How To Make Your Author Website Easier To Find Online

Row of self-published books on a shelf

How easy are you and your author website to find online?

An author website is an essential marketing tool for any writer, whether your books are self-published or commissioned by a trade publishing house.

These days, readers and reviewers expect to be able to find an official website dedicated to every author, and if you don’t have one, you’ll disappoint your reader. The absence of a website or any other online presence that you’ve devised yourself (Facebook page, Twitter profile, your author page on Amazon etc) also means the reader will have to find his information about you elsewhere. Sources devised by a third party are unlikely to be as accurate or comprehensive as those you compile about yourself!

Maintaining Your Author Website

So if you’ve set up an author website – well done! Your next trick is to regularly update it, not only to ensure that it has your latest information available, but also because frequent updates to a website will make it more likely to be selected from the seething hordes of other websites whenever anyone searches for you online. 

The internet is a big and crowded place, growing by the day, and clearly search engines can only show up so many websites in answer to every search. There are few searches these days that don’t run to many pages of results, listed in the order of priority that the search engine thinks fit. Your challenge is to make search engines choose your site over others – and the more common your name, your book’s title and your genre, the harder it is to rise above the masses.

How Search Engines Work

Search engines do not have an easy job, though their instant response to any request might make you think they do. If they have access to thousands of websites that appear relevant to the word or phrase you are looking for, how do they prioritise which site appears on that all-important first page of results?

Although the algorithms they use change constantly and are closely-guarded industry secrets, it’s safe to assume that search engines give priority to: 

  • large sites (the bigger, the better) i.e. with lots of pages
  • frequently updated sites (the more often they’re updated, the better)
  • sites with more inbound links, i.e. where the site’s URL (website address) is featured in lots of other places on the internet
  • sites with lots of daily hits
  • sites that have more frequent mentions of the particular search string that you’re looking for

They assume, quite reasonably, that sites fitting these criteria are likely to be the most helpful to the searcher. If a search string relevant to your website and your book appears on lots of other sites that are bigger, longer-established, more often updated and accessed than yours, then they will be given priority over yours. If you’re an author with a very modest website of just a couple of pages and not many visitors, your book’s mention on an online bookstore’s vast website can reasonably be expected to appear higher up the list that your own site.

Searching for Authors’ Names

Cover of "Ancestors" by Rob Collins

Less competition for “Rob Collinge” than the more common “Rob Collins”

This is when it’s helpful to have an uncommon name. As Debbie Young, it’s taken me nearly 4 years of blogging on my personal blog, www.youngbyname.me, to rise to the top of the Google search under “debbie young”, even with around 300 blog posts. I’ve been jostling with a Rabbi Debbie Young, a local councillor Debbie Young, an astrologer Debbie Young and a Jamaican poet D’bi Young for years.

Not that a very uncommon name is necessarily the answer – at least mine has the advantage of being easy to spell. When I set up a website for the author Rob Collinge last year, I was partly pleased that his name was unusual (there’d be so much more competition if he was the more common Rob Collins), and partly anxious as to whether people would guess how to spell his name if they’d only come across it by word of mouth, rather than seeing it written down. 

The good news is that there are plenty of things that you can and should do to increase the chances of your author website being listed further up the search engine’s pages:

  1. Keywords  Include the most likely key search terms throughout every page of the site, without disrupting the text (search engines will penalise your ranking if you overdo this). Mention your name and your book title frequently, spelled out in full – “Debbie Young” rather than just saying “Debbie” or “Young”, and “Sell Your Books!” rather than “my book” or “SYB!”
  2. Links  Ensure that wherever else online you are mentioned, you add a link to your website. Where your book is listed in online stores, add your website details (on Amazon, for example, you can do this by setting up an AuthorCentral page).
  3. Social Media If you have accounts on social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc, write posts there with links back to your site.
  4. Emails & Online Comments When commenting on other websites and blogs, include your URL in your signature, and also in the footer of all your emails.(Set up a template to make it easy.)
  5. Updates Keep updating and adding to your site. The more pages and the more frequent updates the better. Add new reviews, reader feedback, plans for your next book, events, photos – anything that is relevant to your work as an author.
  6. URL Meet searchers halfway – make your URL (website address) easy to find! Put it on your book covers, bookmarks, business cards, and anywhere else it might be seen by your readers. That way, they won’t even have to use a search engine to find you – they can just go straight to your address! 
  7. Blog Add a blog to your website. Every extra blog post helps lure in the search engines. A website with just a few pages and no blog will always be lower profile than a big one with lots of pages and a new blog post every few days. 

