This is Cedar, posting for Kate. Kate staggered into the Mad Genius Club yesterday evening, looked around and asked for help – she’d had a rough day at work and her brain was fried. I looked around, Sarah and Amanda were busy elsewhere, Dave is incommunicado… so I volunteered. You know what they say about volunteering. I don’t have Kate’s knack with snark, although I’m taking lessons. But I can try to be informative, if nothing else!
As an author, you need to have a public face. Whether you are indie, self, or traditionally published, you are still the biggest promoter of your own work. So how do people find you? If you are out and about and someone wants to learn more about your book, what do you do? Finally, and perhaps most important, do you present a dirty face, or a clean one to the internet audience?
Most authors are aware, in this day and age, of the need for some sort of online presence. It might seem daunting at first, but there are a lot of options, and many of them cost nothing but some time. Websites, blogs, facebook pages, and other options like Amazon’s author pages, or Goodreads authors… there are so many things you can do. One of the first things to keep in mind is that whatever you create, it will be public. I know that seems obvious, but sometimes we forget that the internet sees all, and never forgets. If I search for myself, I can still find results from a now-defunct mommy blog I kept.
Blogs are a good way to interact with your readers, but unless you have the time and energy to spare on updating them regularly – say, one day a week – then don’t bother. I found that upping my blogging from weekly, to three times a week, and finally to a daily update, has had a huge impact on the number of readers who come to me on a daily basis, and by watching where they come from, and what searches bring them to me, I can know both what content works, and that I am indeed putting my blog in front of people who don’t know me otherwise. It’s a huge investment in time and energy, however, to commit to a daily blog. Most of you don’t want to get into that. What may be a better option for you is to set up a website, which can be updated periodically with interesting events and news, but not a commitment to regularity.
A website of some kind, whether static or blog, is essential for sending new readers to. If you are at, say, a con, or even just going through your daily life and you want to talk about your book, what are you going to do? Say, hey, google me? Or look me up on Amazon? A much better option is to be able to hand your new friend a bookmark or business card with your web address and other information on it. I use a business card, full color, front and back. I have them done along with my other business card, and they cost me three cents a peice. I can afford to hand them out like candy, and I do. One one side I have the front cover of Vulcan’s Kittens (I’ll do another batch soon with Pixie Noir), and on the other I have my name, web address, a qr code that can be scanned to send them immediately to my blog on their phone, and a tiny blurb about the book. I may have a bookmark made up at some point, as well.
On my blog, I have an “about me” page, a buy my books page, and the blog posts themselves. Because I’m an avid amateur photographer and an artist, I can create my own visual interest on the page. If you are setting up your own site, and you can’t do that yourself, be sure that the images you use are not copyrighted elsewhere, and if you use creative commons images, credit them properly. Don’t be like this, um, person (I have not yet confirmed what lies behind the stolen images… Like the man behind the curtain, I’m not sure I want to know).
In that case, an image search led to the discovery that far more was wrong with the public face than a simple desire to appear more attractive than reality. In any and all dealings online, consider yourself in public, and keep your face clean. When you search for your work, or even just your own name, on a regular basis (what, you don’t? But how will you know if someone pirates your work, whether that is text or for us artists, images?) take note of what you find. Blog comments, facebook conversations… it’s all out there, mined by google and turned up on the trash heaps of the world for anyone to see. You might think it’s a flippant remark, but someone else may not.
Above all, never make fun of your readers. Look at the example of literary agents, who decided a couple of years ago to publicly mock their aspiring authors. In an appalling display of arrogance and cruelty, they laid bare the private failings that they perceived in their potential clients. Seriously, your readers are who give you money, just as authors are how agents make money, and if you make them unhappy with you, they will complain, and your public face will have mud all over it. Unless your readers are all masochists, treat them with respect in public, keep your dealings with them professional, and above all, don’t fling mud. It splashes back as you throw.