So, if you already have a website/blog, and you've found your niche... Now What? In this article, we will discuss a topic that is often mistaken for the Author Platform - your Online Presence.
They're related, but not the same. The Author Platform is everything that you do to build your image, increase your exposure, extend your reach, and improve your brand / product. It's the sum total of all your activities as an author. Some of these activities may not be online, but they would still be part of your author platform. Like book signings or guest speaking.
Your Online Presence is the result of how strong or weak your author platform is. It's your footprint on the vast sandy beach that is the Internet. Everything that I do online as Eeva Lancaster, makes up my online presence. My website, my author pages, my book pages, my social media network, my online communities - every interaction, every post, everything I get involved in as an author, deepens my online footprint. So, someone walking on that beach will possibly see my footprint, and whatever that footprint represents. In our case, our books. If you search for me on the Internet, you'll find me, and the stuff I'm involved with. We want that. We need to be seen. Because just like I mentioned in Part 1, anonymity is a self-published author's biggest enemy.
As you build your author platform, your online presence improves too, if you're doing what you should be doing. Both of them takes time to build and the process can be frustrating and time-consuming. You can't exactly tell when you've done enough. There's no end to it. It's a continuous process. You add to it and improve on it as you learn new things and become more involved on the Internet.
But why do we even need to strengthen our online presence? Well...
- Our books are online.
- Our customers browse for books online.
- People get information online.
Without an online presence, how will anybody know that you're selling something worth buying? And how will they know that you're worth buying from?
To check the status of your online presence, look for yourself on Google or whatever search engine you're using... How many pages show your work, and anything connected to you? Do you see your books or your website? Your posts?
Businesses have gone online, and there is a huge battle going on as to who has the strongest online presence. When you want to purchase something, don't you go online to search? Chances are high that you'll buy from the first 10 results of your search. There are other strategies proposed by marketing gurus and accomplished bloggers, but the basic goal of anyone with a business online is to be SEARCHABLE.
Part 2 - How to Build and Manage Your Online Presence
First, you need to setup the basics. Once you have your content ready to be published and marketed, you will need the following:
The author kit should contain your promotional materials. Everything about you and your books. You need to have this all in one folder so you can easily post and share wherever you need to.
- Image - should be pleasing to the eyes, and professional. It should be in high resolution, and with a good background. If you want to pose in your bikinis, briefs, housedress, or while getting drunk in a bar, that's up to you, of course. But preferably, your image should be one that your readers can connect with. You don't want to turn-off prospective readers because of an ugly and inappropriate image, right?
Unprofessional images on Amazon, your author and book pages, and on promotional sites, tells readers one thing - you're sloppy. Your work is probably as poor as your taste. Managing perceptions is a skill self pubs should learn since we are stereotyped as Amateurs. A poor image is bad, but no image at all is worse. Why? Perceptions again. Not only are you an unknown, you don't even have a face to show. Not a good way to connect with people, don't you think?
- Author Biography - First person or third person? Depends on where you're posting it. First person for blogs, and third person for author pages. What should we speak of in our author biographies? As a reader, I find mentions of universities and courses soooooo boring. Especially for fiction authors. For non-fiction authors writing about Health and Nutrition, or other authoritative topics, it might be necessary to prove your credibility, but for fiction? How does your educational background entice me to read your horror or romance novel? You can mention that part, but it shouldn't be the highlight of your bio.
A bio, even if written in the third person, should provide a deeper insight into the author. Why do you write what your write? What inspires and moves you? What's your purpose? Who are you as a person? What do you offer? Interesting information. One of my favorite bios is from an author who said he was raised by wolves. Of course we know it's not true, but it made his bio unforgettable. Plus, it showed you that this personality has a great sense of humor and originality. Maybe his books will be as interesting to read.... Perception, dearies.Do not include your personal issues on your biography, unless it's connected to what you're writing about. Anything negative, even something you've overcome, should not be included unless you want to be identified with it. Be inspiring. Share some sunshine. Keep the dirty laundry hidden in the hamper. Give people only your best.
- Book Synopsis/Blurb - In the olden days when people went to bookstores to browse for books, the standard was to have a long synopsis - a summary of the story. In those days, readers read the back cover. It's part of the experience of buying a book. But nowadays, a synopsis/blurb should be written to catch a browser's very short attention span. The first line should be a hook... and the rest of the copy should entice readers to buy it. It's called copywriting.
Connect with your readers right away by highlighting the dilemma in the story. People love to be intrigued. They love mysteries, and problems - especially if they can relate to it. Give it to them. Open with a question or a powerful statement. Touch them where it counts. This is to keep them on the page and reading.
Keep it short and sweet. Like I mentioned, browsers today have very quick fingers. Get to the point and tell them WHY they should buy your book. Use powerful words and carefully crafted questions that will arouse and provoke them to action. Include and highlight positive reviews.
- Summary of Book and Social Media Links - Put all your links in one file for easy sharing. If you want to see how many people are clicking on your links, you can use Bitly for tracking purposes.
