Thursday, April 4, 2013

YOUR WEBSITE IS YOUR ELECTRONIC BUSINESS CARD – By Rita Karnopp


In today’s world you need to meet the needs of the public.  If you don’t have a writer’s website, you are missing a great opportunity.  Let’s face it – your website is your electronic business card to the world.

It should develop along with your writing career. Your website should offer— all your books, articles, or writing and editing services.  Unlike the purpose of a blog - to involve people in discussions - the purpose of a website is to inform people about who you are and to market your books to potential readers, also to entice agents, editors, and even publishers.
Don’t worry, your website will reward you many times over for the time and money you invested in it.  Make sure you keep the information on your site up-to-date, make sure the content is professional and sells what you are offering, spice it up with a little tech flair, and maintain a robust effort to direct people to the site.
How can you tell if your website isn’t working for you?  
Follow the basics.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner writer or a multi-published author building a platform, your website should fuel basic expectations.
Information should be structured to easily guide a visitor from step one to the final click without angst or confusion.
·         The home page needs a welcoming message.
·         Provide an ‘about the author’ page exhibiting published fiction/nonfiction (and easy ‘click’ links to them).
·         Set up a current ‘reviews’ page.
·         You will want a ‘Books’ page with story blurbs.
·         Provide a contact page with your contact info.
·         What about an events page and/or book signing calendar?
·         How about a ‘services page’ where a visitor may leave a ‘review’ or ‘comment’ about your books?
Once you choose the pages for your website, verify the data and setup:
·         Use high-resolution book cover images and author photos.
·         Use current menu names.
·         For drop-down menus – simple is the key.
·         Double-check and make sure all links are working. 
·         Keep in mind Flash and music intros will slow down page-load time – I never use them.
·         Periodically verify your site loads properly on all popular Internet browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Chrome).
Polish the site from time to time.  Once you have your site up and working, don’t forget about it.  The basics are good but updating and making it a fun experience will bring a visitor back time and again.  
Why not create a ‘reveal secrets’ section on your site?  You might reveal a character’s history or share pictures or trips that inspired the setting for a book.
You might have a ‘history page’ that deepens a visitor’s knowledge of a subject or place you’re writing about. Create a ‘behind-the-scenes’ info sheet – include information or quant data that you didn’t use in the book, but are fun to share.
Trailers or video and audio clips are a great tool.  Always keep a link to your website on Facebook and Twitter.  Did you know you can record fan and visitor numbers?  It’s a great way to know if your site is working for you.  These number come in handy when a prospective publisher asks; “How do you have a website and how successful is it?”
 Never forget it takes but one click for visitors to go elsewhere.  They will, too, if your site is not kept up-to-date.  If you have a site, never leave it dormant or your numbers will reflect it.  I often ask, “Why have a site if you don’t care to make it work for you?”
Create a ‘call to action’ or a ‘do it now’ prompt on your site.  Why?  It will lure visitors to get involved – maybe they will win a book or a box of chocolates!  Sell books and build a platform by including  “buy” links to purchase books; e-newsletter sign-ups; contests for excitement; and so on.
Mark your calendars to review website material monthly and mark down when/what contests or new additions you want to make on the site. Keep in mind you don’t want to give everything away at once or have too much happening or it will be confusing.  Connect fun events that coincide with book releases.
Familiarize yourself with Internet search engines? - Even if you hate technology – if you want to use the internet and all it has to offer - you must learn to be savvy.  Search engines scan content on websites in response to queries typed into a search field. When ‘keywords’ are a relevant match, that site appears in the search results.
How can you be sure you are using a relevant keyword?  The most important keyword for an author is your name, book titles, even character names. So make a list of your keywords and tweak your own website code to put the keywords in. 
You can find tutorials online, and can learn more about this topic in resources such as Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide (available for free at http://bit.ly/d29DIe) and the Yahoo! Style Guide (free articles are available at styleguide.yahoo.com).
You may hire a web designer or design your own.  I designed my own and it was amazingly easy.  The upkeep is equally fun and simple.  The choice is yours.
Remember to track your results by watching how many monthly page views you get, the number of people signing up for an offer, the sales of books or services—all part of what is called Web analytics. Track your stats, then modify your keywords accordingly … and save the data.
Don’t forget, Agents and publishers are impressed with great website stats because numbers drive business. Showing your numbers provide conclusive proof you market your work.
The bottom line is no matter how many visitors you get a month, make your site an important asset worthy of your time, energy, and money.  More importantly, use your website to show just how proud you are of your work.  And, if you create a traffic flow that reaches people and sells books – great!

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