Why Every Author Needs a Powerful Online Presence

A while back, I posted “4 Surprising Conclusions About Author Websites”. In case you missed it, I concluded that, for authors, building a powerful online presence doesn’t appear to have much to do with having (1) slick graphics or state-of-the-art technology, (2) a large media platform, (3) a large organization behind you, or (4) a young, hip image.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/ahlobystov, Image #4619850

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/ahlobystov

Joe Sheehan commented on the post, saying,

Mike, I have a fundamental question. Why does it matter? Does a powerful online presence really make you a better author? I’m not convinced the two are well-correlated. Word-of-mouth recommendations would probably convince me to read an author more than an obscure website ranking.

This is a good question and a valid point. In fact, before we get to how to build a powerful author brand online, we need to be clear on why it is important for authors to go to the trouble.

First, I don’t think the choice is between having good word-of-mouth or a poor website ranking. This is a false dichotomy. In fact, I would argue that the two are directly related. As Joe assumes in his comment, word-of-mouth [affiliate link] is the single most important ingredient in effective marketing.

But that begs the question: how do you get word-of-mouth started?

Certainly it begins by creating a great product. No argument there. As I often say, “it’s the product, stupid.” To quote advertising guru David Ogilvy [affiliate link] , “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster.” Why? Because the word-of-mouth actually works against a disappointing product.

But once you have a great product, you have to get the word out. At that point it becomes a question of how to do that in the most cost-effective manner.

Certainly, you can use broadcast media, including TV, radio, print ads, billboards, etc. But, generally speaking, this is a waste of money. Only a narrow subset of the audience you are paying to reach are (a) regular readers and (b) know your brand. Worse, more than ever, people distrust advertising [affiliate link], so the message is suspect from the get-go. It takes enormous frequency to overcome this—something that most book budgets can’t justify.

This is why I oppose almost all one-off magazine or newspaper ads. You’re paying a lot of money to reach a broad audience without enough frequency to influence consumer behavior. (Yes, there are a couple of exceptions, but they are rare. Most one-off ads are done to satisfy the agent or author’s ego. There. I said it!)

Instead, it’s better to “narrowcast” the message to a target audience. There is no cheaper way to do this then on the Internet, where you can build a tribe of followers who eagerly anticipate your next written communiqué.

This is all more or less common sense among authors and book publishers alike. The problem is that the Internet per se is not enough. You can’t just hang a website in cyberspace and expect that to create a following. It’s a start, but without traffic, it is a waste of time. It’s like putting up a billboard in the desert.

Joe went on to say,

One counterexample I’m thinking of here is Peggy Noonan. Her website traffic rankings are low while she is very popular as a writer/speaker. Although, she became famous in a different era. So is this post aimed more towards up-and-coming authors?”

Peggy Noonan has built her word-of-mouth primarily via her weekly column in the Wall Street Journal. (I am a fan myself.) She has a large and loyal following. However, as Joe points out, her website, relatively speaking, is not that popular. (You can run it through WebsiteGrader as I outlined in my post to see the results.)

The only thing I would say to her is that if you are going to the expense of creating a website or blog, you might as well maximize its potential. It’s not that difficult, assuming you have something people want to hear. (And, clearly Ms. Noonan does.) But she is making some simple mistakes—like no meta tag data in her page headers, etc.

Michelle Malkin, on the other hand, is probably a better example. Her web following is even greater than Dave Ramsey, whom I cited in my previous post. She gets a website grade of 99 from Website Grader, a Google Rank of 7, and a traffic rank of 10,453, and a blog rank of 28. That means she has the 28th most-read blog on the web.

Unfortunately, Ms. Malkin hasn’t written a book since 2005. If she would write a new book every year as part of a comprehensive brand strategy, the synergy between her online audience and book sales would amplify both, extending her reach and influence even further.

This is not an either/or proposition. What I am suggesting is that if you are going to write, take advantage of every possible delivery mechanism to build your audience. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about exactly how you do that. I promise. But I thought it was important to nail down the why before we get to the how.

Question: Do you think building an online presence as an author is important? Why or why not?
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  • http://flowerdust.net anne jackson

    i think an online community is more necessary than an online presence. going back to tribes…i feel so blessed to have a strong online community. even though i am only in the top 5k in technorati, and have mediocre stats, the community that exists there is strong, and i know i can count on them for anything. instead of having 50,000 people tune in, i have a strong army of maybe 5k. because these 5k people are passionate and we have built trust with each other, they have and will continue to contribute to the success of my message. hope this makes sense. i’m writing under the influence of cold meds at the moment.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael S. Hyatt

    @Anne: I don’t disagree with you. You have made an important distinction. I don’t just want a presence; I want a tribe (to use Seth Godin’s phrase.)

  • http://www.twistimage.com/blog Mitch Joel – Twist Image

    Let me add on by telling a personal story.

    I love Tom Peters. I love the way he thinks and speaks but, mostly, I love the way he writes.

    I hate waiting years on end for a new Tom Peters book. Tom started Blogging early on. Now, every day – sometimes multiple times in a day – I can get a real good “fix” of Tom Peters.

    On top of that I get news, can find out where he is speaking and other things related to all stuff “Tom Peters”.

    Instead of being a passive fan (every few years when he releases a book), how much more engaged do you think I am with his brand and his work?

    Authors are wordsmiths and creatives. What better place to keep that connection going then through the many forms of online channels? Twitter, a Podcast, a Blog, wikis, mobile… so many places and options for great authors to connect and grow their fanbase.

