By Jennifer S. Wilkov, host of the “Your Book Is Your Hook!” Show on WomensRadio
As authors and writers, we’re always learning about resources and industry tools that we can use to improve our book project performance and the enjoyment of our writing and marketing experiences. Today let’s talk about why building an online community website can lead to a stronger, more successful platform for your book on and offline.
As a writer, you are pretty much as available as you choose to be to your readers. There are plenty of ways to be in constant conversation with them. With the variety of online options today, it’s easier than ever.
The basic website and newsletter combined with your social media networks make for a great conversation builder between you and your reader. But there is a bigger conversation that you can facilitate beyond you that involves your readers getting in conversation with each other.
An online community website can lead to an explosion in your loyal following referring others to your writing and books. Providing additional resources to those who opt-in to your site makes them feel that they are receiving more from you. That leads to a larger conversation for the reader to then turn to her friends and tell them about your site too.
An even greater extension of your site can then be made simply through your books.
When you have a website totally dedicated to the subject matter of your book(s) that is complete with a community component, now you have a much bigger opportunity to have her give your book to a friend or colleague as a gift – and, in turn, pass on your whole platform as a result.
Books are great calling cards that can lead your reading audience anywhere you want to take them.
For example, this week’s show guest, Carley Roney, has excelled with this strategy as the author of 16 books that support her popular websites, TheKnot.com and TheNest.com. Now, with the book, The Baby Bump: 100s of Secrets for Surviving Those 9 Long Months, she has once again extended this proven tactic to TheBump.com. Since her sites are related to life events including marriage, having a baby and getting a new home, her books become perfect gifts to give to the happy couple, while at the same time the gift includes a direct line into her online website community.
I’ve also done this with my latest book, Boys Before Business: The Single Girl’s Guide to Having It All, where the reader can come into the online website community through the book or find it via the online social media conversations through our blog articles and through our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Readers can simply jump into a virtual workshop with me and my co-author, Kim Mylls, for 60 minutes any time on their own schedule. They receive the same workbook from our workshop too, right through the website. This way, if we are not visiting the reader’s city with our live workshops inside Saks Fifth Avenue, they still have a means to participate in the dialogue with us and get value from the extended conversation beyond the book.
To show how brand extensions work even further, take a look at Debbie Macomber and her website. She has a knitting club – an online community that is specific to a particular group of her books. Debbie admittedly is a knitting fan herself so she has created a whole off-shoot of resources and support for others who enjoy knitting too. Some of the patterns she offers in her materials are based on her books about knitters who reside in her fictional town of Cedar Cove. This is yet another brilliant way to dive deep into a niche while at the same time create a combination of online and offline offerings to extend the dialogue with your readers and serve their shared interests with you.
Another way of continuing the conversation online with your readers is something akin to what Stephen King has done on his website. One of the options on the site is to “tour The Office” which is a 3D application that offers users a unique way to get to know the man behind books. Look for memorabilia from throughout Stephen’s career, current release points of interest, an interactive Map of Stephen King’s Maine and be sure to hunt down the 10 quiz items and answer all the questions to receive an exclusive reward. This is a terrific example of how to extend yourself as an author into the conversation with your readers – without having to continually be live on tour. With books offline leading fans and readers to his website, Stephen can continue the dialogue online that may have started offline simply with a book.
However you choose to design the on and offline conversation with your readers, be creative and congruent with what works best with your project and website. Your audience will love you for it and keep coming back for more.
A quick mythbuster for you about this strategy before we complete our discussion today: One of the essential “chicken and egg” questions in this area is often whether to build the website community first and then write the book – or vice versa. In today’s age of book publishing, establish your platform and website first to gain a following. Then bring your book to an agent and publisher. The website will support you with your credibility and help you to attract a literary professional’s eye.
Finally, one fact for those of you who have a robust website or blog community that you’re in constant conversation with now: you can’t use your book as your hook…until you have a book.
Jennifer’s show can be heard every week on Tuesday mornings at 9am when it is broadcast on WomensRadio.com and syndicated on Live365.com. Each show is archived for replay listeners in different time zones and countries.
For more information on this Education Corner topic and others, please refer to www.YourBookIsYourHook.com/blog for more articles and resources to help you with your books.