Blogger: Mary Keeley
When your book proposal interests agents and editors, the first thing they’ll do is investigate your website, blog, and social media activity. That’s why it’s so important that each area of your online presence compliments the others and reinforces your unique author self and what you write.
Your online presence reveals more to these professionals than numbers only. It shows them how well you know your author brand and are communicating it across all your platforms. Does the combined package reinforce who you are as a writer? Or does it cause them to question the true book-buying followers you have, that is, your numbers?
Here is a checklist for getting your online presence ready for scrutiny.
Your Author Website
- The URL includes your author name, making it easy for publishing professionals and readers to find you. The goal is that when editors Google your name, your author website is the first site on the list that pops up.
- Author brand is clearly stated on your landing page.
- The landing page is welcoming and appropriately author personal, inviting visitors to click through additional pages on your site. The click-through rate (CTR) is a measure of your website’s success.
- Every element on your site—images, colors, tone, and voice—reinforces your brand and your genre.
- The website is easy for visitors to navigate. Visitors are likely to stay and browse, when it is easy to find what they want to know.
- You have updated your website design within the last three to four years to stay current with design trends. An outdated website design reflects negatively on you, the author, as well as on your book.
- Your site is strictly reserved as your professional author website, not for personal use.
Your Author Blog
- You post consistently each week, on the same days each week. If you haven’t been consistent with this in the past, now is the time to get started. The more frequently you blog, the faster you will attract followers, because each post provides a new opportunity for people to find your blog through search engines.
- All your posts have some connection to your brand and your books. For example, an interesting story related to the topic of your next nonfiction book. Or the theme or setting, of the novel you’re writing. How about a struggle your current main character is going to face.
- You always use at least one image in your posts. Here are three good reasons why: (1) A well-chosen image instantly communicates the topic of your post. (2) Images also multiply the amount of traffic to your blog. (3) Followers tend to remember your post when you attach an image to it.
- You know why your followers read your blog from their interaction with you. Some follow a blog for the social interaction with a writer and other followers who comment. This interaction is visible to agents and editors at first glance. Others follow blogs mainly for the interesting or informative content, the writer shares to draw interest in her next book. Measure this type of interaction by the number of likes and re-tweets. Provide this information in your proposal because it isn’t as quickly apparent to agents and editors.
Your Social Media
- Your posts and tweets communicate a theme consistent with your brand. You reinforce your brand this way, even if subliminally.
- Post often. As with your blog the more frequently you post, the more opportunities for people to find you, interact, and share them.
- Concentrate your activity on the two or three platforms in which you are most comfortable and have the greatest engagement. Focus on growing strong followings on those few, rather than letting time swallow you up trying to cover all of them thinly.
What do you need to improve or correct before you begin to submit your next proposal? What are you doing well? On which platform do you get the most engagement, and why do you think that is? Are you prepared to answer agents’ and editors’ questions about how well you know your followers and what they want and expect from your books?
Use this checklist to prepare your online presence before submitting your proposal. Click to Tweet.
Great post, Mary. You laid this out so well!
* I’m getting there, I suppose. I have a domain name reserved for my author website, and one day will be able to afford to get it up and running.
* The effective use of Twitter and FB is still a bit of a mystery to me; part of the issue is an unavoidably slow connexion, but the greater problem is that I really don’t find either medium engaging. I don’t browse; when I spend time online it’s for a purpose, and that completed, other tasks…well, these days, exhausted rest – await. Pinterest’s even worse for me, and I have no idea what Instagram is. And then there is Periscope; I have been on a submarine, thank you very much, and have no desire to return to one.
* My main focus is the oddly-monikered ‘blogosphere’, and my footprint there is sometimes unsettling. In recent correspondence about aeroplane matters, an Aussie asked if I was ‘Blessed Are The Pure Of Heart’, right out of the blue. I do endeavour to maintain a rigid schedule…and I don’t use pictures, because I don’t want to face copyright issues. Also, they don’t fit the ferociously serious nature of most posts.
* Ah, the serious posts…writing about one’s impending death – which is taking FAR longer than expected, to the annoyance of some (“Uh, just how long to you expect him to live..?”) – is not in the least fun, but I’ve noticed an interesting (well, to me) shift in focus. At first the blog was meant to be practical advice for the caregiver, but now, more and more, it’s a description of how one can find God in the bloody detritus of disaster. Certainly I don’t believe God has ‘sent’ this upon me, but equally sure am I that He has made His love manifest through the learning that keeps my eyes up and my heart light.
* It’s not really viable as an ‘author blog’, I know that…I mean, what potential book-buyer really wants to read about tears of pain being saved by God, and being returned as diamonds of blessing? But it’s the best I have, it’s ALL I have, and it’s what I’m gonna keep writing.
Andrew, your blog is a blessing to so many, as are your comments here on the Books & Such blog. You are making a major contribution and we are all thankful for you.
Mary, thank you so much. One does one’s best, with the materials, and in the situation, at hand.
