The rather curious conclusion reached by some of the experts quoted was that most author web sites have very little value and therefore authors should spend their marketing efforts on social media.
The article quoted other experts who took exactly the opposite viewpoint—author web sites are more valuable than social media.
My own opinion is that it’s more complicated than that.
It’s true that most author web sites have very little value. But it doesn’t follow that authors should be spending their time on social media instead.
Based on my conversations with many authors, it’s clear that most of them believe they’re incompetent marketers.
Ask them. Most authors will tell you they don’t really know what they’re doing with their marketing. Most authors will tell you they can’t prove that any of their marketing actually works.
Assume they’re correct. Assume most authors are as incompetent at marketing as they think they are.
Then it follows that most of them have incompetent web sites.
But the same logic implies that most of them are incompetent at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and any other marketing method you can name.
The problem here is that you can’t judge the value of a marketing tool by asking how well it’s used by incompetent marketers.
The better question is how good a marketing tool is in the hands of a competent marketer.
But the best question is what an author’s marketing goals should be in the first place. Until you know that, any questions of goodness or badness don’t have any meaning.
A little analogy might be helpful here.
Dogs are incompetent drivers. Therefore, a Ferrari is useless to a dog.
But it doesn’t follow that a dog should forego the Ferrari and drive a Jeep instead.
A Jeep is also useless to a dog. So is a minivan, a Yugo, and a bicycle.
The question isn’t whether any of these vehicles is useful to a dog. Dogs have no business driving any of them.
The question is which of them is most useful to you as a trained driver.
Before you can answer that, you first have to define what you mean by “useful.”
If you’re trying for raw speed, then the Ferrari is the most useful.
If you’re trying to travel over rough roads in winter, the Jeep is probably your best bet.
If you’re trying to take a bunch of kids to soccer practice, go with the minivan.
If you wanted some fun and exercise, try the bike.
Avoid the Yugo at all costs because it does nothing well.
Now how does all this apply to you as an author who wants to market your work?
That depends on your level of marketing skill. Are you a competent marketer or are you incompetent? (Your first reaction to this question is probably correct.)
If you’re an incompetent marketer, then you’re not going to do a good job with anything—a web site, Facebook, Twitter, or anything else. None of these will do you much good, so first get some training in marketing.
What if you’re a competent marketer? What’s the right marketing vehicle for you? That will depend on what your marketing goals are.
Here are my thoughts on that, and you can take them or leave them.
Generally, your customers go through three distinct phases in becoming your fan. Initially, they don’t know who you are. First, they have to become aware you exist. Second, you have to get them interested in you or your writing. Third, you have to make the sale.
Your three main marketing goals are therefore these:
- Attract people who don’t know you.
- Engage their interest so they do know you.
- Convert them to paying customers.
A competent marketer is somebody who can execute all three phases well.
- E-mail announcements of new products.
- Sales pages on web sites.