Home » Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Mike Shatzkin, Social Media » Authors marketing themselves online: the components of a strategy

Authors marketing themselves online: the components of a strategy

31 July 2015

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin via Book Machine:

A range of useful options is available to any author as they consider their online presences. All can be useful to any author but their own website is an essential component of that. It’s an anchor and it is the only web presence the author knows s/he will always control.

An author’s objectives for a website should be to:

  • Make it crystal clear to search engines who the author is and for what they are an authority.
  • Give the author a platform that can be used for many things: blogging, posting parts of books or works-in-progress, and gathering email addresses.
  • Give fans of the author a sensible place to link to an author’s content and biography that is not called Amazon.com.
  • Collect data that is independent of any specific book’s sales that can help an author know how s/he is doing in the digital world.

In addition to a web site, which is real estate an author totally controls and is the most important tool in an author’s kit to get new followers through search, an author can do him or herself some good by going where fans could be.

. . . .

And authors should be in touch with other authors too. They have blurbed for each other’s books for years. Now they can link to each other. They can mail to each other’s fans. No author is so prolific than s/he needs to “own” fans exclusively.

Link to the rest at Book Machine

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Mike Shatzkin, Social Media

34 Comments to “Authors marketing themselves online: the components of a strategy”

  1. Stephen Gradijan

    Giving out the email addresses of your fans is a really good way to get them spitting mad at you. Advice from MS is not something that authors should follow.

    • Yeah, it’s almost like they’re trying to get self-pub authors to piss off their fans/readers.

      Oh wait! It’s Mike! So you know there has to be bad advice in it. Seems he’s back to normal …

    • Right. It’s a complete violation of etiquette to do that. When readers sign up for my updates I pledge that i will not share their email address with anyone for any reason. Common courtesy and professional ethics demand that.

      • I can see an arrangement where authors will send to their own lists on behalf of a fellow author, letting their fans know about an author that they might be interested in. Authors would do this for each other, in the hopes that both would increase their mail lists and fan base. Are you giving out email addresses? No, you are emailing them yourselves, but providing a link to the other author’s website, where it is their responsibility to entice a potential fan to sign up for their emails. Nothing shady about that, as long as you are upfront with your fans on what you are doing.

    • He’s not saying you give your email addresses away. he’s saying you partner with authors, and write nice things about their books in an email message to your readers.

  2. ” They can mail to each other’s fans.”

    It’s worded a bit clumsily, but his sentiment isn’t that far off. You can definitely recommend another author or author’s books to your fans.

    Many authors have already started doing this, whether on Facebook or through email.

    So, yes, authors are sharing fans and cross-pollinating. He’s not that far off base, but as usual people here are only too happy to castigate the dude for almost anything he says.

    • Speaking as a reader here, G.

      I signed up for a couple of publisher newsletters, and suddenly my inboxes filled up with spam. Not appreciated in the least. Especially the tons of garbage I started getting from Author Solutions and their partners in crime.

      I have signed up for quite a few author newsletters. A couple of them have abused the privilege and passed my email addy to others. Again, not appreciated. When I sign up for a newsletter, I want THAT particular newsletter, not a bunch of junk from people I don’t know.

      If an author wants to cross-promote his/her buddies, then do it within the confines of the newsletter I signed up for.

      • He never said spam your readers.

        He simply mentioned that authors could cross-pollinate by sharing their customer base with one another.

        I disagree with him if he thinks it needs to be done in such a direct fashion. It’s as easy as me saying, “hey, if you like my books, you might want to check out X’s great new book!”

        And no, you don’t spam or do it a lot. It needs to be tasteful and intelligently done, for the right author and the right audience.

        I just don’t think what Mike said was that crazy at all.

    • He’s castigated so much because he is wrong 90%. When he does manage to say something that might actually be helpful, it’s information at least two years behind the current way things work.

      Wasn’t he just saying a few months ago that an author only needed a site set up by their publisher? Or maybe that was someone else.

  3. “Give fans of the author a sensible place to link to an author’s content and biography that is not called Amazon.com.”

    So being available on Amazon is a bad thing? What a nutty suggestion. But it gave me an idea: I’d like to see Amazon slap a badge on my books’ pages saying (in a starburst): An Amazon Exclusive.

    • Come on, there had to be a little anti-Amazon spin in there somewhere if Mike was going to post it.

      Too bad he didn’t say where he thinks your e/books would get more eyeballs looking at them other than that evil Amazon …

      • Yeah, guess I agree with him here, as well.

        It’s dangerous for an author to have so much traffic dependent on one site or platform. As authors, ideally we want to have control of our reader traffic, our fans.

        That’s what he is pointing to. Create a space to drive traffic that is your own, where you can capture meaningful data, etc.

        For most people, they are letting that space be their author page on amazon. And he’s saying, don’t do that–make it your own space.

        • Yeah, your Amazon page is not a substitute for your own website.