The Author’s Guide To Blogging

I realise that last point may sound daunting to many authors, who may be wondering how to set up a blog, what to blog about and how to sustain a blog long term. Because I believe passionately that all authors will sell more books if they blog, I’m currently working on a book to answer all those questions and many more. The Author’s Guide to Blogging will be published in April 2014 by SilverWood Books, and I hope that it will help authors everywhere raise their profile online. To be kept informed about this book, click the “Follow” button to get new Off The Shelf posts by email. For free previews and the chance to win copies on its launch, just sign up for the Off The Shelf Newsletter by sendng a request via the Contact Form.

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Boost Your Self-Publishing Skills By Attending Events for Writers

Launch party for Sell Your Books!

Enjoying my own event for writers – the launch of “Sell Your Books!”, with the SilverWood Books team and some author friends

With the New Year just a week old, many self-published authors (or aspiring ones) are busy planning the best way to write better books and sell more copies. While there is plenty of information to be had online and in book form, make sure you add attending “real life” events for authors as part of your plan for 2014.

Attending book launches, writers’ workshops and seminars, literary talks and festivals adds something extra that solitary learning cannot achieve: it puts you in touch with real people. No matter how much time you spend online, you’ll never get the same buzz or inspiration as meeting and chatting to writers and trainers face-to-face.

Book Launches and Author Events

I’ve often written on this blog about book launches and post-launch talks, and how inspiring those can be. It’s always worth attending other authors’ launches if you can, (find out why in this post). So make a point this year of tracking down any that are near you, and go along. Don’t be shy – put yourself in the author’s shoes and you’ll realise they’ll be glad to see you!

Most book launches have the virtue of being free to attend, although you may feel morally obliged to buy a copy of the book that’s being launched. The disadvantage is that they tend to be a bit one-way, with you hearing the author speak, rather than entering into a discussion. A more interactive type of event is needed if you want to engage directly with authors and publishing experts.Therefore do keep an eye out for paid seminars and courses near you which will offer you a much more interactive learning opportunity.

Seminars & Workshops

A good starting point is to ask at your local library and bookshops, and to check the website of any author services companies in your area. The best companies will be doing their best to offer ongoing learning opportunities to their author clients and to potential new authors who seek information about the best way to write and sell their books. The hosts will be very glad to see you if you attend, so don’t hold back if you’d like to go for fear of being “sold” to. There will be no obligation to buy. Not only do such events offer you the opportunity to get inside information from indie publishing experts; they’ll also enable you to hook up with new writer friends, to your mutual benefit.

Recommended Events, Coming Soon

  • Bristol – with SilverWood Books

SilverWood Books on sale in Foyles, Bristol

Some of SilverWood’s authors’ books on display in Foyles, Bristol

Living within easy reach of Bristol, I’m looking forward to attending a series of three events to be held at Foyles’ Bookshop, Cabot Circus, by author services company SilverWood Books, based in the city centre but serving authors all over the world.

On Wednesday 15th January, Silverwood’s Publishing Director Helen Hart and the successful self-published novelist Sandy Osborne, policewoman and author of the bestselling Girl Cop, will be holding a small, personal event called Publish That Book! It’s perfect for aspiring writers to discuss the craft of writing and self-publishing a novel, with specific reference to their own work-in-progress.

On Saturday 25th January, SilverWood will hold an Writing and Publishing Open Day, offering a free talks by experts on all aspects of self-publishing, from writing to production to book promotion. You’ll have the chance to chat informally to the speakers and many successful indie authors who have published their books via SilverWood’s services. I’ll be one of the speakers, on the topic of “how to increase your discoverability online”, so if you come along to that one, do come and find me to say hello!

SilverWood’s third event will be on Thursday 13th March on the subject of Writing and Publishing Your Memoir or Autobiography, with successful ghost-writer Tom Henry. I’m particularly interested in that one, as I’m currently working on a travel memoir myself.

Places at all three events are free of charge, but advance booking is essential to secure a place, as space is limited. Click on the title of each event for more details.

(Incidentally, Helen Hart, director of SilverWood Books, commissioned my book promotion handbook, Sell Your Books!, and I’m currently writing a companion volume for them, The Author’s Guide to Blogging, I’ve made some really good friends among their authors, and I can highly recommend their services to any author seeking assistance with their self-publishing tasks.)

