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Archive for September, 2011

Is your author website DOA?

(Click twice SLOWLY – not a double-click – to enlarge the image.)

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Once upon a time, the Internet was shiny and new and only certain people had websites. Mostly companies, maybe famous folks. For the average author, though, it was a reach. Fast forward to the cusp of 2012, and a website is no longer an optional luxury. It is an absolute necessity for doing business, particularly for a self-publishing author.

OK, so if this is basic stuff for you, feel free to skip ahead. You’ve read it here before: this should go without saying … but, after visiting a number of author sites lately, it occurs to me that some of these things very much need saying AGAIN.

Every successful website contains three discrete elements:

  1. Design
  2. Content
  3. SEO

DESIGN is the way the site looks. The colors. The fonts. The menus and buttons. The choice to utilize Flash, video, or other movable segments. It also incorporates functionality. How well is the visitor able to navigate the site, moving from page to page, or section to section? What is the overall feel, tone, and personality of the site? Is it elegant? Whimsical? Humorous? Thoughtful?

Remember, you are not your reader/Web visitor. When you are thinking about the design aspects of your site, consider your end users! Imagine you are your ideal reader, seeing your site for the first time. Does it invite you in? Make you want to look around and learn more? Or is it cluttered, busy, or schizophrenic?

CONTENT is the stuff that fills up your site: the words, images, videos, links, etc. YOU the website owner are responsible for creating the content for your site. This means that you must either take on a new/different writing role: copywriting. Or you must hire someone to do it for you. There are books, courses, videos, and every kind of tutorial you can imagine about copywriting for the Web, if it’s not your strong suit. Honestly, I think every author should have some skill in the copywriting arena. But there’s also a lot to be said for hiring a pro who can turn out magical copy for you almost effortlessly.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the behind-the-scenes work that allows your site to be found on the search engines. If someone types in your name, does your website come up first, or is it way down on page 2 or 3, after all the other sites that are selling your book(s)? Although a good Amazon ranking is important to many authors, it’s equally important that YOUR site be found on the first page of results, particularly in a search for YOUR name. SEO is the tool that will make that happen. There are many things you can do to improve and enhance your site’s SEO, but if technology confuses, confounds, or frustrates you, it’s probably in your best interest to bring in a consultant to help you.

The interesting thing about building a successful website is that each of these three essential components is often so separate from the others. Many Web designers understand the concept of SEO, but do not specialize in it. As the owner of the site, you really want to act as the quarterback, pulling all the pieces together to make sure they are all working in harmony. This is easier to manage if you are writing the copy and choosing the images. If you’ve hired someone else to handle that portion, it becomes even more essential to make sure the Web design complements the copy and helps the SEO, that the copy contains good key words to boost your search rankings, and that your SEO expert is using appropriate strategies and key words.

We’ll be exploring all of this at greater length in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you may want to take tour of your website, scanning for some of the significant flaws that could be hampering your sales success:

  • No email capture. If you don’t have a way to capture the names of your site visitors, you are missing out on an obvious and essential marketing opportunity.
  • Using a newsletter as giveaway. Newsletters are passé. How many are you subscribed to? And how many do you read? Find something interesting and creative to give away.
  • No author bio. This one is just inexcusable. Sure, people are visiting your site to learn more about your books, but as an author, you’re in a unique position because your product is so personal. YOU wrote the book, so people also want to know about you. Reward them for caring with a nice bio and picture.
  • Hard-to-find contact info. Don’t make the user hunt for your contact info, especially not the media! Make sure to include all your social media links.
  • Too busy; too many sections/frames/boxes. You don’t have to put everything on the front page. Easy-to-use navigation buttons that steer your users where you want them to go will serve you much better than a junky, cluttered home page.
  • No call to action. What do you want your visitors to DO next? They won’t do it if you don’t tell them.
  • No samples of your writing. Like your bio, this is simply a courtesy to your readers. You want them to buy your books, don’t you? Well, how will they know they want to buy your books if they can’t first sample your writing?
  • Nowhere to purchase. I am banging my head against a wall as I write this one. Even if you can’t or don’t want to handle fulfillment personally, you must include links on your site to the places where your readers CAN purchase your book.
  • Irrelevant links and content. Make sure every aspect of your site is geared toward building your relationship with your reader. If you’ve written a travel guide, by all means, include links to travel resources. If, however, your book is about knitting, dump the travel/recipe/theatre/cosmetics  links, unless they are somehow relevant to your knitting book.
  • No event calendar. If you are doing book signings and events, make it easy for your readers to find them.

