Interview: My Only Friend with a Book and a Brand

Do you want to start building a following of fans? Do you want to get recognition in your chosen field? Do you want to start building a “brand”? If so, keep reading.

As part of my efforts at TooDifficult.com, my goal is to help people use technology to accomplish great things. When I reflected on my friends who had accomplished things using technology on their own, I had a fairly short list.  Very few of my friends have their own blogs, and even less have their own websites.  Only one has a book.

Amanda Shalaby has actually written two historical fiction books.  I didn’t help her at all with technology (apart from setting up her laptop when she first got it), and she’s built a brand out of her passion.

amandalowres4

I emailed Amanda some questions, and she was kind enough to answer them.  She had some great suggestions, and really broke them down in steps extremely well.

She prefaced her answers with this:
I’ve answered your questions below, but before we get to them, I think its important that I clarify that I didn’t do all this on my own.  I did not self-publish my books.  My publisher, Crimson Romance (a division of F&W/Adams Media, best known for publishing Readers Digest), publishes my books and helps promote them, which is partly why I have fans and a following and, yes, get paid a percentage of each book that gets sold.  Some things I do on my own, like maintain my blog.  The interviews on my blog are a result of me asking authors who write historical books like myself if they would like the free promotion of me plugging their books, and I have never had one say no (plus, tagging their names and books brings more readers to my blog when, for example, their readers Google search for their names & books).  I come up with the questions myself, mostly from reading their books.
Let’s move to the questions and answers!

Q. How did you realize it would be possible to write a book?

A: This has always been my one passion.  I’ve been writing books since I was 14 years old (mostly NOT historical fiction, surprisingly enough).  I would put the finished ones away in a drawer and moved on to the next.  I only starting trying to publish books recently.
Q. How did you put together a website?
A: I haven’t! My publisher would love for me to create a website, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.  What I have is a “blog”.  A website has mostly static information with perhaps one section for updates or “news”.  A blog is more interactive.  A blog should have a constant flow of new information, whether interviews, contests, articles, to be useful and keep readers engaged.  People can “follow” blogs.  My blog currently looks sort of like a website, with tabs for different sections (some of which are mostly static) because I do not yet have a website.  My publisher recommended either WordPress or BlogSpot to create a blog.  You can make one for free, or pay a small amount each year (maybe around $20) to have additional customization options and your own address (for example: I could pay to have http://www.amandalvshalaby.com/, and probably eventually will, but my free version is http://www.amandalvshalaby.wordpress.com/ – a less professional look which has been irking me lately).  I tried to make my blog theme as English-y and historical as possible, to stick to the theme of my “product” – the books.
Q. How did you get over your fear of creating a website/using social media?
 
A: I was told I had no choice.  And frankly, no one is going to get anywhere without a web presence.  Once you realize that you NEED a web presence, you have to just do it.
Q. How and when did you start to get a following?
A: This is where my publisher really plays a large part.  Because they spend money advertising with Hearst publications (ie: Women’s Day Magazine) and have featured my books on USA Today, and big “romance” blogs with large followings – not to mention their professional website (http://www.crimsonromance.com/) that lists me as an author and lists my books with blurbs and links for sale, I receive promotion that I couldn’t do myself. 
 
HOWEVER, I did go out of my way to join Facebook groups that included people who enjoyed the types of books that I wrote (ie: clean romances, English historical fiction, etc.), and groups with authors who will tweet or share my news on Facebook to help get the word out about a new release or giveaway, etc (and who I share news for in return).  Goodreads.com is a site that I spend some time on and link my blog articles to because that is where there are a lot of readers.  I also set up my blog to automatically share any new post on Facebook, and then for Facebook to share any new post with Twitter, so I don’t have to do each site individually.  (Again, tricks I learned from my publisher that can be done simply through your settings.)  All of this led to my books getting in front of the right people who would read and – hopefully – recommend my books to other readers.
Q. What mistakes did you make along the way and what did you learn from them?
A: You do not have to be a part of every possible social media outlet.  Pick a few that work for you, but be consistent with them.  I stuck with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and my blog.  Anything more would just take away from my precious time of writing my next book, or doing all the other things that we do in our lives.
 AmandaFacebook
A lot of the social media stuff can be done by anyone.  The only thing that is tricky is creating a Facebook “page”.  It’s different from a regular Facebook “profile”, which is what everyone has.  A page is what can be “liked” and be “followed”, but you have to have a legit product or company, or Facebook will delete them.  My Facebook “page” is www.Facebook.com/AmandaLVShalaby.  My Facebook profile is what you see in your newsfeed.
Thank you to Amanda for being willing to answer my questions!  I”ll be writing articles on many of her suggestions and the tools she used in the future.
AmandaAmazon
Amanda’s books can be purchased on Amazon.com, and her website gives a great introduction to who she is.

 

  • Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog today, Dan. It’s great to be here!