Outbox Takeout - Kate McMillan's Blog

Author Websites: What to do with Blurbs & Reviews

sk_quote

When I’m working with an author on their new website, often the author suggests a single place to put all the great blurbs and review snippets that they have and will gather for their book(s). While it’s undeniable that any author should be placing their greatest review excerpts / testimonials / blurbs on their site, I often recommend that they “sprinkle them around” on multiple pages rather than put them all on one page.

Here’s why: Often your best blurbs will focus on different things — some will be about you as an author, some will be specific to a particular book, and others will blend both. If you do any speaking, book readings or signings, you might also have blurbs about that kind of thing. Placing them strategically on your site in the locations in which they provide context gives them lots more power then just listing them all out on a single page.

Not only are your site visitors less likely to sit and read through a full page of review blurbs, but when they are looking at a page of your site that features a particular book, placing a featured review right there next to the book shot and the purchase link reinforces their decision to move forward with a purchase when they’re actually thinking about it. And the same is true if your site visitor is on your site to learn more about you — if they’re looking at your bio page and you place a blurb there that talks about you as a great writer, that can help tell your story. Or, if your site visitor is a journalist looking to write a story for which you’d be a great source, placing a blurb that talks about how you’re a dynamic speaker right where you mention that you’re available for events and for media correspondence (along with your contact info) helps make your case.

And, beyond all of that, just like images help break up the text on a page, website blurbs that have a specific pull-quote style can also help break up large blocks of text and bring focus to the content of a page. For even more bang for your buck, you can add logos or headshots to your blurb attributions which humanize them and can lend credibility and creative flare.

Finally, resist the urge to place every single positive quote you receive on your website. If you’re lucky enough to have loads of positive reviews / blurbs, be strategic about them and pick out a handful to feature. You can even change them out over time, but a few great blurbs can have lots more impact than lots and lots of pretty good ones.

Categories: Author Websites

By Portland, Oregon web designer Kate McMillan


Great Author Websites: 5 Ways to Use Images Creatively

Henry David Thoreau quote - Library Way - NY City

Henry David Thoreau Quote (From Kathleen Conklin on Flickr)

Website content with images is more interesting & engaging + more likely to be shared. It’s so simple! Just put images with your content! Right?

But what if you’re an author — authors often have lots of words, but not many pictures — it’s the nature of the gig. What do you do then?

Like with everything, first think about who you’re targeting.

No matter whether you’re a historical romance novelist, a non-fiction author focused on motivation, or a science-fiction author writing dramas in outer space, there’s a great deal you can learn about your readership. Where do they hang out online? What kinds of stuff do they buy? What kind of events do they attend? If you don’t know the answers, ask around, do a little Googling, hire someone to help you figure it out — however you choose to find out, the more you know about them the more you can tailor your images (and other content) to appeal to them.

The idea here is to use images to help break up the text on your site and balance the design so that your website is presented in digestible chunks rather than a whole bunch of text all at once.

Put on your creative thinking cap, and get beyond the cover of your book. Here are 5 ways to creatively use images on your author website:

  1. On the home page: This is the easiest one because it’s where you want to feature your book cover(s). Whether you’re featuring your latest release, or have a series you want to promote, your book artwork should be the prime visual content on your Home page — let it take up a bunch of space, no need to have a dinky little cover image. And think about making it actually *look like a book* — this can be with a 3d cover shot, or shown on an iPad or Kindle, either way it lets people know immediately that your site is about a book without having to think about it. Beyond that, consider what kind of books you write — if you’re a non-fiction author who does appearances, then having a featured headshot is a great addition to the Home page (or even your site header). If you’re a romance novelist and your books are set in a particular location, a photo or artwork of that location would be great. If you’re a sci-fi author writing about outer space then photos of the solar system would be great. In all cases your Home page shouldn’t have a whole bunch of text anyway, but the rest of the pages of your site might…
  2. On your bio page: You want to use a great headshot here, but if you reference important milestones in the text, consider also including photos of those, or photos of you doing a reading or speaking engagement, or photos of your childhood (if relevant), or photos of you with fans of your work — you get the idea.
  3. In your blog: Every blog post you write should have at least one image associated with it. And which image you choose will very much depend on what you write about (see here for topic ideas for author blogs), but it can be a photo from an event, the cover of your book(s), photos of your fans dressed up as characters from your book(s), or anything relevant you might find as a purchased or public use stock image (see here and here for a great rundown on using creative commons images & other great topics for authors). But also consider using things like an author photo in the header or footer of each post, or other images (like book covers with links to purchase) in the blog sidebar.
  4. On your events/news page: Here’s your opportunity to place photos of you doing signings, readings, conferences, interviews, etc… When you do these kinds of events either bring along a way to take photos yourself, or find photos taken by others & ask permission to use them. Also consider if you link to an interview or article about your or your book(s) on another site, the logo of that site is a great image to add alongside the text and link. If you want people to book you for future events, it’s a missed opportunity to not show great photos of past events.
  5. In the site design in general: My advice to most authors, especially authors of multiple books, is to create a site design that is unique & memorable, but not something that will overpower your books or be incompatible with future projects. But the more immersive you want the site’s visual experience to be, the more images you might want to use — these can be background images, header & footer images, photos of you integrated into the design of the header, etc… Often, author photos integrated into the site design itself make the most sense when the author is either quite famous, or is selling themselves as an expert via their book, so they’ll do speaking engagements or classes. Otherwise, images that support that content of your book are the way to go — these might be location-specific (such as a skyline, or seascape), or tone-specific (such as an old-fashioned engraving, or botanical illustration), or character-specific (such as a photo of teenagers, or a police officer).

