Trying to create an author ‘platform’ has been daunting. The word itself is daunting. Platform. What the heck does a platform have to do with writing? I don’t know, so I won’t use it. Rather, I’ll call it creating an online presence.
No one told me where to be as a new author. The possibilities are endless. It was tempting to shrink back and hope readers would find me just because I’ve written the most amazingly awesome book ever! :) But, thankfully, I’m curious enough about new things that I decided to take the leap and jump in.
I jumped in big time.
I’ve tried many different websites, social networks, and even online bookstores to see where I reach the largest audience. Different websites attract different viewers, but obviously I didn’t have the time to be everywhere all the time. No one does. So I’ve worked to maximize my output while minimizing my effort.
So I thought I’d share what I’ve learned.
I have six suggested sites you should join if you are an author. At the bottom of each suggestions is the main audience the site reaches (so far as I can tell).
- (NOTE: This list is obviously just my opinion. You don’t have to do what I say. )
- (If you have any thoughts to add, PLEASE do. There are a thousand ways to skin a chicken, or a cat, or whatever the morbid phrase is. Share your ideas below.)
6 Author MUST-HAVE Sites
Have a website. Seriously. We live in the internet age. If you’re hoping to reach any reader under the age of 80, you need to have an internet presence.
A website is the BARE minimum.
If you have the skills (or are willing to acquire them), create your own. There are plenty of hosting sites that let you create a site for less than $10 a month (some are even free). Most have great designs to choose from. I use Wix.com and have been quite happy with it.
If you don’t have the skills or time to design your own website, hire it out. It’s worth it. First impressions matter, so don’t think you can scrimp on style and make up for it with your fabulous writing.
Everyone judges a book by its cover — those that say they don’t are lying. In this case, the book is your website, not your book. :) So make it professional.
Your website should include:
- Links to your books
- Your bio
- Contact info
- Links to other places you’re on the web (facebook, blog, twitter).
But be organized. Everything in that list above should be easy to find. Just because you happen to have accounts on twenty different sites doesn’t mean you should list all twenty in a row.
Then keep your website updated. Seriously. Seriously, seriously. It’s a pet peeve of mine to wander onto someone’s site to read out about their newest book and there’s no latest book listed.
If you don’t care enough to have up-to-date info on your books, why should I?
- Website main audience: Anyone on the internet
(Some authors use their blog as their website. That’s fine as long as it provides all the pages and links a good website needs to have.)
A blog is the best place for people to sample your writing style and personality. It’s also where you talk more in-depth about your writing adventures, editing woes, and any upcoming events. If people enjoy your blog, chances are they’ll read your book(s).
I recently switched from Blogger to WordPress. I can’t say which I like better.
Once you have your blog created, make sure you have a feedburner.com set up. RSS. It’s an easy way to make your blog more versatile. But then, don’t stop there. Start following other blogs. And don’t be a silent follower either. Weigh in on their posts, laugh, or just let them know you appreciate what they’ve shared.
Blogging is a powerful way to network in the writing community, especially for up-and-coming authors. I’ve met some amazing authors in the blogging world, people I now consider my friends even though we’ve never met in person. So get out there. Have fun.
- Blog main audience: other authors and avid readers
Again, if you’re hoping to attract readers in any age category less than 80, I would strongly suggest getting a facebook account. Most people (as much as 80% of US internet users) are on facebook. It’s a great way to reach out to the casual reader.
There are at least two ways to handle facebook as an author.
Use your personal account to double as your public account. Meaning, anyone can “friend” you and see what’s on your wall. There is even an option to “Follow” a personal page. In a way, this is the simplest way to do it.
The problem comes if you have reservations about the world seeing your personal stuff — which you should.
Thankfully, there are ways to make things private vs. public, even on your personal account. I know several authors who do this quite well.
The bottom right hand corner of your posts has a drop-down menu that lets you choose who will see your post/picture/link. If you only want your closest friends and family seeing the picture of you sunburned in a skimpy bathing suit on the beach in Hawaii, just designate it for friends when you post. Anything author-ish can be made ‘public.’
