Archive for March, 2010
When you’re building your author web site, do you spend any time thinking about how much information to share about yourself? About what email address to give out? About what might happen if you share too much? If not, maybe you should.
For some authors, these are obvious questions. For instance, one author I’ve worked with, Sherry Jones, wrote a very controversial book that incited the Islamic community. She faced death threats regularly. So she was very careful in building her website to make sure not to share too much about her life, her family, etc…
But what should an average author keep in mind? After all, there are plenty of nutjobs in the news lately who are perfectly willing to sacrifice an innocent person to send a message to the world. Not to mention cyberstalkers. It’s a scary world.
Here are some recommendations on how to keep your private information private online.
- It’s okay to mention if you’re married, have kids, etc… but avoid sharing names, if possible. Also keep pictures of your children off the website.
- If you live in a small town, avoid giving out the name of that town. Instead, just mention the geographic area of the state that you live in.
- Use a post office box or your publisher’s address when you give out your mailing address on your website or blog. And set up a specific email address specifically for this purpose. Readers like to write to authors on occasion.
- Ignore emails or blog comments that seem threatening or strange. Delete the comment, block the user or email address, and move on.
Have you had a bad experience with someone who found your website? Tell us what happened and how you would advise other authors to avoid those types of incidents in the future.
If you’re an author looking to get published by a major publishing house, you may want to consider posting your book on Harper Collins’ Authonomy website. Here’s the scoop….
Harper Collins describes the website as follows:
authonomyTM is a brand new community site for writers, readers and publishers, conceived and developed by book editors at HarperCollins. We want to flush out the brightest, freshest new literature around – we’re glad you stopped by.
If you’re a writer, authonomy is the place to show your face – and show off your work on the web. Whether you’re unpublished, self-published or just getting started, all you need is a few chapters to start building your profile online, and start connecting with the authonomy community.
So basically, here’s how it works. Each month, a variety of authors hoping to get their book published by Harper Collins each create an author profile and upload a segment of their manuscript to the Authonomy website. Participants can then read books by other writers on the site, and rank/rate them. They are also encouraged to provide feedback.
At the end of each month, Harper Collins editors sit down and decide, based on some secret algorithm of the rankings, which five books will be reviewed. Within a month, the editors will then deliver critiques of those manuscripts to their respective authors. In an ideal world, those critiques would be simple suggestions about changes an author can make in order for Harper Collins to consider publishing their book.
Now, there is a lot of controversy about Authonomy, which has only been live for about six months. Not everyone believes it’s really a way to get published. In fact, according to Wikipedia, “Critics of authonomy have labelled it as a ‘do-it-yourself slush pile’ and argue that the recommendation mechanisms for a book making it to the top of this pile for editorial appraisal are problematic.” Read one author’s less-than-ideal story about her experience on Authonomy.
But no matter what you might think about Authonomy, it’s really a great idea. It’s the Web 2.0 meets publishing. It’s American Idol for authors. It’s just another way that authors are taking control of today’s book publishing market.
Did you post your manuscript on Authonomy? If so, share your experience with us!
There was an interesting article in Publishers Weekly earlier this month that I thought I would share. It’s an interview with a variety of publishers and marketing executives dealing with how they market their fiction books, with a focus on their online efforts.
You can read the full article, but here are some of the highlights that are relevant to authors looking to build an online presence. No matter what your publishing status (not yet published, self-publishing, etc…), you might be able to steal some of these ideas.
How are you using social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.) to market your fiction line? What one strategy has been most successful?
Pamela Clements, associate publisher for marketing, FaithWords and Center Street: This is a significant growth area and, I believe, the most important new trend in marketing fiction. Online provides a virtual community that provides recommendations from peers that just did not exist five years ago. We have Facebook sites for all our Christian fiction authors. We tweet regularly about them and their books and retweet positive feedback that we receive. We also have been very successful with blog tours, blogtalk radio, prerelease and first edition giveaways, and encouraging the authors to blog.
Jennifer Deshler, senior director of marketing, Thomas Nelson: 80% of the Thomas Nelson fiction authors actively engage in social media, and this offers us great ways to build tribes online. The one strategy we’ve seen be most successful is a community approach to new releases—creating a series of messages, usually with a contest or free books offering—that is sent out by multiple authors and team members in a specific time period.