  • Norfolk – with Rethink Press

cover of How To Write Fiction Without The Fuss by Lucy McCarraher

Workshop leader Lucy McCarraher’s book

On the other side of the country, in East Anglia, author services company Rethink Press is staging a fiction writing day-course, led by my friend Lucy McCarraher, whose super book How To Write Fiction Without The Fuss I recently reviewed on my author website. An experienced novelist whose debut novel was shortlisted from 47,000 submissions to the Richard and Judy Book Club Award, Lucy McCarraher certainly knows her stuff! This course will take place on Tuesday 14th January and the original price per person was £89 – but tell her that you heard about the course from Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog and she’ll give you a specially reduced rate of £60 – and you’ll also get a free copy of her book! Read more about the course here.

Writers’ Retreats

Surely every writer’s dream course is a writer’s retreat – a writing-themed holiday which devotes a week or more to your development as a writer. Think of it as an investment in your career, as much as a holiday – although if you pick the right venue, it will also double up as an excellent alternative to your usual summer holiday. They are usually held at geographically remote, peaceful spots, to allow you to focus on your learning.

As with any specialist event, places on the best writers’ retreats will be limited, so book well in advance to avoid disappointment.

  • Greece
Photo copyright ithacagreece.com

Photo copyright ithacagreece.com

If our current awful wintry weather is making you hanker after a warmer climate, now’s the time to check out what has to be the most inviting Writers’ Retreat that I’ve ever come across – a week on the idyllic Greek island of Ithaca, . The Homeric Writers’ Retreat is so named because Ithaca was home to the mythical Odysseus and Penelope in Homer’s Odyssey. The retreat is run by my friend the novelist, poet, and musician Jessica Bell, also well known for her writing guides. (I reviewed Adverbs and Clichés In A Nutshell – great title! – here.) Just the thought of joining the retreat would surely motivate your writing through the dark days of winter…

Would you like to recommend a good writing event that you know of? If so, please feel free to add details in the comments section below. Whichever writers’ events you attend this year, have fun, and happy New Writing Year!

How to Sell More Books: Diversify – with Guest Author Jessica Bell

Juggling balls

It takes balls to juggle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One way to raise your profile as a writer is to diversify, especially if you are self-publishing your work or being published by a small independent press. As I’ve said in a previous post, the best way to sell more books is to write more books – but that doesn’t mean you should focus solely on writing those books. It’s also worth seeking other ways in which to get your name before readers. This is especially true for self-published and independently published writers, who do not have the presence or klout of a big name publishing house behind them.

I’ve often heard writers dismiss certain networking opportunities such as Twitter by saying “But I don’t want to network only with writers, I want to reach only readers”. This irks me:

  • firstly because any writer who is not also a reader is not worthy of the title of writer
  • secondly, networking with writers not only refines your writing skills but also enables you to share best practice for reaching readers

If that’s how networkophobes want to play it, that’s their loss, but personally, I practise what I preach. I juggle all kinds of writing-related activities, not only writing short fiction (my first love) and blogging (a close second), but also creating WordPress websites for authors, writing about book promotion (see my handbook for the self-published author, Sell Your Books!, and reviewing every indie author’s book that I read.

Like most authors, I also have a day-job (part-time, in my case), working for a fabulous children’s reading charity, Readathon. Even better if you can engineer your day-job to feed into your writing. I’m lucky: in my world, all roads lead to books.

Meet a Master of Multi-Tasking, Jessica Bell

Head and shoulders of the author Jessica Bell

The ultimate multi-tasking writer, Jessica Bell

When I encountered the versatile and multi-tasking Jessica Bell on the fab Facebook forum of the Alliance of Independent Authors, I felt as if I’d met a kindred spirit. I was also hugely envious of her location: Greece, where she alternates between her base in Athens and her writing retreat workshops on the Ionian island of Ithaca. As well as writing fiction and non-fiction, poetry and songs, she pens articles for literary magazines, is co-editor of Vine Leaves, and writes and edits for English Language Training companies all over the world.  Jessica’s most recent publication is the latest in her Nutshell series of mini writing guides for authors.

With all that going on in her life (when does she ever sleep?!) she is an object lesson in how diversifying writing-related activities enables an author to reach a wider readership than if she focused solely on her novels and poetry. I was delighted that she could find time to join me here to talk about her lifestyle.

Q) Jessica, I thought Sell Your Books! was slim, but the books in your Nutshell series are positively snack size, resembling a partwork magazine. Personally, I find this a really practical format for authors who want to improve their craft but have no time or energy to read a big tome about it. (What author doesn’t comfort-buy bigger style guides that never get opened or acted upon? Just like recipe books and diet guides!) But why did you take this approach rather than combining all the tips into a single book?

