Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Little Sabotage Goes a Long Way Online

A Little Sabotage Goes a Long Way Online
By Angela Wilson

Has your agent ever sabotaged a terrific marketing idea from your publisher?

It happened recently to one author when the agent put the ax on a dynamic Web site project the publisher wanted for promotions.

The publisher approached a well-known author Web site design firm about completely revamping the current site, which was an eyesore in desperate need of cyber love. The author had a three-book series coming out and the publisher was excited - and ready to back it financially with key Internet marketing strategies.

The author's agent had a different idea. Instead of redesigning a hopelessly outdated Web site, this agent felt that the Facebook-only promotions were good enough.

It was like the agent was saying, "I'll trade you this cool, long-term, author-owned Web site for Facebook, a third-party network that may or may not be around in two years."

Obviously, this agent did not thoroughly think through this plan - or its long-term impact to the client.

A dynamic Web site is key to online marketing success in the highly-competitive Web 2.0 environment. The Web has been around long enough that people expect authors to have Web sites that are professional, nicely designed and packed with key information like biographies, photographs, book synopses, cover art and reader group questions.

The fact that the agent turned down money the publisher was willing to pay is ludicrous.

Publishers don't pay for anything these days. If they wanted to pay for a Web redesign and use that site as a portal for online marketing strategies, the agent should have celebrated that little victory with the client instead of sabotaging the much-needed project.
The lack of understanding of online promotions is clear—and frightening, when you think about it.

Authors have limited brand control on social networks like Facebook. Users repeatedly have their Facebook identities stolen; hackers stole the profile of one author from Canada several times in one month. The impostor used her account to send messages to fans and even convinced Facebook that he/she was the "real" author. Imagine if you were a teen Christian author and someone hacked your Facebook page and posted photos of genitalia there, making all the world think you posted it. Your brand would be permanently damaged and likely would never recover.

Recently, Facebook changed its Terms of Service so it could own all content on the network. The recent outrage from Facebook users forced the network to switch back to the old TOS. The fact is, though, Facebook could change it again at any moment to own any content the author posts on their Facebook page, including excerpts, photos, cover art, promotional items and more. With a Web site designed by a professional firm, the author is in control of all content and branding.

The final nail in the agent's Facebook-only idea is this: Social networks are based on popularity. Facebook may or may not be around in a few years. Look at MySpace, formerly the leading place for authors to be. The niche there is so specific now that most authors are unable to use it effectively for marketing. Who says the same thing won't happen to Facebook, which is already seeing demographic shifts?

Here are other points to consider for social networking-only marketing:

*If all of your promotions are tied to a social network, you are at the mercy of that network. Its success is your success. Its failure is your downfall.

*You must play by the network's rules in the network's environment.

*You are restricted to their platform design.

*Your fans may be on this network now, but for how long? Will you need to move your promotions to another social network, recreating static content that would be better served on a Web site?

*What about SEO? If you are only found on a social network, you have limited or no opportunities to improve your search engine rankings, making it even more difficult for fans outside the network to find you.

Your Web site is your portal into the virtual world. It is the place where fans can find out more about you and your work. It is the first place book reviewers and interviewers check for your press kit, book information and more. It is the one stop everyone should make to find you everywhere on the Web. They are especially vital to small press or POD/self published authors, who have to work harder to sell their products.
I'm not saying that using Facebook is a bad idea. In fact, Facebook is an excellent network to integrate into an overall online marketing plan that builds your brand, finds fans and create a long-term Web presence that ultimately leads to sales.

However, dumping the Web site component in favor of the social network is a strategy destined to fail in the long-term.

If your publisher is anxious to pay for a new Web site to help promote your books, do not turn them down. Make sure your agent doesn't turn them down, either. A dynamic Web site is too important to let slide in today's market.

Angela Wilson is an author, social media consultant, and online marketing strategist. Visit her blog,, to learn more about cost-effective marketing strategies for fiction and nonfiction authors.

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