It’s been almost a year since I launched my author self into the online world.
Trying to create an author ‘platform’ has been daunting at times. 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 tells you where to be and when as a new author. That’s not entirely true. You’ll get a few suggestions, but the possibilities are endless. It was tempting last year to shrink back and hope readers would find me just because I’ve written the most amazingly awesome book ever. But…I didn’t. Thankfully, I’m curious enough about new things that I decided to take the leap and jump in.
I jumped big time.
In a year’s time, I’ve tried many different websites, social networks, and even online bookstores to see where I can 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.
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.
(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 Sites
Have a website. Seriously. We live in the internet age. If you are hoping to reach out to any reader under the age of 70, you should 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 useHomestead.com and have been quite happy with it.
Homestead’s software is easy to use
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 easy to find links to your books, bio, and contact info, as well as other places they can find you on the web (facebook, blog, twitter). But be organized about it. Just because you happen to have accounts on twenty different sites doesn’t mean you should list all twenty in a row. Break things up into groups (less than 5) if you must. Check out my homepage for an example.
Then keep your website updated. Seriously. Seriously, seriously. It’s a pet peeve of mine to wander onto someone’s site to find out about their latest book and there is no latest book listed.
If you don’t care enough about your stuff to have up-to-date info, why should I?
Website main audience: anyone on the internet
(Some authors use their blog as their website. This is 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 can talk more depth about your writing adventures, editing woes, and any upcoming events. It’s you at your best — hopefully. If people enjoy your blog, chances are they’ll read your book(s).
Some popular blogging hosts are Blogger, WordPress, or Tumblr. I recently switched from Blogger to WordPress. Honestly, I can’t say which I like better. There are things that are great and annoying about both. I’m still on WordPress which I guess means I like it better. But then there’s the whole WordPress.com or WordPress.org thing. Choices, choices.
Once you have your blog created, make sure you have a feedburner.com set up for that blog. RSS. It’s an easy way to make your blog more versatile.
But then, don’t stop there. Start following blogs of other authors. 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.
To me, blogging is the most 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 friend 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 70, 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.
Option #1: Use your personal account to double as your public account. Meaning, anyone can “friend” you and see what is on your wall. 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.
It boils down to options within the sharing window. The bottom right hand corner 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 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 have chosen the other option.
Pages are free and easy to set up, and it uses your same login info 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 may not be the most enthusiastic fan of my book to avoid constantly hearing about it. I post maybe one in twenty Sadie-related posts on my personal wall.
My author page
(Does any of this make sense?)
One last note on facebook pages. Because I have an author page, I changed my privacy settings to not let people search for my private account unless they are a friend of a friend. In other words, unless I’m real-life friends with you or someone you know, you won’t be able to find my personal account on facebook.
Hahaha. *demonic laugh. Just kidding.
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/seminaryteacher/crazy-lady-next-door.
Facebook main audience: anyone on facebook (nearly 80% of US internet users, though it leans more heavily towards the younger crowd).
Twitter is a beast that took me some time to love. But I do love it now.
Personally, I think Twitter is in its early stages of popularity, where facebook has kind of peeked. 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.
What Twitter looks like
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.
Twitter is better than the news — at least for me.
Twitter main audience (at least for now): more established authors and other public profiles
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. 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.
Amazon main audience: book buyers
My last suggestion is to become a Goodreads Author. Goodreads is a website for readers. They can go on there and rank books they’ve read, as well as share favorite books with their friends. (Shelfari is similar, though I don’t like it quite as much.)
Many authors don’t enjoy reading the negative reviews on goodreads. Quite frankly, neither do I. However, what better place for an author, than 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
So those are my six suggestions.
Being in so many places can feel overwhelming. But if you set it up correctly, it’s not at all. 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 this way, it will automatically show up on my Amazon and Goodreads pages.
Basically, I write one post here and share it six other places, reaching all those different audiences in less than a minute. Easy as pie.
You also might think it’s redundant, then. But it’s not. I have 120-ish followers of my blog. Almost 300 on twitter. Another 80 or so on facebook. And more over on goodreads. Surprisingly — or not — those followers don’t overlap much. 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’re different site to site. The only thing that is not 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!
I haven’t posted Friday Funnies for a few weeks. Sorry. Summer with 5 kids is crazy, but fun. Actually, it’s more like summer with 13 kids since my kids’ friends are here almost as much as they are. Anyway, plenty of things have made me laugh lately. Here’s just one.
I was just asked to teach the early morning seminary class in our ward (the Bible class for teens that starts at 6am every morning before school).
Yesterday, the previous seminary teacher gave me this:
I’ve been laughing ever since.
For the record, you are my witnesses that the glass has not been broken yet. Good thing the chocolate is behind glass or it wouldn’t be there. We’ll see how long it lasts once the school year begins. It’s sitting next to my computer tempting me right now. I determined not to break into it until at least seminary, since that was it’s intention.
