Before the Internet and publishing companies, books were a privilege reserved for the wealthy. Enormous resources were needed to create a single scroll, and no copy and paste, no printing of numerous copies, and certainly no share buttons existed. Censorship was everywhere, and writers had few options.
The printing press meant books could be mass-produced. Soon they were available to everyone. Publishers vetted the process. Authors with means could self-publish, then spend their time hawking their books at fairs, stalls, in local shops and cafes. Most of these authors knew everyone who bought their book because they had to make a connection to make the sale.
In the digital age, self-publishing is a no-brainer and opportunities are endless. Without publishers, readers determine a writer’s success. That means your connection with them is more important than ever.
This week’s featured Social Caffeine ebook is 10 Commandments for Authors on Google+. This ebook will guide you through establishing your name and brand as a writer on Google+, and teach you how to build a network of raving fans and readers using the network.
After March 29, the book will go back to its regular price of $2.99.
Just in case you’d like to try before you “buy”, here’s an excerpt:
How to Engage Your Readers and Promote Your Work on Google Plus
Google+ is not a social networking site, at least not primarily. Designed to aggregate all the many Google tools, Google+ provides a global network of associations and builds interconnected communities.
When you log into Google+, you have your basic functions — your profile page, circles, shares, pages, and so forth, but if you look at the top of the screen, you also have at your fingertips all the other tools that Google provides. You’ll see Gmail, Docs, Play, Calendar, YouTube, Images, Maps — in fact, every application or tool provided by Google is available from your Google+ dashboard.
Adding to this is the little-understood but critical shifts Google has made to their search algorithm. With the introduction in early 2012 of Search Plus Your World, Google integrated its services and applications into search results.
Whenever someone is searching for your particular sauce, Google sees what you have cooking in Google+, matches it with other dishes you have created on the web, and serves it to readers whose palate suits your style. They get exposed to your cooking, like the taste, and want more. Your Google+ account has become a workshop where you can build your author platform.
How to Write Google+ Posts to Engage Your Readers
You may have the Google+ dream profile; a copy-written About page and a gallery of extraordinary photos. It means nothing without a regular posting schedule.
Your readers are people, and as such, they love routine. They love that every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday night they get to curl up with a good book instead of watching TV. They love to hear their favorite announcer at breakfast time, grab a coffee on the way to work, and relax with their spouses once the kids are in bed.
Routine makes people feel as though they are in charge of their lives.
You must deliver your content with the same regular pattern day after day so your readers come to expect your content and look forward to it as a part of their routines.
Millions of gigabytes are exchanged on social media sites every second. But Google+ has a sorting tool so your readers can easily filter the noise and concentrate on receiving the information they want most.
Although conflicting data exists about the results of post frequency, a general agreement exists that —two to three times daily is optimal. This number creates enough attention for you to stand out from the noise, while not being so in the readers’ faces that you annoy them.
Be aware of a few definite don’ts:
- Don’t send the same link over and over and over and over.
- Don’t write multiple posts and publish them all in a row; nothing annoys readers more than seeing an endless stream of content from the same person.
- Don’t keep spouting the same stuff over and over. Try to vary the format of the information you post. Make one post a teaser for an article, one a motivational tidbit, and one a picture or infographic. Keep it regular, varied, and engaging so your readers will look forward to seeing you.
Remember the 1:9 Ratio
Your readers want to hear from you, not about you.
They want information, answers, or just a little bit of your creative magic to get them through the day, not a bombardment of advertising for your latest offering. Show them you care and give them what they crave. Make every post and link relative to their needs.
A rough rule of thumb is that you can have one link to your website or book link for every nine posts you make. This way, your readers get handpicked content and you get to reap the benefits of their trust.
Schedule Your Posts
Your readers want to know when your posts will appear.
If you are providing top-quality content, you’ll become a daily habit before long. Feed this habit by providing a regular broadcast of great content so your readers will know where in their stream to look for your latest cookie.
Unlike other social networks, you can’t pre-schedule your posts or use aggregated content distributors like HootSuite or TweetDeck, but your readers will know that you are logged in and posting when you say you are, which helps build the trust aspect of your brand. Your readers will also get the knack of learning when you post, so posting to a regular schedule is the best way to ensure your readers find your content.
Most experts agree that posting during work hours is prime time for Google+ post-engagement, but analytics and monitoring tools like Google Analytics will help you find the best times for reader engagement.
No matter where you are trying to build your brand, consistency is key. Limited time, limitless options, and online security are all motivating factors in people turning from authors who don’t post on a regular basis.
Your readers must be able to recognize everything about your contact, from your look and voice, to your URL and the quality of your content.
Your name, look, genre, and the information you share are all a part of your brand.
Musicians know this, so few try to cross from their genre. Those that do create alter egos to help them make the leap across the genre divide. Most notably; David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust, Eminem/Slim Shady, and Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines. (I’ll let you decide whether they were successful or not.)
Even the Osmonds’ glam rock track “Crazy Horses” was so left field for them that many of their devoted fans threw their LP out the nearest window. They needed 30 years for their fan base to recover!
In literary circles, even fewer have managed a transition. Most have opted to create another brand pen name with limited success. Your readers need to see your face and immediately understand what they are about to read, even down to the tone of the narrative.
