Building a Successful Website (pt.3 of 3)

So for a couple of weeks now we have been building a website.  Today will be the last installment of the 3 part series.

 

But Wait There’s More!

Be more than just a book peddler.  Even book stores offer up things outside of printed pages.  Start a blog on your journey into writing, or things that you have learned along the way.

ACNBooks for example: we started off simple, one book to rule them all…

No, simpler, a novel.  That turned into a series, from there a website about the books, with cute little posts giving you an inside look at my daily life, and links to interviews as I did them.  Today ACNBooks is MORE so so much MORE and growing yet.  Expanding into the realm of everything an Indie author, singer, or artist needs.  We’ve turned A Charming Nightmare the book into ACNBooks a meeting place for authors and readers alike.  A sharing place for people to learn as they go, to lean on each other, to bounce ideas off like minds, and to be heard through podcasts. We’re constantly expanding, with so many off shoots and pages planned leaving no stone in the indie world un-turned. Making a completely interactive site for readers and writers alike.

All from one scifi book…

Let Me Tell You Something

Studies show that websites with blogs get up to 68.23% more followers than stale, here I am with nothing to say sites.  It shouldn’t be hard, we all have SOMETHING to say.

Geeks rule on blogging: Don’t obsess over it, thinking you have to write every single day, or every single week.  The more you “ugh I have to write my blog” the harder it’ll become. Here at ACNBooks we have a schedule:

  • Daily-write down ideas.  Whether it’s during your daily Instagram picture or sitting down to lunch an idea will come to you.  Write it down.  One or two words and file it for the “monthly” portion explained below.
  • Every week or every other week-post an entry from the ‘monthly’ catalog.
  • Once a month: Get yourself a cup of coffee, tea, or one of those microbrewery beers you love so much and write what the Geeks calls “a shit ton.”

I spend an entire day drafting blogs.  You think you’ll run out of ideas, but one blog will lead into another which leads into another, and so on and so on.

If your blog ideas need research do it. Sometimes I spend my once a month researching not writing. I save those notes, the incomplete thoughts and the following month I turn them into an entry.

Usually at the end of one day a month I have enough blog entries to last us 5-6 weeks.  From there it can be on anyone’s to-do list to go into our shared drive to the file labeled Blog and pick from a wide variety of topics. Luckily for us, we have a couple of hands writing entries so it’s not all reliant on me.  You can do the same idea once you generate an audience. One of the things I’m most looking forward to is an author or reader take over.  A blog post submitted by a fan, and approved by an ACN team member to go up in place of my thoughts for a week.

  • And as always throughout your entry encourage comments.  Ask what would you or what do you do style questions.  Engage with your readers!  A lot of times a comment discussion will encourage more readers to join in the conversation (I mean let’s face it most of the time we skip right over the article to get to the comments).

 

Where in the World is ACNBooks?

It’s my calendar.  Where will M.K.F. be this weekend?  Indie Beginnings is setting one up to show viewers who their upcoming guests will be.  We share things like:

  • Latest News/Events: interviews, blog mentions, reviews, and other media coverage.
  • Appearances: book readings and signings, speaking engagements, interviews, conferences, conventions. Sometimes we include links to the events, sometime they’re just mentions “Hey Syracuse, M.K.F. will be in town this weekend signing advanced copies of Sister’s Lament!” Your audience will find you from there, because I’m sure you’re posting the event on Social Media.

We also list anything we do that is above and beyond books on this calendar as ACNBooks Gives Back. Example one weekend a year we close the office and go judge robotics for First Lego League.  That week is all about kids and their robots, where to find us and the list of events we’ll be there to judge.

On the News Tonight…

A Press kit or media page should also be on your website, to a degree. I’m currently trying to learn how to create a press kit-soooooo…

If anyone has anything they can put in here for me I’d love to learn from you!

