Archive for the ‘Marketing and Platforms’ Category

The Work of It (a guest blog)

October 31st, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, The Business of Writing | 0 Comments

Unless you’ve written the best and most original piece of work since To Kill a Mockingbird—and of course you have, darling—you’re going to have to hustle to sell your book. Online, in-person, over the phone to booksellers who’ve never heard of you and question your desire to sit-and-sign at their store. However you decide to do it, it’s part of the job, and you might as well enjoy it.

From my first conversation with Chip MacGregor, he made it clear he was all about the business of writing. It’s not enough to write well, to craft compelling stories, to engage readers on the page. Like any other profession, roughly a third of your time and energy has to be committed to finding work and selling your product. It was true when I ran a software company and it’s true now.

Long before I had my deal with Down & Out Books to publish Stinking Rich, I’d decided the best thing I could do for my debut novel would be to tour it. I have the luxury of time and the dollars I’d spend on gas and accommodation would never generate anything beyond a blip in advertising. What I didn’t know was how much work would be involved beyond the hours on the road.

Pulling together a database of independent bookstores is an interesting task in an era of store closures. With mystery bookstores in particular, it felt like one in three had disappeared since the start of the 2008 recession, coincident with the surge in ebooks and online retailing. Still, most of the people still in the game are deeply passionate about what they do, and many are bound to succeed regardless of market changes. I even met one bookseller brave enough to respond to the local Barnes and Noble closure by opening up last year. She couldn’t imagine her town without a bookstore.

Booking events, even with the help of Christy Campbell, my publicist at D&OB, was a challenge for a debut genre writer from a small press in peak book season. (Hint: try NOT to wind up with a September publication date your first time out.) But we stuck at it and wound up with over twenty gigs, a mix of author co-appearances, solo book store events, sit-and-signs, and readings in bars.

I’d started doing library readings and Noir at the Bars about a year before my novel came out, so I’d like to say it was a breeze, but that’d be a lie. The readings came off okay—I stuck to sometimes abridged segments loaded with dialogue, and audiences usually get a kick out of the dark bits in my work—but the open author discussions took some getting used to. All of a sudden, I felt expected to perform without a script, without the luxury of editing my words or rehearsing what I’d say. Even in the most comfortable and friendly environment, I had to be “on”.

And before and after each event, chatting with the bookseller, I still had to in sales mode (which for me has always meant active listening). If I’m going to meet 50 or 60 booksellers over a two-month period, I’d better not let them become a blur. These are the people I want hand-selling my third novel two years from now. I need to know what makes their business hum.

But wait, 50-60 booksellers? Wasn’t I talking about 20-some events? Who are the other ones? They’re the ones along my route who said, “No, thanks” to my appearance. The ones I heard of from people I met on the road or who turned up on Google that I’d somehow missed while planning the tour. They all get a visit, a quick chat, and where it makes sense, an ARC. And some of them will host me next time I’m out. Because I’ve made an effort to get on their radar.

Sound like work? Sure. Exhausting? You bet. But when you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel that way. And when I finally hit my desk again, there’s a boatload of new stories to spill.

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Rob Brunet is the author of Stinking Richwhich has just released with Down and Out Books. What could go wrong when a backwoods motorcycle club hires a high school dropout to tend a barn full of high-grade marijuana? Um… plenty. Have a look at Rob’s funny, twisted look at the local good ol’ boys. Famed writing guru Les Edgerton called it “one of the wildest romps you’ll ever go on.” Rob is currently out on the road, pitching it to readers. 

Thursdays with Amanda: 5 Misconceptions about Book Marketing

October 30th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 1 Comment

Halloween Amanda Luedeke

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Amanda Luedeke is an undead literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Let me make one thing clear: There is nothing easy about marketing.

Spend any amount of time reading up on author or book marketing, and you will start to wonder if you’re the only want who is struggling! Posts and comments tend to make it sound like a walk in the park, and it’s easy to feel as though everyone has marketing figured out, while you struggle to get a single comment on your blog. Please, throw that mindset aside! MARKETING IS HARD. It’s one of the hardest aspects of any business because it can be is a complete crapshoot.

Because it’s so hard, we naturally come up with reasons as to why we aren’t doing this or that or why we haven’t launched any kind of marketing strategy. These excuses may make us feel better, but we’re ultimately hurting ourselves and our careers. A book that isn’t marketed certainly isn’t going to sell itself. But if it IS marketed, then by golly, it has a chance!!! And this is definitely a business of chance and risk.

So here we go…

5 MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT BOOK MARKETING as gleaned from the many writers I’ve talked to over the years.

