Monday, July 18, 2011

Discoverability: Step #1 - A place to call home

Before I start to go into techniques to help your "online discovery" let's make sure we have our ducks in a row. To that end let's talk a bit about some of the basics for those just starting out.

Priority #1 - Your own site
You MUST have a site controlled by you that you that you can send people to. Period. Don't ever think author pages from: your publisher, Amazon, or Smashwords is "good enough". You must have a site exclusive to yourself that you are in complete and utter control of.

In the past this meant a web page and either learning how to create one or hiring a website designer. Nowadays you don't need any of that just use a blog. Blogs makes it so much easier to update your content and since they now offer static as well as dynamic pages you can still have tabs for things such as sample downloads, buying direct, author bios, contact pages, etc. etc. etc.

The other advantage of using a blog is that you get a SINGLE site. If you try to maintain both a blog and website one will usually be woefully neglected. (Usually the website) If you have only one to keep up to date your life gets a lot easier and you don't confuse your readers by giving them several different places to go to.

What's in a name
While a rose by any other name might small as sweet I want you to start on the right foot and that means thinking about your name (both for your site, and handles used by sites such as twitter and forums).

Writers are in an interesting position because they have their own name, their books name, and in some cases series names. We'll make this real simple because I want you to forget all the other things and focus on YOUR NAME. It's the only thing you can count on.

If you are traditionally published, there's not telling what the "final name" of your book will be. If you stated a blog with the name of that book, and they change the title - you're going to lose a bunch of momentum. Also keep in mind you'll probably have more than one book out there. If you try to make your sites books specific then you'll have to duplicate information on multiple sites with each new book. Also you'll loose cross-selling opportunities.

Some authors think they should divide sites between series. While this is a little better than doing it for books the same problems exist. You'll have to maintain several sites and one is always better. Again if you are using your name as your main site then you can have separate tabs for each series.

What if you write under multiple pen names? I still say you should have only one site. If one of the names is the "Real you" then that should be your site. If all of them are pen names then focus the site on the most popular of the authors then have separate tabs for each of the "writing as" names.

Pay the few dollars a year it takes to purchase your own URL you can even purchase several - for instance yours, your book titles, and your series titles as long as they land back to your one and only blog/website. Through redirection you can have several URL's land at the same place.

Having control over an exclusive place to send people to once you are "discovered" is essential. We'll spend one more blog post on this subject tomorrow indicating what you should have on your site.

14 comments:

J. R. Tomlin said...

I'm looking forward to what you have to say, Robin. You seem to me to have put your finger on exactly what our challenge is now as writers. In a year, two years, five years it may be something else, but now... This is a challenge we have to conquer.

Libby said...

I felt so good when you said this the other day at the seminar because I branded everything as Libby Heily - mostly because it's not a common name - as a former Sullivan, I feel your pain.

Jamie Todd Rubin said...

Agree on the domain name. I gobbled up as many combinations of my name as I could manage to get. All of them simply redirect to the one in which I host my WordPress site, so no matter which one you go to, you get to the same place.

Laura said...

The blogging phenomenon has definitely made it easier to market oneself! Good advice, here! Thanks for sharing!

Suzanne said...

On her blog, Kristin Lamb is also championing this idea of One Blog to Rule Them All. ;-)

Does anyone else recall that less than a year ago, everyone in the industry was saying that blogs were pointless, dead weight? Authors were being encouraged to abandon their blogs. Supposedly readers didn't visit author blogs because there were millions of author blogs out there, all saying "Buy my books!" and most of these blogs contained content for writers, published and unpublished.

At the beginning of this year, I performed a reboot on my blog. I had already communicated with my readers and learned what type of content would bring them to my blog. Then, via guest authors who are subject matter experts, I gave readers that content: juicy tidbits from history that were omitted from high school history class because they were too bawdy, exciting, or controversial. And book giveaways -- wow, do readers ever like free stuff! lol

From its inception in February, the "Relevant History" feature on my blog has been extremely popular among readers. I've slowly been assembling a book-release email list from those site visitors who indicate that they want to hear more from me.

