Cf6Q2RjWwAA5GJO.jpg-largeLast week at London Book Fair Simon took part in a seminar at Author HQ, alongside Will Rycroft, Community Manager for Vintage, part of the Penguin Random House empire, on the topic of successful media strategies for authors. Here are some of the highlights of Simon’s part of the talk.

It’s important for authors to play the long game when establishing an author’s digital footprint – have a strategy and give it time to work, rather than chopping and changing social media platforms or content marketing approaches before they can be.

A website that an author has full control over is a key part of that strategy – it’s base camp, their home on the web, their digital hub. While social media platforms can change without warning (or indeed, could start to charge without warning), disappear or merge, with a website there’s no question over who owns and controls the content. A website provides analytics data, and crucially, the opportunity to build a mailing list of contacts, which can be fully owned and controlled by the author (with MailChimp free for a list of up to 2,000 subscribers, there’s no need to worry about cost until the list hits a meaningful size). Websites can evolve over time, as an author’s writing career will.

The crucial thing to think hard about for an author website is content – it’s difficult to understate how important this is. While Bookswarm would never downplay the importance of good design, having a good-looking website without good content is a significant missed opportunity, because users will not want to come back to it and search engines will not engage with it properly.

Website content for authors has two critical dimensions:

Book information

In our experience, the biggest missed opportunity for authors on their website is failing to provide any information about their books that is exclusive, and can’t be obtained from retailer websites or their publisher’s site. This could be:

  • Research notes or images
  • Character sketches or biographies
  • Maps
  • Early drafts or deleted scenes or passages

but the author can give full rein to their imagination when thinking about this, and even set out to create this content during the process of writing the book.

News and blogging

If an author is intending to blog, they should choose a tone and frequency that fits with their writing style and social media plans. It’s not necessary to reveal personal information – the focus can be on the books.

Ideas for blogging approaches:

  • Thematic blogs around subject matter related to the book(s)
  • Blogging in character
  • Blogging about influences and inspirations
  • Teaming up with other authors

The key thing is to try and live up to whatever promises the blog makes, about style, subject and frequency of updates – it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than the opposite.

Case studies

Here are some good examples from Bookswarm clients:

Shannon SelinShannon Selin

Since launching her website in November 2013, Shannon has blogged once a week about a wide range of Napoleonic topics, based on her reading and research – and she has e-mailed her growing e-mail list every Friday. Here’s a guest post Shannon wrote for us with 10 tips for authors and here’s her website.

71G6GSPevgL._UX250_Katy Birchall

Katy’s blogging approach encompasses a mixture of author updates, video blogging and writing blog posts in character – creating additional content that’s perfect for her pre-teen and teenaged audience. See Katy’s website

Untitled-2Marcus Chown

Marcus asked us to include fun science facts in his website, supported by strong imagery which reinforces and supports his approach to explaining his subject. For example, did you know there are about 15 galaxies for every man, woman and child on earth (but Marcus has called dibs on this one)? See Marcus’s website

Final thoughts

Simon and Will were asked to give five tips each at the end of the seminar. Simon’s were:

  • Use your website to give visitors inside information
  • Prioritise content over design
  • Focus on a clear, long-term content strategy that’s right for you
  • Build your own e-mail list
  • Be authentic

We hope that both the audience and you found this useful – drop us a line if you have any questions about our work with authors.

Thanks to Will for the panoramic image at the top of this post!