Surely you’ve found yourself frustrated by a website at some point in time. Remember that, and guard against doing the same thing to your visitors. Managing a website is a big job, but an important one. Review your site regularly to make sure your visitors are having such an optimal experience that they will visit again, and more importantly, tell others about you and your site.

MARCIE

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Please contact us if you’d like help putting together your media kit, media releases, or book proposal. Free 30-minute consultation when you mention this post ($99 value).

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

__________________

PREVIOUS POSTS

Monday, Sept.26 Internet Radio: Are interview opportunities just waiting for YOU?

Thursday, Sept. 22 Rehearse your BOOK PITCH until it rolls off your tongue fluidly

Monday, Sept. 19 Want to be attractive to the media? Include a MEDIA ROOM on your website!

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What can the entrance to Target teach you about marketing?

I was at a Target department store  last night when I saw two women try to enter through the “Out” door. They stood in front of the automatic sliding doors, seemingly a bit perplexed as to why they wouldn’t open. The magic occurred as I triggered the door mechanism when I approached the exit. For a moment, I thought, “Duh it says ‘OUT’ right there!” But I quickly recalled that I’ve done exactly the same thing on more than one occasion, because for some inexplicable reason, Target’s doors are backwards! The entrance is on the left, and the exit is on the right.

In America, the cultural norm is that we walk on the right which extends to entering on the right, meaning that when there are distinct entrances and exits, the entrance is on the right as you face the building, and the exit is on the left. Why is this a big deal? Ask anyone who works in a kitchen the dangers of entering through the wrong door. As a culture, we’re just conditioned to this, so we expect it always to work this way. When it doesn’t as at Target we can be thrown off balance.

Now I’ll admit I didn’t spend a lot of time researching it, but I did try, and was unable to find any mention in Target’s literature or any articles/sites about the retail chain as to why they’ve chosen to make their doors completely counter to America’s cultural norm. The thing is, it’s noticeably different. And that, in and of itself, is worth mentioning, because there’s a lesson in it for your book marketing strategy.

There’s no doubt that every author wants to make a splash and stand out from the crowd. We’ve talked about this before. The absolutely best way to do this is by making a stellar product in your case, write a great book. But there’s more to the book than just the writing. There’s also the cover design to consider. Your website. Your overall brand. Of those last three, where should you work to differentiate yourself? Not necessarily in the cover, and only with care and caution in the website. Here’s what I mean.

Say you go to the bookstore or peruse Amazon for other books on your topic. You find out that almost all of the current books have white covers, so you decide to stand out by making your cover red. Will it work to get you noticed? Perhaps but maybe not in the way you want it to. Your red book cover may catch people’s eye … but then, either consciously or unconsciously, they could very likely find themselves wondering, “Why is that one so different?” and pass it up completely to compare two or three of the more typical white-covered books. This is not a given, but it’s something to consider. When all the books have a similar look and feel to them, if you do something that is radically different but is not exceptional, that difference could work against you.

Likewise for your website. Over the years, we’ve come to expect website menus to run along the left-hand side or across the top. Market research also shows that the capture box for building your e-mail list works best when positioned in the upper right-hand corner of your website. Say you want your site to have  a different look from the rest; moving these key features is not the place to make those changes. When a user is accustomed to doing things one way and you overtly shift that, the end result is often disorientation and in the case of a Web visitor, that quickly translates to a click to the next site.

