2011 Writing Resolutions – Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Author Website

“That’s a great website!” Not exactly the best four words a writer can hear. “Here’s your book deal,” “Random House wants you,” “Please meet Mr. Patterson,” are all four word phrases that rank much higher in the writer’s scale of awesome-ness. (I’m a huge James Patterson fan and would love to sit and chat with him about the craft and, more importantly, the promotion of writing.) But having a website that people like spending time on, can interact with, and, most importantly, FIND, is key to turning yourself into a Brand (see yesterday’s post on Branding), building your author platform, and selling books. We all need to improve our websites. No matter if your website has won the Al Gore “I Invented the Internet so I Deem This Website Perfect” Award, your website needs to be updated constantly to remain something that provides fresh content and keeps people coming back. Therefore, as we continue the 2011 writing resolutions, I give you the Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Author Website: (By the way, these go in order from easiest to most difficult in terms of time and money.) 

5. Tag Your Site Properly. Let’s say little Tommy wants to get his parents a book as a last minute Christmas gift. He has no idea what authors his parents like, but he knows they like suspense thrillers. He whips out his iPhone, taps the Google app and says, “Thriller author” into the voice search. Ideally, we’d like our name to pop up first. But how to make sure that happens? By tagging our site with the right keywords. On my home page, my tags are “thriller, author, suspense, Mark Fadden, The Brink, writer, fiction, book.” My home page gets around 300 hits a week. Not bad, but when someone types in “thriller author” my website isn’t in the Google Top 10 results. I need to do better in 2011.

4. Have relevant content. It’s all about search engine optimization these days. What is SEO? Wikipedia defines it as, “is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results.” I attended several talks this past year on SEO at my local community college and, as I understand it, the more often there is mention of the search term on your site, the more likely it will be toward the top of an organic search results page. Why? Because the search engines basically count how many times they see it on your page or site. Oh, and they also take into account how “fresh” your site is, so update often. Let’s take the “thriller author” term as an example. If that’s a key search term for you, then the words “thriller author” needs to be all over your site.  

3. Balance the words and pics. Back to the advice I got from an SEO presentation – your site should be pleasant to look at. As writers, we like words. But, we also need to have pictures and videos on the site. When was the last time you spent any time on a site that looked like a page from the dictionary? Sorry, your grandfather’s dictionary. No one has an actual dictionary in their house any longer.

2. Keep up to date on the latest SEO tips and tricks – Designing websites for SEO is always changing. As the technology gets better, so do the applications, tools, and techniques used to support that new technology. I get email updates from Search Engine Land. If you want to know about what’s going on in the world of SEO, this site has it.  

1. Hire a website designer. We’ve got to realize our limits. Chances are you have a day job, maybe a couple kids, and want to have some alone time every once in a while where you can spend some “me” time trying to finally get the blasted ship in the bottle! If you’ve got the scratch and you know a good designer, you may want to have some outside help in creating/updating your website to make it better and be SEO-ready. Just a tip here, make sure your designer builds it so you can update it whenever you like with your content and not screw up the entire design or break into some NSA computer by accident and launch missles at Russia. That would be a bad thing.

***REMINDER – ‘Beyond the Book’ will go dark from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day. We’ll be back in 2011 with fresh ideas for all of us to be better ‘authorpreneurs’ in the new year. Happy Holidays to all!

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 My latest novel, The Brink, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Special Collection for a second time! Check it out at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Brink/Mark-Fadden/e/9781450210485/?cds2Pid=24451

2011 Writing Resolutions Continued: Becoming a Brand

Wouldn’t you love to be the Lysol of the publishing world? Think of it…a person wanting a thriller goes into a book store. They find their helpful book store associate and instead of asking, “where’s the thriller section?” they ask, “where can I find Mark Fadden books?” It’s the same principle as going into your grocery store and trying to find the Lysol rather than the “disinfectant spray.” Why? Good old fashioned branding.

It’s the same thing with Kleenex, Coke, type of beer you like, etc, people are loyal to brands. Why? Because they know what to expect. People keep buying James Patterson novels for two reasons, 1 – he churns them out like they’re magazines, and 2 people know exactly what they’re getting when they buy his books – a fast paced thriller with short chapters and lots of suspense.

One of the bloggers I follow is Kristin Lamb. She covers all the writing bases from writing technique to social media. Her recent post also talked about branding and here’s a brief snippet:

Our blogs and our tags serve to define our brand. The content and tags associated with our name are important. What potential consumers, an agent and an editor see associated with our name is vital in how they mentally define us. Are they going to define us as Quiche Lorraine or Dear God! Who Let the Kids Cook?

As an example, here’s my list of tags:

Kristen Lamb—Kristen Lamb, writer, author, speaker, teacher, social media, publishing, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blog, blogs, blogging, We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, branding, marketing.

Notice all the tags were simple. These tags were all nouns that, if typed into a search bar, would serve to help someone else’s little codependent genie find me FIRST. Generally with writers I see one of two errors. Either they don’t use tags (or don’t use enough tags) OR they use tags that are so obscure they are ridiculous.

And yes, notice I put my name in the tags. Why? Because I want to become a brand name. I want that when people think/say, “social media for writers,” Kristen Lamb comes up first.

As people continue to use the Internet to search for All Things Important, we need to continue to work on our SEO (search engine optimization) to become the next great publishing brand. But that is a subject for yet another 2011 Writing Resolutions entry: Making sure our websites are working for us. Hint, Hint – it’s tomorrow’s topic.

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My latest novel, The Brink, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Special Collection for a second time! Check it out at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Brink/Mark-Fadden/e/9781450210485/?cds2Pid=24451

Your 2011 Writing Resolution, part II

Since we’re so close to ringing in the New Year, let’s keep rolling with another topic for 2011 Writing Resolutions. Last night we kicked things off with striving for a daily word goal. Mine is 2,500. Tonight’s topic: joining a writing group.

Now, I’ve got a bit of a bias against writing groups, which I must say is nowhere near what one of my favorite writers, Anthony Bourdain, says about being in the company of other writers in his latest book, Medium Raw: “If you’ve ever spent ten minutes in one of those [writer’s bars] – a bunch of bitter, snowy-haired, bilious f**** with gin-blossomed noses and ballooning guts talking too loud and laughing too hard and secretly hating each other – you’ll reconsider ever putting another word to paper. I’ve found that hanging out with more than one of them at a time is about as much fun as being thrown into a cage full of hungry but toothless civet cats.”

My opinion on writing groups has always been that, besides the fact that being the father of 2 young boys and having barely enough time to talk to my wife these days about anything more than soccer game schedules and what to get the teachers for Christmas let along carve out several hours a week for to prepare for and meet with a critique group, what if the advice you’re getting from them is wrong? NY editors, the Word Gods themselves, have a hard enough time figuring out what will sell and what won’t. What makes Benny the furniture salesman, or Anita the lady who works at the county licensing office, an expert on your blood, sweat, and tears?

Well, here’s the thing. Benny and Anita are readers. Your readers. My readers. And if they say something like, “You know, there’s just too many characters to follow in the opening pages,” and that sentiment is about the 20th time you’ve heard it, then tuck that little nugget in the back of your brain for the next novel.

So, while I still don’t have the time to formally join a writing group, I am attending my local group’s annual conference. They’ve got some pretty good classes and breakout sessions listed. Who knows, maybe they’ll crack my crusty exterior with their warmth and congeniality and I’ll investigate the group a little further. Besides, I hear Anita makes killer brownies, which she brings to every meeting.

What about you? What are your thoughts on your local writing/critique groups? Do you regularly attend writing/critique groups? Do you plan to in 2011?

To the keyboards!

Work on your 2011 event calendar, post haste!