A) You know how in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, she says that in order not to be overwhelmed, a writer needs to focus on short assignments? She refers to the one-inch picture frame on her desk and how that little picture frame reminds her to focus on bite-sized pieces of the whole story. Basically, if you focus on one small thing at a time, the story will eventually come together to create a whole. I believe the same applies to learning the craft of writing. If writers focus on one aspect of the craft at a time, the process will seem less daunting and piece by piece it will come together.

Cover image of Adverbs & Cliches in a Nutshell by Jessica BellQ) Will you combine them into a single volume once you’re done, or will this be an ongoing series ad infinitum?

A) The plan is to release one book every six months, and I’m hoping to write at least six, so it will be a while yet before there is a single volume. But once they’re all written and released, yes, a box set is definitely an option I’ll be exploring. But that could be another two years away. We’ll see.

Q) I was slightly surprised that you’d grouped adverbs and clichés together. Like all careful writers, I avoid clichés like the plague (ho ho) but hadn’t considered adverbs to be necessarily (oops!) undesirable. Are they really equal crimes of laziness?

A) Before I answer this, writers need to understand that they aren’t always going to be a problem. You don’t need to go overboard trying to eliminate every single adverb in your manuscript. Because sometimes, they just work. Same with clichés. They serve a purpose. Especially in dialogue. Of course, it also depends a lot on your character’s voice. Because they come naturally, we frequently utilize them in everyday speech (see?). But in fiction, too many adverbs weaken prose. It’s considered “lazy writing,” because it means we don’t have to show what’s happening.

If your manuscript has too many adverbs, it most likely means that the emotion you felt while writing it is not going to translate to the reader in the same way. Because the way in which one experiences things isn’t always the same as the next person. As writers, it’s your duty to make readers experience your story from a unique point of view. Your point of view. Adverbs stunt this.

Q) I loved the hands-on format of the book, prescribing set exercises for the reader, each sample to be read and considered four times, in four different ways. Is this the sort of activity you include in your writing retreats? If so, did the books evolve from your experience of running the retreats? If not, where did you get the idea for this format?

A) No, this idea didn’t come from the retreats. I make a living as an editor/writer of English Language Teaching materials for various publishers worldwide, so I guess “breaking down” the language is a technique I’m used to incorporating in ELT lessons. It’s effective there, so I thought, surely it’s going to be effective with fiction too.

Q) Can you tell me the themes of the next books you have planned in this series?

A) I haven’t finalized all my topics yet, because I need to start writing to see which ones lend themselves well to this format. But my list of possible topics include: superfluous words, crafting natural dialogue, subtext and conflict, weaving in relevant back-story, chapter endings, characterization, avoiding stereotypes, making setting count, using the six senses.

Q) Are you promoting each book in the series in the same way or, if not, what have you learned from the earlier launch that has made you launch this one in a different way?

A) Yes, I think I’ll stick to my current marketing plan. Seems to be working well. The only different thing I’m doing this time around is encouraging virtual tour participants to interview me in real time on Facebook and Twitter. I think it’s fun to follow a conversation as it gives people an opportunity to actually engage and interact, rather than just leave a comment on a blog and not really know if I’ll respond. Though I do try my best to respond to everyone!

Q) Turning now to questions about your career, I’m impressed by the diversity of your writing activities and by your energy. Just reading the list of the links in the footer of your email is exhausting! Did you set out to formulate this “portfolio career” approach, or has it just evolved? In what order did they accumulate?

A)  Haha, no I did not set out for the long list. I just had some ideas and wanted to bring them into fruition. My mother always said, if there’s a will there’s a way. (Hey, look, cliché!) If I want something enough, I do it. Full stop. There’s no such thing as failure in my vocabulary. There’s try. And try again. I can’t really remember in what order they happened. I think all my ideas started to come together at once!

Q) How do these activities feed off each other or cross-fertilise?

A) Well, they’re all writing related, so I do try to link them together on occasion. One recent example is the vignette contest my literary journal ran for the chance to win a scholarship to the writing retreat I run. Nice smooth connection there. And both organizations benefit.

Q) I envy you your locations—Athens & Ithaca. How do those settings affect and influence your work? Do you speak Greek and, if so, do you find yourself using more words that originate from Greek? (I once did evening classes in Greek and used to holiday there before I had my daughter, sailing round the Ionian, often mooring on Ithaca, and I loved discovering the Greek roots of English words.)

