Recently I went public with Kvaad Press, my venture into independent publishing. Currently Kvaad is e-format only, though print on demand will be coming in early 2012. Because I've been a teacher of one sort or another most of my life, part of Kvaad's mission statement is to seek out and support new writers. So far my biggest responses have been from writers who don't think they're quite ready for publication and from printing supply wholesalers. Really; catalogs for barrels of ink and bookbinding machines. There has not been a landslide of inquires from new writers wanting me to read/edit/critique their mss – half a dozen, actually – but I hadn't expected any at all. My fellow Novelnauts know this response from new writers, which I now anticipate will increase once Kvaad press starts establishing an online presence, has got me thinking in terms of offering a writing course or starting an editorial service or changing my name and moving to one of the smaller islands south of here.
Because that "establishing an online presence" is the key factor here. The right kind of presence in the world-wide village will be vital to the success of my venture; and I say this at a time when Kvaad Press doesn't even have an active website. (The only place you can find me is Smashwords: Kvaad Press.) I've been doing a lot of research into online marketing and creating an online presence. I've attended Lon Safko's webinars (and am working my way through his Social Media Bible), pored over sites dedicated to helping independent publishers market their wares and brand, and studied the sites of other writers to see what they're doing, searching constantly for a consensus on how best to go about it. I found one point everyone agreed on, one evidently universal truth: Be yourself; be genuine. But beyond that, very little common ground.
For example: Review other writers so you'll get reviewed. OR Don't review other writers because if you're honest sooner or later you'll have to write a negative review and they – or more likely their fans – will start a negative buzz about you. (I've reviewed two stories on Smashwords by writers I don't know. One wrote a review of one of my stories. The other didn't. Don't consider this a representative sample.)
Spend an hour or two each day reading other writers' blogs and making comments to establish your credibility and trustworthiness. OR Don't spend too much time on other writers' blogs because this will create the impression you're trying to push yourself onto their fanbase. (Who has an hour or two every day to read other people's blogs? I do read some and I do occasionally comment. My habit is to fly by the blogs of people I know every week or so and skim a few posts w/o commenting. Sort of a drive-by lurker, I guess. I may try this commenting everywhere strategy in the future – once Kvaad Press or Kevin Killiany have a blog. More on that in a minute.)
Become heavily involved in Second Life and similar online social networks; large corporations and successful individuals have substantial presence there and it's the best way to meet and network with people from around the world. OR Stay away from virtual worlds like Second Life. Using virtual worlds for self promotion may benefit corporations that can pay public relations and marketing professionals to represent them, but for individual business people such as writers, the return is miniscule not worth the tremendous investment in time and energy required to make even a few contacts. (I spent way too long as a boat hanging from a dirigible in Second Life, staring at blank screens as I wandered offset while I puzzled through navigation. None of the default avatars looked like me and I was not going to spend the real-world money through Paypal to customize my appearance, so I opted for a guy with a ponytail similar to mine in the 70s. After wandering through several virtual bars, cruise ships, beaches, coffee shops during which no one tried to interact with me or looked interesting enough to interact with, I left.)
Blog about your life, your experiences, things that matter to you. This will make you more real and accessible to readers and potential readers, making them more likely to buy your books. OR Do not blog about your life unless all you want is a few dozen already loyal readers to know how your dentist appointment went or where you had lunch. Do blog about things related to your work that are of interest or potentially useful to a lot of people. Be sure to use words and phrases that will attract search engines to your blog (aka Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.) This will establish you as a voice worth listening to, perhaps even an authority in a given field. (I've shut down my LiveJournal, which was mostly daily vignettes and/or memes. I'm not sure what form my blogs will take. Plural because I'm envisioning one for Kvaad Press and one for Kevin Killiany. I'll probably SEO as much as possible while keeping my voice in either case.)
The camps on being active in communities such as Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Red Room, Goodreads, and Linked In tend to mirror those for blogging. It's generally agreed these venues can increase name recognition which can in turn potentially lead to increased sales and job offers, but pundits are divided on whether you should be folksy or strictly business. The advantages the first three offer over blogging is brevity: allowing from 140 to 500 characters, they force you to be brief and focused and thus more likely to be read. (My Facebook is folksy, my Linked In is more businesslike but still casual, and my Twitter is sparse – maybe one tweet a day; I currently have a dozen followers. I'm just not much of a twit, I guess. I'm part of Goodreads, Red Room and I vaguely remember long ago getting a toehold in something called Dreamwidth, but have done next to nothing in any of those communities. Haven't tumbled yet. So far I can link none of these venues to either name recognition or sales.)
How about you? What's your opinion on authors' web presence? What has or has not worked for you?
(Speaking of self-promotion, here's a give away: Visit my Smashwords page linked above. If you see a story you'd like to read – ignore the pen names, they're all me – let me know and I'll send you a coupon code for a free copy.)