Do I Really Need a Website if I have a Facebook Page?

There are lots of opinions on this topic, but if I had to pick just one of the two, I’d still pick a website – with qualifications.

First, look at what they are. A Facebook page is a social media networking platform. It consists largely of a place to share news, announcements, photos, gossip, you name it – it’s out there. It can be as casual or as professional as you like. I strongly recommend that if you have a Facebook page, you create one for personal use and an author page for professional use and you try not to mingle the two together too much. Maybe that seems like overkill today, but the more people who read your books and follow your pages, the more important it becomes to keep your private information private. As much as we don’t like to think about it, there are people out there who are a little unbalanced and you don’t want to be sharing pictures of your grandkids with them.

A website, on the other hand, is a more “fixed” platform. I work with journalists every day and while they do look at your Facebook page, they also go straight for your website to see if you’ve posted press information there. As you probably know, journalists often work around the clock and on deadline. If they’re working on a story and can’t find the info they need, they’ll find it elsewhere. Your website is the first impression you’ll make on a lot of people. The good news is, there are no rewrites in real life, but you can work and rework the content on your website until it really shines.

In both instances, I come across pages that look professional and even more that don’t. As with any area of business, find out what you’re good at and staff your weakness. Your brand and your professional appearance are NOT the place to cut corners and save money. With all the freebies available today, it’s tempting and I know few writers are independently wealthy, but if every time someone checks you out online they find information that looks more DIY (do it yourself) than professional, that’s exactly how they’ll think of you.

We all want to know and do business with people who are on the road to success. Maybe you’re not there yet, but you need to look like you’re the person you want to be. An author who shows up in shorts and flip flops may be a fun person and a great writer, but the impression is probably someone who isn’t that serious about his or her professional appearance.

Take some time and do a search for author websites. Don’t just look at one, look at several and keep an objective eye. It’s best to look at authors you don’t know personally and visit a few pages on their sites.

  • What do you like?
  • What don’t you like?
  • Do you find any typos?
  • Is the information up to date?
  • Do you find information there that would be helpful if a journalist was writing up a quick article to announce an upcoming event?
  • Is there something missing?
  • What could be done to improve the site?

Once you’ve visited a few, go back and look at your own site. Do you think it gives the impression of you and your work that you want it to?

If you use Facebook and/or Twitter, visit some author pages there and see what kind of impression they make. Do they post things that would be of interest to their readers? Do they include a variety of photos and links that are in good taste?

Usually the best gauge of what any of your pages should be is what interests you, and what works for others. We all have different tastes and opinions, but if you’re drawn to particular posts and pages, chances are similar posts and pages will work for you.

Don’t hesitate to ask trusted friends for their thoughts, but also get input from others within the writing industry. Most of my family have no idea what works on webpages and FB for writers, but other writers should have some good ideas. Good luck with your project!

Five Things Every Author’s Website Needs (And a Couple it Doesn’t!) by Karen McCullough

Five Things Every Author’s Website Needs (And a Couple it Doesn’t!)

by Karen McCullough

It’s pretty much an article of faith now that a published or soon-to-be-published author needs a website. No matter how much other social media you participate in, the website is the foundation of all your efforts, the place that houses the most important information about who you are, what you’ve written, and how to order, and why readers would want to buy your books.

To ensure your website offers you the maximum benefit, here are a few things that it really has to have.

  1. A warm, attractive home page that welcomes readers and presents yourself and your books in an intriguing way. It should invite viewers to stay a while and investigate further. Attractive design, with a nice color palette and balanced layout makes you look more professional as well as letting viewers enjoy the experience. And of course, you want to be sure that your navigation is clear, consistent, and easy to use.
  1. A page for your book or books. This should show covers and order information (preferably linked to the order pages for your book at various online vendors) for each book.  I suggest listing them in reverse chronological order with the most recent first, the one exception being that if you have books in a series, those should always be listed together.  If you have a backlist of more than one or two books, a printable booklist (either a text file or PDF) is always appreciated by readers.
  1. A News/Coming Soon page.  One of the most common reasons for a reader to visit an author’s website is to find out about what the next book will be and when it will be available. They’d also like to know if you’ll be doing an appearance or book signing somewhere near them.
  1. A bit about yourself. Readers like to know something about the person who wrote their favorite story.  You’re a celebrity to your readers, and we’re all curious about celebrities. So let them know where you live (roughly – don’t ever publish your actual street address on your site; city or region is good enough), what you do if you have a day job that isn’t writing, what your hobbies and interests are.
  1. A way to contact you. There’s a lot of disagreement about the best way to do this. Five years ago, I was advising authors to put an email link on their site, until spammers began combing the web to find email addresses to hack and spoof.  I switched to suggesting using a contact form, and I’ve installed a number of them. In the last year or so, however, those forms are being spammed and, if they’re not set up properly, can even be used to relay large quantities of spam.