1. I don’t have a book, so I have nothing to market.

I hear this all the time from aspiring writers, and while I can see their point, the issue here is that they aren’t viewing the situation properly. If being an author is a career and your books are your business, then that makes readers your customers. The best way to connect with customers isn’t to throw marketing and sales pitches at them, saying buy, buy, BUY! Rather, it’s the relationship that counts in the long run. So if you’re an aspiring historical fiction author, hang out with the historical fiction readers! If you’re an aspiring romantic comedy writer, find where the lovers of all things chick flicks and How I Met Your Mother and Bridget Jones hang out. Spend time with them. Develop relationships. Get them reading a personal blog of yours that touches on topics that interest them. This is how you market without a book in-hand.

NOTE: If you write nonfiction, your entire career is based on your platform. This means you need to have a substantial following before you even begin the submission process. Why? People buy nonfiction because they have a need or they have a question that needs to be answered. Nonfiction books present solutions. No one wants advice or a solution from someone they’ve never heard of! They want tried-and-true. So all you nonfiction folk, it’s important to establish yourselves as experts. You need to be somebody to some people.

2. Book marketing is expensive.

If you hire someone to handle it for you, then yes. It’s ridiculously expensive. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can do marketing yourself. I promise. It just takes some time and perseverance. And if you choose to focus on online marketing, as opposed to traveling around (expensive!) and selling books out of the trunk of your car (costly AND time-consuming!), then you really can get going on this marketing thing with no more expense than the cost of Internet.

If you want to get serious about marketing and need a little jump start, check out my book, The Extroverted Writer: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a PlatformI promise it’ll give you some ideas and make the whole marketing thing feel DOABLE.

3. Book marketing takes away from my time to write.

For a few, this is probably true. Life really is too crazy for them and they barely can get writing time in amongst all their other responsibilities. But for most, it’s all about priorities, and while I’ve met plenty of authors who say they don’t have time to market, I’ve also found that those authors somehow always have time for their favorite tv shows, etc. (And because we’re storytellers, most authors follow numerous tv shows every season! Not just one or two). So is it really marketing that is taking away your writing time? Or is the issue that you’re unwilling to move around other things in your life to make room for marketing?

AND let me point out, that if in order to make room for marketing, you feel you need to cut into your writing time, then that is very telling as to where writing falls on your list of priorities…right at the very bottom.

Something to think about. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have down time or entertainment time. I’m just saying that for many of us (myself included) that time takes up way too much of our week.

4. My efforts to market my book go nowhere. It’s a waste.

It would be great if marketing efforts always got immediate results. But they don’t! That’s not how people shop. Think about the last book you read that was by an author you didn’t know…

Chances are you didn’t run out and buy it the first time you saw an ad or the first time a friend mentioned that it was good. You didn’t add it to your shopping cart the first time you saw it on BarnesAndNoble.com or the first time you spotted it on the shelf. Instead, it was only after you’d seen it in a number of these places that you realized you should probably check it out. And even then, the act of actually buying the book was probably the result of some coupon or some promo or some final piece of marketing that pushed you over the edge.

This is why marketing takes time. People are choosey about their books. They are especially choosey about the books they spend money on. So keep at it. The more touchpoints you can have with your potential readers, the faster you’ll be able to push them toward making the purchase decision.

5. Publishers aren’t going to be impressed by my silly ideas and pathetic numbers.

If you write nonfiction, then yeah…this isn’t a misconception; it’s truth. But if you write fiction, an author who is doing something is a million times more appealing than an author doing nothing. So while you may feel as though your numbers don’t impress and your strategies are n00bish, remember that fiction houses aren’t always expecting to be blown away. They just want to know that you think of this like a business. You recognize the need to try. And you’re willing to do what it takes.

When it comes time to presenting your platform, try to think outside the box. Try to show your growth over time or show examples of strategies that you believe have worked in the past for you. If you can communicate that you’ve had some success and that you are on the right track, then you’re going to be able to position yourself as an author who is moving forward. And no matter how small your actual numbers, it will cast you in a positive light.

 

Book marketing isn’t going away. It’s here to stay. So I want to know…what comes to mind when you think about marketing?

 

Thursdays with Amanda: Should I Have a Book Website?

October 16th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, Web/Tech | 0 Comments

Amanda LuedekeAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Last week I identified some web options for authors looking to create a website. Shortly after, I received an email, asking me if I would consider talking about book websites. And I’m happy to oblige.

THE PROBLEM WITH A BOOK WEBSITE

Many authors wrongly assume that by creating a site dedicated to their book, they will generate sales. But I’ve never ever seen this work. Sure, it may feel like you’re really nailing the marketing thing by having a book site, and it may look impressive and make you seem like you’ve got things under control.

But a book site is no different than an author website or a blog or anything else that you create and then put up on the Internet. NO ONE WILL VISIT THE SITE UNLESS THEY KNOW THAT IT EXISTS.

