Adventures in Self-Publishing: Establishing a Web Presence (Part I)

Spider%20Web%20140.jpgIt’s obvious that any self-published author needs a Web presence. Why? Because promoting your books at many venues is free and most of the rest are cheap, and the Internet is where people go to find out anything and everything.

And that’s great, isn’t it? In the old days, an author without a publisher had virtually no way to reach the marketplace at all. The problem now is that there are so many Internet-based avenues to choose from that it’s hard to know which to use, where to begin, and how to get the most out of each one. That’s what we’re going to talk about today, and for the next few posts in this series.

The first thing to understand is that there are different categories of Web sites, each of which has a different purpose, type of audience, and potential.  Not surprisingly, you should use each in a somewhat different way. They include the following:

Channel Sites (Amazon, iTunes, GooglePlay, etc.): These are sites where potential readers can buy your book, and which they’re used to visiting for the specific purposes of browsing for, and purchasing, books.

Community Sites (GoodReads, others):  Readers visit, and usually become members of, these sites because they not only like books, but like to spend time learning about new ones, reading and writing reviews, and discussing books with others.A great Way To Spend a Dark and Stormy Weekend


General Information Services (Reddit, Tumblr, Stumbleupon, many others):  People use these services to share and to find pointers to interesting material in categories that interest them. Some of these services (like Twitter) allow you to create and maintain a page archiving your own posts.

Personal Interactive Sites (Facebook): Initially, Facebook was based only on individuals, but now most authors create pages oriented towards their readers, and even businesses maintain pages. Authors can use their existing Facebook pages to promote their books, create a new page (and timeline, etc.) dedicated solely to their book(s).  Properly managed, it’s best for you to do both.

Custom Book Sites:  Your own book site can be as simple as a single, free WordPress page, or as fancy as a custom designed site with audio, video, book tour schedules and much more.

As you can see, each of these types of sites enables different kinds of activities (some limited and others extensive, some passive and others interactive, some flexible and some not), and each should be used for a different purpose, as follows:

Channel Sites: Obviously, the first and foremost purpose of these sites is to close the sale, so you want these pages to be as appealing and easy to use as possible (my Amazon page is here).

Community Sites: As the name implies, the opportunity here is to let a pool of potential readers get to know you and your books. The hope is that the people you reach here will not only buy your book, but recommend it to others as well. These sites may also offer special tools that make it easier for you to do so, such as book giveaways.

General Information Services: While these sites are nominally interactive (i.e., people can often comment on entries posted), in many cases people just skim the very short posts, which always include links. Those links can take your target audience to one of your other sites where you would like to get them engaged. For example, my book has a cybersecurity plot, so if I send tweets on this topic, it may lead people to follow me, at which time they’ll start to see tweets relating to my book as well. Each of these sites also allows a visitor to forward your link to others (the classic example being the “retweet”), hopefully leading to a compound effect. My Twitter page is here.

Personal Interactive Sites: Interactive sites provide you with an opportunity to maximize your engagement with your readers and potential readers, reaching them frequently and also ideally enlisting them to help promote your book (my book’s Facebook page is here).

Your Book Site: This is where you have the opportunity to give the most in-depth, customized, personal presentation of you and your works of authorship.  Even a WordPress site that you get for free and maintain yourself can have a lot of different features (mine is here).  You may be surprised to learn that this may be your least important site of all, as we’ll discuss next time around.

A great read for the beach or the bomb shelter

While I’ve discussed the categories of sites above as if they were discrete and neatly differentiated, in fact, they’re not. Your Amazon page (and related Amazon author page) can, and should, include a wide variety of information, and can include a link back to a blog. Similarly, people can buy books through the GoodReads site, and people can engage in interactive discussions at your own book site as well as at your Facebook page.

That said, the underlying infrastructure and visible design of each type of site is optimized for certain types of activities, with (for example) Facebook lending itself well to spontaneous, short interactions, and a book blog likely to attract more detailed and thoughtful comments. You should manage your own activities accordingly.

If all of this sounds a bit intimidating, that’s not entirely a bad thing, because it’s important to know what you’re getting into, and also so that you can get the most important pages up first. It will also allow you to decide whether you want to go it alone, or hire someone to help you put your best Web foot forward as quickly as possible.

The good news is that if you want, you can do everything yourself (we’ll talk about that in my next entry).  But if you’d rather spend all of your time writing and actively promoting your book, it’s not hard to find someone to set up your pages and help you write the basic starter content that should go there as well. If you go this route, the finished product will look a lot more finished (unless your good at graphic arts), with a more uniform “look and feel” across each of the separate sites.

But after that, unless you want to pay someone to tweet for you, it’s up to you to make your investment pay off. This is a theme that I’ll return to again and again – a Web presence without constant activity on your part pushing content and interaction at your Web pages will just sit there in the dark, unvisited and doing nothing at all for you and your books.

In my next entry, we’ll talk about how to build out your Web presence at the sites most important for supporting the promotion and sale of your books. If you’d like to do some homework in the meantime, spend some time browsing around Amazon’s Author Central and GoodRead’s Author Program pages.

If you’re new to this series: You can find all of the earlier entries, covering topics such as choosing the self-publishing model that’s right for you, formatting and pricing your book, and much, more beginning here.