Certainly I’m no expert, but since I’ve been in this game for nearly a decade now I’ve picked up a few pointers. Like all the advice I give on my blog feel free to ignore it. After all, it’s free.
Don’t make the reader have to look for you. It’s not enough to have a website, you have to update the damned thing! A blog is even better, but only if you post frequently. If you’re not going to do that then don’t even bother. I checked someone’s blog out recently and it hadn’t been updated since 2006! Look, we’re an instant society. Readers aren’t going to remember the title of your book, they may only remember part of your name and they’re not going to spend a helluva lot of time looking for it. There’s too much competition for their entertainment dollar, you’ve got to make it easy to buy your book.
Accurate information about you should be on the first THREE pages of any search engine results. How do you accomplish this? There’s something called Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short. There are tons of people advertising their services to do this for you, but in reality you can do it for yourself for free. First, have a blog or a website that you update frequently. Put up a fan page on Facebook, and link it to your blog so that when you update the blog your fan page is updated as well. And here’s another thing, you have to frequent and post on other blogs, preferably popular ones. These blogs don’t have to be about books and writing. When you fill out the information to post on those blogs, be sure to include a link in the information to your website or blog.
Why do you do this? Because Google has robots called “spiders” that scan the internet looking for links. They have a funky algorithm that only they (and the Chinese) understand, but bottom line is, having your link show up in lots of places is a good thing. It boots your rating which means your webpage will show up on the first page of searches for your name or book. This is the main reason that someone even searching for a partial on my name will get a hit on the first page. With my whole name they’ll get an accurate hit on at least ten. I’ve been around a long time and post a lot of places, but it doesn’t take nearly as much posting as I do. Find a few blogs you enjoy, again, they don’t all have to be about writing or publishing. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the blogs I frequent are totally off topic. But, never, ever just show up on a blog and post “Buy my book,” type messages. This is called spamming. It’s annoying and will get you banned with a quickness. Talk about the subject at hand whatever it might be. Don’t promote your book there, if you make interesting comments people will click on your link and find out about your book. I make a habit never to promote on other people’s blogs. I only talk about my books when it’s relevant to the conversation, and even then I ask the owner permission first. Don’t be obnoxious. Stick to the subject and always have something interesting to say. People will follow you. That’s why they read blogs.
Be generous to others, especially writers, but other bloggers as well. I always make sure to link back for any information I get, but I also like to just share other writers I like. Everyone’s trying to SEO, and it’s these little kindnesses that will come back to you tenfold. Yes, publishing is a cutthroat business, but that doesn’t mean we have to run around shanking one another. If you can do a favor without compromising your integrity, do it.
For the love of all things chocolate have Buy links up on your blog or website. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read excerpts on a website, but they don’t have a clickable link to buy the damned book! Again, people aren’t going to be bothered to go on an Amazonian trek to give you their money. Make it easy for them, they don’t have to buy your book there are literally billions of others out there.
And that’s another thing, have excerpts and free samples of your work up on your website or blog. Don’t make them have to go to your publishers’ site just to find out what the book is about, they might not want to be bothered. I got this idea from Lynn Viehl on her blog Paperback Writer. She is a very prolific, best-selling author. Lynn has tons of free reads up on sites like Scribd. I posted my free read, Rock Star Wedding there a year ago. It’s been downloaded almost 900 times since. Obviously I have no way of knowing whether any of those people have bought my books, but as a promotion nothing beats getting your product directly into your readers hand. And it didn’t cost me anything but the few days it took me to write the story! Lynn also said, if you give them a free book it has to be a complete story, don’t just give them part and make them have to buy the other part. People just find that annoying and obviously you don’t want them angry with you.
Don’t have a bunch of extraneous gizmos on your website. Music, flash and all that other stuff just slows some browsers down. Remember, there are people out there who are still on dial-up. If you have book trailers make them a clickable link. People won’t hang around on your website if it makes their browser free up. And remember, white space is your friend. Make your website easy to read. Colors don’t read the same on all browsers, subtle colors and neutrals are easiest on the eyes. Avoid having lots of wild colors especially against a black background. Remember, you want people to READ what you have to say, and I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I woke up on my 40th birthday and my eyesight had gone all to hell. Again, make it easy for people to give you their money and they’re not going to do that if they can’t read your site.