And furthermore, for those who DO visit the site, they certainly won’t revisit if they don’t have a reason to.  Why? Content on these sites is very stagnant. There is usually one draw to get people there (maybe they clicked on an ad or were promised a quiz or a download), but once that bait has been taken, there is no reason for them to return. I know that certainly don’t spend my time visiting book websites. Do you?

So the mentality that a book site is a great option is false, in my opinion. You are spending time and energy pushing people to a site that will not keep them. Will not engage them. Will offer them a simple YES or NO option (do you want to buy the book?) and once they have made their decision, they’re gone forever.

BUT WHAT ABOUT POTTERMORE?!

Sure if you have billions of dollars, a site like Pottermore is great! But 99.9% of authors, however, don’t have billions of dollars. So my example of a stagnant book site is the norm.

DOES A BOOK WEBSITE EVER WORK?!

As with all marketing, there is always an exception to the rule. So the answer is yes, there are times when a book site does really well.

A book website has a chance at doing well when:

  1. There is a marketing plan in place to drive traffic to the book website (ads are big here, social media campaigns, etc.)
  2. The author is a speaker/blogger/person with platform and can easily direct an audience to the page to buy the featured book
  3. The site presents some kind of takeaway that appeals to a large audience. Most book sites are all about buying the book. But when a site also features a free download or some kind of incentive to visit repeatedly, that’s when it can take the hard-sell-strategy and turn it into a softer sell.

A book website would do BEST when all three of the above are implemented.

My two cents? If you don’t have a reason for creating a book site (as opposed to a blog or a tumblr or something else that is more frequently updated and encourages returning visitors), then don’t create one. But if you have a vision for how you could truly benefit from a book site–for how you can get out there and drive people to your site–then by all means give it a shot.

BookLaunch as a Book Website Option

A really neat option is to go through BookLaunch.com. In fifteen minutes, I set up a web page for my book, The Extroverted Writer. No joke. And it was free. They do have a Premium version that you can use to showcase all of your books (now THAT could be a really cool tool), but if you’re iffy on whether or not a book site is for you, then this may be a great first step. Set it up. Put your marketing plan in motion, and see if it’s worth it (they have an analytics tool that makes tracking the numbers easy!).

REMEMBER! What works for one author, won’t work for another. So while I may say that book sites are typically a bad idea, that doesn’t mean that you won’t see great success with one! It’s all about the plan BEHIND the product. How will you market your site? How will you ensure visitors do what you want them to do? How will you engage with them beyond the site? If you have answers to these questions, then give a book website a whirl!

What do YOU think about book websites? And if you try the BookLaunch feature, I want to hear about it!

Thursdays with Amanda: Web Hosting Analysis for Authors, COMPLETE LIST

October 9th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, Web/Tech | 4 Comments

Amanda Luedeke agentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

We are continuing our analysis of various website services, keeping authors in mind as we review! I have the WHOLE LIST HERE. So this is it, folks. My subpar analysis of all of these options…from one person who doesn’t speak geek, to another:

WEB HOSTING ANALYSIS FOR AUTHORS

Hostgator.com

  • PLANS: for an author website, you would probably only need the Hatchling or Baby plans.
  • PERKS: Compatible with WordPress; Unlimited usage space; 24/7 support; weekly backups; Free website transfer (not totally sure about this one)
  • COST: Hatchling is $3.96/month when you order 36 months. Baby is $6.36/month. They also try to sell you other things like web backup, SEO help, and site security. The domain is roughly $12.95/yr should you purchase it from them.

BlueHost.com

  • PLANS: shared hosting plans: for an author website, you’d want  the Plus Plan or the Business Pro plan. WordPress hosting plan: for an author website, the Blogger plan looks great.
  • PERKS: $29.99 for 45-minute 1-on-1 help session; Free domain name; $99 website migration
  • COST: $5.95/mo for 36 months for the Plus Plan; $13.95/mo for 36 months for Business Pro plan; $24.99/month for WordPress Plan

TigerTech.com –

  • PLANS: Gold and Platinum
  • PERKS: A set monthly cost that doesn’t seem to fluctuate; Free domain; No outsourced support
  • CONS: they have limits on usage, and they tout free setup, but most companies also offer this
  • COST: Gold Plan $9.95/mo; Platinum plan $19.95/mo

iPage.com –

  • PLANS: Essential Hosting; WordPress Hosting
  • PERKS: Seems SUPER cheap, but beware of how prices may skyrocket when you renew; US customer service; Free domain; Free space; lots of free stuff; on the WordPress end they seem to have lots of tools for making the most of your WP site
  • COST:  Essential – $1.68/mo for 36 months; WordPress – $6.95/mo for 36 months

