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Online Branding for Writers

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By Fauzia Burke

If I were an author in today’s competitive market, I would consider the time I spend developing my online platform and building my brand on the Web as an extension of my job as a writer. Publishing a book or any professional writing is a small business and authors should look at it as such. Sure, the publisher will offer support and expertise, but it is the author’s responsibility for building a long term Web strategy. Now, online branding is not a luxury or an afterthought — it is a necessity. And, to be honest, it’s fun.

Of course I am biased because the Web has always been fun for me. In 1995, I was 28 years old and I fell in love with the Web. I remember the moment clearly. Someone had shown me a hyperlink, it was the word “Paris”. Wow, what a moment. Just understanding what was happening set my neurons and synapses firing. I also saw Compuserve and witnessed people communicating in a way I had never seen before. It was fascinating and inspiring.

A million questions went through my mind: how does this work? Can I communicate with people on Compuserve too? What are they talking about? Who puts up all this information? How do you find what you are looking for? And of course the game changer, can I use this to market my books? Although the questions were intriguing, I had a job to do and at that time the job of marketing books had nothing to do with the Internet. How the world has changed!

After that moment, I tried to make myself forget. I tried to go back to business as usual without bulletin boards, email or Web access, but I couldn’t. The Web had stolen my heart and there was no way of going back and living without it. So within weeks of that day, I resigned as the marketing director for computer books at Henry Holt, and started FSB Associates. I was not sure what I would be doing, but it was going to be online.

That was over ten years ago, but my passion and thrill for the Web is still the same. Every time we place a book on a Web site, I am excited. I know that the book will be online for years to come with a link to a bookseller. I believe that by promoting authors on the Web we are creating their brand and establishing their platform. We help our authors create digital footprints which can be Googled long after their campaign is over.

Unlike how things were in 1995, today you can’t (or shouldn’t) promote books without having a Web strategy. A majority of readers are online, buying with one click, talking about books, and interacting with authors. Authors need to use the Web more and more. There is now an expectation of accessibility. It is not an expectation of their publisher or agent or publicist, it is the expectation of their readers that they will be available for interactions and communications with their readers.

Many authors feel that by building a Website, they are covering their bases online. However, it is not that easy anymore. Simply having a Web site is no longer an effective Web marketing strategy. It is essential that authors consider outreach on the Web as an extension of the writing process. Why not include the readers in their careers, getting their help in building a brand, taking their suggestions and including them in the process–not only after the book is published, but before and during. Authors should have a social media component to their online presence, as well as reach out to niche communities for reviews and interviews, and they need to write content for other sites and blogs so their name has “Google juice,” or Google visibility.

So many authors think this is a chore, and it really doesn’t have to be. It can be fun and it can be manageable. Today an effective, long term Web-branding strategy is essential for both a writing career as well as for selling books.

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