By Jeanette O’Hagan
In a recent discussion on reviewing ethics, one person commented:
'I guess the brilliant marketing ploy of writing a GOOD book and letting it stand on its merits is too advanced for some authors...'
Sounds simple doesn't it. Write a good book (a solid achievement in itself) and the publishers and readers will come flocking to your door. I don’t think it worked that way even in the ‘good old days’ when writers just wrote books and publishers edited, published and promoted them. But these days even the best book, if written by an unknown or low profile author, is likely to sink without a sound if it is not promoted in some way. And here’s the thing, increasingly publishers give cursory attention to new and midlist authors, focusing the bulk of their marketing machine on the high profile, high earning stars. Even when a publisher is prepared to give promotional backing to unknown authors, they still expect authors to promote and market their own books. In fact, they may not even consider publishing a book unless the author already has a ‘platform’.
Now readers please bear with me because I hoping for your input on this post.
Of course there are good ways and bad ways of promoting one’s book or in cultivating a social media profile after or even before that book is published.
One pivotal way a writer can ‘build a platform’ or more importantly, build a devoted fan base, is through a website. Now I won’t go into the debate about whether a writer should in fact have a website and whether this should be a blog or static site. What concerns me today is what content to include on the website. Non-fiction writers can obviously blog around the topic of their non-fiction books but it’s not so clear cut when one writes fiction. Many fiction writers blog about interesting topics – maybe about their life experiences or on social or topical issues etc. (e.g. MikeDuran or Paula Vince). More commonly, I think, writers start blogs on writing – sharing their writing journey as wells as tips and pitfalls about writing craft. I can feel the pull to do this on my own website. After all, writing is a big part of my life, it is something I’m very interested in and am learning about. Moreover, blogs on writing craft can attract attention and build platforms – think of K M Wieland, Randy Ingermanson or Angela Ackerman for instance.
Readers, are you still with me?
The fact is that readers unless they are also writers are not so interested in writing focused blogs. Joe Bunting suggests (2013) that few of the people attracted to a writer’s blog actually buy his/her books (less than 10%) unless of course they are books on writing. And what an author really wants to do is to connect with his or her readers.
(Not that writing a blog for writers or about interesting topics unrelated to your book/s is a bad thing. After all, I did buy K.M. Wieland's Dreamlander after finding her website repeatedly helpful. Just that we need to know what we are doing and why.)
So if this is the case, then perhaps it is of greater benefit for authors or aspiring authors to target their website to the people they envisage reading and enjoying their books. This makes sense to me but it is not as easy as it sounds. I have a hunch attracting readers to websites of an unknown author is a lot harder than attracting writers to writing websites especially before one has a published book or books for readers to read.
So what content attracts prospective readers? Here are some possible ideas (by no means exhaustive):
- write about your books including pitches, book trailers, brief excerpts (though be cautious here);
- book reviews or vblogs in genre or category you write in;
- short fictional pieces – short stories, deleted scenes, interviews with characters, poems, songs;
- behind the scenes – author notes, the whys and wherefores behind the story;
- characters and setting – fun character interviews or profiles, maps, drawings, genealogies etc;
- related subjects – eg recipes or meals of the time period or location of your world or setting, alternatively some skill or hobby that you have included in the book and that you are passionate about;
- a question and answer page where you answer readers’ questions;
- contests, giveaways, quizzes, surveys;
- news about releases, launches and other events;
One example of an author who connects effectively with her readers is Anne Elizabeth Stengl (my daughter's a big fan). Can you think of any others?
My questions to you are:
- If you are a writer, what content do you think might attract readers?
- If you are a reader, do you look at author’s blogs? If so, what attracts you to an author’s website? What sort of content do you appreciate or would you like to see?
Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology. She is currently caring for her children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad fantasy fiction series. She is actively involved in a caring Christian community.
You can find her on her Facebook Writer's page
Image Readers Welcome by Jeanette O'Hagan (c 2014)
Further Reading (For Writers):
Beman, S., (November 28 2012) 4 Steps to Creating Enjoyable Reader Experience in Your Fiction Author Website on Self Published Authors Helping Other Authors, http://selfpubauthors.com/2012/11/28/4-steps-to-creating-enjoyable-reader-experience-on-your-fiction-author-website/ , acc 2 Sept 2013
Bransford, N., (August 12, 2008) Author Websites in Nathan Bransford Author http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2008/08/author-websites.html, acc 9 Sept 2013
Bunting, J., (Aug 2013) What Fiction Authors Really Need to Know About Their Platform in The Write Practice, http://thewritepractice.com/fiction-platform/ , acc 16 Sept 2013
Loren, R., (February 2 2012), Author Websites: Layering Yours With Sticky Extras in Roni Loren http://www.roniloren.com/blog/2012/2/22/author-websites-layering-yours-with-sticky-extras.html , acc 16 Oct 2013
Ruesch, R., Saturday, (September 2010) Websites 101: What the Unpublished Author Needs in Will Design for Chocolate, http://www.willdesignforchocolate.com/2010/09/websites-101-what-the-unpublished-author-needs/, acc 9 September 2013