A Blog Entry About Blogging

I was reading an interesting article over the weekend in Internet & Marketing Report magazine. It had to do with the benefits of blogging and how anyone can blog to drive traffic to their website. Here are some of the highlights of that article, and how the information specifically pertains to websites for writers.

According to the article, a major study has shown that blogs do pay off in terms of site traffic — even those that don’t require a lot of research or writing.

The study found that sites with blogs had:

  • 55% more visitors to their sites. That means more book sales.
  • 97% more inbound links. Other sites are more likely to link to a blog than to static web content. This can also help with SEO.
  • 434% more indexed pages (those that can show up on search engines). The more pages that have been “indexed,” the more likely your site is to show up on search engine results.

So the fact that a blog increases your site traffic is pretty much a no-brainer at this point. But what’s more challenging is authors figuring out what to blog about. Or finding the time to blog. Or differentiating their blog from others. Here are a few ideas mentioned in the article to help people start blogging…

  1. Go with the bare bones. You don’t need to spend hours writing detailed blog entries. Your blog entries could be press releases about your book, or links to industry news stories that are of interest to a similar audience.
  2. Let the ideas come to you. Not sure what to blog about? Maybe you don’t have to come up with the ideas. Again, industry news — and your take on them — is a great source of blogging material. Or ask your site visitors to tell you what they’re interested in hearing about from you and then blog on those topics. Take a frequent question that you get and use your blog to answer it.
  3. Go multimedia. A blog doesn’t have to be straight text. You can include photos from a recent book signing, an audio transcript of a reading, etc… Again, these are things that you can use elsewhere, but can also serve as blog entries.

See? Blogging can be a lot easier than you may think. And it can increase your site traffic by 55%! That’s not something to sneeze at!

SEO vs. SEM for Authors

I have worked with many authors who ask me about search engine optimization. Many aren’t sure what the difference is between SEO and SEM/Google Adwords, another service we author. So hopefully this post will clear things up a bit.

First, here are the simple definitions of each one:

Search engine optimization (or SEO) is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a website from search engines via “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”)

Search engine marketing (or SEM), referred to on Google as Google Adwords, involves paying for your pre-written search result text to appear when someone searches for a specific keyword, and paying the search engine for each click you get on that ad.

Now, on the surface, SEO looks far preferable to SEM, since it’s free! You can get as many visits to your website as possible and not have to pay a penny for them. But it’s not so simple. Which of these methods works best for you (if not both) really depends on your situation.

With organic SEO, getting to the top of search results generally takes 6 months to a year of effort. We’ve done it for our business (search for “websites for authors” and we’re the top result), but it takes a great deal of time and effort. If you have a book coming out in two months, SEM is a lot more effective in terms of allowing you to appear on the first page of search results immediately.

In addition, the search engines are always changing how they rank sites. So even if you put in loads of effort to get to the top of search results, you may or may not stay there over time. It could all go to waste if they change their ranking system.

Organic search engine optimization also limits you to focusing on several keywords. For example, as I described above, our site shows up at the top if you search for “Websites for Authors,” but not necessarily “Author Websites” or “Writer Websiters” (although we’re working on it … partially by making those words links to our homepage right here). It takes a lot of work and very specific keyword focus to get it to work. So if your priority is to show up at the top of search results if someone searches for your name or your book title, that’s very doable through SEO. But if you have a variety of different areas you want to focus your keywords in, it gets a little more difficult.

SEM also allows you to keep incredible statistics of the clicks you get. You can see how many people searched for each keyword you’re bidding on, what percentage of people clicked on that keyword, and what percentage of those clicks turned into purchases of your book! In this case, you get what you pay for.

Now, this all may sound like I’m down on SEO and pushing SEM. I’m not really. They both work. But too many people opt for SEO simply because it’s free. And then they get upset when they’re not showing up at the top of search results right away. SEM can get you immediate results within your control — just at a price. SEO takes a lot longer and a lot more work — but it’s free. See how that works?

So here’s how I sum things up. If you’ve just built a writer website with the goal of promoting an upcoming book, you’re better off paying for clicks and ensuring that you get traffic to your website right away. If you’re building your author web site as a long-term resource, promoting your writings and your books over the next several years, then SEO may very well do the trick for you.

I could go on for ages about this (hence, there being books on the subject), but I won’t. Should you be interested in learning more about SEO or SEM, I’ll be happy to go through the details with anyone willing to listen. Just contact us.

