Writerly Wednesday – Promo Online

This time from a positive perspective. Last time I posted about Author Don’ts the subject of just what DOES work came up and I asked around to get some comments from other authors:

Promotion is important. No doubt about it. But it CAN be done effectively without being a nuisance. The first step is to have an author website that is up to date and easily navigated. Some things I hate and I’ve seen readers complain about time and again: autoplay music. DON’T. Don’t have music that starts or sparkly cursor effects that slow the load, or anything really that slows the process for a reader to get information about you.

A website should be:

1. Easy to read – keep in mind dark backgrounds and white or light text is hard on the eyes. The text should be big enough to read easily and a font that is also readable. Gothic fonts are hard to read, and they’re also almost always on a black background with white text or red text – the combo makes my eyes bleed.
2. Easy to navigate – just call now available now available please. I’ve gone to author websites where they thought naming things cutesey names would be fun. It’s not. Unless you’re only appealing to uber fans, naming basic things like coming soon “pancakes and bacon” or what have you is confusing. You don’t want to confuse people who have come to you for info on your books. Call things what they are so any reader coming to look for you will be able to find it. If you have series, what are they? What is the order? Will there be new books coming out and if so, link to the coming soon page, etc.
3. Extras that connect to you as an author and to your books. Aside from book pages and buy links – some things readers mention they enjoy are author bios, pictures, excerpts, character interviews or stories about the books or series, etc. Giving readers a sense of who you are is a good thing. If you raise llamas for wool, that’s cool, talk about it a little (if you want to, obviously if you feel uncomfortable revealing things, don’t)
4. Updated regularly. I went to an author site not too long ago to check on when the next in a series would be out. Except the website hadn’t been updated in two years. Two years is a long time. Things get missed. Heaven knows I go in to update and forget some little piece of info to be updates on a page I forget about or in the template, etc. But if you haven’t updated for two years, take the thing down or put up a notice that you’re unable to update for the time being.

A blog should be:

1. If you have a blog, update it. It doesn’t have to be every day, but it should be regular. Once a week or three times a week, whatever. If you want readers to come back, give them a reason. Seeing the same blog entry for a month is a reason to not come back.
2. Again, think about the color combo for readability. If you look at your screen and close your eyes, can you still see the screaming blue letters against the black background?
3. Indicative of the flavor of the author in some way. Some authors are funny. Some are crafty and give awesome writing tips (Think Jennifer Cruisie) Some talk about their kids, or their llamas or their baking. Whatever. You are people, keep that in mind. If all you do is post BUY MY BOOK entries, readers can get that at your website, also it’s boring. Be yourself.
4. I’m bolding this because it’s important but it you don’t like to blog, or if you don’t want to or have time to blog, DON’T. It is not mandatory to blog. Don’t let it be one more thing you hate doing.

Social Networking (Twitter, Facebook, etc)

1. Don’t do this just to chant buy my book over and over.
2. Remember SOCIAL is in the title. Give yourself a chance to meet people and get to know them and have them get to know you. I think of twitter as the water cooler – a chance to check in and say hello and chat about all sorts of things. It’s NOT about your books all the time.
3. Use it as it should be used (see 1 and 2). Yes you can announce book signings and that sort of thing, but don’t sent emails to every one of the people following you to “invite” them to your book’s release (unless it’s a party or something)

I asked other authors what they did and here are some of the responses:

Hi Lauren:

One thing I’ve started to do is comment on blogs, all kinds of them. (Not just writing/writers’ blogs, though those are the main focus). I include my website after my name so that if folks wish to check it
out, they can, and that signals that I’m a writer too. That being said, it’s important to have a basic site up.

I’ve posted a couple of excerpts on my site to give readers a flavour of my writing, as well as a bit of information (but very sparse as it’s currently in a rewrite before submission) on one of my wips.

I’m working on setting up a routine time to do this. (Now that I’ve lived through a very recent home renovation and simultaneous work move, I can think again!)

Hope this helps!