        • Patricia Sierra

          That advice is fine — for the authors who are unlike me. I’m fine with limiting myself to Amazon, and doing nothing but collecting my meager earning every month. I think that is out of synch with most of the authors who post on TPV because they consider their books to be a business. I’m long past that in my dotage.

    • Wow. Just–wow.

    • You don’t own the anayltics on your Amazon.com page, so it does you little good from an SEO standpoint. You can’t discover how readers are finding you. This whole post was primarily for non-fiction authors. SEO matters very little for fiction novelists.

  4. While I definitely have more control over my own website, I personally have found that my best, liveliest interaction with fans has been via Facebook. FB drives me crazy sometimes, and I have to play by their rules, but it’s been the preferred medium of my readers to learn about my books and what I have planned for the future.

    Marie Force recently released her 2015 Reader Survey. She had almost 6,000 respondents. Her remarks about reader preference for author information was very interesting and showed a change from her 2013 survey:

    “…larger percentage of readers in 2015 over 2013 used Facebook as the primary source of information about books(18 percent versus 32 percent in 2015), making it the most popular way for readers to get this information. Facebook was also the most popular way for readers to get information about authors in 2015, at 69 percent. In 2013, author websites took the top spot…”

    Marie’s survey and links to the PDF of the summary and raw data results can be found here:


    • This is fascinating. Probably as valuable as the Author Earnings report.

      • It has zero value. It’s a self-selected survey. It says nothing about any readers except for the specific individuals who replied to it.

        • How do you know that?

        • True, it’s self-selecting, but I think it’s still valuable because it provides a direction to move toward.

          In the years I’ve been looking at book marketing, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are a few hard pieces of advice to follow, like have a place to call your own and build an email list. Then there are the things to do if you have the time and inclination, such as “build a community”. And then advice that’s bad.

  5. My favorite part is where he’s acting as IF this was a collection of new strategies. Except that having a website/blog, and growing an email list, and being available on search engines is EXACTLY what Joe, and David, and Hugh and many others, have been advising for years.

  6. The Author Hangout recently did a 3-part series with clips from the previous shows answering the question: “What did you wish you knew when you started out?”

    There were a lot of answers, but “build an email list” was among the most popular. Build a website was rare, but that might be because it’s so common that even book marketers dont list it (have a professional-looking product probably topped the list, if you include advice to have a great cover, and have someone copy edit your book).

  7. I would never take advice from this man. He may be the nicest guy in the world, but, in my opinion, his ideas have always been about two or three years behind the times.

  8. Holy cow. Holy effing cow.

    Do you guys see what’s going on here?

    Mike is changing his marketing strategy. He’s reinventing his business. He’s switching to a totally new audience because he recognizes that he’s giving advice to the wrong people.

    Instead of billing himself as a consultant to publishers, he’s trying to rebrand himself as a consultant to authors. TO AUTHORS. Instead of chasing the multi-million dollar publishing houses in New York, he’s jumping ship.

    Does the unofficial mouthpiece of the Big Five finally realize that the boat is sinking? Does he finally see that the market has been disrupted and that the legacy publishers have no future, other than as holding companies for late 20th century (and a few early 21st century) intellectual properties?

    Wow. He’s rebranding himself very quietly, but he’s definitely rebranding himself. I believe the BPH endgame is about to begin.

    • the Other Diana

      Excellent observation.

      This is the second such article in a week?


    • This!

    • He also helps run Digital Book World, an annual conference in NYC. Sleepy Big 5 execs, agents, editors, programmers for small start-ups, and the like show up and discuss topics that are at least two years out of date (two years ago, “Metadata” was the killer buzzword!).

      Maybe DBW is thinking there’s a much larger mailing list if they can offer actionable or entertaining info to authors, since there are tens of thousands of them running around, and a lot of them spend money at conferences every year. Two cases in point: KBoards and this very website have loads more traffic than anything Mike or DBW does. Both places demonstrate the massive demand for news consolidation and networking among peers. Writers conferences are numerous, packed, and many make money.

      If DBW had lost the anti-Amazon nonsense years ago and actually covered the fricking industry, they would’ve found a larger audience among author-publishers than they currently have from the Big 5’s towers. Instead, they missed the pivot point, and now you’ve got TPV for all your sane publishing news. There was demand, and they missed a chance to supply it.

  9. I do not think that his statement regarding the sharing of subscriber lists was poorly or inaccurately worded. It was quite clear.

    “They can mail to each other’s fans.”

    He did not say:

    “Authors can refer their fans to other authors.” OR
    “They can refer their fans to other authors now.”

    I make sure my clients always have a ToS and a Privacy Policy on their site. This is a best practice. Just copy a professional one from a site and modify for your needs. Cover all your bases, including what you do with any information you collect, including email addresses. This is SOP in your Privacy Policy anyway.

    And just don’t share subscriber lists. Ever. You will be in violation of portions of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. Think I’m going a bit overboard, and this isn’t a big deal? It will bite you online. The online mob can turn ugly in a heartbeat.

    Do what the others have suggested–refer your audience to like authors.

    The rest of it is fluff and adds no unique value.


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