Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Evolution of a book cover

I'm Michael, not Michelangelo. I won't call myself an artist.

I went to art school on Saturday mornings for two years when I was in grade school. I was good with still lifes, vehicles and architecture, but lousy with people pictures. Our teacher told us that an adult human male should be 6.5 heads tall. No one in my family looked like that.

Over the years I won prizes in art classes in school, and enjoyed working with art directors when I was an "award-winning Madison Avenue advertising copywriter." Without any art directors to partner with I've designed packaging, posters, brochures, websites, ads, logos and book covers.

When I started Silver Sands Books back in 2008 I initially planned to publish one book and I found a convenient, talented and reasonably priced artist to work with.

Later on I started doing most of the cover designs myself. I won't say that they're better than what Carina Ruotolo produced, but they're good enough and I get what I want with unlimited variations and no charge for revisions.

[above] Carina designed the original ebook version of my Internet Hell, back in 2012. I decided to make it squarish rather than the normal vertical book shape so it would be more distinct online. My contribution was suggesting that Carina line up the first and last letters of "internet" with the vertical strokes that start and end "HELL." I particularly like the way that the "t"s in "Internet" suggest Christian crosses, which might seem Hellish. The dot over the "i" balances the two "t"s.

[above] Earlier this year I decided to update the book and publish a paperback edition. My first impulse was to simply adapt Carina's design with an added brag-line about bestseller status. This cover is not very interesting or compelling.

[above] Then I decided to make a true rectangular design, rather than the previous square-within-a-rectangle. I stupidly forgot that it's nearly impossible to properly plan for borders around a cover in a print-on-demand book.

[above] The text on the printed covers was a bit blurry because of my enlargement from ebook-size. I did not have Carina's original work so I re-did the text with Microsoft Word.

I also added a contrasting black bar and some hellish flames at the bottom to provide a bit of drama.

[above] I next decided to change the top brag-line from black to yellow, to mimic the color of the flames at the bottom. I also decided to have that line flush-left rather than centered like the rest of the cover. Sadly, some nincompoop at CreateSpace unilaterally decided to center that line by moving the entire cover image to the right. Aaaarrrgghh!

[above] In the latest version, I centered the brag line but put it against a block of black, to mimic the bottom of the book. I may tinker some more, perhaps enlarging the title text.

It's possible that a professional artist could have produced a perfect cover without all of the intermediate experimentation I went through. It might have been finished faster, but would be more costly and not much fun. I'd rather do than watch. 

[above] If you want to try designing a book cover, this ebook will help.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Today's post has three titles:
(1) A book about book covers shouldn't be ugly.
(2) Even a flawed book is worth more than zero.
(3) Keep evangelism out of books for a general audience.

(Number One) Charity Milan's How to Make a Kindle Book Cover: Step-by-Step Instructions to Make High-Impact e-Book Covers with Photoshop Elements 11 has excellent -- and needed -- help for using Photoshop Elements. 

Sure, we all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there's no accounting for taste. However, I think the cover of this book looks like shit and I doubt that I'm the only one with this opinion.

The author (whose name is not really Charity Milan) says, "A good cover is your book’s calling card." It seems like she's calling on me to throw up.

With unintended irony, she tells us that books "that purport to teach me how to create covers for Kindle devices and have crappy covers themselves, those I skip."

Maybe "Charity" deliberately tried to make the worst-looking cover possible, possibly to attract attention and elicit comments.

Here's one comment from someone on a Facebook group for authors (the prime audience for the book): "A dreadful cover, too busy and relies on very poor Photoshop techniques."

Message to authors: a books about graphic design should have good design.

(Number Two) The book has a "Digital List Price" of $2.99. I paid zero dollars and no cents for it. It's been available for free for several years.

I'm human. I like to save money -- but I have mixed feelings about free books.

Lots of authors have used freebies to build readership and to achieve high positions in Amazon sales rankings. I think free books are appropriate to elect a candidate and maybe to convert 'heathens.' Jehovah's Witnesses have apparently achieved success by giving away millions of free publications.

However, I think that free books generally demean their authors, and maybe authorship in general. My books have sold for prices ranging up to $29.95. I sell a group of small "samplers" as buck books. I also offer a couple of samplers at 99 cents each. I hope they'll entice readers to buy other books I've written. 'Selling' for zero just seems too pathetic and desperate to me. I'm not that desperate, yet.

