What a way to end the week! It’s been a long time since I’ve been nominated for a blog award. When I first began blogging in 2014, Blog Awards were a great motivation for me and a big part of helping to keep this blog going during those moments I felt like blah. Though I no longer participate in Blog Awards (Blog Award Free Since 1/20/16) I do acknowledge those who’ve nominated me and I have created a page for the awards. They are neatly stacked on the virtual shelf of The PBS Blog Awards page HERE.
Special thanks to Don Massenzio for nominating me for The Blogger Recognition Award. Every piece of support, every like, every comment, every re-blog, and every blog award gives this blog the fuel it needs to keep going. I still go through every like when I get the notification on my phone as if I don’t know who’s picture is coming up lol. They are just as important to me as the commentary and gives me the excitement I need to push onward.
Since I don’t actually participate in the Blog Awards I won’t go on to follow the rules but I would like to give the two pieces of blog advice, if I may.
Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers
Make sure your blog is as easy to follow and navigate as possible. Keep it clean and the text easy to read (black text on white background always works). Be sure your blog has a Blog Follow button. Dashboard > Appearance > Widgets > I would recommend the one that says “Add an email sign-up form to allow people to follow your blog”
Network with others. Comment back to comments left on your blog, visit the blogs of those who follow or liked you. Share content from other blogs. Carve out a day where you do nothing but read and interact with other blogs. Do for other blogs what you’d want people to do for you. Share their content across social media like you’d want them to do for you. Like their post and comment as you’d want them to do for you. Not just for the sake of trying to get something out of it but because good always comes back. Sitting on your hands wishing for more engagement won’t change a thing.
Let me start by saying that a blog and an author website are two different things.
From the word weblog, a blog is a website that is designed to be interactive with regularly updated content. This can be why they are so popular today and why every writer should have one. Blogs are a great way to communicate with readers, meet new friends, and network with business people in your field.
A website is less interactive, not updated in the form of publishing new posts, and exists for selling products or services, promoting products, and displaying more information about the owner. Every professional business person will have a website. The biggest disadvantage from the network side for websites is that they are stationary. After someone purchases your product or service, joins your newsletter or discovers more about you, there is no room for interaction like with a blog. This may have you to question, why then, is it important for authors to have both?
Having a blog is great, especially since they are so popular. The blog, however, is really just the first step. Every professional person will have a static website where people can go to learn more about them, discover where they are offline, follow their social media, and purchase their products. It looks more professional on business cards and flyers to display a website people can go to that is formal and stationary in addition to the blog. Though there’s no interaction on a website, you don’t really want it to be. The author website is to be as professional as you can afford without a lot going on. It’s your online store and people do not get to kick it in the store.
Products / Services
One of the biggest advantages of having a Website is being able to sell your books through your website. Instead of relying solely on Amazon and other places (where you can’t monitor who your fans are), selling directly through your own website gives you more control in this area. You can sell paperback copies of your book, add other products related to your books, add an email sign-up form to collect email addresses, and know who your supporters are. You can see exactly who just bought your book and reach out to them more personally. Even though you can, technically, sell through your blog as well, there’s a lot going on. On this blog, I have people following, commenting, liking, and reblogging daily, I’ve got the slide sidebar widgets, and pages. There’s just too much going on. I’d prefer my online store to have its own space on an author website and to also have a blog so that I can further build with those who support me.
Paperback and Hardcopy
Paperback and Hardcopy books are highly underrated, as well as the author website. Today, everyone relies strictly on Amazon and Lulu. It makes sense then why there’s always a complaint about Amazon’s algorithms: authors will have nowhere to go to sell their books. I am not sure why. As a Self-Publisher, you have the freedom to sell your books however you want* (Disclaimer: In case there are restrictions on you selling your books through your website, you can instead create a new page and link it to your Amazon account. People who go to that page–your book page or store–will be taken directly to your page. Check out Angela Ford’s page HERE. She does this beautifully. Also see how her blog and author website is so integrated. Goals!).
