Category: Writing advice (Page 1 of 2)

How to Setup an Author Website

The most requested option for a next post on author marketing via twitter, was *drum roll* how to build your author website.

It seems for some authors, the idea of creating an author website is incredibly daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! With all the recent developments in online technology, there are so many platforms that make creating an author website super accessible. If you find that you find it all too overwhelming, you will always have the option of turning to a web designer to create your website for you.

Please keep in mind, as an author, no one is expecting you to have a website that knocks their socks off. However, you do want it to be clean, professional, and easy to navigate.

The first steps

Evaluate what it is that you want on your website, and what you want out of your website. What’s the goal? Are you driving people to a blog, information about you, other options for connecting with you, posting book reviews, selling books, etc. Make a list of what is most important to you.

Now, it’s time to decide where you want your website to live — do you want your own domain? Are you fine having a subdomain on another website (example: www.yoursite.domain.com or www.domain.com/yoursite)? What’s the difference? Domains cost money, subdomains are usually free.

What to build on

There are lots of options for building your website, WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, you can even just set up a page for yourself on Facebook and call it a day (though I don’t recommend that path).

To start with, I recommend setting up a WordPress website. You can set up a site on WordPress that’s free and looks pretty good. If your website is hosted by WordPress, you also don’t have to worry about updating for security vulnerabilities, etc.

If you want more control over your WordPress install, you can sign up with many different web hosts (Godaddy, NameCheap, HostGator, etc.) and they’ll set up the WordPress install for you on your domain.

If you think that installing WordPress on your own server is for you, please remember the four U’s of WordPress.

  • Update
  • Update
  • UPDATE
  • For the love of god, UPDATE

While having more control over your WordPress install is great in some respects: You can install add-ons and plugins that you can’t access on a WP hosted version and customize cod yourself. There are other things you need to stay on top of: SECURITY. You need to keep your install and plugins up to date. Because WordPress can be vulnerable to hacking because of its popularity. There are plugins that can help circumvent this, but it’s still something to be aware of.

Pros of WordPress:

  • Good for SEO
  • Easy to update
  • Easy to maintain
  • Cheap
  • Industry standard
  • Tons of add ons
  • Tons of templates
  • Tons of integrations

Cons of WordPress:

  • Open source which can lead to vulnerabilities with security
  • There can be a learning curve if you’ve never used a content management system

 

What to put on your website

The basics for your website should include:

About me – your bio and a picture of you if you’re so inclined, also put all your social links here. Also include information about your agent and any writing groups/associations you’re affiliated with. Not sure what to write? Use this template. My name is [NAME], I’ve been writing [GENRES] for [X] years.

Items you can also add, what you love to read, your current read, where you live/have lived, your family, pets.

Books – Have books out already or coming soon? List them here, along with links to EVERY PLACE THAT SELLS THEM, also include goodreads. You can also add blurbs, praise, reviews, awards here.

Blog – If you want to blog, turn on that option in WordPress/your chosen platform. What should you blog about? I’ll write a new post about that soon. For now, you’re on your own.

Contact – On your contact page you should list all your social media, AGAIN. Also add your email address and PO box if applicable.

Other pages that might make sense for you: Signed copies of your books, Your patreon, Your Youtube/Twitch, Upcoming appearances, Upcoming works, Merchandise, Media (got maps for your books? Pronunciation guides? Family trees?), Reviews, Email sign up.

 

How often to update

If you’re blogging, many people say to blog once a week. I suck at this. So… I’m not going to tell you to do that. Otherwise, I’d say check your site once a month to see if anything needs to be updated. If you go with WordPress as a platform, check the admin page once a week to see if anything on the back end needs to be updated.

 

Metrics

There are key performance indicators (KPIs) that will tell you how your website is doing. Some websites have built in analytics, however, I recommend installing Google Analytics and setting up an account inside Google Search Console. Inside Google Analytics you can see:

  • How people arrived at your website
  • Where people went on your website
  • How long they spent on your website
  • Demographic information

Why would you want this information? This helps you determine how you’re getting traffic, where people are dropping off on your website, and it can also help you discover if parts of your website are ineffective.