There's at least one serious error in Charity's book. The author says that Amazon doesn't want hyperlinks in Kindle books. My Kindle books have lots of links, and Amazon has never complained. Linking is a great advantage of ebooks over pbooks. Charity provides links for Fiverr.com and her own author page on Amazon. Maybe she intended to delete them.

This book apparently was not edited by anyone other than the author. That's not good for a book about publishing. The author says she spent $128 for a stock photo. It would have been better if she bought an $8 photo and paid a college journalism major $120 for copyediting.

There are some easily fixed page formatting problems, too.

And there was a silly problem in the Amazon promotional text. The author said she has "printed plenty of Kindle books under a plethora of pen names." Publishing Kindle ebooks does not mean printing them.

The book is worth much more than the free price, and even more than the regular $2.99 price. It's certainly worth $4.99 -- but it needs to be cleaned up a bit.

If authors think that people won't complain about books they got for free, they're wrong.

Message to authors: a good book doesn't have to be given away, but make good books.

(Number Three) The author says she is "a God-fearing Christian." That's OK, but not not all readers want to hear preaching about the power of the Holy Ghost or Christ Jesus while learning how to use software.

It seemed creepy and made me uncomfortable. I want to get more out of Photoshop Elements. I'm Jewish. The strong subconscious message is that this book is NOT FOR ME.

Message to authors: if you want to attract readers and get good reviews, eliminate  religious and political preaching that may turn people off.

For what it's worth, Charity Milan's other book includes her history as a masturbator and has lots of links. Maybe "Jane Jerkoff" would be a more appropriate pseudonym for that book.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Hickeys belong on people, not on your book pages

When I was a teenager, a hickey was bruise caused by sucking skin, usually on the neck. On Mondays, kids proudly displayed their hickeys as indicators of intense passion over the weekend.

In printing, a hickey (also known as a bull’s eye or fish eye) is a spot or imperfection on a printed paper caused by dirt.

(above) When I first saw the online proof of my new Internet Hell, I thought that an unintentional hyphen was a bit of dirt on my computer monitor. My finger nail could not remove it and then I realized that it was on the actual cover image. I 'painted' it over with white.

(above) When newspapers were “pasted up” by hand it was common for extraneous strips of paper with text on them, or nothing on them, to get dropped onto what would become the printing plate—and their images would be printed. (Newspaper article above was written by yours truly for the Brown & White at Lehigh University in 1966 -- when college students used slide rules, cigarettes cost 27 cents a pack and there were no iPads. However, sex had been invented.)

(above) It’s unlikely that you will encounter those paste-up problems in a book made with word-processing software, a PDF and print on demand or e-publishing -- but there is a 21st century version of the hickey.

If you use the Print Screen function of your computer, or software such as
Snagit, you might accidentally capture an image with a cursor or pointer in it. Be careful.


top photo from Janek B. Thanks.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Authors: ban meaningless words from your book titles and websites

A while ago I encountered the website of author, artist, athlete and entrepreneur Angela Lam Turpin. The title of the site, strangely, is "The official website of Angela Lam Turpin." If this is the official site, I have to wonder if there are unofficial Angela Lam Turpin websites.

Angela is a wonderful, accomplished person worthy of admiration; but is Angela important enough to inspire fakers to produce websites not certified by Angela?

I think not.

Google shows about one-point-four-fucking-billion links for the term "official website."

  • Some, appropriately, are government-sanctioned websites. (The official site of Singapore's Prime Minister was hacked a while ago.)
  • Many belong to performers such as KISS, The Who, Madonna and Cher -- who apparently don't want fans to think that websites published by other fans are actually sanctioned by the stars.

Is Angela as big a star as Madonna? I think not.

Most things that claim to be "official" something are not official anything. Use of the label is evidence of unchecked ego (or maybe just ignorance).

Amazon.com shows about 150,000 links to books with "official" in the title or subtitle.

Some, such as a book for diabetics produced by the American Diabetes Association, can logically claim to be "official." Others, like a book of instructions for speaking Spanish like a Costa Rican, is official nothing.
  • Unless your book, blog or website is officially blessed by some important person or institution, restrain your ego and don't claim that your work is "official." 
  • If you are important enough to attract copycats, then you can claim your work to be officially yours -- but copycats can claim that you approved their work, too. Fame is not all fun.

