10 Ways to Boost Your Author Website

I’m a branding girl. If there is one thing my clients know it is that I believe in building a brand, and a platform for your work.

Yeah, but you can’t brand a person?!

Actually, you can and you should. It doesn’t matter that all your books fall under different genres. It’s about you, the author and the image that you are presenting to the world and to your readers. You are the company and your books are the product. So in terms of branding you need to think like a company and make your brand noticeable. Your brand may not be identifiable by a traditional logo, but your across the board consistency will.

What is your mission and your vision? Figure those things out and you can start building.

One of the biggest issues related to branding I have found (besides the poorly designed book covers) are feebly constructed websites. Would Nike throw together a web page to highlight their products in a free site with no identifiable markers? Nope. And neither should you. Don’t know what I mean? Check out John Grisham’s web page – now look at yours. Yeah he makes oodles of money off the sales of his books, but if you want to sell like a best-selling author, you need to act like a best-selling author.

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Here are some tips when building your author website:

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Now, you have an idea on how to setup your author website – get to work.

If you don’t know where to start and couldn’t possibly do it alone, please contact VMG Literary and we’d be happy to do if for you!

Wait! You Said You Were a Book Publicity Company!

Promotion is such an important part of selling your art and without it your book sits alone on a virtual shelf waiting for readers.

You know this, yet you do the bare minimum to get your book up and running, or you do too much of the wrong thing, trust the wrong people and spend copious amounts of money with little result. You don’t need to work hard…well you do, but more importantly you need to work smart while enlisting help from people who understand how to navigate the tough, time-consuming work for you.

This is going to piss off a lot of bloggers but the truth is, writing a blog and hosting blog tours for authors does not a publicist make. There is a reason promotions and book marketing is a skill; it takes a tremendous amount of research, knowledge and knowhow to get the work in front of the right people. And NEWSFLASH! book marketing and book publicity are two completely different functions. Yes, blog tours work, as do cover reveals and giveaways, both of which fall under marketing, but remember it is all a numbers game and the winner is always the one with the growing bank account – usually the blogger who sold you on their services. However, that doesn’t mean it is all for not. I sometimes do virtual book tours, but I also focus on PR work which means finding a message and getting the world to listen via media outlets.

So who and what should you trust? And what should you do?

First, know the difference between marketing and PR. (See our marketing page for more info) Then do some research on a professional, someone who understands
the industry and reach out to them. Rather than just looking to save a buck by hiring a blogger who offers really cheap book blasts, hire an actual publicity company to get you what you need (like us – quick and dirty shameless promotion), or find a qualified person who is getting started in the industry and see if they can help with your budget. Yeah, it might cost you a bit more, but the results will be worth it. Have them work to get you interviews, schedule guest posts, handle your social media blasts and set up a fan page. They will talk to your local bookstores and work to get you signings, or perhaps get set you up on a tour of conventions. There are numerous ways to sell a book outside of the same old blog tours and cover reveals and although I recommend them as well, you should have someone out there pushing your story, your author brand and your book, because the more coverage you get, the more attention your work receives.

I have an article about branding coming soon but here’s a little bit on the subject because it’s key. Everything, down to your headshot and Twitter cover should be devised with care and consistency and a publicist or trained marketing/communication professional can assist. They know what works, what certain demographics are attracted to and how to communicate your messages effectively. For instance, most people don’t know how to draft a media kit; what true market analytics entail; benchmarking; proper website design (not from a web designers prospective but a marketing perspective); how to analyze the current platform and help you build one that will entice readers and eventually publishers. You need someone to help you engage your audience so you are a significant presence, not just some indie author that no one wants to review, because your cover is homemade and you have two suspect reviews on Amazon.

Lastly, there is a lot to be said for having solid representation. And beyond all of those previous points, you get time to write because you won’t have to spend all that time hustling your own book. I call that a win-win.