The same is true for your media releases. Yes, we’ve discussed the fact that reporters and prominent bloggers receive dozens perhaps hundreds of media releases in a week. Of course you want yours to stand out. But the fact is that there’s an accepted template for media releases, and if you go off the path and vary yours too widely from what people expect, the result could be that your release gets tossed, rather than generating interest, and perhaps a story.

Think about it. You’re a busy reporter and you know a news release typically has a headline, a dateline, a first sentence hook that captures the essence of the pitch, and a quote about the proposed story. But in your release, you start with your bio because you feel that’s the real selling point. Oops. Busy reporter has just tossed your release because things weren’t in the expected order, and they didn’t have time to go hunting through your release to find the pertinent information.

Are you seeing a trend here? Different alone isn’t going to cut it. If you want to make it different, it has to also be exceptional! It can’t simply be different and annoying, like the doors at Target.

How can you make your book cover exceptional? Really amazing art might do it. A different size or shape might do it. French flaps or a pop-up jacket might do it. But then again, you might just be spending a lot of money on gimmicks that don’t pay off.

With the help of the right Web designer someone who understands the art of attraction, the science of technology, and the business of search marketing there are myriad ways to make your website stand out.

As far as making your news release stand out, you’d be better off trying to phone the reporter to pitch the story before you send it than to try to get creative with the release itself.

I absolutely encourage you to push the limits of creativity in your marketing strategy, but to do so in the places that pay off. I’m as big a rebel as you’ll find in many arenas, but sometimes it turns out that the path that’s been paved is there for a reason.

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Two things you can do next: (1) Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page and “LIKE” it if you like it. (2) Visit Laura’s other blog.

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October is around the corner do you have your PR calendar ready to go?

Sunday was National Comic Book Day. Whether you realize it or not, just about every day of the year has a unique celebration, commemoration, or recognition attached to it. Same with weeks and months. In October alone, there are dozens of “month” declarations things like the following, among many others:

  • Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month
  • Antidepressant Death Awareness Month
  • Bake and Decorate Month, Natl
  • Celiac Disease Awareness Month
  • Chili Month, Natl
  • Crime Prevention Month, Natl
  • Domestic Violence Awareness Month
  • Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Natl
  • Dyslexia Awareness Month
  • Eat Better, Eat Together Month
  • Emotional Intelligence Awareness Month
  • Family Sexuality Education Month, Natl
  • Financial Planning Month
  • Gay and Lesbian History Month
  • Liver Awareness Month, Natl
  • Menopause Month, World
  • Month of Freethought
  • Organize Your Medical Information Month
  • Photographer Appreciation Month
  • Physical Therapy Month, Natl
  • Positive Attitude Month
  • Protect Your Hearing Month, Natl
  • Reading Group Month, Natl
  • Right-Brainers Rule Month
  • Roller Skating Month, Natl
  • Self-Promotion Month
  • Stamp Collecting Month, Natl
  • Vegetarian Month
  • Workplace Politics Awareness Month

For a complete list, visit the Chase Annual Events site.

If you don’t have your October PR calendar ready to go, what are you waiting for?! How will you use these day, week, and month declarations to promote your book? How creative do you want to be?

  • Write a media release tying your book to the declared month/week/day.
  • Hold a contest about the declared month/week/day.
  • Write a blog post about the declared month/week/day.
  • Find activities in your area related to the declared month/week/day, and show up!
  • Give a speech/presentation tying your book to the declared month/week/day.

I could go on, but I won’t. You’re an SBM* by now, so surely you’ve got some ideas of your own!

Here’s the deal. Come back and describe in the comment section for THIS  post how you used an October month/week/day declaration to help promote your book, and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Chase’s Calendar of Events 2012 print edition.

Laura

*Savvy Book Marketer

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Two things you can do next: (1) Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page and “LIKE” it if you like it. (2) Visit Laura’s other blog.

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Internet Radio: Are interview opportunities just waiting for YOU?