 A) There is a lot about Greece in my debut novel, String Bridge, but I have to say that Greece had already started to influence me when I was a kid. I must have been about eleven. I remember sitting on a rock by the sea in a little place called Monemvasia. I was so inspired by my surroundings that I needed a way to express it. This is when I started writing poetry. In the end (well, beginning), Greece is what sparked my passion for words.

Also, I would never have got my first job as an editor if I hadn’t moved here. As I said above, I make a living as an editor/writer of English Language Teaching materials. There is no need for this sort of thing in an English speaking country. So I guess, I have Greece to thank for giving me the opportunity to pursue this career path. If I had have remained in Australia, I probably would have focused more on my music.

Yes, I do speak Greek. But it can get a bit rusty at times. Mainly because I work all day with English that I hardly have the chance to use it. Regarding Greek words, um … I don’t think so. Unless I’m hungry. 🙂

Q) Your poems and fiction are gaining more readership and recognition. To what extent has this been fuelled by your other writing-related activities? (I’m trying not to use the clichés “author platform” and “greater than the sum of the parts” here!)

A) I believe that all these writing-related activities mean that I need to be online quite a lot. As a result, I’ve become visible, to quite some extent, through social media. And to be honest, I couldn’t live without it. I’m quite isolated being an English writer in a non-English speaking country, and I need to promote my work to the English-speaking world.

The key to social networking, though, is to engage in conversations, interact with your audience. Saying, “buy my book, it’s great” all the time, isn’t going to sell it. But saying “hey, what do you think about blah blah blah?” and actually eliciting opinions from others, means you are saying something that people are interested in. And if they’re interested in what you’re saying online, then it’s likely they are going to investigate you further. It’s a long process, and hard work. But it certainly pays off.

How’s this for statistics? I’ve been blogging and engaging in social media, pretty much every single day, since March 2010. And only this year, three years later, have I started to see true results. It takes effort, persistence, stamina, but most of all love and passion. Because this ‘being visible’, (and let’s sign off with a good old cliché, hey?) doesn’t happen overnight!

Juggling balls

No caption required 😉 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks again, Jessica, for sharing so many inspirational tips and lessons, and best of luck not only with your latest Nutshell book but with all your many literary undertakings!

To find out more about Jessica Bell, including her latest Nutshell book, please visit her website: www.jessicabellauthor.com

To read my review of Adverbs and Clichés in a Nutshell, please click here.

To network with other writers via the Alliance of Independent Authors, click the yellow and gold rosette in the sidebar on the right of this page.

How World Book Night Can Help Indie Authors Raise Their Profile

World Book Night 2013 logoNeed something to look forward to now that the London Book Fair has finished? Well, you won’t have to wait long, because on Tuesday 23rd April, it’s going to be World Book Night!

What is World Book Night?

Like the better-known World Book DayWorld Book Night is an international campaign aimed at readers, rather than writers.

I’ll describe here how it works in the UK, as that’s where I’m based, but the scheme also runs in the USA and Germany, and it’s gradually spreading further afield.

World Book Night’s prime goal is to celebrate books and reading, turning reluctant readers into avid ones, with obvious benefits for publishers and writers everywhere. But it is not at all a hard-nosed, commercial operation. It’s a generous-spirited, humanitarian campaign which is about much more than a profit motive. As stated on its website, “It’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways, through the sharing of stories.” Its stated aims are:

  • To raise the profile of reading through a mass engagement project which works at a grass roots level to inspire those who don’t regularly read to do so
  • To place books into the hands of those who don’t regularly read
  • To raise the profile of reading for pleasure through a series of celebratory events
  • To improve literacy in the UK and Ireland
  • To bring communities together

Each year, a cross-section of 20 books is chosen by an independent panel to appeal to all kinds of readers, primarily adults, but some of the titles are also appropriate for  younger readers. Special paperback editions are printed, branded “World Book Night”, including an explanation of the scheme and words of encouragement to both giver and receiver. Designated book givers personally distribute 20 copies each within their local community.

How To Be A Book Giver

World Book Night special editions of Treasure Island

Special editions are produced exclusively for World Book Night

To be chosen as one of the 20,000 book givers, individuals must complete an application form some months in advance, stating how, where and why they will distribute their books. Volunteers may choose which book they are allocated, ideally one that they have read and which has personally touched them, and for which they feel they can be a great ambassador. Successful applicants collect their box of books from one of the bookshops and libraries who have agreed to act as local distribution points (helpfully raising their profile within their community too).

I’ve been lucky enough to be a designated book giver for the three years that the scheme has been running. The first year, I chose Nigel Slater’s autobiography, Toast; last year I had Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle; this year I have Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The children’s reading charity where I work  part-time, Readathon, is giving away Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. (Institutions as well as individuals may apply to be book givers.)

Giving the books away is an honour and a privilege. I feel like Father Christmas, and I know from the feedback I’ve had that the people I’ve chosen to give to have really appreciated and enjoyed the experience. “Too good to be true” is frequently heard from givers and receivers alike – but true World Book Night most certainly is.

On the scheme’s official website, there are moving tales of how receiving a free book like this has changed  recipients’ lives, not only encouraging them to read books, but also boosting their self-esteem and their faith in the wider world. For many, it may be the only book they own, or the first book they’ve read after years of thinking that reading was not for them. Whatever their circumstances, their World Book Night book will be special.

So What’s In It for Indies?

With each annual list of World Book Night books comprising classics and best-sellers, it is unlikely that a self-published or indie book is going to be included – but that’s not the only way that this event helps authors. A large number of related events takes place throughout the country, and you are very welcome to get involved in these – or, indeed, you can create your own. Two years ago, another local book giver and I held our own World Book Night evening in the village hall. It was an informal, free event to which everyone was invited to discuss books and to collect their own free copy of one of the books. We also gave leftover copies to carefully selected people the next morning at a fundraising breakfast held there.

Getting involved in local events like this enables you to raise your profile as someone who loves, reads and writes books. Inevitably, such activity raises the profile – and sales – of your book. Here are some ideas of what you can do:

  • attend a World Book Night event at your local library or bookshop to network with local booklovers (take a few copies of your book with you so you can make opportunitistic sales!)
  • give a reading from one of your books at a World Book Night event
  • give a few copies away as loss leaders
  • hold a raffle for a signed copy of your book in aid of World Book Night
  • run a special promotion for one day only, to mark World Book Night, in keeping with the generous spirit of the occasion
  • get in touch with your local radio station or newspaper to put yourself forward as an interviewee, speaking both as a book giver and a writer
  • write a blog post celebrating World Book Night – see what I did there? 😉 

Whether or not you choose to do any of those things, I warmly recommend you become involved with the scheme, simply because it is an enormously uplifting, life-affirming movement. Taking part will remind even the most discouraged writer of the enormous power of books to change lives for the better. It renew your energy and enthusiasm to continue writing.

For more information, do take time to read through the World Book Night website, especially the case studies, and look out for extensive media coverage on the day too. If you’re interested in being designated a book giver next year, sign up to their mailing list and they’ll invite you to apply in the autumn for World Book Night 2014, when the time comes.

If you’re already involved with World Book Night, I’d love to hear about your experiences! Do leave a comment!

If you liked this post, it’s worth reading my other posts about World Book Day and World Book Night, and about how getting involved in other book-related events can help indie and self-published authors sell more books:

World Book Day for Self-Published Authors (on the ALLi website)

World Book Day for Indie Authors (on the Off The Shelf website)

My (slightly over-excited!) blog post about being chosen as a book giver for the first ever World Book Night (on the Off The Shelf website)

Improve Your Book Sales by Attending Other Authors’ Events (on the Off The Shelf website)

 

 

Three Tips on Twitter Timing to Turn Authors & Writers Into Top Tweeps

Image representing TweetDeck as depicted in Cr...

Tweetdeck logo image via CrunchBase

Please excuse the tongue-twister of a title, but following the popularity of  my recent post here to help writers and authors gain more followers on Twitter, I’ve come up with some more Twitter tips. These three will help you make your time spent on Twitter more productive, leaving you more time to write!

1) Use Twitter to Fill Odd Moments On The Move

One of the great things about Twitter is that you can make a real difference to your profile, your following and your social  engagement in a matter of moments. It’s the perfect social media for filling the odd five minutes. If you’re lucky enough to have a smartphone (a sound investment for any writer these days),  it’s fast and easy to dip into Twitter wherever you happen to be – while travelling, waiting for an appointment, at the school gate at pick-up time. Keep an eye open for such opportunities and grab them. You may even find you can do all the tweeting you need to solely within brief time slots that might otherwise be wasted.

