Archive for Author Marketing

WordPress Plugin: Pretty Pinterest Pins

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Have you jumped onto the Pinterest craze? If so, this is the perfect plugin for you.

I have installed this on a few websites now and find it a fantastic plugin to use.  It’s easy, connects quickly to your Pinterest account and looks great on websites. Check it out for yourself!

Pretty Pinterest Pins

From the plugin page:

This plugin allows you to display thumbnails and links to yours (or anyones!) latest Pins from Pinterest in your sidebar. It is styled after Pinterest and offers a clean and modern look to show off your pins.

This widget is fully customizable, you can:

  • pull the latest pins from any Pinterest user
  • display only pins from specific boards
  • choose the number of pins to display
  • show or hide the image captions
  • display a “Follow me on Pinterest” button under your pins

Features:

  • Clean and Modern Look (like Pinterest)
  • Looks great on light and dark backgrounds
  • Captions scale and look nice with long or short text
  • Semantic HTML
  • Easy to Install: Simply add a Pinterest username and you’re good to go!

Have you installed this plugin?  Post back here and tell us what you think!

Facebook is mid-stream in rolling out the Timeline for pages.  This provides a terrific opportunity to better brand your page. However, you do need to keep a few things in mind, given the Facebook T&Cs.

What to keep in  mind when creating/choosing your cover:

1. Your cover picture cannot be deceptive, misleading or infringe on copyright.

2. You may not encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines. (These are not wallpapers.)

 

The content of your cover has some specifics that are very important to read:

1. NO Calls to action — This includes “visit my website”, “like my facebook page” or “come see me at my next booksigning.”

2. No website or contact information in the image

3. NO purchase information.  — This means you can’t add “Purchase at Amazon.” or “Find me on Goodreads.”

SAFE BET: NO WORDS .

(Your name is probably okay, but that’s about it.)

 

These pictures are NOT for advertising.  What you CAN and should do with this pictures is set a tone. Use this terrific tool as a way to powerfully impact the visitor of your page with an emotion — not a sales pitch.

Are your books dark and mysterious? Find a dark and mysterious picture as your cover.

Are you light-hearted comedy? Find a light-hearted comedy shot.

And when making your selections, remember copyright infringement.  Don’t just google and grab – you don’t know where you’d be pulling from.   But it’s worth a few dollars to perhaps pay for a royalty-free image that helps you set a tone.  A few places you can look:

http://www.sxc.hu/ – Free images, but read each photographers terms first.

http://www.dreamstime.com/

http://www.123rf.com/

The ultimate goal of this photo should be to set the mood. Don’t try to be an infomercial.

 

Read the full guidelines here: https://www.facebook.com/page_guidelines.php

And remember, violations could result in losing your Facebook page. It’s just not worth it.

 

Book Video Workshop Links

Monday, October 24th, 2011

My many thanks to the wonderful audience at my recent workshop! I had a wonderful time talking book videos with you.  As mentioned, here are a few links for resources for stock photography, music and where to post your video.  There are always more popping up, so I definitely recommend doing some research on your own as well.  But this is a great starting point.  And very soon, I’ll have some royalty-free music, custom made for book videos, available on this site!  Stay tuned!

PHOTOS

iStockphoto

Getty Images
Fotosearch
Fotolia
Feature Pics
Dreamstime
Big Stock Photo
123RF
Free Digital Photos
Free Stock Footage
Phoenix Clips
Footage Firm

AUDIO

Opsound
IStockPhoto
Sound Dogs
Partners in Rhyme
eStock music
QTR Note
Shock Wave
Pac DV
Incompetech
Derek Audette
CD Baby
Music Loops
Jimmy Gus
Stock Music
Music 2 Hues
In The Hands
Free Play Music
Royalty Free Music
Public Domain 4U
Ghost Notes
Jamendo

PLACES TO LOAD IT:
www.youtube.com
www.trailerspy.com/
www.dailymotion.com/us
www.vodpod.com/
video.yahoo.com/
www.metacafe.com/
www.dailymotion.com/us
www.vimeo.com/
www.veoh.com/
www.blip.tv/
www.revver.com/
www.brightcove.com/en/
www.bookshorts.blip.tv
www.bolt.com
www.dropshots.com
www.castpost.com
www.flukiest.com
www.ourmedia.com
www.Phafare.com
www.podesk.com
www.tubemobul.com
www.trueveo.com
www.in.com

 

And a link to the video you most liked from the day:

Swept: Love with a Chance of Drowning
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_qAoQth9Wk

Thank you again for being such a great audience!

Jeannie

The process for a book video

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Have you ever wondered about the process you’ll go through when you hire someone to do a book video for you?  While I’m sure every designer has a different process and method, I thought I’d share a link to one of my clients, Denise Robbins.  We’ve done three book videos together so far, and she wrote a post last year to share the experience and process from her point of view.   Hopefully it sheds some light on what to expect.

http://deniserobbins.blogspot.com/2009/12/making-of-connect-dots-book-trailer.html

And here are the videos we’ve done for her:

CONNECT THE DOTS

(for which my husband produced the soundtrack)

YouTube Preview Image

KILLER BUNNY HILL

YouTube Preview Image

IT HAPPENS IN THREES

YouTube Preview Image

And be sure to check out Denise’s new book coming up as well.  Great cover!