In all cases you want to make sure you have permission to use the images on your website — either by purchasing a license, taking/creating them yourself, asking permission, or using something freely available. With that said, using images on your site will help make it more enjoyable to read, use & share, and is one of the easier ways to add value to your author website. And those advantages will undoubtably help you with your overall goal of your author blog: to grow & maintain an audience for your projects.

Categories: Author Websites

By Portland, Oregon web designer Kate McMillan


Your Author Blog: What to Write About?

lincoln

Many authors have heard or read that having a blog can be a great addition to their website. That’s because it allows you to build an audience of folks who will visit your website again and again so that you can keep them informed about your new projects, promotions & events. It also allows you to build a searchable repository of content over time that means you have more opportunities for people to find you when searching the web.

But what to blog about? You want to make sure you’re adding value for your audience with your writing, otherwise what’s the point? When I’m working on a website project with an author, and they’re not sure what they could write about that would be of value, here’s my advice:

Consider your target audience,
then give them something interesting in your own voice.

Think about the writers who you admire. Perhaps they write nonfiction, perhaps they lived hundreds of years ago, perhaps they’re hilarious — in all cases at some point you might have sought out more information about them & their work. You maybe wanted to learn a little bit more about what led them to write what they do, or about their process, or the interesting folks they’ve met along the way.

They likely didn’t disclose lots of personal details, but just like you might be interested in the blooper reel or “behind the scenes” of the movies you watch, your target audience will be interested in you beyond what you put into your books.

On with some examples!…

  • You’re a nonfiction author: Are there interviews you can do with your sources or peers? Is there interesting new research or news about your field that you’re excited about? Is there a recent controversy that you want to weigh in on? What kinds of things do you like to read & recommend?
  • You’re a romance novelist: How do you come up with your characters? Are there people in history who influence your stories and/or characters? Why do you choose the settings that you do? Can you share information about the places you write about?
  • You’re a YA author: What kinds of information could you offer to parents and/or educators? Is there any kind of sharable content you can provide such as graphics and videos? How did your young adult life influence your characters? Can you do an “interview” with the characters in your books?

Blogging can connect your to your readership, establish you as an expert, lead to speaking engagements or even future projects. You don’t need to spend great amounts of time on it for it to be successful, but you do need to be authentic. If you’re a naturally funny person, share that in your blog posts. If you’re really into research and geek out about the details, then share that. If it’s something you’re interested in, that’ll come through in your writing.

Bonus tip: Blog posts with images do better than those without. So drop in some photos, graphics, etc.. to keep things interesting. You can utilize the Creative Commons image search if you need something but don’t already have it.

Categories: Author Websites

By Portland, Oregon web designer Kate McMillan


Choosing WordPress Themes for Authors

fortune

If you’re an author just starting out with a new website, or even just overhauling an out-of-date website, WordPress is a wonderful platform to use.

Here’s why I like it:

  • You can create a super simple site, or something more fully-featured, and it works just as well either way. Once you get the basics down with WordPress (for which there are extremely wonderful tutorials online, especially on YouTube), you can do just about anything with a WordPress site.
  • It’s easy to find help. Like I mention above, there are countless amazing tutorials online to help you figure out how to do just about anything you need to do with WordPress, because it’s a ubiquitous platform. And, chances are, you can find a family member or friend who already knows how to use WordPress who can give you simple advice. If you can’t, there’s likely a class in your area to help get you up-to-speed.
  • It’s solid. Unlike other platforms that haven’t been around very long, there’s a long history with WordPress, which is good when it comes to counting on your site to be there for a long time with great support.
  • There are themes to make it look & behave in countless ways. If you’re looking for something that just works right out-of-the box, there are countless WordPress Themes designed for every conceivable website. The better ones have been designed not just to be beautiful, but also usable and easy for you to maintain.