    The ones that don’t are really missing out. It’s not just on selling stuff. A Blog also forces authors to think and create more. I can’t think of anything more powerful.

  • http://flowerdust.net/ anne jackson

    i think an online community is more necessary than an online presence. going back to tribes…i feel so blessed to have a strong online community. even though i am only in the top 5k in technorati, and have mediocre stats, the community that exists there is strong, and i know i can count on them for anything. instead of having 50,000 people tune in, i have a strong army of maybe 5k. because these 5k people are passionate and we have built trust with each other, they have and will continue to contribute to the success of my message. hope this makes sense. i'm writing under the influence of cold meds at the moment.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    @Anne: I don’t disagree with you. You have made an important distinction. I don't just want a presence; I want a tribe (to use Seth Godin’s phrase.)

  • http://www.twistimage.com/blog Mitch Joel – Twist I

    Let me add on by telling a personal story.

    I love Tom Peters. I love the way he thinks and speaks but, mostly, I love the way he writes.

    I hate waiting years on end for a new Tom Peters book. Tom started Blogging early on. Now, every day – sometimes multiple times in a day – I can get a real good "fix" of Tom Peters.

    On top of that I get news, can find out where he is speaking and other things related to all stuff "Tom Peters".

    Instead of being a passive fan (every few years when he releases a book), how much more engaged do you think I am with his brand and his work?

    Authors are wordsmiths and creatives. What better place to keep that connection going then through the many forms of online channels? Twitter, a Podcast, a Blog, wikis, mobile… so many places and options for great authors to connect and grow their fanbase.

    The ones that don't are really missing out. It's not just on selling stuff. A Blog also forces authors to think and create more. I can't think of anything more powerful.

  • http://emuelle1.TypePad.com Eric S. Mueller

    Mile, I’m not sure exactly what you mean in this context by an online presence. As a consumer I definitely prefer the authors who go to the trouble to provide a point to visiting their websites. If the site is just a 3rd party marketing tool to announce when another book will be out, then I see little point in having a website. I figure if the author is going to have a website, why not peepvide some way for fans to interactor at least feel some form of interaction? A blog, twitted feed, or even media guide isn’t that hard to do. I know uthors are busy, but some at least go to the trouble of having somebody else update the site about what is going on. I still occasionally get an RSS update from J. P. Moreland’s Kingdom Triangle site.

  • http://emuelle1.TypePad.com Eric S. Mueller

    I meant “provide”. I’m typing on my iPod Touch, so please forgive any obvious errors in my last comment.

  • http://www.rachelhauck.com Rachel Hauck

    I absolutely think it’s powerful and important. I’m getting ready to revamp my web site so it looks more contemporary and 2009ish.

    I’ve found meeting people in cyber world has gotten me interviews, guest blogs and other features.

    It’s seeing a name and product over and over that finally clicks with people. While a single blog tour many not result in many books sales, several blog tours over a few years, will.

    As a reader, I want to see my authors out and about on the web. I want their web site to be current. I feel sad when I visit an author’s site and they haven’t blogged in six months or a year.

    A web site is a community draw. It has to be more than information. It has to be interactive and fun with stuff to see and read.

    If I like author A and author B, but A never updates, I’m more likely to develop an affection for author B by what they blog and post on their web site.

    It’s time consuming and distracting, but well worth the effort. Like everything, it must be managed according to the time and finances of the author, but do whatever you can. Shoutlife, MySpace, Facebook, MyCCM, etc are all free.

    And Twitter is down right fun!

    Rachel

  • http://emuelle1.TypePad.com/ Eric S. Mueller

    Mile, I'm not sure exactly what you mean in this context by an online presence. As a consumer I definitely prefer the authors who go to the trouble to provide a point to visiting their websites. If the site is just a 3rd party marketing tool to announce when another book will be out, then I see little point in having a website. I figure if the author is going to have a website, why not peepvide some way for fans to interactor at least feel some form of interaction? A blog, twitted feed, or even media guide isn't that hard to do. I know uthors are busy, but some at least go to the trouble of having somebody else update the site about what is going on. I still occasionally get an RSS update from J. P. Moreland's Kingdom Triangle site.

  • http://emuelle1.TypePad.com/ Eric S. Mueller

    I meant "provide". I'm typing on my iPod Touch, so please forgive any obvious errors in my last comment.

  • http://www.rachelhauck.com/ Rachel Hauck

    I absolutely think it's powerful and important. I'm getting ready to revamp my web site so it looks more contemporary and 2009ish.

    I've found meeting people in cyber world has gotten me interviews, guest blogs and other features.

    It's seeing a name and product over and over that finally clicks with people. While a single blog tour many not result in many books sales, several blog tours over a few years, will.

    As a reader, I want to see my authors out and about on the web. I want their web site to be current. I feel sad when I visit an author's site and they haven't blogged in six months or a year.

    A web site is a community draw. It has to be more than information. It has to be interactive and fun with stuff to see and read.

    If I like author A and author B, but A never updates, I'm more likely to develop an affection for author B by what they blog and post on their web site.

    It's time consuming and distracting, but well worth the effort. Like everything, it must be managed according to the time and finances of the author, but do whatever you can. Shoutlife, MySpace, Facebook, MyCCM, etc are all free.

    And Twitter is down right fun!

    Rachel

  • http://www.caraputman.com Cara Putman

    As authors and unpublished authors, we are told that it’s critical to have a presence. I started my blog before I got my first contract. Then I added my website once the first book was ready to release. Now the two are tied together.