NEVER TEMPT DANGER

She never thought of her “gift” as special, more like a curse.

As the one man who accepted her “gift” slid the diamond ring onto her shaky finger, Maureen saw his death flash in her mind an instant before the bullet struck. With his blood on her hands and a government research project in the balance, Maureen (Gilly) Gillman does the only smart thing she can. She disappears. If there was one thing Maureen had learned, it was Never Tempt Danger.

Special Agent Lucas Danger knows Maureen Gillman better than any other man. Assigned to find Gilly and her military robot prototype, Lucas discovers that his past has caught up with him. When the woman he loves collides with his secretive past, Lucas has to open his mind as well as his heart to save Maureen.

Who will get to her first?

Visit Denise at www.deniserobbins.com

Websites 101: What the Unpublished Author Needs

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Of everything in your branding arsenal, your website is the one that gets the most attention.  As a business, a website offers a public face, a representative that connects and engages customers.  For an author, whether published or aspiring, those customers range from readers to agents to editors to other writers.

Today’s post is going to center on the website for the aspiring author (the unpublished writer working his or her way to publication.)  The Unpublished Writer’s Website is a topic of controversy, apparently.  As I did a little snooping around the web, I uncovered very different opinions.  Some highly recommend having one, others tell you to focus only on your writing and forget about a website for now.  And other opinions weigh somewhere in between.  The truth?

They are all correct.

Do You Need One?

Deciding if you need a website at this stage depends on two things:  where you are in your career and what your goal in having a website is.

If you have not finished and polished and perfected at least one book, your focus is better spent on writing.  A website is not something you need at this point and in fact, it could possibly hurt you down the road.  If you create a site too early in the game, it might not reflect you or your writing in the best light.  The best thing you could do at this stage of your career is focus on becoming the best writer you can be.

But let’s say you have a finished, edited book.  It’s so polished, it shines and you’re ready to submit to agents and editors.  Is it time for a website now?

The answer depends on you.

First, you need to ask what your goals are.  Why do you want one?

  • Are you looking for an agent and/or editor?
  • Are you looking to network with other writers and authors?
  • Are you looking to start building a platform or online presence for yourself?
  • Are you looking for that perception of “Serious Writer” within yourself or from others?

If your sole reason is getting an editor or agent, stop worrying.   You don’t need to have a website to get the agent you want.  A reputable agent or editor will take you and your book on because they love your work.  Not having a website isn’t going to change their mind about requesting to see a full or offering representation.

But it’s very possible that agents will look at one if it exists.  When I talked to one of my clients, Kathleen Bittner Roth, about why she chose to have a website at this stage of her career, she told me, “All you have to do is read a few agent blogs and you’ll get the picture in a hurry—if they are interested in you, they will check you out. I am a firm believer that when you want something, you must act “as if” from the beginning.”

And that thought is echoed in some of the agent comments I’ve read. On the Pubrants blog, Kristin Nelson discussed a conversation she had with an editor about whether they visit unpublished author websites: “For both of us, the answer was ‘yes.’ When reviewing sample pages where we like the writing, we’ll often give the writer website a glance and see what’s there. I don’t bother if the sample pages haven’t caught my interest.”

So while it’s not necessary to have a website to gain the interest of an agent, be aware that they will look.  If you’re going to have one, make sure it is the best it can be.  That doesn’t have to mean professionally designed, but it does need to be professional, with good, informative content.

Who Is Your Target Audience?

You’ve heard the saying “Content is king.”   In order to make your content relevant, however, you need to understand who you are marketing to.  If your reasons for wanting a website span the four questions then your target audience breaks down into two main focus groups:

Agents/Editors

  • Other Writers & Publishing World Contacts:

Most people visit websites with a “what’s in this for me?” mentality.  This mentality is a staple in the Features vs. Benefits aspect of marketing.  For every feature a product offers, it’s the benefit to a customer that sells it.  For example:  McDonald’s advertises a playground for kids and a happy meal with healthy options like apples and milk. Those are features of the store.  The benefit is a quick, cost-effective meal that provides good nourishment and safe entertainment to keep kids occupied.

The benefits sell to parents because it meets two of their most important needs: good food and an entertained child in a safe environment.

When you are considering what to include on a website, you need to think about what your audience needs:

If agents and editors are viewing your website, they are already interested in your work.  They are looking to see what else you offer and a little more about you.  Your website, for this audience, serves as an online resume.  Ultimately, they want confirmation of what they already think (which often means not having something on your site that proves that opinion wrong).

Other writers and authors are looking for someone to connect with.  They are also looking to network and learn more about you.  They are visiting because they’ve already begun to form an opinion about you and they want to connect further.

When it comes to your website, you are leading out of the gate – they already want more or they wouldn’t be there in the first place.  Now is the time to show off your best side.

What to Put on Your Website

The most basic element for a good website is function.  At its core focus, a website is a tool to inspire a specific action on the part of the viewer.  If you’re published, that action is easy: you want the visitor to click and buy your book.

As an unpublished writer, the action you are hoping to inspire is a little more vague: you are trying to instill a perception, an impression of you that stays when the visitor leaves your site. If you read last month’s post on brand, you’ll remember this phrase: Your Brand is Your Promise.  It is also their Perception.

