Tuesday, 31 July 2012

DEAR CRABBIT: market the author or the book

Dear Crabbit
We had a brief Twitter exchange this evening. I asked: " Do you recommend focusing on marketing the writer...or the book? "

A bit more info: for the past 2-3 years, I've been blogging. Firstly as a way of promoting my (very) part-time coaching practice (I have a full time day job as well), and latterly as a way of promoting my writing (I've had a small paid writing gig with PaleoDietNews.com for the past few months).

Long story short....I now want to focus on promoting my writing. I'm going to convert my main site (cormackcarr.com) into an "author" site, and am going to set up two other blogs. One will focus on my coaching/careers/personal effectiveness writing....the other on food/health/fitness. Those are the two areas that my writing to date has tended to cluster around.

My logic (such as it is!) is that I can then promote the two blogs to their respective niche areas, backlinking to my author site (which will also have backlinks to any guest posting and article writing I do) and which will focus more on me...so that there's scope for me to develop my writing in other directions without being tied down.

Consequently, I suspect I'll "market" my blog writing sites, and just let the author site be my online "home".
For what it's worth (and I regard myself more as an experienced bumbling opportunist than a marketing strategist,) I think you are doing the right thing. I think those of us who have several different strands to our work, with different (but sometimes overlapping) audiences, have to keep an eye on what we're doing and adapt as we go.

A year ago, I had my new website designed. My thinking was: some people will come looking for me because they've heard of my children's books (and of those, some will be looking for my brain books and others my teenage novels and yet others my younger fiction, or they may want a school event) and others will come because they've heard of my advice for writers. But I'd like each group to know about the other areas of my work. On the other hand, I want them to know exactly where they are and not struggle to find what they are looking for. So, my website has three sections - "rooms" - and all of them link to each other, except that when you're in the children's area you cannot directly get to the more grown-up area designed for writers. (Though you can get directly from the writers' area to the children's area.)

The rules I feel we (and the questioner) should follow are:
  • We need to be easy to find, when people know they want to find us. So, someone looking for Cormack's coaching should get to it immediately; ditto for someone looking for his writing. They should not have to go searching and make many clicks.
  • We should be possible to find even when people don't know they are looking for us. So, someone looking for particular coaching should ideally come across Cormack's coaching site; and when someone is looking for a writer of the sort of books he writes they should be able to find him. (This is harder to achieve and requires good SEO and google-friendly content, but good linking between sites and other sites is helpful here.)
  • When someone comes to one part of our internet presence, it should be easy for them to see that there are other parts, and to feel inclined to browse.
As to the fundamental question of marketing the writer or the book: I'm a writer. I write books. I write lots of different sorts of books but they are all me. They need me. I need them. We are undisentanglable. So, I don't see an either/or situation here.

If you are marketing your book, you are even more a part of the marketing than if a publisher markets your book. You become part of the marketing, inevitably. A lot of books are bought (or not bought) nowadays because of how a reader feels about the writer. I have absolutely no statistics for that but I feel it deeply, from anecdote and instinct. I've done it myself.

Books are not beans. They hold emotions and histories that are not explicit. Their author is somehow part of that, and this is especially true as soon as we begin to talk about our books. Those authors who wish to separate author from book and distance themselves from how their books reach and touch readers are entitled to try to do so and some will succeed more than others. But I don't believe this is what you (the questioner) want and it's not what I want.

So, books and their authors, music and its composers, art and its creators, are best considered as parts of the whole. And if an author has many separate strands of creation, those strands are, it seems to me, best given separate definition and yet strongly linked.

I don't think you can take the book out of the author or the author out of the book.

Agree? Disagree? Specific exceptions? Anything to add?

[Edited to add: although it's gone off-topic, please see the comments below for a useful discussion about fake accounts to review one's own work. This whole topic makes me feel sick. But I'm grateful to Philip for raising it, especially since there's been discussion about it ever since a certain panel on a certain crime-writing festival...]


Stroppy Author said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stroppy Author said...

Me, Miss, I have something add! *sticks hand up*

You and I both have an online persona that uses a different name from our writing names (and real names), so we are a sort of special case. Stroppy Author has become a persona that actually has little to do specifically with my books and more to do with my role as an author and dealer in publishing advice/teaching of writing/techno-expertise. I suspect a lot of people who know the Stroppy Author 'brand' couldn't name a single book I've written - and that doesn't matter to me. (Though you have more overlap because of your writing books.)

And there is a difference between marketing ourselves to readers/schools/whoever than marketing ourselves to publishers. I don't push the SA link on publishers as it probably puts them off, knowing I'm going to tear the contract up at least once and nit-pick about Dutch audio rights or whatever. That comes as a nice surprise when they get it!

(Sorry about those delete comments - fingers not working this morning. This one is probably full of errors, too, but I'm just not going to look any more - I have a lecture to plan!)

