Saturday, April 13, 2013

How Can People Know Me?

My post on calling oneself an "aspiring author" received some positive feedback, which got me onto thinking: when an author drops the "aspiring", how do they get everyone else to look at them as an author, to know about them as an author? From experience, I know it's difficult to get noticed, even just to get people to see you as an author.

Thankfully, there are some options out there.

For me, telling someone who would care was an important step. This meant teachers. I think I only ever mentioned it to two of them, both English teachers, and word must have gotten around that I'd written a book. When I was in fifth year, a teacher I didn't have mentioned - to his class, of people in my year - that I had written a book. Suddenly, I was that guy.

That was before Twitter. It was before Facebook Pages. It was before Google+. I think it was even before I started blogging (if I remember when word got around, correctly.)

Now, things are simpler. What can you do to make yourself known as an author?

1. Set up a Twitter account. In your bio, make sure to mention that you are an author/writer. This worked for me in the early days of Twitter to get followers, because people like following users who are like them. I was a young writer, received a lot of encouragement for that fact, and it was impossible to deny that I was a writer. Follow other writers - and not just the famous ones - and get talking to them.

2. Set up a Facebook Page. This will be one of the easiest places for people to express a 'Liking' for you, if you'll excuse the pun. Having 'Likes' demonstrates your AUTHORity, to yourself and others. Invite your friends and family, and be sure to have a link to your Facebook Page somewhere people can see it.

3. Set up a Google+ Account. You can link this to your other Google accounts. Google+ makes it easy to be shared in others' Circles, and Hangouts allow you to talk directly to other writers.

4. Set up a Blog or Website. From here, you can provide valuable information about yourself and your writing, provide free stories and poetry, and keep people up to date with what's happening in your life. I use my blog, largely, to write about my personal life, though sometimes with posts like this that explore writing. My website has articles that have been researched to provide more informative posts, without so much of an insight into my personal life. It also contains stories and poetry, which help diversify what I share. My Friday Flash stories go up here.

If you publish something, or you want to, the next obvious step is:

5. Set up an Author Central Account, if you use Amazon's KDP. This will be where your books will be linked from, and where Amazon users can find out more about you. You can provide a video (the trailer for Balor Reborn in my case, as of writing this), set up a forum, write your bio, and add an author photo. It helps to use the same photo across a number of different sites.

You also have an optional couple of steps, depending on the sort of person you are:

6. Set up a LinkedIn Account. This is more of a "professional" social network, for connecting with people. The idea is to connect with people you know, and help others find people they might need to connect with for career or work opportunities. You should ensure to fill in your Skills, previous work experience, education, and other useful information that LinkedIn provides space for, as these not only allow people to find you, they help create a CV for you online. You can also be endorsed for Skills, and should endorse co-workers, teachers, clients and those you have hired (such as a graphic designer for your cover) in the appropriate areas.

7. Set up a YouTube Channel. If you can talk to a camera or make videos in some other way, and find it interesting and enjoyable, you have the opportunity to reach more people. You could keep a video blog, read poetry or short stories, upload book trailers, or create informative videos (as some examples). This can be linked to your Google+ and Blogger accounts, and provide links to your other Social Networking sites.

While there is no guarantee that any site will make you known as an author, it will help establish your author identity online. Getting involved in forums is also of benefit to you as a writer so long as you keep up with your writing, and make sure people know you are a writer (by having a link to your website in your signature, for example).

When it comes to "real life" (i.e. anything not online), you have the option of trying for events in a book shop, if you've published something and the shop will stock it (and remember, a shop does not have to stock your book just because it's been published), reading at public events, setting up a reading night (which works well for poetry), or seeking publication in magazines and/or newspapers for articles, poetry or short stories.

It's always beneficial to you as a writer to identify as one. If you don't, no one else will see you in that way. That's counter-productive to everything you could do to get your name out there.

But what about getting recognised? Follow this simple advice, and you'll be on your way:

1. Post often. People need to remember who you are.

2. Post something worth reading. If people enjoy it (for its entertainment value or its educational value), then they'll be more likely to (a) come back and (b) share it.

3. Interact with others. This can be difficult to do, especially if you're a busy person (as I tend to be while lectures are on in college), you should make sure to do a couple of things: respond to comments from others, set up something like to share others' links, and make an effort to check in on sites at least once per week.

If you want, you can also:

4. Set up a newsletter on your website. This means you can have direct access to people's email addresses. You do have to write it, though, and having something to say could be difficult. Right now, I don't use mine as much as I should.

5. Set up auto-tweets if you can always sign in. Be careful about this, though. Many people don't like to see auto-tweets coming in all the time, because they don't get to know the person. I've tested them while I was in work one weekend, sharing quotes from authors about writing and life. The important thing is to check in when you're actually around to talk to people, and remember #3: respond to people's replies. I know I received a couple, because the quotes were amazing. You don't have to tweet quotes, but links aren't favourable. Try poetry or (very) short stories, instead, if you want to provide something interesting for people while you're away. (Social Oomph is useful and free for setting up auto-tweets.)

If/when you become a published author - either by having a book published by someone else, or by publishing yourself - make sure people know where to get it. However, don't saturate social media with links to your book. It's always beneficial to write free material in the same area you publish in, too, if you're trying to get others to notice your book, and to use promotions on whichever site you're using to publish.

In every case - every social network - you should have a bio that tells people who you are. Be informative, semi-formal, but aim to be funny or quirky, too. People like something that will make them smile. It's more difficult to do that on Twitter, but with other sites you have more space to talk about yourself and your writing.

Remember: get to know other writers, other readers, and demonstrate a real interest in what people have to say. Let them know who you are, what you're up to, and what you're feeling, and be consistent about it. Respect the people you connect with online. And never forget to show that you're a writer.

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