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SPAWNews Newsletter – March 2012

by SusanDaffron on March 1, 2012

For contributions to the newsletter and Letters to the Editor, please email the editor of SPAWNews: editor@spawn.org.

Those of you who are SPAWN members, be sure to visit the Members Only Area to read this month’s Market Update. Go to http://www.spawn.org and click Log In. You will be asked for your username and password.
If you are not a member, join now online: http://www.spawn.org/join.htm

From the President

Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!

As the webmaster of the SPAWN.org Web site, the topic of this issue strikes a particular chord with me. Websites are no longer optional for business. If you want to market anything today, whether it’s freelance writing services, artwork, or books, you need a website.

As you’ll read in this issue, you don’t have to create a website yourself. However, you do need a plan. As I discuss in my book Web Business Success, different websites have different goals. All the "techie stuff" is irrelevant until you figure out what you want your website to do.

I’ve met many people who wasted a lot of time and money on websites that had to be redone simply because the person didn’t outline a strategy for the site first. Don’t skip this important step. After all, no one knows more about your product, service, or business than you do.

Susan Daffron (susan@spawn.org)
President & Webmaster, Small Publishers Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN)
http://www.spawn.org
President, Logical Expressions, Inc.
http://www.LogicalExpressions.com

Editor’s Note

This month the newsletter is all about websites—who needs one, do you build and maintain your own or hire a pro, what can you do to protect your work, and what goes on one? We also include a critique of sites. Keep this issue handy as you create your own site. It will be a handy reference for both writers and artists.

As spring arrives, freelance article writers are looking ahead to summer and fall. Plan three to six months out for any ideas you want to pitch. As an example, an article assigned in February, due in March, publishes in June and you’ll need to allow time for the editor to mull it over.

In spite of the constant political ads, 2012 looks to be a better year than 2011 in many ways. Try something new this year. If you write non-fiction, try your hand at a short story. If you specialize in fiction, do an interview with a friend to see what new thing you can find out about somebody you’ve known for a long time. Sign up for a prompt-a-day to ignite your imagination. Read a new book series. Writers work best when they are readers, too.

If you have an article or story that hasn’t sold, swap with a writer friend in a similar situation for a closer critique. A fresh set of eyes can often point out a problem easily resolved.

The day is full of potential. Take advantage.

 – Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, editor@spawn.org

SPAWN Market Update

by Patricia Fry

The March 2012 issue of the SPAWN Market Update is all about volume, which adds up to huge opportunities for you. We provide fifteen links to literally thousands of writing contests; jobs in the publishing field; writing opportunities for fiction, poetry, and nonfiction; and publishers for your project. Additionally, we show you how to track your book sales and promote your book through magazine articles. The information in this issue could give you that “award-winning” moniker you’ve been wanting; land you a sought-after job as an editor, art director, videographer, etc.; finally reveal the right publisher for your manuscript; help you to place some of your articles/stories; and so much more. The SPAWN Market Update is for members only—you are an elite group. Don’t miss the opportunities we provide each month just for you. If you aren’t a member—if you haven’t paid your $65/year dues yet—consider joining this month. (If you have a published book, or will soon, here’s another reason you should join SPAWN.)

Join SPAWN at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (LATFB) is billed as the nation’s largest public literary festival, attracting around 140,000 people last year.

It wasn’t always this big, and some of us here at SPAWN remember its beginnings. The LATFB launched in 1996, the same year that SPAWN did. SPAWN has had a presence at this now-gigantic event almost every year since.

The LATFB will be held at the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles again this year on April 21 and 22, 2012. SPAWN has secured two booths to accommodate our members. The fee for selling your books from our booth is $200 per day. (Three titles per member, only.)

We also are offering those who can’t attend the LATFB the opportunity to display a copy of their book(s) in the SPAWN booth for $20 each title. For an additional $35, members can list their books in the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services, which will serve as the brochure for all participants. Everyone visiting the SPAWN booth will walk away with one of our beautiful full-color print catalogs. The absolute deadline for having your book included in the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services is March 15, 2012.

Visit http://www.spawn.org/latfb.htm to read about all of your options, and sign up today.