(Click twice SLOWLY – not a double-click – to enlarge the image.)

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While a media kit is an important tool for promoting your book and securing media appearances, don’t overlook the smaller opportunities that surround you. One great, inexpensive way to promote your book is by finding Internet radio shows that are thirsty for quality guests.

These generally aren’t elaborate, expensive productions it may be a guy in his home office with a makeshift studio, hosting guests via Skype or telephone. Nevertheless, some of these shows get great traction. And, more importantly, many of them are tailored to incredibly SPECIFIC audiences … perhaps the very same audience as the one you’re seeking for your book. As they are often one-“man”-shops, these small radio hosts may not have the time or interest to slog through a full media kit. In this instance, a well-worded e-mail may be a better idea.

Make sure the subject line is clear and direct, and that your succinct message contains your pitch. Your goal is for them to call you back and book you for their show at the next available opening.

Obvious caveat: If someone ASKS your for your media kit, send the  media kit. Always have your media kit updated and ready to send at a moment’s notice!

You may want to look into the following Internet radio providers with large catalogues of shows:

http://blogtalkradio.com

http://voiceamerica.com

http://wsradio.com

http://alltalkradio.net

Happy pitching!

MARCIE

__________________

Please contact us if you’d like help putting together your media kit, media releases, or book proposal. Free 30-minute consultation when you mention this post ($99 value).

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

__________________

PREVIOUS POSTS

Thursday, Sept. 22 Rehearse your BOOK PITCH until it rolls off your tongue fluidly

Monday, Sept. 19 Want to be attractive to the media? Include a MEDIA ROOM on your website!

Thursday, September 15 – 10 creative alternate uses for media releases

Monday, September 12 – Get your MEDIA RELEASE to the right person in a timely fashion for a better chance of response

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Bam! Zowie! Kerplowie! Boing. Krash! Sprong … September 25th is National Comic Book Day

an annual holiday dedicated to the millions of comic book lovers across America.

Having just stepped into this comics/cartoon world a few short months ago, this is really my first celebration of National Comic Book Day. The cool thing about comics is that there’s pretty much something for everyone, from traditional superheroes to alternative/esoteric, sci-fi, fantasy, action/adventure, horror, humor, children’s, romance,  and adult. In my opinion, one of the best things about them is the colorful images that immediately draw you in.

I learned to read earlier than I probably otherwise would have because of the Sunday comics. I loved all the different stories and styles of drawing, but was frustrated because I wanted to understand the accompanying words without my dad having to read them to me. I insisted that he teach me so I could do it on my own. Comics are a great way to introduce kids of all ages to reading!

According to Jace Shoemaker-Galloway at Examiner.com:

While the origins of this national holiday are unknown, comic books provide an imaginary journey with amazing characters.   Whether you love vile villains, out-of-this world aliens, incredible creatures or crusaders in spandex, comic books are just plain fun and have been around for decades. It is believed Superman was the first superhero to enter the comic book scene back in 1938.

Whatever your interest in comic books, I wish you a wonderful National Comic Book Day!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Two things you can do next: (1) Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page and “LIKE” it if you like it. (2) Visit Laura’s other blog.

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Phoenix Book Consultant Issues 5 Contests to Spur Interest in Banned Books Week 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:   Judy Corkett
(602) 518-5376 or Judy@WriteMarketDesign.com

MEDIA RELEASE

Phoenix, Ariz., 22 September 2011 Remember those book reports from grade school? They’re finally going to come in handy, as the first of 5 contests sponsored by Write | Market | Design to commemorate Banned Books Week 2011 (Sept. 24-Oct. 1) is the review of a book by an author who was recently banned/challenged in the U.S.

“Every year I see the articles about Banned Books Week and shake my head at some of the reasons given in defense of censorship. This year, I decided to do something about it!” says book consultant and Write | Market | Design founder, Laura Orsini. “I was taken with the concept of the word FREADOM on one of the Banned Books Week websites, and thought contests would be a good way to raise awareness that we still ban – and BURN – books in the United States of America in the 21st century,” Orsini continues.