Nathan Henrion, national accounts manager, Baker Publishing Group: Blog tours are one of the best uses of social media that we have seen. E-mail blasts and all the various mediums (Facebook, Twitter) are at times hard to measure as far as effectiveness. An author’s established platform seems to be the key in social media, as they use their existing network.
Mary Burns, v-p of publishing, Barbour: We are using social media to help promote our fiction line on Twitter (@FictionforGals) and a Facebook fan page (Christian Fiction for Gals). Twitter has probably been most successful for us and has the most followers. It is fueled by book giveaways, which followers retweet to their friends.
What is something unique or unusual that your company has done to market fiction—either for just one book, or for a whole line?
Barb Sherrill, v-p of marketing, Harvest House: We created a consumer Web site around our Amish fiction: AmishReader.com. All our authors writing in this genre contribute content through posts, recipes, and exclusive material fans can get nowhere else (unpublished short stories, for example). We’ve also done giveaways on this site, which have been very popular. We wanted readers to have a place to not only engage with the authors they’ve read and loved, but also to discover a new author (or two or three) in a genre they love.
Don Pape, publisher, trade books, David C. Cook: I am so delighted with the book trailers we produce for every fiction title—they really do hook the reader who is accustomed to sitting in a movie theater with popcorn and soda waiting to see the coming attractions. Through those, we have gotten a loyal following online at Facebook.
Clements, FaithWords: For our YA series, All About Us, we created a Web site with people blogging as the characters in the novels. We have also done sell-in campaigns with treats for buyers to get their attention and get them to pay attention to especially well-written works from unknown or little-known authors.
Deshler, Thomas Nelson: We’ve recently launched a new social community at www.amishliving.com for those consumers who love everything about the Amish. From recipes to travel information to forums on the different areas of Amish networks, we’ve created a place where people can come together to share stories, pictures, and discussion topics.
Have you done anything special to market your fiction book online? Please share your ideas!
Too many people think that author websites are only for published authors. But more and more people have figured out how to use websites to actually get themselves published. Here’s how they’re doing it….
Why Build a Website
Odds are that you’re going to be submitting a proposal or manuscript to a publisher at some point. So how do you get yours to stand out from the crowd? A website is one way to do it. You can only get so much information into the envelope you send them, but you can do a whole lot more if you include a link to your website on every piece of paper in that envelope. It gives the publisher a chance to learn more about you, read your blog, see that people are commenting on your writing, and more. The message is twofold:
- You’ve already gotten a head start on marketing your book
- You already have people interested in your writing
What to Put on That Website
The most important thing that you can do with your website is this: Make it look professional! Don’t go with one of those one-page, build-it-yourself sites. Just think of how that would appear to a publisher. It basically tells them that you aren’t willing to invest very much in your book at this point. And if you don’t have much confidence in your book, how would they? So hired a design company — preferably one who specializes in author websites like we do — and build a website that will knock their socks off. Other elements that are musts at this point are:
- A blog where you can regularly post and take comments. Even if you just ask your friends to comment, this will give your site the feeling of “life”
- A newsletter sign-up box. Offer something special to people who sign up. And amass as large an email list as possible. Then make sure to put in the packet you send to the publisher just how many people have signed up for your email list. If you have a good number (over 1,000), it will be a huge selling point.
- Access to pieces of your manuscript. Allow a publisher to see your table of contents, read featured excerpts, etc… The more information you can allow them to view on your website (without giving away the farm), the better.
- Easy contact information. Have a call-out to publishers on your website. Make it easy for those who are interested in speaking with you further about the book to contact you via phone, email, etc… Don’t make them have to click around.
Now more than ever before, publishers are looking for authors who are willing to invest the time and money in marketing their own book. By building an effective, professional-looking website even before your book is published, you’ll be sending publishers a message that you’re aware of the commitment and ready to take it on. Essentially, that you’re ahead of the game.
A little off the topic of our usual blog entries, but I thought this might be a new and different way to say goodbye. One of the members of the Smart Author Sites staff, Stacey Elms, will be leaving us next month to go on to bigger and better things.
