Simple Website for My Books and Stories

I really need to create a website where the emphasis is on my published work. I did this once before, but hated my design, and didn’t think about it again. I have a pretty good idea of how it should look and could do it either with one of the WordPress templates, or by using a site like Wix. The main question is which is more likely to be seen. It might be good to get out of the WP environment into a new one. But using the same tags and meta description, would one be more visible than the other?

Any suggestions? Your experience?

Eyebrow Raised in Puzzlement

122 blogs? How in the world can anyone maintain 122 blogs? Someone was apologizing (I think it was an apology, but I didn’t read far enough to be sure) for having spammed his readers with 122 blogs. Big “Oh!” Another one of those people who can’t seem to get that a blog is the container, which contains posts. Maybe it’s because we can say we’re blogging, which would lead to the idea that we’re writing blogs. Say it three times. Okay, once will do. A blog is the container. Posts are the content.

And then there’s Ello (ello.com), where fashionable grey text is carried to the extreme. All the text on the site is grey, but when you get down to nitty gritty stuff like writing, either your own stuff, or comments, the grey fades even further into near-invisibility. I don’t know whether commenting was down or the button to let me actually publish it had disappeared into the woodwork. As usual, I tried it on another browser. No go. So even though there was one writer whose posts I liked very much, enough to want to follow him, and was optimistic enough to think there might be more, the eyestrain wasn’t worth it. My presence on Ello lasted about two days. Another social networking site down. Very few left to go, I’m afraid.

And then there’s Wattpad. I reopened my account to give it another try. Let’s serialize Gift of the Ancien and see what happens. Maybe I’ll get enough of a response to encourage to finish revising the monster. And it is a monster, as something over 100,000 words. Anyway, the user interface is something out of the 90s, but I did manage to get 1100 words up. I didn’t see any way to format the material, but maybe Firefox just doesn’t show the formatting bar. That’s an ongoing problem when you’re on a Mac, but most sites have accepted that Mac users do exist and have upgraded their sites to be usable for us.

Posting a cover for the story involves either using their cover creator, which I wasn’t about to tackle, especially after having already put an hour into designing a cover, or inputting a URL for your image. Never mind that every other site lets you drag and drop your images. It’s been years since I had to host an image somewhere in order to get a URL. Lucky that I can drag and drop to WordPress, and use that URL.

So the first part is up, but nowhere to be found. Wattpad has section for HOT, Featured, and Undiscovered in each genre. Nowhere is there a section for NEW. Undiscovered goes on forever, and every one of those poor, lagging works of genius has at least 100 or so reads. If my bit is at the very end, there is no one on earth who has the patience to keep scrolling down to find it. And why would they?

So, how does one find brand new contributions on Wattpad? I have no idea.

Going Back to Google+ — Sort of

There’s such a thing as burning too many bridges. If I wanted to remain the total recluse that I’d prefer to be, cutting almost every tie with the internet wouldn’t cost me a moment’s hesitation. But being a writer makes that a loser’s life. I don’t write to create a career or make lots and lots of dollars. But I don’t see the point of pouring hundreds of hours into writing a novel and then tucking it away on my hard drive, never to be seen again. I want to be read. I want to make a few dollars now and then, if only to prove to myself that my writing has value beyond my own opinion of it.

Writers can’t afford to be invisible. But there’s no law that says you have to be an entrepreneur, or any kind of business person. You don’t have to devote significant time and energy to marketing, no matter how many “experts” tell you otherwise. Because you can do all that and still not be a “success.” You can write one book a year, or one book a decade.

I still don’t know where my balance lies, between letting the world know that I have books that they might enjoy, and keeping myself to myself. Going back to G+ and figuring out how to use it so it serves my needs is just one more stab at serving the books while protecting myself.

As long as I’m moving in that direction again, I might register for Ello, a social site for creatives that started up a couple of years back and settled into comparative obscurity after briefly lighting up the internet. It was touted (not by its founders) as a Facebook killer, which it was never intended to be, and never made any attempt to become. As usual, I’ll circle around that campfire for a while, to get a good sense of what it’s like and whether it might be worth my time. Maybe even enjoyable? Though I’ve really given up on getting any enjoyment from social interaction on websites.