And finally for the things you don’t want on your site. Boiled down, you want to avoid anything that will make visitors leave more quickly. That includes music that autoplays, too many moving or slow-loading displays, and confusing navigation that changes from page to page.

The auto-playing music should be self-evident. Many people surf during down-time at work or in rooms with other people. That great oldies song you love may be like fingers on chalkboard to other people. If you want to put music on your site, give your viewer the option of turning it on.

Flash displays were popular for a while because they provided classy animations that could compelled attention and interest. But those lovely displays often were slow to load and offered jerky displays. And today Flash doesn’t work on many phones and tablets. Better to limit your use of Flash. And do I really need to mention how annoying a lot of little blinking objects are?  One or maybe even two you can get away with.  Any more than that and you’re overdoing it.

Karen McCullough is a web designer by profession, and the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres as well. She has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy, and has also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.

Website: http://www.kmccullough.com

Blog: http://www.kmccullough/kblog

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kgmccullough

A Gift for Murder BlurbAGFM_200

Greed, jealousy, and anger often lurk below the surface of trade shows and business exhibitions, but murder isn’t usually on the program…

 

For fifty-one weeks of the year, Heather McNeil loves her job as assistant to the director of the Washington DC Market Show Center. But the Gift and Home trade show, the biggest show of the year at the center, is a week-long nightmare. This year’s version is worse than usual. Misplaced shipments, feuding exhibitors, and malfunctioning popcorn machines are all in a day’s work. Finding the body of a murdered executive dumped in a trash bin during the show isn’t.  The discovery tips Heather’s life into havoc.

The police have reason to suspect the victim’s wife killed him, but Heather doesn’t believe it. She’s gotten glimmers of an entirely different scenario and possible motive, but questioning exhibitors about the crime doesn’t make her popular with them or with her employers. Still, other lives might be at risk, and if she doesn’t identify the murderer before the show ends, the culprit could well remain free to kill again.

Her only help comes from a company executive with ulterior motives and the Market Center’s attractive new security officer, Scott Brandon. Despite opposition from some of the exhibitors, her employers, and the police, Heather seeks to expose the killer before the show ends.  To solve the mystery she will have to risk what’s most important to her and be prepared to fight for answers, her job, and possibly her life.

Common author mistake #3 First impressions

PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

Have you ever noticed that if you meet someone and he makes a bad impression for whatever reason, when you see him again, even if he presents himself in a totally different manner, your memory immediately defaults to the first experience and the contrast is noted but the first impression remains? You may meet this same man several times subsequently before that unfavorable first impression begins to fade.

On the other hand, if you meet someone and she makes a very good first impression, then you meet her again and she looks terrible, your mind will default to the good impression and make excuses like she’s just having a really bad day to explain why her second appearance was less than pleasant. Again, it can take several repeat bad appearances to erase that strong first impression. I’m sure you get the point.

As an author, it’s particularly challenging to manage that first impression because more often than not, you’re not there at the time. First impressions can be forged by a variety of things – comments others make about you, Facebook pages and posts, Tweets, website content, even the cover of your book. Don’t I have enough to worry about already? You might ask. Probably. That’s why it’s important to choose your battles carefully. Know the difference between the things you can and cannot change and put your focus on those you can.

Think about these scenarios and how they reflect on your career as an author:

What if a journalist gets a press release in the middle of the night about your upcoming book release and goes to your website for more info, but the most recent title showing there came out in March of 2012?

