I don’t actually mean Authorial Presence in the sense of imposing upon a room like a be-jacketed tweed-peddler (although that’s certainly something to aspire to – must invest in horn-rimmed glasses soon). I mean it in the sense of pulling together an online presence, something pretty crucial to being a Real Live Published Author these days (I mean, assuming you want to sell books. Which I do.).
But Jamaila, you say, you have an online presence already! It’s true. I do. And I’m delightful. But! There’s more to having a decent author online presence than just talking about your lunch on Twitter, it turns out. (However: if anybody wants to pay me money to keep tweeting about my food and posting ridiculous pictures of my children, hit me up.)
Fair warning: this post will be long, and it is all author stuff. If you come here solely for the food and babies, you may want to skip this one.
Here are some of the things on my to-do list as I build up to the release of my first book (May 4th! It’s inscribed on your calendar with permanent ink, yes?).
Create a Facebook author page.
This is different from my (infrequently used) personal profile, which is used mostly for people I went to elementary school with to see where I live now and how much cuter my children are than theirs (let’s be real, that’s what it’s all about). An author page is like a business page – you ‘like’ it rather than reciprocally ‘friending’ it. It’s good for announcements and updates – a good way for fans of my writing to keep track of me in their daily Internetting. It’s also good for me, for networking – I can ‘like’ other pages with it, like my publisher, fellow authors, writing resources, and more. This keeps my personal profile remaining pretty personal; my school friends don’t really care about my interactions with other writers, but my readers will.
(Incidentally, this task is complete! Head here to check out my Facebook author page.)
Create a newsletter.
An opt-in newsletter is by far the best way to engage with readers who actually are interested in you. When you tweet, blog, post to Facebook, or post on other social media, you’re kind of shouting into the void, and hoping that people will click your links and read your stuff. With a newsletter, though, your subscribers have specifically signed up to receive content from you – these are your core audience, and you want to keep them engaged and happy. This means:
- Don’t send a million newsletters. No more than once a month, max.
- NEVER, EVER sign people up for your newsletter without their consent. If you’re running a giveaway or contest with the goal of getting subscribers, make it very, very clear that when they give you their email address, they’re subscribing. You’ll lose a few subscribers after the contest is over, inevitably, but you won’t get angry emails from people wanting to know how you got their email address.
- Offer exclusive extras. Which is the next item on my to-do list.
(This task is also done – you can subscribe to my newsletter here, and breathlessly await the first issue.)
Write a newsletter-exclusive short story.
I’ve been thinking about this one for weeks. As an incentive to subscribe to my newsletter, I’m going to offer an exclusive short story, that subscribers will get a link to with their confirmation email. I’ll also offer ongoing exclusive content within the newsletters themselves, but this one will be just for subscribing. (Fact: Samantha Grace got me to subscribe to her newsletter with this exact tactic – an exclusive short sequel story to her series – and I’m still subscribed, because she has decent content that interests me. So I figure, if it works on me, it ought to work on other people!)
Get a PO box.
Online regulations mean that an email newsletter has to have a physical contact address. I would rather this not be my home address. It’s also good to have one for people who like to write physical letters, etc., though it may never get used. In my area, PO boxes are $82 per year, which is not that bad. (In more rural areas, it’s less expensive!) You can check the availability of boxes at your local post office here – I for one am just getting the smallest one!
I wrote a little about this in my last post here. Rather than having the blog portion of my website be the front page, I wanted to have a static front page for people who are visiting my site to find out more about my books and really don’t care about recipes, parenting, or any of my other online flailing. Buuut, I’m cheap. And my first book hasn’t even come out yet, so there is no vast reserve of authorial funding sitting around over here (if there was, I probably would have spent it on frozen waffles, which is the only thing my children eat for breakfast). So (after a couple of days of reading my way through WordPress’s help archives), I found a free theme that offered the option to have a static front page. I did spend a tiny bit of money on a couple of stock photos – one for the front page, and one for a banner for the Facebook page. Then I dinked my way around WordPress and managed to get it looking at least marginally the way I wanted to. (Another fact: I was pretty heavily inspired by Sarah MacLean’s simple but effective static home page.)
(As noted above, this task is done, too, with a few things yet to be added in.)
Create family trees and temporary cover graphics.
I am a sucker for a family-based series. So obviously, I wrote one. Another thing I am a sucker for: character family trees. (One of my favorites: the Effingtons, by Victoria Alexander! She has a great tree on her website here.) So, as an ‘extra’ for fans who visit my website, I want to put up an Edgebourne family tree. I actually have it drawn out – it was one of the first things I did when I was plotting the series. It went through several incarnations. Now it lives as a resource file in Scrivener, where I can refer to it when I can’t remember how old one of the Edgebourne cousins is, for instance. I just need to fire up ye olde Photoshop to make a pretty version, and it’ll be up on the website soon. I also want to put up some temporary cover images to make the ‘Books’ page a little more visually interesting. As fun as blurbs are, they’re always more effective with a picture beside them!