    But the challenge is figuring out how to get people to the site. My blog does well on webgrader. My website okay, but there’s work to do. And the challenge is what is a worthwhile investment of time and energy. Something that will attract people back again and again. That’s the nebulous, moving target.

  • Joe Sheehan

    Hey Mike, thanks for such a thorough answer. Its always good to see the “why” explained before the “how”. That demonstrates original thought and leadership. Thank you for considering my comment!

  • http://www.maurilioamorim.com Maurilio Amorim

    Nine years ago, David D’Alessandro, then CEO of John Hancock, wrote “Brand Warfare: 10 Rules for Building the Killer Brand.” In this book he proposed the idea of “brand clans.” It’s a similar concept to Goden’s tribes definition. According to D’Alessandro, you might have more in common with someone who lives in Oregon and shares your passion for running than with your next-door neighbor. Therefore, you and your Oregon counterpart are a part of a psychographic brand clan of runners.

    Social media has made it possible for an infinite number of these brand clans or tribes to connect instantly and at no cost. Online communities are the most effective and powerful tool to propel an author or product they are passionate about. It’s the lowest hanging fruit approach.

    Authors should be the early adopters of this tool not because it will just sell more books, but because it gives them a voice to a tribe that wants and needs to hear from them. Isn’t that what motivates us to write in the first place? Ok, don’t answer that. It can get you in trouble.

  • http://www.caraputman.com/ Cara Putman

    As authors and unpublished authors, we are told that it's critical to have a presence. I started my blog before I got my first contract. Then I added my website once the first book was ready to release. Now the two are tied together.

    But the challenge is figuring out how to get people to the site. My blog does well on webgrader. My website okay, but there's work to do. And the challenge is what is a worthwhile investment of time and energy. Something that will attract people back again and again. That's the nebulous, moving target.

  • Joe Sheehan

    Hey Mike, thanks for such a thorough answer. Its always good to see the "why" explained before the "how". That demonstrates original thought and leadership. Thank you for considering my comment!

  • http://www.homesanctuary.typepad.com Rachel Anne Ridge

    I want to thank you for the link to website grader! It generated more useful information in 2 minutes than all the hours and days I’ve spent trying to figure out what I’m doing right or wrong. I was very pleasantly surprised to find I had a whole lot more subscribers than I imagined and now I’m fired up to make my next post a great one! (And, of course, fix the problem areas….) AWESOME recommendation.

  • http://www.maurilioamorim.com/ Maurilio Amorim

    Nine years ago, David D'Alessandro, then CEO of John Hancock, wrote "Brand Warfare: 10 Rules for Building the Killer Brand." In this book he proposed the idea of "brand clans." It's a similar concept to Goden's tribes definition. According to D'Alessandro, you might have more in common with someone who lives in Oregon and shares your passion for running than with your next-door neighbor. Therefore, you and your Oregon counterpart are a part of a psychographic brand clan of runners.

    Social media has made it possible for an infinite number of these brand clans or tribes to connect instantly and at no cost. Online communities are the most effective and powerful tool to propel an author or product they are passionate about. It's the lowest hanging fruit approach.

    Authors should be the early adopters of this tool not because it will just sell more books, but because it gives them a voice to a tribe that wants and needs to hear from them. Isn't that what motivates us to write in the first place? Ok, don't answer that. It can get you in trouble.

  • http://www.thewritingspa.com Mary DeMuth

    Another thing worth mentioning is author ezines, which is one way I develop my tribal presence on the web. It’s amazing to me how many people actually read my monthly ezine. (If you create one, be sure to think of it as a way to teach or bless readers, keeping in mind their needs. Don’t make it a rah-rah-rah-buy-my-books newsletter.)

    Case in cool point: I spoke at a local preschool mom’s group on Friday with about 60 ladies present. I provided a little card for people to put their names for a chance to win a book. I added that they could write email addresses if they’d like to sign up for my ezine. One lady blurted out from the audience, “You need to subscribe. That ezine is great.”

    I didn’t know her. But she felt connected to me, and my ezine blessed her. To me, that’s the essence of building a tribe.

    Today on Shoutlife, a gal emailed me and wrote something about how my transparency on the web has helped her face various struggles and helped her not feel so alone. That’s the other element of building a web presence. I truly believe people want and long for community. And so many postmoderns can spot a fake a mile away. If you are genuine and authentic, somehow people figure that out. It’s invitational.

    So no matter what vehicle you use to promote tribalism, remember to be yourself, and to think always of the needs of your reader.

  • http://www.homesanctuary.typepad.com/ Rachel Anne Ridge

    I want to thank you for the link to website grader! It generated more useful information in 2 minutes than all the hours and days I've spent trying to figure out what I'm doing right or wrong. I was very pleasantly surprised to find I had a whole lot more subscribers than I imagined and now I'm fired up to make my next post a great one! (And, of course, fix the problem areas….) AWESOME recommendation.

  • http://www.thewritingspa.com/ Mary DeMuth

    Another thing worth mentioning is author ezines, which is one way I develop my tribal presence on the web. It's amazing to me how many people actually read my monthly ezine. (If you create one, be sure to think of it as a way to teach or bless readers, keeping in mind their needs. Don't make it a rah-rah-rah-buy-my-books newsletter.)

    Case in cool point: I spoke at a local preschool mom's group on Friday with about 60 ladies present. I provided a little card for people to put their names for a chance to win a book. I added that they could write email addresses if they'd like to sign up for my ezine. One lady blurted out from the audience, "You need to subscribe. That ezine is great."

    I didn't know her. But she felt connected to me, and my ezine blessed her. To me, that's the essence of building a tribe.

