As you might know, I recently released a book on blogging called Building A Blog for Readers: 101 Questions to Ask Before Launching Your Empire. It’s a quick read, almost like a manifesto, but it’s something that I believe is crucial for bloggers, online marketers, and of course–authors.
The reason I say it’s “crucial” is that it forces you to think in terms of actual vision rather than in sugarplums and daisies. It forces you to get outside of yourself and ask the tough, nitty gritty questions you know the answers to but don’t want to ask.
It’s a great way to build a “Home Base” as someone who wants to launch an online platform.
This post is a little different–it’s actually lifted, word-for-word, from my new book (scheduled to be released by the end of the month) called Welcome Home – The Author’s Complete Guide to Building A Marketing “Home Base,” and unlike my last book, this one’s going to be focused specifically on authors (though any creator or artist can get some great use out of it.
It’s going to talk through the main points of why you need a Home Base as an author, and it’s going to actually give you step-by-step instructions on how to set one up that really works.
Here’s the first chapter (the introduction). Let me know what you think!
What Is A “Home Base,” Anyway?
The Internet is a crazy thing. It changes almost daily, and once we seem to “get it,” something new shows up and we all scramble to learn how to use it, how to get the most out of it, and how to make it turn into money.
Think of Facebook, and Twitter. Ten years ago, they didn’t exist (at least not to us). Yet most of us have one of these accounts set up, and many of us spend (waste) countless hours of our lives on these sites. Just as we start to understand their new system or layout, the behind-the-scenes developers pull the rug out from under us, and we scramble to figure out the new interface; the “new” Facebook or Twitter.
As an author, this wastes time. Yes, it’s important to acknowledge and use these amazing tools—they help us promote our work, generate buzz, and sell books—but they’re also distracting, time-consuming, and not going to get us a six-figure book deal.
More importantly, as authors we need to focus first and foremost on the things we can control. At any time, any of these sites can be shut down, sold, changed, or simply overtaken by a newer, fresher, “social kid” on the block. We need to focus on building a platform that we control, on our terms.
We need to build a Home Base.
Think of the military—it doesn’t matter which one, just think of tanks, planes, troops, and battles. Now think of how all of these elements of war are controlled—somewhere, in some “war room,” these individual components are controlled by people delivering specific orders, through telecommunications and computer-operated systems.
It’s a crazy, fast-paced environment, to be sure. But consider the similarities between today’s modern warfare and that of warfare in past centuries.
There were still troops—soldiers.
There were still battalions, made up of battle machinery and equipment.
And there were still leaders, delivering orders from their “home base.”
We May Not Be In A War…
We might not be engaged in a battle, but we can certainly borrow some of the tactics used by successful armies and nations. The “Home Base” principle is one of them. Let’s look further at what exactly a “Home Base” really is:
Your “home” on the Web.
First and foremost, your “Home Base” is going to be your home, as an author, on the Internet. It’s your main place of business; where you’ll meet customers and exchange goods and services. As a writer, you’ll need a place to use as a repository for your books, accolades, and links to your work, and you’ll want to be able to keep this as up-to-date as possible.
Your online home is just like your offline home—you’ll invite people over, and they’ll abide by your rules, not their own (or else they won’t be invited back). At your offline home, when you want to have a fancy dinner or game night, you can invite your family, close friends, and neighbors, and you get to set the agenda. Online, you can do the same thing—sure, you can’t actually eat dinner, but you can host events, webinars, and meetings of like-minded individuals you’d like to connect with.
As well, you get to control every aspect of your online home, from what it looks and feels like to what goes “inside” of it. We’ll talk more about why this is all important; just know that having your own online “Home Base” brings more freedom and responsibility than any other online channel.
A “launching pad” for your marketing efforts
Having a “Home Base” online is going to make things much easier for you when the time comes to promote, market, and sell your own books. Authors have had websites since the beginning of the Internet, but only a handful of these websites have made a drastic impact on that author’s bottom line.
Most of the time, a successful, traditionally-published author makes their money by selling books through the channels that their publishing company sets up. These channels include major online retailers (Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.), airport bookstores and other brick-and-mortar bookstores, and deals with overseas distribution companies.
Their “author website,” in many cases, is simply a plug-and-play site set up by a firm within or outsourced by the publishing house, using the author’s ideas for color scheme and design, and then slapping on a message board, blog, and tour calendar.
There’s nothing wrong with this method—most of these full-time professional authors have explicit contracts and deadlines to meet, causing them to spend most of their time writing more books. It’s just that these websites—good-looking, yet functionally outdated—aren’t so great at selling books.
Think about it—these sites are set up to receive visitors who are already fans. If they pre-sell a million copies of their next book through their website, you can bet there was a huge marketing push by the publishing company to generate buzz and attention—traffic—to the author’s site.
Instead, your online Home Base is going to do what the publishing company is doing—generate the buzz, attention, and traffic. You’re going to do the work, and the promotion, but your author website is going receive people who aren’t fans and turn them into fans.
It’s a subtle difference, but it makes all the difference in the world. We’ll talk more about “conversions” and “call-to-action” and other marketing things, but for now, just know that your Home Base is going to be able to do more for your career than anything a major publishing company can offer.
A starting and ending point for everything you do online
Your Home Base is not only your “launching pad” for things like marketing campaigns, outreach, and a starting place for your content, ideas, and connections—it’s also the ending point for these as well.
An “ending point,” in this context, means that your Home Base is going to be the place to regroup; to “get back to square one” if need be.
You’re going to be linking like crazy to your posts around the web—commenting on blogs, leaving insightful tidbits of wisdom on social media channels, but without a Home Base—an ending point—you won’t have a place to come back to when all of these links and connections start to pay off.
At the end of a long, hard workday, you want to come home. At the end of a long, hard writing day—filled with bursts of online activity, sharing your work on Twitter, and pumping out thousands of words—you want to come back to your Home Base.
A promotional platform for your “author brand”
Your “author brand” is something we’ll certainly be talking about quite a bit in the coming pages, but for now just think of any great brand—Apple, Virgin Airlines, Tide, etc. These brands, for many people, trigger an immediate emotional response when recalled.
An author’s books should do the same thing—people should remember what they felt like when they read your books, but they should also remember what your books smelled like, where they read them, and have a clear idea of your unique style in their mind.
Your promotional online platform, on the other hand, is about you as a writer—your personality, character, and style should come through in the posts you write and share, the way in which you connect with others, and even unrelated things like your favorite color, animal, or movie.
Great brands are almost tangible, and invaluable to a company. To an author, your brand is going to differentiate you from the other authors in your genre, and your Home Base’s promotional platform should differentiate your website from other websites of authors as well.
A piece of intellectual property
As we get further into this book, we’ll start looking at your writing as a business. Understandably, this subject is taboo for some authors who are content to write for themselves and a few close friends.
You, on the other hand, want to make a little money—not because you want to be rich, necessarily, but because more money usually means more freedom to write. If you don’t need money from a day job, you’ve just freed up at least 40 hours per week for your writing career!
As well, your Home Base will be a huge business asset for your writing career. It will be the hub of your personal network—the point of contact for anyone wanting to get in touch with you, and literally a piece of online “real estate” that belongs to you and only you.
Ready to get started?
Hopefully you understand a little about what an author’s Home Base is, and why it’s important. In the coming chapters, we’re not just going to jump into why you should be building a Home Base, but also how—featuring a step-by-step Home Base Setup Guide that will get you from nothing to launched in no time at all.
For the remainder of this book, feel free to skip around—some of the material is information you may have seen before. However, if you read through the chapters in order, you’ll probably have a stronger sense of how the overall plan can work for your own writing business.