A Look At Web Sites For Authors

These are just some observations I have on the various web sites that I’ve used for self-publishing and/or marketing since becoming a self-publishing author.  What I’ve learnt is that something might seem like a good idea, but that doesn’t mean they are.

Facebook

The “big daddy”, as it were.  These days, it’s almost impossible to do anything without having a Facebook presence.  It certainly has benefits, if it’s used properly. I can’t tell you that I’ve cracked it yet, myself, but there’s no doubting that, if nothing else, it’s a good way to drive traffic to your web site and/or blog.  From what I’ve seen, I think it has also helped push some folk to the right place to download an ebook.  Personally, I don’t have a page for every ebook – I just have an author page.  I believe that’s sufficient, at least until I get a blockbuster bestseller!  All of that said, Facebook is often frustrating, annoying and downright risky!  Facebook changes things often, and not always helpfully.  It’s very easy to become totally swamped with posts from others on your Newsfeed.  It’s also easy to become a Facebook junkie – spending far more time on it rather than on more important activities.  Then, too, Facebook is the target of hackers and other malicious folk, rendering your security virtually nonexistent!

I would suggest that you give the absolute bare minimum of information on your profile page.  The same applies to your author page and/or book page(s).  I would recommend that you try to avoid using the Add Friend button!  Try to limit yourself, as much as possible, to using any Follow option or just Like pages.  Keep the Add Friend option for family and trusted friends.  I have been rather bad at that and now have a totally insane number of “friends”.  I would suggest that if you wish to network with somebody who only has a personal profile, you suggest to them that they create a page, so that you can Like that instead of adding them as a “friend”.

Twitter

The other highly fashionable social network.  Twitter is something of an oddity.  You have a strict limit on how many characters you can have in a tweet, which can be immensely frustrating at times.  I find it much harder to establish how much Twitter helps to increase interest.  I can only assume that there is some benefit to using it.  Personally, I rarely actually write tweets directly – I let other things do that for me automatically, like WordPress (host of this blog).  Like Facebook, it takes very little effort to find yourself overwhelmed by the tweets of those you choose to Follow.  There’s no doubting that you will find thousands of folk who seem  to fit the profile of those you would like to network with.  And therein lies the problem!  There are thousands, or tens of thousands!  You will, eventually find yourself in the situation where, with your Twitter timeline open, tweets will appear too rapidly for you to keep up with them.

I have only one piece of advice on controlling how many Followers you Follow back, and that’s be selective.  You will receive notifications of people or organisations who have Followed you.  Some of these will be very undesirable folk indeed and should be avoided at all costs, while others will simply not fit into the type of activity that you want, or need, to embrace for your network.  Do not feel embarrassed at refusing to Follow anybody!  It isn’t rude to refuse, it’s simply good sense.

Goodreads

For both readers and authors, Goodreads is probably the best there is, to a point.  It’s easy to add both books by yourself and by others, building up a library listing.  Gaining friends takes much longer than on Facebook or Twitter, and I have been disappointed in one particular respect.  Members are supposed to write reviews of what they read, and rate them.  In reality, there’s far less activity on that than there should be, and getting your own books reviewed is extremely difficult.  And gaining fans is even harder!  You can link your Goodreads account to Facebook, so that some of your activity appears there as status messages.  If you have an author page on Facebook, then there’s an app that allows you to link to your Goodreads profile page, or Group.  Alternatively, if you have Facebook pages for specific books, then you can use the same app to link to your books (individually) on Goodreads.

As far as I know, so far I’ve had very little benefit from using Goodreads beyond its library facility.  It’s a pity as the potential is there for much more.  Admittedly, there are many very active Groups on Goodreads, but, as with Facebook and Twitter, it can soon become too difficult to keep up with them.

Smashwords

This is, without a doubt, the most important, and most useful, site of all those I have used!  It provides an excellent way to publish your own ebooks, in several formats, and lots of advice on doing so.  It is also a very good source for ebooks by many other Indie authors.  Smashwords will submit your ebook(s) to most of the major online retailers, as well as numerous web sites that are subsidiaries of their own, usually with specific genres as their focus.  The system is easy to use, which is paramount as far as I’m concerned.  To date, I have had no reason to be unhappy with Smashwords.  If i have a criticism, it’s that perhaps more effort could be made to encourage members to submit reviews of the ebooks they download and read.  But, it’s principally a site to self-publish your ebooks.  It doesn’t stress its networking potential.

