What kind of web presence is right for an author?
I was in a meeting yesterday when the issue of author websites arose. Of course, these days, “website,” actually means ”web presence,” because depending on the book and author, an author may opt for a website and / or a blog and / or a social networking profile. The point is, when a reader Googles a title or name, something in addition to a buy link needs to pop up.
But as a book publicist, how do you know what’s best for an author? Realistically, most authors don’t have the time to manage a website anda blog and a social networking profile (not to mention write and promote their book). So here are some pointers for all three types of sites in order of least to most interaction:
Pros: Don’t need to be updated as frequently as other online ventures. Look more professional than social networking profiles and most blogs.
Cons: Unless you use a free DIY web template (which looks free and DIY), websites cost money to set up. Because many sites are maintained by third parties, changing / correcting the site can be cumbersome.
Best for: Authors who don’t have the time to update a site and / or who aren’t comfortable with the web, but who can pay someone to update the site for them.
Social Networking Profiles / Fan Pages
Pros: Free. Quick to set up (the basics — fleshing out a profile and acquiring friends takes time). Easy to post pictures, video and links. Once you’ve acquired friends, easy to send messages to them to promote events / news about the book.
Cons: Takes (some) time and (some) familiarity with the web to maintain. You don’t own the information — the social network does — so you’re at their mercy when it comes to layout / rules / etc. Of course, if the network goes under, so does your profile, information and friend list.
Best for: Authors who do want to interact with readers and who do have a little time to maintain their profiles (status updates, accepting friend requests, reading and writing messages, etc.) but who don’t have the time or the inclination to maintain a blog.
Pros: Can be set up and maintained for free (or for a minimal monthly charge). For authors who blog consistently and who are successful at building an audience, a proven way to increase readership of their book(s). Fairly quick to set up the basics (although creating pages, blog rolls and other features takes time).
Cons: Posts must be regular, i.e., at least twice a week, for the blog to gain a following, so blogging takes a lot of time (and inspiration). It can take a while to build a following on a blog, so you must commit to blogging for several months at the very least. Blogs don’t magically acquire an audience; they must be promoted just as books must be promoted to reach readers.
Best for: Authors who have the time to write weekly posts and who are willing to make a long-term commitment not only to writing the blog but also to promoting it. Good for repeat authors (who have an incentive to keep up their site over the long term) or for authors who have a cause and / or organization they want to continue championing even after the promotional window for the book has ended.
Those are the basics (anyone have anything to add?) but keep in mind that an author can mix and match. So, for example, you could have a basic website + Facebook profile. Or a DIY website for which you pay a small monthly fee — these sites look pretty decent and for authors who have some web savvy, it allows you to post updates yourself. Or you might have a blog and a Facebook / Twitter profile. (So many bloggers belong to one or more social networks — these are great ways to connect with others in the blogging community and promote a blog — that if you’re not comfortable with social networking, you probably shouldn’t consider blogging.)
The bottom line is that while a web presence is essential for authors these days, what’s just as important is that you pick the site type(s) that works best for you.
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Fall 2012: I’ve really enjoyed writing about book publicity and meeting (0nline and in person) writers, publicists, editors, agents and others in the publishing industry, but I’ve — reluctantly — come to the conclusion that I just don’t have the time to maintain this blog.
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For some time now, I’ve closely followed a lot of very informative sites about media and about the publishing industry. Since I find myself quite voluble at times about issues that pertain to my job in the publicity department at a large publishing house, I thought I’d set up a book publicity blog. The purpose of this blog is provide tips, primarily, but also information about publishing / marketing trends that will help book publicists — and hopefully others in media and publishing — do our jobs with greater ease and efficiency. Please note that the opinions expressed on this blog are my own, not those of my company.
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