A Little Something Extra

This is my favorite part! Where an author or an artist can be themselves. A behind the scenes so to speak.  We love doing little added bonuses like:

  • Photographs, sketches, illustrations of characters and locations in your book, and other meaningful images. They can be your own or fan drawn.
  • Memes, page shares, story shares, that little something in the T.A.R.D.I.S that makes it bigger on the inside. Show off your fans! Dedicated some time and space to those that have dedicated to you.
  • Podcast-insert shameless plug for Indie Beginning here-
  • Are you holding a contest, game, or giveaway?????
  • My favorite things: from book reviews, to products, and shout outs.  Speaking of this have you checked out www.burialgrounds.coffee yet????
  • Include sneak peeks, additional content that isn’t in your books, main character bios, extra chapters, alternate character point of views, and any other bits that didn’t make the cut. Your readers will love it!
  • ACNBooks Gives Back-yes, we do, and often.  Out staff are busy busy people! They share things like costuming an upcoming high school musical, to donating Catch and Aylin to com (Good Reads. Great Deeds).

A final note from our Geeks/nope…not saying it…not calling you Overlords: Know when to say when.  This is a ton of information.  It can be overwhelming at times, and not all of it works for every single website goal you might have in mind. Too much is never a good thing, all you have to do is make sure you feel like your site represents the very best you.

 

If I forgot anything please feel free to add it to the comments! I’m sure I left about ten thousand things out!  We would also like to see you take on anything listed, what has or has not worked for you?

Indie Beginning Pilot Episode


man woman costume howard stern photo boothClick the link to Meet Ben and Marie, the hosts of Indie Beginning. Learn about what is to come from the team! We are an interactive program so make sure you leave a comment with each cast either here or on one of our social media pages.

Facebook /acnbooks or /indiebeginning  and twitter @acnbooks or @indiebeginning

We wanted to wait until the new year to start our program, but just couldn’t wait to introduce ourselves (and ITunes, GooglePlay, and Stitcher implied that it could take two weeks for our show to be approved). Once approved add us to your podcast provider of choice’s favorites section to stay up to date.

Great News we’re approved! Not even 24 hours passed.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more content!

Building a Successful Website (pt.2 of 3)

Last week we started a 3 part series on building your author page.  Today we will continue with this idea and expand on some simple ways to get website followers:

It’s All About ME!

About pages are among the most frequently visited pages on the internet (Forbes magazine 2015). Your readers want to know more about you, and this is the place to tell them.

  • Stray away from selfies as your author photo, or that amazing vacation picture of you with Goofy from 15 years ago.  Yes, I know, you looked on point in that car selfie this morning! And yes I see that your mirror shot really shows off just how adorable your new haircut is, but again, think of how your readers will look at you and your site without something more professional.

Not to say you can’t have fun.  Indie Beginning kind of broke the geek rules on this one, they chose a more professional set up image for their hello page; but decided to be less formal and more personal in their ‘meet the hosts’ entry.

  • Keep readers interested with a brief author bio. A short glimpse into your ‘normal’ life. What led you to writing, why you write the kind of books you do, what do you love about it?
  • This is not a place for you to advertise a website we are already on, or a link to your book’s amazon or social media page.  Web builders have special little links you can add to the bottom of each page for that (see them down there? The look like a little bird, or an f? How about the Amazon or Goodreads link in the sides? Can you see that?)

Another about us page that shouldn’t be ignored is your sites about this site page.

  • Keep this simple as well, simple title: About Us
  • Be direct, what this site is about. (The ACNBooks about us page is currently under construction, trying to simplify the words that I wrote.  Writers tend to see opportunity for poetry in everything. This is not that opportunity).
  • Strengthen your credibility/celebrity with some reader quotes (more on this below).

 

Geeks rule #4: Update, update, update.  These two about pages are often forgotten about.  Once or twice a year update them!  Spice is life…

***Additional Geeks note***If a visitor gets to your about page, they’re interested. Ask them to join your email list.

Hello@acnbooks

Why do authors make it so difficult for readers to contact them? No one wants to sift through a sea of blog entries or articles to find you!  Who has time to peruse a post dated back in 2014 just to get an email address?

Geeks rule #5: You want to interact, don’t play hard to get.

