The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

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:

Author Websites

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. 

Blogs

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.

June 25, 2009 - Posted by | Blogs, Online Marketing, Social Networking

16 Comments »

  1. An excellent summary. I’m not the most tech savvy author on the planet but I’ve done all of the above for Silent Sorority (my book). I’ve found that casting the widest net possible on the Internet is the best way to engage readers.

    Comment by Pamela Tsigdinos | June 25, 2009 | Reply

  2. I would also emphasize that a lot of thought be given to the ‘voice’ you would like to use on the web.

    You might want to have your identity be different with your friends than with the reading public. And choose which audience would be interested in this update or another.

    If you have a hard time deciding what to blog, Tweet or post–the general rule is to try to inform, educate or entertain.

    Comment by Jean | June 25, 2009 | Reply

  3. Very helpful. I will send people to this post.

    You didn’t mention Twitter. It’s not a “home base” but are your authors using it successfully?

    Additional tip: It’s very helpful for authors to post responses on other blogs. It builds traffic back to home base, create relationships, helps you become part of literary/publishing/author/niche/topic-based communities. (Plus, everyone knows, it’s easier to post a response to someone else’s blog than it is to write your own!)

    Comment by Janet Goldstein | June 25, 2009 | Reply

    • Lots of authors use Twitter, but since a Twitter profile has space only for a website and a 160-character description, it’s difficult to use as a “home base.”

      I didn’t go into the details of posting on other blogs, but this definitely goes into the blog promoting category: it’s an excellent way of interacting with other bloggers and therefore also of promoting one’s own blog.

      Comment by Yen | June 25, 2009 | Reply

  4. One of my favorite author/web tools is WordPress. When you do an installed version of WordPress it can be totally customized to reflect your brand, and it can be set up to serve as your website and your blog using both “pages” and “posts”.

    I really, really believe that authors need “content managed” websites. They need to be able to add content and edit their site without enlisting the help of a web master every time. WordPress, though it is originally a blogging tool, is really a fabulous (and free) content management system.

    I think it is a worthwhile investment for an author to hire a designer to set up a custom “theme” for WordPress and manage the installation of it. Once it is set up an author can go town with their site and blog.

    Comment by Jeff Nordstedt | June 25, 2009 | Reply

    • Jeff, I was about to post the very same thing. I use WordPress for both my blog, and a web site with my bio and recent work. Anyone curious can just click on my name below (it’s rather basic, but gives you an idea what you can do).

      Comment by Kama Timbrell | June 25, 2009 | Reply

  5. I hired a professional to design my author website and I think it looks like it. However, I wanted two blogs, one for the book reviews and one for general purposes, so I had it designed so that when you go to my homepage, my general purposes blog is there and the other one is on a tab (plus other info on tabs like bio, music, my book). I update it approximately 2-4 times per week, depending on how busy I am. Because my first YA is not out until next summer, my blog is mostly aimed towards writers at this time because that’s who follows me most. At some point, I hope to have a more teen oriented blog or maybe front page, with the writing blog moved onto a tab, but right now it’s working.

    It does take time to build a following. I have been blogging for 2 years and I average about 50 hits a day with maybe 75 page loads (people going to other pages after reading my blog). This increases by about 25% on days I post new stuff. One thing that really increased the traffic to my blog is every time I post something new, I tweet about it with a link, and I update Facebook to say I have a new blog post.

    I can do basic updating on my site, but I am about to learn how to actually change things so that I don’t have to rely on my designer. I do think it was totally worth the money to hire a professional though.

    Comment by joelle | June 25, 2009 | Reply

    • You can also feed your twitter updates to your facebook status therefore taking a step out of your routine.

      Comment by andieeast | June 26, 2009 | Reply

  6. Fan Pages on FB are a hit of miss. Wanted to share this post on the Trust Agents page, which Chris Brogan and Julien Smith set up (I swear I didn’t have anything to do with it, but I am doing publicity for this book. It’s an awesome book!)

    http://altitudebranding.com/2009/06/why-the-trust-agents-fan-page-works/

    Comment by cincindypat | June 25, 2009 | Reply

  7. I find the combination of a Twitter presence linked to my blog permits me to keep my blog fresh in search engines even when I’m traveling or overbooked and don’t have time for longer blog posts. The combination has quadrupled the size of my network and raised the page rank of my blog and name recognition in search engines…all contributing to a broader platform.

    Comment by Gaelen | June 25, 2009 | Reply

  8. Another tip on WordPress is that you can post-date entries. Nothing beats a fresh, timely blog post. But thoughtful albeit canned content can help keep the blog moving along nicely and remove the anxiety of having to post every day.

    When I work with authors building sites and doing social media consulting, I often tell them to pick one time a week to write 2-3 blog posts and schedule them through out the week. This takes away anxiety and allows them to add fresh stuff when it strikes them.

    Comment by Jeff Nordstedt | June 25, 2009 | Reply

  9. I don’t think it’s an option to not have all three. Readers are now demanding that authors are easily accessible and the more ways your readers can connect with you the better. Twitter is overrated for authors, but having a blog, FaceBook fan page and a website should all be done before you publish. It not only helps people find you, it also helps your fans spread the word about you.

    Comment by Mark | June 25, 2009 | Reply

    • I’d say Twitter is a great tool for driving traffic to your blog, but it’s not universally a great tool for authors. Like a lot of things, it depends.

      If you have a big name, your fans will likely want to follow you, and it provides them a way to communicate with you. Imagine the excitement someone with a good following can generate with Twitter posts about an upcoming book, finding out the pub date, getting their advanced copies, etc. If you’re a nonfiction author with a blog, you can use your Twitter feed to direct readers to your blog, and also establish yourself as knowledgeable in your subject area by providing links to other relevant articles/blogs, with some commentary.

      Comment by Kama | June 26, 2009 | Reply

  10. I have found that personal interaction with authors through twitter/blogs etc greatly increases my own desire to help promote their books. I think if an author (who’s not as huge as say Neil Gaiman) is going to be on Twitter they need to be willing to do some interaction. I rarely sign into facebook.

    Comment by Amy @ My Friend Amy | June 27, 2009 | Reply

  11. I think the important message that I got from this article is that don’t get lost in the technology. I’ve designed the high speed trading systems used by Investment Banks incorporating Internet interfaces, but for the purpose of blogging it is cheap but highly effective.

    Comment by Alaric | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  12. […] What kind of web presence is right for an author? […]

    Pingback by Paged Media: Web Design for Authors » The Book Publicity Blog | July 1, 2009 | Reply


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