"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: Building An Online Author Following

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Building An Online Author Following

A commercially oriented author cares about his or her readers.

An aspiring author, therefore, must take great care over his or her blogs, tweets, media posts and, indeed, all online correspondence, including personal emails.

Plus, your online persona must reflect the kind of author you're going to be. When composing any kind of online message, make sure you ask yourself, Am I being professional?

 Your Social Networking Strategy

As an online author, your first job is to build a basic fan base. This will not represent everyone who will eventually buy your book - but you will need at least a small following to kick-start your sales on Amazon.

I recommend that you spend at least six months to a year building a list of targeted subscribers before you release your first Kindle book. Or, if you've already released one or two and you're not seeing the results you want, you should take time out (say two or three months) to build your list and make them at least curious about your next book.

During your list-building period, you need to focus on:

            1. Familiarizing your growing list with your author persona

            2. Optimizing your messages for maximum impact

            3. Building anticipation for your books

1. Familiarization

Within your blogs you need to talk about yourself and your work without seeming self obsessed. It's a delicate balancing act. Offer insight in to your life, your values and your writing but focus on the reader's needs and issues.

Many new writers fall into the trap of believing that every great insight they have into their own creativity will be fascinating to others. As a writer, you need to balance information about yourself with details of what you write about - that's the angle that people prefer.

How you got from one place to another, giving specific examples of why your characters are this way or that, for instance - or why you've set your story in a particular place - or why you write in a particular genre rather than another.

It's perfectly okay to mention your interests and influences. To give people perspective. Also, what you think about other writers and movies and such can reveal your values and your philosophies. Honesty is paramount. People need to see that your values reflect your creative output. That there is a cohesive whole to you, the person, the writer, and what you write about.

Be yourself. Be fun, light, approachable and sincere, without focussing on weird hang-ups or suspect issues lurking in the back of your personality.

Don't speak with an agenda - or use your blog as a platform for religious, political or social issues. You'll get typecast as a nut job.

Most especially, take special care over your writing. You must ensure that people are aware you are committed to quality.

Even in your emails, your tweets, your FB and G+ posts, your spelling and grammar must be perfect. It's one of the downsides of being taken seriously as a writer: you can't be sloppy ever again!

 2. Optimization

Your reputation spreads quickly - and your friend requests increase - if your articles, blogs, and posts are focused squarely on your audience.

The nebulous term 'value' is bandied when it comes to Internet content. Before composing a post, ask yourself, how useful will this information be to a reader? And in what way?

Does your blog make your writing and your stories seem more attractive? Will your readers feel that reading your stories will be entertaining and worth their while?

Focus on providing entertainment, in much the same way as columnists do in newspapers. Many journalists aspire to be columnists because it's a genre in which their personality is allowed to shine through the topics they write about. 
Columnists often have large fan bases for this reason.

Try to involve your readers. Invite their comments. Ask for 'likes', encourage them to +1 a message or forward it to their friends. Run surveys. Offer gifts if you want. Do anything and everything you can think of to cause a positive reaction and to engender a sense of community around yourself and your books.

 3. Building Anticipation

Mention your current and upcoming works in a casual way whenever it seems appropriate but don't bore your readers. Be passionate about being a writer.
In the tradition of back blurbs you can hint at the intrigue in your next novel.

Give timelines to your output. Tell people when they can expect a new book or how you're doing with a current project. Casually mention awards or accolades or positive feedback. All this helps cement your reputation in the eyes of your potential reader.

There used to be a time when you could visit forums and pump up your books but these are few and far between these days - and often forum webmasters ban and forbid self promotion.

Even Amazon's author forum forbids self promotion!

But there is a place you can go that actively encourages news from authors…


The great thing about http://goodreads.com is that it's not currently swamped with authors. At the last survey, at least 80% of goodreads' members were actual bona fide readers.

If you haven't done so already, join Goodreads, make lots of friends and start reviewing books. Remember to focus on the type of books your author persona will write. This is important because it will link your own books to similar categories.

 You can link your blog to your Goodreads author page and you can upload all kinds of things to this great site. I heartily recommend it - and I'll see you there!

 A Word on Gathering Friends

You need to be careful these days when gathering 'friends' on social network sites. The temptation is to go all out and click on everything that allows you to connect and collect names.

 However, the big social media sites have cottoned on to the fact that people like us, writers and marketers, will use social marketing to grow the largest lists of friends and contacts that we can. Of course we will.

 Facebook has put a limit of 5000 on 'friends', because they assume it's impossible for anyone to know that many people.

 Twitter only lets you follow 2000 people - unless you have more than that following you.

 There are all kinds of arbitrary rules put in place by social sites to stop people using them as glorified marketing forums - even though the same sites are often eager for your paid adverts.

 Be careful when you're acquiring friends and connections that you don't spend all day doing it as the social sites' computers pick up on so-called 'unnatural' activity and you can find yourself banned or your services restricted.

 Best to let your lists grow naturally with a little 'push' a couple of times a week. And by a 'push' I mean 5 to 20 friend requests at a time on each of your social sites.

 In case you're feeling a little intimidated by social networking, I should add a caveat.

 That is, despite all the hype you hear, social marketing is not a great way to sell books.

 Don't imagine that unless you have a big list you can't compete on Amazon. That's not how it works.

 The size of a mailing list is no guarantee of its effectiveness. It's the quality of your subscribers and how you interact with them that is far more powerful.

 Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell

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