The 5 contests will start each consecutive day, Monday through Friday, of Banned Books Week. They include:

  • Contest #1: Write a review of your favorite book by an author from a list of banned authors.
  • Contest #2: Make a picture, poster, or other graphic representation of a book by an author from a list of banned authors.
  • Contest #3: Create a short video of yourself doing a mock interview with any author from a list of banned authors. Ask them to respond to the news that their book has been banned.
  • Contest #4: Have someone take a photo of you reading a book by an author from a list of banned authors in a public location while you hold a sign that says, “A book by this author was banned in __[year]__.
  • Contest #5: In 500 words or less, explain what “FREADOM” means to you, and why you oppose censorship.

Full rules and instructions for participating in these contests can be found at BannedBooksWeekContest.com. All winning entries will be posted on the site. Winners of the daily contests will receive an attractive t-shirt; the Grand Prize winner, chosen from the 5 daily winners, will receive a $25 Amazon.com gift certificate.

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Two things you can do next: (1) Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page and “LIKE” it if you like it. (2) Visit Laura’s other blog.

Read Full Post »

Rehearse your BOOK PITCH until it rolls off your tongue fluidly.

(Click twice SLOWLY – not a double-click – to enlarge the image.)

_____________________________________

“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” That’s the tagline used by one of my friends who is a very talented résumé writer. As true as that is for any job seeker, it also is true for an author making a pitch to a publishing VIP.

Which author doesn’t dream of having the opportunity for some one-on-one time with an acquisitions editor or prestigious literary agent?

QUESTION: Are you really ready for that opportunity when it comes your way?

The thing is, you can’t manufacture these opportunities. You can put yourself in places/positions where they are more likely to happen (book fairs, writers’ workshops, publishing conferences) so that you can increase your odds, but such a meeting is more likely to be a case of serendipity or happenstance. So … in that instant when you realize you’ve got this person’s undivided attention, how will you use your time?

Laura wrote recently about being able to refer to yourself as an author. This is taking things a bit further, now isn’t it? This is not only saying you’re an author, but offering an interesting description about the book you’ve written. “I’m the author of a book about whale watching for disabled people” or “I wrote a book about my experience caregiving for my mother who was misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s.”

Are you practiced at this?

  • Can you, in just one or two sentences, explain your book’s hook and how it is both similar to and different from every other book on that subject?
  • Can you do it coherently?
  • Can you do it while clearly enunciating and remembering to breathe?
  • Can you do it without rushing through your pitch like an auctioneer?

If you answered no to any or all of these questions, it’s time start rehearsing!

First, write out your pitch. Secondly, memorize it. Next, practice repeating the memorized lines. Then, add flavor and personality to it so that it doesn’t sound exactly like a canned speech you’ve been rehearsing a thousand times.

It might be easier to practice by yourself until you’ve got the main gist down – and then enlist the help of a friend or friends to do some role-playing. They’ll be the agent or publisher – you’ll be the excited author who wants to share a word or two about your book. As silly as this may sound, it works. Think about all those attorneys who cut their teeth in moot court. Law schools wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work. There’s even a Moot Court Association that holds contests in this rehearsal mode!

Don’t shortchange yourself on this important step in your book marketing process. Even if you never get to pitch your book to the professional of your dreams, you’ll still be able to speak intelligently about it to the man in line at the Post Office or the clerk at the drug store. And you never know who people know…

Happy rehearsing!

MARCIE

__________________

Please contact us if you’d like help putting together your media kit, media releases, or book proposal. Free 30-minute consultation when you mention this post ($99 value).

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

__________________

PREVIOUS POSTS

Monday, Sept. 19 Want to be attractive to the media? Include a MEDIA ROOM on your website!

Thursday, September 15 – 10 creative alternate uses for media releases

Monday, September 12 – Get your MEDIA RELEASE to the right person in a timely fashion for a better chance of response

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