"SECRET" is another extremely popular word. It's an exciting and meaningless word. Keep it o
ff your book covers.

Apparently, lots of authors and publishers think that lots of readers want to know secrets, especially "dirty little secrets."

Amazon.com lists over 300,000 books with "secret" in the title (and the total has been escalating). Some are fiction, and many are nonfiction. "Secrets of success" is a very popular book title cliche. Thousands of books use the phrase in their titles.
  • Here's a dirty little secret: none of the books promising secrets actually reveal secrets because no secrets are secret after even one person reads the secret.
The author of Secrets of Self Publishing 2 is so proud of his secrecy that he put the title TWICE on the cover of the horrible book. The slim volume is badly written, badly formatted and apparently unedited. I found exactly one alleged secret in the book: "The secrets of self-publishing are the same as the secrets of success. One must be willing to research all outlets, and find a method which fits your program."

That's not much of a secret.

Find some way to attract readers to your book without putting "SECRETS" in the title. Avoid "OFFICIAL," too.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Don't be discouraged when gatekeepers say "no" -- but don't self-publish crap.

Many writers turn to self-publishing companies or independent self-publishing or even stop writing after being rejected by agents or traditional publishers.

(Some writers -- like me -- have not been rejected but prefer the control, speed and income of independent publishing.)

While rejection can be depressing and discouraging, the failure to be approved by the media gatekeepers is not necessarily an indication of bad writing or an uninteresting idea.
  • Books are rejected for many reasons (not only bad quality)
  • Books are usually accepted for one reason: because someone thinks they will make money.
Sarah Palin's Going Rogue and the endless stream of celebrities' addiction/abuse/confession/recipes/weight-loss books are not published in anticipation of glorifying the publisher by winning Pulitzer prizes. They are published in anticipation of making money.

Professional judgment is imperfect!

Many books that are rejected by one publisher -- or by many publishers -- are later accepted by another publisher.

Joanne Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected by TWELVE publishing companies. More than 400 million Potter books have been sold, and the Potter movies have been seen by many millions.

I wonder if any of the publishing executives who rejected that first book were fired for bad judgment.

Most books published by traditional publishing companies with highly paid experts having years of experience, do not sell well. After a few months they are doomed to be sold on the buck-a-book tables or recycled into the raw materials for more books.

My taste in books apparently puts me in the minority of book buyers. Often I eagerly buy a new book as soon as it is released. As expected, I love the book. Alas, few others care about the subject, and the book is soon available for almost nothing at Barnes & Noble or Dollar Tree. This has become a running joke in my family, and my wife would strongly prefer that I wait a while and pay just one dollar instead of $25. But I won't wait.
  • There may be many people like me who are waiting for what you are writing. Find a way to reach us.
If you can't get a contract from a publisher, self-publish... on paper, online, or in ebooks. Don't be stopped. Don't be silenced. Don't skip professional editing and design. Don't publish crap. Readers are ready. Get to work.

(gate photo from http://www.123rf.com)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Un-aided authors do very stupid things. If you don't know what you're doing, don't do anything.

Wordclay is one of the least-known book brands of self-publishing behemoth Author Solutions. It was shut down in 2012 but recently revived. It used to be a terrible brand. I have no reason to believe it's any better now.

It says it provides "by far the easiest, fastest and most dynamic DIY self-publishing experience."

I have no idea how Wordclay measured ease and speed (or if the testing was supervised by an independent auditor) and "dynamic" is a meaningless description for publishing. My dog is dynamic. So is my PC monitor screen. So is the Atlantic Ocean. Who cares?

Wordclay also tells prospective author/customers: "The steps to self-publishing through Wordclay are quick and easy. From listing your title to choosing a book size, approving the formatted interior and designing a cover, you'll be surprised how quickly a finished book can be in your hands. The flexibility of the design elements, choices and optional additional services offer a dynamic experience that will be a perfect fit for many different types of authors."

There's "dynamic" again, but even more troubling is the freedom that the Wordclay process provides. Unfettered freedom -- with no experienced expert to say, "THAT'S NOT HOW IT'S DONE" can lead to books that are dreadful -- inside and out.

