THE AUTHOR BLOG PROBLEM
This blog is quite the writing and publishing funfest. I blog plenty and happily.* However, I needed a bigger boat to carry my words to readers who weren’t interested in all the backstage stuff that goes into publishing a book. I needed an author site, too. I created AllThatChazz.com some time ago to fill that need, but that was a Fat Problem stuffed into a tiny Solution Speedo. This post is about The Big Blog Fix. Read this and you’ll pull in more readers by updating your author site.
I started both ChazzWrites and AllThatChazz on the free side of WordPress. I needed AllThatChazz to become a destination website like ChazzWrites. I’ve researched many author blogs. The content is often pretty dusty and largely ignored. Author blogs tend to either static sales sites (static = not good) or they become the author’s personal blog (but I don’t have a cat!) What to do to make AllThatChazz a place people want to visit? It gets worse…
THE GRIM REALITY
Most author sites are ineffective platforms for gathering new readers. They’re useful for readers who are already on board with your books. Once they discover your books in other ways, then maybe (Big Maybe) they’ll happen to check out the author site to see what you’re about. That’s not good enough!
MY AUTHOR WEBSITE SOLUTION
I started my author site the same way everyone does. I put up some stuff about my books with links to sales pages. However, to make it a destination site, I must add fresh content often and I need to reach strangers I wouldn’t reach any other way.
Solution, Stage One:
The same month my first books went up for sale, I got into podcasting. Dave Jackson of the School of Podcasting set me up when the initial tech became too frustrating. His service was inexpensive and, after a few minor technical hurdles, broadcasting to the world on no-rules Internet radio became easy. I’d done radio in college and, despite a stammer that emerges as my brain races ahead of my mouth, it’s fun. It started out as the Self-help for Stoners podcast because I was too focussed on selling the first book. It’s now the All That Chazz podcast and I reach people in 60 countries at last count. Okay, but I can do better…
STRENGTHEN YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM
I asked for help with my website last year and either didn’t get it or the help I needed was too expensive for me. (Webmasters are so often unreliable it seems everyone has a horror story.) Dave swooped in again to help me put AllThatChazz.com over on the paid side of WordPress. Dave’s my hero and, now that I was on the paid side of WordPress, I felt I had the freedom to do more with the site. It became a better tool for the job I needed done.
AllThatChazz was functional, but I needed to do more with the site to make it look more appealing. It needed an makeover — okay, it was actively repellant and stunk of old feet — but I didn’t feel I was up to making those changes. Frankly, with so much to do, aesthetics were my lowest priority. I was worried about losing widgets or data in the switch. Lots of people had a horror story about that, too. But then…
Solution, Stage Two:
Apparently WordPress has changed so now it’s easy to switch themes. I didn’t have to copy all my widgets, though I ended up throwing plenty away before I was done revamping the site. Halfway through the changes, I began to understand how much the old look of my author site must have hurt me. She’s pretty now and her feet don’t stink.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR BLOG BETTER, STRONGER, FASTER
I have a thing for smart girls in glasses. That’s what AllThatChazz.com is now. Here’s what I did:
1. Ditched the sliding Amazon book widget. A moving sidebar is distracting and annoying.
2. Chucked out a bunch of widgets that weren’t selling anything anyway. Never look desperate, even if you are. Don’t underestimate the effect giving your blog a good airing. I didn’t realize how much stress I was dumping until I got rid of all that clutter!
3. I switched to a very clean and simple theme. White background, black text and white space. It’s plenty legible without looking blocky. It’s more focused on content delivery now. The changes aren’t complete yet, either. When I connect with my graphic designer, Kit, we’ll change the site’s header to a brighter banner.
4. I plan to host an affiliate link, but just one or two, carefully chosen. I’m plotting some cool stuff for the sales page. However, aside from links, I’m keeping the sales stuff to that one area. Author platforms should be about helping interested readers buy, not squeezing sales. Letting go of the sales mentality frees up time and energy for writing. I admit, I’ve sold too hard on the podcast in the past. These website changes allow me to relax and let the website do more of that work.
5. I changed the menu to a minimalist solution that’s really cool. Instead of over explaining everything and hitting the desperation anvil with the heavy sales hammer, I designed an intriguing page menu that invites exploration with carefully chosen verbs. (Yeah, weird, but you’ll see.)
I’m not telling. I’m seducing. That Speedo is looking pretty good all of a sudden.
~ *I’ve already talked about the potential folly of writing about writing unless you have writing and publishing guides to sell. I do, though I still stand by a higher creative maxim: Write what you care about.
Will I use my lessons learned to change ChazzWrites, too? I’ve already added a couple of menu items at the top of this page that may interest you. However, since the traffic is already pretty good here, I’m going to focus on writing the next two books first, thanks.
- Stuff not to say on your blog (chazzwrites.com)
- What gets clicks (chazzwrites.com)
- Seven tips about book marketing very few will heed (chazzwrites.com)
- Susan Kaye Quinn’s Self-Pub Basics (Part One of Four): Where to Publish (chazzwrites.com)
- Micro-publishing is publishing: Tools, tech and committing to change (chazzwrites.com)
- ChazzWrites.com wins among the top self-publishing blogs of 2012! (allthatchazz.com)
- My Year in Indie Publishing: Lessons learned (chazzwrites.com)
- The No Excuses Edition (allthatchazz.com)
- The Death by Ewok Edition (allthatchazz.com)
- The sorts of people a writer needs (chazzwrites.com)