DreamHost.com –

  • PLANS: Shared Hosting; WordPress Hosting
  • PERKS: Free domain; “Unlimited” lots of stuff; 24/7 support; automatic updates for WordPress
  • COST: Shared – $8.95/mo; WordPress – $19.95-$24.95/mo

HostMonster.com

  • PLANS: Plus Plan ; Business Pro  (in pro you get more security)
  • PERKS: Access to lots of free scripts (make your site fancy); an actual demo site so you can try before you buy; WordPress web building; Free Domain
  • COST: Plus Plan – $6.49-9.99/mo ; Business Pro – $14.49-19.99/mo

GreenGeeks.com

 

  • PLANS: Web Hosting
  • PERKS: Uses renewable energy; Free website migration; Free domain; 24/7 North American support; online chat; Free nightly backups
  • CONS: there are other plans they offer but I can’t seem to find them…leading me to believe they will probably press for upgrades once you sign up
  • COST: $3.96/mo for 3 years

WEB BUILDING FOR AUTHORS

Squarespace.com –  Clearly trying to hit a hipster demographic here. Hmm…I signed up and tried it and even though they say it’s easy to use I still ran into issues. Maybe I’m just THAT inept. It is sleek looking, and I love how they show you some examples of how users have used their templates, but it’s not like you can be an average joe and get those kinds of results. So without really great stock photography on hand, I’m afraid any site created here will look either really bad or really plain. $8/mo for basic; $16/mo for mid-level package. A focus seems to be on ecommerce…which isn’t really a thing an author site needs.

WordPress.com – This was the most-mentioned for website management and creation. Lots of options for customization, but it can be tricky to get the hang of and most end up hiring out anyway. Most also self-host (which is why hosting plans are above). Here are their packages and pricing.

Weebly.com – apparently good for ecommerce, this seemed to be the second most popular format. The plan packages are here and seem inexpensive, though I assume you will want to host elsewhere.

Wix.com – The cool thing with this option is they actually have some writer templates. Prices seem bit high, considering what you get. So maybe you’re paying for their great designs? I assume they can be highly customized if you know what you’re doing.

Medium.com – This strikes me as a new Tumblr. So a really cool option for microblogging (or whatever you want to call it).

 

WEB DESIGN OPTIONS

ElegantThemes.com(a WordPress Theme site) – Lots of recommendations for this one

WordPress.com – Many use the free themes and tweaked them. In fact, quite a few people have said that at some point they have used WordPress all the way for hosting, templates, and maintaining their site.

StudioPress.com (a WordPress Theme site) – This also had many recommendations

MichaelHyatt.com (a WordPress Theme site) – he has a theme service called Get Noticed that someone recommended

 

TAKEAWAY

At the end of the day, it feels like choosing a phone carrier. All are pretty much the same. And you don’t have strong feelings either way until you try one and run into problems. All use fancy words to say things that really don’t matter to think you’re getting a steal of a deal. So it all come down to basic needs, and finding a host that isn’t going to crash or cause your site to run slowly.

Because SO MANY PEOPLE recommended HostGator, I imagine it has a pretty good track record. I will probably be using them. I also liked what I saw from GreenGeeks because I felt like I understood what they were telling me.

I plan on going with WordPress simply because that s what most web builders recommend…and I’m not above asking for help. But if I were totally flying solo, I’d be very interested in Weebly and Wix. Squarespace not so much. Its look was too…Vogue magazine.

HAVE YOU HAD NEGATIVE OR POSITIVE EXPERIENCES WITH ANY OF THESE WEBSITE OPTIONS?

Thursdays with Amanda: Web Hosting Analysis for Authors, Part 1

October 2nd, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, Web/Tech | 0 Comments

2013amanda2Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Alight, folks. Here is round one of analyzing the various website hosting services that were recommended to me. All in the name of finding the PERFECT fit for an author site.

Now remember, I don’t really know much about tech stuff. I’m your run-of-the-mill person who can stumble through it without totally understanding what’s going on. So, my analysis reflects that! I’m sure there will be important things that I’m going to miss, and if you spot them, be sure to let me know! Especially if I have missed an important item that would be a deciding factor for an author website.

WEB HOSTING ANALYSIS FOR AUTHORS

Hostgator.com

  • PLANS: for an author website, you would probably only need the Hatchling or Baby plans.
  • PERKS: Compatible with WordPress; Unlimited usage space; 24/7 support; weekly backups; Free website transfer (not totally sure about this one)
  • COST: Hatchling is $3.96/month when you order 36 months. Baby is $6.36/month. They also try to sell you other things like web backup, SEO help, and site security. The domain is roughly $12.95/yr should you purchase it from them.

