Guest Blogger: Sue Brower from Zondervan
Internet Marketing for Authors
I can only be described as “technology challenged” when it comes to the latest and greatest on the Internet. Yet, I know that the Internet offers a multitude of ways to promote your books and to develop a community of fans. It’s more than just gathering email addresses for a newsletter, it’s a way for the reader to get to know you and engage with you beyond the words on the printed page. Spooky, isn’t it?
There are many Internet applications that help you, the writer, to establish a fan base and promote your books. I’m only going to touch on a few of them.
Blogging can be a terrific way to attract an audience or it can be a useful tool for procrastination. It all depends on what you have to say. Rachelle does a great job of discussing the pros and cons of blogging on her Oct. 7 posting. I want to discuss your blog content. I love Rachelle’s blog. It imparts information and provides a means for discussing critical questions regarding the profession and craft of writing. She shares her opinions and encourages dialog. Her blog is worth my valuable time to read on a consistent basis. Can you say the same for yours?
My pet peeve is to see an author turn valuable blog space into a book review site. I know, if you promote Jane Doe’s books to your fans, she will promote your book to her fans. The “blog tour” has become a key component on most marketing plans. I just get frustrated when I want to want to learn more about a favorite author and instead find a commercial for someone else’s book. Do you realize you are spending your precious writing time promoting other people’s books? AND, you’ve lost an opportunity to dialog with your reader when they have proactively sought you out? Think about who you want your audience to be and how you want to interact with them, then blog accordingly.
Websites are an absolute necessity for every author. If you are not adept at creating your own page, it’s worth the money to hire it done by a professional. The most successful example of an author website I can give you for developing an online fan community is Karen Kingsbury’s. Hers is the ultimate in community, and a good role model for any author. But if you’re a newer author, you won’t want to start that big. Keep it simple and easy to navigate like new author Amy Clipston’s website. Make frequent changes so that your fans are interested in coming back consistently. Instead of writing a blog, spend the time to keep the content on your website fresh. What to put on your website? I like to see more about my favorite characters, or an inside look at how the author gets their ideas for their books. Pictures of settings, recipes, character back story, anything extra will add value to the reading experience and encourage your fans to come to the website to interact with you and other fans.
Facebook is a great way to keep fans up-to-date on the latest news about your books. You can set up a “personal” page or a “celebrity” page, join groups of similar themes, and it takes much less time than either a website or blogging. This is a great place for directing folks to your website for more information, building relationships, announcing your books. And this can be done before you ever sell your book. Facebook is my personal favorite because I understand it best. There are other social networking sites that work well also.
Just don’t let yourself get caught up in too many Internet activities. It’s easy to just justify putting off the writing in order to work on blogs and websites. “I’m promoting my book!” Let me remind you that if you haven’t finished your book, there is not book to promote.
Sue Brower is Editorial Director for Fiction at Zondervan. She loves reading and she can’t believe she gets paid to do it all day!
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>Very informative and I love your blog. Keep it coming because I love read other thoughts.
>To be honest, I can’t think of anything to put on a writing-related website that I haven’t already put on my writing-related blog.
I would definitely put up a website when I’m published, though. The website can be All About My Book – I like the blog to be about writing in general.
>I’m a writer and a web developer. I think if you are unpublished, like I am, writing book reviews and about your writing journey are probably your best options. Because I do author promotion, I also have do marketing tips.
One thing I like to see authors do is take any platforms from your books and use your characters to create a buzz.
For example, if your character experience domestic violence, marital problems, a disease, etc. Use your blog to become an expert. Make the character your case studies.
The thing about blogging because it’s such a commitment level to it, it’s real easy to do whatever by else does.
>Thanks for your thoughts, Sue!
I find my problem is not so much in writing my blog, but in keeping up with everyone else’s.
I am new to the blogosphere, and am starting to enjoy it, but by the time I get through checking out all the other blogs on my list, I have lost time that I could have been writing.
Yet checking out other people’s blogs is as important as keeping your own updated.
Again with the balance thing, I guess…
>Enjoyed this today. Great information.
>Great information, Sue. Thanks.