Ello

Slow Dip into Wattpad

I’ve been giving some thought to rejoining Wattpad and today I did it. I’ve learned a lot about cross-promotion since I was originally on the site (turns out that was way back in 2012), so I wouldn’t have the same expectations. The first surprise was discovering that I either never got around to deleting my account, or it’s one of those sites you can never leave.

If anything, the site is more wildly popular than ever, hence harder than ever to win eyeballs, so I’ll have to figure out a fine balance between using it to my best advantage and not putting too much time and effort into it.

I did the basic profile setup, but won’t actually be posting any work for a while. Not until Camp Expendable is finished, and I’m making a good dent in Set Me Free. I’ll probably start with an expanded version of Refuge, which is posted here, and then, depending on its reception, start putting A Well-Educated Boy on the site. That’s one of the many stories I really need to finish, but will work out the still undeveloped part of the plot before starting to serialize it on Wattpad.

The whole thing is purely experimental, and will have to fit in the cracks and crannies between major WIPs. This is the kind of thing I’ll jump into just because I’m bored and need to do something drastically different. It also means that with my usual turn-on-a-dime mind-changes, I might just say “the hell with it” one day and depart Wattpad forever.

 

How Long Do You Wait to Ask for Help?

Kboards’ Writers’ Cafe forum is a good source for information about writing and publishing. It’s also a treasure-house of inspiration for blog posts. A common saying is that if you’re smart enough to write a novel, you’re smart enough to learn how to give your book the best possible chance of being bought and read. I wish that was true, but some of the questions that writers ask on Writers’ Cafe and elsewhere almost disprove it.

So we have a writer who’s published one book and seen zero sales. For close to a year. And he now asks whether anyone buys books in his genre. Kboards is a pretty supportive place to bring your troubles to, but members don’t hesitate to tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong. Naturally, this became a very active thread. After reading through it, then taking a quick glance at the book on Amazon, it would be appropriate to ask what mistakes the writer has not made. He seems to have hit every possible one right on the mark.

First, the cover. Not only is it unmistakably self-created, it could serve as the definition of a “nothing” cover. It is bland, boring, and completely uninformative about the genre it’s covering. By the way, the same could be said for the writer’s web site, but that’s a side issue. Just listing the problems commented on by board members, we have: a blurb so short and generic that it conveys absolutely nothing about the story. An unnecessary introduction, and writing that is barely adequate, with punctuation and tense errors. poor pacing, and too much exposition.

To add to the problems, the novel is the first of a series, by an unknown author, and the second volume still hasn’t appeared after almost a year. The writer has also failed to make use of keywords that would place the book in as many appropriate categories as possible.

Promotion has apparently consisted of giving away copies. Period. And the website I mentioned has nothing on it to attract readers or tell them what the book is about. It’s difficult even to find sales links.

Here we have someone who wrote and published a book, waited nearly a year to ask what was wrong, and wanted to blame it all on the genre. In that amount of time, he could have read any number of books and articles on writing technique, publishing, promotion, etc. How smart is that?

Has the writer come back to the forum to comment, to thank the people who offered help, even a free cover, or to ask for specifics in some areas? Not so far, in over 24 hours.

Staggering From Pillar to Post

I spent most of the last month trying out a variety of sites for both income and promotion. Most of that time was a waste, but I didn’t have high hopes for any of it, so — no surprise. I tried, and left: Tsu, Amazon’s WriteOn, and CGPGallery.

Tsu was heavily touted as a money-earning version of Facebook, with hordes of people jumping on in the belief that it was going to be a new source of easy money. I joined in the hope that it might bring some attention to my writing. After about two weeks, I left for the same reason that I’m not a member of any other social network. To be seen, you have to interact constantly, not my cup of tea. On Tsu, you also have to put up with a feed that includes friends of friends of friends. The longer I was on the site, the more time I spent scrolling through my feed just to find one interesting item.

