Friday, June 26, 2009

It's a Great Time to be an Author!

Please join me in welcoming Paula Krapf to Murder*by*4 today. Paula is chief operating officer of Author Marketing Experts and spends her days promoting authors of all abilities. Welcome, Paula!

copyright 2009 Paul Krapf

It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s a great time to be an author. Sure, the economy is weak and we’ve all heard the bad news about layoffs, company closings and a slump in retail sales. But every downturn ends with an upswing, and this is the perfect time to get your house in order, position yourself and find ways to connect (mostly free) with your audience.

We specialize in online promotion, where exposure is limitless, and we’ve worked with New York Times bestselling authors as well as first time authors with self-published books – yet we see the same issues regardless of background when it comes to having a presence the ‘Net. Authors with no websites, or sites that have never been updated. Blogs with one entry from a year ago. No attempts at social networking whatsoever despite the fact that it can link authors and readers in a variety of ways. Developing and maintaining an online presence is important, and if you do it right you can build an online footprint that will become the foundation for all of your future promotion – they key is to get yourself out there and become part of the conversation so people can find you. There are three areas you should cover online: a website, a blog and at least one social networking site. You can have all three and still have time to write – and a life – if you manage the process.

Let’s start with the big one: your website. One of the reasons so many websites are ineffective is no one thinks about the ‘why’ of having a website in the first place. Think of your website as your online resume and your 24/7 sales tool; what do you want people to know about you and your book (or books)? What should people know about you and your books? Skip the Flash and slow-loading pages and instead make your site simple by offering the who, how, where, what and when. Your books section should list all of your books, with photos of the covers, and synopses for each title. Your bio page should have a good quality photo of you along with a biography that lets your audience know who you are (and if you write non-fiction this is a chance to establish your credentials). Review your current website from the perspective of a reader new to your books, or a member of the media looking for information – can you find what you need?

Other website ideas: offer book club questions for your book. Links to buy your book should be available on the home page as well as your book page (you’d be surprised how many people overlook this step). Have a media room in which you offer a media kit consisting of your bio, photo and press release for your book along with contact information – again, another area that is often overlooked. Whether you want direct contact or have a publicist, make sure the contact person and method of contact (email, phone, etc.) is clear. If you do events such as book signings, book festival appearances, lectures, etc. – maintain a calendar page and keep it updated so people can follow your progress. If you’re going to spend money, hiring a web designer to get you started could be worth the effort if you’re not sure how to put it all together on your own; think of it as an investment, then shop around for a designer and get referrals.

Got blog? You should, because a blog can be a great way to connect with your audience (more on that later). One reason blogs are abandoned so quickly is people lose steam and aren’t sure what to write about. Yet blog posts can be planned in advance and scheduled so that you save time while maintaining a presence. What do you write about? Your topic or expertise can inform your blog posts. For instance, we worked with an author who writes books about education and politics. He blogs about educational and political issues that are in the news. He’s not afraid to get his opinion out there to stir the pot and now he’s getting regular traffic to his blog as people read and comment upon his posts. Another author we worked with wrote blog posts in his character’s voice since he planned from the beginning to create an entire series around this one character. His blog first introduced the character and then allowed readers to develop a relationship. There really are no limits to what you can blog about, but once you start, it’s important to maintain the blog. An abandoned blog does not help you promote yourself!

Other ideas to keep your blog updated regularly: write about the publishing industry or field of your expertise. Offer writing tips or any other book publishing/promotion tips you’ve learned. Invite guest bloggers – other authors, publishing experts or leaders in the topic you write about. Read other blogs and comment on what you’ve read – and be sure to share your post with those bloggers, inviting them to comment and keep the conversation going. Additional blog topic ideas: write about trends in your industry review other books, offer excerpts from your next book, or answer readers’ questions.

