Unanswered Q&A from the live webinar, Best Practices for Author Websites and Blogs, with Jane Friedman.
If your question wasn't answered during the live webinar, Jane wrote answers to you below.
How do you collect names for a mailing list and what technology do you recommend?
We’ll address this in a future webinar, but for now:
How do you protect your copyrighted content when you put it online if it is not yet published it in a book?
If you wish, you could register the work with the copyright office just as you would a book. But I don’t think this is necessary unless you’re actively selling the work in some manner. Your work is protected under the law even if you don’t file for copyright registration. If you have very serious concerns, don’t put the work online.
I use the Author Guild website service, but its limitation is that the URL is based primarily in the AG and not in my name, which I've found limits my searchability and promotional linking. I have a visitor tracking service on it that shows maybe 2 or 3 visits a week, whereas direct websites for my books get healthy though not heavy visitation. Solutions to this problem?
I believe Authors Guild allows you to use your own domain name that you’ve purchased/registered. That would be the most valuable and immediate solution available to you.
You could also link to your site from other sites, social media accounts, or any other place you’re active, to help increase your site’s “off the page SEO” ranking factors.
What is the procedure for using blurbs? Do I need to get permission, or is this a courtesy to the blurber, indicating in advance that I plan to use one of his/her quotes?
Unless the blurb is part of a published/public book review, you need permission to use endorsements in a commercial context (to market and promote a book).
Are there exceptions to no sliders? I used a template that uses them for published stories. Instead of a long boring list, they/I use a slider with a picture/headline/link for each, so they can select a story.
It might be OK, but I’d keep an eye on your analytics and see what they tell you about reader behavior. E.g., is anyone selecting a story that’s not on top or takes several clicks to reach?
Are sliders of images only okay? For example, a slider of book covers on the homepage.
Imagine that your site visitor only sees the first image in the slider, and nothing else. Is this OK with you? If so, the slider isn’t a huge problem.
Can you repeat the URL for the website link for having the Authors Guild link to your site?
How do you get that little meta description into the Google search result?
This will depend on the site-building service or platform you’re using. If you’re using WordPress, install the Yoast SEO plugin (free). If not, then check your help/documentation and search for “meta description” or ask how you can create customized site or page titles and descriptions.
I have two somewhat competing needs for a website and blog. Number one is generating income from book clients--I help people write proposals & develop manuscripts. Number two is myself as an author, both a ghostwriter and cowriter, and a writer myself. Can these things co-exist in one website? How to handle this identity/branding issue?
I do believe these things can co-exist. Your menu or navigation should make it plain where visitors should go to find the right “side” of you or your services.
Or: If you need more separation or bigger walls, sometimes people set up subdomains—it’s kind of like making a huge addition to your site that operates independently, but can still look the same (if you like) and reside at the same address.
E.g., here’s my main site: http://janefriedman.com
Here’s my subdomain for running online courses: http://courses.janefriedman.com
I keep them separate because the functionality is very separate. You can do the same with different aspects of your writing life/business – especially if you would like to use a different WordPress theme, different design, or have different functionality.
Do you recommend allowing others to comment on blogs? I have noticed that comments sometimes show up on Google when readers comment with certain keywords.
Yes, generally this is a good thing, as long as you’re willing to actively moderate.
Is there a rule of thumb of how often to tweet/post/blog/update website?
As far as website updating, you just want to make sure it’s current with your latest books, events, and so on.
If you’re a serious blogger, usually you need be posting at least 2x week. I’d avoid keeping a blog if you can’t post something at least a couple times per month. Otherwise, things look dusty.
Everything else is up to you.
I have an older dreamweaver site but want to start doing online classes, webinars, etc. Should I start a wordpress site just for that part of my work and link it to the old site?
I would definitely start a new site if you’re planning to get into online education (I can’t imagine doing it with Dreamweaver), and WordPress is an excellent platform for that. You might also want to look at Teachable.com.
WordPress.com doesn’t seem to have the flexibility of the .org site. Do you have a recommendation? Any insight on changing from .com to .org? or the advantage of one over the other?
That’s true, WordPress.com is a pared down, simpler version of a self-hosted site. I discuss pros and cons here:
Follow-up question on website traffic that would be impressive: strong 5 figures? 80k/month?