Build an author website and add a store for your paperback books. In 4 Common Sense Reasons it Can Benefit You to Self-Publish, we talked about the benefit of having more control but I am noticing that we do not always exercise this right. We are adding more and more rules to Self-Publishing that limit our ability to be creative and to have more control of our work. (By limit creativity I do not, in any way, mean that your creativity should ever supercede excellence. Be as creative as you want but don’t just put anything out there).
Despite their issues, I would still recommend that authors have a presence on Amazon for readers. The two questions I get most from first time customers:
“You gotta website?”
“Are you on Amazon?”
I am not talking about writers, bloggers or people familiar with the online scene or the publishing process in any way. I am talking about regular everyday readers (especially those who spend a lot of time offline) whose first thought to find a book is to go to the library or look it up on Amazon. If only for this reason, I would say to have a presence there. Amazon and Goodreads (which is owned by Amazon) is where the readers are right now. However, you don’t have to be a slave to them. There is no way that Amazon should successfully enslave any Independent Publisher to where they can no longer sell their books in the unfortunate event something happens and they can no longer sell through Amazon.
Although eBook is king, having a place where people can purchase paperback copies of the book is beneficial in more ways than one, but I’ve edited this due to certain third party restrictions you may have selling your books through your website. I wouldn’t want to get anyone in trouble. Just research and read your terms and conditions. It is good to have paperback versions of your books through along with the ebook. Be sure to research also when pricing your paperbacks. You can charge anywhere from $13.95-$17.95 or even upwards to $20.00 but you should do your research before setting your price and do your calculations. Setting the price too high OR TOO LOW can influence sales. Be sure to factor in how much it costs to print your book when setting your price. For print-on-demand, the method many Self-Publishers use to print their books, the printing cost will be deducted from your retail price, meaning your book royalties comes from the retail price minus the printing costs and wholesale discount. You don’t want to price your book so low that the printing costs leave you with little to nothing in profit. Also, consider the cost of shipping, handling, and State tax. But remember not to over price either.
Where to Start
There are tons of easy-to-use website builders you can use to create your author website but the gold standard for an author website is WordPress. I really don’t want to be repetitive. There are already tons of excellent articles on why WordPress is the best place to build an author website and there’s no use re-creating the wheel. I found an informative article that should provide all you need to know HERE.
Now, about WIX…
I hear a lot of talk about how bad sites like WIX are and how authors should not use them. While WordPress is what I’d recommend, you use, there’s nothing wrong with using WIX starting out. You have to start from somewhere. WIX may not be something you want to make a permanent home but it’s not terrible. I use WIX now and it’s not great but it can work until you can do better. (I’ve had my author website longer than I’ve been blogging or even knew about WordPress so I’m behind in that respect but, like I said, it works for now.)
Author Website? Blog? Or Both?
It only makes sense for authors to have both a blog and an author website.
Author websites present a professional image for the serious author, enabling them to build an online store where people can go to purchase their books and to access their Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Lulu, Apple iBookstore or Smashword links.
Blogs help to foster relationships and build trust with readers. Instead of purchasing a book once from a website, they can come on over and join you in a place where they will receive consistent content and insight into your writing life. People can provide feedback and interact with you daily. The more time you spend with someone, the more time you have to get to know them. Blogs give you the opportunity to build trust with your readers and to stay connected with them.
The purpose of the blog is more providing valuable and informative content than it is selling. Though you can surely sell through a blog, I would suggest using the 80/20 rule: 80% providing value, and 20% selling. That’s because blogs aren’t really for hard selling but for networking. Authors who lack the skills to blog (and focus only on writing and trying to sell their work) often find that the blog doesn’t work for them. That’s because the true purpose here is not to just write but to also interact.
If you really want to make your blog work for you:
Be sure there are links to your author website on your blog.
And then make sure your blog is accessible on your author website.
Go back to your blog and add an Author Media Kit, Media Page or a page with a list of your books. (I have all three). Since your website is your online store, you obviously don’t need to create a book page there but these pages on your blog will drive people to your store.
On your author website, create a new page and link to the Author Media Kit on your blog. It will save you the time of having to re-create the page and further connect your blog with your author website (unless you are already utilizing the blog feature of your website).
