Browsed by
Tag: marketing

Author Website Critiques

Author Website Critiques

In the digital age, every author needs an online presence. This can manifest in a multitude of ways from social media, to simple newsletter landing pages to full websites. While not many websites offer discoverability for an author, it does offer fans a one-stop-shop for all things related to the author. These digital business cards can also serve a multitude of other purposes such as blogs, online retail, or additional book related content. But what is most important? With nearly twenty years of web design experience and two degrees in graphic design, I decided to the website of several authors at different spots in their authoring journey.

http://www.remyflagg.com

Pros: Straight forward goal to get visitor emails. Streamlined method to see books and buy on third party websites.

Cons: Some additional bells and whistles that serve no purpose. Overkill with the pop up. Merchandise link takes visitor offsite.

http://www.ljcohen.net/

Pros: Great visuals on front page. Books are easy to discover. All essential information is easy to find.

Cons: Wasted space and required scrolling. Some information that doesn’t serve business goals. Blog link takes visitor offsite.

http://authorjenniferallisprovost.com/

Pros: All relevant book information is discoverable.

Cons: Ads. Links take up 1/3 of the real estate. Unnecessary information on sidebar. Links aren’t easily identifiable. Books need buy links. Serves two audiences: authors & readers.

http://www.anovelfriend.com/

Pros: Books are listed along with buy links.

Cons: Uses non-standard HTML.Blog link takes visitor offsite. Serves two audiences: authors & readers. Uses iframes for blog.

http://morgansylvia.wordpress.com/

Pros: Gives a good personality of author. Social media is easy to find.

Cons: Cluttered navigation column. Links are “out of reach” at top. Ads. Not providing “conversion” to purchase books.

http://www.odinsmusings.com/

Pros: All relevant information is available. Fast options for website conversions. Book content comes before author content for increased conversion.

Cons: Each page has too many call to actions. Colors could be jazzed up for more of a website identity.

The biggest question to ask when critiquing the website is “What is the purpose?” For many people, the ego is standing in the way of their website being an effective marketing tool. What is your traffic? Where are people clicking? Quickly it becomes apparent that blogs and reviews of other books which were once the bread and butter of interactivity on a website have gone by the wayside. Using the website as a marketing tool requires a call-to-action, either converting into sales or obtaining information such as an email for continued connection to your patrons. When examining, take off the creative hat, and put on the business hat, because ultimately it is a business tool.

How Improv Comedy Helped My Writing

How Improv Comedy Helped My Writing

Like most who know about the artform, I was introduced to improv comedy from the famed TV show Who’s Line Is It Anyway? Despite many of the references going over my young head at the time it first aired, I still found myself bursting at the seams with laughter at the off-the-cuff antics of the performers.

In high school, I was fortunate enough to participate in an improv club, where we not only played games, but also took field trips to performances and studied techniques from professionals.

While I was goofing off in a cloud of gawky adolescence, I was ignorant to the fact that improv was not only teaching me how to think on my feet, but also how to tell stories. And one day it clicked that the beauty of improv, as well as the core of storytelling, is all about engagement. Whether you are performing or observing in the audience, improv is a hands-on experience, much like the worlds you build in your narrative and the relationship you have with your readers.

It was only later in adulthood that I realized I was inadvertently applying these skills in my D&D gaming sessions. It started simple enough with my character creation (and giving my GMs headaches with grotesquely detailed backstories), then evolving further when I started DMing myself. Eventually, it got to the point where I chucked the rulebooks out the window and ran completely diceless campaigns.

After making this connection, I was able to apply my knowledge to large scale writing projects and develop the eyesight to become my own content editor. (NOTE: Don’t depend entirely on your own skills for content editing if you can help it. I am saying I was able to recognize enough to save work for someone else).

These skills not only helped with the writing aspect, but also the business side of being a “Competent Author™.”  Elevator pitches, networking and relationships, public speaking etc. All of this can be improved upon with a flight from the seat of the pants.

But performance, no matter how small the audience, is much easier said than done, especially if you have anxiety. With practice and a few quick, short-worded sentences tucked in your belt, you can excuse yourself from overwhelming situations:

“Hey, this was a great conversation, but I really need to be elsewhere right now.”

“Thanks for chatting! I’m headed to another appointment, but maybe we can continue later?”

Whether it’s true or not, it’s great to have some pre-fabricated exits. However, I am speaking through my personal experience, and not everyone can find this helpful.

If you want to start off with playing improv games, try it out with a few close friends just to get a feel of the mechanics. The more you practice in a safe environment, the easier it may become for you. Remember, your replies will NOT sound polished. In fact, they will be clumsy and awkward until you learn what bits of your personal conversation filter can be shut off at will.

And that’s okay! Improv is not supposed to be polished, it’s supposed to be messy and random. A lot of the most noteworthy moments can come from spouting off the first thing that comes to mind (in both good and bad contexts). Just like editing a draft, polish comes later with time and practice.

