This will be an introduction to the basics of putting yourself and your books in the online spotlight. I’ll get more into the details of website building in future posts.
The internet is your greatest friend and your biggest enemy. The good news is, as soon as you put something out there, it’s there forever. Your website, blog, books, etc. Bad news is, as soon as you put something out there, it’s there forever. The point of this post is to show you how to make it work for you.
These days, an internet presence is not just for the big fish. It is your greatest and most effective marketing tool. Think of how many people use Facebook or Twitter, how many people check out YouTube videos on their lunch break. If you want to spread the word about your books, the internet is the way to go. However, it’s also easy to go too far. Social Networking can be a little addictive.
My advice to you is don’t get overwhelmed and overexposed. Remember my KISSASS rule? It still applies. Choose what you are good at and what you can sustain and go with it. And if you find that you’re spending more time online than you are writing, it’s time to cut back and reevaluate.
My basics are Author website, Facebook page, and Twitter. And since I suck at twittering, I have these three linked together so that when I post on my website it shows up on my Facebook and Twitter. Makes my life so much easier! Facebook and Twitter are totally free and great ways to network and spread the word about your books. Of course they are not the only options out there.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure it looks professional and that you update regularly. The basic rule is, you should be proud to show your Facebook page (or Google+ if you prefer) to friends and family, but also a boss or corporate recruiter. A solid social media presence can (A) give your resume a perk for certain jobs (if you need or want them) and (B) make a PR professional obsolete. Actually, PR professionals use tools like Facebook and Twitter to promote their clients. I figure, I already spend time on Facebook, why not make it time well spent, you know?
If you can write a solid Tweet or Facebook update, if you can get a critical mass of followers (the number at which you no longer have to “push” something because it goes off in its own), there is no reason to ever have to pay for advertisements. But these tools should not be abused. Don’t turn your Facebook page into an advertisement board. This is your place to connect with fans and readers. They should get to see a little bit of your personal side (however much you choose to share) and should not get daily assaults of “BUY MY BOOK!!” on their news feeds every day. Be courteous to your followers. If you treat them as friends, they will reciprocate. 🙂
There are some things an author should consider investing in. My next post will be a sort of Author Finance 101 about how not to go broke. One thing you will definitely want is a custom domain name. That is a unique address that points to your website or blog. You can get one cheap at sites like GoDaddy.com. You can even build and host your site there if you want (although as someone who has done it, I would tell you to consider other venues). Your domain name is a less than $10/year cost and it basically gives you a piece of Internet real estate. It’s yours. You own it. No one else can take it (unless you let your registration expire and then all bets are off so keep that up to date).
The cost is nothing compared to the benefits. Wherever you host your site or blog, things happen. Sites go down. You might find greener pastures. If you have a custom domain (AuthorName.com) you can paste it over any place any time. You can go from Blogger to WordPress, or a custom site built from the ground up and hosted solely by you with just a few clicks. And you never have to announce, “Hey, fans, I have moved again! From now on you can find me at author.name.somesitepeoplewillforgetintenminutes.net/myfrontpage.”
As for where to build your site? In this you will want to do your research. All the places that offer site hosting and blogging have information and how-to guides. Check them out. Off the top of my head, I can name at least four: GoDaddy.com, Blogger, WordPress, Wix.com… A site like WordPress (which is what I use) gives you tons of templates to choose from and unlimited hosting space (as opposed to Blogger’s limit of 5 static pages, last I checked). You can also register/renew your domain name through WordPress, which is why I chose it. They have friendly, helpful forums, resources to teach you how to use the site, and options for when you outgrow something and need a little more. It’s a one-stop-shop and you are done. Want to get fancy? You can spring for a premium theme, or the Custom CSS upgrade and spruce the place up a bit more, make it all your own. It will still cost you less than $50/year. If you want more control, you can build your own site and just find a hosting service (a word of caution, those will take you from $10/year to around $10/month or more). If you can afford it, you can pay someone to design and host your website (and the price tag will go way up because, take it from me, building a site takes a lot of work).
A good rule of thumb is to have a site presentable before you start presenting it (and you can do this either by setting your website to “private” so only you can view it while you are building, or by not sharing your URL with people until you are finished). A domain name means little and could even hurt you if what it points to is a hot mess. Basic info you should have is: about you, about your books, where to buy your books, where else to find you. It should be easy to navigate, otherwise you risk people leaving you for greener pastures with pictures of cats. Use your space wisely. There is no need to post your book info on every page just in case people don’t click on the “right one.” If you make it easy to find, they will click.
Are you ready to get started? Good!