Ian Irvine: Marketing for Authors, Part One

Today we have the indefagitable Ian Irvine, who is sharing is hard-won wisdom with us. Take it away, Ian …

Internet Marketing Basics for Authors

A.         Introduction

Building a strong presence on the net is a long-term proposition. Unless you’re a celebrity or a genius it’ll take you a year or more to build your author platform and gain a significant following. To do so you need to establish presences in a number of places, because they have different functions in your book marketing strategy.

But it’s not enough to establish your sites on the net – you also need to promote and cross-promote them, regularly respond to comments and questions, and update these sites frequently. If a fan returns to your site after a month or two and finds nothing new, or worse, stuff that’s obviously out of date, they’re unlikely to return. But remember, to build your audience, the great majority of your updates should be engaging, relevant, informative and free.

B.        Your Author Platform

What are these functions – what does online networking actually do? What is an author platform, for that matter?

Your author platform is the way you’re currently reaching an audience. For most people, other than celebrities, this is your online presence, whether it’s your website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, YouTube, or several of these.

C.        Online Networking

According to Dana Lynn Smith, in The Savvy Book Marketer’s Guide to Successful Social Marketing, online networking allows you to:

  • Build your author platform and recognition of your brand (i.e., your name as the author of certain kinds of books);
  • Develop relationships with peers, influencers, potential customers and people with common interests;
  • Drive traffic to your website, blog and Facebook page;
  • Share your expertise and knowledge, and help other people
  • Directly and indirectly, promote your books (and any other services you may offer).

D.         Seven Key Activities

The following activities are the most important for book marketing. Ideally, you’ll do all of these, assuming you have the time. It takes a lot of work.

  1. Your website
  2. Your Facebook Fan page
  3. Your blog
  4. Your Twitter feed
  5. Your email newsletter
  6. Your GoodReads page
  7. Your YouTube page

E.        One at a Time

I don’t recommend you work on everything at once. After you’ve created your website, start on one other activity – your blog, or Twitter, or your Facebook fan page – and when it’s working well you can move on to the next. But if there’s one activity you’re not comfortable with e.g. creating and posting videos to YouTube, don’t worry about it. You can’t do everything and it’s better to do a few things well than many things badly.

Remember that social media like Facebook, Twitter, your blog, YouTube feed and GoodReads page aren’t for direct marketing, but for connecting to other like-minded people. Only a tiny fraction of your updates to social media sites should be direct marketing – i.e., versions of ‘Buy my book!’ The great majority of your updates should be useful, informative or entertaining.

For direct marketing, you’ll use your website and especially your email newsletter. And perhaps some carefully targeted advertising on Facebook or GoodReads.

F.         Develop a Plan

Before you begin, do some planning:

  1. Work out your goals, e.g., to:
    1. Meet people, network, keep in touch and build relationships in the areas you’re interested in;
    2. Help others by sharing your knowledge and experience;
    3. Build your author platform and brand recognition;
    4. Promote your books, indirectly or directly;
    5. Gain a large audience and drive relevant traffic to your main author platforms (website, blog, Facebook fan page, newsletter etc).

 

  1. Develop your social media strategy to reach these goals, considering your available time and resources. Work out the topics you’re going to post about, then stay on message. Don’t do unrelated posts.

 

  1. General principle in social media: give more than you get. Reach out to people and ask – who can I help? Do this by sharing your expertise and experience. Promote only rarely, and when you do, be subtle.

 

  1. Ask yourself who you’re trying to connect with. The aim is to end up with as many high quality followers as possible. People follow you for what you have to say of interest to them; e.g., for me on Twitter and my blog:
    1. Authors and other people I’m friends with or interested in;
    2. Influential and perceptive writers on the publishing industry, technology and the future;
    3. Experts on book promotion and marketing, especially in social media;
    4. People with something to say about writing and storytelling;
    5. Reviewers/editors/publishers/book bloggers etc;
    6. Key bookshops and booksellers.
    7. People who love the genres I write in.
    8. Other writers trying to find a way through the maze.

G.         Developing your Platform

The way you’ll develop your platform will depend on your own time, skills and resources. I’ve used my own sites as examples of how these can be done well (or poorly, in some cases – I’m still learning, and I welcome your comments).

  1. Your website – the first and most reliable source of information about you and your books.

Build a strong, user-friendly website that loads quickly, has lots of useful content (including first chapters of all your books, links to places where readers can buy them, and plenty of images, audio and video) and is regularly updated with news or other content (ideally, weekly). As an example, I’ve put a huge effort into both the design and content of my website, and you may find some inspiration for your own site here:  Also:

◦         Add a button to collect Likes for your Facebook page,

◦         Add other useful widgets such as Google Translate, especially if you have a lot of international readers. The translations aren’t brilliant but they’re better than nothing;

◦         Make it easy to share with sharing and bookmarking buttons (I use this ), and RSS;

◦         It’s a pain trying to determine if your favourite site has been updated recently. Add a box that shows what the latest updates are and where they can be found;

◦         Optimise it for mobile devices.