A good first-time game is called “One Word,” where participants take turns telling a story one word at a time. Put a little flair on it by adding a theme or setting to help keep everyone focused. Make a space adventure and tell the story of a first alien encounter. Perhaps an opposing kingdom is beating down the gates to your castle, what happens next?

A quick google search of “Improv Comedy Games” will bring you a slew of options, but here’s a pair of sites with great examples to get you started:

http://www.bringyourownimprov.com/games.htm

http://improvencyclopedia.org/games/

Many games can be tailored to fiction, adding genre spins to suit whichever you want to practice. Focus on setting and character creation, or even use the Question Game (make a conversation only using questions) to practice your dialogue development.

Introduce exercises in your next writing group meetings or convention mixers as an icebreaker. But please be mindful of those with social anxiety and be respectful to members not participating! Improv requires a certain level of trust, and some may not feel comfortable for whatever reason they may or may not feel like sharing. Do not take it personally if you get rejected but be sure to leave the door open for those who want to try.

And on that note, another vital skill learned through improv is the ability to read the room. Improv is not just about spouting off the first thing that comes to your head. It’s also about learning the dynamics and knowledge base of the participants as well as the audience.

For example, any games involving song titles or movies may leave some players out because they don’t partake in popular media. It is also advisable to stray away from politically charged topics in a new setting until everyone is familiar with each other. It will take some experimentation to determine everyone’s comfort levels, as well as what types of games everyone excels at. Play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Ultimately, have fun with improv whether you apply it to your writing or not! It’s a fantastic way to practice interactions and storytelling while enjoying time with others both in and out of the industry. And most importantly, don’t be too serious when playing. It is comedy, after all.

Writers at a Comic Con: Make the Most of Your Time

Writers at a Comic Con: Make the Most of Your Time

If you are a comic book writer, you’re obviously in the right place, but what about science fiction and fantasy authors? Can you have success as a vendor at Comic Cons? My experience says yes. But purchasing a table and showing up won’t be enough for a successful weekend. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your Comic Con experience:

  • Create an eye-catching display. You’ll have a good-sized table, so be sure to make it appealing. Put out a bowl of candy. Give away bookmarks. Set up a banner behind you.
  • Interact with the crowd. I attended Cons before I was ever a vendor at one, so I love the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd, and I’m a fan myself. It was easy to talk to the people who stopped by. But I didn’t just wait for them to stop, I stood behind my table, smiled, and said hello to just about everyone. I complimented costumes and asked people if they were having fun. Be approachable.
  • BUT, don’t annoy people with hard sell tactics. I engaged with people as they walked by. I didn’t talk about my books unless someone asked me directly.
  • Have a quick, enticing pitch ready when they do ask. My nineteen-year old son was my table buddy at Boston Comic Con last summer. When he heard me stumbling over my book description to the first few interested people, he said, “Mom, that was terrible. You have got to do better.” We practiced and refined for a few minutes until I had a couple of sentences that captured the essence of the story. Think log line but with a more conversational tone.
  • Use the opportunity to build your mailing list. Have a clipboard with a sign-up sheet for people to leave their names and email addresses. I send out a weekly, very brief communication to my mailing list called “Monday Musings.” Mailing lists are a powerful tool for an author and Cons are a great place to add names. I find that because I’ve met and spoken to these people, they are less likely to unsubscribe, and often will respond to my mailings with personal notes.
  • Be ready to make sales. Have a cash box with change, and make sure your credit card reader is functioning. Keep a supply of extra pens or markers easily accessible for signing your books.
  • Network! Selling books isn’t the only opportunity at Cons. Make new friends. I left every Con with at least one interview booked, stacks of business cards in my bag, and a nice bump in my social media following. And ‘BarCon’ is a thing! Find out where people are congregating after hours and join the fun.
  • Take care of yourself. Cons are fun, but exhausting. Have a bottle of water, some power bars and snacks with you. Wear comfortable shoes.
  • To cosplay or not to cosplay? I choose not to when I’m a vendor. Generally, I break out my Rebel Alliance or Starfleet Academy t-shirts, but I don’t wear a costume. A friend of mine is a fantasy author who writes about deadly mermaids. She rocks ‘aquatic chic’ like nobody’s business at Cons. It totally works for her. But my books don’t easily lend themselves to a costume, and I don’t want my attire to be the focus of conversations. Ask yourself if a costume will help or hinder you.
  • Take Monday off. If possible, give yourself some downtime after a Con. The days are long, and sometimes the nights are even longer! I’m a disaster after a weekend on my feet, and I plan an easy day when I come home.

As a sci-fi/fantasy writer, I feel right at home at Comic Cons, and I’m as excited to be there as any of the attendees. Enjoy the experience and energy, and most importantly have fun!