  • Have a contact tab in your main menu that leads to a page with your preferred ways to be contacted. You don’t have to list every possible way you can be found (no one needs to call my mom Wednesday nights, because that’s where I’ll be for dinner), stick to the best ways.
  • If you use a contact form, make sure it’s simple and you’re only asking for the info you require to get back to that person.
  • When entering your email address, use: yourname[dot]comto avoid spam harvesters (you know who they are – they’re the reasons why we now have to specify “I am not a robot” when clicking on certain pages).
  • You can also encourage your readers to get in touch with you via the social media platforms you are most active on.
  • Provide multiple ways for people to contact, follow and Like you. It’s not your reader’s job to find you. It’s your job to be where your readers are.

Email Sign Up/Updates

This I will come back to and fill in once ACNBooks figures it out.  It’s currently being added into my manual by our Geeks.  So stay tuned! Or you can comment with how this works!

“I loved this book!”-Douglas Adams

  • Reviews can go a long way, they’re not put there just for your Goodreads or Amazon book page.  We all have them right?  In the upcoming weeks I’ll explain just how powerful a review is, and how to get them.
  • When you do get them use a short statement clip from a couple on your site. You don’t need the entire quote (reviews on Goodreads tend to be very long, take snippets from them, not the entire thing.)  Usually one sentence, or a handful of words is enough (try not to make them longer than 2 lines per review on your site).
  • A perfect location for your reviews is your About page or Homepage.

#SocialMedia

We did an entire article about the importance of social media, so for Social Media and your website I’ll only put in a couple of notes:

1-use the widgets provided by your web builder.  WordPress has some amazing free tools to help link your social media to your site.  They are pretty and easily recognized around the world.

Or you can create one (or so I’m told…remember I’m not tech savvy).

2- Now that it’s there, link them together.  So anything on your website immediately gets put on your social media formats.

 

Next week the ACN geeks will give you their final tips on your author site.

Building a Successful Website (pt. 1 of 3)

25323365_1929577897071187_1182871358_n-e1513040366169.png

We’ve discussed Social Media, but how about your website?  Is it just there solely for the purpose of being there? To hold links to a bazillion places your masterpiece can be found? Is it just one big advertisement, being ignored by you while you try to perfect your #hashtag skills?  A digital business card? Or is it a living breathing extension of you?

If it’s not the latter, it needs to be.

Your website is your office. The “big brain” between you and your readers.  Social media, well…they’re the employees.

If the brain is working smoothly, then the employees have all the tools necessary to do their job.

An active website (interactive meaning more than just www.acnbooks.com taking you somewhere; it means there is updated content on that site) visit can translate directly into books sales.

Even if you are on social media or diligently promoting your work in person through venues and signings, everything you do will be in vain without a website. Why invest so much of yourself in writing your book, publishing it, and bragging about it if it’s a dead end?  No central office guiding the masses. Today, websites are bigger than any Target or Barnes and Nobel’s, it is a huge drawback if your readers can’t easily locate you with a few quick key strokes.

Remember* you cannot be everywhere, but your website (that extension of yourself) can!

Designing a website requires skills – skills I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t have (unless it’s guiding myself through a purchase on Amazon I don’t speak computer; not one single syllable of HTML or TEXT coding).

Hence our ACNBooks “geeks” who I can’t give enough credit to.

Not to say you need a squad of tech lovers at your fingertips; they assure me that building a website is extremely user friendly (if that user isn’t M.K.F.).  And where you may get lost, website hosts – such as ours here at WordPress – are extremely helpful in guiding you to your vision.

The “geeks”, as they call themselves because no one here at ACN will refer to them by their preferred name Overlords, did however compile a list of website do’s and don’ts.  I use it as faithfully as I can, though there are times that I play the “Creator” card!

Over the next couple of weeks, we will review the geeks list and give some do’s and don’ts when it comes to your website.

 

 First Impressions Mean Everything

You’ve all heard of the phrase “never judge a book by its cover”? No one follows it. First impressions matter. They will judge you by is your website.  It is tempting to just get something up quickly, that requires little/no cost, but don’t.  Don’t just toss something up there I mean, cost wise…cost is always a factor, so let’s get that out of the way first.

