When should an aspiring author launch a website, set up a mailing list, and establish social media?
The question comes up every couple of weeks in the various fora and communities where I contribute my time, so I thought I would put the answer here, too, because it’s always the same.
Collectively, I think of the interactive trio of website, mailing list, and social media as an author’s marketing infrastructure. Since every marketing effort you make as an author depends on those three things… it’s never too early to set up your marketing infrastructure.
Having a website, mailing list, and social media presence six months before your launch is the latest I recommend authors wait. In other words, the earlier the better.
Why Is It Important to Establish Your Author Marketing Infrastructure?
With your author marketing infrastructure (website with a blog, social media accounts, mailing list) in place well before your first book is launched…
…you can be blogging on your self-hosted website about your process and journey toward publication. Even if no one reads it (at first), you’re adding content to your site (properly tagged and categorized and optimized for search) and every time you do, Google and Bing and the other search engines have more reason to crawl your site. So when people search “author YOUR NAME,” there will be content for the search engines to give them.
Blogs Are Empathy Engines
Also, when you do have a book out and people are interested in it and you, those folks will search your name and come to your website. They’ll be more likely to stay there a while when they see all that insightful content… and the longer they stay and read, the more they’ll find themselves getting to know you.
What happens when prospective readers start to know you, the person, and not just you as a faceless author?
Well, what happens when you get to know someone? You become invested in them. You care about them, to one degree or another.
When that happens with your readers, you’re not “author and reader.” You’ve become peers.
Instead of creator and audience, you find yourself, with them, part of a community.
For more on the power and value in adopting this perspective, read my article on why indie authors should stop trying to build an audience.
Community Means Participation and Engagement
Social media is, first and foremost, about being social. It’s a virtual third place, and because it’s (relatively) public, there will always be more people there than on your website… much as there are almost always more people at the local bar than in your house. Y’know. Probably.
Social media is an opportunity to find the people who belong in your community. So you should establish yourself as an author on the a few social networks.
Although TikTok is gaining traction as of this writing and, undoubtedly, something else we haven’t heard of yet will gain prominence tomorrow, for now Facebook is the (like it or not — and I sure don’t) nine hundred pound gorilla in this space.
When you set up a Facebook author brand page, many community and interest groups will let you join as your page, not as you, personally, so every time you post in those groups and folks get to know you, you’re giving people the opportunity to Like your page.
What’s on your author / brand page? Not just a link back to your website and posts with calls to action for people to click through and read your latest blog posts(s) (feeding the empathy engine)… but a sign up button to get on your mailing list.
Mailing List Mailing List Mailing List
Why is a mailing list so important? Why would people even sign up for it?
Second Question First
People will sign up for your mailing list because you’re going to offer them something of value / special / exclusive when they do.
Because they’ve already seen you / gotten to know you on social media and through your blog posts, they’re empathetically invested in you as a person and as an author. Your success is important to them.
So give them a short story, or collection of vignettes and scenes featuring the characters from your work in progress, or something else relevant to your work and of value to them (not to you — no teasing excerpt they have to spend money to finish!) in EPUB and MOBI formats, as a gesture of gratitude for their signing up for your list.
Once they’re on your list, send them at least one (preferably a few) emails (these can be automated) that introduce you and your upcoming work, and (this is important) invite them to reply to those emails to tell you a bit about themselves and what they are passionate about.
You’re building a community. That means interaction.
Remember, these people are not simply your readers, and they’re far more important than anonymous customers.
They’re your peers (because writers can’t exists without readers, and readers have nothing to read without writers, right?)
First Question Second
A mailing list is so important to your author marketing infrastructure for two big reasons:
The first is the aforementioned exercise in community building… and makes the second reason possible, too.
The second is practical and (I know you’ve been waiting for this) commercial.
Here is a truism of book marketing: Nothing — not advertising, not word of mouth, not book reviews, not five star ratings — nothing turns an Ask into a Sale like an email to your mailing list community.
Once again, it has to do with empathy and connection. With community.
Your mailing list community is, by default thanks to how those people got there, full of folks already interested in your creative works and in you. Otherwise, they wouldn’t let you into their e-mail in-boxes because, as you will probably agree, nobody likes getting email they didn’t ask for.
When you ask this community of engaged, interested folks to buy something from you, they’re orders of magnitude more willing to do so than a stranger who saw an ad or read a review.
You’re all part of a tribe. Buying something from you is a mutually beneficial act: they get something entertaining from a person they know, love, and trust, and you get compensation that enables you to keep making the things your community appreciates.
So, Yes, Set Up Your Author Marketing Infrastructure Yesterday!
Whether you’re just starting your manuscript or you’re waiting for your book to be approved by Amazon, the time to set up your author marketing infrastructure is six months ago.
Get your domain name. Set up your self-hosted website. Get a mailing list provider and set that up. Create your author-branded social media accounts. Integrate your website and your social accounts with your mailing list.
Put it all in place. Your author marketing infrastructure is your proxy online — make sure it’s there so people can get to know you whenever they like.
Sure, there’s a learning curve — all the more reason to start early. And if you need some help getting it all going, I’m available for you at every stage.
Just please do it! Hit the ground running.