I made the entire first week of this month posts about Relevant History. The blog traffic was incredible. And I picked up more potential readers. The next book of my series will be released in October, so all of this is quite timely.

My current series is in the historical thriller genre. I want to introduce a science fiction series in 2012. I'm trying to figure out the best way to do that with my current blog as an anchor, perhaps using the same pen name for both series. I might even include a "Relevant Future" feature for my science fiction series. :-) But I look forward to reading your advice on this, Robin. And you betcha that I'll Tweet this.

Thanks!

Suzanne Adair

Margaret said...

Robin, you said the right thing at the right time for me. I still have to get the hang of my blog site, but I'm definitely going to concentrate on that.

Thank you.

Margaret Lake

Eloheim and Veronica said...

Hi Robin,
I completely agree with you. I sell more books from my site than I do anywhere else.

For those looking to get started with a blog, I thought I would pass along a recommendation.

Robert will set up a basic Wordpress blog for only $17! He is fast, his rates are very reasonable, and he is very good at what he does. He did a lot of customization for me on my blog http://eloheim.com most recently installing Google translate :)

Robert Payne is a results-driven Web Developer with experience in website development and WordPress installation and customization.

http://www.robert-d-payne.com/

Veronica

India Drummond said...

I would also add to this advice (if I could be so bold) to say that a professional blog should be professional. If a novelist wants to talk about their bunions online, feel free, but perhaps she should think twice about doing it on her 'work' blog. I'm not saying a blog should be a constant sales-pitch, but I think some authors have difficultly making the transition to (semi) public figure.

I would also like to throw in a reminder that every person with a website should learn how to take backups, and do it at least weekly. Even if you're on blogger or another free service. I've seen authors have their blogs removed arbitrarily from blogger.com, and one woman took six months of fighting with their admins to convince them she wasn't, in fact, a spammer, but a writer talking about books and publishing. For those six months, she had no access to multiple years worth of her own posts. MAKE BACKUPS!! =) If she'd done that, she could have at least set up with a different service and imported all her old posts. She would have been down a week instead of half a year.

Eloheim and Veronica said...

I was just looking at my listing on Amazon and saw that they have included my paperback book in their 4 for 3 promotion.

Perhaps it's true for others as well so I thought I would mention it.

It was fun to have some new book news to share with my FaceBook folks.

Veronica

Lindsay said...

I'm surprised more authors don't put their blogs on their own sites. I guess it involves a little more technical knowledge and the willingness to shell out money for hosting and a domain name, but it's more professional IMO and it means you don't have to worry about giving out separate links for a blog address and an author site. You also don't have to worry about working within the terms of services of the free blog sites (not a problem for most, but an erotic author, for example, might bump up against boundaries).

Melissa Douthit said...

Thanks, Robin!

SlingWords aka Joan Reeves said...

I think my blog is one of the things that has put me on the Kindle bestseller lists. I too tell everyone that a blog is all that's needed. (I'm thinking about ending my website because you're so right: one website will suffer from lack of attention.)

You don't know how many times I wish I'd christened my blog with my name, but I started it eons ago. So I'm kind of stuck with SlingWords though I've tacked my name onto the end in the header.

Judd Exley said...

This was bandied about the KB here I do believe: http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,64876.msg1064303.html#msg1064303

And I agree eleventy million and a half percent that owning a domain, particularly one involving your name and/or your most popular series of books and what not, is HUGELY important not only for your own marketing, but for your branding.

I even blogged about how a certain indie queen somebody doesn't even have a website up for her own name nor any of her books. Just a blogspot.com addy which, not to knock it, isn't always enough.

Great post.

Charles said...

If you have an existing site and want to change to another name set up the new site but have the new domain redirect (use a temporary redirect 302) to the old site. Then put a notice on the old site that you will be moving to the new site in xx weeks. Use the new domain address for all your correspondence etc. Meanwhile, set up your new site as a mirror of your old site, when xx weeks are up remove the redirect from the old site and put a permanent redirect (301) on the old site. This way your new site will accumulate links and page rank for xx weeks and your old sites page rank will transfer to the new site when you move. Any site admin. should be able to set this up for you.