    Today on Shoutlife, a gal emailed me and wrote something about how my transparency on the web has helped her face various struggles and helped her not feel so alone. That's the other element of building a web presence. I truly believe people want and long for community. And so many postmoderns can spot a fake a mile away. If you are genuine and authentic, somehow people figure that out. It's invitational.

    So no matter what vehicle you use to promote tribalism, remember to be yourself, and to think always of the needs of your reader.

  • http://devakisideasandopinions.blogspot.com/ Devaki Khanna

    I really enjoyed your posts on authors and their websites. I did a Masters in Publishing in the UK a year or so ago, and I did a dissertation on the subject of authors and their websites. I’d planned to do a census, using Google Directory, but was not able to do that. However, I was able to spot trends and highlight these in the dissertation. And I’ll tell you why I chose this subject–the only way I could learn about any thing new in genre fiction (mysteries and historical fiction) was by checking out author websites from my home in India. It’s only now that there is little or no time lag between editions for the US/UK market and India.

  • http://devakisideasandopinions.blogspot.com/ Devaki Khanna

    I really enjoyed your posts on authors and their websites. I did a Masters in Publishing in the UK a year or so ago, and I did a dissertation on the subject of authors and their websites. I'd planned to do a census, using Google Directory, but was not able to do that. However, I was able to spot trends and highlight these in the dissertation. And I'll tell you why I chose this subject–the only way I could learn about any thing new in genre fiction (mysteries and historical fiction) was by checking out author websites from my home in India. It's only now that there is little or no time lag between editions for the US/UK market and India.

  • http://www.timothyfish.net Timothy Fish

    Yes, an online presence is important for an author. People buy books from friends (or people they would like to think of as friends). An online presence gives people an opportunity to connect with the author and develop that feeling of friendship.

  • http://www.timothyfish.net/ Timothy Fish

    Yes, an online presence is important for an author. People buy books from friends (or people they would like to think of as friends). An online presence gives people an opportunity to connect with the author and develop that feeling of friendship.

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org/ Jeff

    Thanks, Michael. You said: “This is why I oppose almost all one-off magazine or newspaper ads. You’re paying a lot of money to reach a broad audience without enough frequency to influence consumer behavior. (Yes, there are a couple of exceptions, but they are rare. Most one-off ads are done to satisfy the agent or author’s ego. There. I said it!)”

    I appreciate this, especially coming from someone like yourself. Why don’t more people in advertising/marketing get this? I can understand marketing another product thru magazine ads, but a book? Are you telling me that the publicist or even the author isn’t clever/creative enough to figure out a way to do a brief interview for the magazine or even write a piece that would establish much more brand equity in his/her name or upcoming work?

    I suppose that it’s just easier to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on slamming a bunch of major publications that represent a decent percentage of the market share and expect that to magically hike up book sales for the product. I’m not sure that it works, and even if it does, I doubt the return on investment is even worth it.

    My most recent example involves contacting a company that distributes Christian media about a potential synergistic relationship where we could, essentially, cross-market each other’s lists, if there was some good synergy. Their response was, “All we can offer you is a full-page color ad for $2500.” Now, here am I offering them exposure to our list of 50,000 potential customers in exchange for something similar on their end (just a brainstorm, mind you), and they’re offering me an advertisement? On top of that, this is a magazine that I sometimes contribute to! In the byline, they include my company’s name, what we do, and website address. Ridiculous.

    A great book on this is Al Ries’ The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael S. Hyatt

    @Jeff: I agree. I also linked to Ries’ book in my post, though I didn’t specifically name it. It is a great book that everyone involved in marketing should read. Thanks.

  • http://www.greggfraley.com Gregg Fraley

    These last two posts from Michael are very informative and helpful, thank you. I’ve made a lot of effort to upgrade my author website — and was completely unaware of the grader tool. It was fascinating to use. For me it’s good news/bad news. My grade is pretty good, but a few holes were spotted, so there is an opportunity to improve.

    I understand Michael has more to say on this topic tomorrow…I’m all ears and eyes!

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org/ Jeff

    Thanks, Michael. You said: "This is why I oppose almost all one-off magazine or newspaper ads. You’re paying a lot of money to reach a broad audience without enough frequency to influence consumer behavior. (Yes, there are a couple of exceptions, but they are rare. Most one-off ads are done to satisfy the agent or author’s ego. There. I said it!)"

    I appreciate this, especially coming from someone like yourself. Why don't more people in advertising/marketing get this? I can understand marketing another product thru magazine ads, but a book? Are you telling me that the publicist or even the author isn't clever/creative enough to figure out a way to do a brief interview for the magazine or even write a piece that would establish much more brand equity in his/her name or upcoming work?

    I suppose that it's just easier to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on slamming a bunch of major publications that represent a decent percentage of the market share and expect that to magically hike up book sales for the product. I'm not sure that it works, and even if it does, I doubt the return on investment is even worth it.

    My most recent example involves contacting a company that distributes Christian media about a potential synergistic relationship where we could, essentially, cross-market each other's lists, if there was some good synergy. Their response was, "All we can offer you is a full-page color ad for $2500." Now, here am I offering them exposure to our list of 50,000 potential customers in exchange for something similar on their end (just a brainstorm, mind you), and they're offering me an advertisement? On top of that, this is a magazine that I sometimes contribute to! In the byline, they include my company's name, what we do, and website address. Ridiculous.

    A great book on this is Al Ries' The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    @Jeff: I agree. I also linked to Ries’ book in my post, though I didn’t specifically name it. It is a great book that everyone involved in marketing should read. Thanks.

