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  • Why EVERY Writer Needs an Author Website

    Posted on November 28th, 2012 jean 2 comments

    Definition of Digital SharecroppingI’m lucky in that my dad purchased JeanOram.com for me somewhere around a decade ago and hosts the site for me (he’s into web stuff). However, there is MUCH more than just convenience and happenstance when it comes to writers and authors needing their own author website. (Even for those who aren’t published yet or even soon-to-be published–having your own ‘home’ on the net is very important.)

    I know it is an expense, and in some ways terrifying. BUT if you are making connections with other people in the cyber world and want a place where agents, editors, readers, and other folks to find you it NEEDS to be your own website–or in other words: something YOU control. (I’ll dig into exactly why in a moment.)

    And we won’t even dive into how you need to begin building an audience and developing that precious trust and awareness in your own personal writing brand before you have a product (books!) to sell and that a website is the place to do so.

    But really, the big take-away in this post is this: An author website is important because it is that somewhere you can direct your time and energy and still have it be there next week. It is your home, not just the latest cool coffee shop (social media website or free blogging site) where you hang out but could close without warning–and taking all the poetry you pinned to the walls.

    I’ve felt strongly about writers and authors needing to be careful about what content they place on sites they don’t control as well as how much of their audience is solely connected to their social media account–don’t get me wrong, they are good, but you need to make sure you always direct your audience back to your website.

    Why?

    Three Big Reasons You Need to Direct Your Audience Back to Your Website

    1. Your website will always be there. (Hopefully.) People move on from different social media sites. Also think Fail Whale (Twitter crashes) on a larger scale.

    2. You can sell products from your website–i.e. books. People don’t buy your book based on your tweets about it. You can show more about your books on your website and why it will give your audience something they need. You can also engage in ‘permission marketing’ also known as a newsletter or email list from your website.

    3. You can connect on a deeper level on your website. I might be able to give you soundbites on Twitter, but the ‘real’ content is always a link to a website or blog, isn’t it?

    Why Building Your Online Connections Solely on Free Sites Isn’t In Your Best Interests

    1. You can’t always do whatever you want, your way. That is, without getting in trouble. For example, you can hold any kind of contest on your website. (Although local laws might come into play if it is a ‘sweepstakes’ or something along those lines.) But if you are on a site like Facebook and decide to hold a contest or use Facebook to promote a contest being held elsewhere you are subject to some very stringent rules. What happens if you break them unwittingly or not? Facebook takes down your account without warning. Period. All gone. Hello, good-bye audience. I hope they know where else to find you–like your website.

    2. When you post content (poetry, photos, videos, or written what-nots) on the majority of social media sites you don’t OWN your content. Okay, you do. But so do they. A lot of social media sites, if you read the fine print, mention that they have the right to use your content as shared on their site–or even in modified form–(no matter what) in their own publicity WITHOUT compensation or credit to you. Who cares if you are a photographer or a writer sharing your first chapter on a site like Facebook? They can do whatever they want with it.

    3. I know this might come as a surprise, but not everyone who might be interested in your writing is engaged in social media. There are people out there without Facebook or Twitter or Google+ accounts. However, most people have access to an Internet connection. That means they can come to your website and blog and communicate and interact with you. Not so if you use social media for all your audience building and connecting.

    Social media is good for expanding your audience, websites are great for keeping it. <–tweet it

    4. Free websites and services can suddenly disappear. Overnight. What happens if one of those free sites breaks the law and the site is ‘seized?’ Then what? Or what if MySpace suddenly is dropped for Facebook? Like that’s going to happen. Oh, wait… And then Facebook is dropped for some other big new thing?

    5. The free websites and social media services you are using to gain followers could suddenly change the rules or the way you are allowed to interact and engage with your audience. For example, a lot of Mom Bloggers are moaning that their ‘likers’ can no longer see their page’s updates in their feeds unless they click a certain button. A button their audience probably doesn’t know about–but how do they let them know to click it? Exactly.