The LATFB opportunity is open to members only. If your membership has expired or you haven’t joined yet, this is a good time to take care of business. If you want a major bookselling opportunity and incredible exposure for your book, sign up to join us in the SPAWN booth—first come, first served. Learn more about the LATFB here: http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks    

Questions? Patricia@spawn.org

IBPA Pub-U and SPAWN

IBPA’s 28th Annual Publishing University will be held March 9-10 at Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. No matter what stage of publishing you’re in—an author-publisher, a beginning publisher, a more experienced publisher—IBPA Publishing University, in a new location on the west coast for 2012, brings you hands-on tools and techniques to succeed.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Twenty breakout sessions, including the hottest how-to topics in publishing, led by industry experts
  • General sessions featuring the movers and shakers of the industry
  • The opportunity to “Ask the Experts” in your own private consulting session
  • Formal and informal networking with colleagues and future mentors

 And much more!

SPAWN members receive special IBPA member pricing at a $100 discount on full tuition!

Simply register at www.ibpapublishinguniversity.com. Choose “Member Registration” and when asked for a user id and password, enter SPAWN2012 for both  to register for member pricing at a $100 discount. Call or email the IBPA office at 310-546-1818 or info@ibpa-online.org with questions.

Ask the Book Doctor:

 About Web Site or Website, Fact Checking, and Writing an “As Told To” Biography

By Bobbie Christmas

Q: I give up. When I’m editing, I don’t know which one is right. It is Website, website, Web site, or web site? I have seen all versions of the term: two words, capitalized, and lowercased. What gives?

A: What gives is that Internet terminology is still evolving, and unless you consult a specific style guide and stick to it, you can get confused. In addition, various style guides have chosen differing ways to handle Internet terms. The one thing most agree upon, however, is that Internet and World Wide Web are brand names that are capitalized. For that reason, web started out as capitalized, but gradually it has become lowercased. In the same vein, website may appear as two words, web site, in some style guides for periodicals, but if you write or edit books, you should follow Chicago style, which now uses it as one word, lowercased: website. 

Q: When you edited my book, you told me to fact check something I wrote about Special Olympics, so I did. I learned a great deal. Special Olympics (they don’t like the word “the”) calls participants “people with intellectual disabilities,” and they have a language guide on their website. Thanks for telling me to check my facts; my mistake would have been embarrassing.

A: Thank heavens for the Internet! When writing about companies or organizations, it pays to visit their websites. Most organizational and company websites provide valuable information for researchers and writers. The Internet has made fact checking much simpler than when I started out. Back in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, I had to call organizations and try to find knowledgeable people willing to help me, or I had to drive to a library to perform research and check facts.

I knew to question some of the things in your manuscript, because I have written articles about programs for wheelchair dancers and baseball teams that blend challenged children with “ordinary” ones. Each time, I had to query the organizations to see what wording they preferred, and the answers often surprised me. I am glad to see that the red flag that went up in my head worked to your benefit.

Q: I am a published writer, and I make my living that way. I have spent years as a full-time journalist and short-story author, but I’m writing my first book. It is “as told to,” and it already has an agent. All is in place, but I am breaking out in a cold sweat at the prospect of a book-length project and trying to wrap my mind around inhabiting another’s voice in first person. I could easily do it as a fiction writer, but I am not sure how it works in “as told to.” What kind of leeway does a writer have? Also, it is unnerving to have everyone peering over my virtual shoulder as I try to create a mental space in which to write, because not only are people on me, but we are already going around about first serial rights and foreign rights and so forth, when the thing is not even written yet.

It sure is a different milieu than the ones I am used to. In the past I either had all the privacy in the world for fiction, or my deadline-driven journalistic pieces were by necessity short, even if painful.

Do you have any advice on how to handle all this mess? Oh, and how do I stay sane while doing it?

A: You have already been a full-time journalist, which, I am sure, is why you landed the juicy assignment. You were the professional who was right for the job. To complete the project, think like a journalist, one writing a profile piece that just happens to be longer than usual. Okay, I’ll grant that it will be some 50,000 or more words longer than the usual profile, but simply write about one incident or accomplishment at a time. 

Do not think like a fiction writer, because fiction calls for similes, metaphors, setting, and plot. Think instead like the journalist that you are. When you interview your subject, think of it as interviewing for another personality profile, and keep a keen ear out for the types of dialogue you would normally use in a profile. Listen to the subject’s idioms and manner of speech. Record your interviews, if possible, because doing so allows you to capture all the details. The more time you spend with the person or the recordings, the more you will pick up on his or her speech patterns and word choices. You are a journalist; trust your instincts.

