1. A continuing class for advanced and professional level attendees on “Using Social Media to Market Yourself and Your Products.”
2. A Thursday evening seminar for everyone titled “Technology is Your Friend but Not Your Master.”
3. A workshop for everyone titled “15 Secrets of Effective Blogging.”
Thomas, you developed your first website at the age of 13 and now develop sites for others. Obviously, you’re comfortable around technology. What would you say to someone who isn’t?
I would encourage you to give it a try. There are two kinds of people in this world, those who push the button to find out what it does and those who are afraid that pushing the button will break something. The only way to learn is to experiment. Technology is easier than you might think.
The website has basically replaced the business card and one-sheet as the primary way people can find out about an author and his or her products. What do you see as the key reasons for an author to have a website?
The first thing most people do after they get your business card is go to your website and check you out. The primary reason to have a website is for credibility. Think of your website like your resume, you want it to look as professional and appealing as possible.
What about a writer who isn’t writing books or an editor who isn’t looking to sell anything? Are there reasons why a website is still important for them?
A writer who isn't writing books will still need a place to blog and the best place to blog is on your own website. An editor working for another company probably does not need her own website.
Blogging boosts traffic to your website, book sales and Google rankings. Why would someone pay to read your book if they won't read your blog for free? Don't blog about boring topics. The key is to be interesting and to provide value.
As a pioneer in this field of social media marketing, what do you think will be the “next big thing”?
Google+ Hangouts. They are changing the way I interact with people around the world.
What is your favourite part of speaking at writers’ conferences?
Coming back a year later and hearing how traffic has doubled on people's websites because they put my teaching into practice.
We'd like to get to know you a little bit as a person, too. Can you tell us a little about growing up in Austin, Texas?
Austin is sometimes called Silicon Hills. So I grew up with many of my friends’ dads working for companies like Dell, Motorola, and AMD. You could say Austin is a city full of nerds, hippies, and cowboys. I can't think of another city like it.
You were homeschooled. Was that an advantage or a drawback?
I am so thankful to be homeschooled. It gave me opportunities I would never have had in either public or private school. The only drawback is that the Texas homeschooling community discourages dating in high school, which has led to homeschoolers not getting married until very late in life.
You read 69 books in 2011? Wow! Do you read quickly or just make sure to carve out significant amounts of time to read? I see the popular Hunger Games and Steve Jobs are listed among your favourites. What do you usually look for when choosing a new book?
The key to reading lots of books is audible.com. Most of the super readers I know read while doing something else. The only way to do this is audiobooks. Learning to listen to books can be as valuable a skill as learning to read books.
I often read books I see recommended in other books. There are also a few authors I follow very closely like Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, and Brandon Sanderson.
I either look for something useful to learn or for a good time. Books that provide both go to the top of the list.
You unapologetically proclaim your Christian beliefs. Has that ever presented a problem for you in business? How did you deal with it?
I quote the Bible nearly as much at secular conferences as I do in Christian ones. I was encouraged to be outspoken by the book Presentation Zen, which transformed the way I present. It also is unabashedly Buddhist. I figured if Gar Reynolds can promote Zen Buddhism in his work, I can promote Jesus in mine. Jesus' teachings are the key to effective social media anyway. So why not give Him credit?
It can cause a problem when we turn down work because we disagree with what the client is wanting to do on their website. But generally it's not a problem for clients or us.
Many writers would identify themselves as introverts. Plus, as Christians, we have been taught the importance of humility. You will be teaching conference attendees how to market themselves, put themselves out there, and promote their writing. How do you help people overcome their reluctance to do so?
Self-promotion for the sake of selfish ambition is ineffective and sinful. No one cares about you anyway. So why waste your time promoting yourself? The key is to write something that serves others. When you do this, then you're no longer promoting yourself; you're helping other people. That changes everything. You want your conscience on your side when you promote your book.
Is there anything further you would like to mention?
The biggest challenge for most writers is fear: fear of rejection, offense, being wrong, offending others, etc. It is to the degree you are able to overcome these fears that you will be a great writer. Courage is submitting your proposal even when you are afraid you will get rejected. Courage, persistence, and diligence are the foundation for good writing.
Thomas's Web sites:
Interview conducted by Stephanie Nickel.