  • http://www.greggfraley.com/ Gregg Fraley

    These last two posts from Michael are very informative and helpful, thank you. I've made a lot of effort to upgrade my author website — and was completely unaware of the grader tool. It was fascinating to use. For me it's good news/bad news. My grade is pretty good, but a few holes were spotted, so there is an opportunity to improve.

    I understand Michael has more to say on this topic tomorrow…I'm all ears and eyes!

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org/ Jeff

    nice, by the way, just got graded. I’m a 90. Looks like I need a LOT more inbound links, though.

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org/ Jeff

    nice, by the way, just got graded. I'm a 90. Looks like I need a LOT more inbound links, though.

  • Emily Sutherland

    Michael, I’m usually not a follower. If someone tells me a successful writer “must” Twitter, I’ll always think, “You’re just saying that because YOU Twitter…” but for some reason I listen to you. So I’ve started a Twitter account. And a Facebook account. And I’m hanging on every word about what I should do next. What should I fix for supper? How do successful writers get their kids to eat green vegetables?? Don’t lead me astray!

  • Emily Sutherland

    Michael, I'm usually not a follower. If someone tells me a successful writer "must" Twitter, I'll always think, "You're just saying that because YOU Twitter…" but for some reason I listen to you. So I've started a Twitter account. And a Facebook account. And I'm hanging on every word about what I should do next. What should I fix for supper? How do successful writers get their kids to eat green vegetables?? Don't lead me astray!

  • http://www.maplemountain.blogspot.com/ S.D. Smith

    Thank you. This is a very helpful post. Another factor in this consideration is the power of community as it relates to Christians and the core value of service to our neighbors.

    How do I serve my neighbors through my art?

    My own musings on this relate to considerations of how I, as an author (hopeful), will best serve those who read my novels and follow my blog.

    I consider Andrew Peterson’s “Rabbit Room” an excellent example of this.

    http://www.rabbitroom.com/

  • http://www.maplemountain.blogspot.com/ S.D. Smith

    Thank you. This is a very helpful post. Another factor in this consideration is the power of community as it relates to Christians and the core value of service to our neighbors.

    How do I serve my neighbors through my art?

    My own musings on this relate to considerations of how I, as an author (hopeful), will best serve those who read my novels and follow my blog.

    I consider Andrew Peterson's "Rabbit Room" an excellent example of this.
    http://www.rabbitroom.com/

  • http://www.authorsonthenet.com Phil Davis

    If I understand you correctly, you are saying an author needs a strong online presence. This is more than just a Google or Technorati ranking. This includes everything an author does online and all the activities need to connect. A large company can put out build board signs, run TV ads, radio ads. etc. An author can blog, leave comments on top blog site, be on Facebook, Twitter, join forums and communities, have an Amazon profile and every time the author does something online it adds to his or her presence.

  • http://www.authorsonthenet.com/ Phil Davis

    If I understand you correctly, you are saying an author needs a strong online presence. This is more than just a Google or Technorati ranking. This includes everything an author does online and all the activities need to connect. A large company can put out build board signs, run TV ads, radio ads. etc. An author can blog, leave comments on top blog site, be on Facebook, Twitter, join forums and communities, have an Amazon profile and every time the author does something online it adds to his or her presence.

  • http://true-small-caps.blogspot.com Derek

    Believe it or not, I have occasionally bought books after seeing them mentioned on author websites. But it’s only because the author already has multiple books out — which is why I was drawn to the website in the first place.

  • http://true-small-caps.blogspot.com/ Derek

    Believe it or not, I have occasionally bought books after seeing them mentioned on author websites. But it's only because the author already has multiple books out — which is why I was drawn to the website in the first place.

  • http://www.ornaross.com Orna Ross

    Speaking as an author (novelist) who has lately come to blogging, I’d like to add that I love the contact it provides with readers — from those who are already fans to those who never intend to read any of my books but who enjoy the blog. It’s early days for me but I see the short, instant, unmediated and personal writing that blogging allows as the perfect complement to the longer, more crafted published writing. And it’s fun.

  • http://www.ornaross.com/ Orna Ross

    Speaking as an author (novelist) who has lately come to blogging, I'd like to add that I love the contact it provides with readers — from those who are already fans to those who never intend to read any of my books but who enjoy the blog. It's early days for me but I see the short, instant, unmediated and personal writing that blogging allows as the perfect complement to the longer, more crafted published writing. And it's fun.

  • http://www.kevindhendricks.com Kevin D. Hendricks

    It’s amazing the caliber of authors who don’t even have web sites. I just blogged about this, trying to figure out why it is that authors in general rarely get the online world.

    Musicians get it (every band has a web site and a MySpace page), when will authors get it?

  • http://www.kevindhendricks.com/ Kevin D. Hendricks

    It's amazing the caliber of authors who don't even have web sites. I just blogged about this, trying to figure out why it is that authors in general rarely get the online world.

    Musicians get it (every band has a web site and a MySpace page), when will authors get it?

  • http://www.generatornetwork.com Mike Rapp, Generator LLC

    I’ve found that authors, by their very nature, are focused on what THEY are saying, and not so focused on generating a response from their readers — let alone responding to them — let alone getting them what they are asking for.

    A great web site empowers interaction between fans and authors in a variety of ways — including and perhaps especially in ecommerce. The great sites, like Dave Ramsey and Rivals.com (on which I publish VandySports.com) have reached critical mass, where the fans are actually running the site. All we do, then, is continue to put dry tinder onto the fire and keep the wind blowing.

