Author website or social media? Oh, the choices!
Congratulations! Your book is written. It passed peer review and the final changes have been made. It’s with the publisher and they are full steam ahead. They anticipate publication in four or five months. It is now seeming all too real. But that pesky marketing reminder keeps popping up on your calendar. Your day is already jammed packed. How will you fit it all in?
One of your published colleagues raved about the power of their author website and the results they saw. Another said blitzing social media brought them great contacts and increased visibility. With your limited schedule, which should you do?
Without a doubt, the ideal answer is for you to have an author website and post to social media. But let’s assume you have to choose because of limited time or resources.
Option 1 – developing an author website
First let’s look at the basics of an author website. To many, this task seems akin to writing a 500-page manuscript. I can safely say it is not. With easy to use online tools like Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress, it is easier than ever before. A site could literally be up in half a day or less.
The major value of a website is that it is perpetual (compared to fleeting social media posts). As you build and add to a site, it accumulates and is available to all on an ongoing basis.
The first decision if you go this route is whether the site is for this one book or to represent you as an author (similar to the role ResearchGate or Academia.edu serve).
Creating the site content
If the site is dedicated just to the book, it should minimally include: the cover, a great photo of you, a detailed description of the book, the table of contents, a sample chapter, how the book might be used in a classroom, links to the publisher’s site, how to obtain any ancillary materials, how to contact you, and a section for the media. As the site grows after launch it might include quotes from book reviews, quotes from users, a link to add the user’s name to a mailing list for updates or to obtain exclusive or free content, ideas of how instructors have used it in the classroom, and more.
Key to the follow through on the site, is for it be fully indexed by Google and other search engines. No sense doing all that work and people not being able to find it.
Promoting the site to potential visitors
Assuming you have a vibrant, properly indexed site, how do you tell people to go there and learn more about your book?
Likely you have the book title and link in your email signature. You will give potential customers the URL whenever you are speaking. Or you might be on a Listserv and people see it when you join a discussion.
Option 2 – focusing on social media
But the real way for people to find the site (the other side of the coin) is to drive potential readers to the site with social media.
Social media, however, is a broad term. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, and Goodreads are all potential ways to spread the word about your book. But to make them effective, you need to start well before book launch.
The first part of the equation is the proper account set up. Once again, a good picture of you and the books is a start, then links to the appropriate sites for getting more information about the book.
Building a network
Next part is having contacts. It is fine if you have non-professional contacts in the list, but you have to add colleagues, other authors, potential customers, and “Influencers” (or people that might become key movers in the market).
I suggest authors choose one or two social media channels and go at them full tilt instead of spreading yourself too thin. Try to maximize the number of people that you have as a friend or follower.
Sharing relevant content
The last part of the equation is what you post or Tweet or the like. Do not simply post, “Hey check out my new book!” or something similar. No one cares, I am sad to say.
Post interesting items. Comment on the news. Post facts or stats that you discuss. Of course, include a link and your title. But be gentler than the hard sell. Educate and fascinate people and they will click through if you catch their eye.
Start well before the book’s release assuming the publisher has a page to send interested individuals to. And keep it going well through production, publication, and after release. Don’t repeat any posts. Keep it fresh.
Creating a site on social media
Facebook and other social media allow the option of creating a mini site for the book. Instead of a page for an individual, you could create a Group for the book and post much of the material discussed at that page and drive people there. This is an alternative to an author site but not a perfect one.
The drawback to this approach is some people may not be on that social media channel, so they are out of luck.
Which do you choose?
With either direction, coordinate all the efforts with your publisher (unless it is self-published, then coordinate with yourself!).
So, website or social media? Assuming both efforts are executed properly, I prefer a vibrant social media effort. It is active and reaches out to people. It may be short lived, but a book will only be new once. And you might use the publishers page for the book as “your” site assuming it is well done.
Even a well-managed website risks being passive. No one will find your site, if you aren’t driving people there.
As I said previously, both is the optimal answer. But if you do choose only one, you are still miles ahead of many authors that do no promotion and expect the world to come to them.
You’ve written a book. Make sure you stand on the top of the mountain and do your part to shout about it (from whichever mountain you choose).
John Bond is a publishing consultant at Riverwinds Consulting and the host of the YouTube channel “Publishing Defined.” He has been in scholarly publishing for over 25 years. In his career, he has directed the publishing of over 500 book titles and 20,000 journal articles. His newest eBook is Scholarly Publishing: A Primer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.