BlueHost.com

  • PLANS: shared hosting plans: for an author website, you’d want  the Plus Plan or the Business Pro plan. WordPress hosting plan: for an author website, the Blogger plan looks great.
  • PERKS: $29.99 for 45-minute 1-on-1 help session; Free domain name; $99 website migration
  • COST: $5.95/mo for 36 months for the Plus Plan; $13.95/mo for 36 months for Business Pro plan; $24.99/month for WordPress Plan

TigerTech.com –

  • PLANS: Gold and Platinum
  • PERKS: A set monthly cost that doesn’t seem to fluctuate; Free domain; No outsourced support
  • CONS: they have limits on usage, and they tout free setup, but most companies also offer this
  • COST: Gold Plan $9.95/mo; Platinum plan $19.95/mo

iPage.com –

  • PLANS: Essential Hosting; WordPress Hosting
  • PERKS: Seems SUPER cheap, but beware of how prices may skyrocket when you renew; US customer service; Free domain; Free space; lots of free stuff; on the WordPress end they seem to have lots of tools for making the most of your WP site
  • COST:  Essential – $1.68/mo for 36 months; WordPress – $6.95/mo for 36 months

Okay, that’s enough for this week.

I NEED YOUR INPUT! What did I miss? What is important that I failed to consider? And which of these hosting sites looks the best to YOU?

We’ll review more next week!

Thursdays with Amanda: A Pinterest-y Placeholder for Next Week’s Post

September 25th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 2 Comments

literary agentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

 

Looks like I’ll have to postpone my promised analysis of website tools. Sorry! I’m at a conference, and haven’t had time to do the intended research.

Next week we’ll be back on track, but in the meantime, if you haven’t done so already and are really in the mood to read about marketing, check out this post I did some time ago on Jane Friedman’s blog.

5 Ideas for Using Pinterest as an Author

How do YOU use Pinterest? Is it worth your time?

 

Thursdays with Amanda: Helpful Tools for Building, Hosting, and Designing Author Websites

September 18th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, Web/Tech | 7 Comments

literary agentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

 

A funny thing happened the moment I joined MacGregor Literary. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the moment I joined. Could have been a moment or two later.

Anyway, I became the “tech person.”

Due to what was probably a massive dose of ageism and the fact that I knew how to blog on WordPress (whoopty-do), I was soon the de facto knower of all things tech. So, whenever our website broke, the solution was to call Amanda. Or the posts weren’t showing up like they should–call Amanda. Or we needed to set up some kind of new account or change something on our site or figure out why in the world Twitter was being crazy–call Amanda.

Eventually, this responsibility was shared with another within our company, and rightfully so. Because here’s the truth…

I know little-to-nothing about tech stuff. I can’t write or read HTML. I have no idea what “Nameservers” actually means. Or if I’ve even spelled it correctly. I can barely navigate GoDaddy (in my defense, it’s the least intuitive, clunkiest website ever), and I’ve just now gotten the hang of a few website building tools through WordPress…and only because I painstakingly replicated what I saw a REAL webmaster do.

And yet…I’m one of the go-to tech people.

Yay me.

My husband always gets a kick out of this, because when setting up electronics or the like, I’m the type to refer to wires as “the blue one” and “the spirally short one,” whereas he says “input” and “output” or something of the sort. Or for the longest time I thought the universal hyperlink icon was a paperclip. A PAPERCLIP, PEOPLE! It didn’t dawn on me that the icon for “linking things” was a chain link (duuurr). So there I was, telling people to “click on the paperclip.”

THE SECRETS TO MAKING PEOPLE THINK YOU KNOW MORE ABOUT TECH AND WEBSITE STUFF THAN YOU ACTUALLY DO

I feel that on this blog I tend to come across as someone who knows a lot about the tech side of things. But clearly from the stories I’ve shared above, I don’t. What I do know has been the result of me forcing myself to learn. I didn’t grow up with the Internet or even a computer. But I’ve adapted. And I can now pose as a tech person even though what I really do is poke around and try things until I either figure out (*cough* Google *cough*) a solution or realize I’m in over my head.

Here are a few of my not-so-secret secrets:

1. I’m really really really good at Google searches

2. I’m great at following directions

3. I don’t have this mindset that I’ll “break” the Internet or whichever program I’m using

4. I’m not afraid to ask for help

5. I realize that this can be learned…but I won’t be an expert right away. I allow myself time and I go at my own pace.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BUILDING AN AUTHOR WEBSITE (WEB HOSTING, WEB DESIGN, SITE CREATION)

Okay, all this to say that I’ve been working on setting up a website for awhile, but again…since I know almost NOTHING, and since I want my site to be AWESOME, I figured I’d start at the beginning.

I need to figure out what program I’m going to use for my site (WordPress? or something else?). And where I’m going to host it (apparently, hosting outside of WordPress is cheaper and better for IT problems, and other reasons that I don’t really know right now). AND I need to figure out where to get a template (pretty design) so that I don’t have to conform to pre-made templates and can ensure my site has what I want it to have.

