Website Essentials

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Having done final, final, final edits for my agent on my latest novel (all smiles here on that front – and no small measure of relief!),  I am focusing on a much needed update to my author website (very much overdue I fear!) but, horror of horrors,  I’ve realized that the book world has altered so much since I set up my website, I am now at sea as to what changes I really should be making.  Sure, I have all the obvious tabs: Author bio, appearances, book news, links to blogs, excerpts/readings and ‘what’s new’, but what I really need is to focus on what additional elements that truly add value to my readers (and yes, I also know I need to update my news/appearances too…)

As a reader I know I enjoy websites that are beautifully designed, visually appealing, easy to read (no weird fonts or jarring colors) and which offer lots of value added information that keep me coming back. That being said, it’s often hard to translate that into what is needed for your own website (and also, it’s a slippery slope, I don’t want to spend all my time writing website content rather than novels!).

So as I so often do, I am turning to you, the Kill Zone experts to find out what you think works/doesn’t work on author websites. 

Here are some of the ideas/questions I am currently mulling over:

1. As I am venturing into YA territory should I have a separate tab for this on my current website or should I have an entirely different website designed – given that these are two separate genres?

2. How much ‘value added’ content is worthwhile including on a website. Given that I write historical fiction (for both my mysteries and YA books) does giving  information on the period provide a useful value add or would links to other websites and resources be sufficient. It’s always hard to know just exactly how much information/effort an authors should give to what is essentially background information.

3. Are giveaways and competitions really worthwhile?

4. What about books trailers or videos?

5. Do you (as a reader) appreciate any other value added elements/information on an author website?

And finally, have you got an examples of what you think are truly first-class author websites or ones which just don’t meet the mark?

  

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Feeling Bookish?

By Clare Langley-Hawthorne

News that three major publishing houses, Simon & Schuster, Penguin group and Hachette) have combined forces to create a new online retail and ‘social’ website, Bookish.com, comes at an interesting time for the industry. Clearly publishers, worried about being marginalized in the ebook revolution are trying to gain some ground – but is a website like this really the answer?

Bookish is not up and running as yet but it is being touted as a place where readers can buy books and recommend them to others. Hmmm…so what’s new about that? There are already a myriad on online sources for purchasing physical books and ebooks as well as social networking and book related sites that enable people to make recommendations and connect with like minded readers…so what will make Bookish any different? Is a website like this really the answer to publishers’ woes? Until the website is up it is difficult to know how it will be different to what is currently available, or whether it will be able to draw in the audience the publishers are obviously eager to embrace.

In the publicity materials for the upcoming site a lot is being promised including ‘real time conversations around content’, but will these promises be enough? If there is a strong emphasis on recommendations (which is what the press release suggested) how will the site differ from something like Goodreads.com? How will the publishers ensure editorial independence in the face of potentially negative reviews for their authors? (and there have been enough flame wars to know that there are sensitivities on all sides when it comes to online reviews and their authenticity/validity.) Bookish also hopes to become the destination for purchasing physical and digital books…but why will people go there rather than Amazon? Will the publishers try to undercut Amazon’s prices? How else will they convince people to buy from Bookish rather than other sites?

So what do you think? Will a website like Bookish really have any impact? More importantly, is it the kind of website publishers should be investing in?

Me, I suspect that publishers need to regain an upper hand here in terms of content and access. As a reader I am unlikely to bother going to Bookish unless there is a really compelling reason. For me that reason would be exclusive content I can’t get anywhere else (this could include author interviews, essays, short stories etc.) or that connects me with readers in a way other social networking sites cannot (if I could participate in a really cool book group session that combines video links with authors maybe). Until the website is launched it’s hard to know if all the hype surrounding it will live up to expectations, Unfortunately, I suspect Bookish won’t contain anything very novel or exciting and I doubt the Internet is hungry for yet another online bookseller.

What do you think?

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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Building a Writer’s Platform

By Joe Moore

As the responsibility of marketing and promotion falls more and more on the shoulders of the author these days, one of the questions that agents and editors ask novelists is “What is your platform?” With the economy putting extra pressure on publishers, they expect writers to come to the game bringing a ready-made audience. They not only want but expect authors to already have established a fan base or at least a group of potential fans—and for new writers, this is BEFORE your book comes out. Even veteran, multi-book authors must have a solid, established platform. It’s part of the “new” business plan.