Built-In Blogs – Most website builders (Like WIX) will have the blog built into the site already and you can always use that. However, I happen to like WordPress better far as blogging is concerned. You get much better engagement and interaction blogging via WordPress than you’ll get through the blog feature of your website builder. That is because blogs here (and blogs in general) tend to have more traffic.
The blog’s sole purpose is to be interactive (updated content, promotion, guest posting, interviews, building trust, forming relationships, creating bonds, etc.), driving people to your website.
Blog > Social Media > Author Website > Shop > Purchase
Your author website’s sole purpose is to sell.
“Blogs and websites work in very different ways, serve very different purposes and produce different short-term results. However, they are both necessary to increase your online exposure and to strengthen your online business reputation. It is important to have both as part of your online presence. They function well together and undeniably, you will see positive results over the long term if they are a part of your business online.” – Michael Cohn
Speaking of Author Websites, be sure to stop by mine! The Stella Trilogy Box Set is on sale. If you were wanting to get your hands on physical copies, now is your chance. Sale ends 2/28. Click on the image below. (Who is Stella? Learn more about these books by reading what readers had to say HERE).
I have decided to start a new feature on my blog called ‘Indie Shine’. This will begin in February 2017!
The purpose is to shine a spotlight on individual indie artists. It doesn’t matter what your chosen field is as long as you are indie and an artist.
I have received responses so get yours in today. Space is limited, as this is only a monthly feature.
Go to http://rebirthoflisa.wordpress.com & complete contact me form. I will respond with detailed information and a questionnaire. Once I receive the completed questionnaire, I will let you know when your feature will post.
I was listening to Lynn Serafinn during the Publishing Success Summit and she spoke about social media layers and how this influences a writer who strives to build an author platform through the blog. I read complaints from many writers who want to start blogs but are not sure what to blog about.
I thought about this and how beneficial it may be for some authors to come up with a strategy. Well, I hate to use the word strategy because it makes it sound too much like a plan when what we blog about should be a natural extension of us. However, there may be some who really do need to develop a system. They want to use the blog to help their writing but they aren’t sure how to blog or how to use it as an author. Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk to you about author blogs or what makes one. (I have my own opinions on that. I’ll share them later). Instead, let’s explore something to which we’re all familiar.
How many of you have seen Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor? I’m not a Tyler Perry fan but this movie had a great message: You never leave 80 for 20.
Briefly, here is what the movie is about:
Judith is a therapist who works at a matchmaking agency owned by Janice and is married to Brice, whom Judith has known since she was six. After obtaining her masters Judith is unfulfilled and dissatisfied with her job and anxious to start her own marriage counseling business, but Brice tells her to wait until they are more financially stable. Meanwhile, Judith meets Harley at work, a wealthy Internet entrepreneur who wants to invest in Janice’s business. He attempts to seduce Judith as they work late on matchmaking surveys. When Harley questions the absence of sex in the surveys, Judith says she does not believe in premarital sex. Harley thinks Judith’s sex life is boring and Judith, now questioning her sex life with Brice, tries to improve it.
Long story short, when Judith changes her hair and makeup for her birthday and Brice fails to notice the change or remember her birthday, Judith is more inclined to give into Harley’s advances (though she is unwilling to admit it). She receives flowers that she believes are from Brice but are really from Harley who appears and notes her change in appearance – something she didn’t get from Brice (hope you’re seeing where I’m going with this). Janice sends Judith to New Orleans with Harley to finalize a deal with shareholders, telling her to flirt with Harley, but also to be careful. Judith’s co-worker, Ava gives Judith a makeover and in New Orleans, Judith and Harley complete the business deal and go dancing and sightseeing. On the way home, Harley seduces Judith in his private jet and the sexual tension between them is solidified when Judith gives in. She has the affair.
The moral of the story is that Harley is 20%. Yes, the sex is good but there isn’t anything of substance that would denote he is husband material. After the making out there is basically nothing. This isn’t to say that Brice is perfect either but Judith could have communicated with Brice how she likes it and kept the 80% she was getting from him while working on the 20% she wasn’t getting. At the end of the day, you never leave 80 for 20 people.