It’s an important element of brand that is often overlooked.  A brand is not only set in your efforts, it is set in someone else’s opinion about what you’ve offered.  This extends to your website – the final judge is the person viewing.   Everything you include, from the design to the content, can help steer their perception of you.

Design

On the Pubrants blog (http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2008/03/talking-websites.html ), Kristin Nelson says, “Don’t have a website/blog unless it can be a professional one. The homemade sites look it and just make me cringe. It won’t keep me from asking for your full (or if I like the novel, offering representation) but it’s not putting your best foot forward and that’s never a benefit.”

I’m going to qualify Ms. Nelson’s statement (and hope she doesn’t mind).  When she says professional, I don’t believe she means it has to be designed by a professional.  It has to be professional.

What does that mean?  To me, the best litmus test you can give your website design is whether or not you would print it out and hand it to that agent or editor in person as a representation of you.  Would you be confident that you’ve handed them something that will steer their perception of you in a positive light?

When asked why she chose to have her site professionally made, aspiring author Kathleen Bittner Roth told me, “My response goes right back to acting “as if”. I have been a successful, self-made business woman and I learned way back that putting anything other than your best foot forward is going to cost you in the end. So, for me, a professionally designed website is cost effective in the long run and a wise business decision. Every writer has a dream of who he or she is (not wants to be, but is)  and I believe a person’s website is the perfect opportunity to present a visual representation of this dream—a good website is a multi-layered symbol of what and who you are as a writer.”

Kathleen touches on one element that can be vitally important in connecting with other writers or showing a good side to an agent or editor.  Sometimes, having a website changes your perception, and that cannot be undervalued.  You are your best advocate, so if having a website gives you more confidence and belief in your abilities, it’s worth it.

If a professionally designed website isn’t in your current budget, there are a number of templates and easy-to-create options out there that will give you a functioning, professional and simple website.  Keep it simple if you’re building it yourself.  If you want to leave it to the pros, visit other writer and author websites and look for the ones you like.  There will usually be a designer’s link somewhere on the site, and you can see their portfolio and style and pricing.  I recommend researching at least a few before deciding.

Focus & Content

The other aspect is the focus of your site and what content to include.  This brings up the question about blogs: should you have one?

If building a platform and networking with other writers and authors is part of your focus, then a blog is a great opportunity to do just that.  One example of a successful, well-focused blog is The Lovestruck Novice (http://thelovestrucknovice.blogspot.com/), started by aspiring author Sarah Simas.  When I asked her why she decided to start the blog, she told me, “I wanted to create a site other aspiring authors could swing by and get in the mix with published authors. In the interest of making the blog unique, I decided I’d “grill” my author guests with questions on writing and the publishing industry in a fun, high energy, and entertaining way.”

Her blog is a mix of her own entertaining posts on her writing and life, interviews with authors and with other “novices” to watch.   Focus and content wise, Sarah has done a wonderful job of creating an environment for her audience and establishing her own personality.  Building a platform was a part of her goals, and she’s doing just that.

However, a blog like Sarah’s takes a lot of work.  She posts three days a week and spends from 3 ½ hours up each week writing, posting and promoting.  Making a successful blog takes time and effort.  This type of commitment may not be what you’re looking for at this point, in which case a blog is probably not what you want on your site.

So sans blog, what other options do you have for content?

There is a world of options when it comes to relevant content to put on your website.  Remember the audience and their goals:  form an impression and connect with you.

Start with the basics:

About You – Your site should include a few paragraphs about you, how you started writing, and what you write.  If you include a photo on this page, it should be a professional, nice one.  Again, professional doesn’t imply you paid to have it taken. It means you look professional in it.

Work/Books/WIPs –Your website should give a snapshot of what you’re working on.  Include working titles, genre, word count.  Whether or not you include blurbs and summaries of your WIPs is up to your comfort zone (and for a look at both sides of this, see this post (http://jeannieruesch.com/wordpress/?p=2940).  List content finals or wins.  List any articles you’ve published or other related work.

Contact Information – Be sure that there is an easy way to contact you on your site.  Include an email address or a contact form.  And if you’re active on social networks, include links to those as well – and include them prominently.  These are actionable links by your visitors and ways you can connect more personally with them.  Make it easy for someone to find you.

And make your site personal by adding other content:

With a focus on your writing, you could embellish your sites with facts, tidbits or interesting stories.

  • Include fun research facts you’ve discovered.  Chances are if you found it different or interesting, someone else will too.
  • Make playlists of songs that inspired you while writing or that match the tone and emotion of your stories, like you’ll find on Adrienne’s site (http://adriennegiordano.com/bookshelf/).
  • Pick out elements that are highlighted in your book – recipes, pets, causes, an historical era, whatever you can pull from your site, and build a page or section of your site around that.

And before you say, “I don’t know what would be interesting enough…”—think again.  Yes, you do.  Do you write sassy, strong heroines?  Make a section of your site about strong women you admire. Do you write alpha males? Focus a section of your site on alpha males in the world – perhaps with a focus on the careers of your characters.  Dig into your stories and find what makes them unique, find what inspires you within them and build that into your website.  It offers even more compelling ways to connect with you as a writer.

