You have to build the brand, like it or not.
Blogging: Another area I was reluctant to engage in. I had two main concerns, what would I write about and would it not take inordinate amounts of time. If you have read much of these machinations and musings the first one is obvious. But it took a lot of prodding and poking to get me going. A couple of months ago at the Writers’ Group I attend−if you don’t, get yourself to one now. Three separate people asked me different questions about self-publishing and social media−that coupled with one friend saying, ‘people starting out really don’t know this stuff.’ The second point, it does not take that much time as you are writing about stuff you know.
Try and write at least 300 words because most search engines will pick up this length and longer much better. As a rule I never write less than 700 and more than a 1,000−less is more. Put key words in that will be picked up. Put the blog on more than one site. I use WordPress and Goodreads. Goodreads is better for me because I am writing about fiction, and a Goodreads author. Last week I had 500 views on the site compared to 65 on WordPress. I chose WordPress as it has more advanced features, stats, archiving, links, etc. Some other bloggers prefer others, googles sites (Blogger & Blogspot) have their search engine backing it up−again it is down to research and the area you are blogging in. I set off with the intention of having 300 readers, so I have exceeded my own realistic expectations. Plan a brief outline of the first 5-10 blogs. Like planning your work, jot ideas down when you have them. It is important that you tag your blog to potentially increase your audience. If your blog one week includes a famous person like Stephen King or JK Rowling tag those or anything that might increase traffic.
Giveaways: These are useful for books. If someone enters your giveaway they are interested in your work, you are starting to build a fan base. People are delighted to receive a signed book with a personal message through the post. I also personally put other stuff in as well; a letter of thanks/congratulations/what I am doing next, personalised book marks and A4 signed front cover artwork. I give hard copy books away on Goodreads. Word of caution here, this can be expensive. Ultimately you are after reviews, but for me to send a book to the US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand it costs nearly £10, this is on top of the price of the book! Goodreads allows you to see the entrants, this can be useful as you can gift an ebook to them in exchange for a review−if they are genuinely interested ‘friend’ them.
I use LibraryThing for ebooks, for me this is much cheaper and gives me a greater exposure to the North American market. I buy the winners an e-voucher, usually from Amazon, send them it via email, they could in theory buy a Will I Am facemask or a Paris Hilton shoe horn with the money, but no one ever has−although the Edwardian moustache kit looks ticklingly tempting. Some people have entered multiple giveaways and have now won both my books, so I send them personally signed front cover artwork in return for both reviews. I never give away more than 20 ebooks as this can be quite time consuming to administer.
Email lists: What both of the above allow you to do is build up email lists. Put emails into different contact groups. I don’t like to get a group email that I am one of hundreds on, very impersonal−might just be me?
Goodreads: I think this is the best reading/writing site, but has just been bought by Amazon! If you want to register as an author you have to star rate at least 50 books, which does not take very long and enjoyable. If you are not intending to register as an author, only put books on you actually love, as the site will then recommend other books you will equally love.
There are many other great sites and it depends on your audience. Wattpad is great for a younger audience and like many sites you can put weekly extracts of a book up, even as you write it and gain interest that way. There are lots of chat rooms and groups that are useful for tips and advice−I very rarely use them as I have so many other social media tasks to do. Facebook we all know about. Keep your personal and writing sites separate. I don’t use my writing one that much, but I feed other areas into it directly, so I don’t feel I have to.
You do start to see the rewards for your hard work. The other day I had several contacts from readers to say how much they loved my books−one said he was so inspired by reading about Thailand, him and a friend booked a trip there to visit the same places I had wrote about−something that surprised me. And although literature does not thrive by praise alone, nor be totally diminished by criticism−the former helps you to carry on and gives you a lift some days.
So enough, let’s get Californian for a moment: climb onto your chair (elevate) and shout (project externally): “build a presence: build a brand: build sales*.” Did you do it in a Kirk Douglas Spartacus tone−Let’s face it, you didn’t do it−but you’ve got the idea−make social media your friend. At least adopt it.
Hopefully over the last two weeks you have picked up a tip or two which may help you succeed better, rather than doing it by default like I did.
*:build happiness (optional)
Starting next week (and some more to come): 50 common mistakes of the fledgling fiction writer.
Ian M Pindar’s latest books, under his real name are: ‘Hoofing It’ and ‘Hoofed,’ the first and second novels in The Robert Knight Series and are out now and on special offer. He has another three novels out this year.