    6. It can be difficult to analyze your traffic on a ‘deeper’ level on some other sites compared to your own website.

    7. When people do a search for you online… what do you think they are looking for? Your website (homebase where they can learn more about you on a deeper level and gain an accurate impression of you) or your social media profiles?

     

    Google search. First page results. Top hits are jeanoram.com

    A quick Google search of “Jean Oram.” First page results and a screenshot of the top hits–top two are from jeanoram.com.

     

    The Benefits to Having Your Own Author Website:

    1. As mentioned earlier–selling. You can craft your calls to action (specific requests like: buy my book now [LINK]).

    2. You can create landing pages. These are special pages on your site that you direct people to so they don’t have to surf around, get lost, and leave when you are trying to direct them to something specific. Such as a page where you can buy your books or download a sample of your work, or subscribe to your mailing list (permission marketing which is KEY to connecting with your audience and making sure they know when you have a new release), or even to your contest or media page.

    3. You control everything about your site from its look to the content. Even the arrangement of what you want to draw your audience’s eye to as well as how you choose to interact.

    4. Brand Management. You can also control the impression you make. Everything from style, to content.

    5. There is a certain legitimacy to having your own site and a well-made site can also lend authority.

    6. People know where to find you. Always.

    7. Branding. Because on your own website you can control the look, the brand, the interactions, you can also control the impression you make as well as your brand development. Not as much on social media sites where others can comment, weigh in, and friend or follow you.

    If you want to read more about the importance of building a ‘home’ online and why social media may fail you, I highly recommend this article from CopyBlogger: Read their article on digital sharecropping here. (Sharecropping being–you, the user as the ‘farmer’ and not ‘owning’ the land you are working (social media sites, for example), and also not gaining the profits. Plus, you could be ousted!)

    If you don’t ‘own land’ online (i.e. your own website) I urge you to start shopping around if you are actively building an audience or will soon have a product to sell (ex.–the next month). Building a great website can take months and you want to make sure you start sending your audience to a great place before you find yourself in a crunch situation.

    Do you have a website or blog? Share the URL in the comment section or your thoughts on this topic. I love hearing from you.

    P.S. Want to tell others and happen to be a Twitter user? Click here to tweet this –> Why you need an author website. It might be for reasons you don’t expect.

  • Effectiveness and Distraction: The “Shoulds” of Writing

    Posted on April 9th, 2012 jean 2 comments

    Damn all those “Shoulds.”

    You know the ones. All those new fangled, fabulous must-have tools that everyone is touting and claiming will instantly make you “better” at this, that, and the other thing.

    Sure, you “should” try Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Klout, Blogging, Goodreads, etc. I mean, if you aren’t on those how on earth are you going to sell your books when you get published?

    Did I just give you a case of heart palpitations with that last paragraph?

    Good.

    Now stop.

    Breathe.

    Think about it. There are a lot of tools us writers “should” use to reach and build our audience. Right? But really, can we do it all? No.

    Effectiveness.

    If we spread ourselves too thin it distracts us from what we should really be doing–writing. How are we going to improve our craft if we aren’t actually engaging in it?

    We need to follow our passion and joy–the very thing we hope will bring home the bacon. It’s that passion and joy for our work that engages our readers. If we aren’t pursuing that… then we are doing a disservice to both ourselves and to our audience.

    It’s a fact of life that we can’t be effective at everything. There simply isn’t enough time and energy. If Facebook is really working for you, then why force Twitter into your toolbox? Especially if you can’t make it work in an effective way for you. Every tool has it’s own job. If you need a screwdriver and never a hammer, then quite trying to use the hammer on your screws. It isn’t effective and simply distracts you from getting the real work done.

    Being Busy Doesn't Equal Being Effective

    Being busy doesn’t equal being effective.

    Personally, I’m still figuring out what is effective for me in terms of building a platform for It’s All Kid’s Play. But one thing I’m going to do is finish the research books I have on the go and get the new website revamping done and keep moving forward! Then I can sort through what is distracting me, thinning my time, and reducing my effectiveness.

