BUILDING YOUR ONLINE AUTHOR IMAGE
Often, the first impression people form about authors comes from digital sources – an author website, social media accounts, book sales’ websites, blogs and more. This handy checklist makes sure you won’t miss any of these important ways to reach readers and others in the publishing world. Even for pre-published authors, these digital resources are important. Consider it dressing for the job you want!
CONSISTENCY & BRANDING
One of the most important things to keep in mind when creating the content for your online image is to be consistent in how you present yourself. This means that you should not only be using the same general artwork, colors, and fonts, but also that you should be using the same biography and information about yourself and your books. Consistency is directly linked with branding yourself. You might say, “I’m not a brand, I’m an author.”
My answer to that is YOU + YOUR BOOKS (YOUR BOOK TOPICS) = YOUR BRAND.
No matter what you’ve been told, you must have a website. If you’re a pre-published author, the content will be different than if you’re already published and promoting different titles. You don’t need to be a technology guru to get the job done, and you don’t need to spend a ton of money. My recommendation is to use a WordPress based site.
BLOG or NEWSLETTER or BOTH
What’s the difference? A blog lives on a page on your website and newsletter gets delivered as an email to your subscribers. I have both. I write a blog and I send a newsletter out to my subscribers (almost) as frequently as I post on my blog. The newsletter includes extra information with links to my blog. I don’t recreate the entire blog inside the newsletter (however you could do that.)
It is never a bad idea to reach out to your readers/potential readers in a conversational way on topics that you decide are relevant to you and your work. You’ll have to decide the frequency that is enjoyable (tolerable) for your schedule. You’ll want to be consistent with that schedule.
What if I don’t have subscribers?
You need to incorporate an email subscription system into your website. (I was slow to come around to this idea myself.) Ask people for their emails and then communicate with them on whatever schedule you’ve set up. It is important to have direct access to people who are interested in what you have to say and write. The main reason is that social media sites can change their rules at any time—and they often do (ahem, Facebook.) You don’t control access to your followers on those social media sites, the social media companies do. My recommendation is to use a service like MailChimp or Constant Contact.
BOOK SALES’ PAGES – AMAZON AUTHOR CENTRAL (& OTHERS)
Amazon Author Central is the key one here. Once you have a published book, you can claim your Author Central account and add your biography, photos, videos, and link to your blog here. That way if anyone clicks on your author name on Amazon, they’ll go directly to this information page. Other places like this might include your eBook aggregator sites like Draft2Digital or other places your book is sold. Many of these offer the chance to upload information about yourself.
REVIEW SITES (GOODREADS)
Once you have a published book, you can also claim your Goodreads Author page. You definitely want to do this. Goodreads is a reader-centric site where avid readers keep track of what they’ve read and leave reviews. There’s also the chance to interact with readers with Q&A and create giveaways. There are other review sites that you may like, but Goodreads is the most popular and important one for your author image.
We all have a love/hate relationship with social media, but it is a great place to promote your books and interact with readers. That last part is important! Remember the 80/20 rule—80% of the time you need to be using social media in – well – a social way. The other 20% you can promote your books. Best advice here is have a presence (biography, website link etc..) on all relevant social media platforms, but only maintain an active presence on one or two. (That’s for your own sanity.) Your books’ genre will lead you toward the social media platforms where your readers hang out the most. For instance, Instagram trends younger and Facebook a little older. LinkedIn is great for nonfiction/self-help/business-y type books. In the longer YouTube version of this session (scroll down for the link), I discuss the following:
Facebook – Twitter – Instagram – LinkedIn – YouTube
Social Media Scheduling Dashboards/Tools
Keeping up with a regular posting schedule on social media can be daunting, but there are scheduling apps and dashboards you may like to explore that can help with this. I use TweetDeck to schedule my tweets, but there are other programs that for free will help you manage content across many (if not all) of the popular social media platforms.
MEMBERSHIP GROUP WEBSITES
Don’t forget that if you are a member of a writing association or genre specific writing group, you often have the chance to upload your photo, book covers and descriptions, biography, and contact info for speaking engagements to the member directory section of their websites. Take advantage of these! You’re already paying membership dues to these groups and this is one of the nice benefits that you receive. Examples are: Wisconsin Writers Association, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Romance Writers of America etc…
FOR MORE INFORMATION
I know this was a quick list of where your digital author image will reside online. For a longer description of each of these areas, please see my narrated YouTube video below. An accompanying handout with links to helpful articles and websites is available for download.