Sunday, August 7, 2011

Online Author Marketing: Pre-Agent

On Friday, I participated in an amazing interactive interview on Krista Van Dolzer's Mother. Write. (Repeat.) Blog. One of the questions asked, concerning author online marketing, was too complex to discuss in the comments section:

How can a writer get the most out of the Internet at each stage of the writing journey (pre-agent, post-agent, pre-book release, post-book release)?

Since we couldn't talk about it on Friday, it'll be the subject of a series on the blog this week.

First, we'll cover pre-agent online marketing and platform-building tactics.

Since your online presence is the foundation for your online marketing in the future, you should have a strategy before you just jump on Blogger. What brand are you trying to build? What other people are already talking about what you want to? How can you possibly collaborate with them? Unfortunately, blogging about "your writing process" or "your publishing journey" is not going to cut it if you really want to build a following--too many are already doing it. For tips on blog topics, check out this post here (and the surrounding posts).

I suggest a blog and a twitter account as a good online foundation for an aspiring writer.

You don't have to be super active on Twitter as soon as you sign up. Go ahead and find 20 or 30 people to follow--a mix of writers you admire, agents, editors, and non-publishing people--and just lurk. Listen to conversations, jump in where you feel like you have something to say. As you get more comfortable with the platform, you can tweet more. A fully active account should be tweeting no fewer than three times a day.

The hashtags #askagent and #yalitchat are examples of ways to find others interested in the things you're writing about: both agents/editors and beta writers. You can search those terms on Twitter and read the transcripts of the chats, which are always full of great info.

A blog is another good way to get started building an online presence. As you'll see as you get your feet wet with Twitter, the writerly blogosphere is incredibly interconnected. Bloggers guest post, start series together, and share thoughts on books they loved (And hated). But here more than anywhere else you have to worry about oversharing.

Many writers serialize their work on their blogs. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to avoid that. Authors nearly always list "getting an agent" as the reason they put "teasers" on their blogs. But there is already a mechanism for showing your work to agents: the query. Trust that process; it is highly unlikely that an agent will just stumble on your blog. They usually find it by clicking links in a query. So why put it on the blog?

If you choose to do so anyway you may put yourself breach of the warranties and indemnities clause of the publishing contract that you haven't even signed yet. I like Krista's strategy: she has a widget on her sidebar that lists a logline for her book. That's interesting without crossing any lines. Kathleen Ortiz has a great author website post here that lists website elements you should focus on.

You should try to post about twice a week on your blog--a link with a caption is still a post, but try to make a habit of producing real content--between 100 and 400 words.

So what do you think? Any questions? Tomorrow we'll talk about changes you should make once you're an agented writer.


  1. Thank you, thank you! You've just said all the things I teach in my social networking-for-writers classes--at least all the things that get arguments.

    This one especially: "Many writers serialize their work on their blogs. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to avoid that." I hope it's all right that quote you on this in my hand-outs. I feel like having it printed on T-shirts.

    I tell writers that blogs are the social networking "home base". They are where you invite friends to come and chat. Blogs should evolve and change as the writer's career grows. I think it's fine to start just using it to network with fellow NaNoWriMo'ers or people in your RWA group or whatever--then take your cue from who's visiting and what topics they're interested in. And VISIT OTHER BLOGS. As the great Nathan Bransford hath taught us: Social networking is social!

  2. About a year ago I tried to start building a real online presence. It didn't move quickly, but I'm learning. I'm writing about stuff that excites me! Every month I try to feature a new charity (I love philanthropy, even though I'm dirt poor, and that comes out in my characters), I review books that inspire me, and I try to point my readers in the direction of obscure pieces of advice, notable blogs, funny web comics, etc.

    It's really eyeopening to me to see how little I know, but how easy it is to go out into the blogosphere and learn!

  3. Anne! My kindred spirit!!

    Visiting other blogs is a fantastic idea--not only as a mine for content (I always find others' blog posts great inspiration for my own) and as a place to interact with the community (leave comments!).

    You'll notice I frequently link out to other blogs. Bloggers appreciate these!! Do it!

  4. Hi Meredith!

    I do have a blog, but rarely post on it. But I'm regular contributor to the group blog, Working Stiffs. I'm also the administrator and do all the scheduling and corral guest bloggers. Is that enough, or should I try and resurrect my own blog?

    Back to the manuscript...

  5. Hi Meredith! Fabulous as always!!!

    I have a blog, I started it a year and a half ago after feeling inspired. Since then I've written several novels (poor still counts), and have blogged M-F since the day I started. Each agent or publishing house I cross I pick up little tidbits on what not to do and redirect my focus. The most important part is to be yourself, live a little, let go, and have fun.

    People listen when you're having fun.

  6. Jen, yes!! Sounds great.

    Joyce: Nah, just can the personal blog. The only thing worse than no blog is a blog that hasn't been updated in months! Working Stiffs is a great one. Just focus there.

  7. Meredith! Great series of posts this week! I've been out of town since last weekend, but I look forward to reading through these posts. Thanks for answering my question in way more detail than I expected you to!