John Grisham readers know that they’ll experience a courtroom, a lost cause, and some serious drama; Dan Brown fans know they’ll experience intrigue, history, and a challenge to their beliefs. Diana Gabaldon fans expect historical drama complete with battles and romance.
If you run a blog aimed at nonfiction writers, don’t suddenly switch to posting content about zombies and talking penguins. Writers in the fantasy niche who suddenly start writing erotica under the same pen name will confuse readers.
Your consistency must extend to the quality of your information. Readers must believe that you have scrutinized every piece of information and that it’s worth their time to follow up on.
Don’t Forget Your Voice
Announcers are a large part of a radio station’s branding. People care less about the music than they do about the announcers and the way they pass on information, interact with each other, and engage their audiences.
Even though your information is in written form, it still has a voice, rhythm, and tone, unique to your brand. This voice has the same impact as the radio announcer. Long or short, every post has a voice. This voice should be friendly, casual, and engaging, but it will have its own unique tone and pattern, which attracts your customers.
You might have a standard greeting before your longer posts, such as, “Howdy folks! How’re you doing today?” or a line that you sign off with such as, “I did it, you can too,” or something like John Carlton’s, “Stay frosty” line.
Your readers look for these familiarities; they are a part of what ties you to them.
Your readers will recognize any change in nuance and intention. A voice, which changes from open, honest, and informative to marketing-oriented before the launch of a new manuscript, or cathartic after a major life event, will be obvious, and your author brand will lose trust as a result.
Any change in the visual, narrative, or quality of the information you provide will cause your readers to hesitate slightly about reading further.
Google loves Consistency
Do you remember reading earlier that one of the big advantages of using Google+ to build your brand is it helps you appear higher up in the search results?
A consistent message, using related content, which is dynamic and updated regularly, lets Google know you are staying up-to-date with your industry and that your author page is worthy of consideration when Google is organizing results pages.
Be Responsive to Engage Your Readers
As strange as it seems, your personalized service is a major part of your author branding.
At some point, you have experienced frustration from poor customer service, whether it comes from rude and inept people, or systems that leave you frustrated and angry. You hate having to deal with people who couldn’t seem to care less whether you bought their product or not. You hate reading an article and feeling like an idiot because the writer treats you like a witless numbskull. You hate waiting for hours to meet with one of your favorite authors only to have them cancel inexplicably and without apology.
Poor customer service can decay your author brand offline, but customers experience these things online as well. On Google+, you must be outstanding, no matter who you are speaking with. This means you have to be polite, knowledgeable, and timely with your responses. The Internet has done away with the usual excuses of time zones and distance — thanks to smart phones and tablets, you can respond to comments even when away from your computer.
If a reader, influencer, publisher, or peer has taken the time to connect with you, basic business law requires you to reciprocate as quickly as possible. The longer you take to respond, the less important the other person feels and the lower their opinion of your author brand.
This especially applies to your employees, editors, and publishers who are trying to interact with you. People are your most important asset — treat them with the same respect you treat your best-paying publisher and your circles will willingly and eagerly help build your brand.
You’re having a tough day.
It started with your cat throwing up on your writing socks; since then you’ve run out of coffee filters, and discovered that the butter has turned and your morning radio announcer is MIA. You have no inner peace; your writing groove has left the building, and you feel about as enthusiastic and inspired as the old sponge you’re using to wipe the tabletop.
Nevertheless, you log in to your email and discover three clients wanting to know when their work will be finished, one client refusing to pay for delivered work, another client wanting a discount on your per-word rate, and several negative reviews of your latest book.
Then your editor calls and tells you that you need to rewrite the last five chapters of your manuscript because it’s just not commercial enough. Your temple is throbbing and your inner demons are bubbling below the surface.
In the real world, you would respond with professionalism, understanding, and courtesy, delighting in the success of others and acceptance.
On Google+, the rules are the same as they are for the real world. You respond professionally, with courtesy, and celebrate in the success of others. You measure your words, no different than if the person were directly in front of you. Thanks to the power of the Internet and social networking sites like Google+, they now have the power to launch or destroy your brand.
No matter your level of author branding, take these 14 social media fails from 2011 on board and never underestimate the power of your public.
Know the Minds of Your Readers
Knowing your readers is critical to survival. When you understand your readers’ wants and needs, you will automatically give them what they crave.
Romance readers crave the seduction, lust, and love that come with every romance novel. They want to feel the bond between the lovers and demand that their need for spiritual connection be met. As Susan Donahue says, the romance writer needs to seduce both the heroine and the reader.
Suspense readers love the feeling of their hearts thumping so loudly they threaten to break their rib cages, and they love fingers shaking so much that page-turning grows difficult. They love the thrill, fear, and helplessness as they watch the hero walking into a trap, inwardly screaming, “Look out!” while outwardly reading on, knowing the futility of their action.
Nonfiction writers must understand their readers even more.
If you are in the weight-loss niche and Sally from Connecticut asks about losing a few pounds from her thighs before summer, she isn’t worried about the extra pounds — she is worried about how she looks in a bathing suit and how others will perceive her. She is facing a crisis in confidence.
So tell her how to lose the extra pounds, how to tone the area, which creams to use to soften the appearance of her skin, and what to wear to flatter her figure so she stops thinking about her thighs and starts to love her whole body. Make her feel confident and safe.
By knowing your readers, you will understand their struggles with far more depth than the average author. This means you can help them change their lives for the better, and you’ll make the leap from good to great writer.
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