I often tweet in the car (only when travelling as a passenger, I hasten to add). I get an awful lot done in the half-hour it takes us to drive to my mum’s for our weekly family visit. I also often check out Twitter last thing, as I keep my phone by my bed to recharge overnight. Conversely, on the rare occasion that I get a lie-in, it’s fun to sit in bed and catch up with the world scanning my Twitter timeline on my phone. I realised this morning (a Sunday) that I have al lot of Twitter friends with whom I mostly communicate when in bed. Hmm…

2) Consider Tweet Scheduling

English: Timezones in the world since Septembe...

Tweet around the time zones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Depending on where you are and who you are trying to reach, it’s worth knowing that not all tweets need to be done in real time. There are a number of Twitter-related tools, most of them available for free, to enable you to plan your tweets in advance and make them go live at the time that best suits your target audience – especially useful if it’s in a different time zone.

Tweetdeck, Twitter’s own tool, is a good starting point but there are plenty more. Take a look at your Twitter timeline and you’ll soon spot the tools that your friends are using, as they’re usually highlighted at the end of a post that’s  been published this way. Do remember, though, that scheduling tweets is only helpful up to a point – you won’t be able to engage in live conversation with respondents to your scheduled tweets if you’re not on Twitter when they go live.

3)  Use the “Favourites” Facility to Mark Tweets to Revisit Later

Herz mit Pfeil thresh 90

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first started using Twitter regularly, in my naivety I assumed the “favourite” option was just for marking tweets I really, really liked. I used it to highlight tweets that complimented my book promotions handbook, Sell Your Books!, this Off The Shelf Book Promotions blog or my personal blog, YoungByName, which was handy for boosting my morale when need be, but otherwise not very useful. Reading other people’s Twitter profiles, I noticed some favourited hundreds of tweets. Crikey, I thought, they must be popular!

But when I checked out their favourites (Twitter makes it so easy to be nosy, though you can hide your favourites if you prefer), I discovered that many of these bore no relation to their own work. And of course I twigged. These weren’t really that tweep’s favourite tweets, literally speaking. They were just using the favourites facility as a bookmark, to make it easy to return to those tweets later on. Typically they included tweets with links to blog posts or articles on which the reader might want to linger. This trick is especially useful when you’ve reached the stage of having more than a few hundred followers and your timeline starts whizzing by with new tweets every second. It saves a lot of searching – and time.

Coming soon: Guest Post by Twitter expert author Lynn Schreiber

Photo of Lynn Schreiber's book

Photo courtesy of Lynn Schreiber, from her “Salt & Caramel” blog, http://www.saltandcaramel.com

Like so many writers I know, are you still avoiding Twitter for fear of becoming embroiled in a time-consuming, time-wasthing addiction that will erode your valuable writing time? If so, do come back again soon to read my next post about Twitter, which has been inspired by my previous two posts. It’s a guest blog by Twitter expert Lynn Schreiber. As you can see from her book’s title, Learn Twitter in 10 Minutes, she can turn you into a confident tweep in the time that it takes to drink a cup of tea and eat a biscuit! Lynn’s  guest post here will be with specific reference to how indie and self-published authors – so do come back again to read it.

Related posts:

To read my previous post about Twitter, click here: 6 Ways for Writers to Find More Twitter Followers

To read my previous post about guest blog posts, click here:  How Authors Can Gain New Readers via Guest Blog Posts

For a useful overview of Twitter and other types of social networking,  read Chapter 6 of Sell Your Books, entitled “The Truth is Out There!”

How Authors Can Gain New Readers Via Guest Blog Posts

Guest posts on websites help authors grow their online audience, whether they’re the guest or the host.

  • Handshake icon

    Handshake icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    They expose the GUEST to the host blog’s regular audience

  • They provide the HOST with a new audience from the guest’s followers

For both guest and host, setting up guest posts are time-consuming, so don’t commit to them lightly. But if you plan and promote these posts effectively,  both parties will benefit enormously.

How To Make The Most of a Guest Post

Whether you are the guest or the host, make sure you wring every last drop of publicity out of the post. Here’s a checklist for both guest and host to spread the word, not only when the post goes live, but before and afterwards too:

  • tweet links to the host blog
  • direct people to the post via status updates on Facebook
  • add a link to your email signature block
  • highlight the post on your Amazon and GoodReads author pages
  • create a news story about the post on your websites
  • make the post as appealing as possible, with memorable headlines and attractive images
  • embed links within the post that make it easy for readers to share the post and to find out more about the guest

Should the Deal be Reciprocal?