    Blogs are good at providing a framework for typewritten interaction, but blogs are by their very nature linear. It takes more than just a blog to get fans to love your site and interact. No one revisits a site that doesn’t engage them, and can somehow promise that they will be engaged again and again and again.

    Your blog, Mike, is a great example of what makes a blog great. You are seeking out interaction, as opposed to simply blathering on about something that is on your mind. Authors need to move away from simply pouring out what they are thinking about, and rather pose questions that could have a wide variety of perfectly valid answers.

  • http://www.generatornetwork.com Mike Rapp, Generator LLC

    One more thing on the advertising discussion.

    I’ve worked with and for many Nelson employees over 20 years in this business and we’ve done a ton of the so-called “hated” print advertising. Everyone seems ready to dog that medium, but there is a reason magazines are booming like never before. If you have a product in which you believe is “this close” to reaching critical mass, then national advertising can be the spark to light that fire in one simple act. You can hire teams of people to scour blogs and post on the behalf of an author, but a print ad in the right magazine has perceived weight that cannot be matched.

    One example I have of this is artist Jeremy Horn. Jeremy is a new worship artist who is largely unknown outside of his Memphis home. We created a great site and filled it up with content. But when Worship Leader elected to run a single story about him, we set a record for page views the next day. THE NEXT DAY. It literally put him on a new level in a matter of days.

    When I worked at Word Records, we would often buy large print ads in CCM Magazine for our major releases. While we didn’t always do it for the right reasons, and it didn’t always work, we did manage to establish a brand pecking order for our major artists. (Research indicates that most people select what to buy from their own mental “top three list”.) This provided us with an immediate groundswell at retail as soon as the product arrived, which ensured that the retailer felt it was worth their time and inventory investment.

    I have a belief that our clients have heard me say often: I suspect the future will look a lot like the past. If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that advertising is dead, I could retire wealthy.

    We need a way to filter all the info out there. Google is great, but it can’t do it all. There’s a reason etrade is doing “all that advertising.” They have a great web site, and in fact their entire business is web-based. So why pour millions into advertising? Well, they are trying to separate themselves from their competition. Advertising works.

  • http://www.generatornetwork.com/ Mike Rapp, Generator

    I've found that authors, by their very nature, are focused on what THEY are saying, and not so focused on generating a response from their readers — let alone responding to them — let alone getting them what they are asking for.

    A great web site empowers interaction between fans and authors in a variety of ways — including and perhaps especially in ecommerce. The great sites, like Dave Ramsey and Rivals.com (on which I publish VandySports.com) have reached critical mass, where the fans are actually running the site. All we do, then, is continue to put dry tinder onto the fire and keep the wind blowing.

    Blogs are good at providing a framework for typewritten interaction, but blogs are by their very nature linear. It takes more than just a blog to get fans to love your site and interact. No one revisits a site that doesn't engage them, and can somehow promise that they will be engaged again and again and again.

    Your blog, Mike, is a great example of what makes a blog great. You are seeking out interaction, as opposed to simply blathering on about something that is on your mind. Authors need to move away from simply pouring out what they are thinking about, and rather pose questions that could have a wide variety of perfectly valid answers.

  • http://www.generatornetwork.com/ Mike Rapp, Generator

    One more thing on the advertising discussion.

    I've worked with and for many Nelson employees over 20 years in this business and we've done a ton of the so-called "hated" print advertising. Everyone seems ready to dog that medium, but there is a reason magazines are booming like never before. If you have a product in which you believe is "this close" to reaching critical mass, then national advertising can be the spark to light that fire in one simple act. You can hire teams of people to scour blogs and post on the behalf of an author, but a print ad in the right magazine has perceived weight that cannot be matched.

    One example I have of this is artist Jeremy Horn. Jeremy is a new worship artist who is largely unknown outside of his Memphis home. We created a great site and filled it up with content. But when Worship Leader elected to run a single story about him, we set a record for page views the next day. THE NEXT DAY. It literally put him on a new level in a matter of days.

    When I worked at Word Records, we would often buy large print ads in CCM Magazine for our major releases. While we didn't always do it for the right reasons, and it didn't always work, we did manage to establish a brand pecking order for our major artists. (Research indicates that most people select what to buy from their own mental "top three list".) This provided us with an immediate groundswell at retail as soon as the product arrived, which ensured that the retailer felt it was worth their time and inventory investment.

    I have a belief that our clients have heard me say often: I suspect the future will look a lot like the past. If I had a dime for every time I've heard that advertising is dead, I could retire wealthy.

    We need a way to filter all the info out there. Google is great, but it can't do it all. There's a reason etrade is doing "all that advertising." They have a great web site, and in fact their entire business is web-based. So why pour millions into advertising? Well, they are trying to separate themselves from their competition. Advertising works.

  • http://www.sheeptotheright.com Carol Hatcher

    Michael,
    Thank you for such great information! I am a new author and am just getting my feet wet. It’s funny that you posted about this. A girlfriend and I recently submitted a proposal to teach at our next writer’s conference about how to build a “beginner’s platform” with blogging, Facebook, and Twitter. Evidently, we are on the right track.

    I have definitely taken note of your suggestions. Thank you for putting such thoughtful and noteworthy information out there.

  • http://www.sheeptotheright.com/ Carol Hatcher

    Michael,
    Thank you for such great information! I am a new author and am just getting my feet wet. It's funny that you posted about this. A girlfriend and I recently submitted a proposal to teach at our next writer's conference about how to build a "beginner's platform" with blogging, Facebook, and Twitter. Evidently, we are on the right track.

