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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Controlling Your Digital Identity as a Self-Publishing Author

If I already had an agent and a publisher, I could focus on writing my stories while letting everyone else handle my publicity. Every time I opened Facebook, I'd have another 500 "Likes," and every time I tweeted, I'd see that I was retweeted 500 times and that I'd gained 1000 new followers.

Wait, wait, WAIT. I think I'm getting ahead of myself. Even with an agent and a publisher, it wouldn't be all that easy to gain fans.

At any rate, I don't have an agent and I don't have a publisher (other than myself), so how do I get the word out about my books? What do I need to do, as a self-published author, to let everyone know "Here I am! I've written a book! I am writer - hear me roar!"

I started thinking about this weeks ago, but the article I wrote in my blog way back then didn't quite say what I wanted it to say. Or rather, I've reorganized some of the thoughts in my head, and I think I can say what I need to say much more clearly now.

The main thing I want to get across in this post is that you need to take control of your digital identity. By digital identity, I'm referring to the presence you have throughout the world of online social media.  Why is this so important? I mean, if no one's ever heard of you, what difference does it make if you have anything on the web about yourself at all?

Well, it matters. A lot. Your digital identity is your online resume, and it's visible to everyone - potential agents, potential publishers, and most importantly, potential readers. By not creating your identity, you lose the ability to influence all these various groups of people.  You lose the ability to control it. And believe me, if you don't create your digital identity on the web, someone else will. They may not do it maliciously, but one way or another, your presence on the web will be created, either with or without your assistance.

So...why not take control of the situation?

When I made the decision to self-publish my stories, I knew there were 5 things I absolutely had to do to take control of my digital identity:

  • Create a Facebook fan page
    A Facebook Fan page lets you interact with other Facebook users and gives you an easy way to let them know the latest on your books and stories. You may even find that your friends and family "like" your fan page right off the bat (but be sure not to spam them!).
  • Create my own web site
    A lot of people just use Facebook as their main site. I believe you need to have your own site as the main jumping-off point. This way, you can direct your fans to where you really want them to go. Sure, Facebook is popular now. But maybe it won't be as popular in the future. You don't want to put all your eggs into one basket.
  • Set up a Twitter account
    Twitter gives you a way to send out short and quick messages to people interested in you or your work. You don't need to tweet every five minutes, but you do need to get something on there on a regular basis to keep your account from looking stale.
  • Create a blog
    Some people will say this step wasn't necessary, but I wanted to create a place where I could talk at length about my writing, my books, and whatever else I felt others might be interested in hearing. So...I created this blog.  :)
  • Set up a non-personal email
    I created a new Gmail account called, then redirected all mail that came into it to my real Gmail account. Gmail has excellent filters, and so I'm able to filter all author-related email into a special folder I've set up. (If you'd like me to explain how to do this, send me an email.)
There are several other sites you may wish to add to your digital identity as well, such as:
Oh, and if your book appears on Amazon, you'll also want to take control of the Author page they give you. In my case, I received an email from Amazon a few days after my first book was published inviting me to add information to my author page.

If you do all these things, then you'll be in control. You'll be able to give out the information you want when you want, and to who you want. And hey, when you do make it big, it'll be that much easier to keep up with all your fans.  :)