Building a buzz: Creating an online presence to make your book findable
So—you’ve completed your latest publication. There’s been a lot of sweat, and maybe some tears, but you did it.
Wouldn’t it be great if your hard work was over?
Unfortunately, outside of your immediate circle of colleagues, friends, and family, no one knows about your book. You need to get the word out.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a marketing expert to create a stellar online presence. There are many simple, accessible ways to make your publication findable online.
On Spinning Your Web
The first thing to do is reframe your thinking about an online presence. Think of it like a spiderweb…the more strands that extend from the center of your web, the more likely you are to be successful. Similarly, the more places you’re located online (the more strands in your web), the greater chance you have of popping up in a Google search.
If you have a link to your book, scatter that across the web as widely as you can. Put it in your school bio. Your signature. Your social media profiles. If you have a website, it should be there too. Make it your mission to funnel all your online marketing activity towards this link. While it’s true you can’t make the proverbial horse drink, they can’t even make the decision if you never get them to the water in the first place.
On Crafting Your Message
Once you’ve placed your link across the web, what sort of messaging will convince readers to actually click on it (the ongoing challenge of digital marketing)? Certainly not swaths of text. The most beautiful prose is useless online if it’s too long. It’s a sad reality, but you’ve worked too hard not to be a realist.
You need an elevator speech…for some settings, more like a micro-elevator speech. 200-400 words is acceptable for an Amazon description, but for social media, slice it down to 30 (or fewer). Figure out the most important thing your publication does, and frame it with attention-grabbing, active language. “What the Heck? deconstructs professional communication. It calls for a radical transformation of workplace language as we know it.” If you can make it flashier, do so. You’re in a war for attention, and you can’t afford to be subtle.
On the Attention War
In case you find all this talk about grabbing attention cringe- inducing, please remember: your book is important. It will greatly benefit the reader. However, it cannot do that if it is lost in the morass of the internet. If you don’t stand out, you’re invisible. Grabbing online attention isn’t about being a narcissist. It’s about being a lighthouse in a pea-soup fog of content.
On Social Media
If you’re serious about creating an online presence, social media needs to be a central part of your strategy. Central. Again: you’ve worked far too hard not to be a realist. Social media is where you are going to find the highest number of eyeballs for the least investment.
Now, there’s a caveat to this: intentionality is crucial. You must operate by three guiding principles: Audience, Purpose, and CTA.
Where are other readers in your discipline going to be located? Unless you’ve done a lot of personal networking, probably not on your general Facebook feed. Look for some specialized groups. Make connections on LinkedIn. Have you found a community on Twitter? Look for applicable organizations and follow them. Interact with members to build relationships. Tag them in your posts. Fostering that community and posting where your audience dwells is step one.
Each post must accomplish a goal (hint: 80% of the time, that goal should not be “buy my book.” Don’t worry, we’ll get there). Most of the time, that goal should be to drive conversation and share helpful information. Does your book offer a unique insight you can share? Any industry tips? Share your writing process (selfies WORK). Post your students’ successes. Then, the other 20% of the time, you can directly draw attention to your book. But mainly, your Purpose is to be a thought leader in your field spreading insight and positivity.
Remember that book link? Drop it in every post. That’s right: even the philanthropic ones. But the book is a resource to provide your community with more information about the knowledge you’ve been spreading, not something to “buy now.” Rule of thumb: If you feel like a used car salesman on social media, that’s a good clue that your focus is out of balance.
And guess what? You’ll progress over time. Embrace the learning process, Google when you have a question, laugh at your imperfection, and be proud of yourself for learning a new (extremely valuable, relevant, and worthwhile) skill.
Also Important: as you (and everyone) are in an online war for attention, it would behoove you to check out free online tools like Canva to help you easily make social media graphics that will leap off the feed.
Be everywhere you can. Be succinct. Grab attention. Provide value and cultivate conversation. These principles are certainly not exhaustive, but they’re a vital part of your journey to creating an online presence. It’s not easy, but you’re no stranger to challenge. Have fun with it. What you’ve written is worthwhile and important. By helping people find it, you maximize your chances of really making a difference. Godspeed.
Meghan Peterman manages social media for the Higher Education division of Kendall Hunt Publishing as Marketing Communications Specialist. She loves crafting language and is passionate about the rhetoric of communication. In her spare time, she consumes written material on theology and philosophy. Frequently, this pursuit includes cupcakes. Soli Deo Gloria.