 

More on WordPress

If you’re interested in moving forward with a WordPress install on your own server, I recommend the following plugins. Yoast (for SEO), Mailchimp for WP, Social Media Widget by Acurax, Wordfence (this will notify you of security issues), MonsterInsights Google Analytics.

PLEASE BE CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT PLUGINS YOU INSTALL. Old plugins can easily be compromised. Look at reviews before you install, be incredibly aware of what you’re installing, and check to see how many people have installed it. After you install, KEEP IT UPDATED.

And now on to themes: There are a TON of free themes inside WordPress that you can install. One of my favorites is Lovecraft. But again, install carefully and KEEP IT UPDATED. Also, be sure that you are choosing a theme that is responsive, this means it will adjust the design of the website to the device it’s being viewed on.

 

Should I hire a web designer?

This is really up to you and whether or not you have a budget for it. A website set up by a web designer will likely cost you $100-$500, and will likely be on WordPress anyway. If you want the designer to maintain it for you, then there will also be a monthly cost. So, this is really up to you. But do be sure anything they set up for you is responsive.

 

About me

Dea Poirier was raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, where she got her start writing in creative writing courses.  She attended The University of Central Oklahoma for Computer Science and Political Science. Later, she spent time living on both coasts, and traveling the United States, before finally putting down roots in Central Florida. She now resides somewhere between Disney and the swamp, with her husband, son, two dogs and two cats.

She spends her days at her day job as a Senior Manager of Email and Lifecycle Marketing, and her nights writing Manuscripts.

Find me on Twitter.

Find me on Goodreads.

Find me on Facebook.

Email Marketing as an Author

So, today I tweeted a thread about some common issues I see with advice for email marketing that’s directed at authors (this can also be applied to any creator or small business), and based on some of the responses to the thread, I want to go into more detail here.

I want to start off by saying, I’m not offering any of this advice because I want to sell you something. I no longer offer my marketing skills on a freelance basis, keep that in mind. I don’t want your money. I genuinely think that better emails make for a better marketing world. And I want to see you all succeed. I’m also sick to death of bad emails.

Now, who am I to give you email advice? I’ve been doing internet marketing for sixteen years. I’ve worked for/with fortune 100 companies. I’ve managed email lists IN THE MILLIONS. This is what I do every day. That being said, your mileage may vary. Everyone is different, every email list is different.

Before you start

Before you embark on email marketing, you need to invest some time into research. Sign up for mailing lists that other authors have, sign up for email lists of large publishers, SIGN UP FOR ALL THE EMAILS.

These emails will give you a good idea of what else is out there, what may or may not be working for other people, and it might spark some ideas for your own content. Many authors also look to cross-promote within their mailing lists, this could open up some opportunities you didn’t know were possible.

Email laws

After you’ve done your research, guess what: It’s time for MORE RESEARCH. But this time, legal research. Why? I mean, unless you want to go to jail and pay a whole bunch of money… I’d guess you’d want to follow the laws. If you’re not familiar with the email marketing world, you’re likely asking yourself – LAWS? THERE ARE EMAIL LAWS? Yup. Can-SPAM (US), CASL (Canada), GDPR (Europe), and I’m sure there are others, but these are the main ones to focus on. *fine print* I am not a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. Do your own research to make sure that you are complying with the laws of your country and the countries you are sending emails in.

I’m going to focus mainly on two big points for Can-SPAM.

  • You MUST include a physical address in the footer of your email to comply with Can-SPAM laws. Yes, this can be a PO Box.
  • DO NOT HARVEST, BORROW, RENT, OR PURCHASE EMAIL ADDRESSES. Do not take email addresses from websites and add them to lists. If people want to sign up for you emails, they will. Using someone else’s email list IS NOT LEGAL. Do not do this. DO NOT let someone else mail to your list either. Do not sell your list. Do not rent your list.

Mailing platforms

Now, email platforms. There are many free email platforms now that will allow you to build your lists and send emails up to a certain point (usually 2000 leads or 2000 emails per month). My recommendation is Mailchimp, it’s easy to use, and they have plugins that work with Facebook and WordPress for easy list creation/management.

Please DO NOT send your emails out of Gmail or outlook. Use a real mailing service. Not only are there legal reasons for this, but mailing platforms will allow you to track opens/clicks so you know what’s working and not working. Most of these mailing platforms will also allow you to do split tests, so you can test different subject lines and content to see if one is more effective.

Building your list

So, how do you build a list? Place a form on your website (you can get these forms from most mailing services, they’ll generate one for you). You can also place the form on your Facebook page. Trust me, if people want to sign up for your list, they will.

Please do not use services that promise to build your email list, send users to your website, etc. These are all scams.

As I also mentioned on twitter, do not bother with trying to build your email list out of giveaways. Typically, these users will sign up for the duration of the contest and unsubscribe as soon a they realize they have not won. (This might work for some people, but in my experience, this does not lead to sales.)  Your goal for your email list is quality leads over quantity. Having 100 engaged users pays off better than 2000 users who never open a single email.

Don’t pressure yourself to hit certain benchmarks for your email list. Again, you’re going for quality over quantity. Your list will build naturally as you grow your audience.

Also, keep in mind, if you’re going the traditional publishing route, your publisher will have their own lists to utilize. The entirety of email marketing won’t just lie on your shoulders, you’ll have them to send for you as well.

I’ve had several authors inform me that offering free content (such as novellas or short stories) that go along with their novels has helped a lot in building their lists. This kind of content makes it much more likely that those signing up for your list will be engaged in your writing and the worlds you’re building.

Your emails

If you don’t have experience with HTML & CSS, choose a mailing platform that has built in responsive templates. You want responsive, because these templates will make your email look correct regardless of the device your user is using to open the email (It’ll format automatically for mobile, tablet, or desktop).

When creating your emails, be clear about what the purpose is. Are you trying to sell a book? Make a clear call to action with a button that tells the user what to do. [CLICK HERE TO BUY]. Are you trying to give them an update on something with your book? Make it front and center. You want to keep your emails short, sweet, and to the point. If you want longer content, put that on your blog and have people click through for more. Don’t put it all in the email. Over half of all emails are now opened on mobile devices, users don’t want to read 5000 words of content on their phone.

Once you’re comfortable with emailing your list, I would recommend coming up with a content calendar. Consider seasonal things that might make sense to mention (Are your books on sale for Black Friday? Will you be attending specific conferences?). I find that this makes it easier to hold yourself accountable to your marketing goals, and then you’ve already got an idea of what you should write.

How often to email

My personal recommendation, as an author, no one wants to hear from you more than once a month (except for your mother, and you can just call her). If you have something important to say, something that’s urgent – you need people to vote for an award, then by all means, email them again. But don’t email just because you feel like you need to or because you’re supposed to. I have seen MANY authors that email EVERY DAY, and this is such overkill. No one needs an email from you every day.

 

About me

Dea Poirier was raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, where she got her start writing in creative writing courses.  She attended The University of Central Oklahoma for Computer Science and Political Science. Later, she spent time living on both coasts, and traveling the United States, before finally putting down roots in Central Florida. She now resides somewhere between Disney and the swamp, with her husband, son, two dogs and two cats.

She spends her days at her day job as a Senior Manager of Email and Lifecycle Marketing, and her nights writing Manuscripts.

Find me on twitter.

 

My writing process (AKA how I write so fast)

Recently I’ve had a few people ask me to detail my writing process because they want to know how I write so fast. I want to preface this post with a couple things:

  • My process is not better just because it’s fast
  • If you do things different, that doesn’t make them wrong
  • Please don’t compare your style to other writers
  • My process isn’t perfect, but it works for me
  • I write by hand (so I will be referencing page count, not word count)

Now, for some background. My first book, I wrote over, and over, and over. I stumbled over pages, the plot, second guessed myself, deleted things, edited as I wrote. IT WAS TERRIBLE. But, it was necessary for me to help understand what does and does not work for me. I started and stopped this novel probably twenty times, before I finally told myself I was either going to finish it, or I was going to give up. It took me around a year to finish. Oh my Godzilla it was a mess, it was awful – BUT IT WAS DONE. That’s all that mattered. I queried this piece of crap, got nowhere, and started on another novel. The next took me six months, it went right in a drawer. And I started another book immediately, a YA paranormal romance I felt really strongly about.