Don’t worry too much about that first draft, either. The first draft should simply get the information down, so you can later sort it all out and shuffle it around to get it into the right organization and pacing.

Read at least one or two other “as told to” books to see how others have done it, and you will quickly realize you can do it and probably can do it better.

Your most difficult task may not be the writing, but the fact that you have people watching and checking your progress and skills as you move forward. Because first drafts are inherently rough, though, try not to show your first draft to anyone. If other eyes burn holes through your psyche and halt your progress, wait until you have finished the entire first draft and are polishing and refining it before you let those eyes view any of your work. By then you will be more confident in your product and able to accept criticism and suggestions more objectively.

As for remaining sane? Try deep breaths, meditation, or venting to friends, but trust me, don’t be Hemingway and turn to alcohol for solace. That method does not end well.

Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too.  Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more "Ask the Book Doctor" questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.

Book Review

by Patricia Fry

Netiquette for Writers, Writing and the Web—2011 (An Author’s Guide to Internet Resources) By Connie Conran Berridge Red Willow Digital Publishing
E-book 291 pages — $6.99 http://www.ConniesWrites.biz

Now here’s a tool for writers (including screenwriters) and authors. Connie Berridge has compiled an Internet directory including links to over 2,000 sites related to writing, publishing, book promotion, scriptwriting, magazines, agents, editors, various genres and more. And the book is interspersed with narration and articles by professionals such as Gary Provost, Marcia Yudkin, Gary McLaren, Beth Ann Erickson, Lee Masterson, Scott Lorenz, Angela Hoy, Moira Allen, Dana Lynn Smith, Penny Sansevieri, and even me, Patricia Fry.

I was surprised by the variety of topics and accompanying links. I found information on how to price your book so it sells, how to autograph your e-book, how to publish on Kindle (a topic that came up in SPAWNDiscuss recently), when and how to use a pen name, how to navigate Amazon, and even how to choose a freelance editor. The author also includes over thirty-five opportunities for young people to get published. And you’ll find sites for grant writers, listings of free e-books, contest and conference directories, publishers’ definitions, ideas for how to sell your book on the web and even articles on the writer and the law.

There is a lot of information and many resources in this e-book for fiction writers. I especially like Chapter Twelve, where a staff member from Writers Relief contributes an article on five tips for your first five pages. The writer points out something that many authors neglect—how important it is to grab or hook the reader in your opening pages. 

If you want a book of resources and information on a variety of writing-related topics, this e-book might fill the bill for you.

Design is Key to the Platform Door

by C. Hope Clark

With the pending release of Lowcountry Bribe in February, the first in the Carolina Slade Mystery Series from Bell Bridge Books, I pondered whether to hire a web designer versus doing it myself. I went through the pros and cons for months beforehand.

Pros for Designing the Site Myself

I would have full control over design, know it organically, inside and out. And when it came time for change, I’d know exactly where to go and how to fix it. I’m all about hands-on, and I taught myself HTML years ago. However, not only do web-hosting services have templates one can use, but with a teeny bit of HTML knowledge and all the widgets provided by various groups out there, I could make the site look pretty darn respectable.

Cons Against Designing the Site Myself

Duh, time. I juggled my full-time job of FundsforWriters on top of a book release and edits for the novel’s sequel. Tax time was coming up (always a bear for the self-employed), and I had appearances to make and guest blogs to post for Lowcountry Bribe. On top of that, I wanted something I wasn’t sure I could master, using CSS knowledge I wasn’t confident about. Even after an online course in CSS and another in refresher HTML, I knew I had an uphill battle to design a unique presence that wasn’t on hundreds of other sites out there. I had one son who said he was a master at Photoshop and another who understood CSS, but they were in the next state, and seriously, did I have the time to create this all-so-important website and give this novel its due respect?

As the control freak in me balked, I shopped for estimates from web designers. I soon learned the breaking point. A polished site was not cheap. As the price dropped, so did the quality. I could not risk posting a cut-rate site for a book I’d spent the last decade writing, two years finding an agent, and eighteen months awaiting the release from the publisher. It deserved better than “making do.”

So I started with web designers who specialized in authors. The problem was they required that I host the site with them and that they do the updates. Um, no. I’ve been known to update a site three times a day on whims and new ideas. I need that control.

