The Making of a Web Site

Edith here, still waddling from all the delicious Thanksgiving food! apron

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway: I’m giving away an Author apron, plus one of my three 2017 books: Mulch Ado About Murder, the fifth book in her Local Foods Mystery series, Called to Justice, Quaker Midwife Mystery #2, and When the Grits Hit the Fan, the third Country Store Mystery. Winner’s choice! Leave a comment below for a chance to win.

Today I want to share some great news, and some process. I recently hired a Digital Strategies expert to bring my author web site into the current era. Up to now, I’ve been doing my own web work. WordPress.com is pretty easy, has pre-made templates, and is free. Still, my web site was looking kind of clunky, kind of outdated. It didn’t have much security to speak of, and I am pretty clueless on search engine optimization (SEO) – which means people looking for me can find me. I’m a writer, not a web designer or a graphics person, and I have a lot to learn about marketing strategies.

OldSite

The old site

So I entered into conversations with Christine Green. She happens to be local and a friend. I knew she had managed social media for political campaigns and does great video editing (she filmed my book-launch walking tour last year and created a fabulous five-minute promo video). She creates all kinds of digital marketing strategies for  companies big and small. We met in downtown Amesbury and talked through the way she works and what she can provide — but we could have held our meeting on the phone, too. Being local is just a plus.

2017-10-20-Christine-Edith-biz-meeting

Christine’s selfie of the two of us working at an outside table in downtown Amesbury.

I was sold. Together we decided to take my web site to the next level. A new design. A real events calendar. Much-improved content in all kinds of areas. Better usability on digital devices of all sizes. Great author photos. I thought the process was interesting so I’ll walk you through it before I let you peek at the new site.

First, I paid Christine to do an assessment of the current site. She pointed out all kinds of areas we could improve on. When I said, “Let’s go for it,” she jumped in. She started the process by giving my current site a deeper review. I agreed to move to WordPress. org, a paid application that provides much more flexibility and capabilities for a modern web site.

Not long after that, she had a draft site for me to look at — and lots of questions! We went back and forth (mostly on email or by phone) with decisions, photos, descriptions. I came up with better wording about the kinds of public speaking I do and the kinds of mysteries I write. She created a much improved About page, telling the story of my path to becoming a multi-published author. I sent along cover jpegs and author-event photos. She suggested tactics on how to bring in readers and add subscribers to my newsletter list. I offered edits and clarifications. She trained me on how I can do my own updates. We were a team in the best sense of the word.

Finally we launched, just a couple of weeks ago. Take a look!

NewSite

I’m so happy with the look and feel – it’s light and airy, and the colors all work nicely, as does the functionality. Behind the scenes I have much better security and better optimization for readers who search for my name or my books.

Christine has been a professional all the way along. I highly recommend her to anyone looking to update and renovate their web site and their digital strategies.

Readers:  Tell me your favorite part of my new site. How often do you visit author web sites? What do you look for? Writers: What platform do you use for your web site? Have you updated it lately? Everyone: Catch a typo and I’ll send you a free book separately from today’s giveaway!

The Power of One

Hello, Wicked People! Susannah/Sadie/Jane here, watching the leaves begin to change…

The other day something occurred to me. And it freaked me out a little, in the way that profound revelations sometimes do:

Where I’m at, professionally, is attributable to one person. And that person is not me.

Well, of course I had a little something to do with it, and maybe I would have ended up in the same place via a different path if I hadn’t met her, although I’m not at all certain about that.

Let me take you back a few years. I had always wanted to be a writer, but I could never get past the twenty-page mark in any one work. I’d start. Perfectionism and fear (which are pretty much the same thing in my book) would rear their hideous heads. And I’d quit. Then I’d wait a long time, and try again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

One January, I heard about a writers’ group that was starting up at my local library. Now, the public library is about a hundred yards from my house. I wouldn’t even have to get in the car to go. Still, I tried to think of reasons not to. Finally, I looked myself in the eye and accepted that if I never finished writing a novel, I would regret it on my deathbed. Getting published was not even on my radar–for my own self-respect, I needed to get from “Chapter One” to “The End” and have a whole story, no matter how sucky, in between.