    Tell me, what tools are distracting you? What “shoulds” are weighing heavy on you?

  • Goodreads for Authors

    Posted on March 27th, 2012 jean 4 comments

    Over a week ago week a bunch of us had an informal chat on AgentQueryConnect about the social reading site, Goodreads, and what it can do for authors.

    Earlier in that week I had read a piece claiming that most readers find the books they read on Goodreads and not on Twitter or Facebook. Granted, this information was accumulated over on Goodreads so those results may be a little skewed. Either way, it shows something I’ve wondered about for some time. Twitter and Facebook are great ways to connect with your audience on a different level as well as network with other industry experts. But showing off your book? Not so much. It’s hard to market your book in 140 characters or less without being so obvious that it lacks intrigue and turns people off. Still, it is another place to create a touch point (more on that later).

    Where Readers Find Books Bar Graph via Goodreads

    Source: Goodreads

    In the chat we also talked about things such as lists. Lists on Goodreads are big. Lists of YA books coming out in 2013, Best Summer Reads, or what-not. Getting on one of those lists can be huge in terms of getting your book in front of your audience. You, however, should not put yourself on a list as that just looks bad–and people can see who put a book on a list. Asking someone else to add your book to a list–providing they are comfortable with it–is perfectly fine.

    Giveaways! There are tons of giveaways going on all over Goodreads. Often there will be literally hundreds of people asking for a handful of copies. Why? Because it is so easy! You just click and you are entered to win. Authors, ask yourself… for the price of a couple of copies, how many people are being exposed to your title? (Rumour is that a person must see/hear/read about your title up to 7 times before they pick it up!! Every touch point counts!)

    Connect with your competition’s audience. Find them. Woo them. But don’t be a you-know-what about it. Learn what they like to read. Use that information in your marketing.

    The author’s dashboard. When you become a Goodreads “author” instead of average joe, suddenly you get a fancy dashboard in your account. People can become fans, you can see all reviews for your books, see what lists your books are on, and much more. It sounds pretty cool.

    Speaking of reviews, it came up in the chat that reviewers on Goodreads can be downright mean. And a few authors have gotten slammed. We’re not just talking 1 star which means “did not like it.” (Get over it, your book isn’t going to be for everyone! And sometimes 1 star reviews can entice people to read your book and see if they are right.) But we’re talking nasty-a$$ed comments that get personal. And a few authors have responded. Not good. If you are a Goodreads author, don’t read your reviews.

    As an author, be very, very careful about your own book reviews and what you say about other writers. You can come off looking very, very bad. Ungracious… poor sport. You get the picture. Some authors create a separate, private account for their reviews, or they simply leave the stars rating off, or only review books they feel passionate about–in a good way.

    Seeing a book on a friend’s shelf on Goodreads is one of the biggest ways readers find new books to read. Think of it this way, are you more likely to read a book you randomly see in the bookstore or one you see a friend reading? Most likely, you are going to be more intrigued by the book your friend is reading. And so it goes with seeing books on your friend’s Goodreads bookshelf. (When people you have friended add a book on Goodreads you get an email update as well as see it in a ‘stream’ on Goodreads.) As an author, get people to add your book to their ‘to be read’ shelves if you can, and people with friends in the publishing world–add their books to your shelves to support them.

    Want to find out more? Check out this must-read Goodreads blog post.

    How about you? Do you use Goodreads? How about LibraryThing or others? What are your thoughts on authors and review sites? Good, bad, ugly?

  • 45 Twitter Tips: Part 2

    Posted on March 22nd, 2012 jean 9 comments

    Yesterday I posted part 1 of this post: 18 tips all Twitter users can use which also included some print resources. Today’s tips (the last 28 of 46 Twitter Tips–Darke Conteur reminded me of one in yesterday’s comments) are ones even those most experienced Twitter user may find helpful.