Book three took around five months, I think. Around this time I got really serious about writing and started attending a writing group in Connecticut. One of the group members mentioned to me reading a book called the 30-day novel, or something like that. And I was like, I think I could do that. I had an idea I was already toying with for my 4th book. I wrote FURIOUSLY. And I did it. I wrote it in 28 days. It was a mess, around 40k words. BUT I DID IT.

Now, HOW THE HECK DO YOU WRITE A BOOK IN 28 DAYS?

Step 1 – OUTLINE

Outline that book like your life depends on it. I’m sorry pantsers, I don’t know any other way. I’m a plotter (that doesn’t make pantsing wrong. You do you). When I start, I write an outline broken up into chapters. I then use this chapter list as a checklist (save this, you’re gonna need it again). I try to go into as much detail as possible about every plot point that will occur in these chapters. Will I get them all? NOPE. Will I think of others as I’m writing? YUP. I keep a running list as I write of elements I’ll need to add in draft 2.

Step 2 – CHARACTER LIST

Before I start, at the back of my notebook, I make a list of characters I think will appear. I include names, description, whether or not they die, any other relevant information. I will also add to this list as new characters are needed during the writing process, this helps me keep track of them all.

Step 3 – RESEARCH

Sometimes I research before writing, sometimes I don’t. Usually for historical works I do my research before hand and have anything I’d like to include in a list before I start.

Step 4 – WRITE THE DAMN THING

Now that you’ve completed steps 1 – 3, it’s time to write a book. My rule for this? 10 pages a day MINIMUM. 15 pages is ideal. 20 pages, is a great day. I’ve found it’s easiest to break this up into 5 pages before work, 5 pages during my lunch break, 10 pages at night. Once I reach my page count, I get to do whatever I want for the rest of my evening. Usually 20 pages is the most I can do before my wrist starts to hate me. With this pace, I can have finished a draft in two weeks. Usually though my drafts take two and a half to four weeks, six if I’m being lazy. I am hard on myself about drafting, I don’t take days off during draft phases. (AGAIN this may not be for you)

How long are these drafts normally? Once they’re typed up 40-60k words. My drafts start short and grow as I edit.

Step 4a – TYPE IT UP

After drafting is done, I spend a week or two typing it up. Obviously if you don’t write by hand, you won’t have this step.

Step 5 – EDITING

Editing takes longer than writing, so just buckle up. My first pass of editing (after typing), I print out the pages, put them in my editing binder, then begin to look for what’s missing. This isn’t a line edit, this is a ‘what the hell is this book missing’ edit. I will clean up stupid errors or bad sentences, but mostly, this is to add some flesh to the bones I’ve created. From here, I take my original outline, and I make notes for myself for what every chapter needs (This is your editing outline). I will write any new content I need in this draft, then add it in.

Draft 3 – Once I get to this stage in the draft, I start looking for small errors, continuity, things that are out of character for my cast, etc. After this stage, I send the draft to my CP (critique partner).

Draft 4 – With notes from my CP I will make ANOTHER editing outline broken down by chapter for what needs to be changed.

Editing is rinse and repeat of the steps above. Sometimes it’s five rounds, sometimes it’s forty-seven. It just depends.

So how long does editing take? Usually to get to draft 3 – four to six weeks depending. Sometimes faster. Editing gets faster the more you do it.

 

And that’s it. That’s how I write so fast. It may not be for you. But I hope this helps you understand my process. If you have questions, find me on twitter!

You can also find me on Facebook and Goodreads!

 

May Critique Giveaway

My May critique giveaway is live!

For May, I’m giving away:

  1. Query + 20 page critique
  2. Query + 5 page critique
  3. Query + synopsis critique(up to 5 pages)

If you are self-pubbing and do not have a query, I would be happy to critique your blurb instead of a query! You can also trade out a query critique for a critique on up to 5 twitter pitches.

There are no restrictions on who can claim this prize, all genres and markets are open.  (I’d be the most help for A or YA projects though)

Note: To be eligible to win, you must follow me on Twitter at the time of the drawing. All page critiques are for DOUBLE SPACED pages.

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April Critique Giveaway

Now that my March giveaway has concluded — my April critique giveaway is live!

For April, I’m giving away:

  1. Query + 10 page critique
  2. Query + Synopsis critique (up to 5 pages)
  3. Query critique

If you are self-pubbing and do not have a query, I would be happy to critique your blurb instead of a query! You can also trade out a query critique for a critique on up to 5 twitter pitches.

There are no restrictions on who can claim this prize, all genres and markets are open.  (I’d be the most help for A or YA projects though)

Note: To be eligible to win, you must follow me on Twitter at the time of the drawing. All page critiques are for DOUBLE SPACED pages.

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March Critique Giveaway

Now that my February giveaway has concluded — my March critique giveaway is live!

For March, I’m giving away:

  1. Query + 20 page critique
  2. Query + 10 page critique

If you are self-pubbing and do not have a query, I would be happy to critique your blurb instead of a query!

There are no restrictions on who can claim this prize, all genres and markets are open.  (I’d be the most help for A or YA projects though)

Note: To be eligible to win, you must follow me on Twitter at the time of the drawing.

While you’re here, please subscribe to my newsletter for NEXT GIRL TO DIE!

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February Critique Giveaway

Now that my January giveaway has concluded — my February critique giveaway is live!

For Feb, I’m giving away:

  1. Query + 10 page critique
  2. Query + 5 page critique
  3. Query critique

If you are self-pubbing and do not have a query, I would be happy to critique your blurb instead of a query!

There are no restrictions on who can claim this prize, all genres and markets are open.  (I’d be the most help for A or YA projects though)

Note: To be eligible to win, you must follow me on Twitter at the time of the drawing.

While you’re here, please subscribe to my newsletter for NEXT GIRL TO DIE!

Good luck! And may the odds be ever in your favor.

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January Query Critique Giveaway

In 2017, it was my goal to spend the entire year giving back to the writing community. And I enjoyed it so much, I’m going to continue doing it in 2018. Each month I will post a new critique giveaway of some sort on my blog.

For January, I’m giving away FIVE query critiques — YEP 5!

There are no restrictions on who can claim this prize, all genres and markets are open.  (I’d be the most help for A or YA projects though)

Note: To be eligible to win, you must follow me on Twitter at the time of the drawing.

While you’re here, please subscribe to my newsletter for NEXT GIRL TO DIE!

Good luck! And may the odds be ever in your favor.

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Products I use for writing

Occasionally I have other writers ask me how I write, and what products I use to make writing and editing easier for myself. I figured instead of just tweeting links constantly, putting them all in one place would be the easiest thing. I will try to keep this page updated so as I stumble on more things I like, I’ll add them.

Editing/Writing Binder

I write all of my manuscripts by hand, I also do most of my editing on paper. This is just the easiest process for me – but I understand if it’s not a good process for you, I’m not here to convince anyone. But if you’re looking for a binder to help keep your writing life together, I have found this one to be AMAZING.

Once I print out my manuscript, I use a standard 3-hole punch and then put all the pages into the binder.

Word of warning, it’s large. There are smaller versions, but I like lugging this behemoth around. There are smaller options available on Amazon.

Here’s a link to the binder on Amazon.

This thing has pockets and folder tabs galore. It can easily hold a 400 page manuscript. It might be able to go up to 500-600 pages, but I’ve never had a manuscript that length so I can’t attest to it personally.

It also has a shoulder strap.

I love this thing because I’m able to keep all my notes, pens, notebooks, etc. all in one place while I’m editing.

I also have a smaller version of this binder that I use for writing. This is the same brand as the binder above, but it’s not quite as bulky. I usually just have a 5-subject notebook in this and an assortment of gel pens.

Notebooks

I’m a notebook snob. I’ve accepted this part of myself. My husband thinks I’m completely insane because of this. But I swear, some paper really feels different as you write on it. Some paper feels like it offers resistance against the pen, and I hate that. These notebooks I’ve found offer no resistance when I use my gel pens, and I get very little smearing.

Here’s a link to these notebooks on Amazon.

