from Tim Betes presentation at the
Today Ill talk about the concept of online branding how to set yourself apart from other writers and help you to sell your work and become seen as a top producer in your field.
online promotion techniques Ill share with you today work and theyre not
complicated, although they do take some time on your part.
used these techniques to help a national nonprofit sell more than 5,000 copies
of a book it published in only three months.
these online PR techniques to sell out this workshop more than two months ahead
of time -- growing it from a regional event to a national one with attendees
from 28 states and Canada.
used online PR to promote my own humor column, gaining an international
readership as well as a paying job as a weekly columnist until the Web site
where it was published went broke at least.
of whether youre just starting out or you are an experienced writer, you
compete with other writers. You compete for the attention of editors. You
compete for paying jobs. Using the Internet to promote your work wont make you
the next Dave Barry or Erma Bombeck, but it will help your work get noticed, so
that when youre competing against other writers, youll have the edge. Writing
great material is up to you.
I wont get into a lot of technical details today, because we dont have the time, although Id be glad to take your technical questions afterwards.
comes to the details of online publicity and marketing, I highly recommend
Steve OKeefes book, Complete Guide to Internet Publicity. Steve
provides all the technical know-how to do all the things Ill talk about today.
You can find his book at Amazon.com.
1. Brand your name by creating a Web site
The first step to branding your name is to create your own Web site. It doesnt have to be complicated or expensive. Most of the online publicity you do will drive people to your Web site. Whether your trying to attract readers, editors or potential buyers of a book youve written, your Web site will be the focus of your online marketing. Having your own Web site is the easiest, cheapest way to create a national and even international image for yourself without being published in national and international print publications.
you are your product, use your name as your Web site address.
Many of the speakers here today do this.
Some writers use their topic specialty as their Web address. For instance, www.thehumorwriter.com. The problem with this is that, if you write anything else besides humor, editors may not visit your site because they think youre a specialist. Youll invest a lot of time getting your Web site address placed all around the Internet. If you change your Web address in the future, its a pain to recreate that work.
Some writers use free Internet services to host their Web sites. There are many places that will provide free Web site space. For instance, because I work at UD, Im given my own home page. If youre using free Web space, purchase a domain name and have it redirect users to your free space.
looks more professional:
I purchased the www.timbete.com and have it redirect people to my free site. Total cost: $35/year. Then you get the best of both worlds a good Web site name and cheap Web hosting.
2. Design your site so it appeals to readers and
I used to be a magazine editor. When a writer I wasnt
familiar with approached me with a story idea, I looked for confirmation that
the writer was up to the task. In addition to reading samples of his or her
writing, I asked myself these questions:
1)Who was the writer? What was his or her background?
2)Where else had the writer been published?
3)What did other editors think of his or her work?
4)What had the writer written on the topics I was
on your site should help answer these questions and set you apart from other
writers. Your Web site should showcase your work in such a way that if you and
another writer who writes just as well as you do are vying for the same
job, your work will win out.
your site as simple as possible. Need to include your bio, reader comments,
where youve been published, editor comments, writing samples, contact
information and the ability for readers and editors to subscribe to your column
if you write a column. Together, the content of your Web site paints the
picture that youre an experienced writer who can get the job done.
may say, Tim, Im not an experienced writer and dont have a lot to fill those
areas of my Web site. What should I do? Use the Internet to fill in the gaps.
When I began writing a humor column two years ago, my Web site was empty. Today
its packed with information, almost all of which came about because I had a
Web site to begin with.
walk through each area. Ill use my Web site as an example.
new columns allows editors to read your work and get in touch with you. If you
sell reprint rights, your Web site is a good place to showcase what youre
your work also gives readers a reason to come back to your Web site. You cant
get reader testimonials without readers and reader testimonials are
readers can say things about you that you cant. For instance, if you say you
write like Erma Bombeck, it seems egotistical. If someone else says it about
you, it appears much more genuine.
often include information about themselves that provides demographic
information. For instance:
am a mother of a 3-year-old little boy..."
am a father of five..."
a stay at home mom of five children..."
write a parenting humor column, reader testimonials from parents are key. As
long as you dont use the readers name, you dont need to ask permission.
reader testimonials are important, make sure that it is easy for readers to
contact you by e-mail. Once you have a few reader testimonials, create a page
on your site for them.
youve been published
its easier and quicker to get published on the Web than in print. I hadnt
been published before but I had great experience getting rejected in print. I
found many Web sites that fit my niche and were looking for content.
didnt matter to me whether the sites were large or small but I paid close
attention to the names of the sites and their logos. Since many editors wont
have heard of the sites, I wanted the Web site names to tell the story. I
wanted editors to know what I wrote simply by seeing where I was published.
got my column published on Web sites simply by pitching them with e-mail
messages with links to my Web site and sample columns. I got published on:
other Web sites.
you can see that where Ive been published paints a picture of what I write
about. If I got published on a Web site that didnt fit the image I was trying
to portrait, I simply didnt include it on my Web site.