    There is a large learning curve on Twitter, so don’t fret if you’ve made a few errors or disagree with some of my tips–talk to me!

    27 28 of 45 46 Twitter Tips for Twitter Users:

    RTs (RETWEETS):

    1. Always credit a RT (retweet). If there are a long list of retweeters and you have to cull some out, try to leave the original tweeter and the most recent tweeter in the tweet. (One of the reasons it is important to have a short handle as per tip #1.)
    2. Save room in your best tweets for RT info. Make it easy for others to RT you.
    3. Thank an RTer. If someone retweets you, try and say thanks.
    4. Thank a follower. Some folks like to do this. I’m on the fence. It takes a lot of time, and I’m not sure it is worth it. Some are able to make great connections this way. However… do you send them a direct message to say thanks and risk it looking like an autoDM or do you clutter up your tweet stream with @messages to people thanking them for following?
    5. Don’t RT compliments. Let others do your best and most meaningful self-promotion. Retweeting compliments about yourself can look a bit self-congratulatory and braggy. Would you go up to an acquaintance and say, “Betsy thinks I’ve written a great book.” Probably not. But would you let that acquaintance overhear on conversation with Betsy where she is complimenting you? You betcha!

      For example: @Betsy tweets: @You. I just gave your book XYZ 5 stars!

      Reply: @Betsy Thanks for the 5 stars. I’m glad you enjoyed XYZ! You made my day. (Everyone likes to make someone’s day!)

      Or add: Are you on my email list? I’ll pop you a note when book 2 comes out if you’re interested. Link. (That link is for them to follow to your list.) As Chris Brogan says, “Don’t always be selling, but always have something to sell.”

      Note: If people are intrigued they will check out the whole conversation. It says more to them if someone else says something good about you than if you do.

      PROMOTION:

    6. Promote your blog. Seriously. New post? Tweet it. Once. Maybe twice. And make sure it is spread out by other tweets. Check your blog stats to see how many clicks come from Twitter. Tweak it if you need to. And make the blog tweet sound interesting.
    7. Promotional tweets should be rare. Remember–networking. Some say 25% or less of your tweets should be about you. That includes everything from coupons to blog posts to book selling. Twitter is notall about you.Oops! Did I Just Tweet That?BRANDING:
    8. TMI. Too much information. I have unfollowed literary agents because they tweeted incessantly about what they are eating, what their children are doing, what they are wearing, what they are doing that instant. Remember why you are on Twitter.
    9. Always remember your brand. If something does not match your brand–don’t tweet it.
    10. Do be human. Some personal info makes you real and interesting. Find the balance.
    11. When tweeting as a group, save room to put your name at the end of the tweet–people like knowing there is a real person behind the tweets. Also, if they are having a conversation with one person they might get confused if suddenly someone else is tweeting or the tone changes.
    12. The internet is forever. Even tweets. They get favourited and RTed. Be careful what you say. Think Twice, Tweet Once.
    13. You can delete tweets. But note that once it has been RTed, it is in someone else’s stream and will live on.FOLLOWERS:
    14. Mine followers. Find a leader (for example @agentquery) in your field and see who they are following. See who is following them. Follow those folks. This is your audience too. Your market.
    15. Share your followers/Tweepeople with others. The hashtags #WW (Writer Wednesday) and #FF (Follower Friday) are two popular ones. The idea is that you use this hashtag and list folks using their handle (@jeanoram for example) to share people you think others may be interested in following. Unfortunately it is often a big list that gets ignored–except by those listed. If you want to use these hashtags effectively, consider mentioning why people should follow. For example: #WW These great folks just released books I think are 5 stars: @bigwriter @bestseller @wonderbook. (Thanks, @Darke_Conteur–I forgot about #WW and #FF!)
    16. Join chats. This is a great way to learn more about your industry, network, gain followers, and find folks to follow. Even if all you do is thank the moderator at the end of the chat. (Make sure you use the chat’s hashtag–they all have their own.)
    17. Don’t auto follow. It’s lame and you end up with a stream of spammers and folks you might not really care about clogging up your twitter stream.
    18. Report Spam. Make Twitter better for all of us. It’s easier now than it was a year ago. Just a click.
    19. Don’t worry about the unfollowers. It happens. Do not contact them.
    20. 5-7 tweets per day equals more followers.KEEPING TRACK:
    21. Use a program to help you keep track of things (like @mentions, DMs, RTs, lists, etc.) if the Twitter website is allowing things to speed by you too quickly. HootSuite and TweetDeck are two popular ones.
    22. Use lists to keep track of those you are most interested in or don’t want to miss. For example, in HootSuite I have a stream/list of my AgentQueryConnect buddies so they have their own stream so I don’t lose them in the couple hundred others I am following. You can also make lists on the Twitter website–I just like things all laid out.
    23. Listen. Create a search stream (again in HootSuite or TweetDeck) using a hashtag or keyword you often use or applies to your area. For example #amwriting is one I’ve made for @jeanoram. “Parenting” is one I’ve made for @KidsPlay. Watch that stream. See what others are tweeting. Reply. Answer questions–be helpful! Connect. Follow. Retweet. It’s a great way to stay on top of things. Note: You can also create and save searches on the Twitter website.LAST TIPS:
    24. Help others. Answer questions. People like that.
    25. Tweet multimedia. Pictures. People like pictures. Videos too.
    26. Check out Klout.com. While this analyzing site isn’t perfect, it does keep stats such as the number of retweets you’ve had in the past 90 days, how big your network is, etc. It’s handy for checking to see how you are doing and what your trends have been–what works, what doesn’t!
    27. If you want more, check out the plethora of Twitter related sites like hashtags.org, Bubble Tweet, TwitterCounter, TweepSearch, Friend or Follow.
    28. Be professional. Be human. Be real. Have fun.