>Wow! Considering I just posted a book review to my blog…
I started a blog because I wanted to be all set up when it came time to announce the publication of my book. Since I’m pre-pubbed, I needed items to fill my blog. I believe if you have a blog, it should be used effectively and only if you really have something to say. I also believe it should be updated frequently. (working on that) So, I use book reviews to fill in the days when I don’t have anything wise to impart.
I’m not sure if you’ve helped or hindered me, though because I try to include a bit of everything on my blog. I post the reviews, my activities, my writing wips, my contest results, my submissions and the results…everything except…so far…recipes.
I would love to post more details about my wips, but I don’t know how that would go over if they’re not even accepted for pub yet.
I had considered a separate book review blog, but that would be just another address to flog. And I like it when my author friends look at my blog and see their books.
But, you make a very valid point about blogging cutting into writing time.
BTW – it was wonderful to have lunch with you at the ACFW conference.
>As a writer with a hubby who designs websites for a living, I can vouch for the importance of all 3 of these (blog, website, facebook). I used to think that all I had to do was write the book and then everybody would line up to buy it…
If you’re just getting started as a writer and want a website you can afford, he does great work.
Check out the site he designed for me (as well as info about his services).
And I’d love to be your facebook friend! 🙂
>Great information, Sue. I do have one question; what should we be promoting before we actually have a book deal? Should we go ahead and promote our book to try and gain support to help it get published or just concentrate on entertaining information about us?
>Sue, do you have a recommendation on when is ideal to get a website up and running for a yet unpublished author?
I’m satisfied with my blog as worthwhile for its audience and my time investment, but spending time to develop more traffic for it doesn’t seem prudent yet.
When I make the investment of time and money for a website, I don’t want to wait too long and miss opportunity, but I don’t want be too early to be relevant.
>This information could not have come at a better time for me, Sue. Particularly the information about Web sites. I am in the process of having mine redesigned, and you have given me some great ideas.
Thank you so much!
>Thanks for some great comments, Sue. I thought I was the only one who didn’t like book reviews on blogs (unless the blog is SPECIFICALLY set up as a book review blog.) I also don’t enjoy going to someone’s blog to find that a “guest blogger” is blogging. On my blog, I do point readers to books on craft especially that I have found helpful, with a tiny blurb or quote and a link to Amazon.
Writer’s First Aid blog
>I’m with the group who doesn’t, as a whole, like the “blog tour” idea. I’ve participated in a couple of them, but they tend to be tremendously time-consuming–and quite frankly, I’d rather people see ME in my blog at this point, since I don’t have an author website at the moment. (No money for one. Not no discretionary money, but no money, period. And I’m not doing the “free web page” thing…that ends up looking like exactly what it is!)
I don’t enjoy a lot of the blogs that review books, either…but for a different reason. Especially in the Christian realm, these blogs as a whole tend to start sounding like nothing more than a giant fan club page…and that, ladies and gentlemen, is NOT what a review is supposed to be. I can count on one hand the instances of a reviewer actually saying, “These are the strong points, this could have been better.” In other words…there’s no balance. And I have often wondered, when reading a “review” of a book I couldn’t even finish, what this blog author saw in it that was so good she’s raving about it. I think promoting each other is fine…but not all books are rave-worthy, either.
That’s why I also like the idea of putting in an OCCASIONAL review of something on your blog, be it good or bad; that way it’s noteworthy, and you don’t become just another promotional tool for someone ELSE’s career in the process.
Finally, it IS important to remember why one is blogging, too. My blog’s as much a way to show my “style” to potential freelance clients as it is to “promote” anything…so in that sense, it doesn’t subtract from my writing as a whole.
At least that’s the ideal! 🙂
My long take,
>Sue, thanks for the helpful post! I especially appreciated the website info and suggested links.
>I, too, occasionally post an interview with an author on my blog. But I’ve chosen to not participate in organized blog tours, preferring to interview authors directly and post a conversational interview between the two of us–which often ends up involving lots of readers in the comments section.
I have gotten positive reader response to personal interviews with many authors, though. Lisa Samson, Liz Curtis Higgs, Mary DeMuth, Michael Snyder, Robin Lee Hatcher, and others have all graciously agreed to be featured on fallible.com.
It certainly takes more time on my part (and on the part of the authors) to do a personal interview. I view it as not only beneficial for the author and enjoyable for the audience, but also advantageous for me.
