In a recent interview, Ellen Archer, the CEO of Hyperion described a new business model that includes lower author advances and that relies heavily on authors who promote their work through websites and social media, authors who are “media-genic.” She spoke about building buzz ahead of a book’s release and using that buzz to spark orders. How can we as authors help our publishers build that buzz? How can we become more media-genic? Three suggestions:
Build a strong social media presence. For me, that includes a daily visit to Facebook where I post a morning comment, and then check back in at night to respond to friends’ comments and to confirm new friend requests. When there is news about one of my books–a cover, a release date, a good review, I post it. But I never ever trumpet my Amazon sales numbers, and I try not to make it solely about me, me, me. I celebrate others’ good news, too. When people ask for prayers, I respond. When someone is sick, I wish them a speedy recovery. Sometimes I offer a link to a good recipe, or recommend a book I enjoyed. Occasionally I post a just for fun trivia question. Sometimes I share a domestic woe such as a broken coffee maker or a dreaded household repair. Sometimes I post vacation pictures, or photos of my goldens. My goal is to mix it all up so that my FB friends get into the habit of checking in to see what I’m writing about. I am by nature an introvert. I don’t really enjoy small talk. I try not to post things that are too trivial, and I never get involved in political discussions. I try to be a good party hostess to the guests on my page.
Aside from Facebook, I have a twitter account and I occasionally tweet, but again, I find it hard to say anything relevant in 140 characters. I have a website where I maintain two blogs.
Develop a distinct author brand. A tagline or a slogan is not your brand. Your brand is the unique reading experience your readers come to expect over time. My brand is Southern historical fiction. It’s all I ever write. My goal is to have my name automatically linked in readers’ minds to that one type of story, in the same way that readers recognize Stephen King’s brand, or Nora Roberts’ brand, or Karen Kingsbury’s or Debbie Macomber’s. For those four authors, their names are their brands. Those brands signal the reader what kind of story to expect. My challenge is to deliver a wonderful story every time, a story steeped in Southern history and bathed in magnolia-scented moonlight. It’s worth spending time thinking about who you are as a person and as a writer. What do you love? What do you have to share with readers? Just my personal opinion here, but I feel that the closer your stories are aligned with who you are inside, the stronger your brand will become.
Grow your platform. As a fiction writer I’m still trying to figure out how this looks. I can see how it fits with nonfiction authors. A person who has written a book on raising teenagers or dealing with substance abuse has many more opportunities for media interviews, for writing articles in magazines, for selling the book at speaking venues. Personally I’ve found it harder to get interviewers interested in talking about the historical events that inform my novels. But I would not be happy writing nonfiction. So I’m pursuing my one great literary passion—stories about the South of long ago, and hoping a growing readership will come along for the ride.