Basic Internet Marketing for Writers
Writers, like those in any creative endeavour, are reliant on others experiencing their work. Success is measured through sales and to maximise these writers need to use every tool they possibly can. Whether you are releasing your work through a publisher or doing it yourself, the buck stops with you. Even the main five publishing houses expect their authors to actively promote their own work, and the best way to get into a publisher in the first place is to already have a platform with which to do so. If you are planning on self-publishing, marketing is an absolute necessity.
The greatest asset writers have in the modern age is the internet, but it is also the greatest hindrance. With thousands of writers clamouring to be heard you need to stand out from the crowd, but first you need to be part of the crowd. There are four key tools which all writers should be using on the web. This is a guide to setting them up.
First and foremost is a website. This is your central hub from which the spokes of social media will flow. A short URL—ideally yourname.com—will make it easy to share with others. If you get a poem published online, or sell a short story to a magazine, it is your website that you want mentioned in your short bio, as if a reader has enjoyed your work and wants to find more that is where they need to go.
Setting up a website is easy, and you have many options here. You could go for an online blog system like WordPress or Blogger and then buy a premium web address within your account. If you are a little more tech-savvy, or willing to pay, you could purchase some hosting along with a domain name and then either install a CMS system or build a website from scratch. If you don’t know how to do this, but would like something custom to you and not just a generic template like everyone else, then there are plenty of design companies like us that will do the work for you, for a fee. It is worth shopping around and getting some quotes. Equally as important is choosing the right setup for your needs, both practically and aesthetically. Many companies, us included, will offer a consultancy service to support you through that process if need be.
What you want your website to do is also crucial when it comes to deciding your platform. Are you just going to post links to your work on other websites and online magazines? Would you like to have videos or audio clips of you reading? Are you planning on updating it regularly?
Some writers use their website to blog about their writing, or their thoughts and experiences in general. This is not essential, although if you do plan on blogging it is advisable to vary your subjects. Constantly telling the world how great your current work in progress will be, or providing a running commentary of the time you are spending waiting for responses to your agent query letters, is not the best way to build an audience. Although it may be therapeutic for you, it is not what the general public want to read. Your small group of key followers may like it, comment, even share your ramblings, but beyond those few it will not even generate the slightest ripple. Instead, try blogging about issues you care about, your opinions on current events, or share poetry or short stories. As with all marketing, varied content is key. Your blog needs to be something a stranger would want to read, not just an outlet for your thought processes.
The best advice when planning a website is to plot it out like a novel. Start with chapters: Chapter 1 could be your news feed, Chapter 2 your books, Chapter 3 short stories or poetry, etc. until you have a clear idea of how the contents will be laid out. The home page of your site represents the contents and front cover, so make sure it is eye-catching and engaging.
The next part of creating a website is getting it to the top of Google search results. This is difficult, particularly if you don’t have a unique name (why do you think we spell Epytome the way we do?), but you can improve your Google rankings with a few simple steps.
Firstly, ensure you have a short and snappy domain name: yourname.bloggingwebsite.com/yourbook is not a good web address, no matter how you look at it, whereas yourname.com is. It only costs a few pounds a year to have your own domain and it really is a worthwhile investment in the long run.
Secondly, get some other sites to link to your website. Obviously link it on your social media, but get actual reputable websites to include it too. Submit your writing to online magazines and sites like Thanet Writers that provide a backlink to your website. The more sites that point at yours, the better it looks to Google.
Thirdly, put unique content on your site. Change the wording of things like your ‘about’ profile so that they are different on your website to everywhere else. This will increase your rankings and lead more people to your site.
It pretty much guaranteed that either you, or someone you know well, will have a Facebook account. You will need one. Set yourself up a profile, add your friends, upload a picture, fill in all the details. Even if you don’t use it to stay in touch with people you will need it to run a page successfully.
Once you have your profile you can create a page. This is a fairly simple process but there are a few key details that you need to get in place. Firstly, choose Artist, Band or Public Figure, then choose either Author, Writer, Journalist, Public Figure, or whatever takes your fancy. Put in your pen name—or your real name if you use that—and then get started.
