although that's a large part of it, but the networks, associations and communication channels (both virtual and in the real world) that radiate outwards from the author and act as the mechanism by which the author (in analogy to a spider) attracts and "captures" their audience (poor little flies don't know what they are in for, do they?). As well as those hapless flies, your sticky little web may also attract other authors, publishing professionals and eventually even an agent or publisher, all of which will up your author appeal and provide you with a solid support network.

The first thing authors need to recognise is that even once the hard work of securing a traditional publishing deal is done more elbow-grease is required. Few authors have the luxury of a publisher that furnishes them with a blank-cheque marketing budget, and many small independent publishers appreciate an author who is "self-promoting" (the self-saucing puddings of the publishing world, for those of you who have a sweet tooth). For self-published authors, promotion and publicity is even more crucial.  Either way, the more publicity gigs, speaking engagements, signings and promo tours you can generate, the more sales you can generate. Aside from that, however, other elements of your "web" require attention:

1. An author website. You need a home on the web — a place to direct your unaware flies to. You also need to ensure it will have a high google ranking by optimising keywords on the site. What is your book about? If it's about divorce, make sure your web content has a high hit-rate for that word (and any synonyms or associated words), without sounding unprofessional.  Include your name — a lot  (e.g. writing in third person) — it'll be one of your most useful keywords for those who want to find you. Also make use of links to related services or sites. The more links from your site to other high-traffic sites, and the more links on other sites to your site, the higher your google ranking will be.

2. Develop an author blog. You can blog about whatever you like: random musings, political and social science, gardenias. It doesn't matter what you blog, it matters that your readers want to read it and that they feel it connects them to you in some way, either as a "go to" for the topics they're interested in or just to see what you're going on about this time. You'll also need to promote your blog in a sea of blogs, which means directing traffic to it by letting all of your database of contacts know where it is and suggesting they share it with others.

Link your blog to your website — hell, plug your website shamelessly if you like. Like this,  (See, that didn't hurt a bit now did it?) For most authors, I recommend having several blogs. They're free to create with huge blog sites like wordpress or blogger, and often your web creation company will also have blog options. Blog on, peeps! Don't be afraid of it, but also recognise when it is acting as a procrastination tool to stop you doing what you do best: writing. (Like now, in my case. But it's okay; when I hit a small impasse in my novel, I blog it out!)

3. Forums. There are countless writing, publishing, speaking, gardening, relationship ... you name it ... forums out there on the worldwide web and most are free to join. Every time you post, you're adding a sticky filament of gossamer to your own personal web because you should include your name (or pseudonym) and links to your blog or site. This way others on the forums can start to develop a relationship with you not only as a forum member, but as an author.

4. Up the "freemium". Don't underestimate the power of a good freebie. Giving away some of your writing for free at sites like Scrib or Authonomy or TextNovel can help you establish fans. In the world of direct selling, those slick, greasy salesmen have a motto: "You have to tell most people the benefits of something at least 3 times before they'll buy it". The same is true for you as an author. Fans are made not bought, but giving them something for nothing will make you look like a lovely, generous author and also, if you're good enough, suck them into your writing. Once they're sucked into the web, they're yours for life (assuming you treat your fans well with special offers and a regular stream of "personal" communication). Also, if you've got spares and you self-published, gift your local library with a signed copy of your book. Self-published titles can struggle to get library representation but doing so might just have the librarian asking you to come and take a community writing group or do a reading there (if your work is good enough).

5. Network, network, network. Go to industry events. Run industry events if you can. Mingle with other writers and with readers at writing groups. Join online social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Linkedin and promote yourself on those too. The more threads your web has, the more successful it — and you — will be. Hand out business cards by the boxful, just get your name out there.

6. Treat others how you would like to be treated (even if you are a lurking spider). Hate those companies that bombard you daily with crud as soon as you make the mistake of signing up for their free newsletter? Even if it is something they're interested in, most people don't want to get an update every 20 seconds. RSS feeds on blogs aside (because people know they're going to get live updates and that's what they want), don't "overload" your audience or mail too frequently to your database. Aim for "top of mind" awareness contact say once every three weeks as a maximum. Of course, if you run a forum or a site where your audience can comment, always respond to comments or thank members for commenting. If they make contact with you, then by all means, reciprocate, but don't be pushy.

There are many other strands you can add to your web, e.g. promotion through print media, magazines and newspapers, advertising via your car and business, or establishing cross-promotional deals with others in a relevant field or business, as well as utilising the power of "the referral", but I'll deal with them in subsequent posts, because right now ... I've got my novel mojo back.

Cheerio ... Karin


Book For Little Hands said...

Hi Karin,
I really enjoyed reading your post on The Writers Web. There's heaps of valuable information for me to put into action as an aspiring author. I write for children, but appreciate all genres. I look forward reading more of your blog posts.

Excuse me while I shamelessly give myself a plug. My blog is
Books for Little Hands.


Write with you said...

Thanks Books for Little Hands! I am glad you found it useful and will certainly check out your blog too. :-)