Part 2: Building Brand Awareness: How Authors Create Internet Presence
The internet is the authors’ real marketplace and I sell 99% of my books online while the remaining 1% is almost all in person, bookstores just don’t figure in the equation for financial reasons. Bookstores want to share the profits on my books. On the other hand, online bookstores take far less of a cut and selling books directly through the publishers’ websites returns the highest amount of royalties. This means that the marketing model that most authors adopt is to keep a website which has the links to their books’ sales pages on their publishers’ websites. For several reasons, the best kind of website for an author to have is a blog.
The first reason that authors should have blogs is that it gives them a great foundation for their online presence. There are a great number of places online where it is possible to leave links in various forms and having a blog gives them all a place to point to. The object of all of this linking is to direct traffic to the blog where they will see your books advertised and hopefully click through and buy them. I see a lot of links left online by writers that lead to their book on amazon.com which are missing a great opportunity to build greater engagement with their readers and create opportunities to sell them all books. By directing traffic to your own website you take them to the website that has the promotional content for all of the books in your catalogue, while at the same time you can build an audience who are more than likely going to be interested when you publish new books.
The second reason that authors should have a blog is that it is an effective way to develop their writing style and their skill as a communicator. Blogging will very likely take authors out of their comfort zone with the things that they write for the blog. It also forces writers to become regular producers of fresh content for their blog in order to keep their audience of readers interested and engaged with them. Blogging can also help writers to find their voice. This voice is what people want to read and it is what authors want to write but it takes a lot of hard work to produce it. Blogging isn’t a shortcut but it is a great platform for experimenting and often it gives writers an instant reaction to their work that they won’t find anywhere else.
The third reason why a blog is the preferable form of website for an author is that the steady supply of fresh content will constantly improve your place in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This is important to the business of writing because most of the traffic to your blog will come from the search engines and so most of your new readers/customers will find you in the SERPs. To take advantage of this most effective marketing tool authors have to have a website that the spiderbots, the programs sent out by search engines to find and index pages, will see as being filled with valuable content. Writers who focus on their niche and write blogs that are connected to their published works can be on the front page of Google in the space of a few short months. Considering the traffic for some of the most searched keywords (the words that really define what a piece of writing is all about) this can be an audience that is potentially in the millions and that is a too many potential readers to ignore.
The other benefits of having a blog based website is that it gives authors a platform to present themselves to their public. The structure of blogs allows for webmasters to create ‘About Me’ pages and link lists to their other published works online. It is also possible to make a webpage that is totally devoted to their published works in a place where visitors expect to find the hard sell being applied to them. Blogging allows authors to share the writing and publishing process with their readers and so they can begin promoting a work well before it is available for sale (which is what I am doing right now as I have an internet marketing for small business book in the process of being written and hopefully all of the small business operators amongst my readers have just become more interested in this post!). Probably the greatest benefit for authors that keeping a blog promotes is that it creates a point of direct connection between the author and their readers. It is important to engage readers on social media sites like Facebook as well but whether you have two fans or two million fans they will make more of a connection with you on your own blog.
The most confronting thing for many authors when they come to setting up a blog isn’t the writing, it is having to deal with the technology. Most writers would use a computer to produce their books but many of them would know very little more than how to format their pages in a word processor. Suddenly finding themselves in the blogosphere where everything is HTML5 and Java Script can be confusing. Fortunately there are several options for quickly and easily setting up a blog and there are a number of free websites where it is simple to start a new blog. In most instances, authors won’t want to plaster Affiliate and CPC advertising all over their webpages to compete with their own advertised products so a free website from Blogger or, my preference of course, WordPress, will suffice for their promotional needs.
Take Ownership of Your Online Presence
A blog is the foundation of an author’s online presence but there is still plenty of opportunity to expand outwards from that base. The evolution of Web 2.0 has meant that there is now a whole range of internet services that you can use, usually for free, that will help to get the word out to the reading public that a new literary star is on the rise. For authors there are generally five sorts of Web 2.0 sites that they will need to use to promote themselves online.
1. User Content Sites
These are sites like Squidoo.com and HubPages.com where users supply the content. The value of these sites to a new author is that they provide an opportunity to post information related to their niche or genre that helps to establish them as being an authority on their subject. Attached to this is a profile of the author and a link to their website. In marketing parlance this is all about raising brand awareness of the author and their work. It can also generate a lot of traffic for a website because readers that like what they have read will often want to read more by the same writer. Another valuable avenue for authors to publicize their work is via sites like Scribd.com where users can upload documents that they want to sell or, more commonly, to share. Uploading the introduction or an excerpt from a book can be a great way to entice readers to click through and buy the full book.