So I put on my boots and coat and hat and scarf and mittens and slogged through the snow to go to that meeting. I stood outside the door in the cold, and almost chickened out. But I went in.

There were six other people there. I sat down next to a woman, and the librarian who was running the group started talking. I stayed. And the woman I sat next to? Well, we connected. She was a little bit ahead of me in her writing journey. She was a  LOT more confident than I was. And we agreed to support each other as we wrote.

A year later, we each had a novel. Mine, with a bit of revision, became Feta Attraction. My friend ultimately decided to self-publish her book, and she asked me to edit it, which I did.

Fast forward a few months, and we had both become members of a bigger writers’ group, the Connecticut Chapter of Romance Writers of America (www.ctrwa.org). During the member news portion of the meeting, my friend stood up and proudly announced that she had self-published her novel. And she thanked me for editing it. At lunch, another writer came up to me and asked if I would edit her novel. And so, a freelance editing business was born, just like that.

Now I’ve left my unfulfilling corporate job far behind me, and I work full-time in the book business. I can honestly say that I am living my dream, and I love what I do for a living. So Jen M., my very dear friend, rock, and partner-in-crime, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your friendship changed my life.

How about you? I’d love to hear about your Jen M.

 

I Don’t Have Time to Read

I don’t have time to read any more. Ironic, isn’t it?

All my life I’ve been a reader, starting with Winnie the Pooh, then graduating to Nancy Drew, and moving on to a broader world of books as I grew older. And when I was in my twenties, I thought I had all the time in the world. Since I wasn’t dating a heck of a lot (like, uh, never?) I had plenty of quiet time on Saturday nights to read—classic science fiction, contemporary novels, and of course, mysteries.

TBR pile 1

The pile next to the bed

I watch Jeopardy now, and I’m amazed by how many older books I read and still remember. After college I did have a life—friends, marriage, a child, travel, home improvement, community activities. When did I read all those books? But I know I did, because I kept almost all of them.

And then after a long time I started writing in 2001. I figured by then I had collected enough knowledge of styles and themes and genres and whatever to try my hand at it, and I was stubborn enough to stick to it until I got it right (it took a while, and (unsolicited endorsement) it would not have been possible if I hadn’t had a working spouse with an income).

I’ve heard many of my writer friends say that they can’t read within their own genre while they’re writing because they’re afraid of imitating what they’re reading. That’s never been a problem for me (maybe because I can’t analyze styles all that well). I love to read cozies. I try to read the new ones that my friends publish—but there are just too darn many of them (the new books, not the friends!), and they keep coming. I applaud their productivity, and their creativity, not to mention their energy. But when do I get to read them?

TBR pile 2

The stack in the hallway

Then there are the books I know I won’t have time to read any time soon—mostly non-fiction—because if I don’t buy it when I see it or read an intriguing review, I’ll forget and never find it again. That stack is about five feet high. Every now and then I actually manage to read (and finish!) one. And I won’t even talk about the books I plan to use for research (such as The History of Underclothes, that might come in handy someday).

There are a few writers whose books I will read as soon as I can. There are a lot more writers whose books I want to read if I can ever find the time. On the flip side, there are writers whose books I reject for purely arbitrary reasons (and I apologize, because I’m sure they’re well-written and interesting, but I have to chop something). For example, I find it hard to read historical fiction, in part because I was an academic and I keep questioning the accuracy of the facts presented. I don’t read science fiction any more. I’ve never gone near YA or new adult or any of the “new” genres—no time. I used to read women’s fiction, and thank goodness it’s kind of disappeared (what? That author is still alive and writing?)

What about you? How do you as readers decide what to read? By genre? Based on past books by an author that you’ve enjoyed, or because someone has recommended it to you?