always a debate about giving away your material for free in return for
exposure. Some people will tell you to never give away your work. Others say
to give away as much as you can to gain exposure quickly.
about six months, I had a paying job at a major Web site
CatholicExchange.com. I was their top story every Friday and they were paying
me $50 per column, which wasnt bad money. They ran my column each week but I
retained all subsequent rights. So, once I had sold the column, I gave the same
column to other Web sites to publish especially when those sites fit my
image. That way, I got paid for the columns but also quickly built a list of
sites on which Id been published. I think thats a good middle-of-the-road
strategy that balances income with exposure. Unfortunately, the weekly, paid
column, turned into stock options, which turned into worthless paper. Now Im
in the process of self-syndicating my column to Catholic newspapers.
when an editor visits my site or I pitch work to an editor, I can say that my
work has been published on more than a dozen Web sites including ________. If
Im pitching to a Catholic publication, I mention CatholicExchange.com and
CatholicMom.com. If Im pitching to a secular publication, I mention
ParentingHumor.com and iParenting.com. You get the idea.
testimonials are easier to get then youd think. In some instances, Ive
received unsolicited praise from editors. In other cases, Ive actively
solicited it. If an editor has paid for your work, obviously he or she thinks
its good. Theyre likely to give a testimonial if you ask.
youve allowed a Web site to run your work for free, they owe you. The least
they can do is provide a testimonial.
youre looking for a specific type of testimonial, ask for it. Editors wont be
offended if you say, Im trying to show that my writing appeals to senior citizens.
Would you consider providing a testimonial to that effect?
had two pitches in front of you, one which said:
written for several parenting publications.
award-winning work has appeared in several parenting publications.
would you read first?
a big thing, but it one more way to brand yourself to set yourself apart from
other writers. The quickest way to find awards to win is to visit other
columnists Web sites and see what theyve won. Once youve won a few awards,
theres little value in winning more unless theyre well recognized.
find a good directory of Web site awards at:
applying for awards and contests, try to find those that help reinforce your
image. For instance, I tried to get parenting Web site and writing awards,
since that was my niche.
Get readers to
subscribers? A few reasons.
youre just starting out, self-publishing your column may be the only way to
get started. You dont need to wait for an editor, you just need a handful of
family and friends with e-mail accounts.
subscribers you have, the more reader comments youll get to post on your site.
As I said before, reader testimonials are important.
get enough subscribers, it becomes a selling point with editors. Bruce Cameron
has more than 40,000 e-mail subscribers to his column. Thats a lot of
leverage. It helped him get his column into a major metro newspaper.
when youre pitching an editor to write a print piece, you can throw in that
youll mention the piece to your subscribers. Thats free promotion that can
help you get jobs.
subscriber base can also help you if youre trying to show an editor that
readers want to read your writing in their publication. This works especially
well if youre trying to get a publication to pick you up as a regular
columnist. Ask your subscribers to e-mail the editor and request your column.
WARNING: The editor probably wont be happy at first. Would you be if hundreds
of e-mail messages clogged your e-mail box? I tried this with one publication
that wasnt returning my calls. After the editor received 200+ e-mails within
four days, he said he had to seriously consider my column since I had a
built-in readership. I didnt close the deal but I did get a good hearing. You
cant ask your subscribers to do this too often, so be judicious.
Ive also had several editors subscribe to my column.
When they see a column they are interested in, they call. Allowing them to
subscribe is an easy way to keep them up-to-date.
final reason to get subscribers. At the bottom of my Web site I have a banner
ad. Its part of a banner exchange program that places my advertising banner on
other Web sites for every time a banner appears on mine. There are many free
programs like this. I dont get a lot of readers to my site this way, but its
free advertising and helps brand my column.Every time my subscribers come to my site to read my column, more of my
banners appear on other Web sites. Its a great one/two punch.
The bottom line: Put a link to subscribe on every page of your Web site.
3. Use Web Trends Live
One of the reasons I know so much about who uses my
Web site, is that I use Web Trends Live Web site statistics software. Its free for personal Web sites and
provides great Web site stats. You can find it at http://www.webtrendslive.com.
the information I get from Web Trends Live, I can tell that I get about 1,300
visitors per month to my site more than 13,500 in less than a year. Ninety
percent are from the Unites States but I also have readers from Canada,
Australia, the UK and even the Netherlands and the Philippines. Web Trends
tells also shows me how readers get to my site for instance, which Web sites
they came from. All of this information can be useful when talking with
editors. It can help demonstrate even before youre published that you have
a solid audience.
4. Drive people to your Web site.
Your main purpose for readers is to get them to
subscribe to your work, assuming that you write a regular column.
main purpose for editors and Web site owners is to get them to promote
your site by linking to it and mentioning it in e-mail newsletters as well as
get them to buy your material.
the best ways to promote your Web site?
put your Web site address everywhere.Promote
your Web site on your business card; the signature line of your e-mail, in your
article byline, in letters and especially on articles you write for other Web
sites. Then, use the power of the Internet to drive people to your Web site.