Obviously, none of the above items will do anybody any good if all I ever publish is book one. Book two is twenty thousand words in (about halfway done, if it sticks to novella form like book one). I’d like to have it finished by release day.
Once I’ve gotten everything on my list up and running, I’ll be turning my attention to more specific publicity, like blog tours, ads, and other tools. (I’m also looking forward to getting my cover from the publisher so that we can have a cover reveal!) You can expect more posts from me on that sort of thing in a few months, I think.
Until then, it’s nose to the grindstone, frozen waffles into the toaster, and onward.
Nice post with lots of good tips. I’ve still hashing about trying to decide whether a newsletter is for me, it seems so time-consuming, but thanks for the share.
Writing as Belle Ami
The One (The Only One) #1
The One & More (The Only One) #2
Coming 2016 – One More Time is Not Enough (The Only One) #3
Thanks! Newsletters can be time-consuming, I agree. I think the trick is to do some work early on and set up a template, so that you can just drop content quickly in when you are building the regular newsletters. Mine probably won’t go out any more than quarterly, to be honest! (If that!) I think it’ll mostly be a pre-release tool, to try to get pre-orders. So it’ll generally only go out when releases are coming up.
Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing what you’re doing. I haven’t found anything yet that’s really working. Pretty much hit-and-miss at the moment.
All the best on your new release!
Thank you! Good luck on finding your online balance!
This is a great (and fun!) article and very timely for me, as I’m just developing my “author platform” in anticipation of my debut novel being published this year. I hadn’t thought of a newsletter at this stage, but I like the idea of an exclusive sequel/prequel/short story for subscribers. Food for thought….
Thanks! Yes, I thought sending out a newsletter at this stage was unlikely, but gathering subscribers for the list can never start too early, I think! And incentive always helps!
Great post and very helpful. I’m considering a static page on my website too and I’ve just started a newsletter. I’m waffling about a free short story with sign-up–I’ll likely end up doing it!
Thanks for sharing. 😀
Thanks! I’m having an unexpected amount of fun writing mine, so it was a bonus! Good luck!
This was a helpful post! I’m a new writer (as far as writing to publish) and I get overwhelmed with all the things I need to do regarding social media. Thanks for the interesting breakdown.
Twitter is my least favorite social media site. Most of the authors on my feed do nothing but RT each other’s books. It all becomes background noise after a while. I’ve been thinking about deleting my account, to be honest.
How do you use Twitter in a way that doesn’t make you want to chuck your cell phone off a cliff whenever you log on? Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Thanks!
PS-I raised three kids on frozen waffles. They’re all smart and athletic adults–one’s still a teen, but athletic and bright–so there’s your anecdotal “proof” that frozen waffles are health food. 😉
Hi! Good question! I think a lot of authors fall into the trap of using Twitter solely as a marketing tool, and then take the (bad, IMO) advice that has been going around in author marketing circles to just RT each other, with the idea that reciprocity = marketing. While all writers are also readers, I would rather market my books beyond my fellow writers! I don’t think the RT loops reach anybody but other RTers, even though the idea behind them is theoretically sound (RTing each other’s stuff to reach each other’s followers). Personally, I use Twitter more as a person than as an author. When I’m posting original tweets, they’re about what I’m doing – snapshots of my life with the kids, what I’m eating, our recent move, and of course what I’m writing. I also interact a lot – rather than RTing other authors, I respond to them. If they’ve posted an interesting link, replying to them about it can start a dialogue, which is a lot more fun than reading the same blog post headline RTed by twenty people in a row. I’ve struck up conversations with (and been followed by!) some pretty big names this way.
The things I RT are things I’m genuinely interested or invested in; if I’m RTing a link to somebody’s book, I’ve probably read it (or, disclaimer, they’re a really good friend, LOL). Most of the things I RT, though, tend to be what I consider ‘shareables’ – things that are interesting or funny. Not advertisements. To me, the key to success on Twitter is voice. It’s a showcase for your personality. If people think you’re funny, or wise, or inspirational, or have good taste, or just have cute babies (yo), they’ll be interested in you. And then from there, they’ll be interested in your books.
My best advice: follow and interact with authors (and other people!) who are using Twitter in a way that appeals to you; unfollow those who aren’t. You’ll find yourself with an interesting, curated feed that you want to participate in, and your participation will then lead to engagement by others, and more fun people to follow, and more engagement, etc. etc.
This turned into a really long comment, sorry! I have a Lot of Thoughts about Author Twitter, as it happens. 😉
Thanks for the great reply. I use Twitter/FB in the same way. I RT/post things I find interesting, books I’ve actually read and liked, and the occasional RT for a friend. I need to take a hard look at my Twitter FL. Perhaps make it more like my FL on Facebook.