Then I started looking at authors who also did web design. I figured these people would understand. Shaila Abdullah did (www.myhouseofdesign.com). After I completed an intensive questionnaire on my desires and sent her a copy of the cover, she was off and running. And I could not be happier. It cost more than the cut-rate providers ($200-$500), but less than the author-specific websites that retain control ($2,500 and up). 

Designing a website is much like creating a book proposal. The simple exercise of laying it out, stating your purpose, content, synopsis, audience, competition, and promotional plan, makes you better understand your mission. It takes time, attention, and serious consideration.

If I’ve learned anything about self-promotion, for myself and through my readers, it’s that the reading populous can sense when we cut corners. We already know that the quality of cover and format make a strong first impression, and in this business, first impression is worth its weight in platinum. Articles abound on the need to make a book appealing on the bookstore shelf or for Amazon’s shopping page. We have precious seconds to grab that reader who’s faced with too many options these days on what to read. So why pay for that grand book cover then slap it on a site with a tired design that thousands of others use as well?

That competition for reading material means potential readers are going one step further in their selection process, too. They look for a URL for the author, whether that means a blog or website. The minute they lay eyes on a site quickly thrown together, they relate site negligence with the book’s quality.

The question isn’t whether you need a website. The question is how you will design it. . . and whether you’re willing to sacrifice time and/or money to make it represent you as a professional whose sights are set on bestseller status.

C. Hope Clark is the author of Lowcountry Bribe – A Carolina Slade Series, just released from Bell Bridge Books and available on Amazon, B&N, and in any bookstore. www.chopeclark.com Hope is also editor and founder of FundsforWriters.com , selected 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writer’s Digest Magazine for the past eleven years.

Why Choose a Professional to Design Your Website

by Shaila Abdullah (Hope’s designer)

I had been a regular subscriber to Hope’s newsletter for a while, when she approached me in January to design her website. I was honored and thrilled, since I am a big fan of her writing, being an author and a writer myself.

Designing websites for authors—from the perspective of a writer—can be both challenging and fun. In making sure that each of my author/writer clients gets a unique site, I take time to listen to their needs and ask them to answer a set of questions geared toward their work, life, design preferences, goals, etc. I also check to see whether or not they want to actively blog and reach out to their fans through newsletters. The first question I always ask is, “What do you want your site to do for you?”

We all have different reasons for wanting a website. Some of us wish to reach out to readers, fans, media, or a combination of all. Some authors need the site to talk about their ongoing work, while others may wish to sell their self-published titles through the site. Still others use their author site as a springboard to advance their speaking career. Whatever the main reason you may have for wanting a website, it may end up fulfilling many of the secondary functions stated above.

In other words, you can’t go wrong with a nicely designed, professional website.

So why choose a professional to design your website? First, a skilled designer can really focus on your requirements and design a site that reflects your true personality. A good designer will provide you with a site that has clean navigation, balanced design, and above all, makes you look good. A client of mine with a care-giving book could not get much traction with her target audience. Barely a month after I redesigned her website, she was offered an attractive opportunity to connect with a group she was trying to attract. She attributes it to the professional look of the website. The perception is that if your site looks good, you must be serious about your work.

Being an author myself, I am experienced with knowing and understanding what works for an author’s site. From my first website in 2005 to the subsequent one in 2009, my mailing list experienced a 700% surge due to the sign-up form being strategically placed at key places on the website and due to search engine optimization. Inclusion of crucial info on my media kit—including a gallery of professional author shots––earned me media spots, features, and interviews, while a well-developed bio and contact page resulted in book signings and speaking engagements. I now have fans not only locally, but also from countries like Poland, France, Bangladesh, and Australia, among others.

A well-crafted author website has the potential to land you in the spotlight. Good enough isn’t what you want your website to be. It needs to be a cut above the rest!

Now ask yourself, does your site shine?

Shaila Abdullah is an award-winning designer and author and has created numerous websites, marketing materials, and e-mail marketing campaigns for authors. She is the author of two books, Saffron Dreams and Beyond the Cayenne Wall. Abdullah can be reached at info@myhouseofdesign.com or www.myhouseofdesign.com.

Protecting Your Website from Theft

by Barbara Florio Graham

Whether or not you have a website, you should subscribe to GigaAlert (http://www.gigaalert.com/). Formerly known as Google Alert, this service is provided by Indigo Stream Technologies, which also offers the Copyscape plagiarism checker. These offer tracking of the entire web for key titles or phrases you choose, and send you the results in daily emails.