It’s time to get crackin’ on your 2011 schedule! Don’t get behind in 2011! Okay, that’s all I got for the butt jokes, butt seriously…

Have you started filling up your 2011 event calendar yet? If not, get to work for crying out loud. Your local book stores are probably dying for some signing traffic in the spring. Plus, I can guarantee the following conversation is happening around this time of year at your local library supporters/lions club/chamber board meeting:

“So who do we have on tap for speakers next year? We need to do something different.”

“Oh, there’s that guy who won the eating contest at Big Dave’s Hot Dog Hut!”

“No, he’s on tour with the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile.”

“Ooo, what about the lady that shoots herself out of the cannon? I hear she’s a motivational speaker now.”

“Let’s put her in the possible column.”

“Let’s do something really different. We’ve done the motivational speaker, the tax guy, the financial expert. Let’s do something that’s timely, that our members would really benefit from knowing more about. Something unique.”

Never fear, your friendly neighborhood “authorpreneur” is here! Not only would most people like to know more about the mysterious world of publishing (especially these days), I can’t tell you how many people have told me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” Well, here’s your chance to talk about you and sell some books.

My advice is to start with scheduling presentations to civic groups in your town and move outward from there. In no time, 2011 will be booked and you can start working on 2012. Of course if you believe the Mayans, or John Cusak from the movie 2012, the world will end then anyway and we’re all wasting our time and should be out partying like Prince in 1999.

So, what about you? How are you planning to promote yourself in 2011?  

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow… 

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Final day! The Brink by Mark Fadden goes BOGO!

Buy one signed copy for you, get one FREE as a gift. 

Order your copy at http://shop.markfadden.com

Learning from Mistakes & The Brink goes BOGO through tomorrow!

Just like I’ve told my kids 1,000 times, everyone makes mistakes. The key is to learn from them. 

And so it goes with blogging. As writers, we know very well about copyright infringement, how to quote a source correctly, but since blogging and tweeting and all things social media is so new, it’s easy to forget the rules.

Case in point. In my original post from yesterday, I copied Carol Tice’s recent post on her website about the 10 Best Articles for Writers — November 2010 as part of my blog, thinking it’s the same as retweeting, or sharing via the numerous link services that are out there (Digg, Reddit, Delicious, etc.) But as Ms. Tice informed me after reading my blog, blogging someone else’s full blog ain’t cool, and it’s copyright infringement to boot. I apologized to her and she was very gracious, and told me that it has happened to her many times. I have since edited yesterday’s post by using one of the correct ways to give props to another’s blog.

So, two lessons learned that I will pass on here: 1. if you dig someone’s posting, either just use a part of the post ( a couple paragraphs max) or link to it, just don’t use the full thing. 2. if you’re a writer, you need to check out Carol’s site.  It is chock ful ‘o awesome info for us writers.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow… 

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Two days only! The Brink goes BOGO!

Buy one signed copy for you, get one FREE

as a gift! Order yours at http://shop.markfadden.com

Here’s what readers are saying about Mark’s latest thriller The Brink:

“I finally had a chance to sit down and read The Brink–all the way through in a day and a half. The story is gripping, even frightening, and you capture the suspense in the rhythm of your prose. In places I was reading so fast I felt like I was in the chase! I’ll put it on the shelf next to my signed copy of Lonesome Dove, in the gallery of great contemporary writers!” – Bob H., Amarillo, TX

“[Mark Fadden] is the next Dan Brown.” – Arlene D., Southlake, TX

“Truly a pager turner for me. I could not put the book down. Every time I thought I had figured something out, the next twist came up. If you like conspiracy theories, you’ll love this one.” – Sharon L, Houston, TX

Want to start reading The Brink right now? Download the eBook version from amazon.com for less that $10 at http://www.amazon.com/The-Brink-ebook/dp/B003OYIEPC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1284567122&sr=8-2 or bn.com at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Brink/Mark-Fadden/e/9781450210492/?itm=1&USRI=mark+fadden.