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.


Stacey Cochran said...

Hey Joe,

Great post as always.

Here's another strategy that you might consider...

When you write an Amazon review, sign your name at the end "J.A. Konrath, author of Whiskey Sour"

And then post a link to Whiskey Sour.

Amazon now has a feature whereby you can post internal links to other Amazon products in your review.

In fact, you can go back and edit your old reviews to add those links now.

Last week, I went back and edited a number of my reviews from the past eight years to add a link to my book following my signature.

It's all about exposure and finding the right audience.

Good luck!


Mary Duncan said...

Right you are, Joe. I only wish there were at least another 10 hours in each day to be able to add in working, cooking, cleaning the house, keeping up with my reading, blogging, writing, querying, rewriting...oh, and living. Well, you get the idea.

There never seems to be enough time to keep up with it all. And, to me, if you can't take the time to actually input anything to these sites, then you've no business taking up the space.

I do have to wonder what John Grisham's publisher spent to get his new book as a television commercial. Talk about mass marketing.

Keep up the good work, and I await your next novel. Love 'em all!


Gayle Carline said...

Good post. I also wondered why I was setting up a Facebook and MySpace and Twitter, etc. presence. Now, the closer my book gets to being published, I see the ties I've made with other people, from everywhere, and how that's going to help me at least spread the word.

Now then, on something Mary brought up: Who thinks John Grisham actually NEEDED to spend all that money on a prime time commercial advertising his new book? Show of hands - anybody? Is it insecurity or hubris?

Anonymous said...

I found one of my favorite childhood authors via google and wrote a fanmail and was as thrilled as the nine year old I once was to receive a reply.

I love being befriended by authors on FB and not just because of the fan thing or to network ('cause I am nobody so knowing me doesn't work to anyone's advantage) but because I love seeing what they are up to and the new stuff coming out and how they use the media. And I love that they are kind enough to let me have a glimpse into all that.

Eric J. Krause said...

I'm taking the advice I've gotten here and from others and starting up my various accounts and blogs. I'm not a published novelist yet, but hopefully someday soon, and it'll be good to be ready for the promotions and word of mouths I need to do to hopefully get people interested in my work. Great post as always!

Anonymous said...

Hey Joe, will you join my Facebook?!

amberargyle said...

Lots of good advice. Now I just need to find the time. Seriously, how often should you post to your blog?

T. M. Hunter said...

I have to agree. I can't count the number of fans I've gained as a result of being friendly and just interacting with folks on MySpace.

Eric J. Krause said...

Amber Lynn, I've heard you should post on your blog once per week. Something about the search engines crawling over the info once each week or something along those lines. Once a week feels right, though, so that's what I do.

Stacey Cochran said...

There's a great article in the New York Times this week on self publishing vs. traditional publishing.

Thought you might find it interesting.

Kathryn Magendie said...

It is a lot of work, but as you pointed out, it has it's wonderful moments of connection.

Marian Perera said...

If a blog is updated less than once a week, I'm not going to remember it, much less link to it.

I once browsed through a new author's website and saw a link to his blog, described as "a daily chronicle" of his thoughts on writing. So I clicked on that link.

This was in January. The blog had been started in November and contained three posts.

That's one reason I like Joe's blog. Lots of updates.

I try to do the same with mine. :)

Anonymous said...

When you have time, can you develop a blog entry expressing your professional opinion of the Authonomy website?

Unknown said...

I've been in touch with a couple of writers through their websites, and I have to say it is a great way to connect.

As someone new to being published, I have so much to consider. Thanks for the tips.

Nick Kelly said...

Great advice, Joe and Stacey. I began linking my reviews to the reviewed movie's page on IMDB. That drove more traffic to our site and more indie filmmakers looking to get reviewed. Now, where did I put that tack hammer...

Nick Kelly
aka Catwalk

Anonymous said...

Now then, on something Mary brought up: Who thinks John Grisham actually NEEDED to spend all that money on a prime time commercial advertising his new book? Show of hands - anybody? Is it insecurity or hubris?

I doubt that John Grisham paid for that TV spot--his publisher probably did. Why? Same reason you see TV spots for Nora Roberts' latest--or Coke or Microsoft or any well-known brand.

P.S. Now, James Patterson, who used to be an advertising creative director, has paid for his own TV spots:

Pen Pen said...

I love interacting with other writers on-line--It's amazing. I have mini heat attacks every time I add a comment to one of my fav author's blogs.
I must say tho--I got to meet David Sedaris in October and I almost threw up! He signed my copy of 'Me Talk Pretty One Day' and wrote "I can't wait to read YOUR book!" inside the front cover.......I cried when we left-I was SO humiliated to be me that night, but it was worth it! :)