Author Webcasts

On November 9th, Oprah.com, CNN.com and Facebook are holding a live Oprah’s Book Club webcast for the latest book in the Oprah book club, Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan. People can submit questions to the author now, and the chosen questions will be answered on the live webcast. The video will be streamed live from CNN.com’s video player on Oprah.com.

Now, all authors wish their book was as popular as one recommended by Oprah. But no matter how many readers and fans you may have, you can still steal this idea. Even a small-time author can take full advantage of the web and hold their own webcasts.

Collecting questions in advance is always a good idea. That way, no matter how many people show up for your live cast, you won’t be left “questionless.” If you plan to take any live questions as well (and why wouldn’t you), you might want to have a friend or two as a plant on the live webcast to start the conversation.

Webcasting has many advantages for authors; it allows you to really interact with readers, it shows people in the publishing industry just how tech-savvy you are, and, most of all, it creates a buzz. After all, what could be better for an author trying to promote him or herself than buzz?

The key is giving the webcast the proper promotion beforehand. The place to start is with your current base of readers and fans. Make sure to send them an email newsletter with the announcement — and don’t hesitate to send multiple emails. Ask them to pass it on to their friends. Contact local bookstores in your area to let them know about it. Tell your publisher. Whomever you can think of.

You never know. This could be the first step on your route to Oprah!

What Do Your Customers Want? Find Out With Skribit

Another great book marketing idea, courtesy of Michael Volkin…

If there is one thing I know, that’s book marketing, and from time to time I learn about a neat new tool that makes selling books online just a little bit easier.  I would like to introduce you to Skirbit.  Skirbit.com allows an author to easily add a small widget to their blog which gives readers a chance to communicate directly with the author. At the end of the blog, this small widget asks one simple question “What should I write about?” What a perfect question. This allows an author to customize blogs based on reader suggestions.

If you want to be one of those authors who are really in touch with your audience, Skribit allows you to do just that.  Learning how to sell books on the Internet is a meticulous process but if you can get feedback, not only from customers, but potential customers, it will make the process much easier.

Once you create an account with Skirbit, you are presented with an easy to use dashboard to easily create your widget.  Simply code the code given to you in your blog and you’re done.

Michael Volkin is the author of the new book Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth. Check out his book and book marketing services at www.SellaTonofBooks.com.

Want to Get FREE Publicity for Your Books? Try Pitch Rate

Another marketing tip from our friend Michael Volkin at SellaTonofBooks.com

As an author you are considered an expert in the field in which your book is written.  The press is always looking for experts to interview, especially during a timely news release. For example, my book on Social Networking for Authors recently drummed up some good press as someone interviewed me about the popularity of Facebook.  The press called me because they noticed I was an expert in the field of Social Networking.  You can get the same exposure for free, by going to PitchRate.com.

Pitch Rate is a free service that connects journalists with subject experts for free media coverage.

Simply create an account at Pitch Rate and fill in your profile as completely as possible. Your profile is what members of the press read before they decide to contact you.  This is your chance to show the world what you are an expert at and why you should be considered an expert.

You can set your account to receive daily emails from Pitch Rate to see who is looking for experts in your area.  Requests can be easily sorted by category or keywords by visiting the “Search Requests” tab once you’ve signed in.  Once you’ve found a request you’re interested in, simply make a pitch and all of your contact info contained in your profile will automatically be attached.  At this point, it’s just a matter of playing the waiting game to see if someone is interested in you and your book.

One of the constant struggles I see with authors is the need to be continually marketing your book to be successful.  A website like PitchRate.com is great for authors to be able to quickly set up an account and receive marketing opportunities for an extended period of time.  With just a few minutes of work, an author can expose him or herself to potentially hundreds of press opportunities.

For more tips and tricks on how to sell a ton of books, go to Michael Volkin’s new website SellaTonofBooks.com and purchase his new book Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth.

Author Takes Twitter to a New Level

An interesting article on PW.com yesterday talked about a new crowd-sourced short story on Twitter. Fantasy writer Neil Gaiman is starting the story, and fans can continue it with their own 140-character contributions. BBC audiobooks will eventually compile the full story based on the reader contributions (they’re expecting about 1,000) and the audiobook will ultimately be available for a free download.

You can read the full article here:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6701457.html?q=marketing

This is just one of the many new ideas that authors and publishers are having about using the internet and social networking sites to interact with readers and allow fans to be a part of the writing experience. Just something that all authors can keep in mind going forward…

Sell More Books With Viral Videos/Book Trailers

So what’s a book trailer? Or a viral video for authors? How do you get one made? What should be in such a video? How do you get it to actually go viral? How does this lead to book sales? We’ve got the answers from a variety of sources…

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From Michael Volkin the author of the new hit book: Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth:

Viral videos are a great way to sell books.  According to Wikipedia “A viral video is a video clip that gains widespread popularity through the process of Internet sharing, typically through email or Instant messaging, blogs and other media sharing websites. Viral videos are often humorous in nature”.

