I work with lots of authors on their author and book websites. Some authors have published multiple books, and some have just published their first. Some are working with a major publisher, and some are self-published. And something I’ve noticed with many authors is that they’re not always comfortable interacting with their readers, or bringing their personality to the web.
But we all know that a stagnant website that isn’t connected to anything else on the web isn’t as engaging as one where it’s clear that someone is investing time and energy into regularly adding relevant content. The good news is that with minimal investment you can keep your website engaging to maintain momentum for your current project, but also so that you don’t have to build it again for your next one.
So how do you determine what kind of investment to make, especially if you’re not the kind of person who really wants to make yourself available in a public way? Read on…
Consider writing a blog or creating a Twitter account. As an author, writing should come naturally to you. One of the biggest concerns I hear about this approach is, “but what will I blog about?!” — if you’re a nonfiction author there is a *wealth* of information you can blog about — new research about your field, success stories, tips & tricks, etc.. If you’re a fiction author, write about the world your characters inhabit, or the things that inspired the characters, setting or plot. Another concern I hear is “it’ll be a terrible time sink!” — and this is true of anything, if you let it. It’s important to create a schedule for yourself that isn’t overwhelming to you, and write at a length that doesn’t seem like a chore. That’s one of the reasons Twitter works for so many people — it forces you to share things concisely. A blog or a Twitter account isn’t likely to skyrocket your author platform (although, it might!), but it does mean that your name is regularly on the mind of those who are interested in what you’re doing, and that there’s lots more relevant content for search engines to find pertaining to you as an author. And if you blog about interesting things, people are likely to share it with people they know or and it’s more likely land in the hands of an influencer.
Encourage conversation. Yes, this does mean you have to do some level of approval or monitoring, but it also means that your audience are regularly creating content on your behalf. And if you participate in these conversations to some extent, it allows your readers to feel connected to you. You can allow comments on your website and/or blog, or you can use Facebook or Twitter, both of which are naturals for connecting you to other people. You should determine the level of information you’re willing to disclose — just because you are participating in a Facebook conversation with a bunch of strangers doesn’t mean you need to tell them your private thoughts. You can be authentic and truthful without being totally transparent. Consider the public persona you want to make available — make sure it’s your genuine personality, but establish your boundaries ahead of time and stick to them. It’s easy to make your Facebook or Twitter feed available on your website so that people can interact with you right from there on those platforms.
Ask and answer questions. If you have a way for your site visitors to ask questions that you can then post answers to on your site (in text or even video) you have a built-in way to not only encourage interaction, but you determine exactly what questions you want to answer, in what way, and on what schedule. The more questions & answers you have on your site, the more information site visitors have to discover about you, but completely on your terms.
Add interactive elements. If you add polls or quizzes to your site regularly that allow your site visitors to find out things like what character they’re most like, or whether they would have made a similar decision in a situation presented by your book, you have content that you can determine ahead of time that don’t require anything from you once they’re in place. And, you’ll likely get some good seed information for your next book based on people’s answers!
Include photos. This can be a difficult one for anybody who isn’t a born selfie-taker, but make sure you have at least a headshot that you like, and if you do any book signings or other events including photos from those. The photo(s) you decide to use can communicate whatever you want (or don’t want) about your personality, but it’s an easy way to bring your personality to the site and, in the case of event photos, for people to see that you’re engaged with your audience.
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