- Banners and Book Covers - Images add power to your marketing efforts. Use them whenever you advertise. One that's tailor made for you and your book is better than something you lifted off the Internet.
Prepare your basic author kit with marketing in mind. Sell yourself and your work. Paint a captivating portrait of yourself. Make your books sound fascinating, and different. You simply need to use the right words to do this, and a lot of thought. With the number of books out there, it gives you an edge, when you are an interesting personality. It makes you stand out from the mob.
I've improved the author kits of many clients, and it worked every time. An attractive profile made people pay attention to their work. It defined their purpose more, not only to their readers but also to themselves. I know many authors who are confused about the image they want to project. They hesitate, unsure of how they want to be known. When you hesitate, you confuse your audience. What are you really about? Make up your mind before you compile your author kit.Be sure of your goals. Know your target audience. Be consistent.
Websites, Blogs and SEO
If you're a blogger, then you know what SEO means. Everyone who wants to be searchable is concerned about Search Engine Optimization. Mitch Meyerson said,
"Great content isn’t great until somebody reads it, shares it, and links to it."
Before all that, someone needs to find it first.
SEO is basically about ranking high in the search engines. So when people search for topics on your niche or genre or business, you'll come up in the results. Ideally, in the first page. People pay to improve their content's SEO, and increase their ranking. There are too many benefits to ignore it, no matter what people say.
Search engines gives answers to queries and they use a site's relevance and popularity as their basis. If your site has many comments, likes and shares, surely it must contain valuable information.
We'll just skim this topic quickly to get you acquainted with SEO. To improve your SEO, you can do the following on your website, on your book and author pages, and when you post on social media:
Use keywords on the title and within the content
Keywords are what people type into the search bar of Google when they're looking for something. Other keywords are used more often than others. So if you want your content to rank for the right keywords, you should know what those popular keywords are.
Here is a good article for beginners to help you get a better idea:
Non fiction writers should use keywords on their titles, subtitles and book descriptions. This is more important to non-fics than fiction writers.
Even when you post on Social Media, especially on your Google+ page, use keywords.
A Meta Description is what you see below the title on a Google search result, usually a description of what the website or book is about. When you write your description, use relevant words that can help your site or book page be found. Make it easy for the search engines to find your content.
The longer your post, the more relevant it is in the eyes of a search engine. A typical blog post should be 500 words and up. When you write valuable content, and use keywords where appropriate, the search engines will love it and display it in their results.
This is one of the building blocks of good SEO. Backlinks are simply links that lead to your website or page. Some people even create several websites, so they can backlink to their own sites.
Whenever someone includes your link on their post, they are strengthening your SEO. It's like a referral from Google's point of view. But Google's not stupid. Links are not created equal. Some are less relevant than others. If a backlink to my site originated from a site that also discusses self-publishing, or books, it would be considered as a quality link. If it came from a site dealing with dog food, it will be a poor quality link.
You can read more about backlinking HERE.
I've mentioned the benefits of guest posting in Part 1. When you post on another blog, that's more of your work out there. The blogger will promote your post, and will be shared to their network. It will be additional promotion for you, with an extended reach.
Social Media Presence
Your presence on Social Media adds to the strength of your online presence because of the sharing that happens. You gain access to your follower's network and their network, and so on.
Connect with people. Advertise your work using keywords. Create vibrant posts that gets shared, effectively increasing your reach. You don't have to join all of them. Where will you find the time? And not all social media sites are good for your business. Facebook is more personal. Twitter is so fast that it's impersonal. Instagram is ideal for posting images, LinkedIn is professional. Google+ is a must join. What you post on your Google+ page gets picked up by Google fast. Pinterest is less interactive. Choose a couple and build your network.
Consistent posting is important. Schedule it. Make every post count. Do it with purpose or don't do it at all.
Consistent posting is important. Schedule it. Make every post count. Do it with purpose or don't do it at all.
10 DOs and DONTs on Social Media
- Do show interest in other people's business. It's not all about you. If you show interest in other author's work, and help them every once in a while, they will do the same for you.
- Do watch what you post. Remember your reputation and image.
- Do make your posts interesting. Why should people click on your links? Entice them.
- Do think of your target audience. What do they need from you and what can you offer?
- Do be generous. What you give is what you get.
- DON'T advertise your book without an image. It's boring. Post your book's cover at least. Images work better than any combination of words you can think of. They get attention. More so on Twitter.
- DON'T spam by posting the same thing over and over again. If people are like me, I will only share it once, because I don't want to share the same thing over and over. Make several different posts about your book to give your posts variety.
- DON'T ask favors from your network. Offer something in return instead. Why say, "Can you review my book?" When you can say, "How about a review swap?" Be conscious of the value of other people's time. They don't owe you anything.
- DON'T be an OSSI..... What? You don't know what that is? LOL. Those who share links only, or a comment like, "Check it out!" and a link - I call them OSSI - which stands for Overblown Sense of Self Importance. Why would anyone, other than your best buds, click on a link just because you posted it? Are you Madonna or Oprah or Brad Pitt? Add words and entice people. Don't be lazy. Tell them why they should bother with you.