Nicola Morgan said...

Stroppy - yes, although I don't actually use two names. My blog is very much Nicola Morgan, aka the Crabbit Old Bat, and I very much do use my name before my nickname. But then (as you point out) I'm not doing anything that might even vaguely worry a publisher. And i very much hope and intend that those who read my blog will be able to name my non-advice books, too!

But your point is really (I think) that each case is different and each author must work out what is right for his or her situation.

Now, go to work!

Philip C James said...

I agree you should promote both the author and the author's work. Why?

Because people read books written by someone who has something to say, 'even' if it is 'only' a story to tell (that's actually the most important reason :). So people will follow an author who blogs/tweets etc as interestingly as they write. The author is then soft-selling their work (rather than hard-selling themselves) by indirectly talking about the things that engage them and the experiences that help make them interesting as a novelist.

The promotion of the book can be much more hard-sell; constantly talking about its plot, characters, reviews, awards, sales promotions currently on, etc.

This has a number of benefits, here are just two:

1) if you have a number of works covering different genres, fiction v non-fiction, etc then you can address different market segments more closely. That also applies if you use pseudonyms.

2) it allows you to keep the drip-drip-drip of rote marketing out of your author timeline/feed. That can annoy your followers/friends. Best to simply and very occasionally re-tweet important information that you've put out repetitively with your books' accounts.

The one thing to avoid of course, is setting up dummy accounts to praise your work as if by independent outsiders. That has again been demonstrated to be not only unethical but possibly illegal. It is NOT marketing, it is potentially fraudulent; check sites like the Chartered Institute of Marketing for info on how the law on Marketing has been tightened lately (and not just for the Olympics).

I'm currently experimenting with setting up Twitter accounts in the names of two characters of books I am writing/want to write. Accounts such as @AndrewWedmoore and @TamsinAdlerherz designed to promote characters I would like to write about across more than one book each (Heaven help that they should ever meet!) and the book/books that will detail their adventures...

Philip C James said...

Further to last post, if anyone is interested, the relevant legislation is almost certainly the The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 act.


As a self-pubbed author who benefits materially from a fake twitter account or fake Amazon etc reviews, purportedly sourced from an INDEPENDENT member of the public, they have created to promote their work, they would be committing an offence under sections 11 or 22.

Nicola Morgan said...

Philip - good to see you here and thanks for putting that link up. Yes - and it's been in the news recently, hasn't it, after Harrogate? - setting up fake accounts intended to deceive is quite different from setting up accounts as fictional characters from your book. The first is surely lying for personal gain; the second is acting for entertainment.

It wasn't part of my blogpost, which was much more general, but it's worth mentioning.

Iola said...

Philip - am I correct in assuming that this legislation would affect:

a) UK-based authors setting up false accounts anywhere (i.e. Amazon.com as well as Amazon.co.uk); and

b) any author setting up false accounts that post false reviews on Amazon.co.uk; and therefore

c) any author setting up a false account on Amazon.com where Amazon.com then feeds that review through to the Amazon.co.uk site.

And what is the penalty for this, please?

Philip C James said...

Ah, I now find the reason for not posting substantive points on other peoples blogs... I hesitate to appear to take over Nicola's forum - sorry Nicola - so a short answer:

Don't do it.

It's unprofessional and unethical and that is recognised and codified in law. Whether an act is illegal is ultimately determined by the courts depending on complaints, jurisdictions, seriousness, etc. such legislation is harmonised across EU and I presume also exists to an extent in the USA. If it doesn't it should.

Penalties vary depending on sentencing guidelines. If I tell you the max is 10 years in gaol you'll not do it but if it's only 5 years you'll chance it, that's too nice a calculus of risk.

Morally, you're defrauding your readers. Don't do it.

Nicola Morgan said...

Philip - not a problem. Thank you. It disgusts me that anyone would set up a fake account in order to do things such as give one's own books great reviews, or others' books poor reviews or in any other way deceitfully contribute to the feedback on a book for one's own gains.

As you say, unprofessional, unethical, immoral and fraudulent. But we know it happens, even amongst otherwise respected authors. When they are outed, it's not a pretty sight.

(Iola, by the way, I realise you are only asking out of interest and possibly because you've heard of someone doing it and want to know the position. Thanks for asking. It's an important point.)

Brian Cormack Carr said...

Thanks so much for answering my question Nicola, and to your readers for their helpful comments too. It's reassuring, since I've decided to take exactly the direction you endorse here.

I'm working on two books at the moment, both targeted at different niches, and both with their own sites (which are visibly linked back to my main author site). I've also revamped that main site to reflect the fact that I'm a writer, and that's where I'll pull everything together and also write about things that just don't fit elsewhere.

I am using separate Twitter IDs for each book due to the differences in niche, but - again - I'm making it clear that they link back to me.