Thursday, 9 June 2011

What should I put on my on-line profile to help me become a published author and where should I put it?

Damned good question. And let's face it, if you are only just thinking of building up an on-line profile then you probably aren't yet published, and know very little about the business that you are trying to break into. Just like me.

I started to think about this question a few years back, when I was about halfway through my first book. I realised that the more people who knew me and took an interest in what I was writing, then the more chance I had of people actually going to the shops and ordering my new book once I announced its release. I also appreciated the wider audience that the web could give me.
  • Facebook. At that time I was addicted to Facebook, and so it was with Facebook that I started experimenting. First of all I built up a bigger following than usual - why delete people you hardly know/decide you don't like when they could well be a future customer of yours? I also created a group for friends from my childhood to add pictures and comments to help me out with a childhood autobiography I had started.
  • Twitter. Then I read about Twitter and opened up an account just to see if it was useful to me. It kind of fell off and I stopped using it for a while. I found it a little unusual at first and basically used it to bad-mouth people/companies that had pissed me off.
  • Blog/website. I had been running numerous blogs over the years, initially as an outlet for my increasing desire to write. Many of these were eventually left to gather dust, although I did enjoy writing Bloggerithms, but that too fell into disrepair, and now only looks a shadow of its former self. However, I learnt a lot about blogs, blogging and the all important keywords
  • LinkedIn. I had a LinkedIn account in relation to my career, but couldn't see the point in having it broadcasting all my details across the web so I gave that up, although I didn't actually delete it.
So now I find myself close to finishing two books and getting knocked back by rejections and worrying about my lack of on-line presence. It was by chance that I found BubbleCow on Facebook, and began to read with interest the articles they posted. Because of BubbleCow, I began researching more and more and eventually decided to do something about my on-line presence.

I turned back to Twitter and began experimenting with it in earnest. I changed all the information to show my writing desire. I began looking for and following like-minded people, publishers and agents. From this I hoped to gain knowledge from other people who post useful links (such as twitter.com/@elizabethscraig - a lady who not only seems to post 24hrs a day but only posts really useful and interesting articles) as well as getting my name broadcast around and making useful contacts. Although I have only been doing this for a week or two I am very happy with the results so far. I just wish I had more time to use it and read up on all these wonderful posts!

I decided to close all of my blogs and focus on just one, and imported all 7 years worth of posts into this new blog (an easy enough thing to do). Why? Well, first it boosts the word count of the new blog and secondly it shows a little bit about the kind of person I am. Why lose all of this wonderful, valuable stuff?

I changed my LinkedIn account to show me as a writer, as opposed to an English teacher (I've actually just bought a new academy so why would I need another job somewhere else?).

That's a lot of things to be doing and writing, I hear you say. Yes it is, and I certainly don't have time to be writing my books as it is, so why waste time with all of this malarkey? Well, if time is like publishing deals (something only available to other people) then I would suggest you focus on the two most efficient/useful means of an OLP. LinkedIn took me an hour to set up and there is little more I can add to it. Facebook is Facebook and I won't edit my friends - ever! That just leaves this blog and Twitter, and for me these are the two most important resources available to me. 

Blogging/website
You don't need any skills to set up a blog - even my mum could do it! Yes, titivating and improving it takes a bit more skill but hey, you only need a blog to add comments to. So what should I add? Well, first, what are you expecting from this blog? Followers! Yes, that's right, you want people to connect to your blog and enjoy reading what you have to say. So it stands to reason that the blog has to be interesting. This is not:-
  • Monday: 1000 words, nice work
  • Tuesday: 1800 words, had a good day
  • Wednesday got drunk so nada
  • Thursday: 325 words, had a bad day (think I am still hung-over....)
  • Friday - weekend!
Clearly nobody in their right mind is going to read this and think, 'Wow, I must check back tomorrow to see what he/she manages then...!' (Except maybe your doting granny).

So your posts have to be stimulating, interesting and topical. People actually like to learn a little something about you - the writer- so why not posts items of relevance to you? And I don't mean 'mum's coming over today for lunch,' I mean comment on world events, make people laugh, add links and thoughts and advice about people in the same shoes as you - build up a following! Yes, give it a writers slant but above all make it a blog that people want to come back to read again and again. And do ensure you post at least twice per week or more.

Twitter
The advantage of Twitter is that you can Tweet from your phone, wherever you happen to be. You can also link you Twitter account to your blog (mines over there, on the left in case you hadn't noticed, see?) and vice versa. The disadvantage is that you can only tweet an sms-sized message, but boy can that focus your mind. Instead of rambling on and on like I am here, you have to say what you want to say, grabbing the readers attention in 140 letters. Now that's good, that makes you think. That hones the mind.

Since I started to use Twitter this week I have 'met' some amazing people, many published authors, aspiring novelists and others who are experts in the book market field thingy. I have learnt a great deal from these people and their posts, even though I still don't know my way around the site yet. I also have 153 followers right now, which is 152 more than I had last week!

There is also a programe called Twitter Adder, costing about $50US, which automates a lot of the 'follower finder' business for you and allows you to 'hunt down' certain people, such as 'published authors in the UK'. 

Remember, the more you write, the more your writing will improve. That not only goes for your book, but also for your on-line posts - so get posting today!

If, like me, you have started writing your first novel, don't forget to set up your Twitter account and a blog to run parallel with it, so that by the time you send your mss and synopsis off to an agent, you can add to your CV that you have your own website with xxxxx amount of followers, and a Twitter account with xxxxxxx amount. 

That lets them know you are thinking of the marketing side of your work, and that is a definite plus for you.

It can also be a lot of fun...

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