    I have definitely taken note of your suggestions. Thank you for putting such thoughtful and noteworthy information out there.

  • http://www.momishome2.blogspot.com/ Bethany

    Yes! I do believe a strong Web presence is necessary for authors and wanna-be authors. Several years ago, I tried to sell an article to several magazines with not even a nibble of interest. Last year, a friend suggested that I start a blog to "practice" writing and to build up an audience. I said, "A what?" But, I did start a blog and have since become a regular contributer to an online magazine and also have an article being considered for a well-known Christian women's magazine.

    My dad has written several books in different genres and is trying to get them published, but he says he doesn't have time to spend promoting them (to publishers and agents), although he has sent out a slew of proposals. I have been telling him for a year that he needs to start a blog! I sent him the link to this post :-)

    I just subscribed to the RSS feed and can't wait to read more. Thanks for taking time to post all this helpful information.

    Bethany LeBedz ~ Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
    <a href="http://www.momishome2.blogspot.com” target=”_blank”>www.momishome2.blogspot.com

  • http://www.momishome2.blogspot.com Bethany

    Yes! I do believe a strong Web presence is necessary for authors and wanna-be authors. Several years ago, I tried to sell an article to several magazines with not even a nibble of interest. Last year, a friend suggested that I start a blog to "practice" writing and to build up an audience. I said, "A what?" But, I did start a blog and have since become a regular contributer to an online magazine and also have an article being considered for a well-known Christian women's magazine.

    My dad has written several books in different genres and is trying to get them published, but he says he doesn't have time to spend promoting them (to publishers and agents), although he has sent out a slew of proposals. I have been telling him for a year that he needs to start a blog! I sent him the link to this post :-)

    I just subscribed to the RSS feed and can't wait to read more. Thanks for taking time to post all this helpful information.

    Bethany LeBedz ~ Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
    http://www.momishome2.blogspot.com

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  • http://www.oceanathome.com/ Brian Blank

    Michael,

    Great points for authors starting out and established. I think the authors looking to gain traction are making the use out of every means necessary to create as many digital bridges between potential readers/followers and themselves. Everyone has different ways they like to communicate to taking advantage of a simple blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc., can increase the chances your name will come in contact with more people and keep you relevant.

    Even committing 20 minutes a day can help keep you in touch with your readers. I think its just as important for the author to follow what their readers to help build up that community and build a stronger tribe.

    Great piece!

    Brian

  • http://www.oceanathome.com Brian Blank

    Michael,

    Great points for authors starting out and established. I think the authors looking to gain traction are making the use out of every means necessary to create as many digital bridges between potential readers/followers and themselves. Everyone has different ways they like to communicate to taking advantage of a simple blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc., can increase the chances your name will come in contact with more people and keep you relevant.

    Even committing 20 minutes a day can help keep you in touch with your readers. I think its just as important for the author to follow what their readers to help build up that community and build a stronger tribe.

    Great piece!

    Brian

  • http://www.flirtingwithfaith.com/ Joan Ball

    As a new author making the writer's conference rounds in 2005 I was told, as so many aspiring authors are, that my book was interesting but that I lacked the kind of platform that would turn the heads of reputable publishers. Blogging, communicating with other bloggers and developing relationships with people all over the world on Facebook and Twitter (as well as attending writer's conferences) have resulted in countless connections, a book contract and, lately, offers to speak in surprising and wonderful venues. I cannot say enough about the importance of online community and an online presence for authors – especially those of us who are nobodies from nowhere…

  • http://www.flirtingwithfaith.com Joan Ball

    As a new author making the writer’s conference rounds in 2005 I was told, as so many aspiring authors are, that my book was interesting but that I lacked the kind of platform that would turn the heads of reputable publishers. Blogging, communicating with other bloggers and developing relationships with people all over the world on Facebook and Twitter (as well as attending writer’s conferences) have resulted in countless connections, a book contract and, lately, offers to speak in surprising and wonderful venues. I cannot say enough about the importance of online community and an online presence for authors – especially those of us who are nobodies from nowhere…

  • http://evaulian-thebestoftheworst.blogspot.com/ Eva Ulian

    I certainly agree with what you say here Joan. I particularly liked in reference to: "especially those of us who are nobodies from nowhere…" I do indeed connect with that.

  • http://evaulian-thebestoftheworst.blogspot.com/ Eva Ulian

    I certainly agree with what you say here Joan. I particularly liked in reference to: “especially those of us who are nobodies from nowhere…” I do indeed connect with that.

  • http://doreenisthewizardofwords.blogspot.com/ Doreen Pendgracs

    I complete agree with you, Michael. In fact, since joining Twitter in July & discovering your tweets, I have worked hard to build my author's profile on Twitter (now have over 500 "real" followers) and on my blog which I started in Feb. Just finished my new book on boards of directors ("Before You Say Yes …") which will be published by Dundurn Press in March, and am hoping that having a very visible online presence will increase interest in the book, thereby increasing sales. And the chance for me getting an even better contract for my next book.

  • http://doreenisthewizardofwords.blogspot.com/ Doreen Pendgracs

    I complete agree with you, Michael. In fact, since joining Twitter in July & discovering your tweets, I have worked hard to build my author's profile on Twitter (now have over 500 "real" followers) and on my blog which I started in Feb. Just finished my new book on boards of directors ("Before You Say Yes …") which will be published by Dundurn Press in March, and am hoping that having a very visible online presence will increase interest in the book, thereby increasing sales. And the chance for me getting an even better contract for my next book.

