Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Should We Network? And If So When?

Lately I have heard a lot of writers ask if they really need to network. Do I need a blog? Facebook page? Twitter account? Website? My space? Etc. If I’m not published yet do I really need to start networking myself now? There are no easy answers to these questions but I am going to try to give you my reasoning behind my growing network.

At some point you are going to have to make a name for yourself online. And there is no time like the present. Right? Do you have to have a website, etc. No, but let me tell you it feels great to Google yourself and see your website pop up. The first time I typed Tabitha Blake into Google and all my sites came up I was so excited. Then it hit me. If my sites popped up with a simple search then others could search me out too. That is the true reason for this blog. It is all about others being able to find you. Your readers what to get to know you, but without a web presence then that will never happen. We had a big name in the writing world leave a comment on NN the other day and we were all so excited. That is what you want. People want you to be available in some form. And what is the easiest way to do that? Exactly, the Internet.

Domain Names
One of the first things you need to consider is whether you want to buy your own Dot Com or Dot Net. You don’t have to have your own Dot Com, but remember if you don’t then someone can use the name of your website. I purchased My website and I pay forty-nine dollars a year to maintain my domain name. You pay on it once a year and it is yours as long as you don’t lapse in payments. I recommend if you are going to create a website to purchase the domain name. You should also have your full name in the domain name. I purchased mine through Weebly and then transferred it when I moved my website. If you own your domain name you can transfer it to whom ever you like after six months. But be sure to ask questions and make sure you know what you are getting into before you agree to anything. I always tread carefully when making any kind of purchase. I think it is best to ask others that have websites who they use and how they like the service they provide. Word of mouth is the best way to get the dirt on anyone doing bad business.

Okay on to starting your own website. Now you have your own domain name all you need is a website. You have two options. Hire someone to construct one for you or make your own. This usually boils down to how much money you want to spend. Getting a professional to build your website can run you hundreds of dollars. But if you build your own then you are looking at anywhere from five dollars on up and some are even free. The thing with the free sites is that you get very limited options. That’s how they hook you into paying for your website. I know you have never built a website before and are nervous. It isn’t really all that hard before I built mine I had no clue on how to build a website but I learned it rather quickly. The best way to do it is not to let it intimidate you and play with it. Just remember it can all be fixed. If you don’t like it then change it. I use One Web Hosting and only pay ten dollars a month. It’s not as expensive as you might have thought. This is a link to my website.

Now lets talk about blogging. The two I recommend are Blogger or Wordpress. Of course you know I own NN but let me tell you a little about how this blog started and how much it has grown. We started out with five writers. We blogged once a week and it became a little overwhelming. But I didn’t want to give up on NN so I decided to add more authors to the blog. Now we have twenty-eight authors and are in the process of adding more. We all blog once a month except for three of us that blog twice a month. Our followers have grown like crazy at the moment we are up to hundred and thirty-eight and the number grows daily. Just yesterday we had a hundred and fourteen hits on NN. We have followers from the US, Canada, Australia, UK, Turkey, Netherlands, Denmark, Ecuador, Slovenia, Brazil, South Africa. What is the big deal you ask? It’s just another blog. Heck everyone has one. Right? Well this is true but you know what? All these people are getting to know the authors on NN and when we have a release date we already have an audience to pitch it to. Publishers and Agents want to know you are trying to further your horizons. They want to see you are passionate about your dream. It doesn’t matter who you sign with you have to do some of the leg work too.

Facebook is a great way to get your network going. You can reach out to other writers and post about release dates or events you are hosting. I have a personal facebook page and one for my writing. I try to keep my writing page fairly clean and only accept friend request from other writers and block things like games and that sort of stuff, but that is just my preference not a rule. You can also set up a fan page, which is great for any writer. Facebook is fairly easy to use and has a profile page that helps others to get to know you better. I have six hundred and seventy one friends on my Tabitha Blake page. You can also connect your blog to Facebook by using Networked Blogs. This is an app on Facebook that will post your blog posts to your followers profile page. It makes it really easy for your readers to follow your blog. All you need to set up a Facebook account is an email address.

I have a My Space account but don’t use it much. I find Facebook easier but that is just my preference so I recommend you check them both out. I know you can customize My Space a lot more than you can Facebook. By the time I set up my My Space account I had so many on Facebook I decided to stay with Facbook.  So I don’t know a whole lot about My Space. Some really like it and some prefer Facebook. So I will let you decide.

Twitter is also a very useful tool to get out quick messages and links. I don’t use twitter much but know a lot of people that do. You can build a really big following on the Twitter site. People for some reason really like to Twitter so take advantage of this social network. The only reason I don’t is because I have too many network options already. I would be networking every moment of the day. Which means getting no writing in and that’s a really bad thing. Like facebook all you need to start and account is an email address.

Be sure to always share your links with fellow authors. The best way to do this is to trade links. Ask them to add you to all their sites and you do the same for them. This will bring you traffic that visits their site and vice versa.