If you want to learn more about what an honest to goodness publicist or communications specialist can do for you, click on that little box that says “chat” or email us. We are happy to help, guide and assist in any way we can.

The Art of Picking a Great Beta Reader

[su_pullquote]”A beta reader (also spelled betareader, or shortened to beta) is a person who reads a written work, generally fiction, with what has been described[1] as ‘a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, characterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public.'” – The Free Online Dictionary[/su_pullquote]

Everyone throws the term beta reader around. Goodreads, blogs, forums, you name it…people are always looking for someone to read their book and pass judgment. Except there is a key to picking the perfect beta and it doesn’t include expectations of edits and it certainly doesn’t mean they will or should blow glowing smoke up your perky backside. What a beta reader does is simple: they read and give critique, but they aren’t editors.

If you aren’t willing to hear the bad and the good, you shouldn’t publish, because even the most well received books have naysayers. To get a feel for what the critical mass is going to spout at you once you publish your baby and upload it on Amazon or Goodreads, or send out those query letters you should enlist a beta reader. They are the spotters of what you need to recheck, redo, and revisit and they (should) find pesky problems you may have overlooked.

[su_note note_color=”#66fff8″]BUT they are NOT substitutes for professional EDITORS![/su_note]

You don’t have to enlist professional writers, I don’t recommend friends (although friends can read your book, they will most likely give you biased feedback) and you should never count on just one reader to get a good feel for your work. Further, and I know I am beating the expired equine with this one folks, but you must never forego a professional edit in exchange for a bunch of unskilled, unpaid betas.

Now that I have listed all the “nots”, let’s move on to what you should look for in your testers. One, pull from a broad pool. You don’t want a mediocre book that only translates to people who like one specific genre. No, you want an exceptional book that appeals to the masses (or maybe not; it’s your bank account). So, in order for you to really understand what parts of your story translate and what parts are stale, you should find readers that love your genre and those that don’t. If the story reads well to both, you probably have the start of a good book on your hands.

Two, don’t just get writers to read your book, because often times they are competitive and extra critical just for the sake of pumping up their own skills. You should focus on book lovers who have a solid grasp on the basics of structure and syntax. They must understand what works and what doesn’t, but more than that, make sure they can explain what it is they find wrong. Just a simple, “yeah it was cool.” or “Wow! That super sucked.” isn’t what you are looking for. You need someone who can explain in detail why it was cool, or super sucked.

Old books, blue light backgroundThere are a couple of ways to go about this, but they require a little work from you (ugh, I know). First, you should set up a standard form that you give to every one of your testers. It must ask the questions you want them to answer. Guide them and their reading. Have them think about the book while they are in it, but also reflect upon it afterwards. Style it with checklists, ratings (1 to 5, etc.) and written answers. Then at the end ask them some broad and pointed questions, leaving the second side open for their own thoughts. Spend time on this part because it will be very important. You want to guide them toward an honest and fairly structured opinion. Tell them to make notes of any and all spelling/syntax errors they spot: repeated words; difficult names; dialogue that sounds forced; unclear sub-plots; distractions, etc.

Second, get on the phone with them (or Skype, or god forbid, spend time with them face to face). A lot of times there are elements that the reader noticed that they can’t put into words. Take them out for coffee (or send them a Starbucks GC and meet them online for a drink). Ask them questions and just discuss the book. It’s surprising what you can learn from someone just from a simple voice to voice conversation. Plus, it gives the reader a chance to say something they might have been afraid to put in writing for fear of a misunderstanding. And because tone is often lost in emails, you might have taken offense to something that the beta intended to be constructive, so use this conversation to clear up any misconceptions.

Talk! Use your mouth, not your fingers…please. There are so many things to glean from this experience and I urge you to make sure you get the most out of it. It is free after all and an invaluable tool.

[su_note note_color=”#66fff8″]If you’re interested in getting beta’s for your upcoming release, contact us! [/su_note]