* Whatever good I have done, it has been possible because of the love and support I have received from this community. Within these virtual walls, I have learned more of grace than ever before in my life, and have been given the strength to continue
Ella Wall Prichard
Thanks for the reminder. I did the outline of all you suggest two years ago, when I thought I was almost finished with my book. I got pretty good at interracting on Twitter & with bloggers. But my book suffered, so this year I reduced my blog to once a week & my social media time. But the book is done! This summer my goal is to expend much more effort on Facebook, Twitter & bloggers. It’s a hard balancing act!
I sometimes wonder if my posts & blogs cover too broad a range of subjects, but since I write on reclaiming joy after losing my husband, I often post about lifestyle–activities that bring me joy. FB readers in particular are more likely to read about my travel, entertaining, cooking & gardening than serious subjects.
It is indeed a hard balancing act, Ella. And you have been wise about increasing your online presence before you submit your proposal. I suspect your book didn’t suffer in the end product. I suspect that when you went back to finish it, you had fresh insight into what your readers look for in your writing and your book reflects that.
In thinking about this, it is tempting to say we’ve entered a Warholesque world, in which our statutory fifteen minutes of fame is a prerequisite for anything we may publish to earn that fame.
* But it’s really not true; many of the successful writers of the past used social and professional networking as their analogue for social media before gaining stature as novelists. Robert Ruark was a journalist, as was Frederick Forsyth; Harper Lee was an accomplished magazine writer, and TKAM did not spring forth fully formed from the unlettered and pure heart of an innocent, as Athena from the head of Zeus.
* Unsolicited manuscripts, back in the Good Old Days, were viewed with a similarly jaundiced eye as are, I assume, manuscripts coming from an author with no social media presence today. After all, the term ‘slush pile’ long predates the Internet.
Mary, this is a great post. I know I have room to improve in my online presence. My biggest way to improve is consistency in posting to social media. I’m good with my blog. I post every Tuesday and almost every Friday. I’ve begun doing link ups, which has greatly increased my “reach,” and built some super relationships. But, posting to Twitter, to Facebook, and to Instagram (the three I’m most comfortable with), well . . . I’m not very consistent. I’m working on it, but there’s only so much time. I need to become more intentional in posting in these places more regularly.
*I think I get the most active engagement on my blog. Perhaps this is because I end every post with a couple of questions, and perhaps also because I try to respond to each commenter.
*I’m figuring out which kinds of my images receive the most likes on Instagram, and again, I end each of my comments with a question. Hashtags also get more attention. I link these to Facebook, and I usually receive a couple of answers to my questions.
*For Twitter, when I post a meme I’ve made, I often get a few retweets, and sometimes some comments. Now to figure out a schedule to do all of this consistently. 🙂
*On your last question, I need to think on that. 🙂 Thank you for a very practical post!
Jeanne, you’re being savvy monitoring what is working for your blog. Celebrate that!
Pick the two social media platforms in which you have the best, most consistent engagement and build on those. Editors tell us they would rather see this type of following than inconsistent engagement spread thinly over many platforms. This approach takes unnecessary time pressure off the author too.
I recently moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress … it’s a scary time, hard to change. But I’m seeing my numbers increase once again. That is encouraging. Due to health issues in my family and school/testing for my girls, I’ve started posting twice a month, instead of weekly. I receive the most engagement on Instagram … I’m not sure why, but it’s my favorite social media, and I love photography … I love editing photos and finding my niche there. Instagram followers, from all over the world, seem to be the most engaging and very supportive. I know I’ll hear from them each day. I should have been on that site a long time ago. 🙂 What am I doing well? Asking God to guide my steps in all my endeavors, to use me to glorify Himself, some way each day.
It’s easy to see why people from around the world follow you on Instagram, Shelli. Your pictures are stunning and beautiful in their simplicity.
Jeanne, thank you so much. I’ve been working hard, but I enjoy it so much. My girls help me out … pointing out good photo opportunities, etc. We were laughing the other day at how we can recognize Amy Matayo’s voice … we get so tickled at her daily stories. 🙂 Her humor is awesome.
Damon J. Gray
Wow … agreed! I’ve not seen your Instagram page before. You do amazing work.
Thank you, Damon. That means so much to me. It’s so fun.
Instagram clearly sounds like the perfect platform for you, Shelli. I’m glad to hear you are having success there. And something else you have right: “Asking God to guide my steps in all my endeavors, to use me to glorify Himself, some way each day.” Thanks for the reminder that this should be our guiding force.
I haven’t submitted my first proposal yet. I’m working on my social media presence, but I’m starting from nothing. I have a blog that I started in July and I’m building followers. I focus it on book reviews, Christian fiction, writing thoughts, motherhood. I get the most engagement from Facebook, but it’s the one I understand the most. This month, I’m focused on Facebook and Pinterest, learning the inns and outs. Then, I want to focus on learning Twitter and Instagram.