So I want to use this blog entry as a tribute to her and her work. If you’ve been one of the privileged clients who got to work with Stacey during her time with us, please post your goodbye message/thank you to her below.
Thanks for participating!
Do you have a media page on your author website? It’s purpose is to provide the media with the information they might need to feature you in their next piece.
If you decide to have a press page on your website, here are some ideas about what it should include:
- Downloadable Cover Art (both in 72dpi for the web and 300dpi for print)
- Downloadable Author Pix (ditto)
- Press Releases
- List of Books You’ve Published
- TV Interview Video Clips
- Radio Interviews
- Contact Information (for you, your publisher, your publicist, your agent…)
And even if they’re featured elsewhere on the site, you should also provide the media with easy access to downloadable/easy cut-and-paste versions of:
- Author Bio
- Book Pub Details
- Book Synopsis
- Book Promo Blurbs
- Table of Contents
Here are a few examples of authors’ online media kits. You can see that different authors go about it differently. I don’t think any of these are perfect, but maybe it will help you formulate ideas when you see what others are doing:
I must confess that this is not something I’ve recommended for all of my clients. So if you have one on your author website, please let me know…. did it work? Do you feel like you got more press because you made this information handy? Did you include any information that’s missing from this list? Share your thoughts!
Authors are writers. Which means that most authors I work with don’t hesitate to write the copy for their own writer website. After all, a writer is a writer, right? Well, not necessarily.
Now this doesn’t mean that authors shouldn’t be taking a stab at writing their own content. They should, because no one knows better than them how to convey the message of their book and how to tell people about themselves. But a couple of the smartest authors I’ve worked with have written the copy for their website, sent it to me and said “What do you think?” In those situations, I’ve never hesitated to give feedback.
Writing for a book is different from writing for a website. Even writing for a magazine is different. Here are some things an author should keep in mind when working on website content.
1. Go brief. A book can take hundreds of pages to tell a story. On a website, you have about 1% of that space. Not because a website can’t hold infinite information, but because people who surf the web do not intend to dedicate a lot of time to scouring a website. So make it brief and get to the point.
2. Think bullet points. This ties into the “go brief” idea. Many people don’t read websites. They browse websites. Which means that they’re going to ingest whatever catches their eye. So rather than spending a paragraph explaining all the different benefits of reading your book, make them bullets. Those are much more likely to catch someone’s attention and convince them to click further.
3. Think of the homepage as a teaser. People shouldn’t have to scroll very much to read your homepage. Because there shouldn’t be too much information there. Instead, any copy on the homepage should simply serve as a way to get people to click around the site. So it should include a short blurb about the book (maybe a paragraph or two) and links to read more. A promo for the author blog and a link to read that. You get the idea.
4. Write in the third person. Unless a page on your site is a blog (or specified as a message from you to your readers), don’t write in the first person. Don’t say “I’ll be appearing at the Main Street Bookstore on Thursday” or put your bio in the first person. It’s just less professional that way.
5. Keep search engine optimization in mind. Figure out what people who might be interested in your book are searching for. Then make sure to use those search terms in your site copy. That’s the best way to ensure you’ll show up on the search results. Even if it means repeating the same phrase a great deal. This is something that book or magazine writers never have to deal with, but it is a huge piece of writing for the web.
6. Divide long pages up. This ties into the “keep it brief” and the “think bullets” suggestions above. If you’re going to have a page with a lot of text (an “About the Book” page, for instance), break it up with bolded headlines. So you might have a “Book Description” section, a “Table of Contents” section, a “Featured Reviews” section, etc… (see Eliot Pattison’s site as an example). Break them up into small bits so that someone scanning the page isn’t overwhelmed by text. Again, let something catch their eye.
I’m always happy to work with my authors on developing website text. The best thing you can do is to ask a web writer (whether its me or someone else) to review your website content before launching the site. It may feel strange for a writer to ask for writing advice, but it’s worth it.
Here’s another online author marketing tip from our friend Michael Volkin at Social Networking for Authors…
I have been getting better and better at creating author promotion videos to help authors have a professional presence online. Check out a couple videos I have recently created:
By and large the author promo videos I see on many websites do more harm than good. They are nothing more than the author sitting in front of a scratchy web cam bragging about the book. If you want to be professional, I would consider creating a high definition 3D author promo video.
