5 Quick Tips For Perfect Google+ Profiles for Authors

Google+ for authors

Google+ for authors

I’ve been playing pretty hard with Google+ for a while now, and sharing my thoughts as-they-happen over on my personal blog, A Simpler Way. My ideas are ever-evolving as this new social channel continues to change, so be advised before following any advice I might share over there. It may be short lived.

Over here, I’ll try and focus on the ideas that are fully baked. Of course, Google+ could (and probably will) change things that affect my shared suggestions. But I don’t expect to have to post complete retractions over here when I’ve changed my mind for the umpteenth time.

I’m terribly excited about the opportunities Google+ presents to independent authors and publishers. I think anyone betting against Google on this on is a fool. Though Google has made several failed attempts at social, I’m convinced this is the one that will stick. So come join me.

Like all social media sites, your personal profile is the nerve-center of your presence on Google+. It’s easy to get wrong, and luckily not all that hard to get right. With that, here are my five quick tips to give you, the professional author, a perfect Google+ profile*:

  1. Use an avatar banner. This is your best chance to make a good impression on someone who finds your Google+ profile. Don’t just randomly upload five photos of you or your books. I suggest using http://gpluspic.com/ and hunting for a picture that works well. Play around with several and find the one that looks the best.
  2. Fill out your profile completely. Make smart use of bold and italics in your Introduction. Adding links in here is good idea, too. Bragging rights, occupation, employment… add in all that stuff. And don’t forget the Other profiles and Contributor to sections on the right side.
  3. Hide tabs you don’t need. If you don’t have any uploaded photos (other than your avatar banner) or videos, don’t show those tabs. Ideally, you’ll start getting great photos and videos from signings, book covers, video trailers for your books, etc. When you get those and start loading them to Google+, you can uncheck the box and start showing those tabs on your profile. (Oh, and kill the “Buzz” tab. Totally failed experiment that is soon going away.)
  4. Show off your +1s. Enable this tab on your profile. Of course, you need to be proud of what you are giving a +1 to, so be advised. Be selective, and make sure that the +1 is the default action when you see something that you want to be associated with. This is you giving “juice” to web content. Share those +1s with the world.
  5. Make (at least) 80% of your posts rich media posts. Posts with photos and videos go farther. They are more compelling and engaging. Learn to use the bold and italic formatting shortcuts to make your posts pop. If you need, create an empty circle called “test” and post things there first to see how they look when shared.

I’d love nothing more than to end this post with some examples of authors who have a perfect Google+ profile. But I can’t. Of the dozens I follow, none of them are hitting all the marks. Does that mean I’m terribly picky? Perhaps. But I think it showcases a great opportunity for you to do better. There’s ample room to make a big splash on Google+. So go do that. And then let me know so I can add you to my list of perfect profiles on Google+.

I’m on Google+, and so is Jeff. When you add us to your circles, be sure and shoot us a message telling us you’re reading the blog, have attended one of our classes, or just stumbled across us. That we we get you in the right circle. More on that in the coming weeks!

 

* – Jeff always gets twitchy when I talk in absolutes about social media. To be fair, there is no one right way. There are many right ways. There are also many wrong ways. If you have an a well-thought-out idea that doesn’t quite jive with what I’ve said; groovy. I promise not to hold it against you.

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Amazon’s @Author provides digital authors incredible fan access

A student raising a hand to ask a question at ...

Image via Wikipedia

Authors who are hoping to go digital but never have to interact with their fans got some bad news from Amazon.com last week. They are creating a way for readers to ask questions about specific passages in the books they are reading:

The new program, called @author, lets Kindle users highlight a passage and then ask the author a question about it via their Amazon author page or Twitter. Only questions as long as 100 characters can be asked from within the e-book itself, but more in-depth curiosities can be posted to the author’s official page on Amazon.

Of course, only a handful of questions will actually be answered directly by authors, but other readers are free to chime in and offer their take. If the writer does respond, readers will be notified by email.

via E-Books Get More Interactive With Amazon’s New Author Q&A Feature.

Authors who ignore the feature could find themselves entirely left out of incredible discussions around their work, and missing a fantastic opportunity to connect with readers and turn them into fans.

Savvy authors can use this as not only a nice way to give a reader a thrill by talking with them, but also a source of invaluable insight into what characters, plot points, ideas, and passages are making an impact. This could be a gold mine of information and a powerful way to build a fanbase that helps promote your work to others.

This is just getting rolling, but you can see notices of participating authors on Amazon’s @Author Twitter account.

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Author contact info – Do you make it hard for your readers to interact with you?

Just for the record, you do not want to open your mailbox one day and find this waiting for you:

Dear Author,

I know it’s odd to receive a hand-written letter in 2011. Strange as it is for you, you have no idea the trials and tribulations I went through to send it. I had to go buy a stamp. Yes, they still make stamps. Then I had to go to my mom’s house and ask her for an envelope. Then I had to call my 4th grade teacher from 30 years ago and ask her how to actually fill out the information on the envelope that the post office needed to traffick this letter to you.

Why did I do all of this? Because finding your email address was an impossibility. I checked your blog. I checked your Twitter account. I checked Facebook and LinkedIn. They all link to each other and a dozen other properties. But nowhere on any of those properties did you bother to leave a good email address for you.

So you get a letter. Because it was easier to track down your physical address than figure out your email. And with all this effort, I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say to you. How ironic.

 

Sincerely,

An ex-reader who’s moved on to easier pickings.