- DON'T buy likes, comments and follows. Sure it looks good on your profile to have thousands of followers.... but who are you kidding? Do you want real buyers or just numbers? 50 engaged followers are better than 50k bogus followers. If you're seriously building presence, keep it real. Gain followers by being an interesting, likeable, relevant character.
To give you an example of how social media posts and shares, especially on Google+, can help your online presence, type "getting married" on Google and these posts about my marriage eBook will be displayed on the first page.
There are so many marriage eBooks on the market that I couldn't make the book page itself appear on the first page. So indirectly, these posts are helping my book's exposure. Google loves Google+.
I do the same for my website, The Book Khaleesi. Type "author services" and you will see these on the first page:
If I don't use social media, my website will be buried under older websites with stronger and more established presence.
So... there's more to social media than just chatting. You don't always have to be there, but when you are, maximize your posts and ensure that everything is contributing to your effort to strengthen your online presence.
Book Promo Sites
There are many sites where you can post your books for free. Some even allow you to make author pages. Register your books to as many sites as possible. Each of these sites have their own following. It's free anyway, so what do you have to lose?
Some of these free sites are:
Reader's Gazette - They even promote you on twitter, with banner and all. You can also register your blog.
eBook Stage - A reader's site where you can link to your books on Amazon, Kobo, etc.
Noble Authors - Post a free ad, create a book page with a link to your book sites, and even create an Author Page.
iAuthor - Link to your books, include your books on different book 'themes' created by other members.
BooksOnline Directory - Their Free Book Ads lets you add your book at no cost.
Book Talk - A reader's forum where you can join the conversation and promote your book.
KBoards - Another forum, like Book Talk. When you post here, the search engines see it.
Nothing Binding - Promote your writing. No cost for membership.
Addicted to eBooks - Advertise for free. But your book needs to pass the requirements.
A drop in the bucket for sure. You can make your own list by compiling the list from articles on the Internet. Then when you have time, visit the sites.
What is your brand? Are you a romance author? A non-fiction writer? Are you a mentor who loves making tutorial videos? Who are you? What do you stand for? That is your brand.
Your website, author and book pages, marketing efforts, should be done to reinforce your brand. If you don't believe in what you're promoting, your product, your book.... people won't too. Your doubts will show through your hesitant posts, your inconsistent copy, and your constantly changing way of presenting yourself.
Authors whose writing crosses genres encounter this confusion. Should they promote themselves as this, or that? Whatever you choose, consistency is important, because the way you package your self, the image that you build, the content that you share, your author kit - all of these are done to promote your brand. So, make up your mind first. Who do you want to be?
Of course, you may decide to reinvent yourself in the future. But adapt one image at a time. Don't be a schizo with different personalities. If you're a romance author, be a romance author with your whole heart and soul. If you write paranormal romance, refer to yourself as a paranormal romance writer, not a horror writer or a romance writer. These 2 types of authors have different audiences. If you have followers who love romance novels, and you suddenly promote yourself as a horror writer, they will lose interest. If you switch from one to another, they'll get confused.
Be firm about who you are, and what you offer.
The Birth of Eeva Lancaster
I know how tedious it is to build an online presence, more so if you're not a blogger. I had to study all of these when I created Eeva Lancaster. Yes, this is a pen name. I wanted to separate my author life from the rest of me.... so, Eeva came to be. She's all the best parts of me. You can imagine that when I published my first poetry book, I was a total unknown, and I had to build everything from scratch. The same thing a new author will go through.
But now, I'm consolidating all my online activities under Eeva, because her online presence is stronger than my other personas. Since I quit my job and started The Book Khaleesi, my freelancer persona has been incorporated into my author persona.(It's fun to have many MEs, believe me!) Not quite where I want to be yet, but the foundation is there. I just need to improve on it more.
Most authors have a very weak online presence. Just like marketing, it's something they know zilch about. This article is by no means a comprehensive guide. It's a simple guide, because it doesn't have to be complicated. But you need to know what you must do and why you need to do it. Understand a bit of this, and a bit of that and try it. Nothing beats doing it for yourself, and checking the results.
Whenever you want to check the status of your online presence, Google yourself. See what comes up and how many pages you've earned from your efforts. That's your presence in a nutshell.
That's it for Part 2.
To summarize, here's what you need to remember when you build your online presence.
Your image and bio should be interesting but professional.
Your blurbs and advertising materials should be sales copies and not boring diatribes.
Your image, book blurb, bio, advertising materials should be consistent with your brand.
Keep SEO at the back of your mind when composing titles, subtitles, descriptions, and posting on social media.
Use keywords on your content.
Guest Post whenever you can.
Promote yourself and your books to as many sites as possible.
Promote yourself and your books to as many sites as possible.
Build social media presence and grow your following. Extend your reach.
Post interesting content that gets shared and liked.
Be consistent about who you are and what you are offering. This is your brand.
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The Author Platform Series, Part 1 - Showcase Your Writing
Building the Foundation of your Author Platform