Laura Christianson, of “Blogging Bistro” has consented to let NCWA re-post some of her fantastic tips for social media and website management. Recently, I asked Laura to answer some questions which have perplexed many of our members.
CM: 1) What do you recommend as “must have online” for an author in today’s high tech world?
LC: Four years ago, editors and agents I met at writers’ conferences suggested that people who want to get published have a firmly-established online presence. Today, they practically demand it. You set yourself apart when you can demonstrate to a publishing house that you understand the importance of presenting yourself professionally online.
Authors and pre-authors must have a website with a blog embedded into the site (not a separate blog hosted at Blogspot, WordPress.com or Typepad). They must also have an active presence on at least one of the major social networks: Facebook (you need a business/fan page, not just a personal profile), Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
CM: 2) Could you give us a couple examples of great websites/blogs?
LC: One author whose website we created (I also manage his blog and social accounts) is Davis Bunn http://www.davisbunn.com/. I like the Book page for his latest novel, Lion of Babylon: http://www.davisbunn.com/book/lion-of-babylon.htm. It includes endorsements from high-profile people, a large image of the book cover, a video book trailer, promotional copy, free sample chapter embedded onto the page, several reviews from prominent media outlets and people, multiple ways to purchase the book online, AND a link so people can sign up for his newsletter.
It’s an excellent example of how an author can create a good first impression for his or her book. Davis also has a blog – embedded into his site, of course. While the site itself is NOT a WordPress site, the blog is. You can see how we’ve matched the design of the Website and blog so the whole thing works together seamlessly: http://www.davisbunn.com/blog/
For something more simple and budget-minded, here’s an author site I created for Drs. Jerry and Sherill Piscopo along with Simon and Trish Presland (Simon is the assistant director for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, so several NCWA members would recognize his name). http://www.spiritualwarfaremanual.com/ This is a WordPress site solely intended to promote their book. It’s simple, clean, and uncluttered, with a professionally-designed header. This site does not include a blog – yet. But when they’re ready to begin blogging, it will take me less than a minute to activate the built-in blog, and they’ll be off and running. Or blogging, rather.
CM: 3) Some authors are hesitant to put their personal information online and some social media sites are “safer” than others. What should an author look for in a social media site?
My rule of thumb: Don’t share anything about yourself online that you wouldn’t want anyone in the world to know.
CM: 4) From your point of view, are there specific “beware of” signs when choosing a website host?
LC: Oh, you’ve struck a nerve here, Connie! Four key things a website host should do:
1. Use the latest, greatest software.
2. Be inexpensive.
3. Have an “uptime” of close to 100%.
4. Offer excellent customer service.
The problem with many “free” hosts is that they use outdated software, which prevents the site’s owner from making necessary changes and upgrades. It irritates me that these companies prey on people’s general lack of technical skill and hold their websites hostage.
I also get angry at website hosts that offer to “build your site for free,” and then charge you $40 or more per month for “hosting and maintenance.” One man I know – who owns a major Seattle-area business – told me he signed up for a “free” website design (which, incidentally, was ugly), and he pays ONLY $150 per month for hosting. This is wrong. You can and should find an excellent website host for $8-12/month (many hosts give you a hefty discount for paying for a year’s hosting when you sign up).
A good website host will list their “network uptime” percentage – in other words, what percentage of the day your website is supposedly guaranteed to be online. I’m not sure how any host can guarantee 100% uptime (remember Amazon’s massive server outage in April that completely disabled major websites across the Internet?). We can’t control catastrophic hardware failures, power outages, and natural disasters. But if I had my choice of hosting my website with a company that guarantees 60% uptime as opposed to a host who guarantees 99.9% uptime, I’d go with the 99.9%.
When you have a problem with your website, you need to be able to call a customer service representative who will answer the phone and speak understandable English. Since website disasters inevitably occur after business hours, it’s helpful to have 24/7 customer service. Before you sign up with a web host, call their customer service line. How long did you wait before someone picked up? Did a real person answer the phone? Did the person answer your question knowledgably, patiently, and politely?
At Blogging Bistro, we partner with two excellent website hosting companies, and our website hosting contracts include a WordPress.org blog embedded into your website. Contact me if you’re interested in learning more about our hosting packages.
CM: 5) I’ve watched your youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/user/bloggingbistro on facebook profile pictures a couple times because it’s hilarious! At what point can an author benefit from having a youtube account?
LC: If you’re hoping to get a book published two-to-three years from now, set up a YouTube channel today. It takes about an hour to customize the theme (template) and color scheme so it matches your website.
That video on Facebook profile pictures that’s on the Blogging Bistro YouTube Channel is not my own. I’m not that funny! Or creative! I’m also camera-shy, so instead of creating and uploading my own videos, I feature informative, creative, and funny videos created by others in my niche. Periodically, I embed others’ YouTube videos into my blog posts and share them on Facebook and Twitter.
I use YouTube as a referral tool; it directs people to my website and blog, where they’ll find the “meat and potatoes” content.
CM: 6) What are some examples of author/you tube videos that you think are well done?
LC: WinePress’s Vimeo channel –they do a nice job with their author videos and book trailers.
Here’s one they produced that is “friendly welcome style” — the woman talks directly to the viewer: http://vimeo.com/25801602.
Here’s one that’s a book trailer that incorporates stock images in a creative way: http://vimeo.com/25095283
Here’s one that advertises Joshua Williams’s Book Brew Coffee Cart System (I think it may even be Joshua’s voice!): http://vimeo.com/24942340
Here’s one NCWA member, Jeff VanZant features on his website (I created his site, but the video is all his – I just embedded it on his site for him): http://www.brighthearts.com/
Here’s one from Janet Perez Eckles (another one of my clients). She’s a Christian author and speaker who lives in Orlando. She’s blind, and has begun producing 1-minute weekly inspirational videos and putting them on her website. This is her latest one: http://youtu.be/VGWzHOxjijs. She rotates a new video in every week on her blog, in the upper righthand corner of her sidebar: http://www.janetperezeckles.com/blog/.
Social media coaching | Website design | E-mail marketing