There are three key points to consider when creating a viral video campaign:

1) Provide great, but ambiguous, content – Everyone loves to hear a great story. But in a viral video, the story has to be short (less than three minutes). Don’t think of creating a video that will sell your book, think of a video that will keep people entertained.

2) Generate a “residual” fan base – Once your video is built you can integrate other social media tools to build a user base and communicate with them.  To do this, follow the lessons learned in Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth.  It could be as simple as a subscribe link that notifies users of your updates.

3) SEO it– Your video has to be easily discovered through YouTube search and other popular online video sharing sites. Videos should have clear titles, an accurate description and appropriate keyword tags so that they can appears correctly in a YouTube search and targeted specifically.

A good viral video will spread over the internet like wildfire. See the top 20 viral videos circulating around the Internet now at: http://viralvideochart.unrulymedia.com/

Check out this viral video I created for an author during the last presidential election. It got great coverage. The video is ambiguous but gets people curious as to what is coming next. A typical viral video will cost about $2,000 but will be a great return on your investment if it works properly:
http://revver.com/u/jspinx

Michael Volkin the author of the new hit book: Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth. His book can be found at SellaTonofBooks.com

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From Sheila English, Founder of Circle of Seven Productions:

On creating a good book trailer…

Some key elements to a book trailer are:

  • Clearly state what the book is about
  • Don’t have too much text
  • Make sure your text is readable. Pretty text isn’t always easy to read.
  • Don’t have your text and visuals compete for the viewer’s attention
  • Follow all copyright laws- Use only photos or music you own or have licensed.
  • Convey the genre or genres
  • Set a mood with your music, audio, text or visuals
  • Keep them under 2 minutes (30-90 seconds works best under most circumstances)
  • Don’t give away the whole story!

On distributing your book trailer…

Anyone can put a video up on YouTube and MySpace. And if you are using TubeMogul (www.tubemogul.com) you can get your video up on 15 or so sites at one time.  But, which of those sites are best for your book or brand?  With over 450 online sites that take book video do you really want to have yours only on the sites where everyone else is? If you’re writing YA or chicklit are you posting to TeamSugar or Popbytes? If you’re writing urban fantasy are you sending to TerrorFeed or Crackle Horror? If you’re writing historical are sending your video to Clipblast or Magnolia? You need those micro sites that reach out to people who already have shown a predisposition to like your genre or storyline.

Distribution should go out to online communities to reach people, but it should also go out to booksellers, libraries and book clubs. All COS videos are sent to over 300 booksellers and over 5000 libraries. These are essential venues.

On services and cost…

We offer several different kinds of video. We have a Cover Story video that starts at $300 that includes distribution to popular and micro sites, booksellers and libraries.

Here is a link to where you can see the different types of videos:
http://www.cosproductions.com/OurWork/index.php

Whether you’re going to use COS or some other company you should take some time to know what you’re paying for and make your expectations and goals clear. Get references on the company if you’ve not used them before. Ask them what you will get for your money. A book trailer is a marketing tool. Like any tool you need to know how to use it for the best results.

Resources:
http://www.cosproductions.com/Resources/index.php

Includes:  White paper on Residual Marketing Effect of video utilization.

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Publisher’s Weekly also published a blurb yesterday about one particular book trailer (or viral video). This one  has broken from the traditional mold — basically, a movie trailer for a book — and is going viral on YouTube as we speak. Not a bad idea … thinking outside the box when it comes to book trailers.

Check out the book trailer for God, the Universe and Where I Fit In: A Psychic’s Reflections on Figuring Out the Rest of Your Life (HCI)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVIE9pXd_Gs

Read the full Publishers Weekly article:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6687830.html?q=trailer

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Whew! That’s a lot of information. But are you sold yet? The truth is that creating and distributing the right video can make a huge difference in terms of really getting your book out there.

How to Make the Press Interested in You and Your Book

Another marketing tip for authors from Michael Volkin…

I can’t believe the number of authors I hear on the radio that get stumped by questions the host asks about their own book. Here is a tip that will not only make you sound better on the radio, but will make it easy on the press to want to pick you to interview as opposed to the hundreds of other books all competing for air time.

