Pub Rants

Most Valuable Asset

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STATUS: I had to get up early this morning for an 8:30 a.m. panel. Thank goodness for Chai lattes! And yes, I don’t normally blog on a Saturday but I making up for Wednesday’s missed blog. Have a great weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? STAND BACK by Stevie Nicks

Last night I was at the Bantam/Ballantine cocktail party at The Mansion on Turtle Creek where I ended up chatting with a B&N book buyer. She said that the most important tool an author could have is a website.

And I agree. The buyers do actually look at author websites and potentially use them for their internet marketing.

But what is clear to me (and what I actually chatted about incoherently on today’s early morning panel) is that it can’t be any old website. It has to be dynamic.

Websites by nature are static. If very little changes, it won’t draw readers back to the site (and the purpose of the site ceases to be all that valuable). So here are the tips I shared with the attendees this morning. How does one make a dynamic site?

1. Have it professionally done. Amateur sites can hinder more than help. If you aren’t a plumber, then you wouldn’t try to tackle sweating pipes. Leave it to the professionals. It’s worth paying for expertise.

2. It’s all about the content—of course! You need to provide it. If it’s just about your books or you as the author, it won’t draw repeated visits. Make it valuable.


Provide resources
Add deleted scenes that you love but didn’t quite make it into the final book
Get creative. Interview your characters.
Write a series of letters to your fans and post them there (and share them with Borders, B&N etc.)
Have ever-changing content or decide to blog (hint: If you can’t do this on regular basis, then don’t do it. It has to be regular to keep readers coming back).
How can you be interactive on the site? Chat sessions? Start a round robin story where fans can participate in the writing. Teach an online workshop.

Yes, this might mean you need to get more technologically savvy but remember, that could actually turn out to be fun. The internet is growing in importance for author marketing and since it’s not going away… embrace it!

22 Responses

  1. kris baby said:

    No, Kristin. I will not interview the characters. The last time I tried they refused to return inside the book, and I had to force their compliance by threatening to tell everyone they don’t really even exist. And it kind of blew their mystique.
    how silly.

  2. Karen said:

    I love the deleted scenes idea! It’s like having a director’s cut for books. Besides, it’s easier to kill the scene if you know you’ll find a use for it somewhere else.

  3. Tammie said:

    Great suggestions – thanks!

    I have to ask myself why I return to certain sites and hope to learn from them as well.

    Thanks again, great suggestions.


  4. Anonymous said:

    My MC blogs. Only, the blog is set six years before the first book. That gives me an opportunity to come up with a full background for her and introduce characters she already knows in the book.

    Other things I update regularly are my own blog, news, and recently read books.

  5. Anonymous said:

    I wonder, does having an anonymous blog which develops some following help or hinder when I finally get published and reveal my True Identity? I’ve been blogging about writing because it’s a topic I know, but I’ve never yet published a novel. Embarrassingly egotistical, I know.

  6. Manic Mom said:

    As an agented, yet unpublished author, these are GREAT suggestions! Thank you Kristin! I especially love the idea of posting scenes that didn’t make it into the final!

    And having a website/blog is a great way to connect with other authors. I’ve just been lucky enough to start up a friendship with up-and-coming new author Patricia Wood (Lottery, comes out August 2–Incredible read!), and these relationships I’m making are so valuable.

    It’s so wonderful that in this industry, it truly does seem that authors wants to help others succeed!

  7. Chumplet said:

    My blog is under my nickname, but it’s clear who it belongs to. I find it more immediate and personal than a website. It’s easy to navigate, and I have direct contact with my commentors.

    It’s true, Manic Mom, how we can all network through our blogs. We can offer support for our fellow writers and help promote their books. We can also provide links to encourage more traffic. I’m still floored when I receive encouragement from people I would never expect.

  8. ORION said:

    Hey I heard that!
    Really though, the supportive network between debut authors, new authors and writers on the blogosphere is tremendous. The Debutante Ball Grog has been enormously supportive of new authors.
    I am gratified by the support writers have shown me!
    Thanks yeah?

  9. Vicki said:

    Your workshop was great. I knew this was one workshop that I didn’t want to miss.

    Insert here: The 8:30am workshop.(g)

    If you were not at conference this means you are waking up more than likely after three hours sleep. With less than focused eyes you wander into the bathroom, slap on consealer to hide the bags now formed under your eyes, and make your way to the elevator. You wait. The door opens but there’s no room. You wait again. Now waiting is not so bad as you meet new friends who mumble good morning. Their eyes looking much like your own. The door opens, the elevator is empty, you get in ecstatic only to find the reason it was empty is now everyone is in line for Starbucks. Again you wait.

