Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Your Online Presence

We’ve talked before about building your author platform, which in today’s world involves a strong online presence. We recently discussed Facebook (and my efforts to create a profile and understand Facebook). I started a series on Building Your Platform over on a blog I contribute to, The Blood-Red Pencil (although I’m thinking about stopping that series since that blog is supposed to focus on editing and I don’t think the readers there are especially interested in platforms).

And, of course, I am not the only one interested in Building a Platform. Most of you who are authors or are working toward being published are interested in this topic, since it’s vital to your career as a writer. I know some of you are feeling like I am - overwhelmed at the idea.

Not long ago, The Philadelphia Inquirer had an article devoted to this very topic and it focused on some of the authors at The Free Library of Philadelphia’s book festival…like Jim Zervanos who is underwriting his own pretty much physical (as opposed to virtual) tour. Over 11 months, he’s gone to conferences, book festivals, and writer’s workshops (including paying to have an exhibitor’s table). He’s spent $10,000. He’s not a writer with a big publisher, but one with a “tiny” publisher. He’s out there working and trying to sell his book.

Although the publishers will tell you that marketing your book is a co-op between you and the publisher, the truth is that more and more the author must do the heavy lifting and pushing. Ben Laurro, founder of Pure Publicity, says that authors have to find new methods to market their books because book stores and libraries won’t get you where you want to be.
"Facebook and Twitter have become powerful avenues to reach readers," he says. "The media wasn't the same as it was even two years ago . . . [and authors] need to realize that we need to reinvent the wheel."
Jonathan Maberry, author of The Dragon Factory said:
 "It's such a large part of the marketing plan. It's huge. . . . You can't really get anything done in publishing without social media."
He and some other writers created a Philly-based literary collective where they meet to discuss the publishing industry and have worked together on projects that help local causes (and at the same time, get their names out to the public and give them a platform for speaking engagements).

It’s an interesting article, so click over and read it if you have time. Before you go, I’m wondering if any of you have become part of or created a coalition of authors to discuss the industry and strategize on ways to work together to promote your books. I have groups of writer friends that I socialize with, but we don’t discuss writing. I think it would be interesting to have a “business” group of writer friends. Do you have one?
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36 comments:

  1. Since I started blogging at the end of Feb, I've connected with a lot of authors/writers/agents via their blogs, twitter and facebook. The ones I 'visit' regularly are the ones who are informative about the publishing world, how to build a platform, how to improve a blog etc.

    It's perhaps not quite what you are talking about in your post, but I've found it extremely helpful. Having a specific group for the task would definitely be an advantage.

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  2. I follow 3 YA writers, critique partners, who promote and support each other. They are all agented and have contracted books. One has been on the best seller list for weeks, and I know the other two will also achieve this. They have individual blogs and a group blog. Their fan base is growing. One of them is a successful social media marketer, and the other two will be.

    I promote things I believe to be great. Collectively if everyone does this then we all benefit.

    The trouble is ego normally gets in the way. In a group, if one writer is successful everyone benefits.

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  3. Interesting stuff. I'm not far enough along the author road to know/do much about this. For the moment I mostly just enjoy blogging and the occasional tweet.

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  4. Helen - I am so interested in every bit of this. I was talking to a friend of mine who has a few books published - fiction and poetry - and she has a few other friends who are published somewhat regularly. It came up after we went to hear Yann Martell (Life of Pi - Booker Prize Winner etc...) His last book 'Homer and Beatrice' or the t'other way round - received a 3 MILLION DOLLAR advance. Now, some say - oh good on him and isn't that fantastic and good writers are being rewarded but I think that it signals a very bad trend - the Harry Potter trend where publishers are going to put all their eggs in one basket. We were talking about if it is hard to get published (and it is up here in the hinterland) and you have to do all the work yourself - promoting, making sure your distributor is actually doing it and so on - well then why not co-publish. Artists run competitive co-operative galleries so that the money stays with the producers, farmers bring their produce to the market so as to cut out the middle person (Super Store, Loblaws etc.). Why shouldn't authors band together and do the whole thing. I think publishers are having a rough time and so are authors - perhaps it is time for a real shake-up.
    To answer your question more directly - yes, I'm organizing a group of writers who want it done a different way.

