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About the Author: Kevin McNeese lives in Grand Rapids, Mich., and owns and operates KMWeb Designs. He has worked in professional web design and online marketing for over four years and currently manages sites for various authors, artists, and small businesses.

Ten Simple & Inexpensive Ways For Authors To Market Themselves Online
(Part 1)


by Kevin McNeese of KMWeb Designs


Hopefully, I do not need to sell you on the importance of having a presence online. If I do, this article is not for you. But, if you are an author thinking about a website and have no clue where to start, or even if you have an established website and want to build traffic and awareness, I strongly suggest you keep reading.

Below, I have listed ten ways for authors to market themselves online. These are easy to implement and cost little to nothing to execute. They are ideas that will help you establish an essential presence in the online world that is so much more than just a website. Anyone can put up a page of information about themselves. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to make it enjoyable and worthwhile for your visitors. Hopefully, this article will be worth your time and you can use it as a great way to build your audience.

1. CLEAN HOUSE BEFORE INVITING THE NEIGHBORS OVER
Whether you have a site or are in need of a site, itís always important to look at what you have before you begin to market yourself. Your website should look contemporary, up-to-date and easy to navigate. It should present your work in a way that is entertaining, yet professional. You worked hard to get where you are today. You did not settle for second best in your publications. Why settle for a sub-par website?

It can be a little frightening to start at ground level, especially if you donít have a clue about the Internet. That is why it is extremely important to spend time selecting the right company for the job. If you already have a web designer, go to them with the ideas in this article and if they cannot help you accomplish them, find someone who can. Unless you are managing your own site, you are only as good as the person pushing the buttons for you. Make sure your site is ready for the flood of traffic that will come when you begin to focus on marketing it to the masses.

2. YOUR BEST BRAND IS NOT YOUR TOPICS, BUT YOUR NAME
Many authors make the mistake of branding their sites with their latest title or bestseller. This backs the author into a corner if they ever venture outside of the topic. Your best brand to build is your name, not your current theme, and your website URL should reflect this. This will give you the freedom to promote your latest titles and update the theme of the site with each release. It will also make it easier for people to find you through search engines, especially if you have multiple titles.

3. YOUR SITE MUST BE EASY TO FIND
As soon as you have an established site, make sure your publisher and publicists know that it is something you are serious about. Your URL should be in all future editions of your books along with links from the publisherís site. They should also be including your URL in any magazine ads, press releases, postcards, etc.

Another way to help people find your website is to add a signature line to your email with your full website address (http://www.yourname.com). It's a terrific marketing technique! One quick click and people have access to your site.

Your web developer should be submitting your sites to search engines along with configuring your pages with keywords and descriptions so that your site is search friendly. They should be providing this service as part of the initial design process.

4. BUILD A COMMUNITY AND MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE
Building community into your site is an easy way to connect you to your readers, and more importantly, to connect your readers to each other.

A great way to do this is to provide a message board. This is a place where visitors register to participate in ongoing conversations that they either start themselves, or jump into. When building your message board, first focus on the topics you write about and then provide areas for members to broaden their discussions. You are creating a gathering place for people to meet and talk who have a similar interestÖyour work! Once your community is established, spend some time each week and interact with your readers!

While there are hundreds of programs and various companies providing message boards, I have found InfoPop.com and PhpBB.com to be the best providers of software in this area.

Other ways to build community is by providing ways for readers to become a part of what you do. Depending on your genre, this can be accomplished by asking visitors to your site to fill out surveys about the topics you write about. You can also provide a Q&A section where readers can submit questions to you via email and you can post them along with your answers. Invite readers to submit reviews of your works and post them on the site.

Without a sense of community or some level of interaction, the reader will come to your site and leave without a compelling reason to return.

5. BUILD AN ONLINE MAILING LIST
The biggest kept secret that many authors have yet to grasp is that email marketing works. There's no denying it. Its key advantage over other Internet marketing methods is that it enables you to contact your readers immediately instead of forcing them to contact you. This ability is especially useful when something that your readers need to know as soon as possible has happened. Whether you've just released a new title or simply would like to stay in touch with your readers, the fastest (and cheapest) way to spread the word is via email.

There are many ways to collect addresses. Obviously, having the ability for the reader to subscribe directly from your site is key. Another easy way to collect addresses is to hold contests. Give readers the ability to win a signed copy of one of your books, or partner with your publisher to give away something of high value like an eBook viewer. When visitors enter the contests on your site, you can capture their email address and automatically subscribe them to your newsletter. Just be sure to be upfront about your intentions by telling them that when they enter, they will subscribe. You can also give them the option to get more information from you.

Promote your online newsletter wherever possible. You should have a short sentence in your email signature that says "Get the latest updates direct from my site! Sign up for my newsletter here!" This will give everyone you come in contact with an opportunity to join without forcing the issue on them. Also, have a sign-up sheet if you do any speaking engagements, that way you can stay in touch with those who come to hear you speak.

Once you have an established list, make sure to use it. There should be no reason not to send out a quick monthly update. Even if you donít have anything to say, there is always information you can dig up that your readers would love. Press releases, reviews of your latest work, sneak-peeks on future releases, sample chapters and site updates make great content for email newsletters. Donít let them forget about you! Stay in touch with your readers as much as possible.

Whatever you do, make sure you are following good email etiquette. Never add addresses to your list unless they have specifically asked to be included, and make it easy for people to unsubscribe.

Check the Archives for Part 2 after publication in May 2004 JAW!
 
You can get more information on the services outlined in this article at
http://www.kmwebdesigns.com.
_____
Kevin D. McNeese
KMWeb Designs
Cell: 616.901.9107
info@kmwebdesigns.com
http://www.kmwebdesigns.com


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