Writer Promotion: The Website

Blog 79 imageDespite the amazing social media tools available, a website remains at the core of a writer’s promotional strategy.

As one peels away the onion, there is a lot that can be written about starting and maintaining a website. Here are the very basics.

Not so fast. Does a writer really have to bother with a website? For almost every serious writer, the answer is yes. Readers and others expect a writer to have an online presence. They will do an online search and look for a website. In turn, a website is one of the best ways for a writer to control his online presence and public profile.

Can’t a writer just rely on Facebook? No. On a website, a writer provides structured information. Facebook is about social engagement. They change their platform all the time, in part to earn advertising dollars. See Jane Friedman’s blog.

What should a writer’s goals be in having a website? A website should provide:

  1. Clear information about the writer and his expertise (home and bio pages) for viewers and search engines.
  2. Synopses and reviews of all his books and other content (novels and reviews pages).
  3. Links to retailers of his books.
  4. The ability to interact by blogging, email (contact page), collecting email addresses for a newsletter, posting works in progress and links to social media.
  5. Data collection so that a writer can judge his digital efforts.

See this blog by Jane Friedman.

Okay. How does a writer start and maintain a website? In the broadest terms, the choices are:

  1. Hire a web designer experienced with author websites. Your site will look great but of course you have to pay for the design and ongoing hosting and maintenance. For self-published writers, that cost may be prohibitive.
  2. Self-host using “content management systems” like WordPress.org. Roughly, self-hosting is where the writer has access to all of his website files and the servers where those files are stored/hosted. The writer has broad ability to customize his site and add functionality (plug-ins) and analytics. However, the writer is responsible for security, backups and management, and may still need a designer’s help. For an excellent blog on self-hosting, see this blog by Jane Friedman.
  3. Operate your site on someone else’s domain. For example, this blog uses WordPress.com. This is the simplest and can be virtually cost free. However, while becoming more impressive, customization using themes and analytics are more limited. Also, the domain might disappear.

For all choices, the writer must purchase a domain name. Hopefully [author name].com is available.

Does a writer need to blog? WordPress.com and some like it began as blog web hosting services. Sites operated on WordPress.com are now easily customized to be websites without blogs. I’ll have more to say about whether a self-published writer should or should not blog in a future post.

What is SEO? This is not a disease but an acronym for search engine optimization. A writer will want his website/blog to appear as high and often in online searches as possible. There’s an entire industry that strategizes how to do this based on search engine algorithms. The good news is that sites like WordPress.org (self-hosting) and WordPress.com (domain hosting) are, I’m told, quite good at handling SEO.

Build away!

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt.

Buy The Case for Killing.

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Refining Plot

Blog 78 imageTwo weeks ago I posted that I had received comments on the current draft of my third book and that I was working on developing some characters further. However, I need to make some plot changes, too, and that has me asking what the best process to refine plot is.

Some writers create an outline for a book that is so detailed, they don’t make material changes to plot when they write the book. Other writers find an interesting premise for a book, start writing and let the story take them where it might.

I’m somewhere in between. For the first draft of a book, I have a premise that leads to an outline. Then, following the outline, I start writing. However, as I work through chapters, I usually think of plot changes that will make the book more interesting. Then I amend the outline, write some more, and so on, until the first draft appears. I repeat this process over many drafts to get the final book.

But refining the plot in later drafts can be tricky. I write mystery/thrillers and the plots become more intricate as I create new drafts. Changing a plot in a later draft of a book, such as the third one I’m working on now, can be nerve-wracking. A tinker in one chapter can have a domino effect across several other chapters. Occasionally the plot looks ready to unravel.

Here are three things that help me to refine plot in later drafts.

First, I only make changes that I’m very certain will create a better book.

Second, I amend the outline from beginning to end, but more with instructions than specifics. For example, I might write “X needs to reveal motive by this point, not in chapter 20.”

And third, ultimately I let the creative writing process do its work. I might worry about how to implement a plot change. How exactly will X reveal her motive? Why, when, where? Yet, when I reach the chapter that needs a change, if I let my imagination work with the scene, nine times out of ten, the change emerges and fits well.

Every writer must find his best way to refine plot. Maybe some of what I do will help.

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt.

Buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.

Visit me on Facebook.

Writer Promotion: Family and Friends

Blog 77 ImageThis is the start of several posts in my series “How to Self-Publish” discussing methods of promotion. Today’s post is about asking for the help of family and friends.

The challenge for a self-published writer is getting people to know about his book and interested enough to read it. If he wants readers to buy his book, as opposed to sampling it on a subscription service or getting a free copy, he must be confident that readers will feel they’ll get value for their money.

Family and friends can help with all these issues.

First, because of their connection to the writer, they’re the most likely group to actually read the book, despite busy lives. That’s the start of a reader base.

Second, family and friends are also among the most likely to give feedback. This means that, after completing the book, they’ve sat back and considered it. It also means that they have an opinion that they can share with others. So, assuming the opinion is favorable, they can create word of mouth about the book and thus promote it.

I’m a firm believer that this type of word of mouth has great potential to drive interest in a book and sales. Every family member and friend has his or her own group of family and friends, who in turn have their own groups, and so on. Word of mouth can spread quite far and quickly through these multiple channels.

When I published The Case for Killing, I didn’t take advantage of this obvious method of promotion. I was concerned that I was imposing on family and friends, and thought that people to whom family and friends recommended the book would think the recommendation wasn’t objective.

What I didn’t appreciate is that if I approach family and friends about my book thoughtfully, and if family and friends make their recommendations the same way, most people will take the information on board and make their own decision. Now I think family and friends, especially those who read my book, are powerful allies in the tough world of marketing a book.

So tell family and friends about your book. And ask them to tell others. In a nice way.

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt.

Buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.

Visit me on Facebook.

Becoming a Character

Blog 76 imageHere’s another post under “Thoughts on Writing”.

Over the last four weeks, I’ve been receiving comments on the current draft of my third book. I have a lot of reason to be optimistic and a lot of work to do!

One thing that’s become clear is that, while I’ve nailed many characters, a few, including two key ones, need to develop further.

At first, I had rough ideas that one character should be more interesting, another stronger and a third fleshed out. However, I wanted to understand the nature and scope of these ideas before I started the book’s next draft. The alternative was to sort out the characterizations while rewriting, but I knew that would be inefficient.

So, here’s what I did, and it worked well enough to share with you.

I took a day for each character that needed work, and drafted letters and emails about the events leading up to the book pretending I was that character. For example, an email of one character begins this way.

“Dear X,

Many thanks for calling me after my first letter. We had such a good talk and I thought I’d done just as we decided. Talk to her. Communicate. Find out what she wants. But she left anyway.”

It was a fascinating process. With little prodding, each character gave me five or six letters and emails. I just had to step into that character’s shoes and imagine he/she had enough on his/her mind to want to share problems with a confidant. When I wrote the correspondence, the character, not I, was writing.

In other words, in each of those three days, I became one of the characters for a few hours. And I learned a lot living in their heads.

Now I just have to reflect it all in the book’s next draft!

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt.

Buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.

Visit me on Facebook.