Dec 30 2011
I’ve already done an article on how to promote fiction with a nonfiction platform (such as a website mainly devoted to writing advice), but here are some tips for novelists that want to build an audience for a fiction website.
1. Pick a niche small enough that you can compete in, but big enough that there are enough readers to sustain you. Your genre and/or subgenre are usually good places to start. For example, if you were doing superhero stories, Google estimates that there are at least 50,000 searches related to superhero fiction every month (for superhero book, superhero story, superhero fiction, superhero writing, etc).
2. After you’ve picked a niche, figure out key search terms/phrases to target. I brainstormed about 10 possible searches related to superhero fiction, but superhero book(s) and superhero story/stories accounted for 86% of the traffic.
3. When you’re picking out a site name and URL, I’d generally recommend including at least one of your critical search terms. When search engines are figuring out which sites are the best match for a particular query, they love to see the search term(s) in the title. (Case in point: Superhero Nation is currently beating Marvel and DC Comics on Google searches for superhero stories, and it’s not because I have more superhero stories than they do).
3.1. If you’d like to include critical search terms into your title, one possibility is including a colon phrase or dash phrase if you haven’t already. For example, in my case, I did Superhero Nation: how to write superhero novels, comic books and graphic novels. I’d generally recommend keeping the total title to 65-70 characters so that Google doesn’t cut you off. (I do get cut off a bit). There are two main advantages to including a colon or dash phrase: first, it gets more critical search terms into your title, which helps your site perform better on related searches. Second, it helps identify your website’s purpose to prospective readers glancing through Google results. “Superhero Nation” doesn’t say all that much about what I offer, but “how to write superhero novels…” does. If prospective readers do not understand what you offer and how they will benefit, they will probably pass over your website.
3.2. Your website’s title and URL are critical resources, so don’t waste them on your name. First, unless you’re a well-known author, people aren’t searching you out by your name yet. Second, even if people were searching for you by your name, they’ll find you whether or not your name is in your title/URL. I would highly recommend focusing instead on keywords, or at least on a descriptive phrase that conveys your genre/subgenre or what you offer. For example, JohnMDoe.com doesn’t really say anything about what you offer, but “Crime Scene: Murder Mysteries and Detective Novels from John Doe” is a much better alternative if you’re dead-set on having your name in your title. It also does a better job competing on popular search terms like murder mysteries and detective novels.
4. When you have quality content on your website, find people that would be interested in your genre and style of writing and email them a 2 sentence synopsis of the story with a link. For example, a Google search for something like superhero blogs will probably turn up a lot of people that are interested in superhero stories. If your niche has substantial search traffic, there are probably people blogging about it already.
4.1. As much as possible, I would recommend doing this communication gradually and personally. Take your time with it. A form letter obviously written to 50+ people probably won’t go very far. I think a personal touch (like addressing the recipient by name) goes a long way. Personally, I almost always read emails addressed to B. McKenzie or B. Mac because it suggests that they’re at least vaguely aware of what I do. In contrast, “Dear Webmaster” emails are almost always machine-generated spam. (If there’s a human out there that can’t find a name that’s on 99% of SN articles and the About Page, I am so sorry for him/her). Another advantage of doing this gradually is that you’ll get better at introducing yourself, introducing your content and writing content with practice, so don’t use up too many opportunities before you’ve given yourself a chance to improve.