Up above are two Wordclay books with the same cover illustration and nearly illegible type.
  1. The one on the left has an extra space between "God's" and "Great." 
  2. The one on the right has missing commas, a misspelled word, an unnecessarily hyphenated word and unnecessary exclamation points! The title uses an ampersand before "enemies" but the subtitle spells out "and" before the unnecessarily hyphenated "enemies."
No professional designer (or experienced amateur like me) would make those stupid mistakes. Sadly, there was nobody at Wordclay to say "THAT'S NOT HOW IT'S DONE

Below are two more books with the same cover art, and more terrible typography. 

[below] At Wordclay, tracks-and-trees are not the only popular choice. A golden sunset with purple sky is also used more than once -- maybe MUCH more than once -- and with terrible typography, of course. And, of course, there is no one at Wordclay to say "THAT'S NOT HOW IT'S DONE.

We're told that ignorance is bliss. In book publishing, it's both unnecessary and stupid to be ignorant. 

One of my Marcus Maxims, developed about fifty years ago, is:


Ask somebody for help. Hire an expert. Use a publisher that provides help. Read some books about publishing. I have a website that will help.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Why is it better to find seven mistakes in a book than to find just one? And, a disgusting worm riddle

(OOPS -- not ready for prime time.)

Several years ago ago I received a fifth-generation proof of my book, Independent Self-Publishing: the complete Guide.

I'd already gone through the book dozens of times, and was reasonably sure that the latest proof would be good enough to approve for printing and selling. It was already a few weeks late (which is normal).

As soon as Bill, our UPS driver, delivered the box from Lightning Source, my printer, I gave it to Dave. He was my youngest employee and has better vision than I have. He also has good artistic judgment and his mother owned a bookstore. Hawkeyed Dave studied each page, and spotted one line of text that was not indented properly in a paragraph with a "hanging indent."

The error (above) was annoying, but not terrible, and one error in 520 pages was not sufficient for me to "stop the presses."

When Dave finished his page flipping, it was my turn.

I was horrified to find a page with ghastly word spacing:

In the book, I point out that it's difficult to achieve good word spacing in a narrow piece of justified text, and I offer some suggestions for solving the problem. I was amazed to see that I had missed this ugly page. It's actually no worse than what is printed in most newspapers and in some books I've seen -- but is unacceptable in a book that preaches the importance of producing good-looking books.

I quickly decided that I could not let the book reach the public in its present form, and read on.

I ultimately found seven pages that could be improved. Other than the page with the bad word spacing, none of the seven would have been bad enough for me to delay publication by a week, but taken together, I had good reasons not to approve the book.

And... as long as I was fixing up the interior of the book, I asked my artist to make some little fixes on the cover. There were three little bits that had bugged me. I doubt that anyone else would have noticed them. But as long as I was going to delay publication to fix the inside of the book, I may as well use the opportunity to fix the outside, too.

No book is perfect -- not even books produced by the big guys in Manhattan -- but it's important for my books (and all books) to be as close to perfect as possible. Because I found seven things to fix, the resulting book is better than if I had found just one problem and decided to ignore it.
_ _ _ _

OK, it's time for an old but appropriate joke:

Q: What's worse than biting into an apple and seeing a worm?

A: Biting into an apple and seeing half a worm.

Monday, May 16, 2016

You can rewrite your text to avoid weird typography

I was born a New Yorker and despite having lived much of my life elsewhere, I still consider myself to be a New Yorker. I read three or four New York Newspapers each day, watch New York TV channels, and subscribe to both New York and The New Yorker magazines.

The New Yorker has long been one of my favorite magazines. Every issue provides a host of well-written, interesting articles on a wide range of subjects, plus great cartoons -- and well-regarded poetry and fiction that I ignore.

The magazine provides readers with handsome typography, both on paper and online. It has a few idiosyncrasies, such as spelling-out numbers up to ninety-nine (or maybe even higher) and insisting on inserting a diaeresis (two dots, like an umlaut) over a second consecutive vowel in such words as “naïve” and “coöperate.”

The magazine tells us that the word is pronounced “die heiresses” and is from the Greek for “divide.”