To me, this is still too much invasion of my (and my family’s) privacy. Or maybe it’s just too much work. So I’ve chosen the other option.
Option #2: Create an facebook author page
Pages are free and easy to set up, and it uses your same facebook login to keep life simple. Once you have an author page, it’s easy enough to switch between your personal and public page in the upper right hand corner (another drop down menu that says, “Use Facebook as…).
Not only is an author page a great place to post news, links, and pictures for my followers, it also allows my family and friends, who aren’t necessarily the most enthusiastic fans of my book, to avoid constantly hearing about it. I post maybe one in twenty book-related posts on my personal wall.
(Does that make sense?)
One last note on facebook pages. Because I have an author page, I changed my privacy settings on my personal page. Now people can’t find my private account unless they’re a friend of a friend.
I did this so when people go to facebook looking for Rebecca Belliston the author, they won’t end up finding Rebecca Belliston, the frazzled mother/wife/homemaker/crazy-lady-next-door.
- Facebook main audience: anyone on facebook (nearly 80% of US internet users)
Twitter is a beast that took me some time to love. But I love it now.
Personally, I think Twitter is in its early stages of popularity, where facebook has leveled out. For now, my posts on Twitter are mostly seen by other authors and public figures. Not many casual readers. But that’s okay.
Since networking is important to me, Twitter is great. I love chatting with cool people.
Plus I love the immediacy of Twitter.
When the fire broke out on the mountain behind my parents’ house, I heard about it first on Twitter. Of course, I called my parents to make sure they were okay. They were, but they were busy scrambling to pack up their house. I was stuck 1600 miles away, helpless. So for the next two hours I watched the live progression as people snapped fire photos on their phones and uploaded them to Twitter instantly.
Twitter is better than the news.
- Twitter main audience (at least for now): more established authors, other public profiles, and teens
5) Amazon’s Author Central
I didn’t know this existed until a few months after publication of Sadie. Since then, I’ve used it regularly.
Amazon’s Author Central lets you, the author, control things about your book on Amazon. Synopsis. Editorial reviews. Not only that, but you can track the sales week to week (not all, but some).
It also lets you link your blog and twitter accounts to your Amazon author page. Even if you are not a fan of Amazon, the reality is it is the world’s largest online retailer, as well as one of the largest book sellers.
So get an account set up, and maximize the info on there.
- Amazon main audience: book buyers
My last suggestion is to become a Goodreads Author. Goodreads is a website for readers to rank books they’ve read, as well as share favorite books with their friends.
Many authors don’t enjoy reading the negative reviews on Goodreads. Quite frankly, neither do I. However, what better place for an author to be than surrounded by a bunch of readers?
Goodreads has some great features for registered authors, including the ability to add videos, events, quotes, or even linking it to your blog.
- Goodreads main audience: avid, book-loving readers
Those are my six suggestions.
Being in so many places can feel overwhelming. But if you set it up correctly, it’s actually easy and fast.
For example, after I publish this post, I’ll share it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and probably Pinterest just by clicking the options at the bottom of this post. That takes me less than a minute. Then, because I’ve set it up to do so, this post will automatically show up on my Amazon and Goodreads pages.
Basically, I write one post here and share it six places, reaching all those different audiences in less than a minute.
Easy as pie.
You might think it’s redundant. It’s not. At least not completely. Many of my followers only follow me in one spot. My blog followers aren’t always facebook or twitter followers. People have their preferred method of getting information. I’m trying to make it most convenient for them.
One last note:
Because it’s possible to be in so many places at one time, try to be consistent.
I use the same picture of me on EVERY site. I use the same color scheme when I’m allowed. You might recognize yourself everywhere you go, but your readers will get whiplash if you and your designs are different site to site.
The only thing that isn’t entirely consistent site to site is my bio. I tend to change that up depending on the audience.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. What are yours?
What sites do you love? Which do you hate? Which are a waste of time? Which are easy to use? I say this often, but I learn something new everyday in the writing community. So if you have more ideas, please share!.