I use GigaAlert to note where my books, blog and website are being mentioned. But it’s also an excellent way to find out if someone has copied your work without permission.

Plagiarism and copyright infringement used to mean physically copying from a book or magazine and then inserting part or all of that material into a book or article with the infringer’s byline.

But now that just about everything is on the web, it’s become much easier, and every author really needs to monitor this and take action as soon as it’s revealed. My website has some useful information about copyright issues, along with sample “take down” letters. Go to www.SimonTeakettle.com/rescopyright.htm

Infringers are trolling the web and lifting entire articles, poems, and other original work directly from authors’ websites. For that reason, it’s really wise not to post your best work on your website.

Your book covers and bio photo aren’t likely to be copied. But even clear copyright notices don’t prevent a thief from “lifting” an entire article or sections of it to claim as his or her own. Sometimes these individuals are naive amateurs who don’t understand copyright, but the damage is the same.

So how do you showcase your best work?

First of all, if you plan to direct an editor or agent to your website to find samples of your writing, you’re asking for your query to be ignored. You need to provide samples as email attachments, and ask first if this is acceptable, because unsolicited queries with attachments are usually trashed.

A writing colleague posts just the first few paragraphs of some of his pieces on his website, to allow potential clients to see his style. One way to do this is to list publication credits you’re proud of, along with a link to a page that offers just the excerpt.

There’s also another way. If you want only some visitors to your website to see your work, don’t provide a link to those pages from your homepage (or anywhere else on your website). Instead, send the link to just those pages you want to share to those you want to view them. Point out in your message to these individuals that the link is not to be shared without your permission.

I’ve done that with workshop materials I wanted to make available to participants after my presentation.

I can hear some of you saying, “If I don’t post my work on my website, it looks as if I have nothing to offer.” That’s not true. Some of the elements of a good website are facts about the subject you’ve written about (including, for example, some historical background of your novel), links to helpful resources, and links to other authors whose sites complement your own. The more links, the more likely you are to show up in search engines.

For each of your books, include a full description, along with ISBN, number of pages, trim size, and ordering information. Include a portion of the opening paragraph or the introduction. Consider adding a link to the table of contents and to pages of reviews or readers’ comments.

You can see how I’ve done this when you go to www.SimonTeakettle.com/prosetogo/htm or www.SimonTeakettle.com/musmews.htm.

When you go to my site, you will see one article—“Training Your Cat Like a Dog” —which I offer free because it was already widely published (in paying publications in the U.S. and Canada) and won $1,000 from Sticky Paws at a Cat Writers’ Association conference. That actually serves me well, because many rescue organizations pick up the article and direct their visitors to my website.

Decide when and with whom you want to share your work. And keep the infringers out!

Barbara Florio Graham is an author and book consultant who shares her office with her famous cat, Simon Teakettle. www.simonteakettle.com

A Twelve-Point Checklist for a Writer Website that’s a Client Magnet

by Carol Tice

Not getting the quality of writing clients you’d like? The problem could be your writer website. I’ve reviewed hundreds of writer websites and blogs, and find most sites don’t present the writer professionally. They simply aren’t set up to attract the best clients.

How can you turn your writer site into a client magnet? Here is my 12-step checklist:

1.   An appealing, informational header. The top of your site should have a simple graphic and either your name or your company name, as in “Spiffy Writer Communications.” If your headline doesn’t do it, your tagline should describe the type of writing you do, such as “Boston healthcare writer.” Your URL, headline, and tagline are highly ranked by Google for searches, so putting key words prospects might search on for your writer type in those three places can help you get found.

2.   Clear, visible contact information. Don’t hide a fill-in form under a tab and think that prospects will get in touch. No one wants to fill those out. Instead, put your contact information in your header or at the top of your sidebar, so it’s visible on every page of your site. If you’re including social-media buttons, make those less prominent than your email and phone. You can’t feed your family off a Facebook “like”—you want them to call and hire you.