2. Article Directories
Article directories are websites where users post links to articles that relate to specific topics to make it easier to find references online. As part of the process of generating traffic to a website it can be worthwhile posting links to the new posts that are made on the blog or to new lenses on Squidoo.com when they are published. These sites are beginning to come under the microscope by search engines, especially Google, and so they are less important now than they have been in the past. Nonetheless, for an author that is just starting to try and attract some traffic to their work this can be a good place to start to develop an online presence from scratch.
3. Social Bookmarking Sites
Similar to the article directories are the social bookmarking sites like Digg.com and StumbleUpon.com where users post links to interesting things that they find on the internet. The links that users have posted can be seen and shared by all of the users and something that is interesting or quirky can go viral if enough people share it. Again, it won’t directly sell books but it will direct traffic to the website where you have the best chance of making that conversion.
4. Press Releases
Press Releases (PR) were once the domain of the professional journalist but, like many other things, in the internet age it has become possible for anyone to use them. There are a lot of PR websites where users can upload their latest news for the perusal of the world’s media and many of them are free. Choose one that allows you to include images as well as links to your website. While PR isn’t always a suitable medium for everything that an author does it is good for announcing the publication of a new book, a personal appearance or book signing and other events that the author is involved with.
5. Author Profile Pages
Authors that have books for sale on Amazon.com also can have an author page on the site. Your publisher will also have an author profile page on their site and there are many other places online where you can post your bio and links to your books and, most importantly, to your website. Taking the time to fill out your profile page, especially on the more important sites like Amazon.com, is vital to developing your online presence. Your readers want to see the writer behind the books so let them.
Engage Your Audience on Social Media
While selling books is the ultimate objective of an author’s online marketing efforts, selling books is a highly competitive business and the most practical long term strategy is to build awareness of your brand. In other words you have to let people know that you are an author that has a book (or books) for sale. The easiest place to do this is on the social media sites like Facebook and Google+. The key to using social networks to sell books is to begin by engaging your readers/customers. Contribute to the conversations that they are having, like their posts, answer the comments that they leave on your wall and all of the other things that social media users do to interact on the sites. This will mean that they will feel like they already have a connection with you when you announce the release of your latest book in your status update.
The first step in using most social media sites for book marketing is to create a brand page. This separates your personal socializing from your book marketing so that you can let your fans, the people that are following your brand page, see only the posts that you make that relate to you as an author. Because Facebook is by far and away the largest of the social networks at the moment I focus my marketing on Facebook but Google+ has definite advantages for a page’s ranking in Google’s SERPs so I will be devoting more time to that site in coming months as well. The third site which is essential for authors to have a page on is Linkedin which not only offers the chance to market your books but is also a useful resource and a link to other authors and professionals in the publishing industry via its groups.
Internet marketers generally consider social media sites to be a source of first click as opposed to last click customers. What this bit of advertising jargon actually means is that when consumers see a brand on Facebook that they may well click through to its website to check it out but that those clicks will have a very low rate of conversion to sales on that visit. The search engines are the largest source of last click traffic to most websites so while readers/customers may first learn about an author on social media they are likely to look for them via one of the search engines when they want to buy their books. This makes social media a marketing tool that is used to raise brand awareness and an important part of an author’s marketing strategy.
The most effective methods for using social media sites to promote yourself as an author are to post interesting content that your fans will be interested in and to engage with them when they comment. This might seem too obvious to need to be pointed out but a surprising number of people, not just authors, do little else but hawk their goods in their status updates and while this might seem like a productive path it has just the opposite effect. Because social media is about socializing hard sell is the quickest way to tune out your potential audience to anything that you might have to say because they have become so accustomed to your constant sales pitch.
Facebook posts have a variable shelf life but it is possible to optimize your status updates by tailoring them to have a high Edge Rank rating. Edge Rank is the algorithm that Facebook uses to place users’ status updates into the news feed for the site and posts that have video images or links, or combinations of these, rank higher than just plain text or sharing other users’ material does. Posting a link to your latest blog post with the featured image and a comment asking for your fans to leave their opinion is going to give your post the best shot at staying on the top of the news feed for the longest possible time.
On its own social media marketing won’t sell many books but authors that use it to build an audience can, over time, create an audience that will be ready to buy their next book. There is a danger of spending too much time on social media than the return on that investment really merits. It is most useful for the short term effect that it can have on the traffic to your blog and as a way to engage with your readers in an informal way. Authors are really only selling books for a short time after they are published and spend the majority of their marketing time and effort selling themselves and social media sites are the most practical means for doing it.