    So what do you think? Have I missed any good tips? Do you disagree with some of the tips I’ve listed?

    I tweet writing related stuff at @jeanoram–follow me! I won’t auto-DM you! 😉 I also tweet parenting related stuff at @KidsPlay–follow me!

     

  • 45 Twitter Tips: Part 1

    Posted on March 21st, 2012 jean 4 comments

    Do you use Twitter effectively? Or are you ticking people off or not optimizing what you are doing on Twitter without even knowing it? Here are some Twitter tips that will help you get the best out of your time spent on Twitter.

    Here’s how this post came about: Writer Kela McClelland asked me to share 15 things about myself on my blog when she presented me with the Versatile Blogger Award the other day. For some reason, I thought I had to share 15–it was only 7. And since I’ve been studying Twitter a lot lately, I decided to share what I’ve been learning and applying about Twitter in hopes that these things can help out other writers hone their social media approach. So really, it isn’t about me so much as it’s about what going around in my brain right now. Use my brain to your advantage!

    Well, I ended up with 45. Since this was a lot, I’ve broken it in half. Today I will cover some basics (even experienced Twitter users have been known to make these errors) and tomorrow I will cover more in-depth tips for the more experienced Tweeter.

    Enjoy!

    15 18 Twitter Tips and Tricks All Twitter Users Should Know:

    PROFILES:

    1. Pick a short handle if you can. @MegaWriterDenver is too long. Try to use your real name/pen name so when people search for you they can find you. Note that your handle and your real name don’t have to be the same. For example: @KidsPlay is one of my tweet handles, but it also says “Jean Oram” so people know who I am.
    2. Use a picture of yourself as your avatar if you are comfortable doing so. People like seeing who they are dealing with. They don’t want your blog logo or your dog. They want a human. Remember: it is easier to connect with a person if you can see them, and in turn, it is also easier to trust them.
    3. If your avatar image isn’t something you have personally created, make sure it doesn’t fall under copyright. This is especially important as you grow from aspiring writer to published writer. And if you are using a professionally taken photo of yourself–make sure you have the rights to use it as you wish!!
    4. Use the same avatar as you do elsewhere online. It helps people find you and recognize you. That’s branding at its easiest, folks!
    5. Individualize your profile blurb. Yes, it is only 160 characters, but make it you. How many of these have you seen?: I’m a fantasy writer and my book XYZ is coming out Summer 2012.Seriously. You are a writer. That’s all you’ve got?

      NETWORK IT BABY:

    6. Add a link in your profile to other forms of media whether it be your website, blog, Facebook, or Pinterest page. Make it easy for them to find you elsewhere. Twitter is about Networking.
    7. Add the social media Twitter icon on your blog so people can find you (and follow you) on Twitter.
    8. Add a tweet it button so people who like something (like this post) can easily tweet it to their followers.
    9. Don’t add a Twitter stream gadget to your website. If you haven’t tweeted in awhile it looks bad to have the same content there. If you are tweeting a conversation with a friend it is now on your website and may make you look like you are cliquey. Basically, it can give the wrong impression. Generally, it actually deters people from finding you and following you. The mystery just isn’t there any longer.
    10. Change your background. If you have the time, jump on a free background creation site like FreeTwitterDesigner.com and build a background that includes your branding images (like a logo) as well as more URLs. (Example.) While I’m not completely dazzled with FreeTwitterDesigners quality, it worked out better than me trying to build my own. If you know of a good background designer site, please share it in the comments.

      AUDIENCE:

    11. Network. They say Twitter is best for networking, not selling books. If you want to sell books–get your book on people’s shelves on Goodreads. (More on Goodreads later in the week.) Use Twitter as a place to network, connect with readers, and yes, share your book title. But don’t delude yourself into thinking a bulk of your sales will come from tweeting. Use Twitter to drive traffic to places where you can sit and sell–like your website. Use Twitter to connect with your audience.
    12. Find out when your audience is on Twitter. Are they weekend users? Schedule some tweets for that time of day if you can’t be online. (Free Twitter programs like TweetDeck, HootSuite, and SocialOomph are great for this.)

      TIMING:

    13. Busiest Twitter days are early in the week and generally crest around midday and early afternoon (Eastern timezone). This is when you will find the most folks on Twitter, but also when you are most likely to get lost in the noise.
    14. Use your smart phone. You can tweet on the go–especially important if your audience is most active when you are least likely to be near your computer. There are great apps for iPhones and Android. Since I have two Twitter accounts, I use two different apps on my Android and leave them both signed in. This way I get notices for both accounts while I am out and about. I believe you can also use TweetDeck on your phone if you are a TD aficionado.
    15. If you know you aren’t going to be on Twitter for a few hours, don’t post a conversation starter before you log off. There’s nothing worse that someone asking a great conversation starter and then ignoring you when you reply.

      COURTESY:

    16. Always reply. If you put a conversational question out there and someone replies, acknowledge it. Even if it is a simple: Lol. It will go far with that person. Especially if you are ‘big.’
      As an experiment, I’ve been tweeting big companies to see if they reply. So far, they haven’t. I even replied to a social media expert who says it is essential to always reply. He did not reply back.
    17. Learn from others. What do you like–do it. What don’t you like–don’t do it.
    18. Don’t use auto-DMs. Auto direct messages are soooo see through. And there is nothing more annoying than having a twitter conversation with someone just before you follow them only to have an impersonal DM sent to you moments later that make it obvious that this is an auto message. It’s insulting and leaves a bad impression.

    If you are looking for some printed resources, check out these two books: Likeable Media by Dave Kerpen and Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day by Hollis Thomases. You can see my reviews by clicking on the links.

    How about you? Why do you tweet? What are your pet peeves? Things you love? Tweeple who have rocked your world?

    P.S. Be sure to come back tomorrow where I’ll share many, many more tips!

    I tweet writing related stuff at @jeanoram–follow me! I won’t auto-DM you! 😉 I also tweet parenting related stuff at @KidsPlay–follow me!