Amazon’s WriteOn is a great idea for anyone who doesn’t mind spending their time critiquing other people’s work. Potentially, posting your writing there might bring you to the attention of one of Amazon’s staff, but that’s a long shot. Again, you have to interact in order to be seen. As with every other site, it’s tit for tat. I barely have the energy to keep up with my own writing; the hunt for anything with even a slight potential for benefitting by critiques took most of that energy. The majority of writers are youngsters doing poorly conceived and badly written variations on popular series and themes.

Not much needs to be said about CGPGallery, which is just one more badly designed and managed clone of every revenue-sharing site that’s ever been on the web. Its pay rate has brought floods of people looking for the fast buck, including refugees from Bubblews.

And that brings us to Bubblews, where I earned a few hundred dollars over the nine months of my membership. I crossed my fingers when I joined, thinking that it looked too good to be true. It was. The management abruptly reneged on hundreds of thousands of dollars in back payments, slashed more recent payments that were still pending, and cut the pay rate down drastically. The rats fled the sinking ship  in droves, despite more promises of great things in the pipeline. And today, with the notice that my last payment had cleared, and my last posts safely deleted, I became one of those rats.

So what am I doing now? Just after Christmas, I joined Wikinut, another revenue-sharing site. (She never learns, does she?) The pay rate is very low, but the site is well-managed (comparatively), and is set up for long-term earning. If all I wanted was the money, I wouldn’t bother, but there are topics I want to write about with some depth, without the struggle of trying to build a readership for yet another blog.

Other than that, I’m pondering whether to serialize an in-progress novella on my website. I started to do that on WriteOn, but deleted all my work there before I left. Serializing worked very well on my Live Journal blog, but I don’t really maintain it any more, and I want to build up the website as quickly as possible.

2015 is off to a somewhat rocky start, but at least the decks are cleared.

Progress on Nearly all Fronts

Wrestling with Gift of the Ancien is keeping me busy enough, you’d think I’d stick with just that one project. But no, that would make my life too easy. So I’m writing what will be my first ever permafree piece on Amazon. I promised I’d never give away any of my work (except on my website) so that promise is broken. It’s a short story in the Hand Slaves universe, so that’s sort of a promise broken. But my feelings about that world continue to be ambivalent, and a short story isn’t really going to take that much of my time, after all.

The work on Ancien is taking it in all sorts of directions that I never planned. And now, it will include a short story written by one of the characters, but never finished. One of the pieces that I originally intended to be an interlude will also be an internal short story, but that one is finished. I love the interludes and hated the idea of abandoning them, but they just didn’t work as interludes because all they did was interrupt the main story. I think this will work out. It had better work out.

What else? I’m starting to post chunks of A Well-Educated Boy on Amazon’s WriteOn. Becoming a member there was, very frankly, intended to be primarily for the sake of promotion. But it’s becoming more than that. The site has some very good writers, and some with the potential to become good or excellent with some gentle critiquing. Even I, overwhelmingly superior and awesome writer that I am (that’s a joke), can always use an objective eye.

Well-Educated Boy is somewhere around halfway to completion — very long short story? very short novella? — and posting online, with the threat of reaching the last chunk and having nothing more to add, is very motivating. All I have to do is figure out the rest of the plot.

In the little  nooks and crannies of daily life, I squeeze in short posts for Bubblews and even find time to eat.

Have I mentioned that a free short story is up on my website? It is. Refuge: a depressing tale about a small group of people cast out of their community, and a winter that starts too early.

 

What I’m Gonna Do, I Think

I’d like to expand the reach of this blog, make it more useful and interesting. I’ve been thinking about how to do that, and here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

1. Write more book reviews. My reviews have been so few and far between that there are probably quite a few readers who aren’t aware that I’ve written any at all. I’m going to try very hard to change that. (I know: “There is no try, just do.)

