Monday, September 3, 2018

Vital Websites for Authors

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
Hey everybody! Hope you're having a lovely Labor Day, or, if you're one of our UK fans, "Labour Day," or, more accurately, if you're actually one of our UK fans, "Monday."

As I'm scrabbling on this holiday morning to just barely get my social media in order for the week (I have a book signing on Saturday) it occurs to me that I'm really scrabbling just to get my social media ready for the day.  (Later addition: you may note that this post did not, in fact, go up in the morning.)

So it occurs to me in doing so that social media for authors is a little askew from what your average internet user might use.  There are some author-specific websites which I use on a daily basis, which beginning authors may not be familiar with.  So let's run down a list of some absolutely essential websites for authors and their social media presence.

I remain absolutely shocked at how many times I go to look up an author and they haven't set up their Amazon Profile.  If someone buys a single book of yours through an Amazon link, they are going to want to buy other books of yours in the future (assuming they like it.)  And if you don't have all of those in one place, you're doing yourself a disservice.

With Author Central, you can create a home base on Amazon to claim all of your books at a minimum.  You should also put up an author bio and a headshot.  And if you want to do more with it, you can link your blog, Twitter feed, videos, and the like.  There are all sorts of bells and whistles on Author Central.

But perhaps even more important, if you're not a self-published author Author Central is where you can view your sales statistics.  It's not crystal clear, but Amazon will provide you with a line chart for each of your titles, so you can note spikes in sales, drops, and plateaus.  You can also more-or-less gauge how many copies you're selling a day.  And guess what, if your Amazon sales differ significantly from what your publisher is paying you, you may be dealing with a shark.  So you should at least be periodically monitoring your sales statistics.  Author Central also gives you quick access to your reviews, although this feature for some reason is always delayed by a few days.

In short, this is essential, and if you're not using it, don't say I didn't warn you.

2.)  Goodreads

Goodreads is the social media platform of choice for readers.  (Some readers swear by Library Thing, Shelfari, and the like, but that's a bit like preferring RC Cola to Coke.  I mean, that's fine if you're a reader to go where you prefer the functionality, but as authors, the fish are swimming in the Goodreads lake.) 

As with Author Central, you should be maintaining a presence here.  At a minimum you should be collating your works and have a bio and author photo.  And, as with Author Central, there are also various bells and whistles like connecting to your blog.

Where Goodreads shines, though, is the interactions you can have with readers.  The groups there are par excellence, and if you can establish a good working relationship with the moderators of a few good ones, you can really get you name out there.  You can also hold giveaways, and even answer questions from readers.  Also of great note: Goodreads lets you organize events, a la Facebook.  So for your book launches you can invite some of your GR friends who will, in fact, be readers, rather than Grandma Smith like you would on FB.

A word of caution though: unless you're very familiar with the etiquette there, try to limit your direct fan interactions on GR.  Flamewars are pretty common there and some readers are of the opinion that authors have no place there.  Others are less myopic, but the point remains: if you don't know how you're supposed to act, don't risk acting poorly.  At a minimum, never respond to negative reviews.  (GR even has a cute and hilarious warning when you try to.)  Responding to good reviews is less frowned upon, but not strictly necessary.  So just plan to be a lurker here unless you're already a GR maven or plan to learn to become one.

Off of social media slightly, forewarned is forearmed.  There are a lot of sharks out there that will try to scam you by stealing your work, not paying you, or worse.  Realistically, you're never going to be able to avoid ever schmagent or schmublisher, because some of them never reveal their true colors until it's just in time to screw you.  But you can at least avoid the obvious ones.

Preditors and Editors used to be the sine qua non of identifying bad actors.  It's a shame, but the site went dormant recently and seems to be being retooled.  So hopefully they can reclaim their mantle at the top of this list, but I'm reserving judgment.

In the meanwhile, Author Beware is a stellar site for rooting out bad apples.  You can even reach out to them with specific questions and, time allowing, they will respond.  It's a work of kindness on the part of good authors who are running this site for the newbies, so please take advantage of it now and pass on the good vibes later.  That's what we do here in the writing field.

Absolute Write is another option, but it's a bit much for me.  Whereas P&E was like a water pick, Absolute Write is a firehose.  You'll find a lot of opinions about every publisher and agent imaginable, but unless you particularly enjoying sifting through snotty message board posts (hey, I'm not going to front, I do sometimes) it may be a bit too much.

Closer to social media but more like a news source, "Publisher's Weekly" is akin to the literary world of what "Variety" is to Hollywood.  (Or, anyway, what "Variety" was to Hollywood in the 1950s...I don't know what it's like there now.)

Every major book deal is going to be listed on here.  And while they won't call out bad actors the way P&E and Writer Beware will, you can go on PW and see which agents are landing which deals and see for yourself.

Now, this one is a paid service, so you will want to consider how seriously you're taking this whole writing business thing, but it can certainly be worth plunking down a small chunk of change to be in the know.


And there you have it!  A brief rundown and just barely still posted on Monday.  How about you?  What websites do you consider essential to this beautiful business of ours?  Let me know in the comments below.


Cheryl Oreglia said...

This is an awesome resource Steve! Thanks for posting.

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