A few days ago I discovered another bit of New Yorker weirdness:

I've read lots of things in my life, but never before noticed a large space between a closing quote mark and an apostrophe. I recognize that three consecutive curies look weird [below]--but the magazine's editorial staff made a bad decision in this case.
If I was an editor at The New Yorker, I would've rewritten the sentence to eliminate the silliness. Here's the original and one simple, suitable substitute: 

Don't be reluctant to change or shift words in your own work or work you edit for others.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Don't let your book cover seem out-of-date

I previously pointed out some errors in Penny C. Sansevieri's mostly fine Red Hot Internet Publicity. I read the book several years ago, but recently saw that it has been revised. Amazon shows a publication date of 2/23/13. I don't know if Penny corrected the errors I pointed out, but a banner on the corner of the book proclaims "NEWLY UPDATED EDITION."

That's very smart.

The cover below shows my own Independent Self-Publishing: the complete guide. The updated edition was published on 3/1/11 and the cover proclaims "Updated for 2011."

That's very stupid.

Announcing that a book was updated for 2011 may be effective marketing in 2010, 2011, or maybe in 2012 -- but by 2013 or 2016, the book seems outdated (however, at least 95% of it is still useful). Maybe the book would sell better now if I eliminate the date.

I was smarter with the updated version of my Stories I'd Tell My Children) but maybe not until they're adults). A banner at the top proclaims "New Updated Edition." The book cover is dateless, and I think the book is timeless.

That's much smarter.

Think about how your books can appear to be right-on-time -- or behind the times.

  • Unless you plan to publish updated versions every year or two, don't put a date on the cover.
  • And, as with copyright dates, if you publish in the last quarter of the year, put the following year's date on the cover. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Should authors be bloggers?

BEFORE I GET STARTED, here are five big blogging sins to avoid:
  1. I know of one blog that has so many guest posts that it's losing its identity and I visit it less often than I used to. Remember -- people decided to view late-night TV shows because they like Johnny, Dave, Jay, Conan, Craig, Jimmy or the other Jimmy, not because of the guests. Limit the number and frequency of guest posts. 
  2. The blog of Outskirts Press boss Brent Sampson used to provide good advice for authors. Now it contains mostly puffery about Outskirts, so there is little reason to visit or read. Make your blog useful -- not just self-serving.
  3. Some blogs that provide useful and important information have not been updated in so long that I no longer bother with them and may miss something useful or important. Post often and on a regular schedule.
  4. Everything an author writes is a sample, an audition, for books. Write and edit carefully. Don't rush your blog or write while you are sleepy. Don't let potential book buyers think you are stupid or sloppy.
  5. Make sure that the links you publish go where they're supposed to go. Don't send visitors to the wrong place, or to oblivion.

Earlier this week I discussed websites. Today's subject is the blog (“web log”). A blog is a specialized form of website. It’s like an online diary or journal, but it’s written for the world to read -- not just you and your heirs. If you are an author, you should seriously consider writing a blog, or several blogs. You are now reading one of my blogs. Hello.

A blog usually consists of some introductory text plus multiple entries (“posts” or “postings”) displayed with the newest post on top, followed by older posts. The main page of a blog typically displays three to ten posts, and there are links to older posts that may be grouped by year, topic or both.

I (mostly) like Blogger, which hosts this blog. It's owned by Google, and it's free. The Google connection makes it easy to “monetize” a blog by carrying small "AdSense" ads on it. I like Wordpress, too.

A blog can be "free-standing" or a section of a website.

You're not stuck with the awkward web address (URL, "Uniform Resource Locator") provided by your hosting company. This blog was originally located at http://bookmakingblog.blogspot.com. For a few bucks per year I simplified it to www.BookMakingBlog.com. 

Create new posts often -- at least twice a week. Don’t be reluctant to publish reruns, particularly of popular posts, updated if possible and with a new title. You should be constantly attracting new readers, so don’t assume that someone who sees a post on 8/4/15 also saw it on 11/7/10. Some items may be tied to the calendar and deserve annual or more-frequent publication. 

The blog should show your book cover(s), say something about it or them, and provide a link for ordering. You can also show and describe future books.

It’s common for an author’s blog to include full chapters or shorter book sections as previews to entice readers.

Some blogs deal with specific subjects such as politics, investing, parenting, publishing, food or travel, and others include whatever the blogger feels like writing about. Some are interesting, informative and entertaining -- and others are boring and useless.

Any news about your book -- such as awards, bestseller status, sales milestones, book signings, etc. -- should be touted in your blog. You can also conduct contests to build readership.