The key is to make the interview a reflection of my skills, personality, and potential as an author, while promoting another’s work. That said, I try to keep author interviews as only a small percentage of my total blog input.
I really appreciate your thoughts here, Sue! Thank you.
>Oh, I forgot to say, besides having a great website, Amy is a super nice person. Plus her book is ready to pre-order, check it out here:
”A Gift of Grace”
>Wonderful information, Sue. Thanks! Well said about the book reviews, too. I have too many writer friends who’ve told me that they wish they had more time to work on their manuscripts, but they’re so busy keeping up with reviews for their blogs that they can’t write. ???
I’ve often wondered about the idea of doing character backgrounds on websites, but, even though it interested me, never really knew if it would be viable. Glad to hear you think it would!
Thanks again for sharing your time and expertise.
Grace to you,
>This is GREAT information.
My husband always says, “Shouldn’t you be working on your book rather than blogging?”
I love blogging but I’ve only been doing it since mid-July. Still, it does take a lot of my writing time.
Hum . . .
>Funny–I just this week decided to start posting reviews occasionally–especially with Thomas Nelson’s new book review opportunity. Oops. 🙂 I do like to read people’s thoughts on books, though. I often read blog reviews before buying a book. But the point is valid–why spend time reviewing what others have written, and not on my own work? Another valid question is, “Why spend so much time on my blog, and not my WIP?” I suppose it all requires a balance.
>I love to see authors support each other, but I also want to see something personal about them. Endorsements, reviews on websites, even putting a book cover on your blog is great. It just feels like some blogs are all about book reviews and I don’t think that is a good use of an author’s time when they are trying to get their first manuscript published.
While I don’t think your blogs have to be about anything specific–craft, writing, current work-in-process, I do think your writing needs to reflect your professional abilities. I’m not sure what you meant by “singsong musings,” but whatever they are, make sure they are well written.
>GREAT ADVICE. I share your opinion on the book reviews on blogs. I always thought blogs were more about the author and letting him/herself be available to his/her readers.
I’ve found some good books scanning some reviews, but usually, I’d rather read about what the writer has going on…..
I’ll do a review every once in a while, but it’s not the main staple of my blog.
Thanks again for your advice. Have a great day.
>My recent coauthored book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, got off to a great start in sales thanks to 60 bloggers who hosted an interview with the six authors. It kind of goes along with your feeling that readers want to know what’s behind the book. We have a unique story and we told it in the interview.
I’ve recently commited my blog to more of a travel theme since my husband and I travel so much. I’ve picked up more readers and many who searched for some of the places I’ve been to.
I’m just beginning to tweet–don’t know where that will lead. And, you are right, it can consume too much time and attention if you are not mindful.
>With all due respect, Sue, I totally disagree about writers who talk about other authors and their books. As authors, we are a sum of our experiences, and that includes our literary experiences. If a writer I like has read something s/he has to rave about, then by all means, I want to hear about it! Same for movies or the theater or any other experience that makes an impact. Maybe I’ll read the same book a few years down the line and go, “Aha! This is what inspired that scene!”
Likewise, when I read something that I want to tell the world about, I put it on my blog. It’s not just my way of spreading the word about something great, it’s my way of saying, “Hey, us writers are all in this together. It’s not just about me.”
>I don’t really like seeing many reviews on author blogs either, but a few can pull readers. When someone sends me an e-mail saying, “come visit my blog” I usually delete it. When someone puts a link to my blog or website on their blog or mentions one of my books, I’m there. If we mention another author, someone searching for the other author may stumble across our site and if we have enough to interest him, we will gain a reader. I tend to think that book endorsements are a better practice, since there are fewer books that we are likely to endorse, the other author’s audience many include members of our own and we are less likely to alienate the other author’s fan by saying what we really think.
>Thank you for the valuable information, Sue.
The topics on my blog frequently pertain to the content of my novels, but are sometimes random. It seems my writer’s voice is recognizable in my posts.
Is consistently posting samplings of your “voice” a good idea though? I feel like an odd duck in the blogosphere…no craft advice, no book reviews…just singsong musings.
Any input from Sue or others is welcome, because I’ve wondered about this. Thank you again and God bless.