It is a truth universally acknowledged that whether traditionally published or independent, authors need a Platform (also known as an online presence). I use a pen name, not to be anonymous (that plan would fall apart quickly the first time I did a talk or a book signing), but because I publish research under my real name and I need to keep the identities separate. I needed to build my new online author presence from scratch.
Never one to do things by half measures, I consumed every indie author blog and podcast I could get my hands on, and then I did my best to follow their advice. Here’s what I did. I hope this serves as a useful checklist:
1) I set up a website, following Simon Whistler’s excellent video tutorial. However: I stuck with the free and easy-to-manage wordpress.com, not the self-hosted wordpress.org recommended in the tutorial. (For excellent, free header graphics, try freepik.com.)
2) I bought several domain names and pointed each one to my WordPress.com site. I used domain.com, although I’ve also heard good things about Hover. Why more than one?
First, I wanted to be easy to find. That’s why I registered my author name (frankiebow.com), my series protagonist’s name (mollybarda.com) and the name of the first book in the Molly Barda series (musubimurder.com). Second, I wanted to keep the option of doing spinoff merchandising for some of the entities in the book series: maritime-club.com, island-confidential.com, merriemusubi.com, and bananawrangler.com. Third, when the .ninja top level domain became available. I couldn’t resist claiming musubi.ninja.
3) I set WordPress to post automatically to my other social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+) every time I put up a new blog post. Instructions on how to do that are here.
4) If I think a particular post is interesting enough to share broadly, I post it on a site like Reddit, Fark, or Stumbleupon. My most read post by FAR was about using IBM’s text analysis software to analyze characters’ personalities. Author interviews are popular as well, and I hope to do more of those.
5) Inspired by Elizabeth Spann Craig, I opened a Wattpad account. I’ve already posted Chapter One of The Musubi Murder. I’ll post the first three chapters (my contract allows me to post up to three chapters as a sample) and direct interested readers to the audiobook and hardcover editions.
Will all of this translate to book sales? We’ll see what happens when The Musubi Murder is released. I’ve enjoyed reading all of the information that’s out there, thanks to generous bloggers like Simon Whistler, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Joanna Penn, K.M. Weiland, Jane Friedman, Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen. (Also: I love listening to Bryan Cohen’s voice because I imagine Phil from Better off Ted.)