Everyone’s got flaws, but you don’t leave someone with at least 80% of their stuff together for someone who just looks good but head is in the clouds, also known as 20. Anyway, it looks good and probably feels the same but after that, there’s nothing left. No mind. No aspirations. Nothing.
In blogging, it helps (or at least it has helped me) if 80% of your time is spent networking and providing value. Writing is good but building a blog takes a little bit more than that. How do we measure a blog’s success? That depends on the individual. One thing is for sure, writing is just 20%. To learn to blog is to do much more and that much more is largely rooted in one word: Network.
Comments – When they come, respond back to them! Yes, on comments left to you on the blogs of others too.
Negative Feedback – It happens. Not everyone is going to agree with you. If you publish a controversial post, be prepared to stand on it.
Carve Out Some Time – Be ready to put the hours in that are necessary to achieve your blog goals. If you want to increase your number of followers/subscribers, it’s going to take you blogging more than once a month. I may not have many subscribers myself but I will tell you, with my integrity in tact, that I have earned every last one of you! I put mad hours into this blog. As expressed in The First 300: How I Reached 300 Blog Followers in 3 Months, I started this blog publishing three posts a day for six days. Yes, I only took one day off from blogging and not because anyone forced me to. Of course I’ve slowed down now but I can only afford to do that because of the foundation I’ve laid in the beginning.
Work on Your Tags – The tagging on my older posts are just sad. Don’t be like me. Jason over at Harsh Reality has some great advice on tagging. He recommends 15 Tags (includes a category. Categories act as tags) and is a mixture of unique as well as generic tags. Generic tags are tags that are used the most by bloggers like blog, blogging, bloggers. Unique tags are tags that are exclusive to your post, tags you make up or tailor to your content. Because of this theme, my tags show up at the top of each of my post. Look at them. In each of my post you’ll count 14 tags. My 15th tag is my category. Or, you’ll count 13 tags if I chose two categories and so on (the lesser my tags, the more the categories. Remember, categories count as tags). To learn more, visit Jason’s posts on tagging. I’ve followed his advice since the beginning and it has worked for me thus far. No, I don’t have the link. You have to do some of the work.
Visible Follow Buttons – I’ve been preaching this same “sermon” for probably about a year now but it’s only because I run into it probably every day. I’m trying to follow someone’s blog but I can’t find the follow button. That means guess what? I’m not following you. Go to your WP Dashboard > Widgets and add a follow button. Make sure it’s the one that says “Follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts via email”. The other one will just allow people to follow you through the reader.
About Page – Although I am starting to wonder how many people pay attention to the about page (people tend to follow a blog after liking a post that caught their attention, hoping to receive the same kind of content) be sure to complete your about page. It just looks professional and helps those who do read about pages to know more about you. (Tip: Read a blogger about page. You’d be surprised to find many of your questions about them answered).
INTERACT – This is in all caps for a reason. If you’re interested in building a blog that does well, be sure that you’re interacting with others. Try to leave comments that aren’t so phony. OK, let me define “phony”. It’s OK to be short, but to really start to get to know people you’re going to have to say more than “Great post!” There’s nothing wrong with this, but if you find something that really moves you, dig in as my mother used to say. Give us full explanations on why you feel a certain way. This allows your personality to come out and for others to be prompted to respond. This is how relationships are formed, through communication.
Easy to Read – The easier your blog is to read, the better. Stay away from brightly colored text that is hard to read and clutter. Don’t just throw your blog furniture all over the place. Too many widgets are distracting.
Providing Value means (but is not limited to):
– Well written and consistent content (Aka blogging as often as possible)
– Following other blogs (and re-blogging others)
– Responding to comments (both on your blog and the blogs of others)
– Promoting and helping others
– Writing about life in general (not just your writing)
– Keeping your blog updated, clean, easy to read, and easy to follow (so like, have a follow button!)