3.   Strong landing-page copy. Do you want clients to hire you to write web copy? Well, this is your audition. Make it concise, polished, and exceptionally engaging. In my experience, most writers don’t spend enough time making this landing page copy sing. For instance, here’s the landing page of a writer who ranks well on a Google search for “freelance writer.” www.emilysuess.com

4.   Friendly, professional head shot. My motto is: People hire people. Prospects want to see your face so they see you are a real person, and they can imagine hiring you. It shouldn’t be a picture of you in a bikini holding a drink, or your dog. Or a picture of you taking a picture of yourself on your phone. It doesn’t have to be stiff, but it should present you professionally. Here’s one of my favorite writer shots. www.oscarhalpert.com

5.   Strong About page. The About page is the second-most-visited page on most websites. Instead of a boring resume recitation with company names and dates, tell a story about the writer you are and where you’ve written. You can see how I’ve killed my resume and told a story instead on my About page. (www.caroltice.com/resume). Whatever you do, don’t say that you wanted to be a writer ever since you were five. Clients don’t care. Read your site from a client’s point of view, and make sure it explains the benefits for them of hiring you instead of some other writer.

6.   Clips and lots of ’em. The top thing prospects want to do on your site is read your work. So make sure your clips are readable, not just PDF pictures of a clip. Try not to include PDFs that require a download, as many prospects won’t trust your site enough to download from it. If you write in different niches, group your clips so prospects can shoot right to the type they want to read.

7.      Scannability. Don’t make prospects read long, chunky blocks of text. Do bullet points of client names, or of the types of writing you do. That way, readers can quickly see if you have the expertise they want.

8.   Clean, simple design. To begin with, your font size should be nice and large—14-point is good. Choose a simple sans-serif font. Don’t have colored backgrounds running under your text, as it just makes your words hard to read. Avoid dark or black backgrounds with white letters. There’s a reason newspapers are off-white with black letters—it’s because that’s what’s easiest to read.

9.   Useful navigation. A typical writer website needs only a handful of tabs. Don’t make complex drop-down menus that offer too many choices, or have a second set of buttons in the sidebar. That’s just confusing.

10.      Testimonials. This is one of the most powerful pages you can have on a writer website. If you have some recommendations on LinkedIn, add copies here. Get in the habit of soliciting testimonials from clients. Ideally, ask if you can have a small head shot of each client to use with the testimonial—raves with head shots help clients picture themselves hiring you and having a great experience.

11. Kill the search bar. Your website isn’t big and complicated enough to need a search bar. You don’t want prospects randomly searching around, either—you want them to follow your navigation, read your clips, and hire you.

12. Frequent updates. The simple way to achieve search-engine magic for your writer website is to keep updating it. Google doesn’t like static sites. Try to get byline links back to your site when you write online to help Google think you’re important. Keep adding new clips as you get them. Occasionally rewrite your static pages so they serve Google some fresh copy. If you don’t believe you can rank for a search and get found, do a search for “Seattle freelance writer.” I’m usually number-one on that search, and I’ve just described everything I do to get that ranking. If you think you can’t get clients off natural search, I’ll just say I’ve gotten several Fortune 500 clients off Google. It’s worth a small time investment in your site, I promise you.

To sum it all up in one tip: Commit to constantly tweaking and improving your site. Just keep making it better. Every little change will help.

And lest you think my writer website was born awesome, here’s a video about how my website sucked, and what I did to fix it.

http://www.makealivingwriting.com/2011/05/16/how-i-fixed-sucky-writer-website/

Carol Tice writes the award-winning Make a Living Writing Blog. She also serves as Den Mother of the Freelance Writers Den, her learning and support community where members get complimentary website reviews.

A Step-by-Step Guide to WordPress

by Joanna Celeste

These days, it’s easy to create a website. I went to www.wordpress.com and filled in a few boxes, selected a template, and voila! I had a website. But I was dismayed. Then what? Where do I start?

I filled in the pages with text, published works and my photographs, but the website just sat there in cyberspace as a two-dimensional thing that felt Not Quite Right. I occasionally fiddled with it and gave up again. Two years passed.

Then, while in college studying the History of Documentaries, I discovered my problem. My website was lacking a story arc. Every form of artistic expression seems, at heart, to be telling a story. An illustrator paints a story with colors, shapes, shadows and white space. A writer or a poet sees stories in everything, and tries to capture a few of them onto paper. Even a publisher is telling a story in the way books are crafted, and in the way the publisher selects the stories he or she wants to share.

So by extension, my website should tell a story. Websites have their own form, with a hook on the home page, the pacing of supplemental pages, the characterization in the About Me and the choices of colors and illustrations…they lead the reader through to a resolution, whether it’s to buy something or to find out more.

