Living in the age of being responsible for your own mistakes or Personal brand (-ing) for writers
Even if you only have a Gmail account or sometimes you click on commercial banners on different websites, the quantity of data related to you marketers collect is huge. Once you create social profiles and become active on social networks, the critical mass of data about you and your habits is reached. YOU ARE AN OPEN BOOK (pardon the pun) FOR EVERY READER or POTENTIAL READER OF YOUR BOOKS.
Are you comfortable with the idea of being a personal brand?
The level of transparency, given the accessible PCs – the fulfilled prediction of Arthur C. Clarke, “a computer in every household” – is staggering. To have / build your personal brand sounds tempting. I mean, everybody does it implicitly by just being online and posting, sometimes with not so desired consequences. The hard work starts when you have to grow, control and influence others using your personal brand.
A personal brand is what you are as a writer / author; your presence online and offline. It’s what the others can find out about you by typing your name in a search box. The search results could include: your website, your Amazon Author Page, your photos, your social media profiles, and so much more. Your personal brand also refers to how you are perceived online, the recognition given by others, the reactions of the people you interact with or those of your readers.
Short version: Online PERSONAL BRAND = Online SOCIAL PRESENCE + Online SOCIAL STATUS The amount of work required to create a unified message and get the desired reactions is significant. It is a project by itself. You must:
Decide on a strategy. Establish your goals and make up your mind about the steps to be made in order to reach them. Like: I will write this novel, self-publish and sell 1000 eBooks and 200 hard copies in the next year. But, defining your message and maintaining your attitude is much more difficult than this decision. The people you interact with will scrutinize your ATTITUDE towards life in general, your beliefs. People need to like you to buy your book. They may also dislike you, but they need to feel something, to be judgmental about what you stand for.
Your MESSAGE is not what you convey by writing one word after another. It is the perceived difference between what you say, write, post on social media and the information others can discover about you online. The output is trust or indifference.
Exercise 1 Make an online search of your name. The retuned results will most probably include your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. If you have a domain with your name, it might also be displayed on the first page; the same goes for links to your work in online book shops. Ask yourself: what are the people making the same online search, looking for information about you, thinking? Right now! As you read this! How can you improve it?
Exercise 2 Think of a public person you like or is indifferent to you and make up a list of 5 traits that define him / her for you. Ask yourself: what are the 5 characteristics the people surrounding you might use to define your persona? Make it an imagination effort or, even better, ask them. It might surprise you.
You might be a pantser when it comes to writing, but you better be a planner when it comes to marketing your personal brand. The tools are mostly free or low-cost. Buying a domain and hosting are cheap. The WordPress CSM (Content Management System) is free. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn are relatively free; you pay with personal data.
Building a writer’s personal brand means creating an entire digital universe. This universe has a center and two levels of depth.
THE CENTER: your website/blog.
This is where you control everything. Buy a domain and hosting and then install WordPress. Or hire somebody to do it for you. Keep it simple and don’t forget: the information published online has the tendency to linger on the internet forever. I know it might tempt you to make it personal, but you need to be well-balanced when aiming at being perceived as a professional writer. You need to carefully choose the information to be made public and the one that should stay private; to differentiate between professional and personal. The matrix here can help:
FIRST LEVEL – social networks
When creating your profiles, remember to treat these replicas of yourself, considering also the networks that are associated with them, as pointers meant to offer the readers directions to the only destination that matters: the center, your website.
SECOND LEVEL – interaction tools
While the website/blog and the social profiles tend to be static, is the little sharing buttons that activate your presence. When your visitors have the possibility to share what they like with just one click, you have a better chance on improving your online status. You increase awareness and keep your brand alive.
3. MONITOR AND CONTROL
Use Google analytics, Facebook insights and so on. Put aside 15 minutes every day to analyze how many shares your posts have, how many visits your website had and how long did they last.
Most of all, be ready to face all types of comments from your readers – answer all of them; it is important to engage the readers that took the time to start a conversation and remember how significant it is to be wise, nice and non-conflictual.
Pay particular attention to the method used to consolidate your readers’ community and attract new readers / buyers. Keep in mind you are no exception. Most writers have difficult personalities given the enhanced levels of creativity, the capacity to build worlds and the right to produce and kill characters. No matter if you write on your blog or post on a Facebook writers’ group, start by sharing your experience as a writer and give feedback. Join the conversation keeping your goal in mind.
People tend to follow other people when they consider their life enriched by what the other has to offer, when they like where one is going and want to support him/her reach the destination or when they simply like you.
Walking the walk – my experience
While I cannot provide a universal solution, I can share fragments of my own experience.
I started writing my first book (The Right Place) picking on thoughts going through my head while on the subway to work. Name any mistake a new writer makes, and I probably made it too.
The English version is the translation of that unedited version. Reading it now, I cringe, but I delay rewriting and hiring an editor for it because it’s a fresh reminder of my mistakes, and I need that. Yet, I did a few things right. I knew I needed readers even before publishing.
I built my blog / website and had all my RL (real life) friends converge on my online presence and become ambassadors of my thoughts and future writings. I was merciless. Those that did not like my writing and did not offer any constructive feedback were pushed out of my social circle. I had a purpose and I removed any dead weight.
As soon as I self-published the book, I offered the eBook free for download and ordered boxes of POD from Amazon. I enormously enjoyed the moment of having the printed copy in my hand and rejecting anybody asking for a free paperback copy. I asked my friends to show their support and pay even more than the selling price of the book. It was my work and, since I never asked any of them to do something for me for free (I didn’t expect or asked my friends owning an auto shop to fix my car for free), I asked them to pay.
One of these friends, that has always shown great support, paid 10 times the price of the book for just three copies.
Bottom line: Over 3000 eBooks downloaded. I broke-even on the cost of the printed books and topped that with a little profit I wasted later on learning how to run paid ads. After I was approached by a stranger on the streets of Bucharest telling me he had read my book and that it had made him think about the choices he made in his life, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of mine.
Adding to the popular and flashy concept of being an entrepreneur, having a start-up painfully reveals to you the yellow brick road of sacrifice, hard work, and building on failure after failure. There were months when I slept like a baby at night: I woke up every couple of hours and felt like weeping.
As for preparing the launch of Asengana, if you are reading this, you know what we’re doing. I would just like to tell you how we decided on the core message for the content of our blog. From the beginning we realized we are not in the business of teaching people how to write (most of the others in the industry do exactly that). We are in the business of providing writers with a tool to write better, faster, with increased efficiency.
Every time I take a break from writing, I want to talk about… writing. That is why we decided that our articles should be food for thought – the tone should be positive, the ideas practical and the messages clear. We want to start a conversation about the philosophy of writing. An exchange of points of view, the kind of thoughts you throw in during a conversation with your friends, writers or editors, at a cocktail party, with a glass of red wine in your hand.
Remember that the most important reader you have, the one you should always charm and thrill, is YOU. This is tangible, unlike the concept of brand. This abstract idea takes shape and exists in peoples’ minds as a distillation of their collective social media experience.
Your personal brand should not deliver an empty promise to your readers. It must be an assurance that YOU WILL DELIVER. And you should deliver – because, in the end, the strength of your brand comes from the impact your books is making upon your readers; but, be sure, they will ask themselves first: why should I buy her/his book? Keep in mind that the best marketing vehicle for your brand is your book.
It might sound cryptic, but the best advice, the secret of attracting the conscious readers, the path to the perfect social media state of mind, is to mind your business.
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