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How to Establish an Online Presence As an Independent Author


Like so many other things in the advent of the digital age, the choices of an author just starting out have changed dramatically. The big publishing houses are not quite as strong as they were in the past and e-books become increasingly popular each year. It is not at all hard to see why more and more authors choose to take the independent route, but with this comes responsibility. Without the help of a publisher, the job of marketing a book now sits very squarely on the shoulders of the author and it is this point I will attempt to briefly address.

As a novice myself I have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks attempting to get to the bottom of which are the important areas to concentrate on and have summarised here what I found to be the key points.

Even if you are taking the more traditional route of working through an agent - or are even already published, it is a modern-day necessity that you develop an online presence.

Let's quickly take a look at the most important areas, to begin with.

1) Social Media Accounts

These can work in tandem with your website which I will come to further on. I would say first up you want a Twitter account and a Facebook page. Once you have created profiles it's important that you keep posting on Twitter in particular (even if you're re-tweeting other interesting posts). There are a number of popular tags for writers to remember but probably #amwriting and #amediting are the two I have come across the most, so add these to your own tweets. Facebook is very useful too - not to mention the many marketing tools that you can use that are highly selective regarding the target audience. You may choose other platforms - perhaps if you have a trailer for your book you might want to add a YouTube account in there too.

It's worth a mention at this point that it really is not good form to continually post sales links to your book. Write something interesting or repost something you found interesting but nobody wants to be bombarded with spammy sales messages.

2) Your own website.

This may seem a bit daunting at first but it really is essential. I would strongly recommend putting up a proper site rather than using some of the free options that are now available. You can get a domain and host package for less than $100 a year and it looks professional. Use a free site and anyone with the faintest clue can see it's a free site and it screams unprofessional. There are numerous hosting companies, I personally use HostGator. As regards building the site, it has to be WordPress. Over 30% of the internet is WordPress with 17 posts a second being published. Even the top one hundred sites which as you would imagine are mostly looked after by company development teams - nevertheless WordPress still has its name om 14.7 % of these. The framework is very simple to use and you have full control of your content. If you can afford the little bit extra, get a decent theme and you will soon be looking like the best of them. If you find yourself struggling with anything just search the query online I can guarantee there will be a forum discussion that has dealt with your question at some point. You probably heard the expression SEO (Search Engine Optimization) somewhere along the way. One of the most effective ways to build your online presence is back-linking, and a very simple way of doing this now you have your website is to include the link on those Twitter and Facebook pages as a start.

Many authors use the website purely as a landing page but to be honest I do not imagine it will do you too many favours in the long run. Include a blog and post articles (you're a writer). Whatever it is you write about, if it finds an audience you suddenly have that chance of a sale that did not exist previously.

I think to start with the pages or tabs that you need on there are

· Contact. Add a contact form plugin with WordPress so people can reach out to you and in doing so are added to your mailing list.

· About. A short Bio tab about yourself is standard practice for an author's website.

· Books. This is your portfolio and sales window. If you are a freelance put some examples of your work.

· Blog. This I believe is the key point to your website, put some time into writing articles - perhaps target yourself one article a week, but keep at it.

3) Tactics

Before you begin with your task take a moment to consider your audience and people you might want to connect with. Let's start with Twitter. Try typing into the search box Author and Reader. Click on people then you will probably find the most famous ones at the top. While you might wish to add some of the biggest names in the business it is unlikely they will return the gesture so concentrate on authors who look professional, have books on the market and have a good following. If they see you are an author in your description chances are they will add you back. There are tools out there that promise loads of followers back - do not be tempted. While it's another follower follow me and I follow back is not really going to help you build the network you want. Take the time and grow organically it is by far the better option.

Pick your post titles on your blog very carefully, think of questions that people may type into a search because it is those keywords in your title (and article to some extent) that will lead them to you.

Finally, you could pay a professional to design your website and of course get the job that you have paid for. But truly there is no need and like anything else in life once you have mastered using the WordPress interface it's like riding a bike. No having to rely on somebody else every time you want to change things around and definitely more cost-effective.

I h­­ope this has been of some help and hopefully cuts a few corners. Good luck.

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