7 biggest mistakes made by successful book authors…

…when attempting to manage their online presence

Successful authors face a set of unique issues regarding their online presence. When you’re a new author you often spend the bulk of your time figuring out how to use the internet to reach your potential audience and build your “tribe.” But once you have a couple books out there and a pretty vibrant fanbase, you have a whole new set of challenges, from managing your online audience to simply managing your time. Here’s a list of 7 big mistakes (plus a bonus one) that authors often make when managing their online platform.

Big Mistake #1: Setting it and forgetting it

A few years back you hired a website designer to create your author website. Yes, it has nice colors and the requisite bio, a list of your books (and where to buy them), an excerpt or two, and maybe even a blog. But now that you’ve grown, has your site? You have real fans now, and fans are curious about the person behind the writer. Your site should reflect this with lots of value-added features and extras.

Also, fans want interaction with you—a lot of it. Have you given them a regularly published e-newsletter to sign up for? How about a forum for posting questions to you and discussions amongst the community? What about content customized just for them, your faithful readers? Are your Twitter and Facebook and blog completely integrated for maximum impact and efficiency?

All the extra effort is worth it on your part, as you turn your fans into a tribe of evangelists for you and your past and future books.

Big Mistake #2: Trusting your online brand building to your publisher

Your publisher has vast experience with traditional book marketing, but may not be as current with the fast-changing world of social media marketing. Also, publishers are trying to juggle many authors and their online needs. Moreover, they will never be as keen on building your brand as you are.

Stay up to speed with what’s going on in the digital world and don’t hesitate to ask your publisher for a visible presence on their website, a more robust Amazon author page, and publisher goodies for your Facebook page. And if they don’t get around to doing it for you, plan on doing it yourself.

Big Mistake #3: Misusing social media

Here are just a few of the mistakes I’ve seen authors make with social media:
  • Overusing only one tool. This happens a lot with Twitter since it’s so easy to just pump out 140 character updates all day long. You should broaden your reach and mirror the diversity of your online audience, however, by mixing it up a bit via a varitey of tools such as content creation (blogging, YouTube), connecting (Facebook, LinkedIn), community building, and yes, content sharing (Twitter, Digg, Slideshare).
  • Only using social media for promotional purposes. The 80/20 rule is considered the best practice for interacting with your audience. Make sure 80 percent of your interactions are connecting with people on a human level, with no more than 20 percent of them in self-promotion mode.
  • Dabbling. Social media is a great way to connect with an audience, but if devolves down to only three or four sporadic posts or tweets a month, you’re in danger of losing your followers.

Big Mistake #4: Getting too distracted by the wonderful wide web

When you’re on contract to pop out a book each year, every minute counts. What you call “online research,” can easily turn into a 60-minute hyperlinked jaunt around the internet. You have to get more efficient with your time spent surfing the net, churning out online content, and even emailing. How?

Seek out and use the best new efficiency tools available. For instance, the cloud-based Evernote or Read Later Fast or Read It Later browser widgets are great for quickly clipping and storing online info to read later.

Need help organizing your notes for your next book? Try out Scrivener, wonderful writers’ software that helps with notes and long-form revisions so you don’t go crazy searching through both your online and on-desk folder and files.

Want to do a quick spate of research? Try Twitter’s advanced search function for an amazingly useful crowdsourced result.

For me, my overstuffed email box was my Achilles’ heel. Tame your inbox by using these various techniques and tools.

And my favorite recommendation for writers who give into web temptation too often? MacFreedom, a simple productivity application that locks you away from the internet on Mac or Windows computers for up to eight hours at a time.

Big Mistake #5: Not taking charge of your online reputation

Everyone’s heard of the one lousy review from your past that keeps showing up at the top of Google searches… and it just gets worse as people click on the offending item out of curiosity.
As a successful author, you need to engage in search engine reputation management (SERM) to make sure your search results are what you expect. This means monitoring your chosen keywords, your brand name, book names, and even competitors on a regular basis and taking steps to correct things if they aren’t what you want. The website SEOMoz.org is a great clearinghouse of info on this topic.

Big Mistake #6: Acting as if it’s just “me, myself, and I” out there on the literary web

Sure, as you were building your brand in the early days, it was necessarily about you, all the time. But now that you have a certain standing, it’s time to think about spreading your mojo around a little by connecting with other authors and influentials out there on the web. Think of the Fantastic Four: weren’t they stronger (and more fascinating) as a power quartet than just each on their own?

The internet makes it easy to join forces. While some authors, like bestseller Carly Phillips, form a small group of related genre authors for blogging purposes, it doesn’t have to be anything that formal or long term. Review a fellow author’s new book, or publish your interview with her on your blog. Write about a favorite musician of yours, or an environmental activist, a politician, or a book blogger, quoting them liberally. Send them the link to your article. By expressing your regard for this person on your blog, you do your audience the favor of introducing them to someone new and interesting, all the while introducing yourself to this other person’s engaged audience.

Big Mistake #7: Being passive

Are you still waiting for (expecting?) your fans to find and follow you? Instead, come up with an easy-to-implement, 30-minutes-a-day social media marketing plan that is a blend of broadcasting to your followers and seeking out new fans—and the growth and loyalty of your fanbase will be exponential.

Bonus Mistake: Not getting help when you need it

The online world can be overwhelming. Yet it’s here to stay, particularly for productive authors looking to build their audiences. If you feel like you can’t keep up and get all your real writing done, you have two choices: Give up or get some help.

Giving up really isn’t an option, is it? As for help, you can cobble together support from your agent, maybe a little from your publisher, but most probably you need to find a dedicated professional (or a small team of them, depending on your needs) with a history of project management, new media experience, and an understanding of your business: writing and publishing. The kind of relationship we’re talking about here may cost a bit, but it can give you back two things that are priceless: your time and your sanity.

Former book and magazine executive Laura E. Kelly is the founder of a boutique personal marketing and new media consultancy for successful authors grappling with online demands. Visit Laura-E-Kelly.com to learn more.

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