Jeanne: How to Test Your Website Like a Professional Software Developer

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Image by Shahid Abdullah from Pixabay

A few weeks ago, Eight Lady Jilly debuted her new website. Because my previous life was in software development, before it went live I offered to create a test plan and test the site for her. Being British, she’s very polite, so she accepted.

It’s a beautiful site and was delivered in very good working order. Even so, there was some value in creating a test plan that laid out all the things she wanted the site to do and how each of those things gets triggered.

My own site, in contrast, was a little buggy when I got it, so my (very similar) test plan was very useful both in nailing down how I wanted the site to work and in communicating the problems with my developer. The plan allowed me to tell my developer both how I expected the site to work and how it was actually working, and it let me keep track of what had been fixed.  All of this cut down on the time required to get the site cleaned up and ready to go live.

Since some of our readers may have reason to want to build a website, I thought I’d share a bit of the the plan so you can see how to put one together. Continue reading

Justine: Tips for Reader Groups on Facebook

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This is the Facebook header for Caitlyn O’Leary’s Facebook group called Caitlyn’s Crew. You can get an idea of not only what she writes, but the general vibe of the group based on her group logo. Image copyright Caitlyn O’Leary.

A couple weekends ago, I attended the California Dreamin’ Writer’s Conference. It was a lot of fun, and, as I promised when I originally blogged about it, I have some goodies to share with you from some of the workshops I attended.

One of the most fun workshops was about creating Superfans, put on by Caitlyn O’Leary (who is devilishly funny and very sarcastic…she puts it all out on display, and I think it’s one of the things her readers love about her, besides good writing, of course!).

One of the first things Caitlyn talked about was creating an author “brand.” However, she didn’t quite mean it in the “what-do-your-business-cards-look-like” kind of way. Nor did she mean it as “book branding.” Rather, it’s a personality brand…what sort of person are you? Romantic? Whimsical? Practical and to the point? Funny vs sensitive? Goofy vs. serious? Whatever your personality brand, that’s what has to come out and shine in your interactions with readers.

I won’t get into the “how’s” of creating that author brand (because I don’t want to pilfer too much from her presentation), but when determining it, think about Continue reading

Justine: A Lesson (or at Least an Exercise) in Author Branding

41323542 - brand branding marketing commercial name conceptI really don’t like branding. At least the coming-up-with-it part. Just to set the proper expectations. Some people go nuts for this kind of stuff. Not me.

What you read below is my lesson/exercise in personal branding. I am no expert, that’s for sure, so caveat emptor. I knew after deciding to self-publish that I’d need to rebrand myself, and I’m oh-so-lucky that I attended an awesome Damon Suede (DS) seminar last weekend on marketing and branding.

Brand new author brand? Here I come!

One of the key things that we learned from Damon was Continue reading

Michille: Procrasti Nation

Spring1I live there. In Procrasti Nation. Actually, I live at the place pictured to the left. That is a picture of the first day of Spring. So I had most of yesterday off, all of today, and part of tomorrow due to all that white stuff (15+ inches and some heavy snow showers still to come tonight). Did I write? No, I did not. I read. I did the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, the mini, sudoku, and 4 levels of KenKen. I shoveled. I made chili (I always do on snow days). I inventoried the freezers (we have an embarrassing number of refrigerators and freezers and an even more embarrassing amount of food in them – someone should shoot me if I buy any meat for the next 3 months [except the hog I just ordered – we’re low on pork and they only slaughter once a year]). I read some more. In case any of you didn’t notice, I will point out to you that I had most of yesterday and all of today off from my day job but nowhere in the list of activities is the word ‘write’ except in the rhetorical question. Continue reading

Nancy: The Big Reveal – Nancy Hunter, Author Website

Last week, I was lamenting my sad lack of progress on my website. This week, I’m singing a different tune.

That’s right. I did it. I completed my author website. You can see it by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post, after I’ve shared some details about creating the site and a few caveats to know before visiting it. Or you can skip straight to the link and come back here after that. (Go ahead, you know you want to do it! It’s definitely what I would do.)

The Look and Feel of the Site

To set up my website, I used a WordPress template built by a company call Author Cats. I’m giving it a try, and might decide at some future time that it’s not the right template for me, so I can’t tell other authors whether it would be right for them. I do think there are some interesting things, to consider. The look of the template is built on an underlying philosophy that is particularly geared to self-publishing writers, but is something to consider for traditionally-published writers as well.

If you’ve done any research on self-publishing, you know how important the author newsletter and the email mailing list used to distribute it is to a writer. It’s one of the few things an author really owns. You don’t own your Facebook or Twitter account. You don’t own your Amazon or Kobo or iBooks account. You can’t force good reviews on Goodreads or count on BookBub ads. But you can connect with readers who would want your books by collecting the email addresses of those who are interested, and then reaching out to them regularly. That’s why you’ll notice that there are two to three places to sign up for my newsletter on every page of my website. And the landing page (where the newsletter sign-up occurs) does not have a menu bar (visitors have to back click to leave the page).

That’s what the site will hopefully do for me, the author. What I hope it will do for visitors is provide a clean, easy-to-navigate place to learn a little bit about me, try a sample of of my work, and effortlessly contact or follow me if that’s their thing.

Placeholder Information

As with many things in life, including me, my website is a work in process. Where appropriate, I’ve made it clear that the Harrow’s Finest Five series will be available in the fall of 2018, the freebie meet cute stories that subscribers get for signing up for my newsletter won’t be sent until May 2018, and the excerpts for kickoff novella and novel 1 will also be unavailable until May. There really is a good reason for this: I want to present the best-possible versions of my books and the excerpts that represent them, which precipitates a good, thorough editing process with an amazing editor. This is happening as we speak, but I want have ‘final’ drafts for another month or so.

I have included placeholder book descriptions on the excerpt pages, in the interest of having something to share about the upcoming books with site visitors. But this, too, will change after I’ve worked with my editor on the book descriptions.

Room to Grow

Some of the self-publishing-specific functionality of the template I’m using is the ability to quickly and easily embed buy links to outside sites that are connected directly to images and text on my website. Changing and updating these links, for instance if I start in Kindle Select and go wide later, is also easy peasy. Easy is important to me. You know how long it took me to get this site set up. When I need to make updates and add more fancy, book-centric bells and whistles, a Nancy-proof way to do so is essential. Otherwise, I’ll never do it.

Over the next several months to a year, I plan to launch websites for my other writing alter egos: Nancy J. Yeager for Women’s Fiction/Mainstream, and NJ Christensen for Mystery/Nordic Noir. (We can discuss the brilliance or idiocy of this plan in a future post.) I had hoped this template would provide an easy way to have multiple home pages that I could manage out of the same site, but it doesn’t look like that’s the case.

Max makes an appearance on my new website, but I hope you won’t see him! He’s on the 404 page.

There are no doubt good technical reasons for this, but sadly, it means I’ll probably have to build separate websites. But it does look like I’ll be able to manage the sites from one dashboard and easily embed links between them. Here’s hoping.

The Reveal

So now, here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for (or, at least, the moment I’ve been waiting for over the past several months). To visit my new website, click on this link to go to nancyhunterbooks.com! And if you’re so inclined, sign up for my newsletter while you’re there. I’ll talk more about that when we closer to the first issue in a few months.

Love the website? Hate it? Have deep thoughts to share? Let me know in the comments.