Make your blog as accurate and up-to-date as possible. Read, reread and re-reread to remove typing errors. Check your facts and spelling. Take past dates out of your calendar of upcoming events. Wait about an hour before you announce a new post so you can eliminate stupid errors you missed earlier.

Some blogs attract only a handful of visitors each day. Others attract hundreds or even many thousands. The more people who read your blog, the more people who may read your books. Blog traffic builds gradually. Don't expect huge numbers on your first day, or even in your first year. When this blog started in 2007 I had about 120 visitors per day. My traffic is now between 1,500 and 2,000 people on most days. That's not what the New York Times receives, but I'm not complaining. A  few times I attracted more than 5,000 readers. I don;t know why.

Blogger (and presumably Wordpress and other hosts) provide analytics that will tell you about your visitors (where they come from, what browsers they use, if they are mobile, etc.). To me, the most important data is the number of readers for each post. If you know which topics are the most popular, you can choose to write more posts about that topic.

Followers can elect to be notified whenever a new post appears. Some bloggers send out notices via Twitter or email to announce new posts. It’s important to build a strong following of regular readers. You can join a “circle” or “network” of bloggers with similar interests. Their blogs may send people to you, and vice-versa. Although I’m a “he,” I am a member of She Writes.

Most blogs are interactive to some degree, allowing reader comments or even interaction between the blogger and readers, and among readers.

Some authors’ blogs deal with a book, only. Others deal with the subject of a book or books, or life in general. If you write nonfiction and you are perceived as an expert in some field, or even if you are merely entertaining, you can build a following of readers who may buy books even if your book is not the main focus of your blog. If you write a history book or how-to book about bicycles or electric trains, you probably know a lot about the topics and can churn out regular blog posts day after day, year after year.

Anyone searching for topics you’ve blogged about can find links to your blog, find your blog, and see an ad for your book and maybe buy it. Google typically indexes this blog less than an hour after I publish it.

It’s tougher for fiction. Many novelists’ blogs seem to attract only other novelists -- not readers. If you are a novelist who specializes in post-apocalyptic gay teenage albino vampire sex, how many blog posts about your novel could you come up with over the years? Three? One? Maybe a better strategy for a novelist would be to blog with news and opinions about something remotely related to the book topic -- like teenage sex, vampires or albinos -- that might catch searchers who might be interested in reading a novel.

Novelists will probably find it’s better to have a website that’s updated a few times a year instead of trying to blog hundreds of times a year. Unless you write books about writing, don't write about writing. Readers of novels probably won't care about how many words you churned out last night or if your cat dumped coffee on your keyboard.

Before you “go public,” publish five or more posts. This way, when you do go public, people who find you will spend more time on your blog, and people who are not interested in a particular topic are more likely to read your other posts than to merely dismiss you and go elsewhere.

Build up a backlog of posts (some complete, some almost complete and some that may be just concepts or titles). If you come up “dry” on a particular day, look at your pending post list.

Read, read, read and listen, listen, listen. New blog posts won’t always pop magically from your brain. You can publish your reaction (which can be praise, condemnation or amplification) of what you’ve read online or on paper, or a movie or TV show you’ve watched, even a conversation you’ve overheard.

Periodically change the way your blog looks. You can change a background color, change the title typeface, move the sidebar from one side to the other, change the sequence of items in the sidebar. Don’t let readers think, “same old same old.” This goes for websites as well as blogs.

See how your blog looks with different browsers, on a PC and Mac, tablet and smartphone, and make any needed adjustments. Colors may appear differently on different screens. Don't be too garish, or fade into oblivion.

Publish early in the day, before 9 a.m. eastern time -- or even earlier. This one is late. Sorry.

In your spare time, check your old posts. Fix what needs fixing and remove anything you don't feel right about.

Get known! Announce your blog and your latest post every time you can. Your blog address should be part of the signature you use in email and online. Put time and effort into Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and participate in appropriate online groups.

Get friendly with other complementary bloggers. Exchange links or ads and "guest-post" for each other. Limit the frequency of guest posts to maybe one or two a month.

