Thanks to the Internet and social media, we, as consumers, are constantly inundated with advertisements, opinions, and new platforms. There are so many people to follow, so many newsletters to sign up for, and so much information coursing through the veins of the digital world that writers often feel lost in it (and rightly so).
Book publishing, specifically, has taken a huge turn in how it operates as a result of the digital shift. As many of you know, publishing houses continue to get smaller, e-books increase in popularity, and writers are expected to have a (nearly) perfected manuscript to agents and (ultimately) editors—as there is no longer the time nor the bandwidth to aid writers on their journey as had been done in the past. Along the same line, the marketing of books has changed so that much of the responsibility for marketing now falls on the shoulders of writers.
Whether you are a writer seeking a literary agent, are traditionally published, or are going the self-publishing route, developing your online author platform is essential in today’s market. Readers must not only be able to find you easily online but to want to find you.
Consider the following five ways to increase your online presence (in a meaningful way).
1. Make a website.
This is advice that I give to all writers whether they write novels, short stories, are a journalist, or anything in between. In my opinion, having an online portfolio where viewers can easily access your work is invaluable.
For writers of novels, however, a website could be used in a variety of ways:
- Provide updates on your current projects (manuscripts in the works, published work, etc.)
- Start a blog: Most platforms for building a website offer a function where you can have a “posts” page (vs. the other regular landing pages on your website). One cool tool I’ve found is you can segregate your “blog” on your website itself, should you wish to. However, should you decide to start a blog, it is crucial that you are consistent. If you say you are going to write one blog a week, do it. Period. Consistency, along with interesting content, will have readers coming back.
- Compile your other published work: As writers, we cannot limit ourselves to one single outlet. In order to create our brand, we need to write for other platforms, such as blogs and articles for online and print publications. A website can be a great resource to compile all of the published works you have—which makes you look more credible as a writer.
- List services you offer: This would probably be more applicable to editors. However, if you offer services such as editing manuscripts or are a freelance writer, you could list some of your services on a separate area on your website.
There are more ways to utilize a website or blog as a writer—these are just a few.
2. Create your brand: Decide what you want to talk about and develop your online persona.
When I first heard the phrase “create” your brand, my initial thought was—well, there are a thousand and one fiction writers out there just like me. What on earth could I say that they haven’t already?
But think about it this way—there is only one you. Only you look at the world with your unique perspective, which makes your writing and what you have to say unique! So, my first piece of advice is to know your own value and self worth. You are an amazing person and have tons to offer! It’s just a matter of what you want to talk about.
Like any other brand, you need to single out what you are uniquely good at—what you’re informed in and a master of—and talk about that. So, for a fantasy writer, maybe you read a lot Star Wars as you are working on your manuscript. If that’s the case, consider blogging about Star Wars—how the stories are crafted, what plot holes might still exist, questions that are unanswered, etc. As a full-time editor, I knew that my platform would likely evolve around editorial best practices in some fashion (and it has!).
In short: write about what you know, stick to areas that pertain to your craft as a writer/editor, and be yourself! People like following people that act like… well, people! So, don’t be afraid to be your silly/fun/serious/sarcastic self.
3. Choose what social media platforms you want to be on. And post every day.
As though creating and maintaining a website and/or blog wasn’t enough work, you also need to select which social media platforms you will use in tandem with your website. Social media use is (or should be) to support the work you are already doing to build your presence online as a writer and to further your brand.
And, for some strange reason, the writing community has gravitated toward one particular social media platform: Twitter. There are countless writing contests, beta reader match up opportunities, as well as pitching opportunities to agents and editors that all occur on Twitter. That being said, consider creating your own Twitter handle and get to know some of the popular writer hashtags, such as: #amwriting, #amediting, #amquerying, #CPmatch, #querytip, #tenqueries, #PitchWars, #NaNoWriMo, #p2p16, and more.
Facebook also seems to be a (relatively) popular social media platform for writers—particularly for scheduling events such as book signings. Regardless of what platforms you choose, be sure to create public pages (not private/personal ones) and post content every day about your unique brand. (And, no, posting links to buy your book doesn’t count. That’s spammy, and nobody likes to follow folks who post promotional content about themselves or their books 100 percent of the time.)
4. Launch a newsletter.
This pertains particularly to folks who write a weekly blog or post weekly on their website. Make sure to offer opportunities for readers to not only follow your website, but to sign up for newsletters as well. However, be sure to send out consistent/timely newsletters to support all of that awesome work you are already doing. If you say you are going to write one blog per week, write it and send the newsletter out immediately when you do (or at the same time each week). That consistency will help to get readers more engaged in your website/blog/posts.
5. Create a community with your fellow writers.
As you write content about your craft in a way that is so uniquely you, don’t forget to engage your readers (who are often your fellow writers) in discussions about craft (how to write intense scenes, plot, etc.), what they are reading, and so on. As you do, you will create a place where readers/writers will want to return to interact with you and your work.
Don’t forget: you want to not only make yourself accessible to readers online, but you also want to keep them engaged and coming back for more.