- Part 1: My Eight-Year Journey
- Part 2: Tradtional vs. Self-Publishing
- Part 3: A Word About Editing
- Part 4: Cover Images
- Part 5: What the Heck is an ISBN?
- Part 6: Publishing ebooks on Kindle
- Part 7: Why Publish ebooks on Smashwords?
- Part 8: Should I Create a Paperback?
- Part 9: Blurbs
You’ve probably heard it before: Authors today need a platform from which to sell their books. I would agree with this. Even traditional publishers expect more from their authors than they once did. Nowadays, authors have to push their own work and create their own fan base, especially if they’re self-published. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to do this. I’m going to touch on some of the most important ones and give a few tips about what to do and not to do.
Create a Website
I’ll start with the foundation. If you want people to see your work, you need someplace to display it. This means you need a website or a blog or, ideally, both. If I had to go with just one, I’d start with a blog. It’s interactive and dynamic and offers much greater potential for drawing people because you can use it to offer something rather than just putting something out there for sale.
To be the most effective, your blog should have a specific focus that’s related to the product you wish to sell. For example, if you have written a book about growing vegetables from seed, it would make sense to create a gardening blog featuring tips, posts on soil quality, or reviews about specialized products. By offering a wide variety of content, you’re serving your audience. Encourage responses, reply, interact with people, and post often. In response, you’ll draw readers and probably generate interest in your book. Blogs are user-friendly and free. The two biggest hosts would be WordPress and BlogSpot. I can’t offer a comparison because I’ve only used WordPress, but I can say I’ve been very happy with it.
A central website featuring all your books, information and links can also be very beneficial, and it’s possible to set one up very cheaply with no experience or techie skills. It’s even kind of fun. Try Yola. Or run a google search for free webhosts. I only switched to a paid site because I wanted a specific domain name (www.michelleisenhoff.com – I’ve actually started the cogs rolling to make it match my blog).
Go Where the People Are
Social media also offers lots of possibilities for connecting with people. Keep in mind, however, that you do not want to alienate yourself from them by becoming obnoxious. That means go easy on actually pushing your work. You’ll definitely want to share important news, excellent reviews, story updates, and new releases, but balance that by offering something, namely friendship. Be nice, respond to invitations, follow back, answer questions, ask questions, and initiate conversations. In short, be approachable and friendly and take an interest in others. This does take time, and it probably means your list of followers will grow slowly. And of course you can’t get to know everyone well. But these follows will be based on contact, and that’s worth something. In the meantime, have links to your websites that people can click on if they choose to.
The two biggest websites I’d recommend interacting on are Twitter and Facebook. I’m not a huge fan of Twitter because the format feels very abbreviated and superficial to this novel writer. But I’m on there, and I use it, because it has tremendous potential. One tweet with a corresponding link can be retweeted endlessly, thereby reaching an audience exponentially greater than your own. And I’ve met WAY more people there than on any other site besides my blog. If you do make an important connection, it’s possible to exchange information and communicate through other media, like email. And one nice thing about the concise format is the impossibility of wasting a lot of time on any one tweet. Keep in mind, however, that if you want others to promote and retweet you, you should be generous in promoting and retweeting others. (Promise, my Twitter friends, I’ll get better at that when I finish this manuscript or the school year, whichever comes first!) If you’re new to Twitter, there are lots of helps available. Google “how to use twitter.” I got two BILLION hits.
Facebook is another way to reach a huge audience. You can use it two ways, as yourself or as a page. As yourself, you can “friend” an unlimited number of people and interact with them, post videos, share photos, message, etc. It’s a great way to interact with people. However, your “friends” have access to your personal photos, to your other friends’ accounts, to all your wall conversations. You may wish, as I do, to reserve these privileges for people you actually know and not for fans. Then the solution is the creation of a page (see mine). A page is a professional yet approachable way to display yourself and your work to others. You still have the opportunity to connect with a wide range of people, but it needn’t be so personal. Fans can “like” you, and when you’re logged on as your page you can “like” others, and you have the same ability to converse. Here’s a link for setting up your own Facebook page.
Some other great social sites, which I won’t detail on this post, are LinkedIn, Google+, Digg, StumbleUpon, and a lot more. Also, if you’re an author, get yourself on Goodreads, Shelfari, and/or LibraryThing. You can also meet and interact with people of common interests (teaching, gardening, book blogging…) on forums. Finding one you like just takes a little research.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Your fan base will not materialize in a week or even a year; it is an ongoing task. It’s not even possible to master everything at once, nor is it necessary to be on all these sites. Try one or two things at a time and learn them then add something new later. I began book blogging a year ago. I created a Facebook page a few months later. And I only started using Twitter at the end of the last year. Building your platform is a slow process, one that requires time and effort, but one that’s full of potential. So take a lesson from the tortoise: Make a start somewhere and keep on keeping on.