There are so many variables, but yes, for a decent nonfiction platform that would support mainstream publication, we want probably at least 50,000 visits per month, preferably 100k+. Fewer is OK if we have evidence it’s an engaged and loyal audience (time spent on site, good size email list, good social media, etc). Smart publishers and agents look at the entire package, not just website traffic figures.
For a first time novelist/fiction writer with little to no presence online, what do you think is the most important first step for their online platform?"
Get your author website up and running. Always step one, even if it’s nothing more than a landing page (one page).
Do you, or any authors that you work with, use an editorial calendar for scheduling blog content? Is this useful?
Serious bloggers do, yes. If you use WordPress, there are plug-ins that create an editorial calendar in the WordPress system that overlays the content and can help you better plan.
Can you tell me a little about book giveaways and how that works (and contests for your books). How do you do it to promote your book?
I’d take a look at the service JT Ellison uses to start: http://authors.writerspace.com/
These posts may be helpful:
https://janefriedman.com/book-marketing-resources/ (see giveaways section)
For authors who are writing for children under 13, collecting email information for newsletter lists is problematic because of COPPA, Children Online Privacy Protection Act. I can't tell exactly what I can and can't do. It seems to require parental consent and the requirement to screen for age at the onset. My site does have some images that may or may not qualify as child oriented. It has stopped me from doing anything. Do you have any experience with this?
I don’t have experience with this, but I would avoid collecting email addresses of anyone under 13. I’m not sure such a list would even be useful marketing-wise.
How would you end a blog? I no longer have passion for this subject and am moving on.
There’s really nothing specific you need to do other than decide if the archive will remain available at your site. Generally, it doesn’t hurt to keep old posts available; just be sure to remove any featured blog content from your homepage (if it’s there) and possibly append a note to the top of the blog archive that states the years the blog was active.
If you are newly writing a blog, would it be advisable to post your topics on your Facebook page to drive traffic to the posts?
Yes! We will talk about social media strategy in a future AG webinar.
How do you integrate effectively a blog, say, on Medium, and your site. Or is it better simply to do the blog on the site? Is it better to have blogs published in other places?
If we’re talking about Medium specifically, the best practice is to publish first at your site, then syndicate (re-publish) at Medium if you wish. I would not use Medium as the sole place to post your content – that site is in financial turmoil and I’ll be surprised if it’s still around in a couple years.
I have not published a book yet. I do have a website, and write on a particular theme. I write a column for another website. How do you handle this in a bio?
There’s no need to belabor the fact you haven’t published a book yet – just write your bio as if you’ve already “arrived” and mention that you have a book in the works, if true. (There’s no need to have a separate section of your site that talks about unpublished work.)
My website is under my published name and the blog is at Blogger, so they are separate. The blog has been in existence since 2014-ish, so I’m reluctant to move it. Do you think a link between the two is good enough?
Over the long term, you’d be much better off integrating the two, but I understand the reluctance. If your traffic is very significant or otherwise meaningful to you, then stay put.
Do you recommend an author-identity Facebook page (not an FB page devoted to a particular book, just your author persona in general) that's separate and unique from your personal Facebook page?
The answer is “It depends” – I discuss more here:
How to you insulate/protect yourself from the desire to post personal and even political posts on Facebook but at the same time avoid alienating your reading audience who might take exception to those posts/opinions?
You probably have to make a hard choice:
- Decide you’re going to post personal/political things and accept you’ll lose some people, but don’t apologize for it. Just stand for what you believe in. Your loyal readers will become even more loyal than before.
- Choose the one place where you’ll post personal/political things, and keep your political discussion there. E.g. some people decide to use Twitter for that, or their blog, or Instagram, etc. You can announce, “Hey readers, this is where I’m going to talk about X. If it’s not your cup of tea, you can still follow me without the politics over here.”
- Just commit to focusing on something else instead. Every time you have an urge to make a political statement, post a cat photo, for example. This could actually be quite humorous and entertaining if people catch on to what’s happening.
Should we be explicit about community guidelines for comments, e.g., polite living room conversation?
Yes, it’s common for people to post commenting guidelines on their site, especially a statement right above the comment box. Not required, but can be helpful.
How do you recommend using Pinterest as an author?
Here’s a good post on that.
I'm looking at Google Search Console--not sure which analytics are useful. Is there a good guide for using it?