Remember to add a different profile picture to your normal profile. Your page is your public persona; your profile is your private account. Keep them separate to avoid confusion. Add a bio and your website link so people can find more, and also a ‘call to action’—a button that can lead visitors straight to your website, your Amazon page, wherever you want to send them. You also need to create a Username. That is the @name that sets your Facebook URL; for example, ours is facebook.com/epytome
Once you have your page you can share whatever you feel like; links, photos, pithy remarks, quotes, videos, anything that takes your fancy. You can invite all your friends to Like your page and then start building an audience. It is advisable to not post the same things on your page and your profile, though. Why would any of your friends Like your page if they are just seeing the same posts twice? Remember, public and private.
You will notice that no matter how many people Like your page, the Reach of each post (the amount of people who have seen it) will always be low. You can increase your Reach, and gain more Likes, by using two different methods. Firstly, the preferred way according to Facebook is to pay to ‘boost’ your posts. Secondly, and often more effectively, is to join some groups. Search for anything that interests you, or that you will write about, find some groups with lots of members, and then join them. Then, when you post something on your page, you can Share it to a group and organically boost your reach. That doesn’t mean spam loads of groups by constantly sharing the same things or posting every few minutes. Try and keep your page posts to only a few times a day, and only share key posts in specific and relevant groups when you think you will get the most traffic. Always follow the rules of the groups, and always be polite.
Another Facebook trick is scheduling. With your page you can schedule posts in advance, so you don’t have to remember to post something every few days. This can be especially handy if you go on holiday and want to maintain your online presence for your readers.
As with a blog, varied content is key. Between posting links to your writing share photos or articles, things that will engage your readers. Don’t just post for the sake of it but, as with what you write, think about what story you are telling. Your public persona and associated communication will inform others not only of what you write, but your opinions and life as a whole. Don’t over-share, and keep it all interesting and engaging.
Twitter is incredibly easy to set up—you just need your name, your username (the @name that people use to mention you, ours is @epytome) and a short bio. As with your Facebook page, upload a profile picture and your website link.
Unlike Facebook, Twitter is quite a strange realm if you are not used to it. Start by following people who interest you. Invite your friends to follow you, and then start tweeting. The more you get into it, the more you will get used to it. You can also cheat and link your Facebook page to your Twitter by going to facebook.com/twitter so everything you post will be automatically tweeted, or if you want a more complex solution based on variables then use a free app like IFTTT to connect all your social media and cross-post. Make sure you link your Facebook page and not your personal profile—this is why you need separate pictures!
Many websites ask for your Twitter handle (your @username) when you submit content, so they can mention you when they tweet about it and also link your profile to your content. This is a great way to build new followers whilst getting your name around, and allows you to engage a larger audience who will hopefully eventually buy your book.
This is the strange one of the bunch. Google+ is again quite simple to set up, and once you have done you don’t really need to post to it at all. You can if you’d like, of course, but the reasons for having it is different to Facebook and Twitter.
Once you have uploaded a profile picture, written a bio and included a link to your website, the only thing you will need is the web address of your Google+ profile page. Some websites, including Thanet Writers, ask you to add it to your profile. You can do this in your own website, too. Having your Google+ URL in the header of a page containing content that you wrote will mean that Google connects that content with your website, and boosts your search engine rankings. This works not just for your website, but all content you have written on other sites under your name. Google puts it all together, as it uses the Google+ profile to connect the dots.
That is the basics of setting up a web presence for marketing. Once you have these four you will be able to build a larger audience than you would without them. Each has their flaws and drawbacks, and each takes up time, but a few minutes a day maintaining them can make the world of difference a few years down the line when your book comes out. However, the main problem with social media is the level of choice. After Facebook and Twitter, you are faced with Instagram and YouTube, and all the others. We suggest setting up as many as you can so you at least have them in place, even if you don’t use them straight away. You never know, one day you might just start.
If you do need help setting any of these up, talk to your friends and family. Someone will know someone who can help. If you can’t find anyone, or feel it is worth your while paying for a better and more detailed setup which is customised to you, then get a few quotes from some design companies like us.
Remember to write for other websites like Thanet Writers to raise your profile, get backlinks to your site, build a portfolio of content to share on social media, and increase awareness of your own brand. If you cannot currently submit to Thanet Writers, you will need to create an account and then get Verified. If you are already Verified and want to add a website, Facebook, Twitter or Google+ profile to your account, you will need to request they be added to your profile.
Most of all: have fun with social media and the web. Use these tools to interact with your readers and build relationships with them. Enjoy the fact that you can communicate with anyone in the world in seconds; it is something many writers never got to experience, and so you are blazing the trail in this brave new online world.
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Epytome are a Thanet-based design and branding company that specialise in innovation and realisation.