And don’t underestimate connecting as a person.  Even two people who have nothing in common can talk for hours about a favorite TV show or movie.  Put some personal touches on the site:

  • Try a list of your favorite things: books, music, television shows, and movies.  When considering “favorites” to include, look for things that connect people, rather than separate them.  Unless it’s part of your platform, staying away from politics and religion is always a good idea.
  • Include links.  It’s wonderful for both networking with others and your search engine results.  Offering a links page to helpful resources, other authors, chapters, research sites, or whatever else you want to focus on offers a chance for those websites to link back.
  • Do you have a hobby or additional job that would provide useful information to other writers? By all means, create a page to share your expertise and knowledge.

Ultimately, think outside of the box.  Kathleen Bittner Roth did that by adding an “Unbook trailer” to her site (http://kathleenbittnerroth.com/).  Without a book or need for a book trailer, she found a unique and entertaining way to add content to her site.

To summarize, for the unpublished author, your website is a place to build a bridge between you and your target audience.  For agents and editors, it means presenting yourself professionally.  For other writers and connections within the publishing world, it means offering a common ground.  If you keep that in mind, you can’t go wrong.

Websites 101: What the Published Author Needs

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Welcome back to the Websites 101 series.  If you’re just checking in, we’ve been discussing websites at every stage of a writer’s career.  We started with the Unpublished Author’s Website, continued with The About-to-be or Newly Published Author and now, our series wraps up this week with a final look at the Established Author’s Website.

What’s the next level you can take your website to once your author bookshelf has books stacked and your readership base is growing?   You have a website that’s been focused on your author brand,  you offer updates and new information often, but you want more interactivity, you want to reward your readers with a deeper connection to you and your work.  How do you do that?

Now is the best time to truly shift the focus of your website.  In other stages of your career, your website was a place to show yourself  to other writers, agents, editors, reviewers and while some of that may still be true, your ultimate goal should be enhancing the reader’s experience: immersing them in your world(s) and offering more connection to you, the author.

The Basic Needs

Before the bells and whistles, you have to make sure you’ve got the basics in order. Basic needs for an established author’s website are mostly in line with everything else we’ve discussed – a solid design that enhances and evokes your brand, a clean navigation and easy-to-use site.  As you gain a larger readership and write more books, there are a few added basics that every site should have:

A simple, printable book list.

This doesn’t need to be fancy, but it should list all the books you’ve written.  If you’ve written series or connected books, they should be listed in order.

A coming soon page.

This is across the board for any author, but as an established author, it’s imperative.  Your readers will come to your site looking to find out when your next book is out.  As soon as you know, let them know.  Provide details on release dates, blurbs, cover, and whenever possible, a sample of the first chapter.

An easy way to contact you.

An established author is going to have fans write to them or want to connect somehow.  Have a contact page that gives all the options you offer.  A contact form, an email address, a mailing address (PO Box, please), any and all social media connections you have.  Everywhere you want a reader to contact you, list those options.

Bells & Whistles

You may ask why you need to enhance your reader’s experience through your website.  Aren’t the books enough? Or your Facebook page or twitter, or your blog?

Yes and no.  Some readers won’t ever visit your Facebook page, your twitter account, or your blog.   But your website is the one place everyone will come when they want more: more of your books, more information, more connection to you.

We’re writers, but we’re also readers. If you’ve ever met one of your favorite authors, then you know that in some ways, to a reader, an author can be like a celebrity.  Readers feel connected from your books, and just like we’re all curious about what our favorite celebs are up to, we like to know about our favorite authors.  That connection helps to build a reader’s loyalty, their trust.   And offering more for them on your website shows the reader that you value them – that you realize that your career wouldn’t be what it is without them.

So, what sorts of bells and whistles can you add to enhance their experience?  We’ll study some examples of bestselling authors and what they share with their readers:

Epilogues, Deleted Scenes & Other Short Stories

Giving more of your stories is a great way to draw your readers to your site and keep them immersed in the world you created.  One fabulous example of this is Julia Quinn’s 2nd Epilogues for her Bridgerton series.  Her tagline for these is terrific: “Because happily ever after is a whole lot of fun.”   The offer the “story after the story” for one of my most beloved series.

Another author who has done this is Susan Elizabeth Phillips, who offers an epilogue to Heaven, Texas.

You can also choose other routes, such as deleted scenes.  Caridad Pineiro offers deleted scenes from a number of her books, as well as free reads.

Readers love more of their favorite stories.  It’s why series, especially in romance, are so successful.  When we fall in love with the characters, we want to keep reading about them.  These are great options to give a little more to your readers.

Micro sites

A micro site is a glimpse into the world of your books.  One example is Brenda Novak’s LAST STAND series.  She has a micro site available from her website (it requires flash to see) that showcases this series – the lead heroines, cases, chapters, and all wrapped in the design idea of the “offices” of the Last Stand – which works with her series premise.

If you have connected books or long-standing series, a micro site dedicated to your book’s world and characters is a great way to get your readers that much more involved.