I usually buy these in bulk about a month after school starts, and they’re all marked down like crazy on clearance. I find that one 5-subject notebook is perfect for my outlining, notes, and hand-written pages for a project.

Gel pens

I’m obsessed with gel pens. At all times I’ve probably got around two hundred in my house. I’ve seen complaints about gel pens drying up if they sit for too long without being used. But I’ve gotta tell you, in the four years I’ve been using them, I’ve probably had two or three total dry up. It doesn’t appear to be a common problem.

My only complaint about most gel pen assortments, is that there are SO MANY neon and pastel colors. I can’t write with those on standard notebooks, so I have an over-flowing bin filled with all these cast-off colors. That being said, being able to write with glitter or metallic gel pens makes it all worth it.

Here are some of my favorite sets:

This set has 100 pens and 100 refills. I do find that the point on these varies sometimes, but I’m not a stickler for that. This set also has a lot less of the pastel and neon colors than the other options do.

This wasn’t my favorite set, but it got the job done. I wasn’t crazy about it because I felt it had more neon/pastel than others.

This is a much cheaper set than the others, and I had pretty good luck with it. Not my favorite though.

Booklight

I no longer use a booklight, since I have an office now. But for the past five years, most of the time I wrote my manuscript by booklight. I’ve had several I hated, this is the light I’ve had the best luck with.

Small notebooks

I always keep a small notebook in my purse, as I usually get ideas for my novels while I’m in the car, or waiting in line somewhere. These are the notebooks I like best on the go.

Books I use

During my writing and editing processes there are a few books that I use as tools. Here’s a short list of the ones I use most often.

Self Editing for Fiction Writers is a great book to help you edit your own work before self-publishing or querying. I will say that you should still have betas and critique partners read your work before sending it out, but this book should give you the confidence to get your writing in a good place before sending it out to your readers.

Rules for Writers is another great book that can help with grammar, editing, citing sources, abbreviations, etc. Most questions you’ll have in writing should be covered in this book.

And all the writing thesauruses are invaluable. If you don’t have them already, buy them all RIGHT NOW.

The emotional thesaurus. This has helped me many times as I have issues with writing emotions and body language. If you need help in these areas as you’re writing, be sure to pick it up!

Need to come up with some flaws for your characters or some negative traits? Drawing a blank? The negative trait thesaurus exists for exactly that!

On the flip side, if you need positive traits there’s a thesaurus for that as well.

There are also a few other books in the writing thesaurus line, The Urban Setting Thesaurus, The Rural Setting Thesaurus, and The Emotional Wound Thesaurus. I have never used any of these, so I cannot vouch for them personally, but I’m sure they’re just as helpful as the others!

I think that covers all of the products I typically use for my writing. I don’t really use highlighters, or other office supplies. But if you think I missed anything, tweet at me and I’ll update the list! ?

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy things, I might get a cut of the purchase so I can buy more gel pens. Please help fund my addiction :p

Dea Answers Your Query Questions!

When is it okay to start querying a new project? Do you need to wait for all the stragglers to come back with rejections or can I simply wait out the typical 6-8 week window and move on?

In my opinion, if you decide it’s time to shift gears and query another project, you should look at that strategically. Ideally, when sending your queries out, you aren’t querying EVERY agent at once. Likely you’re sending out small batches of queries. (If you aren’t sending out small batches of queries, please reconsider. Sending out large batches won’t allow you to change your query, or adjust your work easily based on feedback).

So, if you are sending out these small batches of queries — I would send to the agents that you haven’t queried in the longest period of time, then move down your list from there.

BIG NOTE HERE, I am not an agent. This is my thought based on my own querying experience (and what I’ve seen some agents mention in interviews). I think it’s safe to query a new project to agents you’ve already queried if you’ve given at least 6 weeks in between projects. You don’t need everyone to say no to your previous project before moving on. (There will be some agents who will never reply)

Some agents may have given interviews where they specifically say how often is too often to query new projects — so if you’re really concerned, I’d look at agent interviews for details.

Have a question about querying, writing, or how much I love Godzilla, that you want me to answer on my blog? DM your questions to me on twitter!

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