So what is a platform?

platform1 In a single word, your platform is your “brand”. Having a platform helps your relationship with your publisher, and it can assist you in selling more books.

So how do you establish or build your platform? The quickest way is to start with the Internet. Here are a couple of methods to begin nailing that platform together.

Website. There was a time when a website was only for the rich and famous. Those days are long gone. A writer without a website is about as logical as an author without a telephone. Outside of the bookstore, the author’s website is the “first impression” a potential reader gets of your brand. It’s truly a no-brainer. Your website is your billboard, your advertisement, your calling card. And the potential for delivering a creative message is only limited to your imagination. Essential elements on your website must include: a method for contacting you; a method for purchasing your book(s); a method for the press to gain information (digital press kit); an incentive to linger or return such as a contest or free sample chapters; a method to track your website traffic. Other considerations include continuity in your site colors and design that are in sync with your book covers or other branding elements, and a reasonable amount of interactivity such as a method of leaving comments or subscribing to newsletters and publication news.

Blogging. You obviously know about blogs or you won’t be visiting this one. A blog is an online method of expressing your thoughts with a means for visitors to leave a comment or opinion. As a writer, your blog will probably be about your writing, your books, or some other connection to your craft and career. Some authors like to venture away from their books and discuss other topics such as politics, religion, economics, etc. A word of warning: You’ve worked hard to establish and build your “brand”. Don’t blow it by pissing off your readers. At some point they just might reject your next thriller or mystery because they don’t agree with your position on unrelated issues. A blog can easily turn into a slippery slop.

Newsletter. As previously mentioned, your website needs a method for your visitors and fans to subscribe to a newsletter or news bulletin. If they’re a fan, they want to know about you and your books. When is your next book coming out? When are you going to do a signing in their area? Will you be at a particular writer’s conference? They want the news. And the best and most economical way to get them what they want is an electronic newsletter. There are numerous email-generating newsletter sources that you can use to put together a value-filled publication. A few suggestions are Constant Contact, MailChimp, and Vertical Response.

Write some stuff. Any writing credit is a good writing credit, and it helps build your platform. No matter what you write, whether it’s for the local paper or a national magazine, you’re byline will contain a mention that you are a novelist. So if the reader likes your article or how-to piece, and they see you also write thrillers or mysteries, that’s a potential plank in your platform.

Book forums. There are a ton of forums out there dealing with readers and writers. A good resource to begin finding them is groups.yahoo.com/. Others include WritersNet, Helium, Backspace, and Absolute Write. Make yourself known on these and similar forums and you’ll be adding to your brand and platform.

Social Networks. Sites like MySpace.com, LinkedIn.com, Facebook.com, Twitter.com and countless others are perfect for building your brand. The only potential risk is the time you might spend on these sites instead of writing your book. But they are a terrific source of finding your dedicated or new fans. A word of caution: see the note on blogging above.

Additional platform building tools include professional publicity photos of yourself and a strong press-ready biography. Also, memberships in writer organizations such as the International Thriller Writers or Mystery Writers of America help build your brand and platform among your colleagues and fans. The networking and connections made within these organizations and their subsequent writer conferences are invaluable.

How’s your platform coming? Any other suggestions on building a strong brand?

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Exposing myself is hard work

by Joe Moore

There are more places to expose yourself on the Internet than you can possibly keep up with. For me, it started a long time ago with a website, then another, then a blog, then another, and on and on. Sometimes it feels like a full-time job just to maintain and update all the blogs, forum profiles, and social networking sites where I have my profile and book news posted.

Most are available for public viewing while some are for those who register first. But when a news item or piece of info needs to be added such as a book launch or a signing, it can take hours just to update them all.

Did I change my Facebook status today? Did I post the newest version of the book trailer on YouTube?

Here’s a partial list of where I’ve exposed myself. As you can see, it can quickly get out of hand.

Facebook
Redroom
Kill Zone
InkSpot
Amazon Blog
Personal Website
Book Website
Thriller Website
Goodreads
Mystery Writers of America
Plaxo
Live Journal
Linked In (members only)

How many places do you expose yourself? Is it worth the time needed to keep everything updated? Do these sites generate books sales or just more busy work? Shouldn’t we all be writing rather than posting or updating or checking or commenting or . . .

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