3. Bill Belew
Imagine this. You’ve finished a translation of a Japanese children’s book that you’ve been working on for months, and it’s ready to go. The publisher is telling you it is time to reach out and tell people about this hilarious book that is finally available in English. But you have two problems. The first is that hardly anyone comes to your website, so promoting it on there is not going to be very effective, and second, no one in the English-speaking world knows anything about this author, even though he/she is a big name in Japan. So how do you get the word out? How do you go beyond friends and family and create a global readership that craves the books you translate and publish, even though they’ve never heard of them before?
According to Bill Belew, you can do it, but it takes time, so it is better to start early. Having spent more than 20 years teaching in universities in Japan and the US, Bill woke up one day and decided that he was going to become a professional blogger. He started out in 2006 with no experience and ‘no love’ from the Internet world, and now he travels the world telling people how he grew his readership. Bill gave a talk at AFCC 2014 on strategies for building a global audience. I was so impressed that I signed up for his full-day workshop the next day. Here are just a few things I learned from him.
Facebook and Twitter do not attract new readers to your website. A lot of people wonder whether it is better to use Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or one of the other social networks which seem to pop up every six months or so. Bill’s answer, and one that was met by a sigh of relief from a lot of people, was that if you rely on those platforms for attracting new readers to your website, you are wasting your time.
Promoting content from a social network platform such as Facebook or Twitter involves ‘pushing’ content on people, known as ‘push marketing,’ and there is a very poor return for the effort required. It is different if you are marketing something that everyone already knows or wants, but it is rarely effective in the case where you are promoting something as complex and personal as a book.
Focus on creating good content. The alternative to push marketing is ‘pull marketing,’ and the idea behind pull marketing is if you create enough quality content it will pull people to your website via the search engines. It is common sense really. Getting search engines to find you involves creating content that is matched with the product that you want to market and is of interest to potential readers.
Solve your reader’s problems. With regard to the type of content, the best kind of content is content that solves people’s problems. Perhaps there are parents who want to get their hands on Japanese picture books but they don’t know where to start looking, or librarians looking for reviews on the latest Japanese picture books, or publishers looking for ideas on what to publish next. The more specific you are with the content you provide, the easier it will be for people to find you.
Connect with others.The second way of getting found, through links to your website, comes about by sharing the love. If you link to other people with similar ideas to yours, then there is a good chance they will return the favor. Do it 10 times or 100 times and you might create 10 or 100 different ways people can find your site. This might involve blogging about people in the industry, or reviewing other people’s books, or having people do guest posts. The more people who link to your site, the higher up you will go in the search rankings, which will give you access to more readers.
And remember . . .
- Stick to your themes—always check that your content is aligned with your themes before you hit Publish.
- Don’t give up—it takes at least three months before the search engines learn to trust a new website, but a lot of people give up if they don’t see results after one or two weeks.
- Update more often. Try updating at least once a day; if you can write more, then write more. No one is going to complain that you write too much if no one is going to your website.
- Write shorter articles. 300-500 words is a good length. Write longer if it is an important article, but you can also split it up into multiple articles.
- Think about what content you want to share on Facebook, i.e., try not to spam family and friends—but do send them important updates about upcoming book releases etc.
- Connect up the articles. Try to link with other articles on your own site as well as those on external sites.
So Bill’s message is that if you want to create a successful website or blog it’s going to take a lot of old-fashioned hard work, but if you are passionate about the content you are creating, then it doesn’t need to be that hard. Just keep writing about what you love, and keep hitting that Publish button.
You can get more tips from Bill at billbelew.com, and if you have a chance to attend one of his presentations or workshops in future, I highly recommend it.
Personally I found Bill’s talk very inspiring and I’m sure if I do everything he suggests, I’ll eventually be able to build a strong readership. But to tell you the truth, like most people who are into translating children’s books, I do it in my spare time, so if I spend too much time on a blog (and it can get quite addictive), I find my translation productivity goes down the drain. Perhaps a good solution might be to create a collective blog with some like-minded people. In any case it is certainly nice to think that if you continue working hard for long enough, people are sure to come your way. Good luck blogging everyone!