Authors know the work is not over once the book is launched; in fact, it’s only just beginning. If a book is going to get read, people have to know about it, and the responsibility for book publicity falls squarely on the author’s shoulders (even in “traditional publishing”). A web presence—typically a website with a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter account, and perhaps a Pinterest page and a LinkedIn profile—is an essential component of every book marketing plan.
But some authors think that putting up a website is the end of it: depend on Google to drive traffic and watch the books sell. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite work that way. The idea is use these vehicles together, each one reinforcing the other, to build a community of readers—and people connected to other people who might become readers—and to keep building and sustaining that community. These efforts, combined with your bookseller pages and in-person promotional efforts, are what make successful self-publishing a realistic option in today’s world.
Taking on a community is a big responsibility and requires that you communicate with it on a regular basis. Community members need constant feeding to keep them interested and to give them a reason to share your community with others. Unfortunately, this is where some authors veer off the rails, and you’ll start to see blogs where the last post was weeks ago and Facebook pages languishing with few “likes” and out-of-date posts.
This happens for several reasons: Life gets in the way; lack of planning; and disillusionment when the community is growing slowly despite your efforts.
And for some authors, it’s fear, plain and simple. “What will I blog about that people will find interesting?” “Who do I think I am that people will ‘like’ me or ‘follow’ me?” Social media can drag up old high-school issues of popularity, but in truth, you just wrote an entire book thinking that people would find it interesting, so what’s the problem with a 140-character tweet? The problem is the fear of what people will say.
When you self-publish a book, it’s possible to avoid any criticism other than from your editor and family members who are already on your side. You don’t even have a publishing company to turn you down! It’s possible to not have to hear from your online community by simply not talking to them (social media can be very “in your face” even though you don’t know these people personally). It’s even possible to avoid reading reviews on your Amazon page if you don’t reach out to people to write those reviews in the first place.
If you make a habit of avoiding your readers, you will find it challenging to sell books. And the decision to avoid them is entirely your own without a publisher to push you!
If an author is going to commit to a “web presence” then the author must be prepared to build a two-way relationship with readers. It’s the modern equivalent to the book tour except it takes place on the Internet. In future blog posts, we’ll talk about how to make the most of your online book promotional tour and strategies to help you stop avoiding your online community!