Want to make sure this doesn’t happen to you? Follow these easy steps:

  1. Search for your name on Google.
  2. Click the top search result that you own. And by “own” I mean “are able to make edits to”.
  3. On that site, find your email address. What? You can’t find it? Add it. Prominently.
  4. Go back to #1 and repeat for the rest of your owned pages.

Worried about spam? Stop. It’s almost 2012. There are ways to obfuscate your email address, but the best line of defense is getting a decent email program that fights spam. I’m a Gmail user and rarely have to deal with it. And my email has been public and exposed in un-obfuscated ways for years.

I also suggest a bit of investigation on the social media property you engage with most of the time. What links are you providing for someone who wants more information? You should have a common landing spot for all that stuff, and that landing spot should have an email address for you. Not a contact form. An email. Again, it’s almost 2012. Time to get savvy about this stuff and stop making it hard for people to get in contact with you.

No, I don’t want to send you a DM. No, I don’t want to message you on Facebook. Those are fine methods of communicating, but they pale in comparison to the original killer app — email. Do it. Now.

And you do know we’ve got a kick-butt author’s conference coming up in a few short weeks, right? It’s a day-long intensive that will give any author a comprehensive look at the digital publishing world. This post is the type of thing we’ll cover — real-world ideas, tips and techniques that you can walk away with and implement immediately. Because the future isn’t going to stop knocking on the door. Make plans to attend, or forward the link to an author you know who needs to be there!

They want YOU! Interacting with your readers and fans

Screaming Fan - NAMU 2008

Image by CC Chapman via Flickr

Our highly connected world leads to a natural leveling of the field. People aren’t limited to to a small group of friends they’ve personally met. Social networks make it easy to expand personal networks to thousands, if not tens of thousands of people. Remember the “promoting” post from last week? Yeah, you’re going to be come a highly connected person. Get ready.

This assumed familiarity (“Hey, you’re connected with Samantha on LinkedIn who knows Enrique, and we went to high-school together!”) opens the door to personal communication not possible a few short years ago. Readers, fans, peers, stalkers and the wide band in between will think nothing of reaching out to you as if you were regular drinking buddies.

No, you can’t opt out of this. Welcome to digital publishing… or specifically, successful digital publishing.

Don’t worry – your horde of readers and fans are a lot more like happy houseplants than screaming babies. Both need regular care, feeding and watering, but not constant attention.  With time, practice, and some good tools and techniques to master this skill, this interaction will become a natural part of your work.

If you’re worried about how your readers will see you, put that aside. If you’re a curmudgeonly old writer, you can be curmudgeonly in your interactions with fans. They dig that. If you’re aloof and regal, do that. You don’t need affectations or masks. People want to interact with you, so give them the real you. If they don’t like you so much but love your work… well, one less person to interact with. That’s not a bad thing.

The relationship between interaction and success in digital publishing is well documented. We’ll bring you case studies and interviews, as well as tips and tricks to keep you sane while the public clamors for your attention. Because you’ve got another book to write, right?

Interacting is the fifth phase of our Digital Publishing Lifecycle. We’re covering a different phase each day, and welcome your thoughts and input.

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Breaking it Down – Five Phases of Digital Publishing

Dice five

Image by doug88888 via Flickr

Getting a book published wasn’t magic, but it seemed that way to many people. All you needed was to get a great idea down on paper, people would realize how amazing it was, and BAM! – it’d be in the bookstore. Well, in the last century anyway. In this century, after the BAM! it appears on Kindles and iPods, and on Amazon.com rather than Borders. The process has changed, but it still isn’t magic.

Unfortunately, since so many people didn’t understand how the old process worked, they’re completely stuck now that the game is changing. All the enormous opportunity out there for authors who want to become their own publishers is lost if those authors don’t know what the publishers did in the 20th Century, let alone how to evolve into the 21st. Fortunately, that process is very possible to understand. Not easy, but not impossible.

That’s the whole reason we’re here – to help you tackle the steps necessary to get your ideas out to your readers in this digital age. To do that, we need a common terminology. A way of describing the different parts of the process as we dive into them and show how they interconnect. At the highest level, we see five distinct phases.

Five Phases of Digital Publishing

Writing – Shaping your ideas, your content, and your story for the digital world. We’ll leave the basics of storytelling and character building to others, but will instead cover the early choices that might impact you later based on the mediums and tools you plan to use.

Editing – Now you have your content, how do you get it ready for the dozens of digital formats available? How will it look on different ebook readers? How could the title, cover, and even the font make a difference in how people find you and make the decision to buy what you have to offer?

Publishing – Your book is done, it’s shiny, and it’s ready to go! Now what? How do you get your work into the channels where people can read it? How will it end up on Kindles from Boise to Beijing? How should you price it? How do you protect the rights to your work before you kick your baby out of the nest?

Promoting – Now your book it out there in all its glory, and if people just had psychic powers they would know where to find it. Sadly, your readers are likely limited in paranormal ability, so you will need to get the word out the old-fashioned way. Well, the new old-fashioned way. How can the digital tools like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter help you spread the word, and build a brand for both your book and you as a digital author? What marketing and promotional tools can you you put to good use whether you’re just starting out or already established?

Interacting – In the digital world your connections with your readers are not limited to a single stop on a book tour. Fans, friends, and collaborators are going to want to keep in touch with your work both online and in the real world. How can you build a strong support base, and leverage it to help you with future work while not taking all of your time?

Five simple areas, each with a whole lot of depth. We’ll be fleshing each step out over the next few days, so please stay tuned. But if you have any questions or thoughts already, let us know!

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