Once you’ve got the website under control and blogging down pat it’s time to look at social networking. Yes, you’re busy, and there are a lot of social networking sites out there. My advice is to pick one or two only for a manageable workload because once you establish an account you’ll want to keep it going. There’s Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LibraryThing, Goodreads, and so many more. How should you choose a site that works for you? Take time to check out various sites and see what you think: is it the right demographic? Do the features of that site appeal to you? Are authors who write similar books using the site?

For Twitter: Is Tweeting in 140 characters appealing or appalling, and are you willing to learn how to use Twitter effectively by offering and sharing information? Mastering Twitter involves a combination of original tweets (you can offer mini-lessons, provide advice, share news, even tweet mini book excerpts), re-tweeting other content and communicating directly with your followers. You’d be amazed at how authors can generate interest in their books by networking with reviewers and readers, as long as they are willing to take the time to maintain their presence and continually follow new people.

For Facebook: Are you ready for a fan page on Facebook that you will update regularly so you can communicate with your audience about your book, news, events, etc.? An author on Facebook can develop relationships with people in the industry, from publishers to bookstores, as well as fans. You can be creative, too; one author we worked with wrote a book about her dog so the Facebook fan page she created was for the pooch – and who doesn’t want to be friends with a cute dog? Consider the pros and cons of each site and then take the leap.

Sites like Goodreads are a great way to go more in-depth. I was pleased when I was recently contacted by an author who noticed I was reading his book (Goodreads allows members to list, rate and review books) and he invited me to a Q&A he was holding that week. All he had to do was perform a quick search on the site to see who had listed his book and then invite them to participate. It worked wonders – participation was high and enthusiastic and you can bet many, if not all of us, have talked up this book to others.

Will all this work lead to book sales? Not directly, especially at first, but it will get you exposure and with exposure comes an audience. As you widen your online footprint, you will increase your contacts and generate ever-growing opportunities to build awareness of you and your book, and in the online world, where the information remains forever, that foundation you’ve built with your website, blog and social networking site will grow and keep you moving forward. There are thousands of books published each year that never gain momentum due to lack of focus, goals and yes, exposure. Don’t make your book one of them!

Paula Krapf is chief operating officer of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., a marketing and publicity firm that specializes in Internet promotion, strategically working with social networking sites, blogs, micro-blogs, ezines, video sites, and other relevant sites to push an authors message into the virtual community and connect with sites related to the book’s topic, positioning the author in his or her market. Get free tips from our blog:
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Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Paula, thank you for this insightful and indepth piece. I'm sure our MB4 readers will appreciate it and get busy following your advice. Come back soon!

Sheila Deeth said...

Thanks. I guess I'm walking backwards, started with social networking, then a blog, and I still haven't reached the website bit. But your article's really encouraging, so I guess I'll keep going. And I do find some time to write too. (Now, getting published... that's a different matter entirely...)

Paula Krapf said...


Thank you for having me! It's a pleasure.


I don't think you need to have a particular order to your online efforts. Take as much time as you need. It's better to go one at a time and feel comfortable with what you're doing before moving into another area. Just keep setting goals and moving forward!

Kim Smith said...

Great post Paula, and one that is in dire need of being said. Authors are still out there trying to promote without a website, or blog, and failing and wondering why.

Marta Stephens said...

Hey, Paula! Great to have you as a guest on MB4. You're so on the mark about having a website and maintaining it. There's nothing worse than to go to a site that has old material or broken links.

As for the social sites, I went overboard and I'm now looking to trim back a bit. But without an internet presence, we're dead in the water.

Paula Krapf said...


It's so true and we can't emphasize it enough: websites are essential, it's your 24/7 sales tool and resume. Blogs have a purpose and when used well are important, but a blog does not replace a website.

Paula Krapf said...

Thanks, Marta!

I think we all go a little overboard with social networking at first - there are so many sites and it seems so fun. But reality soon sets in: it takes work to maintain multiple sites. Then scaling back makes sense; focus on the 1 or 2 sites that can really help you connect with your audience.

Anonymous said...

Great blog post filled with useful tips and insight.