  1. Twitter – probably the fastest and simplest way to build your audience, to meet and develop relationships with other authors, influencers and potential book buyers, to keep up to date, get help, create a buzz about your book or content, and to drive traffic to your other sites. It’s also a good place to help others by sharing your knowledge and expertise, thus enhancing your reputation as an expert. It’s also easy compared to other social media: the learning curve is small and tweeting need not take a lot of time.

To gain followers, post valuable or useful content (your own articles and links, plus interesting and relevant material you’ve come across, but not ads or personal trivia) several times a day – with your other tweets being replies, retweets etc. Be yourself: authentic, friendly and helpful.

You can write and schedule your updates in advance with HootSuite. The Twitter Guide for Authors is helpful and relevant.

Twitter can become a time-wasting distraction, but many writers find it extremely useful for meeting like-minded people, making other industry contacts, and as an instantaneous publicist. I use it mainly for telling people about interesting blog, Facebook or website content (other peoples’ as well as my own content), learning from experts in my areas of interest, and driving traffic to my site and blog. Ian on Twitter.

  1. Your Blog – a great way to gain followers, network with influencers, drive traffic to your sites and be found by search engines. Also a good place to help others by sharing your knowledge and expertise. Blogs are relatively easy to set up and maintain, but using them effectively requires a significant time commitment – ideally, at least 5 hours a week.

Create a structured blog on a topic or topics of broad appeal, with lots of useful content and helpful or thought-provoking (or controversial) articles, that’s regularly updated (ideally, several days a week), and provide quick responses to readers’ comments.

Remember, your readers don’t give a damn about you. They’ll scan your blog in 10 seconds and leave if it doesn’t seem useful. Make each article clear, simple and relevant, and definitely not an advertisement for your own books. I’ve only begun blogging recently, but the great majority of my posts contain useful information about writing, publishing and books in general: See Ian Irvine blogspot

To increase your audience, ask what interests your readers. Free Social Media Examiner.Also:

◦         Google ‘effective blog design’ and set up a clear, well-structured, uncluttered blog that’s easy to read, and easy to find content on.

◦         Make it clear at a glance what your blog is about and who you are.

◦         Make it easy to search, bookmark, share and subscribe to your blog, so visitors will return.

◦         Make it mobile friendly. Up to a third of all visitors come from mobile devices.

◦         Blog comments. Reply promptly to comments on your posts. It’s also helpful to post comments frequently to other relevant blogs (but not comments that are really ads for your book).

◦         Blog tours. Organise a blog tour where, over a few weeks soon after your book has been published, you do guest posts and respond to readers’ comments on 10 – 20 other relevant blogs. Blog tours are also very useful to get a buzz going, though quite a bit of work – for the two tours I did earlier this year, I wrote 40,000 words of posts. For more info.

Next Sunday Part Two of Ian’s Marketing for Authors.

Feel free to send questions through to Ian.

Ian Irvine is an Australian marine scientist who has also written 27 novels, including the international bestselling Three Worlds epic fantasy sequence, a trilogy of thrillers about catastrophic climate change, Human Rites, and 12 novels for children. His latest children’s series is the humorous adventure fantasy quartet, Grim and Grimmer. Ian’s latest epic fantasy is Vengeance, Book 1 of The Tainted Realm.

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7 Responses to Ian Irvine: Marketing for Authors, Part One

  1. Louise Curtis says:

    Hi Ian,

    I’ve been appreciating your “writing career = promotion work” message for years. I’ve just signed up for Hootsuite. How do I automate my tweets (2-4 weeks in advance), and can I do it for my facebook pages too (I have a fan and a friend page)? All three tweets/updates would be identical short story segments (although I’d still post links spontaneously too).

    Louise Curtis

  2. Ian Irvine says:

    Thanks, Louise; I’m glad they’ve been helpful.

    To schedule your tweets, see this brief how-to. http://help.hootsuite.com/entries/128582-how-to-schedule-a-message

    I have a Twitter feed to my Facebook fan page but I’ve never tried to automate posts to Facebook. I prefer to do them manually because I think it’s more friendly, and I can answer questions at the same time.

    However you might find these articles helpful.

    http://help.hootsuite.com/entries/20395386-how-to-add-facebook-accounts-profiles-pages-and-groups

    http://help.hootsuite.com/entries/20401506-how-to-add-facebook-streams

    • Louise Curtis says:

      Thank you very much Ian. I didn’t get the “how to get started with hootsuite” for a day (hence immediately asking your help), but it’s nicer dealing with a human anyway.

      Louise Curtis

  3. Hi Ian, first I like to say I like your three world sequence books. I read them many times and it felt real and captured me especially with the feeling sick after the use of magic. Well now I like this post. I have so many places that I log onto and keeping where everything is a problem. Thank you for this, as a writer just starting at with some exposure, I am cancelling some of the websites I visit and concentrate on the ones I like the most, like this one. Go ROR love the posts so far.

  4. Ian Irvine says:

    Thanks very much, Rob

    It’s inspiring to hear that you’ve enjoyed my books so much. It’s a great help as I sit down for the days’s writing.

    I find ROR pretty useful too. I’m always discovering good articles here.

    xxx

    Ian

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