Monday, March 01, 2010

Building your author brand online

Over on Michael Hyatt's blog, he talks about building your author brand online. Mike offers great advice -- from a CEO's chair.

With his genius in mind, I thought I'd write about building an author's brand online and managing social media from an author's point of view.

Just before my first Thomas Nelson book released, Lost In Nashvegas, I joined MySpace to keep up with kids in the youth church. Then I had a brain blip, "What if I use it to announce my books?"

And social media, which wasn't called social media in '05, came alive to me.

I hopped on Facebook the first moment it was opened to non college students. I have a Xanga and MyCCM account. I'm on Shoutlife, Goodreads, and BeenUp2. I have a Tumbr site.

I love Twitter. I blog here and on

I created all these accounts, signed up for blog rolls, to keep up with the public, generate buzz or interest in my books -- if possible -- but my real goal in life is to write great stories.

It is impossible to keep up with everything. I decided I had to pick the most traveled and popular cyber venues to concentrate my efforts. I casually keep up with the rest.

Concentration of efforts: Facebook and Twitter are my most active cyber spots. When I'm on deadline, it's easy to to tweet four or five times a day, link it to Facebook, than to keep up with blogging. Blogging becomes hard on deadline because I can't spare my creative brain power to write a comprehensive or slightly intelligent blog.

It's easy to respond to Facebook comments, Twitter replies and blog comments. And part of building an online presence is keeping up with dialog.

The giveaway concept: I'm just going to be honest here. This idea wears me out. One, I barely make enough money to help my household and keep up with business expenses, let alone give away books or gift baskets to keep readers interested and build an online presence. Giveaways has created a community of people who expect freebies. I've had folks sign up for my newsletter to get a chance to win. When they didn't, they removed their name.

I love giving away my author copies -- that's what they are for -- but so many authors are giving away big gifts like GPSs, iPods, gift baskets, and more. I'm not saying I won't ever do this again, but I've not found it to be productive. It's more discouraging than encouraging.

What do you think?

Building a street team or a tribe: This takes time. Little by little readers and fans begin to gather around and tell people about your work. This is the absolute best marketing. But writing books that make readers want to tell others about also takes time and energy. For me, this is my biggest focus and concern. I want to write great books. I believe the majority of my time and effort should be focused on my stories.

That is my continual gift to you. A great book.

For the release of The Sweet By and By, a street team member, April, created a Twitter account for the book. She gives away copies, tweets lines from the book, lets followers know what's up with Sara Evans or me. What a blessing she's been. She's part of our tribe.

You can't make a reader or fan create a Twitter for you, but sooner or later your fans will speak out!

Dialog with street team members is key, BTW.

But I'm not published yet: I recently spent a weekend with a bunch of writers. Between working on their craft, we talked about other things they can be doing to build their name and brand. Susie Warren and I encouraged them all to Twitter and blog.

Blogging is great for several reasons, but the key being to force you to write three, four, five times a week. Editing your blog posts trains you to write well. Blogging forces you to look at life and see beneath the surface. A good part of writing is about observing life and molding it into a story. If you can't observe enough to write a blog, you might not have enough texture and depth to write a compelling novel. Look for life's symbols and metaphors, blog about them. Figure out how to fold them into your characters.

Above all, be kind: If you're trying to build an online presence, and hope to one day see your work in print with your name on the cover, be kind to other authors! Don't blast their books. Don't snark at them in public, or private. Follow industry leaders like Michael Hyatt, Chip MacGregor, Rachelle Gardner, Steve Laube and others. Chime into conversations. If you disagree, do so intelligently. If you can't say anything nice... walk away from your computer. :)

Write reviews that edify. Write blogs that bring insight. I often blog about politics, but I try to do so in a constructive way because many of my fellow authors and readers might disagree with me.

Same with spiritual topics. My main goal is to edify Jesus. Not preach theology.

My sister blogs about her family and it's so funny. But she never puts any of them down in her posts.

What are your thoughts on building an online presence? Any additional advice? Any suggestions or thoughts?


Kristine McGuire said...

Thank you, Rachel. You've offered good advices and I do agree that writing a blog does help you become more observant to life and what's going on around you.

Colleen Coble said...

Great advice, Rach! We can't do it all. I've found Twitter and Facebook to be the most effective ways to connect with my readers too.

Oh and I had some great comments about you and Suz at the ACFW Colorado Springs conference this weekend. A couple of people were raving about your clinic!

Patti Hill said...

More great advice, Rachel. Thanks! I'm going to pray for a tribe. I would love for someone else to toot a horn for my books.

Anyone interested? Anyone?

Rachel Hauck said...

Thanks friends.

Colleen, thanks for passing on the good things you heard. We did have a great time. :) How was the ACFW one-day deal? That sounds fun!

Kristine, I've learned so much from writing in diaries and blogging. It never really clicked with me until I was chatting with the writers at the Deep Thinker's retreat.

Patti, I'm with you! I'm not sure how to get a tribe on my own. LOL. I'm riding Sara's coat tail. :)

Janet Bly said...

Rachel: Appreciate the advice. . .this is great!

Leigh Duncan said...

Excellent advice, Rachel!

Rachel Hauck said...

Thanks Janet and Leigh!

Any thoughts to add?


Natalie Lloyd said...

Hey Rachel :) Jenny B. Jones told me to read your novel, Love Starts With Elle, and I thought it was fantastic. I'm so excited to read your other work now. I was particularly encouraged by this blog. I'm a writer too, still slowly building my career, and marketing makes me so nervous. I'm afraid I'm doing it wrong. I'm not sure how to be most effective with what I do. I love blogging, because I love the community vibe at my blog. I feel like it's not just me talking - like there's an ongoing conversation I get to be part of. But I still haven't embraced Facebook specifically for book purposes (I have a personal page but I don't talk about the book on there). I'm fairly confident Twitter is not my thing, but I'm thinking about it. Anyway, once you break it all down like this, it doesn't seem so daunting. So glad I found your blog! :)