The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

When should an author begin setting up social networking profiles / blogs / websites?

Yesterday I spoke at an AAR / Association of Authors’ Representatives panel together with Connor Raus (who runs digital advertising agency CRKWD) about understanding social media and how to use it effectively — as you know, a favorite topic of mine here on The Book Publicity Blog.  I don’t have time to summarize the entire panel here (and you don’t have time to read a summary of the entire panel), but I did want to tackle the issue of timing, a common question among book publicists, authors, agents and others in the publishing industry, and one that we discussed last night: in order to most effectively promote a book, when do you begin setting up social networking profiles / blogs / websites?

It occurred to me that creating an online author platform — aforementioned social networking profiles, blogs and websites — is much like training for a marathon.  (Unfortunately, the marathon analogy only came to me during my shower last night — historically, my good ideas have all arisen near water — rather than during the panel, but fortunately, I now have the opportunity to share this with you now.)

If you have ever run a marathon — or if you know someone who has — you (may) know that typically, runners train between two and six months for the race.  Of course, it depends on your fitness level, how much you’ve been running, what your time goal is (if any), but the majority of runners will end up training between two and six months.  Which, coincidentally, is about how long before a book’s publication many would suggest authors start developing a web presence.

You may be thinking that if one can get into good enough shape to run 26.2 miles in six months, then imagine how much better shape one would be in if one trained (blogged / networked) for a year!  Except for the crazy ones, however, no marathoner does this (running, that is).  The reason is simple: there are only so many 5 a.m. 20-milers you can run weekly before completely burning out.  Likewise, (most) authors find it is simply not feasible to generate an unlimited number of blog posts or tweets or status updates for time eternal.

Just to be clear, I’m not discouraging an author from starting to blog a year before a book comes out — after all, unlike with marathoning, blogging and social networking is unlikely to result in injury (one hopes) — but I am saying that realistically, given the vast number of personal and professional commitments we all have, most authors probably will end up tapering their online activities after a few months.

That was my epiphany for the day.  What do you think?

April 29, 2010 - Posted by | Online Marketing | ,

17 Comments »

  1. Yen,

    The 2 to 6 months timeframe sounds about right to market your book before publication; nearer to six months is best. Then the real work will begin AFTER publication that includes continuous marketing, book signings, speeches, interviews, etc

    Unless you have an established blog or other webpage, it will take at least 6 months to get a decent following.

    My advice to all authors is to start and KEEP a website (and many free ones are available) that contains a blog (that you post to at least every-other-day) plus other pages that would include a bio, services you offer if any, contact info, books (if any) you have written (either advertise them or offer them for sale from this page), WIP, etc.
    ———————————————————-
    John R. Austin, writer and researcher. Author of: “Writers Welcome Blog!” at http://johnaustinblog.blogspot.com and “Writers Thought for Today Blog” on my
    Website: http://johnraustin.yolasite.com

    Comment by John Austin | April 29, 2010 | Reply

  2. I think the marathon analogy is a good one. And to continue it, I know that when I trained for triathlons and marathons, the only way to meet my goals was to keep a log– or at least adhere to a set training schedule: so many miles, so much swimming, so much biking, and ramping it up until… well, I was a god.

    So what I’m suggesting is a PUBLICITY BLOG LOG. In other words, you come up with publicity goals— website, contacts to librarians, bloggers, bookstore— stretched out over months, and you keep a record of what you’re doing.

    Comment by Charles J. Shields | April 29, 2010 | Reply

  3. For search engine optimization purposes, it would be better to start early and get some content on the sites, particularly a blog, prior to the big push at/before launch. So, I agree with Charles that a “training schedule” is a better idea than waiting too long to get started.

    Comment by Karen Russell | April 29, 2010 | Reply

  4. This is really only relevant if said writer has avoided the internet prior to writing said book. Many of us, however, were blogging long before we decided to start writing books and find it to be yet another creative outlet. It is also a great way to network with other writers and people in the industry (agents, publishers, and people who write informative blogs such as this one), which can strengthen you as a writer. Personally, I think if one can avoid letting the internet consume too much writing time, there is no better time to familiarize oneself with such a powerful tool.

    Comment by Allison M. Dickson | April 30, 2010 | Reply

    • Certainly for those authors who already blog, it’s not necessary to follow this “training” schedule. In my experience, though, the vast majority of authors with whom I work do not blog and those who use Facebook or Twitter tend to do so for personal reasons, so I think most of those authors do find it helpful to be given some sort of timeline (and guidance).

      At the end of the day, I’d say there are probably only two hard and fast rules:

      1) There needs to be *something* online (whether that’s a website or a blog or a profile or something else) so that something substantial pops up when someone Googles the book or author.

      2) Every author needs to do what works for them, whether that means jumping on every site imaginable, paying someone to set up an informative and user-friendly website, or, more likely, something inbetween.