With all that said, as an author, how do you choose from among the hundreds of WordPress Themes available for you? How do you know which one will be best? Here are some things to consider… Click here to read more »

Categories: Author Websites

By Portland, Oregon web designer Kate McMillan


Planning for Image Sharing

Steve Jobs Quote

Many people are very concerned about their content being stolen on the Internet. And often they’re justified in their concern — if you put your content anywhere the public can see it, it is possible for someone to reuse it and claim it’s their own. If this damages your business, then you should not only do what you can to protect your content by copyrighting it, but also pursue legal channels when it seems that an infringement has taken place. (NOTE: I AM NOT A LAWYER)

But some people get so concerned about this, they sometimes shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to capitalizing on their content being sharable. Let me explain what I mean by “sharable” — today’s Internet not only allows, but encourages, people to post things they find funny or inspirational to their social media profile or blogs/websites. This can be images or videos or even snippets of text. Social media makes this easy. You may have heard the word “meme” — it describes something sharable that has really taken off and that people often mimic.

And this is a huge opportunity. When you’re creating your web platform, and populating it with images and videos and text, think about making that content sharable, and also about how you can attribute it back to you. Videos can have links back to the source, images can have watermarks or logos embedded in them. Text is more tricky, but you can ask for attribution and make sure it’s easy for people to know how to refer back to you.

And this applies not only to those concerned about content pilfering, but also to anyone who will have a photo or video gallery of their work. I have two stories to help illustrate this point:

  1. Landscape Designer: Recently I was looking at the online portfolio of a landscape designer as some research. I use Pinterest to keep track of inspirational ideas, and also designers I may want to work with or recommend to others. Her online portfolio images were built into her website using Flash. Not only is this bad because Flash can’t be viewed on mobile devices, but I can’t post any of her images on my Pinterest board. If, instead, her images were on her website with her company name and URL embedded in them, I could have shared one of them via Pinterest and not only would I be able to loop back to her to work with her, but if someone shares that image via my Pinterest board, they’ll know where it came from and can contact her to work with her too. To let you know how powerful that can be, one of my own photographs of landscape inspiration has been shared over 1200 times, and all I had to do was post it once.
  2. Artist/Illustrator: In chatting with an artist & illustrator about a new website, she mentioned that one of her biggest concerns is that the work that she does that’s featured on other websites is never attributed back to her because her website isn’t the source of those images. Instead, she’s posted images of her art and illustration work to various social media sites and other community sites, and when it’s shared from there, there’s no way for people to loop back to her if they want to hire her for work. If she added a watermark or name/logo overlay on her images, and made them available on her own website rather than other people’s websites, then each time they’re shared, people can either click on them and be linked back to her website where she can encourage them to become customers, or will at least know where to go to find out more about her work.

Every social media site works differently when it comes to exactly what can be done via linking back to the source of the media, but this is why you want to take a multi-pronged approach. Here’s a cheat sheet for what to do:

  1. Make sure your images and videos are presented in a way that they can be shared. Don’t use Flash or another technology that disables basic things like the ability to link to a particular image.
  2. Add social media sharing functionality to your site. If your site is image-heavy, you can add a plugin that adds a share feature to every image if you want. The same goes for videos.
  3. Make sure to watermark your images & videos. Your watermark can be your logo & URL, or just your name & URL. Make sure that, if someone was looking at that image completely out of context, they’d know where to go to learn more about you.
  4. Create your content with the idea that you *want* it to be shared. What kinds of things can you create for your website that encourage people to share them? Maybe it’s big, beautiful images of landscapes. Maybe it’s inspirational quotes. Maybe it’s how-to videos. Whatever you decide to do, don’t add content to your site with the idea that you’re trying to prevent people from sharing it.

It’s a losing battle to think that you’ll be able to protect everything you put out into the world, but if you think about what you might gain by encouraging people to share what you do, you can grow your business in ways you might not have even anticipated. Happy sharing.

Categories: Web Marketing

By Portland, Oregon web designer Kate McMillan


Featured in Freelancers Union Blog: Client-Attracting Freelance Websites (and why they work)

freelancers_union_logoMy work on the website of Katie Lane of Work Made For Hire, a Portland-based legal consultant for creative folks, was featured in the Freelancers Union blog! The blog post is about 4 client-attracting freelance websites, and why they work.

AN EXCERPT:

A freelancer’s website performs 5 main functions. They should be the skeleton of every website, no matter your field:

  1. It conveys exactly what you do, clearly and compellingly.
  2. It provides your contact information.
  3. It displays your portfolio or resume. It communicates your expertise and builds a foundation of trust before the client is even a client.
  4. It portrays your personality and work ethic. This builds trust, relatability, and attracts the right kinds of clients.
  5. It’s the hub of your all your online activity. It should contain links to your social networks, your blog, etc. (Social networks = social proof that you are well-respected in your field.)