More Information About The Author

Readers love to get to know their favorite authors.  There are a ton of different ways you can do this.   One I think is particularly enjoyable is on Lisa Gardner’s website.  She has a video called “A Day Living with Lisa Gardner.”  The video is funny, in tone with her books, and a great way to make readers laugh.

Other options, outside of the traditional “About me” paragraphs can be quirky Q&A.  Kristin Hannah does this on her website, and it’s different and fun.  (And she apparently hates onion rings.)

Get Behind The Scenes

Readers love to delve into the world of how you created their favorite books.   Look for ways to bring out special details that aren’t anywhere else – more than just settings, character bios.  Look for unique tidbits.

One of my favorite authors, Karen Rose, offers trivia on how she created her books: http://www.karenrosebooks.com/krose-trivia.htm .  It’s a great insight into how some of my favorite characters and stories came about.  I love reading these, as a writer and reader – it’s fun to see where she gets her ideas and how my favorite books come to life.

One of the best workshops I attended at the National RWA Conference was on how a cover was created. It was run by the amazing Kate Duffy, and she walked us through the variations of a romance novel cover – we saw the different versions, the changes and why they were made. It was fascinating.   While you may not be able to offer something like this to your reader, there are other details you can offer.  Things that you changed along the way and why.

And as someone who always watches the “How it was made” section on DVD movie releases, I love knowing what’s behind the scenes.   I love seeing the special effects in movies, and readers love knowing what went into making a book.

Fan Clubs

Fan clubs can be a tricky thing.  They can be called a number of things: fan club, registered readers group, etc, but it boils down to your loyal fans looking for a deeper connection with you.

On Eloisa James’ website, her “registered readers get: a whole level of eloisajames.com available only to registered readers. On these pages you will find short stories, extra chapters to Eloisa’s books, special bulletins from Eloisa, photos and other exclusive items.”  As well as advance notice of news and books.  Her website also has an “easter egg” hunt ongoing, and registered readers get hints on the game.  Her fan club is a place to play and get the inside scoop.

This level of connection has to be unique, because these days, readers can connect with you in a variety of ways: facebook, twitter, other social media.  What you offer in an exclusive group is essentially a bargain: I’ll give you, the reader, special access in exchange for your email address and agreement to send you updates.  It’s the author’s way of remaining connected to the reader and rewarding loyal readers with ways to make them feel special.

Interactive Additions

One good way to get readers active on your website is a forum or message board.  However, use caution with this because boards can take time to build, and if they aren’t kept up with fresh content, can quickly become stale.

I love the concept that Eloisa James & Julia Quinn joined their forums together into one.  It’s a great way to connect with readers of the same genre and build a stronger base for activity on the board.

Taking Your World Into Theirs

The next step would be to provide options that bring your written world off your website and into the everyday world of your readers.   There are a few ways to do that, from simple and inexpensive to luxurious and interactive.

Bling

Bling is always good for giving goodies to your readers.  This can be a variety of things from buddy icons, wallpapers, to downloadable/printable bookmarks and more.  Buddy icons can be used on message boards, forums.  Wallpapers can grace your reader’s computer

Games & More

Another option is to look into 3D games such as Second Life, and build a world that your reader can navigate through in 3D with their own avatar

Or look at creating a game about your books.  At the “Nora” level, taking the next step involved actually creating a game based on the world and characters in her Bride Quartet series, where you can “be” a character and truly interact with her world on your own time, away from her website.

Other options include apps for phones and more.  These get expensive of course, so choose what fits within your budget and always, what enhances your brand.

It Has to Work.

There are no limits to how interactive you can get with your readers.  But something to keep in mind with the addition of new perks, new games, new information, more details and more interactivity, is the most basic needs of a website: Keep it simple.

Your navigation needs to expand and grow with your new features, but overall you want to be sure your readers can find things without much effort.  Brenda Novak says, “I think the key to having a good web site is making the information quick and easy to obtain, while making the site as interactive as possible, with content that constantly changes. As the site grows, so does the amount of content, and it’s imperative that it be organized in an intuitive way so that it doesn’t frustrate the visitor. Otherwise, it becomes a waste of time and effort.”

Frustrating the visitor can be easier than you might think, especially when your website is full of information.  Your main navigation should have easy, recognizable headers such as “about”, “Books”, “extras”, “Contact”, “Links”, etc…  Look across most author websites and you’ll see the same navigation titles.   Don’t get cute here, don’t try to think up something original – this isn’t the place for it.   The more content you offer, the simpler your navigation needs to be.

So load up on the added features, get interactive with your readers but remember to keep your website simple, focused and professional.

Originally published at Romance University.org – Be sure to visit to read the comments for more indepth Q&A.

Websites 101: What the Newly Published Author Needs

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

The title of this blog is a little misleading.  In fact, this article will target a slightly different demographic.  The focus of this blog is on the Contracted-and-soon-to-be-published-for-the-first-time Author. (Way too long to fit in the subject line…)

So here’s the first bit of news, which might be startling wake up call to those of you who fit into either of the above categories.  If you are newly published, which means your book is already on a shelf somewhere (virtual or real), and you don’t have a website?  You’re behind the curve.  In fact, you might be approaching D status on the Marketing Report Card.  A new author’s website provides a multitude of functions – ones that include helping you to gain readers, reviews, attract attention and more.  As an Author (with a capital A, cue the drum roll), your audience is wider, more varied and has different needs.  Therefore, your website now has a checklist of elements it should provide.

