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

Set up the room to sell more books

It’s all about the preperation. In keeping with the “selling books in unusual venues” theme, let’s talk about setting up that venue. You’ve secured a speaking engagement about your book with your local lions club or chamber. You’ve got your presentation down pat. The laptop is working with the projector. Your powerpoint pics are fabulous and your small list of jokes are timed perfectly.

But what about the books?

Most of these community meetings are at breakfast or lunch. Meals mean tables. And tables mean areas to display your book. Here are some helpful tips that worked for me:

1. Have copies of your book on each table – as your talking, people can hold your book in their hand and look through it. Try to put as many books on the table as there are people, so each can buy a copy. The more time each person has with your book, the more likely they’ll be to buy it.

2. Have a giveaway – put out slips of paper at each place and have people fill out the paper with their name and email address. Pass around a jar and have people put in their slips. At the end of the meeting, pick a name out of the jar and give them a signed copy of the book. What costs you a copy of the book will hopefully pay off many times with all these new email contacts.

3. More giveaways– People don’t always like meetings, but they LOVE giveaways. Make sure to put your promotional bookmark (or a few) at each place. One to keep and a couple to share.

4. “Hire” a photographer – persuade one of the people in charge of the meeting, perhaps the one who invited you, to take a few pictures of you during your presentation. Use the best pics for news releases, your blog and website. Just make sure to tell them beforehand that you want them to take some shots and make sure they’re cool with that responsibility.

5. Bring on the interns! – It will be hard for you to both sign books, talk to people while your signing and handle the sales transactions. Consider bringing someone else along to handle the sales transactions (especially if you’re set up to take credit cards). Talk to the community group, they might have someone willing to help you out.  

Hope that helps. If you have some other hints, tips, suggestions, or ideas about what’s worked for you, please comment.

As always, I’m taking the weekend off from the blog, but if you’re in Southlake, Texas on Saturday or Lewisville, Texas on Sunday, I’m having book signings at the Barnes & Noble bookstores in those cities. Visit www.markfadden.com for more information. I’d love to see y’all out there!

Until then,

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow… 

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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.

Order a signed copy of The Brink as a keepsake for yourself or as the ultimate one-of-a-kind gift at http://markfadden.com/buyabook.html