Katie’s website accomplishes all five main functions while conveying her easy-going personality in a format that directly appeals to her clients (other freelancers)…

You can read the full article here: https://www.freelancersunion.org/blog/2014/03/13/4-client-attracting-freelance-websites-why-they-work/

Work Made for Hire Website

Work Made for Hire Website

I’m thrilled to have this website included! It’s important to me that the sites I work on leverage each client’s specific goals for their business so that their site is not only attractive, but also specifically suited to their needs.

Katie is a great client who clearly & strategically communicates her services directly to her target market because she knows what she wants to do and who she wants to do it for. This makes her great to work with on her website because decisions get made based on how well they help her meet her target, which makes for a more successful end result.

Categories: Small Business Websites

By Portland, Oregon web designer Kate McMillan


Your Website’s Media Page – What to Include?

billboard
A Media page, sometimes called a Press or News page, a Press Kit, or a Media Kit is a page of your website designed as a specific marketing tool for those people who want to learn more about you, but also (and especially) those who want to write about you. Whether you’ll selling a product or a service, or yourself as an expert, a Media page is a great addition to your website.

If a journalist wants to write about you, it would be terrible if they can’t find the information they need and choose to write about someone else instead. Reporters, researchers, editors and producers regularly trawl the web looking for people to interview on a variety of topics. They are busy people who will naturally gravitate towards those websites which make it easy for them to get the information they need quickly & seamlessly.

My husband, Graeme McMillan, is a journalist and he writes for outlets like Time, Playboy & Wired magazines. Here’s his advice:

“Writing, more often than not — and especially for the internet — means that time is of the essence when it comes to finding sources and information, especially if I’m working on a news piece that must be finished and posted as soon as possible. Because of that, a good web presence is invaluable for people and organizations that I’d like to contact — and that means more than simply ‘have your email address somewhere on the site.’

Selfishly, what I’d look for on a well thought-out site would be contact information — email, definitely, but also a phone number or some kind of social media presence to act as an alternative avenue of contact. Having some kind of biography is a plus, especially one that clearly identifies your current position or project in a way that I can repurpose in my piece to give some context to who the quote is from and why that person is worth paying attention to. And, ideally, there would be a headshot or photograph of some sort available for press, in case such a thing is needed, with — and this is increasingly important these days — a credit for the photographer.”

With all that in mind, here’s what I recommend that you include on your website’s media page:

  1. Contact Info. It doesn’t matter if you already have a Contact page, or even if your contact information is in the footer of every page of your site, make it very easy for people to contact you using their method of choice. Ideally you have both an email and a phone number, and if relevant, a mailing address. If you don’t want to give out your personal email, create a new one just for this that you’ll check regularly. You can even create a new, free phone number where people can leave messages that will get transcribed into an email using Google Voice. Remember to also include links to your social media profiles as those are methods of contacting you as well. If you have a publicist, include that information as well along with instructions about who should contact you vs who should contact your publicist.
  2. Your Bio. I wrote about what to include in your website bio, and this calls for the short-and-sweet version that gives the major highlights. Make sure it includes your value statement. If what you’re doing relates to current events, or if you’re an expert on a particular topic, make sure that’s clear.
  3. Links to Articles About You. If you’ve been interviewed or quoted in an article, link to it. If you’ve done a guest blog post for someone, link to it. If there’s a video about you, link to it. If you’ve won an award, link to it. You get the idea. And include the logos of the sites that cover you, especially if they’re impressive.
  4. Your Headshot. I wrote about the value of a great headshot for your website, and the reasons remain numerous to have a good one, not just for your website, but so that when you’re featured anywhere online you look professional. Include both high and low-res versions for download.
  5. Relevant Graphics or Logos. If you’re an author, include a high-res download of your book cover. If you’re a business owner, include your logo. If you sell products, include images of them.
  6. Endorsements. This is a great place to include your best reviews & testimonials.
  7. Vital Statistics. If you’re selling a product or a book, include the specifics about it such as the title, ISBN, number of pages, available formats, publisher, purchase venues, etc…
  8. Interview Topics. You know what you’re all about better than anyone, so provide some questions and answers that can be lifted directly into a story about you, or can act as seed information for a journalist.
  9. Press Releases. If you have any, provide links to them here.

Even if you do not have much to share on a media page currently, include what you do have and add to it over time.

Categories: Website Content

By Portland, Oregon web designer Kate McMillan


Want more advice?
Get Kate's blog posts delivered straight to your inbox:

Web Designer Kate McMillanKate McMillan creates websites for authors, small businesses & nonprofit organizations that are clean, easy-to-use, and goal-oriented so that her clients have a successful platform to support what they love to do.

With more than a decade of experience, Kate not only creates beautiful, easy-to-use, fresh designs, but also helps you make strategic decisions about your whole web presence, soup to nuts.

If you're interested in talking with Kate about your project, get in touch with her to schedule a chat.

Top