Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The big picture

by Stacey

Pondering blog ideas while observing the blizzard of 2010 outside my window, I thought it would be a good idea to talk a little bit about authors and their commitment to social networking, and in particular building and maintaining a loyal audience that continues to grow long before and after a book's publication date.

For nonfiction and fiction authors alike, the importance of connecting with your audience is crucial at every stage of an author's career. At the beginning, it's about finding your readers -- identifying who they are and where they hang out online; then it's about building and growing that fan base, but also about maintaining fans' interest and keeping them coming back for more. It's not helpful to put up a website or blog, or start a Facebook page or Twitter account, and only keep them active right before and right after publication. It's about building a long term relationship, and it has to become a part of your daily routine. Seriously, none of this is new information, but it bears repeating because the results are clear and in many cases quantifiable. A recent example worth noting is my client, Shreve Stockton, whose book the Daily Coyote stems from her popular blog. An author who is intimately connected to her fans has the ability to stay close to his or her audience, and as a fringe benefit can even sometimes generate national publicity (and not necessarily directly book related, but that's the point) months after a book's publication.

There are a lot of resources available for anyone's use on the web, and a long term commitment to building your name, creating ongoing content that is fresh and engaging, and creatively thinking of new ways to connect with readers are some of the ways to ensure a successful career that has longevity. Books have become only a part of the bigger picture of an author's platform, and staying focused on these efforts will pay off in the long run in expected and sometimes unexpected ways. If you have any stories that illustrate this point, please share.

7 comments:

  1. Meshing this idea with Nathan's blog today, I'm wondering if creating a pen name and alter-ego is both a way to protect and market yourself...

    You know, creating a buzz about yourself, a "what's she gonna do/say next?" vibe.

    Stacey, what do you think about pen names? Cheese ball or worth consideration?

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  2. As much as I respect the agents at D&G, this strikes me as more of the post-internet fad falicy that authors need to build and maintain an online presence.

    I'm sorry, I started reading books before there was an internet and I seldom visit the website of any of my favorite authors and the bigger and the higher selling the author the less likely that their website has any usefull information at all (or that they even have a website).

    While agents seem hot on the idea that authors need to build a website, blog about stupid stuff and make contact with their readers -- that is a complete and total falicy created by one or two little internet success stories. Authors don't need a website and they don't need to keep in touch with their fans via dying social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

    They need to focus ALL of their attention on writing astounding fiction. That is what makes their book sell in the first place and that is what keeps people coming back for the next book.

    Unless you are planning to skip the whole Agent --> Publisher --> bookstore process and self publish your book then you should be skipping the whole blog thing.

    The internet is where wannabe authors waste time, it isn't where serious and/or best selling authors spend their time.

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  3. Hi Stacy,

    I'm curious how an author can drive people to their blog BEFORE they are published. I've had a blog in 3-4 different forms, under the same address, for nearly 5 years, and I only average about 200 hits/month. Most are just skip-throughs.
    Is the blog for the readers or for the reviewers as well?

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  4. I started a blog because everyone told me I should build a platform (I didn't even know what that meant). I was amazed to find myself suddenly connected to a wonderful network of fellow writers. Through my blog, I found a writing group run by a marvelous award-winning writer; I've made friends (the kind who actually drop by for coffee and keep in touch), I've learned far more about writing than I ever thought I could.

    There are times, I'm tempted to stop blogging - it's a huge time suck -- but I can't. Through blogging, I achieve two things. First, I find out what sort of things people like and don't like, what they connect with and what seems to leave them cold. The second is discipline. My blog proves to ME that I can keep it going, keep churning it out. It's a lot like wracking my brains to think of what to cook every night, but there it is.

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  5. I am actively in the blog/facebook/twitter world and building followership is a full time job. I pre-write my blogs for the week each Saturday in order to save time. I am constantly on my IPhone updating my status and looking for more friends and followers. I send thank you's to each of my followers. It is a mission to get started but once the word gets out it will be easier. I have only been really going at this full force for about 3 weeks now and I get an average of 10 - 20 hits a day, I'm up to 7 followers on my blog, almost 70 on twitter, and over 300 on facebook (i've been building facebook for years though.) You just have to go after it with full force, hound your relatives to get the word out. It's your career!

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  6. Thanks for this post, and I definitely see what you're saying. I also agree that blogging and twittering can be a time-suck! I re-launched my blog (changed it's focus and became more serious about it) at the beginning of the month...and since the beginning of the month I have worked on my WIP a total of 0, nada, zilch minutes! Obviously a balance has to be found, but I'm not there yet. Also....I get the feeling that sometimes people follow each other just because they want followers for themslves -- and that's not necessarily a bad thing - but is it the same as being / having a true fan? Then again, most writers are big readers and love books so really, we can't NOT be fans of each other. Without good reads, where would we be? We need each other for that. So maybe it's all okay.

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  7. I think pen names can be an effective strategy in the right circumstances. Speaking to that, and to the person who disagrees that this type of social networking is a necessary evil of sorts, each author is an individual and must choose their own path in finding their audience. Publishers and agents are definitely encouraging this kind of ongoing effort. In a world full of distractions, being as out there as possible is an effective measure of staying present. I didn't mention it in the piece, but I'll add that there are other ways to connect with readers and other writers. Conferences and writer's groups are also a measure of commitment to the writing process, and expanding your network in a regular, consistent, and comprehensive way is what we want to see our authors doing. There are no easy answers to getting published and having a successful career as an author, but as we've said before, the love of writing is the best place to look for the energy needed to go the extra mile.

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