  • Richard Robertson

    I attend Emmanuel College, in Northeast GA. I put our website in the grader. It is rather scary! Our website needs some clarity work. Doctoral Level of readability on a website created to reach people wanting to attain a BA/BS.

  • Richard Robertson

    I attend Emmanuel College, in Northeast GA. I put our website in the grader. It is rather scary! Our website needs some clarity work. Doctoral Level of readability on a website created to reach people wanting to attain a BA/BS.

  • http://dominatenashville.com Darren Crawford

    Great post Mr. Hyatt. I would submit that ANY business, not just authors need a powerful online presence (and community). I think businesses without a solid presence online are simply islands without shipping traffic lanes. They might be nice places to visit, but they are not on the map and nobody knows they are there. Tragic in the sense of the number of small, local businesses that have GREAT concepts or offerings, but don't stand the test of time because of poor marketing.

    - Darren
    Dominate Nashville
    My recent post Good News &amp; Bad News About Growing Your Nashville Business

  • http://dominatenashville.com/ Darren Crawford

    Great post Mr. Hyatt. I would submit that ANY business, not just authors need a powerful online presence (and community). I think businesses without a solid presence online are simply islands without shipping traffic lanes. They might be nice places to visit, but they are not on the map and nobody knows they are there. Tragic in the sense of the number of small, local businesses that have GREAT concepts or offerings, but don't stand the test of time because of poor marketing.

    - Darren
    Dominate Nashville
    My recent post Good News &amp; Bad News About Growing Your Nashville Business

  • http://www.cinja.net/ cindy lynn jacobs

    Building an online presence is important because everyone is online now. It's the new social gathering place. You can keep in touch with readers and editors. Another reason is that many of your editors that are considering your work with google you to see that you have an online platform. Any additional help you can offer to help promote yourself and your work is a benefit to the publisher.

  • http://www.cinja.net/ cindy lynn jacobs

    Building an online presence is important because everyone is online now. It's the new social gathering place. You can keep in touch with readers and editors. Another reason is that many of your editors that are considering your work with google you to see that you have an online platform. Any additional help you can offer to help promote yourself and your work is a benefit to the publisher.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/WindmillDuke WindmillDuke

    Funny thing happening on my way to the publishing circus. Soninlaw, co-author, a Gen Xer, has no clue. Barely uses cell, never doest text. So here I am four generations away from the Millennial (5) kids he is letting me help him raise on the fathering side, and I am pumping him on the need for this "tribe" and following thing. Printing your counsel here, Michael. We've a site, but the biggest nextest thing is our blog-to-be, GenDads. If I don't print this off, he won't be a-reading it.

  • Mark

    Great post as usual @mikehyatt

  • Jenny

    As a writer who has recently returned to writing after getting through young-children years, I think an online presence is definitely helpful. I have not yet been published, but I’m sure my blog and Facebook page and Twitter will be very handy when I am! People who follow your blog will feel like you are a friend, if they don’t personally know you, and will want to tell their friends about your work. It’s a kind of word-of-mouth.

  • http://twitter.com/2020VisionBook Joshua Hood

    The value of an online presence for an author, like the publishing world, is changing. Every day an online presence becomes more valuable, because every day the way our world communicates changes. This shift in methods of communication effects the way books are read, the way writers write, and the way they promote their brand and business. It was not that vital five years ago, but is becoming more so every day.

    Joshua Hood
    2020visiononline.org

  • http://write2ignite.com Write2ignite

    What do you suggest for blogs and websites for relatively new (and still not widely known) writing conferences and writers?

    As a web admin for a writing conference (for folks who write for children, teens and YA) I am looking for ways to increase our traffic on the site and blog. One of our bloggers had to step down and we are making some changes to help the flow of everything go smoother and reach out to more folks.

    We are constantly networking by word of mouth and have a twitter and FB account. We’ve started adding tags and categories to each blog post. Is that enough? Or do you suggest more?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Without reviewing your content, I would say that your content is the single most important asset. If you write helpful, compelling content, people will find you and recommend you to their writing friends. I wrote a post on this a while back: “Focus on Blog Content Before Traffic.”

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  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    The Question Is: Do you think building an online presence as an author is important? Why or why not?

    Answer: OH YES! Building an online presence is pretty much a must these days. People want (even expect) their authors, speakers, bloggers, etc. to be more accessible these days. If they’re not, they’re quickly forgotten. Sure a book will come out. Sure they may read it. But how successful they are from that point on (I’d argue even up to that point) can be determined by presence.

    Several examples come to mind. Two right off the top of my head are:
    1. Tim Sanders
    2. Scott Ginsberg

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  • ap

    If you something people want to know about i mean malkin is conservative and her message is largely ignored in the media so yes. I follow tayari jones but honestly to see her upcoming events and shes onthe pulse of the literary world for my market. But if you have no followers may b a waste of time

  • http://www.peaceforthejourney.com/ Faith Elaine Olsen

    Thanks for including the website grader link. Very informative and helpful. I’ve been blogging for about 5 years now and am noticing less comments these days. Honestly, it’s discouraging, because I’m not sure how to assess impact at this point. My Klout score was 30 (not sure if that’s good) with an overall rating of 82. I’m going to dig deeper into the suggestions offered and see what happens.
    peace~elaine

  • Teresa Green

    Michael, I am writing a novel, and want to use a pen name for my fiction separate it from my non-fiction writing and main career. I have enough trouble in my efforts to build a platform for my blog. Building a separate platform for my pen name is daunting, since it feels like I’m creating a entire new identity. Any suggestions?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I really don’t. I think this is challenging because social media rewards authenticity. I would write under your real name if at all possible.