If you don’t have a website and you have a book out, then print this article out, find a website designer you love, and get ready for the sprint of your life.  You need to catch up.   If you are an author with the contract under your belt and a “release date” looming in your future, you are right on track.

Do You Need A Website?

Yes.

It may seem blunt and unnecessarily scare tactic-y, but the truth is that for an author in today’s world, a website is your best marketing line of defense.  It is an absolute necessity.

And for an author with a release date on the horizon, the website isn’t going to be the only marketing consideration you have, but in all likelihood, it will be the one that everything feeds.  Think of ads you see in magazines, on book review websites, bookmarks, business cards – everything lists a website address.  A website is the place where most everyone will come to find you when they want more information.

You need to provide that information in a timely, professional manner.  According to Kristin Nelson, of Nelson Literary Agency, “that website should be up and running when the catalog copy is being done for your book.  Why? Because your publisher is going to be sending out ARCs to reviewers and to other terrific people who have the power to give you a plug, and it’s at that moment in time when they might want to find information about you and the book quickly and easily.”

Which leads to one other point of distinction: Easily.  At this point, you need to have a domain name secured with your author name.  JaneAuthor.com if it’s available or if not, some of the variations I’ve seen are:  janeauthorbooks.com or authorjanesmith.com.  A domain name is a small yearly expense and it’s very simple to set your domain name to forward to any other location.  There is no good reason not to have one of your own.

Mostly, an author at this stage needs to create a professional appearance, top to bottom.   Think of how much attention you have paid to your appearance on a first date. That first impression is important and you need just the right “outfit” to achieve just the right look.  If you present yourself as professional, then people will think of you as such.  If you present something half-hearted, people may assume you feel the same about your career.

Who Is Your Target Audience?

Before looking at what to put on your website, we need to focus on who will be viewing it and what their specific needs are.  In our previous post, we discussed how an unpublished writer’s audience is more inclined toward attracting an agent/editor and building a network of connections with other writers.  A new author has a bigger audience to provide for.  Not only are you trying to attract readers, but you’re trying to establish yourself as a professional in the marketplace among other professionals who have the power to help propel your career.

Your website might be visited by book reviewers, librarians, book buyers, and big name authors as well as readers.   In all cases, two things are true.  These visitors want to delve deeper into the book and they want to know more about you.

Your readers are going to want to feel connected to you and your work.  Whether they’ve read the book already or they are considering buying it, your website can give a nudge into buying this book or remembering you when the next one comes out.  It’s possible that they’ve seen mention of the book somewhere else – an ad, a book review, a comment on a website or social network, or a recommendation.  They are now coming to you to convince them the book is worth their time and money. Ultimately, they are looking for someone they can trust.

How do you build someone’s trust through a website?  Present the authentic you, keep any promises you make and respect the relationship.  Remember that your website, for a reader, is about building upon the relationship you’ve started with your book.  Your work is your shining glory – everything stems from it.  But a relationship is often nurtured by the little things, the small details.  And especially when there might be months to wait in between your first and your second book, your website can maintain that bridge.

Industry professionals are going to want to trust in you, as well.  They want to know that they are putting their name to someone who is professional, serious about their career and knows what it takes to stay in the business.  Every review a book reviewer puts their name on builds upon their reputation.  Same goes for other authors.  When someone is giving their name to further your career, the way you show respect and consideration for that is to present yourself in a way that enhances their trust.

What to Put On Your Website?

So with the audience firmly in mind, what should your website look like at this stage?  We break that down into Design and Focus/Content.

DESIGN

As I mentioned in our last post on websites, I believe the best litmus test you can give your website design is whether or not you would print it out and hand it to someone in person as a representation of you.  Would you be confident that you’ve handed them something that will steer their perception of you in a positive light?

It’s easy to be lax when it comes to what you put on the web, because you aren’t face-to-face with the person viewing it.  But if you had to hand them a printed version of your site and watch and receive their response in that moment, would it change how you look at what you’ve got?  Imagine the best-selling author in your genre who you’d love to get a quote from.  Would you immediately start to think of excuses for why your site looks as it does? Or could you give a big smile and say, “This is the extension of me and my work that I want you to put your name on with a stamp of approval.”

That’s what your website is – an extension of you.  And because authors put reviews and quotes on their marketing material, you are asking for Mr. Big Author’s stamp of approval on you, the Author, and all that encompasses you.  That includes your website design.  Be 100% confident that it represents your brand as a writer well.  Dress your site for the job you want: Successful.

FOCUS & CONTENT

As an about-to-be/newly published author, your website audience is looking for more information to establish their opinion of you and your work.  To meet the barest of basics, you should always have:

A Front Page that provides basic information about your upcoming book.  People should be able to type in your domain name and get immediate facts: what you write, when your book comes out, and where to find it.  They want to know what to expect and when, as quickly as possible.