To get started, I rallied the troops.

I posed the question on Facebook, and here are some of the recommended sites, hosting services, etc. Just in case you too are in the market for a website and don’t know anything about anything.

Suggestions for Website Hosting

GoDaddy.com – Despite the many recommendations, I’ve used them before and don’t like them. They’re tricky to navigate. Not intuitive at all, so I won’t be using them.

Hostgator.com – This got a few mentions

BlueHost.com – This one also was mentioned more than once

TigerTech.com

iPage.com

DreamHost.com

HostMonster.com

GreenGeeks.com

 

Suggestions for Web Hosting and Building (or just site building/maintenance)

Squarespace.com – Seems to be a site for those who like to be cutting edge, but we’ll see

WordPress.com – This was the most-mentioned for website management and creation, though many self-hosted elsewhere (list above)

Weebly.com – apparently good for ecommerce, this seemed to be the second most popular format

Wix.com

Medium.com

 

Suggestions for Web Themes

ElegantThemes.com(a WordPress Theme site) – Lots of recommendations for this one

WordPress.com – Many used the free themes and tweaked them. In fact, quite a few people said that at some point they have used WordPress all the way for hosting, templates, and maintaining their site.

StudioPress.com (a WordPress Theme site) – This also had many recommendations

MichaelHyatt.com (a WordPress Theme site) – he has a theme service called Get Noticed that someone recommended

 

So…that’s a lot to wade through. But we’re going to do it together! Over the next few weeks, I’m going to research these suggestions and present my findings on this blog (Thursdays). Then, I’ll let you know what I end up going with! And if you want to help and do some research of your own, all the better. Share your results here. I’m going to start by researching the hosting sites, since that’s usually step 1 (along with figuring out where you’re going to buy your domain…my plan is to buy from the hosting site).

Are you in the market for an author website or maybe a new design? Or a new hosting service? Tell me about it!

author website book

Thursdays with Amanda: How to Effectively Communicate Your Author Platform–No Matter How Big or Small

September 4th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 8 Comments

literary agentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

I’m sure you’ve been in this position: You’re sitting across from an agent or editor. And despite their attempts at making it a comfortable meeting, you’re experiencing a range of emotion. Panic. Confidence. Fear. Hope. Anxiety. Not to mention the shaking. Or the muddled thoughts. Or the ohmygosh she didn’t even look at my one-sheet.

And then the bomb drops…the agent/editor asks about platform.

If you have a massive platform, then chances are you totally nailed this. But if your platform is anything less than massive, then things don’t go as well as planned. You’ve been preparing for this moment, but you quickly realize that your rehearsed platform monologue isn’t working. And then the questions come, and you find that you don’t have the answers. Or maybe you do, but they’re not coming out as confidently as you’d hoped. And regardless of whether you come away with a rejection or a request to send the proposal, if you’re like me, you’re thinking about what went wrong. How things could be better. And what the heck do these people want from me?!

5 Things Agents or Editors DON’T Want to Hear When Asking About Author Platform

1. Yearly stats. When your blog numbers aren’t that impressive, it’s understandable that you’d want to try and put them in the best light. The primary way authors do this is by communicating yearly blog or website numbers as opposed to monthly. So, instead of 500 unique visitors every month, they would say something like 6000 unique visitors…and leave it at that. The problem is that we WILL ask for clarification. Yearly blog or web stats mean nothing to agents and editors. It’s all about the monthly stats, because books aren’t necessarily promoted year-round by publishers. They have a 4-month (or so) window. So it’s all about MONTHLY stats. And it’s so very helpful when authors understand this and then give us the information we need up front. Even if it makes their blog look smaller.

2. Page Views. Another way to make a blog seem more trafficked is to talk about page views as opposed to unique visitors. The unique visitor stats track individuals that frequent the website on a monthly basis. Each person (or IP address) gets counted once. Each time a person clicks a new page on the site, that gets tracked with the page views.  Therefore page view stats are always higher than unique visitors, and it’s tempting to focus on the bigger number when trying to impress. Please don’t! In the industry, we talk in terms of unique visitors. We’re only interested in page views if you can prove that a majority of people who come to your site are spending lots of time on each page (5 or more minutes) and clicking around a lot. Then you’d mention those stats as a sidenote.

3. International stats. I’ve noticed that those with smaller blogs and website presences will almost always say something like “there are people in Russia reading my blog! And China!” I realize it’s exciting to think that you have an international readership. But having a handful of non-US readers doesn’t mean anything to an agent or editor. In fact, those readers are probably robots or scammers who are out to flood your site with spam. So, only bring up international readers if you have sizable following in a particular country. “Sizable” is relative, but we can say 15-20% is a good rule of thumb.