    The workshop was worth it all, the early morning rise, the line at Starbucks, and standing in the back of the room. From my viewpoint in the back of the room I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Pens flew across pads of paper as notes where taken.

    Thank you Kristin and the rest of the panel for a wonderful workshop, it was so worth getting up early.

  10. lmclucas said:

    Is a website a good idea if the writer is still unagented and his/her crack at the “Great American Novel” still unpublished? What do other unpublished authors put on websites?

  11. Chumplet said:

    It’s still a good idea, even if you don’t have an agent. You can show newer writers what you have learned from your mistakes (without too much emphasis on the mistake!), what advice you’ve been given that’s good to pass on, and to show your personality.

    Many people don’t realize how much their personality comes through in the written word. Who knows, perhaps you’ll strike new friendships with people that may help you with your writing, through support and contacts.

  12. Peter K said:

    It is a good idea – even before the magical accolade of ‘published’ – as Chumplet has said – ‘for newer newbies’.’Getting started’ could also be a story.

    A professional job of setting it up? well, it would have to be worth the investment – unless ‘blog simple’ and then would one need a pro?

  13. Kimber An said:

    One of the most baffling things is when a Science Fiction author (or any sub-genre thereof) does not have a web presence! Uh, hello, where do you think little girls who had crushs on Commander Data and Han Solo went when they grew up? Hmmm? Well, after getting off work at NASA (an example of their many demanding careers which many juggle with motherhood) they hang out in cyber-space discussing Games of Command (among other novels). That’s where! These are not impulse buyers. The opinions of their friends and cyber-friends mean a lot to them.

    (Here’s a tip for authors: Put a Google Alert on the titles of your books! I’ve seen it make a huge difference when authors get in on these conversations.)

    I don’t fault these authors, however. The ones I know work their butts off. They may not be getting advice entirely appropriate for their genre or sub-genre. There are still industry professionals who don’t place much importance on the Internet.

  14. Kimber An said:

    Lisa, I think you’re doing a great job on your blog!

    I agree it’s a good idea to have a website and blog before an author is even agented. I have learned sooooo much about this business through mine. Blogger is free. My website is also free and can be upgraded to professional grade when the time comes.

  15. Kathleen Fasanella said:

    I continue to be shocked by the number of writers who don’t blog. I think it is mandatory for non-fiction.

    Out of boredom, I started a blog two years ago. Giving away free information, I sell more books than ever. I’m not going to say how much I make but my income has quadrupled. Likewise, I never could have anticipated that my blog would become the number one destination site for my industry. It has entirely reshaped my career. I have about 1,000 pages of content now. I get about 5-8 thousand visitors a day which isn’t bad for my niche (DIY apparel manufacturing) with some traffic spikes up to 16-20 thousand on some (rare) days.

    I didn’t hire somebody to set it up tho. I installed movable type *myself*, before there was such a thing as an installer, definitely trial by fire! I’m the type to RTFM and I have conservative, functional tastes. I played in sandboxes to learn but definitely don’t muck it up if you’re new to it all. I’ve written two posts on what not to do but I don’t think blogger likes links in comments.

  16. cynjay said:

    I agree about blogging – my not-very-techno self set it up in minutes. I love it, but I’m a kidlit writer, and once my first book comes out in Spring of 2008, I’m going to have to either revamp the existing blog or start a different blog that is linked to the website and is specifically for kids.

    I think that is one problem for those of us who write for kids – how to gear our blogs and websites to our audience. Right now I write about writing, as well as other life issues. I like the idea of the MC having a blog – that would make it appropriate for kids. Keep your audience in mind when you are putting yourself on the web.

  17. Scott Smith said:

    The last time I tried sweating a pipe, I almost set the house on fire, and I did burn a hole clean through an asbestos blanket. :->

    An author with an updated tour schedule is golden. Pictures… more pictures. Links to interviews. I’m not a book club guy, but my oldest sister and her group love having book club cheater sheets.

    Not all authors are as interesting as Neil Gaiman or John McNally, but readers want to know when the author is coming to town or being interviewed, etc.

    Judging from Richard Russo’s publisher’s site, even the biggest writers can’t rely on their publishers providing updated info.

  18. Lexi said:

    Oh, great ideas! This comes at the perfect time because I’m getting ready to meet with a friend who’s actually a computer guru to talk about a website for me! Thanks!

  19. rachel said:

    Just found this post and I have a question: Where do MySpace pages fit in? They’re fully customizable and dynamic, and already part of a network.