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 Faithchick.com.
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?