To answer the question of ‘do I know what my readers want’, I’d say this –
1) They want an overall paradigm they can trust, one that affirms their faith.
2) They want characters with whom they can identify; ‘real’ people facing issues that they may expect to see in their own lives.
3) They want a clear and ‘bright’ story arc, and a faith arc that has a satisfying fulfillment
4) They want settings that are carefully and accurately described, but not to the point where description dominates action.
5) They don’t want preaching; they want to see moral choices defined by their effects.
6) Above all, they want to be treated with the respect due them.
Anita Mae Draper
I created my website as a gateway to my various interests and give potential readers a glimpse into my world. I also wanted to expose my books to my genealogical blog readers. However, I’ve eyed my home page with misgiving lately knowing the WW1 family history banner at the bottom of the page really doesn’t belong anywhere on my author site. Sure, I might write about romance during the war years some day, but it’s not what I’m writing now.
My problem now however, is moving a large genealogical blog off one website onto another. THAT will take research and time, but I’m already looking forward to the end result.
Thanks for the list, Mary, as I’ll use it during my re-creation. 🙂
I’m technologically challenged. The last two days I needed to open Skype calls from my desk at work, and couldn’t get it done. Fortunately, the simple telephone still works. My website is vanilla WordPress, and has been since the theme I was using was abandoned and I couldn’t access the site. That would have crippled me if not for a random act of kindness from a tech angel. Some day, I’ll learn html and be able to do those things myself. Until then, it’s minimal web presence for me, and concentrate on writing and publishing books. My sales just limp along, and that’s alright with me. Retirement is only 1 year, 7 months, and 27 days away. By then I’ll have a decent backlist, and will hopefully figure out the tech stuff.
Timely post, Mary! I just launched a brand new website design last night. 🙂 Figuring out my strongest social media platforms has made a huge difference too. It’s freeing to stay in my “zone,” rather than trying to do it all.
I haven’t figured out how to build the kind of following at my blog or Facebook that would catch a publisher’s eye, but I’ve seen some interesting results from my history author site. I’m writing Roman-era fiction, which led me to do “extensive” research (over 80 books now-I know that seems obsessive, but hey, they’re books. You can never have too many!). It struck me that I could write history articles and reviews of Roman novels and let homeschoolers and teachers know about it. My books would be in the sidebar for an audience of readers already interested in that historical period.
*It works amazingly well, but the surprising result is how about half of my visitors are now international and I’m getting international sales. Maybe some are to people who bought for an exciting Roman-era story and will read their first novel where following Jesus plays a key role in a lead character’s decisions. My author’s blog is more personal and at a separate URL (the one I use here). It’s linked to the history site, and it gets international visits, too. China has even found it.
*Nothing is at the numbers that would fire the jets of a traditional publisher focused on domestic book sales, but I’m having enough success for an indie like me and a lot of fun with it as well.
Thanks for the gentle kick-in-the-behind, Mary. Been dragging my feet on switching my FB profile to a business page. I know I need to do it asap, but… From what I can tell, I will lose the history of engagement on previous blog links I’ve posted there. FB is the place I’ve so enjoyed amazing, heartfelt interaction with readers. And exponential sharing happens, much more so than Twitter.
Following up, I did it; I made the switch to an FB business page, and the world still appears to be spinning as per norm! (We are experiencing thunder and lightening here in Central Oregon. Hmm.) In fact, I’ve spent the last two hours fielding a fresh flurry of engagements on the new page. Thanks for the motivation! Now to tackle my irregular blogging schedule…
Mary Kay Moody
Thanks, Mary, for this helpful list. Very timely for me. I’ve been thinking I need to update my website ~ developed in the days a new author ‘had” to have a website even before anything was published. As each new platform came along, it became the latest author “had-to.” Glad to hear the advice to focus on the 2 or 3 that best fit me, my audience, etc. I’m learning to link posts from one platform to another, which helps. but i want to shrink my focus more.
I find Goodreads interesting also. But it has such a wide reach, I wonder how effective it is for niche authors.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Well, I know what readers *don’t* want, and yet people ask me to do them quite often-vlogs.
For me, they’re total duds.
I posted one on Sunday, and yeah, it’s been as well-received as an invitation to come and watch paint dry in the rain.
I did a poll on my Facebook wall the other day, asking what people wanted me to write about within the realm of Navajo history, and I got quite a few really good ideas. I’m looking forward to those.
Jennifer, I tried to watch it from Facebook and it froze almost at the start. Not sure why.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Because the heavens are merciful…maybe?
No one has mentioned a technical glitch, maybe I should repost it and ask.
Thank you for the heads up/
Damon J. Gray
Mary, I’m glad you said to concentrate on two or three platforms. At the recent Leverage AZ conference, Kathi and Roger Lipp plowed through all the various social media platforms and the told us, “Now, pick TWO … and one of those two is Facebook!” 😉 It was funny, but the point was valid and well taken. Social media is a necessary evil for the writer/speaker, but if it is not well-handled it will suck the time right out of your day.