Shop your site.  Ours here at ACNBooks runs about $100.00 a year. Which was nice, in the beginning.  Today though we are finding it limiting. We’re no longer a toddler; we are learning how to walk, so we need to upgrade to a business level.  But as an author, you don’t need the 10,000 options. So shop around for what is going to best fit your goals.  Don’t necessarily pick the most popular name (the number one in a Google search engine).

Geeks rule #1 in First Impressions is: Your website is how people are going to see you!  It shows off WHO you are and WHAT you represent.  If it’s tossed together, last minute from your cell phone while waiting in line at Dunkin Donuts for your mocha peppermint latte to finish steaming. It’s going to look that way to anyone who clicks on it.

Geek rule #2: Yes you are the brand, however your website shouldn’t be for you…it’s for your readers, meaning that within moments of a blog or updated entry people will see it.  Think of these simple questions provided by www.yourwriterplatform.com before you click the go live button:

  • Will people know what I write within seconds?
  • Does the voice, tone, attitude and mood of the site resonate with my ideal reader?
  • Will they understand the page they are on and what it’s about?
  • Will they know what to do next?
  • Does the site appear credible?
  • Is it clear why they should buy my book or subscribe to free updates?
  • What does the site provide the reader?

Most importantly Geeks rule #3: BETA test/read, ask someone to look over your work.  Not so much for spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but to make sure it flows or is perceived as you meant it to (I do this a lot….as I have ‘resting bitch face’ when typing, I didn’t think that was a thing, but I’ve been told several times that for as happy as I am in person, my entries read as if I am sarcastically slapping someone.)

Other website suggestions www.yourwriterplatform.com:

  • Don’t be scared of white or blank space.  Filling every single nook and cranny will do nothing but remind people they need to clean out their closets.
  • Make sure your site is polished, legible (go for clear, not clever) and spell checked, a reader doesn’t want to spend the afternoon trying to decipher the meaning behind the Shakespeare you wrote.
  • Keep navigation easy and clear, so your readers can find the important stuff.
  • Use color wisely.  All too often I have gone to author sites to be blinded by the light-the neon colored backgrounds, and yellow writing in front of it.  I have also gone to sites and found my eyes straining after 3 seconds trying to read black text over grey backdrops.  Stick to two or three different shades, simple, ones that are easily seen (grey over white seems to be our M.O.)
  • Avoid anything unnecessary like Flash, animated backgrounds, or music. If your site takes a long time to load, or doesn’t work on a mobile device, you will lose a large number of visitors to your site.
  • Keep elements consistent from page to page.
  • Is your site branded for the long haul? Or is it book/genre specific? Currently we are bragging about A Charming Nightmare as our featured book, but I’m still writing, after the ACN series is out in completion my next adventure with Lilith is the complete opposite of the science-fiction based ACN.  And that’s OK, my site is ready for any genre I write.

Next week we will further step into your website.  Break it down. I will be looking to you for guidance, as I’m still learning web words and their meanings.

Until next time!

-M-

It Takes a Village to Raise an Author

“It Takes a Village…”

I am not sure why this quote entered my mind this morning; it was probably something said on NPR while I was still half in “Ben-land” getting up for the day. It occurred to me that this idea works for books as well. Books are like our children. Some are planned while others just happen naturally out of the blue. We bring them to life and do our best to instill everything in them that we hope to offer to the world. Some succeed and some do not. Feedback from others in the society of story lovers is necessary for authors to raise their stories to that which is required. Without feedback we simply continue down the same path as before. Our children will still grow into something, but who knows what.
Go back to where you find your stories and comment on the last work you read. Did you finish it, or was it one you had to set aside. Let the Author know how you felt about their work. Even if you could not get through the whole work (not all literature is for everyone) there was something that piqued your interest. What was that? Where did the Author lead you astray? I understand that the phrase “It takes a village…” tends to lead to imagery of neighbors spanking children that are not their own. This is not my meaning. I am not talking about beating an author down. There are respectful ways to honestly critique a persons work. Feelings may be hurt, but we authors tend to live in a dream land anyways. We will live, will continue on, and we will be better for it!

-B-