In the new age of digital publishing, having a solid online branding and marketing platform has become a required component even in traditional publishing. Discoverability is the ultimate goal. As an author, building your brand is instrumental to greater visibility and subsequently discoverability among the vast number of new publishers. Some authors do not spend time or money on publicity; they don’t use twitter or Facebook and still manage to become successful in their careers. That would apply to a minority who were fortunate to be writing in the right genre, at the right time. For a large number of writers, be it independent or traditional, the road to discoverability is bumpy and full of obstacles.
No author wants to spend fruitful creative hours, which could be better spent on writing the next novel, on promotion. No author wants to write the next novel and have it sit on digital shelves without falling into the hands of readers either. There must be balance between promotion and creative time. One way to achieve that balance is to make use of online tools to establish your brand. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and a blog are the easiest to tackle first.
Let’s start with the most basic piece of online visibility—a blog. With the advent of online-hosted Wordpress sites and Blogger, setting up a personal blog has become as easy as one, two, three and also free. Blogs can be a very useful tool to create awareness of your work and talent as a writer. Being a prolific blogger can create awareness around your work if the posts are shared on the other social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.
In addition, you can begin your branding on your own website by having a logo or recognizable element incorporated in the design of your blog. You can use the same elements on your book covers, Facebook pages, Twitter background. Linking them all through that branding creates a more effective reach the same way big brands do.
The best thing about having a personal blog site is that you are the one in charge of your own schedule. Blogging is a time consuming activity depending on your writing routine and organization skills. If you can set aside an hour a day to write and edit a short post, do so. The goal is to make connections, keep readers hooked to your content. If you blog about interesting things, chances are readers who come across your blog posts will be enticed to read more of your work.
Twitter is a great way to network with the author community and learn what you can about craft and the industry through the many useful links posted throughout the day. Follow authors who write within the same genre, learn from them, ask questions. It is a great place to find information on workshops, and other tools to help improve your craft.
The key is to not simply use it as an advertising tool. Blasting on Twitter about your book and telling people to buy it constantly will just get you on the ignore list faster. The key is to engage, open dialog and post useful, creative content. You can also share links to your blog posts on Twitter increasing your potential audience and reach.
Pinterest is a great way to gain additional exposure. You can use it to generate interest through visual content. Create boards for your covers, upcoming and past releases, reviews, elements that inspired you in your writing—music, models, locations—but also boards about you as a person and as a writer. Your hobbies, your personal interests, your experiences, can all generate interest of readers and peers alike.
Naomi Blackburn wrote a great article regarding the use of Pinterest to develop your brand and as a free marketing tool. Word of caution: Pinterest is addicting and a distraction due to its ease of use and interesting finds from other users’ boards.
Facebook is another great (and powerful) tool for creating a larger following and it is, for the most part, free. Chances are you already have a personal profile on Facebook. You can use that profile as admin for the Facebook Pages you create for your writing endeavors. It’s recommended that you focus your attention on an author Facebook page but you can also create a series page if you have a series in the works. The focus of the page is to concentrate the public’s attention on you and your work. Instead of posting status updates regarding your writing to your personal page, you should post them to your business page (author, series, etc) instead. It’s not recommended that you create individual pages for each book because that would create extra work and spread the focus too thin.
The earlier you get the Facebook page set up, the better. If you are new to independent publishing or do not have a book published yet, fear not. Use it to build excitement toward the release of your book. You should create your pages and work on building your platform long before you have published your book. Post updates about it, giving little bits and small hooks to entice readers without giving it all away. Disclose tidbits about yourself as an author, writing process, stumbling blocks, and successes but treat it like a business it is. Keep it professional—no drama, ranting, or diving too deeply into your personal life. Readers want to know about you but you don’t necessarily have to flood them with the minute details of your private life. They might be interested in who you are and what you create, however, details of your latest surgery or root canal may not thrill them as much. Be conservative about what you share on your pages/walls. Remember that once it’s out there, it becomes public domain.
The more posts and more “likes” to your page, the higher your reach will be. Once your book is released and you've built a steady following, you can use Facebook groups to add to your visibility arsenal—discussion groups and Street Team communication. All that can be done for free and with small time investment.
Now that we’ve touched on the many ways you can create visibility and develop your brand on Facebook for free, let’s talk about paid promotion. There are several ways to generate awareness with paid content options available on Facebook. One of them is to promote an individual post (average of $10 per post) the other, and a much more efficient way, is to use a paid advertisement with friendgating. We have tested both methods. Promoted posts did not increase our reach or visibility as much. The ratio of clicks per amount spent on promoted posts is very high while paid ads have yielded a tremendous success in visibility per amount spent. Paid advertising on Facebook allows you to specify a set value for the lifetime of the ad based on your personal budget. Charges are automatically deducted from your credit card and will not exceed the amount you set.
The trick to paid advertising and to achieve a high campaign reach is to add similar interests to your campaign’s target. For example, if your book is a CIA thriller, you can add “007” or “Bourne Identity” as interests to your target audience, which means the ad will be displayed to Facebook users who have liked anything related to 007 or Bourne Identity posts on Facebook in the past. The more similar interests added to your campaign, the higher the target reach of your ad.
The ad also allows you to direct the user to a custom tab or even page outside of Facebook. In order to use the paid ad to garner more likes, which in turn will generate a higher visibility, you can use a free application called WooBox. It allows you to create custom tabs that require likes to display custom content. Just as a little warning, WooBox is easy to use but might require some technical knowledge to configure and design. Once you have the friendgating page set, you can direct your custom ad tab and increase your visibility tenfold that way.
In a nutshell, individual promotion of posts is okay if you’re only looking to reach a limited existing audience such as friends and friends of friends. Paid advertisement with a large target audience can broaden your exposure.
We have covered four avenues to creating a solid online branding and marketing platform. We hope this information has been helpful as you push forward with your writing career. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any additional questions around the content of this article or anything else that may come to mind.
Chris and Cecilia
For more information on how to customize WooBox on Facebook, please watch this video