4. What your fans are saying. I get this a lot from published authors…when talking about platform, they want to include their fanbase (which is great!). But they tend to focus on the handful of emails they’ve received in which fans have requested sequels or spin-offs. And the authors present this to me as though it’s evidence that said sequels and spin-offs will do well! Unless you have thousands of people requesting the same type of book, this data isn’t worth mentioning. You are welcome to talk about how much fan mail you get, provided it’s a decent number (a few hundred emails/letters/notes per month), but please avoid using a few fan emails as evidence of a large following.

5. Look at my website. It’s common for authors who aren’t sure what to say, or how to communicate their platform, to want to pull up their website and social media to show it to me. They may even want to show me their analytics or the prototype for their new site. While your online platform may be pretty to look at and well-done, it doesn’t sell your platform. And I also don’t want to work with someone who will simply give me their Analytics login and tell me to “have at it.” Now rest assured, we ABSOLUTELY look at websites and online presence. But we do so on our own when we’re evaluating whether or not we’d be a fit. Or, we do so if the conversation naturally progresses in that direction. So don’t feel as though you need to show us those spaces in order to get us to look at them. We’ll do so on our own. And remember to have a general idea of your stats going into the meeting. Last week’s exercise on focusing your book marketing efforts would be a handy tool in this case.

5 Things Agents or Editors DO Want to Hear When Asking About Author Platform

1. The truth. If you have a small platform, own it. If you need to grow your platform, say so. This prevents us from wasting valuable time with you trying to “fool” me, for lack of a better word, and then me telling you that your platform isn’t big enough. It will help us cut to the chase and focus on your BOOK as well as your ideas for growing your presence.

2. Your goals. Where do you want to be? What social media outlet do you plan to grow? Having a clear set of goals will tell us that you know where you’re headed. It helps us feel as though you have a handle on this platform thing even if your numbers aren’t impressive.

3. Your strategies. In addition to sharing your goals, talk about strategy! So few fiction authors ever talk about this and I think it’s to the detriment of their career. Show me a fiction author who has a tiny platform but LOTS of ideas and strategies for HOW to grow it, and I’m immediately interested. This is really a way for fiction authors to stand out!

4. What’s working. Sure, your stats may be slim, but if you’ve been working on platform for any length of time, you have to be seeing SOME success. Tell me about that. Tell me about the instances in which you obtained 100 new Facebook likes in a few days. Or when you had a Tweet or video see tons more traction than usual. Talk about what has gone WELL and how you plan to replicate that or build on it. It shows you have a mind for marketing and thats always an impressive characteristic.

5. A clear sense of understanding what platform is all about. By simply talking knowledgeably about platform, you will put yourself in a favorable light. Having your stats ready, knowing your goals and strategies, knowing what doesn’t work for you and what does, knowing what the experts are saying and also what others in your genre are doing. Being EDUCATED on platform shows us that you really have a chance at making this work and it makes you that much more appealing.

author platform

You Can Do It!

Talking about your platform doesn’t have to be hard or embarrassing or awkward. Even authors with the smallest of platforms can make a big splash if they pay attention to these do’s and don’ts. And DON’T FORGET to include those do’s in your proposals!

Have you struggled with communicating your platform? Or maybe you found a way to present it in a really favorable light? Share your stories!

Thursdays with Amanda: How to Focus Your Book Marketing Efforts

August 28th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 16 Comments

Amanda Luedeke Literary AgentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Last Saturday and Sunday, we offered our Marketing Seminar first to MacLit clients and then to the general writing public. There was a ton of great content, all focused on book- and brand-marketing. But one theme…one rule seemed to really rise to the top regardless of the topic or who was speaking.

When it comes to book marketing, you don’t need to do everything.

Whenever anyone talks about marketing (myself included), it turns into a kind of free-for-all. We cover Pinterest and YouTube and blogging and Facebook and LinkedIn and Google+ and soon it all seems very overwhelming, and authors come away thinking they need to sign up for this or that or they need to relaunch things that they’d previously abandoned.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

We cover all of these topics because there’s no one-size-fits-all marketing approach. What works for one romance novelist won’t work for another. So, we cover the bases in hopes that you will know what to filter out. That you’ll stay abreast of your options, but that you’ll only spend time on the areas that are a fit for YOU and YOUR audience.

But of course, this assumes that you know what those areas are.

Identify the areas in which you’re strongest.

Here’s how we helped the folks at our seminar uncover which areas were working the best for them…

The following is a list of potential author platform areas:

  • Facebook:
  • Twitter:
  • Goodreads:
  • LinkedIn:
  • YouTube:
  • Instagram:
  • Google+:
  • Pinterest:
  • Newsletter:
  • Blog:
  • Website:
  • Articles:
  • Events:
  • Radio:
  • TV:
  • Other:

Go ahead and fill it in with your author platform information. I’ve gone ahead and plugged in mine.