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  5. to be honest, I try not to think about all this. I need to focus on the writing. I facebook to connect with friends around the world. Not other reason. I blog to stay connected in the writing community. I will get more serious about a platform when I am closer to finishing this book. I think it is great though to band together. Why not hey.

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  6. Correct me if I'm wrong but waiting until you are done with the book, have an agent and publisher puts you a bit behind.
    What I've noticed from all the blogs and web sites is those who are known to authors, etc. seem to move along the path a little faster.
    Strength in numbers as they say and I no longer see writing as an "alone" profession as I did years ago. Being said I will look for a group or start one if none exists.
    Informative post, Helen.
    Giggles and Guns

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  7. Jan, I hope you'll let us know how this group does. It sounds very interesting. And there are writers who do work together to publish.

    I've been thinking about putting together a group of writer friends who talk publishing. This article sort of spurred me to not just think about it but envision such a group of local authors who might want to be part of it. I'm thinking of a group who meet physically, but, as a couple of you mention, it could be done virtually via a chat room or emails.

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  8. I don't have a "business" group of writer friends, but do enjoy the business talk that takes place right here on your blog. You bring a lot of headlines and ideas to our attention, and it is truly appreciated.

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  9. Good post. We always need to be aware. Thanks for keeping us informed on all the ins and outs we need to know.

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  10. You bring us such a wealth of information, Helen! I'm really trying to figure out how you are able to do so much with career, daily blogging, visiting other blogs, having a newsletter, socializing with writer friends - along with keeping up a house and saying hi to family every once in a while. :)

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  11. Yes, I'm in a group of mystery writers that is a promo group. We share out info on social media and marketing within it. Very useful.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  12. I follow a number blogs and am learning a lot about writing and publishing from them. I have two blogs, and through them I've formed connections with other writers. Blogging also increases my fluency (I think) and gives me the pleasure of writing for an audience, even a small one. Blogs are seductive, however; it's much easier, and more fun, to dash off a few hundred words, revise, click "Publish," and pretend I'm PUBLISHED than it is to struggle through rough spots in my manuscript. Like much else writing involves, it's a discipline thing. I recognize the need to get my name out there, but if I don't work smart, my name will be all I get out there. So when I say "platform," my critique partner says, "write."

    (I just glimpsed a blog headline: "Are social media the new drug?" For some of us, yes.)

    So far, I've used Facebook to learn which of my teen-aged relatives is currently b-o-r-e-d.

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  13. If I put together a group, it wouldn't be a twice monthly or weekly group, like a critique group. I just don't have time for that - and I feel sure others don't either. Maybe quarterly or at the most monthly. I'm thinking casual, more of a think-tank group. It might could be done via email, though. I'll have to ponder that. It seems to be, though, that the best ideas come through one-on-one interaction.

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  14. I wonder how much of the $10,000 he made back in sales. I belong to two local writing group where these discussions do go on, but I still feel like I need more details and help with time issues when it comes to maintaining a good on line presence.

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  15. Even in the blogosphere, you can see the difference between those who us FB and Twitter to market themselvess. Their numbers are significantly higher than those who don't, like me. For now, it's a decision I've made because I spend too much time non-writing as it is. When I have something I need to market though, I'll get there.

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  16. Very good article, Helen. I'm reminded of the Santa Fe (New Mexico) Co-op writers group of the 1980s, which traveled to outlying towns in a small bus to hold signing parties where writers had never been. It was very successful.

    With online groups, you have to be careful to weed out the ones that aren't helping you directly. I got in involved in so many that I've had to withdraw from most of them because they take too much time from my writing. I think your idea of once a month brainstorming is a terrific idea. Sign me up.

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  17. We have a New Mexico Book Co-Op, a group which meets once a month, has speakers, etc. and hosts events for authors to participate in. Frankly, I didn't find it that much of a help in terms of book sales. An online group appeals to me, however.
    Karen

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  18. I belong to several online groups where marketing is exclusively or occasionally addressed. I also belong to one critique group that meets weekly and sometimes discusses marketing, one that meets monthly and sometimes discusses marketing and a relatively new one that meets monthly exclusively to discuss marketing and promotion. We're all over the map on how and how much we've published, and all have different connections and ideas to share. Most helpful.