Write about 12-15 questions you would like the radio show host to ask you while on the air.  After the questions are written, copy them onto a separate document and write the answers to those questions.   Now you have two documents, one with questions and one with questions and answers.  The one with questions will go to the radio show host (or other press) and the one with the answers will be your copy to have on standby during the interview.  On the document with questions, put in parenthesis after each question how long the answer will take. For example: How long did it take you to write the book (answer takes 1 minute 30 seconds). This will greatly help the radio show host know how long each answer should take and helps the producer know long the interview will last.

Picture 50 books on a producers table, 49 of them are just authors looking for an interview.  The host will have to read the books, develop the questions and make a timeframe for the interview.  The other one is yours, with a list of questions and an exact time frame of the interview length.  You are doing the work for them and they are more than likely going to pick your book out of the bunch.

To get some radio interviews right now, go to www.BlogTalkRadio.com and contact some of the hosts with your new list of questions and watch your book sales take off.

For more tips and tricks on how to sell a ton of books, go to Michael Volkin’s new website SellaTonofBooks.com and purchase Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth.

Authors: To Blog or Not to Blog?

So many authors that I speak to have been told that they should be blogging. But they’re not exactly sure why, what they should be blogging about, or how it can help them sell books. And that’s exactly why blogging can be a complete failure.

The WORST thing an author can do is build a blog and then not update it. Sure an author might post a cute welcome message when the site launches, but that’s it. The blog sits there, idle, for months or years after that. And when people visit the website and they see a blog that hasn’t been touched, they immediately get the sense that the site is outdated. What could be of value? And they leave.

If you’re considering creating a blog, here’s what you need to know:

  • Why blog? A blog is a great way to keep your site new and fresh, to allow readers (and potential readers) to communicate with you, and to highlight your expertise in a field. A blog is really a source of conversation — you’d post something and then your readers could respond. Not to mention that a blog can help tremendously in terms of search engine optimization. Your blog will generally rank highly on Google search results with minimal effort (assuming you use the right keywords and such). This will allow people with interest in your subject matter to wind up on your site, where you can then promote your book.
  • What to blog about? Blogging is a very different beast depending on what kind of book you’ve written and whether or not you have an expertise in your field. If you’re a sex therapist, for instance, and have written a book on the subject, then it’s pretty easy to figure out what you should be blogging about. You could use your blog to answer questions that people submit about their sexual challenges, offer your commentary on news in your area of expertise, etc… People can visit your blog for free and if they like what you say and how you say it, then they’re likely to buy your book! The question of what to blog about can be a little more challenging for a nonfiction author or someone who isn’t an expert in a particular subject. That’s where you have to think outside the box. Should you blog about the challenges of being a writer? Should you blog about the characters in your book and how you envision their lives after the story ends? There are lots of interesting directions you can go in, and these are just some of the ideas that we at SmartAuthorSites.com offer in our free consultation to authors.
  • Is anyone reading it? Too many authors that have created blogs — and actually keep them up — feel like they’re writing for nothing. Even if they get one or two comments on a post, they wonder, “Is this really worth my time?” The answer is a resounding YES! One of the things I highly recommend for an author website — especially the blog — is setting up a site traffic report where you’re regularly updated on how many people have visited your site and/or your blog. It will probably be a lot more than you think. For every one or two comments to a blog post, that blog might have been viewed by 50-100 people! That’s a lot of potential book buyers.

So are you convinced? Ready to start blogging? We thought so…

Don’t forget to contact us for a free consultation on how to make a blog work for your writer website!

Use FriendFeed to Find a Ton of Customers

This is our first (of many) social networking tips from Michael Volkin. More details on him below…

FriendFeed.com is a website that in one place aggregates your friend’s (or potential customer’s) streams from across different social sites. In other words, from one user, you can view real-time updates from Twitter posts, Facebook updates and tons of other websites.  FriendFeed can be an extremely useful website for finding your target audience and selling books, but be careful of its addictive nature.  FriendFeed can easily give you information overload and you could get lost for hours clicking away at the vast amount of information.

To sell books on FriendFeed, simply create an account.  Once your account has been created, log in and click Browse/edit groups (bottom right side of the page).  Here, you can search for groups where your target audience may be.  For example, if your book is on sailboats, look for a boating club, or sailboat enthusiast group.  Join the group and start communicating with potential customers instantly.

Link up with me on FriendFeed and I’ll show you how to sell more books.  Log in, click “browse/edit friends” in the middle of the page on the right hand side. Then, click “find/invite friends”, and in the text box type mvolkin.  Once my picture pops up, simply click “subscribe”

For more tips and tricks on how to sell a ton of books, go to Michael Volkin’s new website SellaTonofBooks.com and purchase Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth