Blogging, Social Networking, Answering Emails – Hey, when do I get the time to write?

Are you blogging? How often? Once a week, 3 times a week, every day?

Are you on social media? What ones? Are you posting every hour? Once a day? Are you talking about about what you ate for lunch? Or a link to your latest book?

How about answering emails? Are you answering them, or ignoring them? Do you read through all the email you get from newsletters and blog subscriptions or do you find yourself deleting them?

Now that you’ve answered some of those questions and I’m sure asked some of your own, here’s another: When do you get the time to write? Are you writing regularly?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d bet money that most of you are busy people with a day job or two, family, kids, and/or other commitments to take up your valuable time–like food, friends, and sleep. So fitting writing and book marketing into an already full schedule isn’t so easy. But it can be done. I’m going to share with you one way to help you.

The 80/20 Rule

First, I want to mention the 80/20 rule. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s basically 80% of your time should be on Marketing and 20% writing and other business related work. I’ve also heard some people say that the 80% is all business related work  that is not writing including marketing and the 20% is writing only.

Now some of the writing/publishing gurus tell you that you have to do this to succeed as an author, if you read authors like Dean Wesley Smith you’ll find his approach is very different. I’m going to suggest that you spend 80% of your time writing new fiction for your backlist, 10% of your time researching and book setup such as editing, rewriting, and setting it up for publishing, and 10% of your time on business related work like marketing, blogging, and emails. Before anyone protests, yes, it’s a slower process to making money, but if you aren’t writing, editing, and publishing new work then social media and blogging are doing you no good.

Hey, this is Ruth here. Stephannie’s letting me add my two cents to the post, so here it is. The important thing to remember is that you want to build a solid foundation.  Once you build a fanbase (even a small one), you want to get more books to that fanbase.  Why will someone keep coming to your site if you don’t have something new coming soon?  While it’s good to reach new readers, you shouldn’t neglect offering something new to your current ones.  

People get so hung up on authors who made it big like Amanda Hocking, but what they don’t remember is that she had a backlist already out there when she went into the social networking part of her career as a writer.  She didn’t just write one book and keep marketing it.  There are some authors who hit it big on one book, but if they can’t get the next one out there, then how will they satisfy their current fanbase?   Will you sell like Amanda Hocking if you have a backlist and social network like crazy?  The odds are against you.  We’re not promising that.  I have a little over 40 books total published, and I’m nowhere near making Amanda Hocking sales.  But I do know I wouldn’t have gotten to where I did if I never wrote the next book.  Plus, I started writing because I loved creating stories.  Little writing and all social media would ruin my joy.

This leads us to the second point…

Don’t Neglect your Writing

Writing is the most important aspect of business, your book is the life blood of your career. It should be your main focus. It’s why I suggest focusing 80% of the time you have on writing.

Now I’m not the most productive writer or as self-disciplined as I would like to be. I love researching and reading stuff on the Internet. I’ve also gotten in the habit of opening my emails in the morning when I start the day. Once I finished checking emails, reading blogs and newsletters, sending or answering requests for guest posts and book reviews, answering emails and comments, writing a (daily?) blog post, leaving a meaningful comments on blogs, interacting on my favorite social networks, updating my website, etc., I’d lost a valuable chunk of time from my day. And lets face it, if we aren’t writing that book or the next book after that, then all the marketing and promoting we do on social networking and blogs won’t help.

My word count goal for the last few months has been about 300 words throughout an 8 hour day. Horrible, I know. I decided I needed a change this and recently downloaded a productivity app I’d heard of called Cold Turkey. This app doesn’t allow you to access certain sites and you can add your time wasting websites to it. I highly suggest it and I get nothing from if you download it.

Since I like to write in the mornings, each night after I finish working on business for the day, I set the app up for the next day. I can still access research sites I need, but everything else is closed to me. Which means I get more writing done in a day. I’ve been averaging about 800-1000 words in a 4 hour day. I’m hoping for more when I get into the groove of things.

Ruth: What I started to do is limit the days I’ll respond to blog, Facebook, and Twitter comments.  I take 3-4 days a week to answer them.   I’ll do it less often if I’m especially busy.  I’m not as active on Facebook or Twitter as I used to be in terms of interacting with people, but I do link up blog posts to those places.  Linking blog posts can help you social network with no extra effort on your part.  That’s why I like to set up my Twitter and Facebook accounts to WordPress to link automatically on those sites.  I hit publish or schedule to publish, and WordPress does the work for me.  I also link my blog posts (from my author blog) to Goodreads.  I will share a blog post I’ve done for a deleted scene or inspiration for the book or sample scene to Pinterest.  These are time savers for me.  I love those share buttons at the bottom of the blogs.

I also love those share buttons and suggest that everyone who writes blogs and have websites install them on their website and leads into my last point.

Don’t Neglect your Author Platform

Please don’t neglect your author platforms to carve out more writing time, that’s not the point I was trying to make above. Your author platform is very important, not as important as the next book, but a close second. Why? Because your website, Twitter, Facebook, other social media sites, and blogs are your way of telling the world, both readers and fans, that you are writing a book. It’s a way to get them excited about what you are publishing and it’s counterproductive to do a disappearing act to write. It can set back your marketing efforts.

What I am suggesting is plan you platform activities carefully. I’ll use my efforts as an example.

After I finish my writing for the day, I check my emails, reading through and answer those that need to be answered. Those from fans, people wanting to guest post, answering comments on my blog and other blogs, and answering questions from authors who need book cover designs done. I wait for Saturday to read through blog posts and newsletters. Since I find social media distracting, I wait for the blog muse hit and spend a day writing blog posts and tweets. I don’t schedule them ahead of time because I like to read through them one last time before they go live. I spend about 10 minutes in the late morning and evening on Twitter (posting tweets, retweeting, talking to people, etc), about 10 minutes on Facebook (updating my status and talking to others), and about 30 minutes rereading and publishing blog posts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Once a month I like to update my website, though since me website and blog are one, every time I post I’m updating it too. LOL

I’m hijacking this post again. I’m not as organized as Stephannie on this one.  I love her idea, though.  It might be helpful to have a timer nearby.  Ten minutes on Twitter, Facebook, or another social network site is easy and doable.  The problem comes in when you get sucked into looking at pictures or reading articles that look interesting (this is where I end up spending a lot of time that takes away from my writing).  If there’s an interesting article off Twitter (a lot of good ones come from there, esp. ones that help authors), I suggest marking them as “to read” when you schedule time to do it.  (And this is all stuff I am going to mark down to do since my approach has been lacking in this area.  :D)

4 Steps to Creating Enjoyable Reader Experience on Your Fiction Author Website

About a year ago I decided that I wanted to attract more readers to my website, so I used my mad researching skills on the internet to learn more. What I learned is that there are thousands of articles on the subject and very few that have any useful information or helpful advice.

There was write about what you are passionate about, but don’t write about writing. Readers don’t read blogs. Fans come to websites looking for more books and blog posts are not our books so they aren’t interested. Pick a niche or topic to blog about, however be aware that readers of our niche blogs might not be interested in our fiction or that our fans might still be uninterested in reading our blog.

After the initial shock of “What the He!!” are we suppose to put on our empty websites wore off. I started to think that either no one has found the secret to attracting readers or we’re all doing it wrong. I felt so confused and stressed I screamed. Yes, you read that right, I didn’t want to scream, I actually screamed in frustration. Think about it. We’re all told about what we have to have and what we have to do, etc., etc., etc. It’s enough to make a sane person go insane. And I’m not the most sane person to start.

All the research has led me to my newest question. Why blog? I haven’t really found a good, convincing argument for doing it. Changing a blog into a news feed and writing articles seems a better alternative that has all the pros of blogging. It also frees me up to write, post to social media, and update my website articles.

But this post isn’t about blogging so much as creating a friendly and enjoyable reader experience for your fiction author website.

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Step 1: Keywords and Readers

Creating a website for fans to enjoy and prolonging the readers experience means that you’ll probably have to throw out all the misinformation you’ve learned over your career and start from scratch. Before you start throwing web pages together I want you to do this exercise.

On a piece of paper create three columns and label them keywords, topics, and readers. Now I’m going to ask you three questions and I want you to list anything that comes to mind. Don’t skip ahead. These are a very important questions that will aid in creating your website.

Column #1: What keywords would you use to describe you and your writing?

Column #2: What topics are you passionate (interested in) about? 

Column #3: Who are your perfect readers?

I’m going to use my answers as an example:

1. What keywords would you use to describe you and your writing? rancher, mother, wife, speculative fiction writer, romantic, mythology, coffee and book lover, randomness and macabre, a seeker of knowledge, crafter, short attention span, and book cover designer.

2. What topics are you passionate about? Cooking, books, mythology, criminology, writing, coffee, ranching, publishing, business, book design, reading, random facts, psychology, religion, and my kids. While I could find people who would love to read about these topics, having them all on one website could make it chaotic. Readers would never know what to expect when they came. Most readers would leave and it would defeat the purpose of a website.

3. Who are your perfect readers? My readers would be women between 25 and 40 who like  romantic and erotic speculative fiction. They like more of a plot with their romances. They are women who like mythology but are tired of the same old story being retold over and over with the same plot. They want to read a myth with a new twist. This is my target audience. I don’t always hit it, but it gives me an idea of who I’m writing for.

So when I combine the results of all three columns and narrow them to the keywords, topics, and reader characteristics common to all three, it means that my blogging topics and author brand should focus on speculative fiction, romance, sex, relationships, and mythology.Yeah, I can occasionally thrown in stuff about being a mother and rancher, my love of coffee, the latest romance or fantasy novel I’ve read, and writing. But focusing my efforts on my brand will bring quicker success.

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Step 2: Goals and Brainstorming

Now that you know your keywords and target audience, it time to make goals for your website and blog. Please keep your readers and author brand in mind as you plan, otherwise you’ll lose focus of where you are going and you’ll lose your readership. Also, sometimes you attract the wrong readership to your blog because your talking about mystery novels you love but you write erotica. Unless it’s an erotic mystery, then it could work.

1. What is the goal of your website? Is it to draw readers to you? Is it to share your stories? Is it to sell books? Once you know your goals, brainstorm some things you can do to accomplish this goal. You can using the list of topics you are passionate about and keywords to enhance your goals. The goal is to draw readers to your website and you need to  Brainstorm some ways you can draw your potential visitors to your website and reach your goals.

2. For those who have a website, what can you change to reach the goals for your website? Is there anything you could do better or add to help your readers find what they came to your website to find? Remember, you have seconds to catch and hold your reader’s attention before they click away from your site.

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Step 3: Basic Pages for your Website

This can either be the easiest or the hardest part. Write down all the pages of your website you think you need. Blog? Book pages? Store? Links? Biography? Newsletter? Contact me? You can downsize or expand upon this list later.

The five most important pages are:

#1 is the Home Page: The landing page is one of those controversial pages that no one can agree if you need or not. My opinion, you need it. This is the page that should have a welcome message, newest releases, coming soon, and links to various pages on your site. This page is a call to action for your readers.

#2 is the Book Page(s): A page or pages that show your books are a must. You are after all selling a product and your books are that product. There are different ways to set this up. Some writers like all their books on one page. Others like individual pages. Or use some combination of the two.

#3 is Blog or News Page: Either, or, or both. It’s important to have some way for your readers to know what is going on. Periodic updates or insights into your writing helps them.

#4 is the Author Bio: Readers want to know the author behind the books and the blogs. So write a bio. You could do an official bio that is more formal as well as an informal bio that is more friendly. I use both on my website.

#5 is the Contact Me Page: Some readers like to contact writers and you should have a way for them to do this, even if it’s just a form they can fill out.

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Step 4: Now its time to Create the “Enjoyable Reader Experience”

As interesting as the other pages are, they won’t be drawing in readers, unless you’re an exceptional blogger. I’m not. The hits on my blog in a year might equal the hits on one of my books in a month. You see readers seek out the author’s website because they want to know more about the book they read. They want to see inside the creation of that book. And I don’t mean a how you wrote the book.

I’m going to share a secret with you and I hope you tell all your writer friends about it. The best way to attract readers to your website is to pattern your website after movie website or DVD.

I don’t mean website design. I mean the content. I know it seems strange. But it works.

So I’ve already gone out and study some of the movie websites in various genre as well as the backs of every DVD in my collection. I found some common threads that I really think works for the websites and blogs of fiction authors and created a list of ideas that can be used as pages or blog posts to enhance the readers experience.

  • About the Series: If you write a series, tell the reader about the series or the mythology. You can also place links to books in the series or covers to…
  • About the book: this is your individual book page. Put more than the blurb and buy links on this page. Think of it like an about the movie page and put links to your special features.
  • Deleted Scenes, Excerpts from the Book, and Book Trailers: these should be on their own pages and linked to the books they belong to. These are like the movie trailers.
  • Behind the scenes, Inside looks, Author’s Notes: What was your inspiration for the book, the characters, and/or the world you created, why did you write a scene or add a character, the facts and fiction behind the story, etc. Think about questions The topics are endless.
  • Freebies: Who doesn’t like a free stuff. Games, trivia, galleries, wallpapers, icons, screensavers, printable stuff, scrapbooks using Pinterest, etc.
  • About the Characters, People, and Places in your world: Fun profiles about your cast of characters, or news updates from the characters posted, like cast and crew blogs for TV series can be fun as long as people know it’s for fun. Interviews. Information about the races in a book or series. A brief about the world it takes place in.

