Thursday, January 29, 2009

Your Tack Hammer

A while ago I did a post on Internet Billboards.

Recently I was talking with a writing buddy, and he asked, "I've on Facebook, now what the hell am I supposed to do with it?"

Like I always do, I made an analogy.

If you're making furniture, one of the tools you'll need is a tack hammer. The average Joe doesn't own a tack hammer, and doesn't need a tack hammer, because it's a specialized tool for a specific job.

Sure, a tack hammer can be probably be used for other applications. But it's used best by someone who understands what it should be used for. Don't buy one if you have no idea why you need it, because if you don't know why you need it, you won't use it properly.

MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and many other billboards, are tack hammers. Specific tools for specific purposes.

And let me be 100% clear here that the specific purpose of billboards isn't to sell books.

Facebook isn't going to get you on the bestseller list. Yet many writers feel they need a Facebook page, so they set one up and then wonder what the hell the point is.

The point of these billboards is twofold.

First, it enlarges your Internet footprint. The more places you are, the more people are likely to find you.

Second, it makes it easier for people to stay connected to you. The more you remain in the forefront of people's minds, the better off your brand is.

As a writer, you are both a spokesperson and a product. Your book is also a product, but effective salesmanship is about selling you as much as it is about selling your book.

The majority of people who buy your book won't know you. But the Internet has shown that the number of people who can know you has increased tremendously.

For the first time in history, the distance between author and reader is a simple mouse click.

It is to a writer's advantage to befriend as many folks as possible, because you are the product as much as your books are.

But just owning the tack hammer doesn't mean you can automatically build furniture.

In order to enlarge your Internet footprint, broaden brand awareness and name recognition, and keep connected with people, you have to put in some time.

As I've said before, people are looking for two things on the net: information and entertainment. Your billboards should provide both.

But social interaction is also a form of entertainment. And it's a powerful one. I know, because it works on me, so I'm sure it works on others.

Last week, I got a Facebook recommendation to befriend Gary Brandner. Gary is a horror writer (he wrote The Howling, among many other great novels) and I have a dozen of his books on my shelf.

I hadn't thought about Mr. Brandner in years, but seeing that recommendation made me befriend him, and that led to me writing him a short email saying how much I enjoyed his work. That led to him kindly responding to my email, which made me feel all happy and fanboyish. So I wrote back, telling him which books of his I owned, asking if I missed any.

Gary mentioned one I missed. I went out and bought it.

All because of Facebook.

I'm sure this happens a lot. Knowing about an author and enjoying his books often leads to sales. But actually hearing directly from an author is even more powerful.

That means you have to do more than just post some pics and stories on your billboards. It means making an effort to communicate and correspond.

Answering messages, leaving comments, replying to email, befriending people, keeping your billboards updated, staying current, initiating contact; these are all effective ways to wield that tack hammer.

So wield away.