Is there a word that sticks out to you? Right. Others. Blogging isn’t about just focusing on content far as publishing posts are concerned (which is why it’s about more than just writing. Sorry, but blogging does have a lot to do with the technical things as well. Views, stats, subscribers, tags, photos, etc.) it also means that most of your time is spent on engaging your readers and helping others.
In short, it may help if authors learn to blog because it will help (or at least it has helped me so far) to reach a new readership. I also believe in the importance of building trust and that authors should do this first before expecting new readers.
The reason you spend most of your time (80%) understanding blogging and doing it effectively (if you’re trying to build a blog that is. If you don’t care about blogging or think it’s a waste of time then this obviously does not apply to you) is because people must grow to like you enough to trust you and no one needs a Best-Selling book or fancy certificate to understand that. In fact, I’ve learned that learning how to blog (which I am still doing myself) is just understanding people in general. What are they trusting you to do? They’re trusting you to deliver valuable content without constantly selling to them. If people think you’re just trying to sell your book to them, they won’t trust that your content is genuine. No matter how relevant, they will ignore your service because they think you’re just out to make money.
Serafinn identified four layers of social media and we all know that when baking a cake or pie or anything that has layers, we know that the good stuff is somewhere in the middle, not at the top.
Lynn didn’t name the layers in her interview so I took the liberty of doing so. You know, so this is a bit more fun.
Layer 1: The Crust
– The crust is the top layer and it is oh so good! But, it is also usually too good. You see, the crust doesn’t usually have any nutritional value to it whether that’s the buttery crust on an apple pie or crust on the lasagna (you know that’s where all that cheese is!). Per Serafinn, the first layer is made up of people who don’t know you at all and don’t care about you or your writings. The crust looks good but that’s about it.
Layer 2: The Sauce
– I call layer two the sauce. Like layer one, the sauce doesn’t do much. Although it may provide a bit more than the crust only because there are probably bits of onions and green peppers in there somewhere. The second layer is the people who follow you on social networks and know you only slightly. Maybe they liked your Tweet or Facebook Post.
Layer 3: The Noodle
– Now we’re starting to get somewhere. I call the third layer the noodle. It’s bound to provide a lot more substance than crust and sauce. At least the noodle will coat your stomach. The third group is your casual blog visitors. They know you a little bit more than the second group because they read your blog every so often.
Layer 4: The Meat
– Now we’re deep into it and get to take a mouthful of that delicious meatball! The final layer is the layer we want to pay attention to. They are our regular blog readers or people who support us consistently. They are always liking, commenting, and sharing our content, they have signed up to our email lists, and may have even bought a book. These are the people who trust us more than the other three groups because they read us consistently. They are the meat. This isn’t to say they know you in the deeper sense of the word considering it takes so much more to really get to know a person but they are trying and on the surface of knowing, these are the people who at least trust you more than the other groups to deliver. This is the layer we want to grow because it means that they will support us during that 20% of the time that we are pushing our books.
Writers looking to build a readership through the blog should focus on building trust with the fourth layer by providing valuable content on a consistent basis. This means that you should do more than post excerpts and chapters of your book. Even if you’re a great writer blogging is more than that. By networking, commenting, sharing, and sharing other things about ourselves we are giving people enough to grasp at our personality or become interested in who we are as a person. This will lead them to genuinely care about our writing. How so? You are concerned about people you care about. The more people get to know you, genuinely as a person (not that phony stuff), the more interested they are in your work because they are interested in you.
Yecheilyah Ysrayl is the YA, Historical Fiction author of The Stella Trilogy. She is currently working on her next book series “The Nora White Story” about a young black woman writer who dreams of taking part in The Harlem Renaissance movement and her parents struggle to accept their traumatic past in the Jim Crow south. “Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One)” is due for release July 15-16, 2017. For updates on this project, be sure to follow this blog and to subscribe to Yecheilyah’s email list HERE.
I’ll be honest, when I saw this blog headline, I thought I was going to disagree with everything Danny said Lol. BUT, I don’t. This is good info for writers who also blog. Between Danny and Jason I’ve learned a lot. “If you want people to see your writing, you have to learn how to be a blogger….Interact with people. That’s the art of blogging.”