  • A Bio – A few paragraphs and a photo of you.  People want to see who you are.  This photo should be professional and simple.
  • Book page – Your book’s page should include a summary of the book (back cover/jacket copy), a cover image, excerpt if possible, and links when available on where to buy the book.
  • Coming Soon Page – Have a page that gives details about what’s next from you.   Both readers and industry professionals will appreciate knowing that you’re building a career, not just a one-hit wonder.
  • Contact information.  An email address and/or a contact form where someone can get reach you.
  • Events & News.  If you are planning a book tour in bookstores, any booksignings, conferences or blog tours, be sure to put that information on your site.  Include dates, links and any relevant information.
  • A Way To Capture the Connection.  Don’t let a visitor walk away from your website, waving their hand as they turn their back and saying, “I’ll call you sometime.”  Nail down the next date now by giving them options to let you connect to them:
    • Social Media Links:  Your links to Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks that you actively maintain should be accessible easily.  Preferably on the home page.
    • Newsletter Subscription:  If you have a newsletter, offer an easy-to-find place to subscribe to it.

Beyond the basics, there are plenty of “Added Features” you can adopt. Think of the extras sort of the way you would a DVD release of a movie.  You get the movie and you get more– behind the scenes information, deleted scenes, the ‘making of’ features, and whatever else enhances the viewer’s experience.  That is the goal for everything beyond the basics on your site:  Enhance your website visitor’s experience.

I did some searching on author websites, looking for interesting, unique ideas, here are some websites that get an A for fresh website content.

Character Quotes

Janet Evanovich’s site – the header contains quotes from the characters in her books.    I LOVE this idea – and for a new author trying to establish a name, what better way to give glimpses of your style?   Where you put this on your site depends on a number of factors – genre, style, site design – but it’s a wonderful way to intrigue a viewer into wanting more.

Deleted Scenes

Every book has them and sometimes, they are scenes you loved, found interesting but ultimately cut from the book.  So share them!  Pick one or two, make sure they shine and add them to your website.  Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy, does just this.  A word of caution though:  Choose carefully so your scene doesn’t provide spoilers or ruin something in the reading of the book.

Research Notes

Therese Walsh also provides research articles to share how she researched aspects of her books.  Once readers have delved into a world of a book and loved it, they want more.  Personally, I love the way she’s laid out her pages here and shares photos and words, including quotes from people she spoke to.

Research here, for me, is different than offering a “research for writers” page.  Because here you are trying to instill the same sense of magic and personal voice in the aspects you included in your book.  Did you learn something that fascinated you?  Share the fascination as well as the fact.

Sneak Peeks

You have a Coming Soon page that talks about what is ahead from you.  Include a sneak peek of your work – maybe a few lines, or a character article about your favorite character.

Author Christyne Butler (http://www.christynebutler.com) has a Coming Soon section on her bookshelf that gives all the facts about her upcoming books – as well as includes a picture of the hero and heroine, in her mind’s eye, of each book.   I love this – it’s a bit of whimsy and always fun to connect a book that’s not yet out with a recognizable face.  When the book comes out, the images are removed and replaced with the cover.  But for something that is months out, it’s a great way to instill some interest.

Brand-Specific Interactive Extras

Depending on your brand and the tone of your book, look for fun, interactive extras you can include on your website.  Angie Fox (http://www.angiefox.com), author of The Accidental Demon-Slayer (and others), has a quiz on her website that asks what your ‘biker bitch name” would be.   This fits perfectly with her voice and tone, and it’s fun for the reader.   (Mine is Spaghetti Neck Stella Fast Pants, if you were curious…)

These are just a few of the extra ways you can enhance your visitor’s experience.  And don’t forget the ones we mentioned for unpublished writers, because those will work as well:

  • A music soundtrack for your book
  • Favorite Things Lists
  • Links
  • Highlighted elements of your books – recipes, causes, an historical era, whatever you can pull from your book and share in a way that furthers your voice and style.

I’d like to add one note about pulling elements from your books.  Be sure it’s something this section fits YOU, the author, as well.  For instance, I’m not a fan of cooking.  Most anyone who has read my blog posts knows this.  So if I included a Recipes section on my author website – unless they existed of “Get in Car. Drive to Chili’s.” – it would seem disingenuous.

Everything you put on your website should have a purpose.  And when you’re considering what to include, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it enhance the visitor’s experience and connection with me?
  • Does it further my brand?
  • Does it feel genuine?

And since I haven’t said it yet…congratulations on your new or upcoming book!

An Author’s Most Basic Marketing Needs

Friday, September 17th, 2010

You wrote a book, or you’re in the midst of one…or hey, maybe you’re just thinking of one. And that’s all you need to be an author, right? A book? Not so. In today’s highly connected world, you need to be connected to the places your readers will be. You can write the best book in the world, but it doesn’t do you any good if no one knows it’s out there

That’s where your marketing and promotion efforts come in. And hopefully, this section will make those choices easier for you. The two basics that I believe every author should have are one, a website and two, a bookmark or business card. The website represents you online, and the business card/bookmark represents you in person.

Website | First step

A website is 100% necessary in today’s world. It’s the first place people will go to learn more about you, to find out more about your books. Believe it or not, a website does speak to the perception of your professionalism as an author.