More help in The One Buck Book Marketing Book.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

More about authors' websites

(continued from yesterday)

Update your site
several times each year. Add content. Remove stale content (especially dates for events that have already passed). Change colors, type and layout. The site should seem fresh, not stale or neglected. Make sure your copyright notice has the current year. If It's October or later you can put in the next year so you won't have to remember to change it in January.

Some authors hire website designers. I don't.  You don’t need any special talent, experience or training to put a website together. Most hosting companies offer adequate and attractive templates which you can use as-is or modify if you want to. They are WYSIWYG (pronounced “wizzy wig” and standing for “What You See Is What You Get”) and allow you to get online in a few minutes—but you may spend the rest of your life updating and fine-tuning.

If you have stronger creative impulses, you can design a website from scratch using such software as Microsoft FrontPage (discontinued, but still useful), PageBreeze, Adobe’s DreamWeaver, and Microsoft’s Expression Web and SharePoint Designer.

There are books and businesses that specialize in SEO (search engine optimization), the process of getting a website into a top position in Google, Bing, Excite, Yahoo and lesser search engines.

The SEO experts charge for their services, but I’ll gladly give you some free tips based on personal experience.

People search for keywords (specific important terms, like “bicycle” or “Cambodia”) and it’s important that your book website include all relevant keywords, used as often as possible, without seeming obvious, artificial or awkward.

Include important keywords as often as possible without seeming artificial.Don’t try to scam the search engines by using white type on a white background, black on black, etc..

A keyword may actually be a phrase, not just a single word. If you think that people will be searching for “dirt bike” or “comfort bike,” and those phrases are appropriate for your book, they belong in your website, too.

Keep in mind that many potential readers don’t know that your book exists, but may simply be searching for information about buying or using a product. If you have a book about bicycles or amateur beer making, you want to attract people who are shopping for bikes or hops or need advice about fixing a flat or deciding on dry vs. liquid yeast.

Keyword-based online ads, such as Google’s AdWords, are great for driving potential book buyers to your website or to sites that sell your book. Unlike a mass of shotgun pellets, they are like aiming one bullet at a single, near­­­by target.

Because the ads should be seen only by people who are searching for specific subjects that your book deals with, they can provide a lot of website traffic for a few cents to a few dollars per mouse click.

Google’s legendary algorithm that determines a website’s position has been subject to much speculation, and it’s protected as carefully as the formula for making Coca-Cola. One key ingredient in Google ranking is the number of inbound links to a website. Google assumes that the more sites that link to a particular site, the better that site is, and the higher it deserves to be in the Google list. Google interprets a link from Susan’s website to Charlie’s website as a vote by Susan in favor of Charlie.

You should create inbound links in any legitimate way you can. If you post a comment in an online forum, put your website address in it. If you’re active in LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networks, promote your website there. Every email you send can list your site, and, of course, the web address belongs on your business cards and letterheads. If you have multiple websites, each one should promote the others. You can also ask the operators of other compatible but not competing websites to exchange links with you.

Some people will find your website by searching for terms that are within the site, and others may search for the name of your company, a book or your personal name. If Google thinks your company is important, it will provide links to interior pages—not just the home page. My Silver Sands Books site gets treated just as well as book giant Simon & Schuster, which is part of CBS. Simon publishes about 2,000 book titles each year. So far, we did eight In our best year but Google makes us look important.

There are lots of schemes for getting other sites to link to yours, but some businesses do very well simply by having a good site with useful information presented in a pleasant way.

To judge your progress, you can use websites such as WhoLinksToMe. These are the results for one of my websites: Google PageRank: 4. Google Links: 54. Yahoo Links: 2,940. Bing Related: 309.

Older sites tend to rank higher than newer ones. Even if your book won’t be out for a year, get a preview online right away so you can gradually make your way upward in the lists.

Track your traffic (hits). If few people visit your site, maybe you don’t have enough of the proper keywords or maybe you chose the wrong subject to write about.

 Use search engines to find what people are saying about you or your book. If you find an error, try to correct it.

Sooner or later the bots (robot indexers) or web crawlers used by the search engines should find your website, but it can’t hurt to tell them you exist. You may get emails from services that promise to Submit Your Website to 300,000 Top Search Engines for only $299. There are not 300,000 top search engines, or even 30. You should care about only a few. When you launch your website, notify the major search engines.

At least once a day, check to see that your website is really “on the air.” There are services that will check for you.

Tomorrow: blogging for authors