Word of warning, if you are doing behind the scenes/inside looks/author notes, be careful not to over do it. One or two per book is more than enough.

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Summary

Alright, we’ve come to the end of my long post, still unsure of why I have to blog if no one reads it, and if you are still with me, congratulations, you deserve a reward. I think a Truffle Kiss will be mine, maybe two, I did after all write this long post and edit it so that it was half the size it was and less tangent-y.

To finish, I would like to say that making your website fun for you fans isn’t hard. Use your writing talent and recycle your book research by making it count double for you.Have fun creating your website and if you have a question, ask me. I’d love to help. Or you can tell me what you think in the comments.

Seven Principles

Reading a book
Recently, someone sent me an article from Tech Crunch called The Seven Principles You need to Know to Build a Great Social Product. As you may know, I’m never content to leave anything in context, and so it made me think how these principles can apply to other things, such as writing and building your online platform and presence.

1. Make Your Book Matter in a World of Infinite Supply

Just as the article states, people are inundated with a huge number of products, sites, and in our case, books on a daily basis. Why should they read your book? And how are you getting that across? When someone comes across your site, or your links, they’ll give you only seconds to catch their attention before they move on to the next product.  As this article suggests, the best way to get their attention is to consistently hit on the emotions your book is supposed to create in people. Your blurb, your blog and your site should convey those feelings not only verbally, but visually. Yes, you’re a writer, but despite what they say, the cover does sell the book and the site does sell the content because people have already processed the feelings created by the colors, layouts and element arrangements before they’ve even had time to read the title of the page.  So, if your books are creepy vampire books, then your content should reflect that. Sweet romance?  Then there may be some pink, or “pretty” colors in your future.

2. Be the Best at One Thing

In other words, Author Branding. Stephannie has recently posted on this topic, so I’ll leave the specifics to her, and just say that author branding means you need to have something consistent across all your books. An author who writes horror erotica or violent death scenes might find it hard to then sell a Christian devotional or even a children’s book. Be mindful of your genres and content.

3.  Seek out Uniqueness

This could be what makes your book unique or, as the article suggests, making people feel unique. I do  believe that can carry over into the writing not  by giving your readers extra content, or making them feel as though they have in hand in things. For example several authors post their works in progress in a blog. Ruth Anne Nordin springs instantly to mind, when I think of this. Her readers get to comment and make suggestions, and she listens to them.  This makes her readers feel special and unique and keeps them coming back.  If you can connect to your readers on an emotional level, you’re more likely to keep them.

4. Focus on your Most Important “Interaction”

As a writer your most important “Interaction” is your writing; so, make sure your book is the best it can be. Edit it and then double edit it. Check it for typos and then check it again. Have at least one beta reader look at it for consistency and believability. When it comes to your site, make your homepage count. Have the most important information easily accessible so that your readers don’t have to hunt for it. Remember people have about a three second attention span.

5. Own your story

Sure, they say there’s nothing new under the sun, and that every story has already been told, but it hasn’t been told by YOU. You make your story unique because your perspective is unique. You are like no one else on the planet, and neither is your writing, or your book. Remember that, and exploit it. Weave your experiences and knowledge in with your stories. If you used to be a nurse then make one of your characters a nurse, or set your story in a hospital instead of an expected place.  Use your unique perspective to make your story unique.

6. Keep Down the Clutter

This applies not only to your writing (do you really NEED the scene where your characters discuss minty toothpaste?) but also to your website or blog. Make it all easy to navigate, clean, sharp and tight, and you’ll get repeat visitors. Have a site that is clunky, confusing or too cluttered and you’ll lose visitors.

7. Concentrate on Change

Not changing you, but changing your reader’s lives. How does your book impact them? I don’t mean that it has to be a life changing, inspirational book, but it should leave an impact of some kind. It should give them an idea, or an escape – in essence it should provide a service of some kind. What that service is depends on the kind of book you write.

And so we see that a book and a social website aren’t so very different after all. Kinda scary, huh?

Q&A: Looking for a Website

I thought I’d throw this one out to you all. Recently we had a question fro Nina who asked for our help. She wants to know:

“I do have a question about your personal websites. Mine is currently through Yahoo Small Business Webhosting, but I’m not particularly thrilled with it. What I’m wondering is who you all have yours through, and if there is one webhosting site that you would recommend over another – one that is more user-friendly for writers. 

Thanks!

Nina”

Can you writers out there give Nina a hand?