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Your Online Presence - The Devil's in the Details There's no substitute for doing your online research.
By Ginny Stibolt

(Originally published 07/07/05 in The Book Promotion Newsletter and updated in 2009 & 2014.)

The explosive increase in alternative book publishing such as self-publishing, POD, and small presses has altered the book marketplace.  Authors often find they are on their own to make sure that their books are correctly listed and available at all the various online book sites. Even with traditional publishers, authors need to pay attention to these vital post-publication details.

No one cares as much about your book as you do. You must be proactive to prevent problems, and you must be vigilant to make sure new problems are corrected.

Here's an example of what can happen. I recently helped a self-published author with his website, and as part of the process I searched various online booksellers for his six books and his publishing company. Using Google, Yahoo, and MSN search engines, I searched for the titles of his books, his publishing company, and for his name.

Here's some of what I found: (I'll use John H. Doe as an alias and Doe Press as his company.)

1) On Amazon, I first searched for his books by author and then by publisher. I noticed that they spelled his name wrong-John H. Dow-for one of the books, so people searching under his name wouldn't have found it.
2) Barnes & Noble listed all the books, but they listed only one book as being available new, and they didn't have a cover image for one book. (All six books are in print and are available from the distributor.)
3) Books a million ( listed only two books and one book was listed as special order only.
4) also listed availability inaccurately.
5) A directory of small publishers listed only one book published by Doe Press, and the author listed for that one book was a different author with a similar name-John M. Doe-not our John H. Doe at all.
6) I found a website of a retail store dealing specifically with the topic of one of his books. They sell this book in their store and on their website, but they don't have a good cover graphic, just a snapshot of the book. (Note: This is a great publicity opportunity. When someone sells your book without any prodding, you should take the time to contact the store manager to offer some signed book plates or arrange for an author event next time you're in that area.)
7) And worst of all, after a dispute with his old web design company, two of his domains were forwarded to a real estate company in his town.

All these small problems add up to a loss of your reputation and an annoyance for your prospects. Two of Doe's books are currently used as textbooks, so imagine the frustration of the instructors and students as they run into these obstacles.

The first item on the agenda was to regain control of the domains. This took almost a month of back and forth wrangling between the two domain companies and the old web design group. This was very tedious and unpleasant, but at least someone was available at the old web design company to release control.

Moral of this part of the story: No matter how technically inept you are, you must maintain total control of all of your domains. This is your real estate on the Internet. All your publicity efforts and long-term listings go down the tubes if something happens to them. It's best to buy your domains before you start the process of creating a website. (Note: Domains are inexpensive and you may want several of them. E.g., www. johnhdoe. com, www. doepress .com, www. titleofbook .com. You may forward a domain to land on any page on your website.)

Sad to say, some of John's problems with availability have still not been corrected and it's been some months since we started the process. It is much easier to prevent problems at online book sources than it is to correct them. The distributor usually determines how books are presented to these online companies, but as the author, you need to get involved and you must pay attention. You have far more to lose than the distributor.

Because John's company can only request changes for the other sites (Alibris, etc.), all the more reason to make sure that his own website is easily found by all the search engines and is included in all appropriate directory listings. People (both wholesalers and individuals) interested in his books should be able to find information on the books and to purchase them without difficulty.

All authors need to search for themselves and their books on a regular basis. You never know what allies or fans you might find and what misinformation might be lurking in cyberspace. 

The devil is in the details.

©Ginny Stibolt  Ginny has a mission to help authors maximize their web presence through practical design and innovative marketing. You may not repost this article, but you may quote parts of it with a link to this page. 

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