Last month, I wrote about how an author should have some form of an online presence. Engaging with the writing community and potential readers is easy to do when starting out. Social media helps connect people online, so it should be the first place to start when developing a writer brand. Even if a writer hasn’t published anything yet, these profiles help legitimize what they’re trying to do in the off-chance that they do decide to proceed into publication (either self or traditional).
And while social media is somewhat “unofficial” in the sense that anyone can sign up and participate in it, there are plenty of self-published authors who are missing out on some “official” portals of information that they can control. These are the places where customers are likely to come to search for information on a particular book or author, so it’s essential to ensure that they look like they’ve been set up instead of having default data displayed.
Just like last month, there are three categories where an author’s online presence can be controlled by the author:
While I would have included Goodreads in last month’s post, as it is inherently another form of social media, I decided to add it here for one key reason: Author Profiles. Since Goodreads pulls data from Amazon, an author’s book might already be on the platform without the author doing anything about it. However, if a writer has an Author Profile on Goodreads, they can put up future books and other missing books that weren’t caught in Goodreads’ data-scanning bots. Plus, there’s still that amount of social media inherent with Goodreads that allows an author to provide links to blogs they’re writing, answer questions from fans, and interact with the reading and writing communities present on the platform.
While Goodreads is a subsidiary of Amazon, self-published authors should also be aware of what they need to do to claim their Author Profiles on Amazon proper. The current reality of self-publishing is that Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is the best way to get an author’s book into the hands of consumers. And while KDP allows for information about a writer’s books to be updated, it’s the Author Central side of Amazon that’s important here. Author Central is a slightly different service that lets Amazon’s authors consolidate books, read reviews, and update information that consumers would see when clicking on the hyperlinked name associated with their book. With an updated Author Central profile, potential readers can see all the other books an author has to offer while also gaining a sense that the author is aware of their presence on Amazon.
If a writer is serious about their work, they should set up a personal website for it. While free options exist, it benefits an author if their website is a simple URL that they can have printed on business cards and the front-matter (or back cover) of their books. The point of a website is to be a landing page for anyone who happens to search for an author online. From there, currently published books, future books in the works, and links to social media profiles are useful information to include on a website. I also find it helpful to write a blog post somewhat regularly about whatever topic the author wants to write about (as you can see here in this post). Ideally, it should have some connection to their books, whether it’s researching, writing, editing, or whatever. The blog post mainly shows that this individual is active. Additionally, it’s relatively easy to get set up through Square to sell books online through an author’s website as well. This way, an author can also include an online storefront for signed copies of their books that they can sell directly to consumers.
Of course, most of these online profiles are only as good as the internet’s ability to search for the author. One of the other benefits of a website is to get people to sign up for an e-mail newsletter. Most information on the web is “pulled,” meaning that users pull the information they want. In the case of an e-mail newsletter, an author can “push” information to potential customers. The frequency of e-mails should be fairly limited, so as to not become spam for the consumer. I generally do one monthly newsletter on the first Tuesday of the month. I also use MailChimp, which is a simple service that has some useful layout tools for a sharp-looking newsletter. Some authors send out quarterly or annual newsletters, but it should be frequent enough that readers are reminded they exist. As for content, I generally aggregate all the material I’ve created over the month, just in case someone missed a social media post or a blog post on my website. Much like the amount of social media to do, newsletters can be as little or as big as an author wants, just as long as they’re consistent.
Have you ever Googled yourself? I did a short while ago and noticed that Google had collected together enough information over the internet that it decided I was important enough to have a “Portal.” These are the little boxes over to the right of the listing of search results that gives a synopsis of the person, place, or thing that’s significant enough to warrant such a Portal. Granted, it was missing some information about me, but I was able to follow the Verification process with Google so that I could provide these additional details. Part of this process required me to show that I was who I said I was, which came in handy because the way Google does this is by asking to see screenshots of the admin areas of social media websites to ensure the requestor is valid.
One of the reasons I think Google realized I was someone important enough to have a Portal was that my local library had a profile on me. Granted, I was the one who submitted the information to the library so they would create it for one of their “local authors,” but it still doesn’t deny the fact that it adds legitimacy to an author’s name. Considering this library profile is the first thing that comes up when someone searches for me, it means that if someone wants to find my books, my Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is fairly solid. In fact, clicking through on the “BOOKS” link on my Google Portal brings up a whole other page with all of my books listed on it. Basically, if you can control how the internet searches for you—and what it finds—you can ensure potential readers are guided in the right direction.
While a lot of these online profiles seem complicated to set up, there are plenty of guides out there about how to do them correctly. A lot of them won’t change much from month to month or year to year, but they are critical to establishing an author’s presence online. Social media is excellent for fast and somewhat impersonal connections with readers and other writers, but knowing what the internet digs up is equally as important. If an author wants to be taken seriously, they should probably go out and ensure their brand is consistent across the internet, including Amazon, Google, and their personal website.
Does an Amazon profile legitimize an author?
If an author has an out-of-date website, are you disappointed?
When you search for an author on Google, what comes up?