I just read a great blog post this morning. It was by Sonia Marsh, author of the forthcoming travel memoir, Freeways to Flip-Flops: Our Year of Living Like the Swiss Family Robinson.
Sonia’s premise is one that I have focused on in previous blogs: Building a successful author website is about providing valuable information to your readers and thinking about them more than thinking about yourself. She puts it like this:
There is a secret which writers tend to forget, especially if they are not familiar with the way social media works.
Stop focusing on yourself and your book, and your audience will grow.
Here are some of the ways that both Sonia and I think you can do this…
Step 1. Bring all of your work together under one umbrella. I don’t care if you’ve written two fiction books, two nonfiction books and a wealth of poetry. Find some common factor that carries through all of your work and use it to build a brand. In Sonia’s case, the theme was “gutsy living.” Figure out what yours is.
Step 2. Develop a tagline. I tell all of my authors to have some kind of tagline under their name at the top of the website. Otherwise, how is someone going to know what they will be getting from “JaneSmith.com” or “JohnJones.com.” Once you have the branding figured out, find a way to briefly, succinctly, and creatively express it in a tagline. Sonia translated her “gutsy living” theme into the tagline, “Life is too short to play it safe.”
Step 3: Carry your theme into other works. Make sure that all of your online efforts fit under this same umbrella. Blog about the topic that ties together your work. Comment on other authors’ blog posts or articles on the topic. Use social networking tools to build a following among people interested in that subject matter. Remember, you’re building a brand here. As Sonia puts it, “You wouldn’t shop at Target for a car, so when a reader visits a travel blog, they expect to get information related to travel.”
Step 4: Interact and inform. Now that you have a “brand,” it’s important to get people interested in it and willing to come back for more. Remember, your readers are more important than you are. Provide them with information, education, etc… relevant to the subject matter. Ask them questions, and respond to their questions. If you give more than you get, you’ll be rewarded for it.
Sonia wraps her post up wonderfully, so I will simply quote her here:
The more you connect and help others, the more people will subscribe to your blog or website, and you will gradually build an authentic platform with loyal followers. It won’t happen overnight, but once people realize that you care about them, and are willing to share helpful information, all the pieces suddenly fit together. That’s when the magic happens, and you know you’ve accomplished something more than simply being an author who wants to sell her book.