Whether you are the guest or the host, do consider a reciprocal arrangement: “You write for my blog and I’ll write for yours!” It’s not always possible , because some writers don’t have their own website (though I really think all authors should!) Such writers may still be worthwhile guests if they can add insight into a key issue or share an experience that you cannot provide yourself. And knowing they can’t return your favour may encourage them to  work extra hard on their post!

Getting the Timing Right For a Guest Post

Whether you are host or author, you can timetable guest posts however you wish. If you’re the host, you call the shots! Hosting a guest post can give you a welcome rest from writing, but in your enthusiasm to take a break, be careful not to swamp your blog with guests posts. No matter how great your guests, ration their appearance to say one in every four posts, or timetable them for a  particular day of the week, so as not to alienate the  regular followers who come to your blog because they enjoy YOUR company and advice.

My Guest Post Strategy

So how am I using guests posts at Off The Shelf Book Promotions? Well, I’m enjoying putting in an appearance on other writers’ blogs. Here I am at Bea, an online magazine run by Keris Stainton, and I was also recently at Sally Jenkins’ blog, not once but twice – here and here. I’ve already got a few more jaunts like this in my schedule for the New Year too.

At the same time, I’m keen to engage guest posts from other writers here on my Off The Shelf site, in order to provide practical examples of good practice that my readers can adapt to promote their own books.  I’m very pleased to introduce my first guest…

Lorraine Hellier, Children’s Author

Oyez! oyez! it's Lorraine Hellier!

Oyez! oyez! it’s Lorraine Hellier!

Based in Lichfield, Lorraine has published four books to date via AuthorHouse and Matador,  and she’s now working on the fifth one. All five comprise a fantasy series called Serendipity. She showcases them via her author website that is designed to appeal both to readers and to other writers. For young readers she’s added extra interest with downloadable colouring sheets and competitions, and for her fellow writers she’s shared advice on how she goes about writing and promoting her books. Reviews and press cuttings add credibility and authority to what she has to say.

Lorraine has also taken advantage of the Author Central facility on Amazon – here you can read her author profile, which has links to all her books.

Lorraine kindly offered to share some specific examples of her book promotion activities on the Off The Shelf blog, and I think those she’s outlined here make it clear that she’s a real opportunist. She thinks creatively to make the most of whatever openings come her way, and I hope her post will give you ideas for promoting your own books, whatever age group you’re targeting. So now, over to Lorraine to tell you more…

Oxfam Bookfest

Oxfam Bookshop, Lichfield

A win-win situtation: helping a great charity, raising a local author’s profile

I received an email asking if I would be able to support the Oxfam Bookfest event. They wanted to focus on children and were preparing activities during the week. I was offered the opportunity to have a book signing event in the shop. It was a chance visit by the Lichfield Town Crier during the day which was totally unexpected. Imagine my surprise at him ringing his bell and announcing me signing my books in the shop! The photo opportunity was one not be missed.

Author Events at Local Libraries

The author with library users

Supporting her local library

Lichfield Library has “Author Events” as part of their programme of events which are circulated via email. They supply tea, coffee & biscuits. There are usually four authors of different genres, so all ages and interests are catered for. We were offered a table to display our books in an open area of the library. I sold quite a few books, but it is the contacts we make which make these days worth attending. It is also an opportunity for me to chat to children.

Lorraine Hellier with a young fan

Helping a young fan achieve her ambition

It was from one of these events that I was approached by a Deputy Head teacher about school visits. One little girl had a school project – to have her photo taken with someone of interest. I was able to email a photo to them.

Branching Out with Stalls at Local Events 

Adding interest with extra merchandise

Adding interest with extra merchandise

Craft fairs, school fetes, village halls, and WI fairs are other avenues offering opportunities to host a stall. I had a table at some Christmas Craft Fairs, another chance to meet the public and promote books. I purchased some novelties which related to my books: rainbow crayons, pirate eye patches, secret diaries and mini Trolls. I also make bookmarks and business cards and laminate them. They are easy to hand out and are inexpensive to produce.

Bookmarks are always handy promotional tools

Bookmarks are always handy promotional tools

If you would like a school visit, workshop, or further information please visit my website or find me on Facebook.

Thank you very much, Lorraine! And well done for having the presence of mind to seize the unexpected photo opportunity with the Town Crier, which must have served you well for publicity purposes long after the event was over. The unplanned opportunities turn out to be the best ones!

If you have an idea for a post that you’d like to share here, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

For more about promoting your books online, see my book promotion handbook, Sell Your Books!, Chapter 6 The Truth Is out There: Harnessing the Internet