Since I was introducing myself—and my work—to the world through my website, I chose to approach this as a nonfiction story and reviewed On Writing Well by William Zinsser. He referred to the importance of “unity” in Chapter 8, and how each piece of writing should be consistent in mood, tense and pronoun, etc. Likewise, when building a website, I had to be consistent in my purpose, tone, rhythm and style. Would I be spunky, down-to-earth, or conservative? How do I play this?

So this is where I have to start: Choose my story, craft the arc, and be true to form. To write website copy is hard; to tell a story is easy.

I have done websites with WordPress, Yolasite.com, and Microsoft Live. My favorite is WordPress. It seems to be the most user-friendly, the most reader-friendly, and can be customized.

1)   Go to http://wordpress.com. In the center of the top black bar, click on “Sign Up.”

2)   Enter the name you would like for your blog to see if it is available (or you can select the drop-down list by wordpress.com and pay for .me/.net/.com, etc.)

3)   Enter your preferred username. Toggle with it until you find one that is available.

4)   Enter your password.

5)   Enter an email address you actually check.

6)   Choose your preferred language.

7)   Select “Create Blog.”

8)   Check your email to complete registration. Click on “Activate Blog.”

9)   A new page from WordPress pops up. Your blog is activated. Click on “My Blogs” in the grey top menu bar.

10)  Select “Dashboard” under your blog.

11)  Select “Screen Options” in the top right corner of the screen to uncheck various items you may not need (leave QuickPress because that’s useful). Click on “Screen Options” to close the menu.

12)  Select “Appearance” from the left hand bar.

13)  Select “Themes” from the menu that appears.

14)  Scroll through to find one you like. Make sure there isn’t a price in parentheses—most are free.

15)  Select “Activate.”

16)  This should return you to the Dashboard screen. In the top far left under “Helpful                Resources” click on “General Settings.”

17)  Enter your own tagline in the box.

18)  (In the left-hand bar you can upload an image.)

19)  Click on “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page.

20)  On the top far left click on “Home” and select “Dashboard” from the side menu.

21)  Under “Your Stuff,” by “Hello World!” click on “Edit.” WordPress guides you through the steps of editing your first post.

22)  To add pages, select “Pages,” “Add New” from the left sidebar menu.

Good luck!

Joanna Celeste was first published at fourteen as a teen reporter for her community newspaper “The Friday Flyer.” In the twelve years since, she has published twenty-two articles and short stories in various media and has edited forty-seven published works in fiction and nonfiction. She loves to discover new ways of telling a story, and is always exploring new creative venues (which often leads to inventing desserts or dance moves).  joanna.celeste@ymail.com http://www.notionsofagirl.wordpress.com

Why Websites Are Important and How To Get Starte

by Virginia Lawrence

Having a website is vital today for any business, including the writing and publishing businesses. There are several reasons why this is true:

Online Search vs. Phone Books: In the last few years, easy online searching has decreased the importance of printed directories and created a population used to instant gratification in their search for information. I’m an extreme case, but when the physical telephone books arrive, I simply throw them into the recycle bin. That’s because I have my computer on all the time and I find it much easier to do a quick online search than a physical directory search. Not only is the online search faster than looking up a business in a directory, but I can get a lot more information from a website than from a phone directory printed listing.

Positioning a Business for Online Search: Given that so many people are searching for people, services and products online, it seems reasonable to start some online marketing. However, to carry out effective online marketing, we must have an online presence, a fully descriptive website.

Online Marketing Is Efficient and Inexpensive: Starting from a well-designed website, businesses find that online marketing is much less expensive than print, radio, or TV advertising. Not only is online marketing less expensive than advertising, but online marketing can be much more effective with a longer-lasting effect.

When deciding how to build a new website, you need to keep in mind four main goals. The website must display relevance, trust, appeal, and clear action.

  • Relevance: The website must be truly relevant to your goal. The site should clarify what you do, what you sell, and why your services/products are important.
  • Trust: The website should make your expertise clear by displaying important content and including believable testimonials.
  • Appeal: The website should have an appropriate design that fits the topic and the target market. A site for a children’s book, for example, will look very different from a site for a Regency romance writer. Those sites will be different from a site built by a publisher of extreme sports books.
  • Clear Call to Action: Whenever you want the site visitor to do something, tell him exactly what he should do. Tell him to click here to buy the book on Amazon or buy securely now from your purchase page. Tell the site visitor to call you now to discuss your book editing services. Remember that human beings do not all think alike and we are not necessarily great at following implied instructions. Most of us need to be told exactly what you want us to do and how to do it.

