Thursday, 21 May 2015

Creating the Author Brand

There are a multitude of options for an author to promote their work and market themselves. The ones who are overnight successes are rare, and in truth, there was a lot of work behind the scenes that put them where they are. Though it may seem like another job in itself, an author should put a substantial amount of time into promoting themselves. I took business classes after graduation. We had very little money and I desperately wanted to take English, but my parents were practical and pushed me towards business school, specifically computer programming (Y2K was on the horizon). This was decades ago, and I resented it at the time (well I actually hated it), but now as I become a writer starting to take possibilities of writing more seriously, I am glad to have the business foundation that I have. In business school I learned a lot in my marketing class about developing a brand. I think this is the most important thing an author needs to keep in mind to build up their platform, rather than focusing on one book. It is like a foundation of a house, if it’s not strong it affects everything you add on top. Where does one start? With facebook, twitter, instagram, youtube, blogs, and more, it can be daunting. The best place to begin is to create a home base: develop your website. There are a number of places, like Wix and Weebly that let you do this for free with very little advertising of your own. You can use templates or tweak the site yourself. This is where my programming came in handy: I was able to use a little html to specialize a few things. But honestly, anyone who can cut and paste can create a website through these providers. I also found a local web provider and bought the name, and he redirected it to my long and awkward free website name. Is it perfect? No, but right now it all only costs me $15.00 a year. Next, I created a logo for myself, using PowerPoint. Did you know you can save a PowerPoint slide as a jpeg? It was as easy as inserting clipart and tweaking it how I wanted it to look. I could have bought stock art to use off a website, but I was trying to keep my costs as close to nil as possible. This is when I launched my logo for Melanie McFarlane Books. The next thing I did was create a facebook page and a twitter account, both free! I spent a few months learning about Twitter by using google for ideas. There is a ton of free information on the web! That was the easy part. Now I needed to promote. I started connecting with other writers, joined groups, and helped others promote their work. Trust me – most writers notice it and appreciate it and when it comes to when I need them to do the same I trust they will. Over the last six months I found the value in creating a blog through Blogger (again, free!) and I started talking about my writing journey, connecting with publishers to offer book reviews, and more. I learned it’s all about making connections and helping others, over just self-promotion. I even found a couple of blogs to help promote my book, which is no easy task. Just like finding a publisher, it takes research and locating the right fit. I’ve created a youtube account where I’ve posted a book trailer (I made for free in PowerPoint), and a book teaser, as well as a funny video of our cat. I’m learning my platform must reach out to my readers beyond the books I want to write, in a way to connect with them and keep them coming back. They don't want to hear an endless barrage of you promoting yourself. They want to see other aspects about you. In the future I will look at podcasts, interviews, and more. The options are endless. As for instagram, well it’s the last place I thought would be possible to promote writing. But my publisher loves it – fans post photos of books, and they play these scavenger hunt instagram games by tagging each other. Sound silly? Sometimes that’s just what readers want – to see that an author can be fun. I’m still learning about this, but I’m trying. Now I am focusing on participating in Goodreads groups to try to build my presence there. Where better to look for readers than the world’s largest book review site! Your publisher does not provide you with a publicist, only distribution and their own bits of marketing. But remember, they have a number of other books to promote! If you don’t want to disappear behind upcoming book launches, take matters into your own hands. Ultimately you need to research what things are working for the genre and age group you are writing for. Yes, children don’t buy books themselves (usually), but their parents do, so don’t ignore the importance of an online presence. And why wait until you have a book, start building your following now. As a writer-in-training you have a lot to offer – don’t underestimate yourself.

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