The trick behind a quality video is your message and the effect. The message has to be a story, it has to invoke emotion. Books, by and large are an impulse buy. A customer will come across your book and find it interesting in 7 seconds or less. During that time, the customer will determine if he is willing to shell out 15 bucks for your book. These kinds of sales are best done when you can invoke some kind of spark or emotion from the customer.
As for the effect of a video, avoid using common programs like Windows Movie Maker (WMM). Sure, WMM is easy to use, but it’s too common. So common in fact, that the videos I have created by comparison make just about any WMM movie look cheesy. Invest a few hundred dollars in a quality program (or contract to someone who does). The extra money spend will make your video stand out from the rest.
I can create one (or more) for you. Not only will it help you sell more books, but a great video can get lots of hits on popular video sites like YouTube and Vimeo, you can actually capture interest in your book from people who would have never visited your website.
Michael Volkin is the author of Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth, a new book that helps authors sell books online.
Earlier this week, I posted a blurb about what people are looking for on author websites. Today, I want to continue the thought and discuss Google Analytics and why every author website should have it.
First, for those who aren’t familiar with it, Google Analytics is a free service offered by Google to anyone who has a Google email address or account. It involves taking a bit of code and adding it to the footer of every page on your website. Google can then track all the visits to your site, including how people got there, what kind of browser they’re using, what country they’re in and — most relevant to this conversation — which pages on your site they’re going to.
At any point in time, you can then go into your Google Analytics account and take a look at your site traffic statistics. You can also have it set up so that you automatically receive a report on a weekly or monthly basis with the pertinent information. We set this up for each and every one of our clients, and they each receive a free monthly report with their web traffic statistics.
It’s only with this type of information that an author can figure out exactly what people are actually looking at on their website, and then he or she can deduce which elements of the website they should dedicate more time to, and which may be a waste of time.
Let’s use SmartAuthorSites.com as an example. According to Google Analytics, other than our homepage, the page on the site that gets the most traffic is called “clientele.” That makes sense, because the first thing people want to see before they decide whether to work with us is which sites we’ve created in the past and what those sites look like. After that, the most popular pages are the ones on our services and the process, followed by this blog. The FAQs page and the About Us page don’t get much traffic at all. So, in my case, this means that I need to make sure I update the clientele page regularly, but I don’t need to pay a whole lot of attention to the FAQs. Without Google Analytics, I’d be making these decisions blindly.
This is why an author needs to use Google Analytics. It’s the only way to know what people are looking at. Otherwise, you’re just taking a stab in the dark when you decide that you’re going to post photos every week, but you don’t update your blog. Or vice versa.
And I keep citing blogs because this is the part of an author website that Google Analytics helps with the most. Too many authors I’ve worked with have a blog, but don’t update it. And why not? Because they feel like they’re writing something that no one is reading. If there are no comments on a post, they’re prone to think no one saw it. And who wants to waste their time writing blog entries if no one is reading them? But Google Analytics will let you know how many people are actually looking at your blog. And it can be a real eye opener. Because even if no one has commented on a post, you still might have had up to 100 people that read it! If that’s not motivation to keep blogging, I don’t know what is.
Ever wonder what people really look at on an author website? Or what makes them want to come back to the site regularly? We now have some insight.
In browsing some other blogs and online conversations, I have amassed a list of the things that people say they most want to see on author web sites. Here’s a list:
- A preview of books in the works
- Book excerpts
- Author bio
- A backlist (preferably a printable version)
- FAQs or Q&As
- Author blog
- Upcoming book signings/appearances
And here are a few things that people DON’T like on author websites:
- Any music playing
- A site that isn’t updated
All that said, not every author site is the same. So should you build yourself an author website — or if you already have one — make sure to get web stats each month (I’ll write another post on this later in the week) so that you can see what people are looking at on your site. That’s how you can decide what’s worth adding to and what might be an unnecessary time eater.
So am I missing anything? What else do you like looking at on author websites? Or what’s on your web site that’s been a huge success? Share your thoughts in the comment box!