Note that the high-quality website comes first, before the online marketing. That’s because even great marketing will not accomplish your goals unless your website is relevant to the topic being searched and your site visitors consider the site appealing and trustworthy.

When you’re ready to build the site and you have an overview of the look and the content, it’s time to decide how to build the website. Your main website construction choices are:

  • HTML: These are websites with pages created by using HTML coding. These websites require some HTML knowledge to create and later to update the website. When done correctly, with all important text available as text, HTML websites are very visible to Google.
  • Word Press: WordPress websites created by using the free WordPress blogging platform. After these sites have been created, the website owner can easily update the pages and add new blog posts. When done correctly, WordPress websites are very visible to Google, and when new content is posted regularly, they present fresh content regularly, leading to better rankings in Google.
  • Flash: Websites created using Flash are essentially created as video displays. These sites are commonly very visually interesting, but they are not well indexed by Google. I suggest that you do not consider building a Flash website.
  • Joomla or Drupal: Two alternatives to the WordPress structure. I consider both to be inferior to WordPress for several reasons. Without going into technical details, I suggest that you choose WordPress if you want a website you can easily update.

Note that both the HTML website and the WordPress website are visible to Google, and that visibility is extremely important. You want Google to be able to read and index the pages of your website, because if Google can read the website, that’s the first step toward people finding you in Google.

To come up higher in the results of a Google search, you should update your site frequently to attract Google, because Google is now putting sites with fresh content ahead of sites with old content. Adding new content to your site on a regular basis give you fresh content for Google. Using a blog is the easiest way to publish new content, and publishing in a blog is extremely helpful to your site’s Google rank.

Plan your site to be representative of your expertise, your services, and products, adding more information regularly to encourage Google to consider the site to be important

Copyright 2012 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D. Virginia is a past Executive Director of SPAWN and currently a board member. She has been a web developer and web marketer since 1995, developing and marketing websites for authors, publishers, hotels, jewelers, aerospace, public relations, payroll services, real estate, and entertainment companies. Her online marketing makes her client sites rank well in Google searches, guiding the websites to profitability. http://www.cognitext.com.

Member News

Bell Bridge Books just released C. Hope Clark’s novel Lowcountry Bribe – a Carolina Slade Mystery on February 1.

"A bribe, threats, a dead employee, a high-level investigation, and a sinister hog farmer: Lowcountry Ag Department manager Carolina Slade is a bean-counting civil servant in hot water. She better dig up the truth before it kills her."

Available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, most bookstores and www.bellbridgebooks.com. Visit Hope’s new website at www.chopeclark.com.

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Rex Owens will have an article published in the “125 Years of The Writer and You” section of the May The Writer magazine.

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Leslie Korenko will have an article featured in the Spring edition of Inland Seas magazine (http://www.inlandseas.org). She tells the story of the first steamboat on the Great Lakes, Walk-in-the-Water, which made its first trip in 1818. Leslie has written a series of books about the history of Kelleys Island (www.KelleysIslandStory.com ).

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Mari Barnes’ Crossing River Jordan, the sequel to Parting River Jordan, will be published in March. Parting River Jordan will be re-released with a new cover and improved content (better proofreading). Mari is mining two of Patricia Fry’s books, The Author’s Repair Kit and Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book, in her quest for successful marketing and promotion.

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Sandra Beckwith is speaking at the 2012 American Society of Journalists and Authors annual conference in New York City this spring. She’s participating in a panel discussion, “Nurturing Writer Friendships,” on Saturday, April 28. For more information on the ASJA conference, please visit http://www.asja.org/wc/.

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Barbara Florio Graham is offering a spring discount on her Canadian Libraries list again this year. Mailing addresses for 90-100 libraries with purchasing power (number varies as the list is continuously updated) in Word format, ready to print on labels. The list is 90% accurate. Full database and instructions for doing a co-op mailing are included. Regular price $35. $5 discount if you put SPAWN offer in the subject line of your email to BFG@SimonTeakettle.com. This offer begins April 1 and ends June 30. Details about this list at: www.SimonTeakettle.com/canlibr.htm.

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Joanna Celeste was accepted into Robert Quackenbush’s Workshop for Picture Book writers and is a full member of SCBWI.

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The National Indie Excellence Awards! In its 6th year, it’s going strong. For details, go to www.indieexcellence.com

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