      Comment by Yen | April 30, 2010 | Reply

  5. Great thoughts, everyone — thanks for the suggestions.

    Charles — it’s interesting that you bring up a publicity “log.” A while back I was reading a Follow the Reader interview with a book publicist, Asleigh Gardner, and she and her colleagues at The Dundern Group use what they call the “Author Countdown”: http://followthereader.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/ashleigh-gardner/.

    Comment by Yen | April 30, 2010 | Reply

  6. I think the marathon analogy is perfect! I often speak to my authors in terms of ‘scheduling’ when it comes to planning their social networking. I ask them to be realistic in terms of the time they can dedicate, the energy that comes across in their work, etc. All of these ideas can be applied to the marathon training example.

    I favor about 3-4 months before pub. to really kick the social networking part of the campaign in.

    Comment by Online Publicist | April 30, 2010 | Reply

  7. I generally recommend that authors start as early as possible. As someone noted above, it often takes six months to get enough readers and trust built up for the blog to be useful as a marketing tool. I also think that author pyschology closer to launch is very focused on hard sales. That can make for ineffective blogging. It can also lead to frustration. If they feel like they are blogging and not selling a ton of books right round launch, they may conclude that “blogging doesn’t work”. However, if they start earlier, there is a little less pressure, they can establish habits, and develop a voice. Hopefully, they will enjoy it by the time launch comes around, and they can stick with it.

    Of course, this is not a one-size fits all prescription. As a PR person, I really try to get a read on the author’s interest level and availability and make realistic recommendations, rather than always pushing the ideal one I outlined above.

    Comment by Jeff | April 30, 2010 | Reply

  8. Starting an online presence is helpful to authors once they start on this endeavor. However, with that said, they should garner the correct representation of themselves while doing so.

    Comment by LM Preston | May 2, 2010 | Reply

    • What book are you reading cunrtrely?Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood #1)Author?JR WardWhat is it about?The first BDB book, so far it’s mostly world-building and explaining about vampires in this world. I’m only a bit into it (just started last night after finishing the Midnight Breed series) and it appears that the “king” of the vampires will end up with the half-vampire daughter of a guy who gets killed in the very beginning. But I might just be reading into the intense “moment” they experienced upon meeting for the first time, lol.Are you enjoying it?So far, yes. Lots of people have enjoyed this series and it’s come highly recommended. And there are lots of them (new one just released yesterday), so I’ll have a ways to go before I move on to the next series.Would you recommend it to your friends?I’ll have to wait until I read more, but probably.

      Comment by Francisco | May 25, 2012 | Reply

  9. There’s also something to be said for having an established online presence before a book has even been sold. Depending on the situation, this can be a part of an already established author platform. I’m sure many can relate more than one instance where an prospective author laid out plans to do X, Y & Z online to promote their book, but then neither X, Y or Z occurred.

    Comment by Kama | May 4, 2010 | Reply

  10. The marathon is a good analogy. Although I would like to add one point: it’s a good idea to go and grab the domains, usernames, Twitter addresses, Facebook addresses etc that you want as early as possible because you can be sure that if you don’t then somebody else will.

    Comment by Frequency Design | May 4, 2010 | Reply

    • Ah, yes — good point.

      Comment by Yen | May 4, 2010 | Reply

  11. Taking off on the marathon analogy, if you’re not remotely in shape before the “real” training period starts your performance will still lag behind many. I work with nonfiction authors to secure speaking engagements and other promotional opps which often get planned 6mo to a year out so I need to be able to show people well in advance of a book’s pub date that the author has what it take to deliver. For business, psych, self-help and other knowledge-based experts, it’s essential that an online presence be created and maintained even while a book is the proposal stage. One doesn’t become an expert just because they get a book published. Theoretically, they already are one. A strong online presence (using whatever tools – even just a few) and active, thoughtful social networking goes a long way toward providing confidence that the author has the all-mighty marketing platform in place. That way, when a book is released and the “launch marketing” is underway, the author and their publicists are already in great shape to run with it.

    One last note – I’m also finding that even very established, bestselling authors are feeling the pinch by not having a regular blog, e-newsletter and/or other social media presence. Not nearly as many calls from the media, event bookers, potential collaborators. They made their names at a time when a great book and a few great media hits were enough to stay in the forefront of the media’s minds. Not so anymore. People want to know what you’ve got to say today.

    Comment by Krista Carnes | May 5, 2010 | Reply

  12. […] When should an author begin setting up social networking profiles / blogs / websites? « The Bo… […]

    Pingback by Small Business Internet Marketing Workshop | Internet Business Blog | May 9, 2010 | Reply

  13. Krista makes a really good point about nonfiction authors, and I really like the marathon analogy. It makes a lot of sense. Far too many authors don’t start thinking about building their platforms and promoting themselves (and their books) until the day their book releases – or even months later, when they’ve sold nothing and are wondering why!

    Comment by Breanna | May 12, 2010 | Reply

  14. […] media for authors and literary agents. Thanks to Maura Teitelbaum for inviting me to speak and Yen Cheong who was also on the […]

    Pingback by Connor Raus | Back in New York | May 20, 2010 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: