A letter to authors from a rabid reader & reviewer

Dear authors,

I am writing you this letter because I love you and feel that you need a tiny bit of advice. Certainly not all of you, but some of you. Especially the newbies.

I am here to discuss your web presence and why it is important.

You may not know that I have been reading about a book a day for most of my life. I have long championed books and reading, and I was one of the first book bloggers out there. I started writing about books in the early 1980’s on CompuServe (if you’re old enough to remember that!) then discussed books in various chat rooms on AOL (waving at “Men with Minds”) then started my own website in 1994 using (the long defunct) GeoCities. I found it a great way to remember books I’d read and books I wanted to read.

A year or so later, a publicist (I think it was Miriam Parker from Time Warner, and I really, really wish I could remember the title of the first book I gave away!) reached out to me, asking me if I wanted to give away some of their books. I loved getting free books and figured other people would too so I jumped all over that. Oh, I was getting my free books from work, I was a bookseller for Borders. Another defunct company. We received galleys and one of the benefits of working there was getting a book allowance each month to purchase books. Plus a deep, dirty secret was that we were allowed to borrow books! Hardcover only, one at a time, and the book jacket was kept in the store to keep it pristine and help keep track of the books that were borrowed. But I digress.

In 1998, my husband bought me my own domain name  and I started a book review site. It’s ridiculously easy and pretty cheap to buy a domain name; I use GoDaddy.Here we are, more than twenty years later, and I am proud to say that in addition to posting to thousands of reviews, I’ve also given away thousands of books. Yes, thousands. Sadly, I never really kept track of the books I gave away, an opportunity lost. But I do remember the very first book I reviewed for a professional, authoritative journal – Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook, for Library Journal.

Anyway, that’s enough background on how I ended up here. Now here is my two cents.

If you are a published author, if you have a book for sale anywhere, then you need a website. There is just no avoiding it. I am constantly amazed at how many authors don’t feel the need for one. Every month I give away a bunch of signed books in partnership with the International Thriller Writers organization (free membership for authors!) When I publicize those books, I like to include ways for readers to connect with the authors. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but especially today, here in 2019, there is just no excuse for not having a website and yet several times a year I can’t find a website for an author.

I don’t care if your day job is doctor, lawyer, or CIA chief, if you are selling books, you need a website. You don’t have to build it yourself! Here, contact xuni.com, they have been doing author websites since 1998! They are super easy to work with, really creative and professional and not only will they build you a website, they will take care of it for you. At, from what I understand, a very reasonable cost. Don’t like them? There are lots of others. Go to a few of your favorite authors websites and scroll down to the bottom. There you will usually find information on whoever built the site. If you can’t find it, ask me. I’m a librarian, I do research for a living and I’d be happy to help, gratis.

By the way, your website needs to look professional. You don’t have to spend a ton to make it look good but if you’re going to do this, do it right. I have seen some author websites that are truly awful. Even some NYT bestselling authors! I have even gently suggested that they might want to freshen up their web look. Not everyone takes my advice. So sad. Let’s face it, I am opinionated – hence the book reviews! Anyway…

Meet Loki. Yes, he is smiling. And reading on my iPad.

You also need a social media presence. At minimum, Twitter and the big, bad, evil empire itself, Facebook. You don’t have to link your personal FB page, you can build a Fan Page, it’s easy peasy. Here are directions courtesy of WikiHow. Once you have a fan page and Twitter feed, you don’t have to do a lot but you have to be there and check in once in a while. Instagram would be good, too. Post pictures of your book covers, author events, and your dog. Depending on the type of book you write, Pinterest. Have you been interviewed on TV? Then build yourself a YouTube channel. Have something to say? Say it on your blog or reddit or tumblr! This is not difficult or time consuming. I’ve even provided you with links! Just click and do it. Oh, and if you’ve published a book, you’re already on Goodreads so you might as well link to your page on your website.

If you’re not sure what authors should do or not do. go look. Here are a few that have great web presence: Lisa Scottoline; Chris Bohjalian; and just in case you think you have to be a NY Times bestselling author to have a strong web presence, check out Nancy J. Cohen, she has an amazing web presence. She could teach classes on it. In fact, she has! Which reminds me, if you belong to a writing organization like Mystery Writers of America, ITW or Romance Writers of America, etc. they often have great information on how to do all this stuff on their websites and at their conferences.

Which brings me to my next point.

If you do have a social media presence, or are in the process of creating one, please, please make sure you include links to your feeds on your website. Why do I have to Google the shit out of you to find your Twitter feed? That defeats the purpose! And just a bit of advice here, you may not want to create a FB or Twitter page based on your character’s name or book title. What happens when you branch out into something else? Be forward thinking, use your real name or your pseudonym. If you have to add “writer” or “author” or “books” to it to get that name, do so. Maybe shorten it up a bit by using initials, like Robyn Carr, or as I think of her, @RCarrWriter does.

Okay, I think that’s it. This stuff has been weighing on me for years. Years! Frankly, it amazes me that publishers aren’t forcing their authors into this stuff. The smart ones do. Oh, and if you’re self published, that is no excuse! It’s even more important for you to be out there and accessible to your readers. Will you get cranky hate mail? You may. Feel free to delete. Will you get into Twitter wars? With any luck, yes! Just remember that old adage, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Librarian at work (you can tell by the glasses)

Please, if you have any questions about any of this and don’t have a teenager to ask, I am here for you and happy to help. Librarian, remember? I am really good at finding information and happy to help you in any way I can. No, I won’t build you a website but short of that, ask me.

Thanks for reading; now go sell some books!

with love,

Stacy
your favorite BookBitch

PS: I cannot believe how many exclamation points I’ve used in this letter. Rant. Letter. Whatever. Just FYI, I loathe exclamation points. I feel that the words should be powerful enough on their own but apparently not here, not today. Moving on now…

 

 

2 Responses to A letter to authors from a rabid reader & reviewer

  1. I agree! My website/blog advertises book related giveaways. Most of my time is spent on finding the author’s social media pages to link to. If they do have a website the social media links are sometimes not there or hidden on another page. These days it should be at the top of a page. Many times the links to the social media is not working. Places like Bookbub is a good way to advertise your website or social media links but is almost never there. I’ve let plenty of people know that their links aren’t working and only some respond to fix it.

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