  • Facebook: 1,400 likes
  • Twitter: 1,430 likes
  • Goodreads: my author page has 3 fans; my profile 181 friends
  • LinkedIn: 196 connections
  • YouTube: Nil
  • Instagram: 118 followers
  • Google+: I’m in 302 circles…have 28 people in mine.
  • Pinterest: 276 followers
  • Newsletter: 45-ish names/email
  • Blog: no data (sadly, I don’t have clear access to this blog’s data…defintely something that needs to to be remedied). But I do blog every Thursday, and the content is geared to my audience.
  • Website: ^ditto
  • Articles: I write roughly one article or guest post per month. I imagine those words get in front of 3000 people per year. And those posts and articles are all to industry people (i.e. my target audience). If I were a writer, however, they would NOT count as my target audience because industry people are not the same as readers/fans.
  • Speaking events: 8-12 conferences per year. I estimate I’m in front of (speaking, teaching, etc) an average of 350 people per conference. So, 2,800-4,200 industry people (my target audience).
  • Radio: 2-3 guest podcasts per year.
  • TV: Nil
  • Other: I think that about covers it for me.

Now, analyze what you have.

Here are my thoughts on my data: It’s clear that conferences are one of my top platform components. But they take so much time! Twitter and Facebook are solid spaces for me. Most every other social media outlet was painful to list because the numbers were so small. Shows how little I care about those sites. BUT it was interesting to see how many Google+ followers I have, considering the last time I posted anything to that outlet was when it was in the beta phase some years ago. And clearly I need to get a way to view web stats on ChipMacGregor.com.

Spend your book marketing time wisely.

What’s WORKING for me:

  1. Facebook and Twitter are neck-and-neck. Both need my attention, while nearly every other social media site could be forgotten and ignored as far as I’m concerned.
  2. I know my “Thursdays with Amanda” posts are a chunk of my platform, so even though I don’t have the data right now, I’m going to keep making them a priority.
  3. I need to do more with Google+… the fact that I have the number of followers I do WITHOUT posting anything there for some years is quite shocking. For the record, I HATE Google+. But I can’t argue these numbers.
  4. I need to keep saying yes to article or guest blog openings. The time spent on each article is 1-2 hours, and if it means getting my name/words in front of a few hundred potential fans, then it’s so worth it. Much more so than spending 5 days at a conference and coming away with the same audience numbers.

What’s NOT working for me:

  1. I could drop Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, my newsletter, and Goodreads and not feel any kind of repercussions. (Though it’s worth saying I don’t do much with these sites in general).
  2. It’s clear that radio and TV mean almost nothing to me. And I don’t see a need to try harder in those spaces, because I’m not sure my audience is there anyway.
  3. Conferences and speaking get me in front of the most people, BUT I need to do a lot of them to get the numbers I’m currently getting. And with the time and expense that goes into the book marketingconference circuit, I’m not sure it’s an even payoff. So I need to reevaluate how much time I spend doing conferences, and also what kinds of conferences I’m doing. I need to be pickier. I need to demand more stage-time. And I probably need to create another product or two to sell while there (selling The Extroverted Writer: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform has been great!). Would doing this make conferences more worth it? I don’t know. I guess I’ll take it slow…I have to do SOME conferences. But until I have a strategy, I’m not going to be jumping up and volunteering from here on out.

So I have some clear takeaways here, and also the freedom to say NO to quite a few things. In fact,  I NEED to say no to that which isn’t worthwhile. Otherwise, I run the risk of ignoring the things that are working for me.

And the same goes for you. Marketing does NOT mean doing everything. It means being smart about knowing what works for you and how to leverage those spaces.

What about you?

After doing this exercise, what are your numbers telling you? Any revelations??

ONLY TWO DAYS LEFT TO ENTER THE EXTROVERTED WRITER GIVEAWAY:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Extroverted Writer by Amanda Luedeke

The Extroverted Writer

by Amanda Luedeke

Giveaway ends August 31, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Thursdays with Amanda: THE EXTROVERTED WRITER GIVEAWAY!

August 21st, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms | 0 Comments

2013amanda2Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

I had a few guest posts hit the web this week.

I talked about FINDING TIME FOR BOOK MARKETING over at Routines for Writers.

And if you’ve ever wondered WHAT IS AN AUTHOR PLATFORM, then check out my post on SalomaFurlong.com.

AND while you’re at it, enter to win a FREE copy of The Extroverted Writer!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Extroverted Writer by Amanda Luedeke

The Extroverted Writer

by Amanda Luedeke

Giveaway ends August 31, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.
Enter to win