Another really neat way to get your name out there is through a banner. They are so simple to make. I use 
http://www.mybannermaker.com check it out. It is really easy to use and it is free.

Also be sure to link all your sites together that way people will be able to find all your network sites. If someone sees the link to your blog on your website for example the odds are they will check it out. So don’t forget to link them all together.

It Takes Time
It has taken me about a year to grow my network but it has been worth it and in the end it will help sell my books. You have to look at the big picture and not the here and now. If you sell your book and no one knows you, then it will be harder to get the word out that you have a release date. Just think of all the people you will have to celebrate with on that very important day.

One big thing about networking is don’t let it take over your life. It is so easy to get sucked into the networking web. I know it happened to me. Remember that the only reason you network is to be prepared when you sign that big contract, but if you are always goofing off on the net then it will never happen. Find a balance and stick with it.

Do you network?
Have a networking question? Ask Tabitha.
You will find all Tabby's links under the author bio page.

Happy Reading and Writing,
Tabitha Blake


Martha Ramirez said...

I LOVE to network. I have met some awesome writer friends this way. I think every newbie needs to read this post! Good job, Tabitha.

Sheri Fredricks said...

I'm with Mart - Starting your author platform early is so much easier than scrambling to get it going later. Especially when you're up to your neck in revisions and queries. Good post, Tabby!

Brenda said...

I agree with Mart. I have met some great writers and friends.
Sadly, I don't have my own site yet--though I do have facebook and a twitter account. When my time comes, Tabby, could I ask you for help...pretty please with a cherry on top, and sprinkles?
Awesome post by the way!

Lily Harlem said...

This is such a great, honest and informative blog, thanks so much.
I picked Weebly for my website and I love it, check it out, I'd love to know what you think.
I also use Twitter a lot to post about release dates, reviews, where I'm blogging etc. - seems to work okay.
I don't have a Facebook account. Like you said about getting sucked into stuff I decided to draw the line there.
A wonderful and talented author friend made my banner and I like hanging out at several Yahoo groups and chatting.
Wishing you all the very best in all your projects.

Lily Harlem


Tammy said...

Great post, Tabitha...
Funny thing, I had planned on blogging on this very subject but more of a "should I thing"...
Well, you answered that question for me, no time like the present...
Thank you for the links and laying many options on the table for those of us who haven't crossed over all the way. The choice doesn't seem so daunting now...LOL

D'Ann said...

I blog, and I have a Facebook account. I have writer friends and family and all kinds of people on it. I thought about sifting everyone into seperate groups, but then I thought I'd just let everyone see me as I am. You either like me or you don't. Selling a book isn't going to change that.

Tabitha Blake said...

Lily your web-page is beautiful, I really like the flowers. It is easy to get around and says a lot about your personality. Great job!

Tabitha Blake said...

Thanks Mart! It is nice to know I can be helpful to other writers.

Tabitha Blake said...

I agree Sheri. If you start now by the time you are ready to announce your book it is all set.

Tabitha Blake said...

I will absolutely help you Brenda! Let me know when you are ready and I am there.

Lisa Kumar said...

Never too early to develop your name and platform, though I haven't followed my own advice about starting my own blog. I do have a facebook account, but since I write under my real name, I don't know how to keep my personal and writing lives separate. I guess they'll have to join!

Great blog entry and very timely for all those unpubbed authors who can't decide what to do.

Tabitha Blake said...

I am so glad I could help Tammy. It seems really overwhelming but it really isn't. The most important thing is don't let your networking take over your life. I have learned to delegate some of the responsibilities on NN for that very reason. But also know you don't have to network or blog everyday. Make sure you keep your writing in front. Without it you have nothing to network. LOL!

Tabitha Blake said...

Thanks Lisa! I don't think using your real name is a problem. Not everyone wants a pen name. As far as mixing your personal life and your writing life that is a personal choice. I don't think either is wrong. I feel you should do what feels right to you. Some writers want a personal life and a business life but in the end it all comes down to what is easier for the writer. Go with your gut and don't do anything just because everyone else is doing it.

Tabitha Blake said...

D'Ann so true. I don't think there is a write way or a wrong way. It all comes down to how the writer wants to do it.

Trish said...

Great Post Tabitha,

The timing is spot on for me too, since I am planning on putting up a website sometime in the near future.

My theory on networking is that if you start before you sell, not only do you have the start of an audience, but you also have the habit already established. Selling adds to your workload tremendously. At least if you are already networking, it isn't a new element you have to find time for along with all the other things selling brings.

Cara Bristol said...

Great overview of what's out there. It is important to network and network early. You're right that it can consume your life...so the trick is to focus on those formats that work well for you. Different writers will prefer certain social network formats over others. I blog, tweet and have a facebook page. There are also yahoo groups, Amazon.com book & writing groups, & Goodreads.