Monday, September 28, 2009

Guest author Maria Zannini: Feed the Beast

Maria Zannini used to save the world from bad advertising. Now she lives in the wilds of north Texas, nestled between lions and llamas. Maria is the author of Touch Of Fire, a post-apocalyptic fantasy available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She is also the newsletter editor for OWW (Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy & Horror). When she's not being pummeled by deadlines or 140 pound rottweilers, she likes to get lost in the woods.

Every once in a while the neighbors find her and bring her back home.

Search Engines: Feeding The Beast

I've spent most of my adult life designing advertising, writing advertising and analyzing advertising. Today, I'm going to reveal a universal truth that is rarely spoken aloud.

Promotion works best for authors who are already well known.

:Cue mass groan:

Not to worry. I will show you how to expand your reach without ever getting out of your chair. Today we're going to discuss how to feed the beast.

The beast in this case is the colossus that dominates every sector of society. It is the search engine. For good or bad, it has never been more important than it is today. We need it to get our message across, and it needs us to feed it.

Promotion works on the concept of repetition, familiarity and credibility. A well known author has all of these attributes working for him. A new or lesser known author has to work for each of these elements.

Repetition is easy. Blog, tweet, write articles, give lectures, hold contests. Do anything and everything that keeps your name in circulation and feeds the search engine.

Familiarity is a byproduct of repetition. The more the public is aware of you and your product, the more familiar it becomes.

Credibility is borne of the first two elements. The more familiar you and your brand become, the more you magically assume a mantle of credibility.

To get to this stage you have to acknowledge that promoting yourself will be a long term commitment, and it's nothing to feel self conscious about. You are offering valuable information and entertainment. Your audience wants to know you, but first you have to reach out to them.

While you might feel that you are 'talking too much' about yourself, it's important to remember that technique has as much to do with good promo as consistency. Good marketing is very subtle and it works best over the long haul.

In today's world, marketing yourself is easier than ever before. Giant search engines can make or break you simply by how you present yourself and how often.

Take a moment. Step away from this post and Google yourself right now. How many pages were you on? What were you saying on each of those entries? What were other people saying about you? You can build a reputation without ever leaving home.

A search engine is a beast in search of information. The more you feed it, the more your name recognition grows.

Here are a few ideas on how to feed the beast.
  • Keywords. This is a post in and of itself. I don't claim to be a keyword expert, but judging by my stat counter, evidently I must be doing something right because many of my visitors arrive via a search of specific keywords.
The best advice I can give you is to be specific when you write comments, posts, or online articles. Instead of using the phrase 'I found a gig on Maria's blog', write out, 'I found this publishing market on Maria Zannini's blog and the link. Instead of saying, 'I painted my bedroom green', write 'I painted my bedroom with Behr's Green Tea'--and the link. Does that make sense?

In the first example, publishing, markets and Maria Zannini are the keywords.

In the second example, Behr, paint and bedroom are the keywords.
  • Link a lot. My goodness, this one is gold. Search engines love links almost as much as keywords. Be generous and link a lot on your blogs and forums. It will pay you back by listing you higher in searches.
  • Comment on blogs and forums. Do it often and do it well. I've followed more than a few authors simply because they said such interesting things in the comment thread. Search engines eat these up!
PS…That's how I found Novel Spaces', KS Augustin. (Notice those links? I'm so sneaky!)
  • Guest blog, but choose wisely. Like it or not, we are judged by the company we keep.
  • Host your own blog. No matter what you talk about, make sure it's interesting. An added bonus is if you can write to the same audience that reads your fiction.
Also, remember what I said about keywords. It's good business to use the same logic when creating blog post titles. Make the search engine drool when it sees your blog with all those juicy keywords in the title and the opening paragraph.
  • Write articles. I was amazed to find search engine entries for articles I wrote back in the early 80s. Every little bit helps.
  • Never send another email without making sure your signature includes your website or blog address.
  • Get your book in as many reviewer hands as you can afford, but first, investigate the reviewers to verify their readership, their impartiality, and the genres they prefer.
  • Advertise, but be frugal. Many well-trafficked sites will host book banners for a modest charge. Trade an article for ad space. Negotiate for a better rate if you intend to advertise more than once with the magazine or website.
  • Arrange to be interviewed on radio, print or web. Just make sure you say something unique each time.
  • Teach. Almost all of us have an expertise in something. Share your knowledge and expand your reach.
  • Write your next book. A backlist grows your audience.
  • Can you think of other ways to put yourself on the search engine map? How do you feed the beast?
Well, I've had fun and I hope I've given you something to consider. Thank you Novel Spaces for letting me pop in and mingle with the cool kids. It's been a pleasure!
For more information on author promotion, saving money, outsmarting evil dogs, and making great salsa, visit Maria Zannini's blog.


Kaz Augustin said...

That's a great post, Maria! It reminds that, no matter how much I think I know, there are lots of good ideas that bear repeating. Or it could be my mind is a sieve. One or the other.

Liane Spicer said...

Excellent suggestions, Maria. I'm already putting some of them into practice.

Thank you for being our guest!

Jewel Amethyst said...

Thanks so much for the promotion tips. I really needed the information.

Maria Zannini said...

Thank you for the lovely welcome!

Stefanie Worth said...

Promo is indeed a beast. And, the truth is, if you plan to sell books, the beast must be well cared for.

Thanks for stopping in, Maria!

Maria Zannini said...

Thanks, Stefanie!