Warm Regards,

Susan Saxx

I like that she’s talking from the perspective of a writer who is working on a sale. Yes, giving a flavor of your voice is important! Also, interacting with people online is important. So commenting the blogs you visit is making friends, getting to know people, being neighborly essentially and she has her info there without shoving it down anyone’s throat.

How can an author get their name out there w/o spamming people? So glad you asked!

– Advertise on Google, Yahoo/Bing, Facebook, or even GoodReads — costs $$$ but so do most things in life
– Include your book title/link to your webpage in your e-mail signature line
– Go to writer’s conferences and meet fellow writers and make real connections — leave your manuscript at home
– Tweet and blog about something other than your book once in a while
– Keep writing and submitting

While the writer says that Nora didn’t have to spam to get to the top, it took Nora a long time to get to the top. There aren’t any shortcuts (though I wish there were!).

I always delete and block the spam artists. In fact, MySpace used to have a feature, “Don’t accept friend requests from bands.” GoodReads practically needs one like that, “Don’t accept friend requests from
writers.” I don’t care whether you’re pitching your band, Amway, or selling insurance… My defenses go up, and it’s rare that I will give that person a chance.

The hard sell rarely works…although it does work sporadically enough to encourage people to keep doing it, unfortunately. As someone who used to work for a telephone company that did a lot of outbound telemarketing, I can say that the quality of the people who respond to such tactics are — how to say this? — not up to par. Telemarketers do really well with elderly people with dementia and with the extremely lonely. That’s about it.


Andrew Shaffer
Huffington Post Columnist + RT Book Reviews Book Reviewer
Website: http://www.orderofstandrew.com

On twitter I asked readers what they like to see, and not to see, on author blogs:

Tweets about blog posts (because it’s easy to forget about blogs in the sea of info out there)
Absolutely top reason my reader self visits an author blog: what else have they written. If a series, what order & forthcoming.
being able to subscribe will make me stay, but giveaways that you have to come back and check if you won – not want to stay (author note: I do this. If I can give away something, you can come back to check to see if you won it.)
coming back- fun and interesting posts, insight into their process. Not- when they start blogging for other author attention!
Glimpses into the author as a person makes me come back. @neilhimself best example of that. Authentic but still mysterious.
Constant promo/contests or things unrelated to author’s life or their work pushes me away (ex. photos of the week)
book news, excerpts, cover reveals, book related posts abt you own and you fave authors, author opinions = keeps me coming back
excessive rant posts keep me away

5 comments to “Writerly Wednesday – Promo Online”

  1. michellekCanada
    August 18th, 2010 at 9:57 am · Link

    Amazing blog post! I shall retweet. You have wonderful advice. I am a reader not a writer so many of the things you list above I am totally on board with.

  2. Diane Sadler
    August 18th, 2010 at 11:20 am · Link

    I’m with you Lauren. I’m a reader not an author and I love to be able to get to know authors simply by following their blogs; I see advance notices for their books, blurbs for them, getting to know more authors through them. Please keep up your blog. Even though I may not comment every day, I do read your blog every day.

  3. Christine
    August 18th, 2010 at 12:40 pm · Link

    Have to agree. It is a peeve of mine when an author doesn’t update her website ocasionally. I would like to know when your books are coming out. So when you don’t update it’s a little annoying.

  4. Rory Girl
    August 18th, 2010 at 5:25 pm · Link

    I like ARC’s (the chance that I might get to see if before release – since I hate the waiting but love the books). Free reads (teasers for new books of fillers while I wait for the newest release) and regular updates. It is nice to see the personal, non writing side of the author as well. Nice post from a reader perspective.

  5. Sabrina (about happy books)
    August 19th, 2010 at 3:22 am · Link

    Great post.

    IMO a website/blog should be up to date, if Fantastic Fiction has more info on your upcoming books than your own author site something is wrong.

    I also think that a professional layout for a website/blog is a very good idea. If your site is easy to navigate and nice to look at I will come back.

    It’s also important to make sure that all your links (to fb, twitter, etc.) are really working.