Every website should include:

  • Your own domain name. Get a domain through godaddy or any other reputable company
    and secure your branding. It makes you more professional and easier to find. The first thing people will do to look you is either Google your name or type in www.yourname.com.
  • An About You page, with a photo and information on you as a writer and a person. People LOVE to read about authors.
  • Where to find you information. If you are on twitter, facebook, myspace or just have an airplane flying about with your name on it, tell people clearly on your site where to find you.
  • A bookshelf page with your book titles, information, excerpts when possible and BUY LINKS. Make it simple for people to buy your books. If you have multiple books, include a printable (plain text) book list.
  • A place to sign up to receive updates. Even if it’s only a yahoo list, grab their email address so the next time you have a book out, you have a built-in audience slowly building.
  • Contact information. It can be an email link, a form, but include it. DO NOT include a phone number or personal home address.

It doesn’t have to be fancy or big or splashy. It just has to be you.

Website Don’ts

  • Do not have music that automatically plays. Many people visit sites while at work and this will instantly turn them away. They aren’t likely to come back.
  • Don’t put all your information on your home page. A long page with too much information is hard to read.
  • Create a simple navigation so it’s easy to find what people are looking for. People are used to the simple navigation headings: About Us, Books, Services, Products, Contact, News, Updates, etc. Don’t get cute with names. It’s not the focus of your site — your books and you are.

Business Cards or Bookmarks?

As an author, you need something to hand out to people you meet. You can make the choice, but choose bookmarks or business cards. People will expect them when they meet you, and they will be far less likely to take the next step if you don’t give them something tangible to hold on to after you aren’t in front of them anymore. So how do you choose? Consider these points:

  • Bookmarks:
    • Great giveaway to promote a specific book.
    • Something you can leave places where you aren’t physically present. A bookmark is more likely to get picked up than a business card.
    • Limited shelf time. If you are promoting a specific book, the usefulness of this dwindles with time. Order numbers wisely.
  • Business Cards
    • Great handout to promote you, the author.
    • A business card is more likely to be kept and not thrown away, because it contains information people may want later.
    • A larger order actually costs less per item. These are generally basic information, you can order a larger quantity.

Having a website gives you a professional online presence, having a business card or bookmark gives you a professional personal one.   Your marketing plan should definitely include more than the above, however you can tailor that based on your needs and abilities.

Comments (0)
Categories : Author Marketing

Website Content: What To Include?

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

There is a world of options when it comes to relevant content to put on your website.  Remember the audience and their goals:  form an impression and connect with you.

Start with the basics:

About You – Your site should include a few paragraphs about you, how you started writing, and what you write.  If you include a photo on this page, it should be a professional, nice one.  Again, professional doesn’t imply you paid to have it taken. It means you look professional in it.

Work/Books/WIPs –Your website should give a snapshot of what you’re working on.  Include working titles, genre, word count.  Whether or not you include blurbs and summaries of your WIPs is up to your comfort zone (and for a look at both sides of this, see this post (http://jeannieruesch.com/wordpress/?p=2940).  List content finals or wins.  List any articles you’ve published or other related work.

Contact Information – Be sure that there is an easy way to contact you on your site.  Include an email address or a contact form.  And if you’re active on social networks, include links to those as well – and include them prominently.  These are actionable links by your visitors and ways you can connect more personally with them.  Make it easy for someone to find you.

And make your site personal by adding other content:

With a focus on your writing, you could embellish your sites with facts, tidbits or interesting stories.

  • Include fun research facts you’ve discovered.  Chances are if you found it different or interesting, someone else will too.
  • Make playlists of songs that inspired you while writing or that match the tone and emotion of your stories, like you’ll find on Adrienne’s site (http://adriennegiordano.com/bookshelf/).
  • Pick out elements that are highlighted in your book – recipes, pets, causes, an historical era, whatever you can pull from your site, and build a page or section of your site around that.

And before you say, “I don’t know what would be interesting enough…”—think again.  Yes, you do.  Do you write sassy, strong heroines?  Make a section of your site about strong women you admire. Do you write alpha males? Focus a section of your site on alpha males in the world – perhaps with a focus on the careers of your characters.  Dig into your stories and find what makes them unique, find what inspires you within them and build that into your website.  It offers even more compelling ways to connect with you as a writer.

And don’t underestimate connecting as a person.  Even two people who have nothing in common can talk for hours about a favorite TV show or movie.  Put some personal touches on the site:

  • Try a list of your favorite things: books, music, television shows, and movies.  When considering “favorites” to include, look for things that connect people, rather than separate them.  Unless it’s part of your platform, staying away from politics and religion is always a good idea.
  • Include links.  It’s wonderful for both networking with others and your search engine results.  Offering a links page to helpful resources, other authors, chapters, research sites, or whatever else you want to focus on offers a chance for those websites to link back.
  • Do you have a hobby or additional job that would provide useful information to other writers? By all means, create a page to share your expertise and knowledge.

Ultimately, think outside of the box.  Kathleen Bittner Roth did that by adding an “Unbook trailer” to her site (http://kathleenbittnerroth.com/).  Without a book or need for a book trailer, she found a unique and entertaining way to add content to her site.

To summarize, for the unpublished author, your website is a place to build a bridge between you and your target audience.  For agents and editors, it means presenting yourself professionally.  For other writers and connections within the publishing world, it means offering a common ground.  If you keep that in mind, you can’t go wrong.