For most authors, the days of writing an amazing book and then just sitting back and watching it become a bestseller are over. It takes countless hours of promotion to see a book become a commercial success. And even authors working with a traditional publishing house are seen as “partners”–someone who will aid, and sometimes drive, the publisher’s promotional efforts. An author’s online brand has never been more important.
I believe there are three steps for developing a successful online brand. With my clients I use the following formula: Design + Engagement + Visibility = Success. Here they are, broken out:
Step 1: Design
Studies show that we judge a person in 1/10 of a second. I don’t think our visual branding is any different. A good website can make or break an author’s career. The design of the website, social media assets, graphics, newsletters and
video (if possible) is all crucial today. All of these assets require some resources and skills. Some authors have them, but most need advice from professionals. Start by talking with your publisher about what support they offer.
Step 2: Engagement
Engagement means creating a relationship with your readers through blogs, social media, mailing lists, and comments. This area takes a little bit of training, but then authors can do it on their own. Many of my clients, even those who were hesitant in the beginning, come to really enjoy this interaction with their readers. They tell me writing is a lonely endeavor so the engagement with readers is very gratifying. Authors should know it takes a long time to build a following. The sooner they can start the better off they will be. Most of my clients say they feel the efforts pay off 18 months to 2 years later.
Step 3: Visibility
Publicity, marketing, distribution, events, etc., all help create visibility. We all spend a lot of time and money on visibility, but until steps 1 and 2 are in place, the visibility quickly fizzles. Authors should also know that they need to have their visibility plans in place 6 months prior to the publication of their book. Many authors call me 2-3 weeks before the book’s publication date looking to start an online publicity campaign. While this is not the worst thing in the world and publicity can still come through, it won’t happen in time for the publication date which can be a missed opportunity.
The few authors that have become huge bestselling successes without a digital or social strategy are anomalies. Most of us need to work on online branding everyday, for the success of our businesses, books and careers. And when it comes to authors, online branding is not about selling, it’s about making buying easier.