There are, no doubt, lots more than five ways for authors to gain or improve visibility in the marketplace, but this is what I consider to be a “top five” list of sorts. Any one of them alone may not guarantee success, but putting them all together makes for a pretty effective formula. I’ve tried to rank them in some semblance of an order of priority, but admittedly, they can be rearranged to suit your own goals. Now, here are my recommendations:
- Create your own Author Website. You need your own site with your own unique domain name hosted on a Web hosting service of your choice. This is a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many authors have not yet taken this step. Whatever you do, do NOT choose a free hosting site that gives you either a subdomain (such as yourdomain.anydomain.com) or a subfolder for your site (such as anydomain.com/yoursite). Not only does this appear very unprofessional and cheap (in the worst sense of the term), but you will not benefit from any of the search engine rankings that result from the link-backs of the traffic you receive.
- Get a professional-looking email address. Again, do NOT use one of the free Web-based email providers, such as Live Mail, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, etc. Once you set up your domain and Web hosting account as discussed in point #1, you can also set up your own unique email account using your unique domain name. There are a variety of ways to write your email user name, such as email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or just firstname.lastname@example.org. Save your clever and funny user names, such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, for your non-professional accounts. Using an official-looking email address is much more professional than using one of those free email account providers or a tongue-in-cheek user name. On the other hand, if you’re a comedic writer, a comic user name might be more suitable for you. Just use common sense or ask someone you trust who has common sense.
- Use Social Media. As a minimum, you should create an account on LinkedIn.com, Twitter.com, and Facebook.com, although Pinterest.com is ever-growing in popularity. Once you have an account with each of these, set them up to accept updates from each other. I think the best way is to set up LinkedIn so that it will post your update to Twitter, and set up Twitter so that it will update to Facebook. Then when you post an update on LinkedIn, it will post to Twitter and Facebook shortly thereafter. Remember to limit your updates to no more than 140 characters, even on LinkedIn, or else Twitter (which limits all tweets to 140 characters, including spaces) will truncate it. [UPDATE: Twitter has since increased the limit to 280.] It will be very bad indeed if your tweet is cut short just before or in the middle of the most important part, such as the hyperlink that sends readers to your author site or some other site! Also, once you set up your LinkedIn account, you can join various groups that cater to your professional interests, which provides even more visibility for you.
- Start a blog. The top two most popular blogs are Blogger.com and WordPress.com, though you should set up your blog on your own domain hosted account, rather than on the blog provider’s site for the same reason mentioned in point #1 above: search engine rankings. You can check with your Web hosting service to see if they offer an automated way to do this for you. Many probably do. The Web host I’ve used for years (PowWeb Hosting Service) offers this feature. In fact, as one of their long-time satisfied customers who has an affiliate relationship with them, I can highly recommend them to you.
- Start an opt-in subscriber email list. After setting up your domain with your Web host and creating your email account, you should create a special email account just for communicating with your email list subscribers. There are a number of services that will help you manage your subscriptions and unsubscriptions for a fee, such as ConstantContact.com or AWeber.com, but if their prices are too steep for you, you can always manage your list personally using a mass mailing software such as Group-Mail.com. That’s what I’ve used for years, and another of with which I have an affiliate relationship. Although the paid version is quite expensive, depending on the edition you choose, you can use the free version indefinitely with great results. You just have to be creative with working around the limitation on the maximum number of subscribers to a group if you opt for the free version. Having an email subscriber list will enable you to communicate and market to your subscribers on as frequent a basis as you desire or as often as your subscribers will tolerate. Just be certain to require each sign-up to confirm his or her subscription, in case someone tries to subscribe someone’s email address without permission. Also, be sure to put your email list sign-up form in a prominent place on each page of your Author Website “above the fold” (meaning on the top of the page before the user has to scroll or press the Page Down key). You can put it in either the left or right column of your site, if you use tables or CSS (a cascading style sheet) for your page layout, which I recommend.
As I said, there are many more ways to boost your visibility, but these five are practically essential to your success. I welcome your feedback comments below.
NOTE: I am currently writing on a manual for indie writers who wish to become their own publisher. I’m not sure when I’ll finish it, but I’ll make an announcement here and on my published books Web site, books.parsonplace.com, as soon as it’s available. I’ve also just registered a new #hashtag for Twitter (#indiepub) to help you follow some of my tweets when I send them to Twitter. Feel free to use it yourself, too!
An Update on 5-4-2020
I made a few minor revisions to improve the readability of the content here, and I wanted to note that I finally published my book on independent publishing in 2014. It’s entitled A Publishing Panacea: How to Be Your Own Publisher in the Digital Age. Although it is no longer in world-wide print distribution, you may still get it in paperback from my publisher Website, Parson Place Press, or in eBook format from the store here on my blog or from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You may also consider getting my BYOP Digital Package, which includes lots of extras.
An Update on 4-14-2018
The following comparison page for cloud-based email services is offered for your review. I am not necessarily recommending this approach, but you can consider it nonetheless.