WordPress

This is on a par with Smashwords but for entirely different reasons.  First of all, I should point out that there are two forms of WordPress: the WordPress.com hosted version, like this blog, which has a few limitations, most particularly in regard of just what you’re allowed to include, and the self-hosted WordPress.org version,where you have total control over what you include.  If you want to maximise your chances of making money, using affiliate links, then you need the second option.  Both versions allow you the flexibility to not just create a blog, but to create a complete, professional looking, web site!  Both also allow you to use a wide variety of free or paid themes, but you have to pay on WordPress.com if you wish to customise the CSS underlying your chosen theme, while that’s free if you’ve opted for self-hosted.  Best of all, perhaps, is that you can get both for free!  The biggest difference is that WordPress.org has to be downloaded and then installed to your own web host, and you will need to add several plug-ins to bring it up to the same level as WordPress.com’s package.  It’s a painless but lengthy process.

If you can afford it, I would recommend buying your own domain name and a good hosting package and then installing WordPress.org.  You really won’t need anything else!  You will have the framework for a full web site, and you’ll know that you can change the look easily whenever you want to.  It really doesn’t get any better than that!

Others

Gaining ground in the realm of social networks are Google+ and Pinterest, both of which I use to some extent.  The thing that I notice most with these sites is that, before very long, you start simply duplicating everything, with the same people on every network.  I’m not convinced that anybody gains anything from that kind of setup.  I’ve also tried Free-eBooks.net, but that seems to have had peculiar results, with huge numbers of my ebooks downloaded/viewed but little or no feedback, and nothing more than Like/Dislike being selected by the respondents.  LinkedIn is very good for networking, but it’s primarily aimed at those who are looking for employment of some kind.

I have tried numerous other web sites but, in all honesty, I can’t say that I’ve received any benefits from any of them.  Several have seen my ebooks downloaded from them, but without a single instance of feedback from any of them!  I can’t honestly recommend any of them.

I’m still trying new web sites.  If I find any that are worth you taking a look at, I’ll let you know in future posts.

~ Steve

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About Steve

An author since the age of 13 years, writing again dominates my activities. My "Imagineer-ing" blog is my primary site. Also: Beginner knitter since November 2010. Favourite knitting techniques: cable and lace. Beginner cross stitcher. Beginner jewellery maker. With the promotion of self publication and all the other work that has been going on here, Dad decided around 2am this morning (22/11/2013) that it was time to begin his next adventure. He was seen off earlier the previous evening by myself, my brother, my sister in law, and my sister, as well as his wife (our mum), and an enigmatic being known only as A Lorraine. After this time of story telling, laughing, crying, joking and mickey taking, we saw how tired both mum and dad were, and we decided to leave them under the (sometimes) gentle care of The Lorraine. When Dad found the timetable for his travels, he let Mum know gently, which woke her from her drowsing, then, with the same gentleness he showed in this universe, he boarded his favourite mode of transport, the Interdimensional Steam Train, and set off with a smile and a wave. For those of us closest, that smile was a reminder that his pain has ended, and the wave, an indicator that he will pop in to all those that knew him, from time to time. Usually at the most inconvenient and in opportune moments he can. While we are sad that he is no longer here, we are happy he now has no pain, and is experiencing more extraordinary things that his writers mind will be frantically weaving into a new story. Posted by Son Damien

2 thoughts on “A Look At Web Sites For Authors

  1. Great post – informative and useful. I’ve just started on Goodreads and I had a similar thought the other day – I seem to be duplicating followers from Facebook to WordPress to Twitter and now to Goodreads – what is the point of that? Like many others, the time all of this takes is a major concern. I have imagined that getting reviews for my novel will be somewhat like getting comments on WordPress – you’d have more luck spending a few hours trying to pull hen’s teeth! All we can do is keep on plugging away.

    • Thanks Francis :) It’s a major frustration, all that duplication, but then sometimes you do manage to acquire new followers through stumbling upon their friends that aren’t duplicated ;) As you say, we have little choice but to “keep on plugging away”…

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