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  19. I don't know the answer to that, Jane. It's a good question.

    Wow, Marian, you belong to a lot of groups. You're probably an expert on what works and what doesn't with those kinds of groups.

    I hadn't considered an online group. I was thinking of local writers who get together. I can see the benefits of a virtual group, though. For one thing, you'd have a written record of suggestions and ideas.

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  20. I would be very interested in an authors group. I feel a bit disconnected at the moment and would benefit from such a group. I also think I could bring something of value to the participants too.

    Stephen Tremp

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  21. It's probably a matter of someone taking the initiative and inviting other like-minded authors to join, either in your community or virtually.

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  22. Today, I had a question that I needed help with. I emailed it to my group of writer friends (who, when we meet we don't talk about writing, but just laugh a lot). Within minutes, I had answers. That kind of support is amazing.

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  23. I do wonder if we are all spinning our wheels, it sucks up so much time, all this blogging and social networking. Lately, I have been MIA for several reasons, but one thing positive, I am writing more. That's what it's all about. Great post.

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  24. Great blog, Helen! As for collectives--my writer's group has always been an online entity--we have a website that has been devoted to drabbles to date, but we started a collective Facebook Group and are now discussing a group blog, all for the purpose of cross promoting and such, once we really need it. It's a work in progress, but we are taking the social networking piece very seriously.

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  25. My problem is I get bored writing the same type of books. It's hard to build a brand when your interests are so diverse. I could change my pen name to reflect the different types of books I like to write, but then I'd lose what followers I have.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
    http://facebook.com/morgan.mandel

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  26. Helen, since so many of us offer promotional tips, I think many of us bloggers could be considered a business collective!
    And I'm on more social sites than I can tolerate.

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  27. I have to agree that your time can be so quickly sucked away with all the Twittering, Facebooking, Ninging and everything else. Somehow some authors seem to be able to do it all.

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  28. We can try every marketing tool in the book, but nothing will replace good the old-fashioned buzz that happens when readers discover a book that captures the imagination and touches the heart. We still need to focus on writing first.

    Now I need to stop reading blog posts and follow my own advice. :)

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  29. Facebook was too crazy for me but I have enjoyed and got a lot out of blogging. (Your blog in particular Helen). I have a group of writer friends and we keep in touch, mainly by e-mail, with tips, encouragement and ideas. My concern with spending a lot of money on marketing, when you are with a publisher, is that they can stop print at any time. I've heard horror stories of writers doing book tours and spending both time and money only to find out their book has been yanked from the shelves. The one thing I've learned is that you need a lot of patience.
    Ann
    Ann Summerville
    Cozy In Texas

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  30. I think that's a great idea!

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  31. I can't agree more here. The heavy lifting and networking is clearly on the author's shoulders in almost every instance now.

    I remember hearing John Grisham talk about his extensive marketing efforts after writing his first book as an unknown. He gave away car loads of books to any potential readers.

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  32. I belong to a couple of online groups and sites that offer group promotional opportunities. BooksWeLove.net is a good one that has a page for each author and lots of contests. All the authors there do what we can to promote the site and the contests, which helps all the authors.

    Linking Web sites is also a way to promote each other.

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  33. Good ideas, Maryann.

    Seems like quite a few have online groups. That's actually a great idea in this day and age.

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  34. I joined an online group, but I gave up reading. It became confusing with different opinions. Some were scaremongering so much, had I of stayed, I think I would have given up my wip.
    I love my blogging community and twitter when I can. Facebook I keep for family. I have fan group for my poetry on FB, but not an author one. That will probably come later.

    Interesting post/Interview. Thanks.

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  35. Promoting anything online requires either money or time (and usually lots of time spent rather tediously).

    I've seen a lot of authors who seem to think that their Twitter feed should have every other tweet devoted to pushing their new book or who run so many blog debuts on facebook that I can't see anything "real" on my calendar there!

    So, yes, social media, but just showing up isn't enough! But neither can you use it as a constant stream of 'buy my books buy my books' without putting people off.

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