2. Invite guest posts. That pretty much speaks for itself, I think. I’ll set a few guidelines and see where it goes.

3. Invite book promotions. No fees. No requirement that your book have x number of favorable reviews. But I will set definite guidelines and will also put a limit on the genres I’m willing to host here. For instance, no zombies, no erotica. Not even romance, thank you. Mainly, I want to avoid the equivalent of popcorn movies — read once and discard, and books that are clearly written for no other purpose than to make as many bucks as possible.

This could work out very well, both for the blog and for authors who’ve written books worth reading, but are having problems with promotion. This isn’t the biggest blog on the net, but it has enough of a readership to be of use to a writer.

Or — it could be an unmitigated disaster, resulting in an overload of work for me, and a lot of people ticked off about being rejected.

What sayest thou, faithful readers? Would you like to see any of these features? All of them? None? I’m open to suggestions and criticism.

Building a Website

Once I decided that I really need a high-quality author’s website, the work began. My Weebly site was okay, but I’d never put as much thought into it as I should, and I always felt uncomfortable with Weebly. I didn’t really want to spend money on a site, but I wanted maximum design flexibility, among other things, and free sites just don’t offer that. I’ll probably go with Squarespace, but I won’t use the free introductory period until I have the content well worked out, and a solid idea for the design.

In the meantime, I’ve been looking at other author’s sites to get ideas, and haven’t been impressed by many of them. Trying to see them as a reader would, I wound up wondering why readers would bother to come back after one visit. So I’ve been picking up ideas, always keeping in mind that I want the site to be well-organized and easy to navigate, offer reasons for readers to keep visiting, and, above all, that it be representative of the kind of writing I do, both fiction and nonfiction. That’s a pretty tall order, but it’s beginning to take shape.

Of course I’ve also been reading articles on website design, particularly on what an author needs for a successful site, and some of those have been very helpful. One of the best is Amber Ludwig’s Make Your Website Do the Work: The 6 Site MUST-Haves to Sell More Books, Improve Your Credibility and Grow Your Following. It’s a quick read. If you are considering building a website to promote your writing, I’d consider it a must.

There’s That Ugly Word Again – Promotion

There’s no getting away from it. If you write and publish, you’re competing with hundreds of thousands of other writers and millions of books. Advice, good and bad, comes at you from all sides, and it’s almost impossible to distinguish the good from the bad. Or at least the useful from the useless. To make things worse, the sands are always shifting under your feet and what worked yesterday is a waste of time (and money) today.

What makes the most sense for me when it comes to self-promotion is to know what I am and am not willing to do to promote my books. How much time I’m willing to put into it. (Not very much.) How much money I’m willing to spend. (For promotion? Not even a penny.)

It also makes sense to read as widely as possible, to pay attention to the most successful writers when they tell us what works for them, and then ignore what doesn’t fit our own situation.

Every little bit of knowledge helps, so consider this my way of adding to your knowledge. And remember that everything you read needs to be taken with a grain of salt and with your own needs and preferences in mind.

1. David Gaughran has made Let’s Get Visible available for $.99 through Friday. It concentrates on using Amazon to its best advantage and offers a ton of information that you probably didn’t know about Amazon’s algorithms, best seller lists, etc.

2. Write, Publish, Repeat: The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. This is a very chatty book with a lot of material that’s more entertaining than useful, but it does have a solid core of “how-to” that anyone can use.

3. “The Writer’s Guide to Building an Email List” from Your Writer Platform blog. The more I read about mail lists, the more I’m convinced that they’re an important method for increasing your readership. But only if they’re done right and are part of a sensible promotion strategy.

4. More on setting up a mail list, specifically with Mailchimp, courtesy of a Kboards member. A Total Newbie’s Guide to Getting Started with Mailchimp.

5. Mystery writer Louisa Locke explains the importance of using Amazon’s search bar. Lots of stuff I had no idea about, since my main interest in the search bar has been as a reader. “How to Sell Books in the Kindle Store with the Search Bar.”

6. Finally, if you’ve been wondering whether it’s worth it to blog and want to know how best to do it as a part of your author’s platform, Your Writer Platform comes to the rescue again. This time, with “5 Steps to Blogging Mastery for Fiction Writers.”