What if the Events page of your website says “More info soon” and it’s been saying that since the site went live last year?

What if your promo picture looks like this ellen-degeneres-cover-girl

But when you meet for the live interview, you really look like this  bad head shot 1

Or worse, what if your press shot looks like this  bad head shot 2

But you really look like this?  headshot 1

Probably just a bad hair day, right? But think about it. Most readers you hope to have in a career as an author won’t meet you in person. They’ll hear about you somewhere and try to find you online – on a website, on Facebook, Twitter, wherever. Their first impressions of you will happen wherever they find you. The good news is that if they were to stumble upon you on a late night run to the drug store for cough meds when you’re sick, chances are the impression won’t be that great. You can’t always prevent that. But you can certainly make sure your first impression given by your website is friendly and professional. You can control your behavior with comments in other social media. And, you can fight the urge to drop posters off at Hastings for an upcoming book signing wearing flip flops and a ponytail and wearing no makeup.

What if you are careful with your language on your blog, but the same blog has a twitter feed showing that you are often cursing and critical in your comments?

What if the first time people “met” you, live or on the internet, made a permanent impression on them?

When people who frequent the same social media as you recognize your name, how would they introduce you to someone else? Would they say “Oh, that’s some author who’s always trying sell her book” or “She cusses like a sailor”? Maybe you’re fine if they say things like that. The point is to make you think about what someone else might think of you. What kind of impression are you making when you venture out into the cybersphere?

I know the internet is a comfortable place for many who just want to “be themselves” but think about how you feel about your favorite authors. Has your impression of them changed at all since you’ve come to know them via social media? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how important first impressions can be for an author. Are they important enough that we should all take time to work on those first impressions?

I like to think of it as an “on purpose” because I like the idea of doing or being something on purpose rather than achieving a designation “on accident”. What kinds of things do you think an author can do – on purpose – to make a lasting and positive first impression?

Who knows your name?

Name recognition. That’s what it’s really all about when you get right down to it. But when you ask a lot of authors what book promotion is about, many will answer “selling books.” Ok. That’s a fair answer, but not exactly accurate. Selling books is certainly the desired outcome, but the promotion itself should focus on gaining name recognition for the author. The more name recognition the author has, the more books that author will sell.

One of the most frequent recommendations is to hire a branding company, but not many authors are inclined to do that. But there are plenty of things you can do for yourself.

Here are a few tips for increasing name recognition:

  1. Think long-term when selecting a brand image and stick with your name or your company, not a particular title or series. There’ll be time enough for that later, but ideally it’s the author’s name that should be etched in readers’ memories so that any title or series associated with the author will be desirable.
  2. Develop all collateral and image materials (website, stationary, logo, taglines, business cards, postcards, newsletters, etc.) to coincide with your brand.
  3. Develop a memorable tagline that reflects who you are and what you write. Do not make it specific to one title or series.
  4. Make lists of different groups you’d like to reach in the coming year, then develop a timetable and calendar to systematically get your information to them.
  5. Regularly (quarterly is good) write and issue press releases to the media and to your website. Of course, you need to do something worth writing about and it should be something associated with your brand. For authors, it might be speaking to local writing group, hosting a contest to read and critique short stories, participating in local Citizen’s Police Academy events – anything related to writing and the brand the author is trying to establish.
  6. Regularly write articles for publication, including your brand information in your bio.
  7. Regularly write and pitch feature story ideas to media. Sometimes the best way to get your own foot in the door is by pitching others.
  8. Participate (attend, speak, host) in at least two national and local industry conferences a year.
  9. Create and issue an online or direct mail newsletter.
  10. Participate in and sponsor local charitable efforts. The local Chamber of Commerce is a good place to start for a variety of opportunities. Post your calendar of appearances on your website – not just book signing events.
  11. Make sure your website includes informational materials formatted for strong results from search engines; and make sure there is in-depth material demonstrating your expertise, whatever it is, so that website browsers can easily find and read it.
  12. Update your website with informational content at least 2 – 4 times per month.

Building name recognition for an author is a slow and steady process, not something that can be done once every few months. Nor will a 2 week media blitz result in lasting recognition. To develop a career as an author takes consistent effort, but persistence, as in getting published, pays.