Have a great one!
PS – Anything make you laugh recently? Care to share?
Sadie is 50% off for Deseret Book’s Summer Sale. It’s also back in the top ten. Yahoo!
Buy one for yourself, a daughter, or a friend. Just get it before the sale ends. Details here.
After last weekend’s trip to Utah, my family sent me home with a bunch of pictures from my childhood. It’s been fun reminiscing, but my poor kids are struggling with the fact that I was once as young and dorky as they are – well, maybe they believe the dorky part, but not so much the young part. :)
A common thread I noticed in the pictures was music, music, and more music. It’s been such a huge part of my life. Since most of my music is on Musicaneo’s website, I wrote a post over there called “A Lifetime of Music.”
If you’ve noticed that I’ve been absent on the internet the last few days (you probably didn’t) it’s because my hubby and I were with my family in an adult-only weekend in Park City, Utah.
We left the five kids in Michigan (scary, but they did great) and flew to Salt Lake.
I love flying into Utah. It’s so beautiful. This is what Utah mountains should look like.
I was especially anxious to visit because of the fires in Utah.
One fire in particular had me quite nervous. The Alpine fire was one of those that spread like mad. Within two hours it had climbed the entire mountain. Right behind my parents’ home.
The scary part is the fire came within 500 yards of their house. They were evacuated for two days last week. But due to the amazing firefighting forces in Utah, it never got any closer than that — thankfully. But it was still frightening though.
As they cleared out their necessities (pictures, computers, and other non-replaceables) my dad watched the flames reach 100 feet, if not more. Very scary. Here’s a few pictures. The top three were taken by my brother at my parents’ house.
You can see the roof of my parents’ house just behind the trees. The smoke rose close to 20,000 feet. The flames alone were between 100-200 feet high.
But my parents’ house is fine. In fact, last report I heard, all the houses in Alpine were saved. This is amazing because so much of the mountainside is not. Several ridges are now blackened.
For my husband and I to fly in two days after all this was super crazy timing.
Unfortunately, we were sitting on the wrong side of the plane so I couldn’t see the Alpine mountainside. I snapped this photo of another charred spot in Utah instead.
I think this is Eagle Mountain (Correct me if I’m wrong)
Though the adult weekend was scheduled for Park City, my hubby and I headed to my parents’ house first.
I had to see.
Yet, as I apprehensively waited to see the full damage from the fire, it started to rain. The day before, this rainstorm wasn’t even in the forecast. I believe it was prayed in. It wasn’t just any rainstorm either. It was a long, hard rain.
Even more amazing was as we got off I-15 in Lehi, we spotted this…
A DOUBLE rainbow driving into Alpine!
The rainbow is the universal sign of peace, or tranquility, or something. I don’t know. To see not only a rainbow, but a double rainbow, was comforting after all the anxiety I’d felt all week.
So here’s Alpine as of Thursday. Not the best picture, but it gives you a little idea of the damage. The bottom right corner of the mountain is the only green spot left. Everything else was burned. The black spots aren’t entirely black either, but somewhat red because of the flame retardant they dumped. You can see the white smoke towards the top of the mountain where the fire was still smoldering.
There was still smoke rising from the hot spots on top of the mountain when we drove up. Note: that is grass in the bottom of the picture, not wheat, if that gives you an idea of how dry Utah has been.
The mountain behind my parents will never be the same in their lifetime–or mine. Yet, I am extremely grateful everyone was safe and more damage wasn’t done.
Once I we saw that they (and their house) were okay, we headed up to Park City for the fun-filled adult weekend.
If you haven’t visited Utah, you should. Seriously. It is one of the most geographically diverse states. Down south is the red rock canyons and Lake Powell. Out east is the barren deserts. Up north is the pine-filled, granite mountains, plus the bizarre and amazing Great Salt Lake.
I love it!
Park City is in Northern Utah, about twenty miles east of Salt Lake City. The base elevation of Park City is 7,000 feet above sea level, but my hubby and I drove up Guardsman’s pass, which is near 10,000 feet.
I am the sixth of seven children, so with my parents, there were fourteen adults up in a beautiful condo. We had so much fun. Tons of food and laughing. (And no kids.)
Sometimes I forget what it’s like to be an adult. I spend so much time as a mom, it was fun to rejuvenate. Plus, my family is so sarcastic and hilarious, I spent the weekend laughing.
My hubby and I had some time before and after the others came and went, so we explored Park City’s cute little Main Street, drove up in the mountains, and even spent some time at Olympic Park.
Guardsman Pass — 10,000 ft. above sea level
The only way you’ll see me on a pair of skis. Yes, I wrote SADIE, but I like skiing as much as she does.
Now I’m back to the green farmland of Michigan, which is beautiful in its own way. I’m back to dishes, laundry, and fighting, adorable children. I’m also back to writing, blogging, and twitter. :)
It was an all-too-short weekend, but well worth it!