Promoting your Web site takes some time but its fairly easy. There are many places on the Internet where you can post notices for free. There are thousands of e-mail newsletters looking for content. There are discussion groups and message boards.
This assumes that youve found a niche for yourself. Erma Bombeck became famous because she filled a niche that no one else was in. Today, there are hundreds of writers trying to fill her niche. Its much easier to promote your Web site if you have a specific niche. Do you write a humor column for golfers? cooks? gardeners? Does your column appeal most to teens? senior citizens? parents?
youve defined your niche, its easy to surf the Net and find groups within the
same niche. Here are a few areas to start.
Usenet is an informal news service. It contains more
than 40,000 individual news groups on every topic from aviation to yoga. Some
groups are moderated, others arent. If one is moderated, a person has to
approve anything posted to the group. Many of these groups have thousands of
readers, who are dying to read your material. In most cases, anyone can post
messages in these groups. You can tell thousands of people about your column or
a book you wrote.
mailing lists and e-newsletters
With Usenet, you have to go to the Web site to read
posts. With mailing lists, posts are e-mailed to users. There are thousands of
different newsletters. If youve subscribed to the e-newsletter for this
writers workshop, youre familiar with them. We have more than 1,500
subscribers at this point.
There are several places you can search for newsletter.
Yahoo! Groups is
a free newsletter service with nearly one million lists that can be searched by
topic. If you join a group, you can post to it or at least submit information
to the editor.
New-List is a series of mailing lists segmented by category
that you with notification when new email lists are created. It has more than
15,000 subscribers and hundreds of topic areas. Its a great place to find
newsletters within your niche.
come across a list that looks appropriate, shoot off a quick e-mail to the
editor or moderator, telling them about your column and how to subscribe to it.
If youre willing to allow them to reprint your column, tell them that, too.
When Ive done this in the past, I typically get a 30 to 50 percent response
rate editors who are willing to mention my column.
recently got my column mentioned in an e-newsletter that has 100,000
subscribers. The visitors to my Web site went through the roof!
your Web site be included in online directories.
point, my Web site is listed in 124 places on the Internet. But, only a few of
these drive the majority of readers to my Web site. The best ones seem to be
smaller sites that have a targeted readership. For instance, 4 of the top 5
sites that referred readers to my site were smaller Catholic Web sites even
though my site is listed in most of the major search engines. The reason is
simple: Catholic Web sites have more of my target audience and I dont have
much competition there, so my column stands out.
like to see who links to your Web site, a good, free tool is: http://www.marketleap.com/publinkpop.
Its a link popularity analyzer.
directory that you definitely want to get listed in is the Open Directory Project:
http://dmoz.org/If your link is accepted, it will
automatically be included on some larger search engines Google.com, for
instance. The Open Directory Project has a category for humor columnists. You
can find it at: http://dmoz.org/News/Columnists/Humor.
addition to using your Web site, there are several other ways you can use the
Internet to help your writing career.
5. Find paying jobs on the Internet
Up-to-date paying jobs are listed in many places on
the Internet. Here are a few places to look:
6. Research syndicates on the Web
If you want to get your column syndicated, the
Internet is a great place to do your homework. Most major syndicates have Web
sites with guidelines and submission instructions.
has a good list of the major
7. Research your market
is a lot of free information on the Internet about newspaper and magazine
readership. This can help you position your column. If youre pitching to a
specific publication, go online and read their advertising information. There
is usually a link at the bottom of the page. It will often provide detailed
demographics about their readers. What publications tell advertisers is what
you need to tell editors about your work. For instance, iParenting.com says
that 90 percent of its readers are women. Thats useful information when
pitching the editors.
looking for newspaper readership information, try The Newspaper Association of America. Their
Web site includes the latest readership polls whats hot and whats not. The Readership Institute
Web site has similar data.
targeting a specific industry, trade association Web sites often provide
Heres how I use demographic
data from the Catholic Advertising Network to help sell my column. I often use
this in pitches to editors.
Here are some
other places to do demographic research and find information on specific
Newspapers.com more than 10,000 links to U.S., international, college and
of Publishers Publisher Web site directory by
subject. Also includes a publisher e-mail address directory.
8. Network online
The eighth way to use the Internet to promote your
writing is to network online. Many of the tips Ive shared today, I Iearned
from other writers. Bruce Cameron, who is speaking here today, is in one of the
online writers groups I belong to. The Internet allows you to connect with
writers who you otherwise wouldnt meet. It a great way to find people to
critique your work as well as help you make contacts to get published. Yahoo! is a great place to look for
writing groups. There are thousands of groups for writers there, on every topic
are some advantages to joining online writing groups.
you to participate at your leisure. No travel time.
than meeting once per month, online groups are always open.
you the ability to join many groups and see which ones are best for you.
geography isn't an issue, online groups allow you to network with writers you
wouldn't ordinarily meet.
writing groups I would recommend are: