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Revision Notes: Writing Stronger
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1. Don’t Be Discouraged? Writers and the Creative Gap


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Vagabonds by Darcy Pattison

Vagabonds

by Darcy Pattison

Giveaway ends May 09, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

After the first draft, there’s are really two stories: there’s the one in your head (and it’s perfect) and the one you actually put on paper (and it’s not perfect). And they don’t match up. It’s OK. Don’t let this creativity gap give you writer’s block. Revision is the process of re-envisioning.!

THE GAP by Ira Glass from frohlocke on Vimeo.

If you can’t see this video, click here.

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2. Introverted: The Writer’s Power and Downfall


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Vagabonds by Darcy Pattison

Vagabonds

by Darcy Pattison

Giveaway ends May 09, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Do you love to go to your writing cave and spend hours? Do you hate marketing, which means getting out in front of people? Why is is so easy to be alone for hours at a time while working on a project and so hard to be out among the crowds?

You’re an introvert. Of course.

I’ve been reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Wow, I’m so there. Here’s a TedTalk she did on the subject.

(See the TED Talk transcript here.)

Our society encourages and rewards the extrovert in unique ways: leadership roles, better sales, more opportunities. Writers, on the other hand, are the people you overlook at a social gathering. And put a group of writers in the same room and it’s, well, quiet.

Cain says,

“. . . Extroverts are sociable because their brains are good at handling competing demands on their attention—which is just what dinner-party conversation involves. In contrast, introverts often feel repelled by social events that force them to attend to many people at once.”

In other words, as I tell my husband, I think slowly. It takes me a while to understand a joke, to catch an implied compliment or threat or insult.
While society rewards the extrovert, though, they need the introvert. We are the ones who think deeply about situations, who have insights into potential pitfalls (if they would only listen!), who can produce more verbiage than you ever wanted if you just leave us alone for a while.

I recently read a college entrance essay for a high school senior who bemoaned his social skills. Immediately, I told him to go and read this book because he needs to know that he is an introvert—and that’s a good thing. I’m telling my writer friends the same thing today: you’re an introvert, and that’s a good thing.

Strengths of Introverted Writers

Don’t rely on approval of others. Do you agonize over what someone thinks of your writing? Well, yes and no. While you’re writing that first draft, there’s only you to please. The only time we worry about others’ opinions is when it comes to publishing. Mostly, I work alone and I do what I like. I choose the projects; I choose the way I work with those projects; I decide what to send out. This is good. Writing shouldn’t be a committee affair, but the storytelling or insights of one person.

Able to spend large chunks of time with just yourself. Writing a novel or a long nonfiction project demands time, and that’s time spent largely alone. Even when my friend, Carla McClafferty goes to Mount Vernon for a week to research George Washington, that’s only a fraction other time spent on THE MANY FACES OF GEORGE WASHINGTON: REMAKING A PRESIDENTIAL ICON. Personally, I couldn’t write that book because it would require me to go to Mount Vernon and actually tell people that I plan to write a book about Washington. Carla can do that and then come home and spend the time alone needed to actually write the project. And she’s doing it all over again, as she researches a future book on Martha Washington.

Concentrate on a long, detailed project. Books have been called the archive of our culture. They include information that needs long-term storage, as opposed to a daily newspaper, which is just a short-term conversation about events. Books are long, detailed, intricate pieces of writing that take a large chunk of time. The details of such a project can be overwhelming: organization of information, drafting multiple times, proofreading, fact-checking, etc. Do you think an extravert could manage something that unwieldy? Maybe. But it’s a natural fit for the introvert.

Think long and hard about something. Is it any surprise that introverts often come up with innovative ideas,whether that’s an invention or a fresh, new way of storytelling? A story that takes a year or two to tell—that’s a lot of thought.

Weaknesses of Introverted Writers

Please yourself first, and others only secondarily. Sometimes introverts stumble onto something so odd and idiosyncratic that only they will like it. Being out of society’s main stream can mean that your writing won’t find a ready audience. No one will buy your book because you’re just so weird. (Just saying.)

Marketing is HARD. Yes, introverts CAN teach and some do well on stage—but every public event takes extra energy and produces greater stress. My introvert daughter teaches high school math, where she is literally on stage every hour of a school day. It’s not that we can’t do this; it’s that it takes its toll. When I have days and days of just teaching and marketing, I get cranky. I actually love to teach and talk to groups of people (not so great one-on-one). But I need to gear up and for a couple days after, I’m more depressed until I get my equilibrium back.

The hardest thing I do is stand up and say, “See my book.” Well, no. The hardest thing is, “Buy my book.”

I can teach, speak to crowds, entertain 1000 kids at a time. But holding up my book means holding up a piece of myself that I care about so much that I can’t stand the possible criticism. Oh, I do it. You have to just get over it and do it. But it’s never easy.

Hard to open up and discuss your ideas and emotions. Communication is hard, but it’s the business of writers. We communicate through our written words, where we can carefully control the emotional content of what we say. That’s important.

When I first met the woman who would be my future mother-in-law, I was overwhelmed. She was an extrovert, who never met a stranger. Furthermore, nothing in her life was secret and she told the whole world about anything and everything. To my great dismay. I am still a very private person (read: introvert) and had never had such a person in my personal sphere. I never got used to her open attitude, though I did learn to appreciate it.

I’m an introvert and a writer. My emotional struggles will come out eventually. When I’ve had a long time to think about what happened and what I felt about that event of my life. And only disguised as a novel. I am learning to be more open, to imbue story events with emotional power. But it’s hard.

But that’s the struggle of an introverted writer.

Do you feel me?

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3. Complicated Dialogue: Keeping 5 Characters in Line



Today, I’d like to answer a question from a reader.
Shena asks, “I’m writing a story and I have five people who are carrying on a conversation with each other. How do I go about stating each person’s line without constantly using, he said, he replied or using the person’s name to say this person said after the sentence without it being an overkill of redundancy?”

Thanks for the question! You’re right to be concerned about repeating speech tags too often. It’s really a balancing act: on one hand, you don’t want to repeat too often, but neither do you want the reader to get lost. You have limited options, however, and you’ll have to work hard to keep this conversation interesting.

Fiction Notes at darcypattison.com

Speech Tags

Speech tags are the “he said” and “she said” that often accompanies dialogue. Notice that when you use HE or SHE, they are pronouns and will refer to the person immediately preceding. That’s important. The pronoun antecedent must be the right person. In the case of five people talking, you’ll probably need to use the character’s name often.\

James said, “Get lost.”
Jim said, “No way?”
Jill said, “Why?”

In the example above, notice that the job is even harder when character’s names all start with the same letter. Make sure your novel is populated with characters who have unique names that stand in contrast to one another. Not Jill and Bill, because they rhyme. Not James, Jim and Jill because they all begin with the same letter and are all one syllable. Instead, choose something like this: James, Brianna, Marguerite, Ally, and Bob.

Actions in the Midst of Dialogue

Dialogue rarely stands alone, though. When you add actions to dialogue, it’s sometimes called beats. This isn’t the same as action beats in a scene, but instead just means the small actions that are interwoven with dialogue. Sometimes those are the same, but sometimes not.

Dialogue beats are the small actions. Scenes demand actions, not just interior thoughts. What are your characters doing? Changing a light bulb.

James took the light hub out of the package and said, “Get lost.”
Reaching in, Marguerite gently took the package from him and said, “No way.”
Ally stuck out her lip in a pout. “Why?”

Notice here that Ally has an action, but has no speech tag. Sometimes, you can just omit the speech tag, if a character does something right before or after the dialogue and it’s clear that it’s this character speaking.

This still sounds boring, though. Part of that is because we repeated the structure too exactly in the first two sentences. They have an “action and said,” structure, which doesn’t really work here. Vary the structure of your sentences, sometimes putting the dialogue first, last, or even in the middle of the action.

Bob shook his head in disgust.
James tore open the light bulb package and snarled, “Get lost.”
“No way.” Marguerite’s voice was soothing and gentle. She took the torn cardboard from James and patted his shoulder.
Ally stuck out her lip in a pout. “Why should I get lost?” She hesitated and added, “I don’t want to.”
Bob grunted, “Why? Isn’t it obvious?”
“James is just upset,” Brianna said, “But that doesn’t mean he should get his way.”

Notice the variety here.

  • There are some actions without dialogue.
  • Dialogue occurs at the end, the beginning or the middle of the dialogue.
  • After some dialogue, there’s a longer section of actions.
  • I’ve used two substitutes for “said”: snarled and grunted. I don’t like using very many substitutes. Many writers explain that “said” disappears and readers don’t notice it. If you use an alternate word, it should add something important to the story.

Character Tics and Tags

Finally, it’s possible to use character tics or tags to good effect. Perhaps, poor Ally stutters. And James has a high pitched voice.

Bob shook his head in disgust.
James tore open the light bulb package and whined in soprano, “Get lost.”
“No way.” Marguerite’s voice was soothing and gentle. She took the torn cardboard from James and patted his shoulder.
Ally stuck out her lip in a pout. “W-w-why should I get lost?”
“Especially you!” James squeaked.
“W-w-why?”
Bob threw up his hands. “Why? Isn’t it obvious?”
“James is just upset,” Brianna said to Ally, “But that doesn’t mean he should get his way.”

You can start to see how dialogue can be enliveded with actions, sentence variety and small characterizations. You can devise many more ways to distinguish one character from another and use those traits in creating interesting dialogue. Try varying the character’s typical word choices or dialect. Within a larger conversation, too, you might have one character addressing another, as in Brianna’s aside to Ally and Marguerite’s intimate moment with James.

What’s your favorite way to keep complicated dialogue straight, yet keep enough variety to be interesting?

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4. Scrivener: A Review of a Writer’s Software Program



In March, I took a fascinating class with Gwen Hernandez on working with the software program, Scrivener . Scrivener, available from Literature and Latte, is widely touted as a totally wonderful program for writing, and while I had owned it for a while, I knew I needed guidance in fully taking advantage of its many features. The class was great. Hernandez laid out daily information in chunks that were just right to absorb and work with. The homework was easy and helpful. I end the month with a growing level of comfort with using Scrivener—in fact, this post is written in Scrivener. Overall, though, I still have questions about how useful it is when compared to regular word processors.

WYSIWYG: What You See Is What You Get

Scrivener is not a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get — pronounced Wizziwig) word processor. I am old enough to remember how exciting it was to actually get a WYSIWYG word processor, to have the ability to SEE what your document would look like. In that respect, Scrivener is a throw-back to a time when typewriters were the only way to get your story on paper and then you left it to a printer to actually typeset a page. Let me quickly say, Scrivener is anything but a throwback in any other respect; it’s a complex program with many features.

But let’s discuss the WYSIWYG question. Do you want to SEE what your words will look like when typeset/printed as you create the story?

Creating in WYSIWYG. I’ve done it both ways. Joel Friedlander sells book design templates, which allow authors to design and layout a book in MSWord. There are many arguments for and against using MSWord for this and I don’t want to get into that. Instead, I want to focus on my experience of writing in an exact WYSIWYG environment. I had a novel almost done when I put it into a template and worked with that environment as I revised. I found it fascinating and enjoyable. I found that it did affect how I wrote: the voice, the wording, chapter length and more. The choice of typeface mattered. The layout on the page mattered. The story demanded a certain voice, which was strengthened by the layout and design. In fact, I loved it.

The Compose Window of Scrivener isolates the writing in its own screen and helps you focus.

The Compose Window of Scrivener isolates the writing in its own screen and helps you focus.

Creating in Non-WYSIWYG. On the other hand, I am typing this in Scrivener, and it’s definitely NOT WYSIWYG. The environment here is more focused on productivity. I’m writing in the Compose window, which shuts out every other window on my computer and helps me focus on the writing at hand. It tends to increase the flow. However, after you finish a draft, you must Scrivener’s Compile function to export into a printable format. In Gwen Hernandez’s book, Scrivener for Dummies, compiling takes 70 pages because of its complexity. For this blog post, it’s a simple copy and paste into my blogging software. For a novel, an ebook and other common formats, there are presets for compiling that make it simpler. But it’s not WYSIWYG; it’s an extra step to format. You must learn to become an old-fashioned printer and control all sorts of things: fonts, margins, headers, footers, page numbers, and so on. Or at least tweak the presets. Some say the beauty of Scrivener is that you can output the same writing into multiple formats. For some that will be an advantage; for others, it will be a shrug.

The relationship between layout and design and content isn’t straightforward. Maybe I’ll never decide between WYSIWYG or Non-WYSIWYG environments. Maybe it will be on a case-by-case basis. But if you are considering Scrivener as your word processor of choice, you must deal with the WYSIWYG problem. Which environment do you want to write in?

METADATA—STAYING ORGANIZED

One big advantage of Scrivener is the ability to track metadata, or data about the data. First, in the binder view, the hierarchical structure is always displayed. That’s not much different from a word processor that allows for an outline view. In Scrivener, however, each item is a separate file, and you can drag and drop these files to restructure. Nice—if you need that sort of thing. Of course, the question is this: do you need to restructure your writing often?

Second, you can mark any file (which can be a scene, a snippet of something like a description, or a full chapter—it’s up to you what goes in a file and how finely grained it is) by using one of three methods: labels, keywords, status.

Status. The default Status markings start with To Do and progresses to Finished. In other words, it marks your progress. But you can use status for anything you want. I liked using Status to indicate the setting of a fictional scene because the terms used here show up as watermarks in the cork board view. Making setting visual seemed a good use for metadata.

Labels, by default indicate Concepts or Chapters. You could expand that to terms like Idea, Rough Draft, and so on. Or you could switch and use Labels to indicate progress or some other story element. All the metadata can be customized.

Keywords have no default setting; the cool thing here is the ability to mark a folder with a colored tab. For example, if your keywords are characters, then in the cork board view you can see at-a-glance all the folders marked Orange for Villain. Of course—you must remember which color goes with which character to use this at-a-glance method. Otherwise, you must look up what color stands for what keyword. The more characters (or keywords) marked, the less useful and more confusing it becomes.

In other words, you have three major ways besides hierarchy to organize your writing. Some are color-coded, while others appear as watermarks in certain views. Some are more flexible and some are more comprehensive. One advantage is that you can search your project for files marked up in any way. For example, you can find all the “keyword: Villain POV” files and then print them separately for editing. You may want to search by status TO DO and keep that view up until all files have been worked on.

Flexible? Certainly. But overwhelming.
The metadata is flexible enough to accommodate cookbooks (keywords: chicken, beef, veal, etc.), fiction (keywords: character names), or nonfiction (keywords: fact, quote, indirect quote, opinion, analysis, etc.). But the metadata system of taming the chaos of writing doesn’t seem intuitive to me.

I went in search of what others have done with all this metadata. First, I asked Gwen Hernandez how she used the metadata. She said that it changes with each project and I shouldn’t worry about the metadata, but just write until I felt the need to separate out files and then decide what metadata made sense. In some ways, I understand that, and that method would work if I wrote by the seat-of-my-pants, a panster. I’m more middle ground, though. I like some structure to start and then I work a while and then adjust structure. And for the writer who loves structure so much they outline extensively, I doubt that answer would help.

Second, I looked at Scrivener templates to see how they used the metadata. Most just use the hierarchical structure and ignore the metadata. Labels, keywords and status were unused by all of the templates that I downloaded and installed.

That brings me to the question: What metadata do we NEED to know as we draft? As we revise? Is a hierarchy enough or do we truly need metadata?

Metadata and the Shrunken Manuscript

Shrunken Manuscript

Shrunken Manuscript

I am known for the Shrunken Manuscript, a revision technique that shrinks pages so small that you can’t read it. After shrinking, I ask writers to mark their manuscript in various ways so they can SEE what they have done. After this Scrivener class, I realized that the Shrunken Manuscript deals with metadata, but in a manual and visual way. This technique is now popular with authors who need to see the underlying narrative structure. So, I know the value of metadata and making it visual. One thing I’ll be trying out with Scrivener is how metadata can work for us, without taking on a level of complexity that makes it onerous.

Overall, then, one supposed advantage of Scrivener is it’s ability to keep your writing organized. It does this with a simple hierarchical view and the ability to add metadata in three ways. But I found few instances of people actually using the metadata or being able to explain when and where and why they use it. I’m undecided if this much-touted feature will help or just be too much complexity. I’ll report back after trying out some ideas and working with Scrivener for a while.

BACKUPS

I LOVE that the default is backing up every 2 seconds. That’s so aggressive! I thought I was smart when I changed my MSWord to backup every 2 minutes; backing up every 2 seconds is brilliant–and Scrivener does this seamlessly in the background without any hesitations or hitches..

PRODUCTIVITY

Scrivener has a built in way to track productivity: words per session, project goals, daily word counts, percentage of project completed, and so on. Some authors like this ability to tracking progress; they set and regularly meet productivity goals. Certainly, it’s possible to do this with word processors, but Scrivener makes it simple. I want to try this with my next major project.

Overall, I am still undecided about Scrivener. I do plan to use it for projects this year and Gwen Hernandez’s class was definitely helpful and worth the time. Ask me next year if I’m still using the program.

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5. April Poetry: Take the Challenge and Get Your Poem Published



April is Poetry Month! Robert Lee Brewer, the Writer’s Digest editor who write the Poetics Aside blog has upped the ante this year with a challenge and the possibility of having your poem included in an anthology.

Each day during April, Brewer will post a poetry prompt on his blog. Your job is to take the challenge and produce a Poem-a-Day–thirty poems during April. If you wish to be considered for the Poem Your Heart Out anthology published by Words Dance Publishing.anthology, you should post the poem in the blog’s comments.

Brewer is recruiting 30 poets as judges for the anthology.

Here’s one of my poems to kick off the month

Sleeping with Foxes

sleepingfox

SLEEPING WITH FOXES
by Darcy Pattison c. 2003 All Rights Reserved

My favorite source of idle talk is from the soccer moms,

weekends, every Saturday.

This is how I go about gathering tidbits:

I set up my collapsible chair near the sideline and sit.

Then, I look through my collection of ears,

choose a robust pair, put them on and lean in close,

as if every word is pure gold and my existence consisted of only

rumor, innuendo, weird stories.

Then I take out my tongue and hold it in my lap.

I do this so that what I hear will be pure,

completely chaste,

uncontaminated by the chatterings of my voice.

One mother tells about her miniature Doberman,

how he jumped onto her bed

in a frenzy, like a mad yellow-jacket.

He didn’t stop until she got up.

She followed him to the living room,

unaware that bizarre things were taking place.

She flipped on the light and looked around

at the fireplace, the couch, the rug.

She had to rub her eyes: the neighbor’s cat

had come through the doggie door and sat on her favorite chair.

In between the cheers for the forward’s great header

and the keeper’s save, another soccer mom says,

That’s nothing, listen to this.

My ears glow red with joy.

I should mention, she says, that I like to watch

TV’s Strangest Home Videos.

I find it hard to ignore the temptation,

the true America.

The program shows extraordinary stories,

like the one about a boy who tells his parents

he sleeps with foxes. They don’t believe it.

The boy is sincerity itself: He insists that he sleeps

with a red fox every night.

After a spell, the parents decide to set up video cameras.

Then, they watch the boring tape until,

just at midnight, at the stroke of midnight,

they see a sly red fox come in the doggie door,

eat the dog food, trot down the hallway,

and jump onto the boy’s bed.

It curls itself around the boy’s head.

The horror-struck parents watch the pair sleep.

When the boy stirs lightly a few hours later, the fox leaves

the way it had come.

Afterward, when the keeper has saved his last goal,

the teams line up to slap hands.

I replace my tongue.

I take off my sullied ears and stow my collection

with my collapsible chair. Then I gather up

my soccer son, his soccer ball, his soccer gear,

and speed through the city,

barely making it through every yellow light.

My radio blares––

country or jazz or rock-and-roll, I don’t know––

And I listen to none of it because

all I hear is my voice rehearsing

the tale of a boy who sleeps with a sly red fox.

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6. Facing the Kickstarter Fears: Take a Risk



Guest post by Deb Lund

Most of you know me as the author of rollicking rhyming romps like my dinobooks, Dinosoaring, and Monsters on Machines, but preparing for a retreat with Darcy forced me to finally complete a first draft of an upper middle-grade historical fantasy. But kidlit isn’t where my writing started. My writing dreams began with wanting to write for adults, so I played with novels, short stories, and poetry. I’m getting back to trying an adult novel right now, but I’m jumping ahead here. Let me back up.

Deb Lund online.

Deb Lund online.

[DebWeb.jpg] Web site link for here and/or in bio below. http://www.deblund.com]

Years ago, I was an elementary teacher librarian who wanted a sabbatical, but my school district didn’t know what to do with me since I already had my master’s degree (which focused on teaching writing). The personnel director said I could plan out my sabbatical year and list activities that I would do, comparable to a master’s degree, and my list had to relate to my job. My first thought was, “But I wanted to work on my novel!” And then the light went on. *Kids’ books!*

These days I find myself teaching more adults than kids. I love presenting at conferences, providing continuing education courses for teachers, and offering writing classes when my schedule allows. I often say that once I figured out I could teach adults the same ways I taught kids, we all learned a lot more and had a lot more fun.

Fiction Magic Title

That’s how my 54-card deck and guidebook set Fiction Magic: Card Tricks and Tips for Writers got its start. You’ll find them on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter right now, but they won’t be there long. Why Kickstarter?

Kickstarter makes it possible for people with creative ideas to get the backing they need to pursue those creative ideas. I thought about sending the cards out to publishers, but since this project wasn’t the usual kidlit submission, I didn’t want to face another huge learning curve for this one unique project. In what genre would you place a writing-teaching card deck and book set? And with all the presentations and teaching I had done using my homemade deck, I already knew I had an audience, especially after all the requests I had from writers who saw what the prompts could do for their manuscripts.

Here’s how Kickstarter works: You design your project, come up with rewards for people who contribute to the project, explain your project in print and on a video, have it approved, set the date, tell everybody about it, and then try to reframe the ensuing anxiety as exhilaration and excitement.

Risk it All

Fears About Kickstarter

Failure. It was daunting to put myself out there like this. To be so public about the possible failure. But as a creativity coach, I know taking risks is an important part of the creative process. Failing is part of it, too. And so is picking yourself up after a fall. I’m no longer the person who had her first rejection years ago and didn’t submit anything again for 15 years.

Imposter. And then there’s the imposter syndrome. That’s how I felt today after seeing another big-name author back my cards. This one is not only getting the cards, but paying me to talk to her. I’m used to the imposter syndrome now and I don’t stay there for long any more.

This imposter business is where it’s good to have my own inner creativity coach to balance out my inner critic. Even though I’ve always prodded and been drawn to people who mentioned something they’ve “always wanted to do,” I have to admit that there were definitely selfish reasons for taking creativity coaching training, and even if I never worked with a client it would still have been worth it.

MagicalDebLund

I coach myself pretty much daily. It’s not magic. You can be your own coach, too. I remind myself of my teaching and training. Of all the successes of my students and clients. Of the accomplished writers who seek me out when they hit blocks. I must have something to say. And if I do, you do, too.

Say it. Say that something that can help another find their way, see a new vision, take a risk. A risk like going on Kickstarter. A risk like joining a critique group. A risk like signing up for one of Darcy’s workshops. A risk like writing.

What risk can you take today? Not the big dream. Just one little step broken down as far as it can go. Take that step. Let us know how it went…


Deb Lund is an author, teacher, and creativity coach. She is proud to be on the Western Washington SCBWI Advisory Committee and to chair the original Inside Story. She babbles on her blogs and dabbles in the arts on Whidbey Island. See what Deb is up to at www.deblund.com.

From Darcy: Support Deb’s Kickstarter Project here. Only 6 Days to Go! The main goal has been reached, but the stretch goal is still looming! Read about it now! (“I want all my writers to have your cards.” Jen Rofe’, Agent)

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7. Author Website Content: Keep the Blog and Website Going



This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

Keep Your Author Website Fresh

WWW under construction building website
You’re done it. Your author website is launched. Now what?
The care and feeding of a website is necessary and part of your career now. Please, don’t abandon the website and let it wither on the vine–not after this month of hard work. Set aside regular days to write something for the blog and get it scheduled. When you have new books, update!

Also, you must plan ways to connect with your readers. Remember that these are things readers want from you.

AUTHOR WEBSITE CHECKLIST
Where on your website did you include these things? List the page(s)

Exclusive unpublished writing: ______________________
Author Schedules: ________________________________
Author’s Literary Tastes:___________________________
Insider Information: _______________________________
Freebies: ________________________________________
Regular Contact: __________________________________
Contests, puzzles, teacher’s guides, book club discussion guides, puzzles, coloring pages, etc.__________________________________

Resources

I won’t leave you without some resources! You can always look at my Author Website Resource page for ideas–and please send me ideas on what to include there!

For problems or questions about WordPress, refer to the WordPress Codex.

WRITING A BLOG – GOING DEEPER

31dbbb2After your website it up and going, you may still want some hints and advice on building a strong blog. Darren Rouse, owner of Problogger.net has this great tutorial that will keep you going for the second month. He is one of the original people talking about how to make money online with blogging and he’s still one of the best. This book is a simple, easy-to-do collection of tasks that will make your website even stronger. After two months of concentrated effort on your site, you’re well on your way to success!
Darren Rouse’s 31 Days to a Better Blog

EMAIL SUBSCRIPTIONS AND MARKETING

Every website needs a way to collect names of fans. After you finish your first month or two, you should look into getting this set up. Own your audience!

Mailchimp is my preference because it’s easy to set up and it’s free until you get 2000 subscribers. After that, the prices go up on $5 increments as your list expands, so it’s easy to live with.

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8. Author Website Tech: Launch



This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

Launch Your Author Website

WWW under construction building website

First and most important, make your website available to search engines.
under Setting/Reading: For Search Engine Visibility, UNCHECK the box for “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.”

You will waste LOTS of time and effort if search engines can’t see your site! Don’t do a launch without doing this step first.

Plan an author website launch with as much care as a book launch–it’s launching your career. Use all your social media contacts to send people to look around. Hold a virtual party, with book giveaways for prizes. Or quietly announce the site to a few friends and ask them to tell friends. It’s up to you. Are you a big party planner or a quiet, introverted writer who just wants to get it right? Plan the website launch your way.

As you get feedback, tweak. Websites are works in progress, always.
And finally, enjoy. A well-functioning website should bring in readers–who come back. Because you planned for them to come back.

Congratulations!
Tomorrow,is one last tip on how to keep your site going.

(And be sure to invite me to the party!)


Launch your author website carefully--it is launching your career.

Launch your author website carefully–it is launching your career.


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9. Author Website Content: Beta Readers



This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

Calling All Grammar Witches: Beta Readers for Your Site

WWW under construction building website

You’re just days away from launching your new and improved Author Website. Now’s the time to proofread, test links and make sure everything is working! Recruit friends (and enemies?) to click around and make sure the site works.

  • Links. Click on every single link to make sure it works.
  • Grammar and Spelling. Grammar Witches, i love you. I’ll do everything you tell me to do.
  • Photos. Add photos to every page, because it makes it more appealing.
  • Tweak posts. OK, you’re a writer. You will be tweaking every single post. Just don’t stress out over this; write the best you can and let it go.

Fix everything that is reported to you. Make sure everything is in order for launch.

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10. Author Website Content: Blog Posts 11-15



This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

Mine Your Interests for Blog Posts

WWW under construction building website

Running out of ideas? Here are 5 other suggestions on how to do riffs on your topics.

  • Write a list of 10 titles for blog posts. Ex. 10 Things to Include on Your Author Website.
  • Turn that around and write the negative of the post, as a warning. Ex. 10 Things to Leave Off Your Author Website.
  • Turn in around again with humor or sarcasm. Ex. Top 10 Worst Author Websites.
  • Look at the list and find something timely to write about each. Ex. How Google’s Hummingbird SEO Update will Affect Your Author Website.
  • Take a topic from your list and predict the future. Ex. Why Pattison’s Website Topped 2 Million Hits in 2014.
  • Look at the list and take a historical slant. Ex. Then and Now: Darcy’s Author Website. This image shows my website on November 7, 2001. WOW! Even then, I liked red and black to brand a site.
  • Snapshot of my website from November 7, 2001.

    Snapshot of my website from November 7, 2001.


    Your goal for today is to write 5 most posts, for a total of 15. Get them scheduled. You don’t have to schedule one for every single day. Spread them out! Maybe 2 or 3 a week. You can fill in with spontaneous posts, of course, but this should get your site up and going for a month or two. Write!

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    11. Author Website Tech: Checklist #2



    This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

    WWW under construction building website

    Way back in the first week, of the month, I suggested that you go and look at the websites of other authors in your genre. Now that you’re almost done with your site, go back and look around again and this time, see what else you need to tweak. Which author websites you admire the most? Which do you–as a fan–visit the most often? What do you GO BACK for? That’s the real question–what will keep a fan coming back to your site? How do the websites stack up against the Codex checklist?

    Start looking for author websites here:

    Author Website Checklist: Fiction Notes blog. 28 Days to a Fantastic Author Website.

    Last time: Author Website Planning Checklist

    Where on your website did you include these things? List all the appropriate page(s). Can you add something now?

    Exclusive unpublished writing: ______________________
    Author Schedules: ________________________________
    Author’s Literary Tastes:___________________________
    Insider Information: _______________________________
    Freebies: ________________________________________
    Regular Contact: __________________________________
    Contests, puzzles, teacher’s guides, book club discussion guides, puzzles, playlists, coloring pages, etc.__________________________________

    In other words–don’t launch before you are ready! Take the time to get it right before you let the world know that your website is live!

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    12. Author Website Tech: Search Engine Optimization



    This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

    If You Build It, They Will NOT Come Unless. . .

    WWW under construction building website

    . . . unless they can find you in a search engine. The number of people who find your site because they know you will be few. Those who intuitively type in darcypattison.com must have some knowledge of who I am. You need links from other sites and you need search engine traffic.

    Search Engine Optimization or SEO. There’s no way in a simple blog that I can explain everything about how to get search engines to send people your way. There are books and professionals who can barely explain it. So let me do a quick explanation and then give you one big hint.

    First, SEO is all about making it easy for search engines to index your site and figure out what you are talking about. If someone types into a search engine “best practices author website,” I want this series to come up. How does a search engine decide what to show for this question? The situation is hard, because search engines are constantly updating the algorithms or mathematical formulas used to decide this question; the answer is a moving target. (These updates from Google get colorful names such as the Panda update. For the most recent, as of the date of this writing, look for information on the Hummingbird update.) Still, there are a couple constants, keywords and titles.

    Keywords just means what are you talking about, but it’s in terms of what people actually search for, not what you think it should be. For years, keyword research has been crucial because of the difference in searching for “childrens’s books” or “kid’s books.” With the increased sophistication of search engines, though, the two would now return the same blog posts. But it still makes a difference is you search for “best practices” or “great examples” of author websites. Now, search engines try to answer the underlying question and intent of the question. Do you want a list of tutorials on building a website, or do you want examples of great websites?

    Once you decide on the topic of a post, make sure to use the words somewhere in the post. Two years ago, experts might have suggested you seed the post with the keywords, but now, most agree that a couple times is enough, as long as you are answering a key question. This means: before you write a post, think about what questions your reader might have on the topic and try to answer those questions.

    Does Your Website Stand out in Today's Crowded Internet?

    In today’s crowded Internet, how will you make your website stand out to search engines?



    Titles. As writers, this is a snap. You must write good titles that explain what is in the post. Nothing cutesy, but direct, succinct and catchy.

    Let’s say you want to know what to include on your ABOUT page.Which of these post titles would you click on?

    The last, of course, is the title of the post I wrote on ABOUT pages. In writing titles, think about a long list of titles and what will make yours stand out.

    Specific. Be specific. I reference two authors named Kate and that intrigues.
    Numbers. Titles with numbers often get better results.
    Adjectives. “creative, intriguing” will pull in more readers.
    How To. Promising to explain something is important to readers, especially is you pull off the explanation well.

    You know that comment you always get from editors on the rejection letters? “. . this manuscript just didn’t stand out in today’s crowded market. . .” Think of search engines as that crowded marketplace and your title as a log line or the briefest elevator pitch (you only get 100 characters or so). Make the title snappy.

    And–after you’ve got everything set up and you want a couple more tasks to do, study SEO. The year I did that, I doubled my website’s traffic. It’s that important. But you’ve got time to get everything set up right before you have to stress out over this. Just know that SEO is in your future.

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    13. Author Website Content: Blog Posts 6-10



    This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

    Write 5 More Blog Posts

    WWW under construction building website

    Before your website goes live, I recommend that you have at least 10-15 posts written. So, on this writing day, I’ll suggest that you write five more posts and schedule them. Believe me, getting posts scheduled ahead will make the process easier. Blog posts can be 240-2000 words, however long it needs to be.

    For the first 5 posts we concentrated on giving readers what they want from the Codex group. Here are other ideas.

    1. Interview. A classic post is to interview another author about a forthcoming book, an award, a surprising thing in their career, or a forthcoming book. An easy way to do this is to send 5 questions for the person to answer. Did you get that? You only have to write 5 questions! Your friend writes the post for you. In return, they get to borrow your audience for a day. Make sure the post will be something that your audience will be interested in.
    2. Review. Likewise, a review of a friend’s book si ALWAYS welcome. Support your friends and their carrers by doing an honest review. Update your audience on your literary tastes by talking about what you’re reading now.
    3. Event report. Are you traveling, attending a conference, speaking at a school, or teaching a class? Give a report, complete with photos of the event. Your readers would like to know what was the most fascinating thing to YOU. Filter everything through your point of view. Doing a booksigning? Add photos to your blog post.
    4. Post a video. Is there a uTube video that speaks to something you are talking about on your blog? It’s easy to embed a YouTuve video in a post or page.

    Today, write five more blog posts and schedule them. Try to make one of them a pillar post.

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    14. Author Website Tech: Checklist #1



    Now is the time to do a check of your site to make sure you’ve covered everything!
    If you feel like you’re lacking in some area, then click on the link and re-read the appropriate post.
    Or go back to the Table of Contents to review material.

    General Good Practices for a Website

    1. In 3 seconds, can a reader figure out where they are and what they can do here?
    2. Is there a search box on every page so readers can find what they need?
    3. Is the site attractive, easy to read–a clean usable design?
    4. Do you use great titles on your posts so they will be found by search engines?
    5. Does every page have a Call to Action?
    6. Are your social media links easy to spot and use on every page?
    7. Have you clicked on every link to make sure they work?
    8. Did you include a way for people to contact you through a form or by email?
    9. Are you tracking statistics for your site?
    10. Did you include a privacy page? Are you COPPA Compliant?
    11. Author Website Checklist: Fiction Notes blog. 28 Days to a Fantastic Author Website.

      What readers want from the Codex study

      Remember that you have choices about which page will hold this info. Where did you put these things that readers want?

    12. Is your ABOUT page interesting and fun, yet informative?
    13. Did you include a downloadable bibliography and/or biography?
    14. Have you provided exclusive writing only published on your website?
    15. Is your Author schedule listed and UP TO DATE?
    16. Are you letting readers know something about your literary tastes?
    17. Have you provided any freebies or bling for your fans?
    18. Do you have a newsletter or someway for fans to connect and stay connected?
    19. Did you include any of these: contests, puzzles, and games, with prizes like autographed copies of books?
    20. Are you providing a way for readers to buy your books, either on your site or through a link to an online bookseller?
    21. If you have series, do you provide a list that explains the order for reading that series?
    22. Are your recent books on the Home page, or easy to find?
    23. PET PEEVES: Why Readers Hate an Author’s Website

      DearAuthor.com has a great post on the Top Ten Peeves From Booksellers and Readers about Author Websites. I’ve summarized the list, but you should read the whole article. Insightful.

    24. No printable list of your books.
    25. No ISBNs.
    26. Series not identified and books not put into a series list.
    27. No contact author on front page
    28. Having to hunt for most recent releases.
    29. No list of future releases.
    30. No list of awards.
    31. No links to order.
    32. Not friendly.
    33. Nothing to bring the reader back.

    How are you doing? Is your website stacking up? What’s the hardest/easiest thing you’ve done on your site this month? What would you add to this checklist?

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    15. Author Website Content: First Blog Posts


    Goodreads Book Giveaway

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    by Darcy Pattison

    Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

    See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

    Enter to win

    This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

    Write 5 New Posts!

    It’s a writing day.
    WWW under construction building website
    For the first time, we’re doing to work with the WordPress Posts. Remember, WordPress Pages are like a website; WordPress Posts are the blog pages in reverse chronological order. The blog posts are more fleeting, while the pages are more long term. Posts are perfect for announcing information and creating some excitement; the pages are best for the data that always needs to be there in the background. Sometimes, you’ll want to announce something on your blog, but then also put it on a page.

    (Note: It’s tempting to put something on the front page of your site and think that everyone will see it. Not so. Any page or post of your site could be the entry point for a reader because they are all indexed in a search engine.

    You’re going to blog about something.
    Have you decided on a strategy for blogging? Will you mention names, be the first to comment on news, inform or teach or something else? Whatever your strategy, you can always fall back on the same Codex report.

    List five titles of blog posts for each category; and let’s call this the Codex strategy.:

    Exclusive unpublished writing: ______________________
    Author Schedules: ________________________________
    Author’s Literary Tastes:___________________________
    Insider Information: _______________________________
    Freebies: ________________________________________
    Regular Contact: __________________________________
    Contests, puzzles, teacher’s guides, book club discussion guides, puzzles, playlists, coloring pages, etc.__________________________________

    List five titles of blog posts that follow the strategy you want to follow. For example, if it’s a Names Strategy, who can you interview or feature? What conference can you discuss? If your strategy is News, then list five timely items.

    It’s OK to combine the Codex strategy and another strategy. The key is to get multiple ideas.

    Now, write. Each post should have 250-2000 words.

    Pillar Posts: Sticky and Explosive

    As you’re writing, be on the lookout for Pillar Posts. These are long, in-depth articles, or articles that contain timeless information. You need pillar posts because these are the ones that will continually pull in traffic to your site. They are Sticky (they keep pulling in traffic) and often, they get tons of traffic right away (Explosive). And, they are usually specific to you, no one else could have written this article. Don’t stress out over this right now, but keep it in the back of your mind as you troll for ideas. What would bring visitors back to your site over and over?

    Here’s some of the posts on Fiction Notes that continually pull in traffic. How do I know this? Because I have statistic programs on the site.

    1. 12 Ways to Start a Novel
    2. Picture Book Standards: 32 Pages
    3. 30 Days to a Stronger picture Book
    4. 30 Days to a Stronger Novel
    5. 29 Plot Templates
    6. 9 Traits of Sympathetic Characters
    7. Character Checklist
    8. 15 Days to a Stronger Character
    9. Marketing with Book Trailers
    10. Opening Chapters

    Publishing your first posts

    You can publish immediately, or you can schedule the posts for a future date. By now, you’ve forgotten, so I’ll remind you: we set the blog/website to NO-Indexing by search engines. You can change this at any time, but you may want to wait until you’ve got everything set up. If you do want to change it, go to Settings/Reading and UnCheck the box that says, “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.” As soon as you do that, search engines will start looking over your site. Be sure you’re ready! We just have another week of writing posts and tweaking technical stuff, so be patient, if you can. Just write and schedule the posts and plan for a Big Launch of your site.

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    16. Author Website Tech: Posts


    Goodreads Book Giveaway

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    by Darcy Pattison

    Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

    See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

    Enter to win

    How to Add a Post to WordPress

    It’s time to start on your blog by using WordPress Posts. Here’s the information from the WordPress Codex, the first place you should look for info.

    If you’ve written a page, it’s essentially the same. You use the same editing screen.

    Here are a couple other tips:

    Kitchen Sink. In the editing screen, you should see a full set of formatting options for your text. If you don’t see two rows, click on the last item in the top row. When you hover over it, it says, “Show the Kitchen Sink.” Click this and you’ll see more formatting options.

    Click on the last item in the top row to reveal the Kitchen Sink.

    Click on the last item in the top row to reveal the Kitchen Sink.

    Schedule the Publication of a Post. You can write posts ahead and schedule when you want them to appear with the Publishing options. You can Preview the Draft, Save the Draft or Schedule it. I often write a couple days ahead and schedule the post to go live at a certain time on a certain day. One caution. Just because you’ve set up a time for it publish–as in the image–does not mean you have published it! You have to click on the SCHEDULE button to actually publish and post.

    Import. If you need to import posts from another blog, click on Tools/Import for options and instructions.

    Categories. As you add posts in the next few days, you’ll also want to think about the Categories of posts. Categories The editing page displays a list of categories you’ve used before. When you first set this up, though, you’ll want to go to Posts/Categories. On that page, you can set up the categories as you wish. Be especially careful with the category slugs, or the way a category is listed in a URL. For example, this post in under the category of Book Marketing, but the slug for the category is “marketing.” I want to keep the slugs as short as possible so they aren’t a pain for my readers to type in. See more about Categories on the WordPress Codex.

    Menus. It’s also time to revisit your Menu and make sure it shows the Categories you want visitors to see first. Go to Appearance/Menu and set it up as you wish. Here’s WordPress’s Guide to Menus.

    It may seem tedious to worry about categories and menus when you are ready to write that blog. But believe me, if you get the skeleton down, the blog will stand up straighter and look smarter.

    Tomorrow? You’ll write blog posts and write blog posts and write blog posts. Make sure your blog is ready.

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    17. Author Website Content: Blog


    Goodreads Book Giveaway

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    by Darcy Pattison

    Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

    See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

    Enter to win

    This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

    Should You Add a Blog to Your Author Site?

    WWW under construction building website

    We’ve talked so far about doing an Author Website through WordPress. Now that you’ve built the thing, you need to decide if you will add a blog or not.

    No, I don’t want a blog

    First, let me quickly says that you do NOT have to have a blog. It’s just an option.
    Blogging requires a commitment to writing that can be a strain on writing projects, family time and other time commitments. I’m not worried–really, I’m not–about whether or not you can find enough to write about. That’s the easy part. Time is the hard thing to find. If you commit to writing a blog the most important rule is this: be consistent in posting. You can NOT post just once or twice a month. Instead, just update your website. Or post on Facebook, Twitter or a social network. Don’t waste your time and your readers time by starting something you can’t keep up with.

    Embrace uncertainty. On the other hand, when I started blogging six years ago, it was with uncertainty. Would I like blogging? Would I draw in any readers? Would I find topics to write about? And so on. I made a commitment to TRY. And here we are. You can do the same.

    OK, I’ll try a blog!

    Great! You will find an audience beyond your usual boundaries.
    You will find topics that fascinate you and you want to delve into deeply. You will have a platform for doing that.
    You will find the blog a task-master that you both love and hate.
    You will find your audience to be an amazing group of people.
    And when your first book/next book comes out, you’ll find people cheering for you. (Here’s my latest novel. Thanks for caring!)
    You don’t blog to sell books. You blog to make friends.

    What will you write about?

    As I look around the blogosphere, I find bloggers using different strategies for content.

    1. Up-to-date news. One strategy for blogging is to keep your ears to the ground and as soon as you hear something, you blog about it in depth. Did Facebook just update it’s home page? Provide the killer tutorial on it before anyone else. As I am writing this, I got an email that Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press is going international. If I cared about the hottest publishing news, I would jump on this!
    2. Names. I once read about a small-town newspaper publisher who saturated the market with a single strategy: publish as many names as possible. When a baseball team played, the newspaper listed the name of every single team member. And the managers. And the coaches. Of course, people bought the newspaper to see their name in print. Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations blog uses this strategy by listing everyone’s good news, interviews with almost everyone in children’s literature and generally spreading the love.
    3. Teaching. This blog, Fiction Notes, is about observing my own struggles and the struggles of my friends and colleagues and writing about how to solve problems. In a word, I teach. (My friend says that I can’t NOT teach; she’s right.)
    4. Diary. Some people live a transparent life online and don’t mind the glass walls. If that’s for you, you’ll find many who’ll take the trip with you.
    5. Thoughtful or thought-provoking analysis. Maybe you only want to post once a week, but you want it to be a longer, more thoughtful piece. That would be great. Don’t think you must post daily. But be consistent. On Thursday, I look forward to reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch‘s thoughtful posts about the publishing industry. I don’t have to agree with everything she says to look forward to the posts, because they always make me think. For example, a thoughtful person could write an interesting post about the Children’s Book Council 7th Annual Children’s Choice Book Awards. One of the awards is for the Author of the Year; the five nominees are always based on best-seller lists. The controversy this year is that Rush Limbaugh’s book, Rush Revere and the First Patriots: Time-Travel Adventures With Exceptional Americans, is a best-seller, which put him on the list for Author of the Year. A thoughtful or thought-provoking blogger could write about this in depth. Lots of issues to delve into there! (Should children’s book awards be based on best-seller lists? How easy is it to manipulate best selling lists? If we reject the bestseller list as a starting point for awards, where SHOULD we start?) This isn’t something I would do on my blog; I avoid the controversial. But if you’re up for it. . .
    6. Topics for which you have a passion. Maybe you don’t want to blog about books, publishing, or other authors. One author friend is interested in true stories of ghosts. Since she writes mysteries, it sounds like a great topic for a blog! She could interview people who have seen a ghost, joke about ghostbusters, include photos of ghosts (NOT!) and so on. What’s your passion? Bulldogs? Kidnapped kids and how they survive? Whatever your passion, it’s fine–no, it’s GREAT–for an author blog to take off on a tangent. You’ll find readers beyond your books and that’s not such a bad thing.
    7. Photos, video or audio. Maybe you are a cartoonist and can provide a humorous 3-panel cartoon daily. Maybe your hobby is photoshopping dog portraits. Great. Just post one picture a day. Or post one a week and explain how you photoshopped it. Use YouTube and pull the videos into your blog. Or do a podcast. There may be platforms that are better for each of these areas (For video, you need a YouTube Channel.), but they can also feed into a blog.
    8. Your Ideas. You may have another strategy for writing a blog. Please share it!

    Notice: These strategies are about giving an audience something interesting to read. Entertain. Inform. Persuade. Provoke. It’s not about you. It’s about your readers. What type of content can you write about that others would want to read on a consistent basis?

    It’s time. Decide. Will you try a blog or just stick with your author website?

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    18. Author Website Tech: Affiliates to Sell Your Books


    Goodreads Book Giveaway

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    by Darcy Pattison

    Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

    See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

    Enter to win

    This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.
    AuthorWebsiteResources


    Help Your Fans Buy Your Books

    WWW under construction building website
    We’ve been emphasizing all month the 2008 Codex study that explains why readers want to come back to an author’s website. One thing that is NOT on the list is links to buy your books. But you should definitely provide these.

    Call to Action. When businesses advertise, they emphasize the importance of a Call to Action. This is when you ask your reader to DO something. Every page on your site should have a Call To Action (CTA). Buy my book. Download a sample chapter. Download coloring pages. Read this unpublished story. And so on.

    Decide what you want a reader to DO when they come to a certain page. And then make the CTA a bold, bright and clickable button. Or use a larger font or interesting color. For interesting buttons, try DaButtonFactory.com or other similar free sites that let you customize the text, colors, style and size.

    Affiliate Book Sales

    Where would you like to send readers to buy your books? Some online bookstores offer a commission when you send readers to their site. The percentage varies from program to program and often the more referrals you send to a site, the higher the percentage. You’ll need to read the terms and conditions of each affiliate program to understand if it fits your needs. Here’s three affiliate to start with.

    • Amazon affiliate: http://affiliate-program.amazon.com. The grand-daddy of affiliate programs, Amazon.com offers affiliate sales on books and everything else they offer for sale. Not available if you live in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, or Rhode Island.
    • The IndieBound program allows you to link to any Independent Bookstore and earn a commission on referrals. Indie bookstores use the Kobo ebook reader, and you can link to ebooks through the IndieBound program, too.
    • Powell’s affiliate: Oregon’s huge independent bookstore also runs an affiliate program.

    Other online bookstores offer affiliates and it makes sense to look around for one that maktches your book’s niche.

    NOTE: If you use affiliate links, you’ll need to go back to your Privacy Page and indicate this.

    If you are linking to affiliates to create a secondary income, also consider this:
    Readers want to know Author’s Literary Tastes. Readers want lists of the author’s favorite writers and recommended books. Younger fans are also more interested in knowing about their favorite authors’ book, music, and movie recommendations. You could create recommended lists of books, music, movies and so on, and add affiliate links. Link to your own books, of course. But don’t be shy about listing your Top 10 Favorite Mysteries of the Year. Or anything else that reflects your literary tastes.

    To make the process easy, Search for plugins that make it simple to add the affiliate codes to your site.

    Plugins to Sell Your Books Yourself

    When we talked about WordPress Plugins, I mentioned that there are times you may want to sell books from your site. Epubs and pdfs are easy enough because you only have to deliver a digital file. This article summarizes WordPress Plugins that make this simple. On the other hand, this Smashing Magazine article summarizes five shopping cart services that work well within your WordPress.

    Of course, I have to add a CTA to this page, to practice what I preach! Even if you don’t want to buy, click below to see how the Gumroad shopping cart works. Did you also notice that I added a button to the Author Website Resources link above? It’s a button from DaButtonFactory.com
    AuthorWebsiteResources


    Buy two ebooks for the low price of $1.99
    2 books--1 low price. Expires March 12.Get these 2 ebooks, WISDOM and ABAYOMI, for $1.99:
    During checkout, use this coupon code: tsunami14

    Buy Wisdom + Abayomi EPub Bundle

    Buy Wisdom + Abayomi Kindle Bundle

    NOTE: This bundle is available in two versions: Kindle and ePub for all other ebook readers. For information on reading on your Kindle read this tutorial.


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    19. Author Website Tech: Themes


    Goodreads Book Giveaway

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    by Darcy Pattison

    Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

    See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

    Enter to win

    This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

    What Does Your Site Look Like?

    WWW under construction building website

    It’s time to think about how your site looks. Finally, you say. I know. We SEE websites all the time and don’t think about the back end. But the time you’ve spent on the back end will make the site functional.

    Websites are a work in progress, and as such, the theme you choose today, you will change in a year or two. Don’t stress out about whether you choose a free or premium theme at first I believe the most important thing is to dive in and then do continual incremental changes to your site. Some will argue that you should purchase a Premium theme or hire a high-priced web designer. I argue that you should get content up on your site and then prettify it as you can. Tinkering is good.

    But for those of you who are visual first, you can certainly explore a web designer, a Premium theme, or hiring someone from Odesk.com or Elance.com.

    FREE

    From the web: Go to http://wordpress.org/themes/ to study the various free themes possible. Or log into your WordPress as described next to see a preview of how the theme would look on your site.

    To load a free theme, log into your WordPress dashboard. Click on Appearance/Themes. You’ll see a list of themes already downloaded and ready for use on your site. At the top are two tabs, Manage Themes and Install Themes.

    Click on Install Themes to find a search engine. You can choose the colors and features that you prefer, and you can add a keyword. If your work revolves around nature and science, for example, you might want to search for Animals or Forests.

    Unless there’s a perfect keyword for your work, though, you should search for “Responsive.” A responsive site is one that adapts easily to the different size screens on smart phones, tablets and desktop computers. Finding a theme that bills itself as responsive isn’t a magic bullet, because there are different ways to approach the responsive issue. Still, mobile devices proliferate and it’s wise to plan for them.

    The search results will show thumbnails of the home pages of different themes. Below each thumbnail are three links:
    Click Install Now, if you want to try this theme on your site.

    Click Preview to see what the theme looks like. In order to keep everything consistent and easy to compare, website designers are required to use the same filler material for these previews. Also, any image you see can be changed and customized. You’re really looking for the general layout: how big and where are sidebars positioned? How big is the site name and how much white space is around it? EVERYTHING can be customized from photos to background colors to the fonts used. What you see on the preview is just a suggestion from the designer. Still, you’ll probably go with these designer choices at first, so pay attention to the decisions the designer made, while understanding that it is ultimately in your control.

    Also, most themes allow for drastic color changes, from white to black backgrounds, to any color you can imagine. Try to overlook all of these “pretty” issues to the bones and structure of the site. Imagine your information slotted into the structure—does it look like you want?

    Click Details to find out more, including the name of the designer and a link to their website, screen shots and compatibility issues.

    Have fun playing around and looking at possible themes. When you find one you like, Install Now. Install a dozen themes, if you like. You can delete them later when you decide on the perfect one.

    TRY OUT THEMES ON YOUR SITE


    When you have several options on your site, go back to the Manage Themes tab. Try the Live Previews for each theme. This time, instead of the canned content, it will show you the site with your own content. When you find the theme you like, Click Activate. Most WordPress themes allow you to Customize in some way, so click on the theme’s options and try it out.

    I often go back and forth between several themes before I decide on one I like. There are no rights or wrongs, only preferences. You’ll be writing content for a couple weeks before the site goes live, so play around and change the themes every day if you like, till you find one that sticks.

    PREMIUM

    For a Premium Theme option, you will go to websites such as Themeforest.net that offer Premium themes and look around till you find the perfect theme and purchase it. On your website’s dashboard, click on Appearance/Themes/Install/Upload. Follow the instructions to upload and then go back to Manage Themes to activate the theme. Customize as allowed.

    Tweak

    Most themes today come with a variety of options for customization. Usually, you can change fonts, colors, location of sidebars and much more. Take advantage of these options and play around. Try out a couple different photos. If you can’t customize it enough yourself, hire someone from Odesk.com or Elance.com. Starting with a pre-designed theme will cut down the amount of work needed and save money.

    Hire a Designer

    If you can’t find a theme you like, or you want a custom theme, then look for a good website designer. This is the right time to do this because you’ve already written much of the material for your site and have a much better idea of what you want from an Author Website.

    And when you get it just right–post the URL below. I’d love to see your FamousAuthorWebsite!

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    20. Author Webiste Content: CONTACT page


    Goodreads Book Giveaway

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    by Darcy Pattison

    Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

    See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

    Enter to win

    This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

    Yes, I Want to Talk with My Readers and Fans!

    WWW under construction building website
    You are going to all the trouble of putting up an Author Website so readers can find you. PLEASE make it easy for them to have a conversation with you. You need to decide how you want people to contact you. Do you want to connect on a social media platform ONLY? That may sound ideal, but what if your reader doesn’t use this platform or that one. Do you make them come to you, or do you make it simple for them? Of course, I think you should make it simple for them and provide an email address. (If your site is targeted at children at all, please read and comply with all COPPA regulations–the Child Online Protection Policy Rule. Also see a later post on Privacy Policies.)

    Do you want them to email you directly or use a contact form? It’s personal preference. I’ve never had problems with having my email on the site, but you may not want to do that. Fortunately, there are simple, easy ways to provide contact info.

    Social Media Links

    To provide social media links, either find a theme that provides them as part of the design or use a WordPress plugin.
    The theme I use on this site is WPAttorney and it includes those icons you see at the top of the page and a way to link each to my various social media pages. There were more options than you see, I just used the ones I needed.

    Here’s a list of 10 social media plugins and another list of 8 recommended plugins.

    Email link

    You can also use the linking icon on the editor of your WordPress post/page. It’s the small chain icon. Just add this as a link: Mailto:Famous@FamousAuthorWebsite.com (Of course, fill in your email address!).
    Put this text link where ever you like.

    Contact Forms Plugins

    For those who prefer not to have direct mail links, you can use a contact form. This presents a form that readers fill in with their contact information and a message. The Contact Form plugin then emails you the info and you can respond as you like. Contact Form 7 by Takayuki Miyoshi is often mentioned as a strong candidate for this function. Search for it in Plugins/AddNew.

    Do you Need a Separate Contact Page?

    On this site, I’ve chosen to include the social media icons at the top of every page/post. Do I need a separate Contact Page? I decided not to do that. I include contact info on the ABOUT page, and those persistent icons, and feel that’s enough. But you might want a separate page with its own link on the HOME page. For example, if you do school visits or lots of speaking, you may want to explain your services and provide contact information in that context. You’ll need to decide how and where to put CONTACT links, but I highly recommend that you put them somewhere! And don’t make readers hunt for it.

    How do you like readers to contact you? Social media–what platform? Email? Contact form? Or have you found a different way? You can Tweet me @FictionNotes! Or use the icons at the top of the page to connect on YOUR favorite platform. Of course, commenting on this blog is also contacting me. I’d love to hear what you’re doing with your Author Website.

    Add a Comment
    21. Author Website Tech: WordPress Plugins


    Goodreads Book Giveaway

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    by Darcy Pattison

    Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

    See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

    Enter to win

    This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

    Customize Your WordPress Site with Plugins

    WWW under construction building website

    WordPress is a content management system (CMS), which is run on php, a kind of computer programming language. One of the strengths of WordPress is that it can be customized by adding bits of code here and there. We commonly call these bits of code, plugins.

    Plugins can control things on your site such as security issues, broadcasting issues, and layout and design issues. Any place you can put a piece of code, someone has figured to do it. You do NOT have to code things yourself—Hallelujah! You just need to find a great plugin.

    Sometimes, the plugins also add widgets. Widgets are special bits of code that allow you to place something in a certain position on your website. For example, a widget can add a menu to the header, the sidebar or the footer.

    Let’s look at some basic plugins that EVERY site should use:

    Akismet: Stop Comment Spamming

    Akismet. One of the hardest things to control about a website or blog is the amount of spam comments that you will receive. Fortunately, the Akismet plugin zaps most spam.

    In the left-hand column, click on Plugins/Installed Plugins.

    Preinstalled Plugins

    Preinstalled Plugins



    You’ll see that two plugins are preinstalled.
    I usually delete or ignore the Hello, Dolly plugin.
    Click Activate on the Akismet plugin.

    Akismet Activated

    Akismet Activated




    You’ll get an Akismet Activated screen. Click on “Activate your akismet account.”
    Then click on “Create a new Akismet Key.”

    This will take you to the WordPress/Akismet site. Follow their instructions on how to set up an account and create a key. For a personal site, you can choose how much to pay, even choosing free. For a single professional site, it is $59/year and well worth it! This is the biggest cost you will have besides your hosting company, but I highly recommend it. Follow their directions for fully activating Akismet.

    Now you can rest easy that your Author Website won’t be the victim of many spam comments.

    You’ve successfully activated one plug-in! It’s time to look at a range of other plugins for your site. Remember that you can add or delete plugins at any time, as needed. It’s fine to experiment with a plug-in and later decide you don’t like it.

    Other Recommended Plugins

    Everyone wants to weigh in on the most important WordPress plugins. Use a search engine and be overwhelmed!
    Here, I’ll talk about the basic plugins that I think are essential for all WordPress sites. Then I’ll focus on an Author Website and list plugins that you may find helpful.

    You can find available plugins by clicking Plugins (left sidebar)/Add New and then searching for what you need. You will often find several plugins that address the same function. It’s fine to download several and activate/deactivate them one at a time to see what exactly they do. The descriptions provided and the ratings are helpful; but nothing compares to actually putting them to use on YOUR Author Website. Once you decide against a plugin, though, delete it so it doesn’t clutter up your site and to reduce security risks.

    Basic, Essential Plugins:
    These are examples of plugins in some crucial areas; find them by searching the Plugin List (Plugins (left sidebar)/Add New ) . Be sure to follow directions for setting up these plugins.

  • Add Meta Tags by Notaras. This simple plug-in adds metatags to your website, which means that search engines can find you easily.
  • Yet Another Related Posts Plugin. This puts related posts in a neat table at the bottom of your post. It’s a good way to encourage readers to read more pages on your site.
  • Shareaholic | share buttons, analytics, related content by Sharaholic provides social media icons to add to your site.
  • WP-DB Backup (WordPress Database Backup) by Austin Matzko emails you a backup file of your site. Really, you don’t want to be without this one.
  • Strictly Google Sitemap by Rob Reid. This creates a Google compliant XML file so that the search engine can catalog your site easier.
  • Start with simple plugins and add more as you need to. It’s easy to install and customize most plugins—and equally easy to deactivate and replace them with something better. Take the long approach on this and start with just a few and add a plugin when you think you need something better.

    Other Interesting Plugins
    Full Tiles Gallery. You know how all your books are different sizes and if you want to create a gallery of the book covers, they never fit right? Here’s the simple answer. At the time of writing, it’s $14. You can see it in action here. YouTube Tutorial on Final Gallery.

    Book Sales. If you want to sell ebooks from your site, this article summarizes WordPress Plugins that make this simple. On the other hand, this Smashing Magazine article summarizes five shopping cart services that work well within your WordPress.

    Customizing your WordPress installation is important–but time consuming. Take it slow and add plugins as you go. Prioritize what capabilities you need and do those plugins first. Add the rest as you have time.

    What plugins do you consider to be essential?

    Add a Comment
    22. Author Website Content: Home Page


    Goodreads Book Giveaway

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    by Darcy Pattison

    Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

    See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

    Enter to win

    This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

    3 Questions Your Author Website Home Page MUST Answer in 5-seconds Flat

    WWW under construction building website
    When a reader comes to your website you have 5 seconds to hook them. (Sounds like writing a novel, doesn’t it? The same fiction writing skills you use there will help you on your HOME Page.)

    Readers have three questions you must answer in 5-seconds flat.

    Where am I?

    The site must clearly identify that this is your site. Your name and a headshot will help. If a reader is sorta fuzzy about exactly what you write, or who you are, make sure this is clear. You can do this with a simple tag:

    • Children’s book author, Darcy Pattison.
    • Fiction Writing Teacher, Darcy Pattison
    • Famous Author, Darcy Pattison
    • Writer and Writing Teacher, Darcy Pattison

    You’ll think of several possibilities, of course, but must choose one. You can change this at any time, but I recommend searching for and trying out tags until you find the one that sticks for you. It becomes part of your “branding” as an author. The tagline for your site (which you set up in the back end of the site and can change at any time) can also give this info.

    What Can I Do Here?

    Information, photos and links should immediately tell readers what they can DO on your site.
    Do you want them to read your blog? Include one of the built-in widgets that lists the most recent posts, or perhaps the categories of those posts. Your site’s navigation should clearly tell people where to go to find different types of information.

    Where Can I Find the Information That I Want?

    Your Navigation will be vitally important on your HOME Page. How do people find what they want? What will you Name each of the main sections of your site? We’ve called them NEWS, ABOUT and BOOKS, but you are free to name them anything you want. Just make sure the navigation links are short, so they fit onto the navigation bar easily, and very clear. ABOUT is a standard page name for a biography page. NEWS makes sense, but you could also call it SCHEUDLE, or INSIDER INFO, depending on what you want.

    To create Categories and Menus, please refer to the WordPress Codex or look on YouTube for tutorials like this one:

    If you can’t see this video, click here.


    NOTES: As you start to customize your site, it becomes impossible for me to give you exact directions. There are too many options, all of them right for certain people, depending on your needs, your work, and your vision for your website. Here are four strategies to find the exact info you need:

    Search for a Plugin: Someone else surely wanted to do the same thing you did! And they wrote a plugin. The search engine for the plugins, though, is clunky. Often, I know what I want and can’t find it because you must know the exact name of the plugin you want. Instead, I use a search engine to locate information about a plugin and when I know an exact name, then I’ll go to the Plugin Installation and try to add something. Doing this, you may wind up with paid plugins and you’ll have to weigh the benefits against the cost.

    Search for a Tutorial:
    Someone has suggested that 25% of websites worldwide currently run on WordPress. Regardless of the accuracy of this statistic, it’s true that there are tons of tutorials for almost anything you need done on WordPress. If you like visual learning, search YouTube and you’ll likely find what you need. Otherwise, use your favorite search engine and search for “Tutorial + XXXX,” where XXXX is the subject of the tutorial you need.
    Search the http://codex.wordpress.org WordPress Codex: The codex has many of the answers you’ll need. Try there first.

    Hire a Coder: If all else fails and you can find nothing, you can always hire a coder from places like Elance and Odesk.


    Circling Back to Themes: What Will Your Site LOOK Like?

    What you’ve done so far is organize information on your website and set up a basic WordPress installation. When setting up a website, some people suggest you do a “wireframe,” or a drawing of what you want on each page and how the pages will connect. Wireframes especially refers to the layout of a webpage that will help you accomplish a goal. That’s what you are doing here except on a sitewide level; you’re deciding what to emphasize and how to best accomplish a goal. Now that you have a good idea of what’s on your site, you can go back and re-evaluate themes that you’ve looked at. Can you easily fit everything into the site? If it’s not easy to do, then look for other themes. You want this to be simple! Definitely, NOT complicated!

    As before, let’s refer back to the 2008 Codex study that discusses what would bring readers back to your site, and see how their needs might fit into the HOME Page.

    For the HOME PAGE, you have lots of decision to make. By now, you should have slotted at least some of this information onto other pages of your site. The question here is what to put on the HOME Page and what to link to directly from the HOME Page. You don’t want the site to look scattered and unfocused; on the other hand, you don’t want readers to get lost. Think about which of these you might want on YOUR site and which can go on other pages.

    Search Box. Because there’s no way to fully anticipate what a reader will want, make sure you include a Search Box on your home page. This is one of the Default Widgets (Appearance/Widgets) that you can drag and drop onto a position of your Home Page. In fact, I make sure there’s a Search Box on every page of my site, but you at least need it on the HOME Page.

    Exclusive, unpublished writing. We’ve mentioned short stories, blog posts, essays or other writing that might interest your readers. On the HOME Page, you will definitely want a link to you blog, if you have one. How else might you include a link to exclusive, unpublished writing?

    Author Schedules. Is there any way that a fan could meet-up, get a signed book, watch you speak, etc.? How will you address this on the HOME Page? What links–if any–make sense. Did you include this information on your NEWS Page? Or do you want to include some sort of calendar that lists your speaking schedule? If you speak a lot, there are many WordPress Calendar plugins which allow you to list details in a central place and then add it to various places using a widget. Do you need this?

    Author’s Literary Tastes. Readers want lists of the author’s favorite writers and recommended books. Younger fans are also more interested in knowing about their favorite authors’ book, music, and movie recommendations. How can you include this on the HOME Page? Or will you put this on the ABOUT Page?

    I’ve mentioned GoodReads widgets before because it automates the process of telling people what you are reading. If you use other sites or software to track this, then look for WordPress plugins to add this someway. You will also want to look for plugins to share your social media sites, Pinterest boards, and so on.

    Insider Information. 36% of readers (especially men) want “insider” tidbits. YOU know why you killed off that mother in chapter three; explain that to the readers on your website. Most authors will include this information on the page for a certain book. But you can hint on the HOME page that this is available. The HOME Page is definitely not the place to put in-depth details. How can you hint at what you’ve included later, so readers know if they want to read more?

    Freebies. Do you plan to provide downloadable extras like icons and sample chapters? How and where will you hint at this on the HOME Page? What links are possible? What links do you think are best?

    Regular contact. You probably want a newsletter signup on the front page! This should be one of your main goals, to build your mailing list. These are people who say they WANT to hear from you, so put this somewhere up front and central. We’ll cover it more in detail later, but I use Mailchimp for my newsletters.

    Fans under the age of 35 love contests, puzzles, and games, with prizes like autographed copies of books. As with freebies above, decide how to let your readers know that you’ve got extra stuff and decide How and Where you’ll link to this.

    No Clutter, Please

    You don’t want lots of clutter on your HOME Page. But you’ve got lots to offer. You’ll need to decide How and Where on this page you’ll link to your offerings. How often will you update the site? Will you use text or images to link to various things?

    Decisions, decisions, decisions. Get this as right as you can at this point and come back to tweak as you develop the site more. The HOME Page is very important. But remember that often readers will enter your site through a specific link to a specific page. Deep-links to a specific page will represent about half of your site’s traffic. The rest will hit this HOME page, so make it as useful and attractive as possible. But, don’t stress out over it. Make the wisest decision you can right now and come back later to tweak.

    Add a Comment
    23. Author Website Content: Privacy Page


    Goodreads Book Giveaway

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    by Darcy Pattison

    Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

    See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

    Enter to win

    This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

    Legal Issues for Websites

    WWW under construction building website

    A Privacy Policy is important because you must disclose on your site what types of information you collect and how you use it. This especially applies if you write for children because you must comply with the COPPA regulations, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (See the government site here.)

    COPPA applies only to those Web sites and online services that collect, use, or disclose personal information from children. However, the FTC recommends that all Web sites and online services – particularly those directed to children – post privacy policies online so visitors can easily learn about the operator’s information practices. From COPPA FAQ

    More COPPA Compliance information.

    It’s a good policy to provide a privacy policy and it’s simple to do. Once done, you can forget about it.
    NOTE: I am not a lawyer and this does not constitute legal advice!

    There are a couple ways that website owners often use to generate a Privacy Policy.

    Form Generator Services: Some services ask you questions about how you operate your site and then generate a policy. Here are two examples: FreePrivacyPolicy.com
    SERP Rank Privacy Policy Generator

    WordPress Plugins:
    Please Search Plugins/AddNew for up-to-date plugins that generate privacy policies and choose the one that fits your situation best. Here is one example: Auto Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

    If you offer a service or sell something from your site, you may also need a Terms of Service policy page, which explains the rules of offering and using the service. Again, look for WordPress Plugins, or contact a lawyer for appropriate legal advice.

    After you create your Privacy Policy and/or Terms of Service, save them to upload as a Page later. But think about how you will link to these pages. Usually, links must be in a prominent place on site, but most people don’t want this in the Main Menu. A common area for linking to the Privacy Policy or the TOS is the footer. Footer Putter plugin allows you to place the links to your privacy policy in the footer of your page. Search Plugins/AddNew to find other options and make a decision about works best for your website.

    Add a Comment
    24. Author Website Tech: Statistics


    Goodreads Book Giveaway

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    by Darcy Pattison

    Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

    See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

    Enter to win

    This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

    Track the Growth of Your Author Website

    WWW under construction building website

    You’ve gone to a lot of trouble to set up a website. Don’t you want to know how many visitors the site gets? You can find out this and much more by the use of a statistics and analytical package. And fortunately, WordPress makes this easy with a couple plugins.

    Statcounter. Statcounter is a simple, easy to understand statistics and analytics package that records information in real time. You don’t have to wait until tomorrow to see what traffic is like today. I like this one because of its simplicity. First search Plugins/AddNew/Statcounter. Install and activate the plugin. Go to Statcounter.com and set up an account. Follow their instructions for configuring the plugin with your account information. Sit back and watch the numbers roll in!

    Besides general numbers, I especially like to look at the Visitor Paths.This tells me what websites a visitor sees in what order. And I love to look at the Recent Visitor Map, which shows the location of your visitors. Or, look at Country/State/City/ISP. Today (the day I wrote this post) 62.5% of my visitors were from the US, and people from 35 different countries visited this site. Notice that there are NO personally identifiable bits of information here, so the Privacy Policy is still accurate.

    Note that I have a free account, which means: Each projects comes with lifetime summary stats as well as a free log size of 500, i.e. a detailed analysis of the last 500 pageloads on your website. When your log is full, it continues to operate; the oldest entry is replaced with the newest entry that comes in. So, that number (62.5% of recent visitors are from the US) only refers to the last 500 visitors to my site. Statcounter is real time and as the globe turns, you can see the progress of daylight across the globe by looking at your visitors locations! Cool, huh?a

    Location of visitors to Fiction Notes

    Location of visitors to Fiction Notes. Click to enlarge.



    Google Analytics. Another common option for website statistics is Google Analytics, and it’s a free powerhouse. You should set this up, but it might take a year or two to learn the ins and outs; in fact, I’m still learning. Yes, of course, there are WordPress Plugins for this. Search Plugins/AddNew/Google Analytics to find a couple dozen plugins. Some will only add in the required code, but some add bells and whistles. Try out a couple until you find something you’re comfortable with. Sign up with Google Analytics and follow their directions and tutorials to get everything set up.

    Do you need both stat programs? Here’s the dirty little secret about stat programs: they never agree. Your CPanel may be set up with server stats, which will differ from both of these programs. Generally, they will be close, but there are all sorts of reasons why they may not agree. When I set up my account seven years ago, Statcounter was the only program that recorded information in real time; Google Analytics only added that feature recently. I could probably go with just Google Analytics, but it’s so complicated–complete and wonderful, but complicated–that I still stick with Statcounter for simplicity. When I really need to dig into stats, though, to figure out something about my traffic, I rely on Google Analytics. For me, it’s a win-win to use both. But you don’t have to! There are many other stat programs, too, so find what works best for your website and your needs.

    The best thing about stats? You can track the growth of your website from just a few visitors the first month to that first exciting day of 100 visitors and onward and upward to 1000 a day or more.

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    25. Author Website Content: Pages


    Goodreads Book Giveaway

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    by Darcy Pattison

    Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

    See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

    Enter to win

    This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

    Transferring Pages to WordPress

    WWW under construction building website

    This is an exciting day. So far, you’ve written pages for ABOUT, BOOKS, NEWS, CONTACT, and PRIVACY. It’s time to get them on the site. Remember that WordPress is a Content Management System and uses two types of content, pages and posts. Posts are organized in reverse chronological order for the blog; Pages are static pages that don’t change and operate much like a website.

    WordPress has extensive documentation on how to use the software in the WordPress Codex. Believe me, the Codex is your friend. Any questions, go there first.

    Here are Codex instructions on:
    How to Write a Post.
    How to Write a page.

    Remember, we’ve asked search engines not to index the site yet, so there won’t be any traffic until we change that setting. You can’t break the software. It’s time to add your Pages to your site.

    Click on Pages/AddNew. Cut and paste your pages into the editor and tweak until it looks right. This will take some time, so keep at it until you’ve got the basic Pages done. Then, add one more Page: Label this one, BLOG, and leave it empty with no content. Then, you’ll have a couple tasks to do.

    Set Home Page on Settings. First, you’ll want to set the HOME Page. Go to Settings/Reading. The default is for your latest post (blog post) to be the front page of your site. You can still leave it that way, if you like, but if you wrote a great HOME page, you’ll want to select it.

    Set your HOME Page and your BLOG page. Click to enlarge.

    Set your HOME Page and your BLOG page. Click to enlarge.




    Select a STATIC PAGE and from the drop down menu, select your HOME Page.
    For the blog, choose the BLOG Page.
    Be sure to SAVE CHANGES at the bottom.

    Now, when you look at your website (FamousAuthorWebsite.com), you should see your home page.

    MENU:Navigating Around Your Site

    Great. But how do you get to the Pages? To do that, you must set up a custom Menu that will let your readers navigate through the site. Go to Appearance/Menus. Because themes operate differently in how they use a menu, you may have to read the documentation for your theme or search for a tutorial for your theme + menu. Here is WordPress’s basic instructions on menus. And here’s a video about WordPress menus.

    )
    If you can’t see this video, click here.

    Note that you can create various menus and use Widgets to add a custom menu where you want. On my HOME Page and on the sidebar of Fiction Notes, I use a Custom Menu in a Widget to add navigation entitled, “NEW? START HERE.” It links to other series of posts that are pillars of the site. When and where would you use a Custom Menu? Maybe for your books?

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