Thursday, March 28, 2013

Creating Your Website Blueprint

Website Design for Writers on a Budget, part 3

In the last installment of this series, I said that you need to know what you want your website to accomplish — that you should make a list of what information you want it to convey — before you even think of working on the site's actual design. And that you should use that list to create a "blueprint" for your website. How do you do that, you ask? Well, today I'm going to show you an example blueprint using the list I created for my own website.

First, a definition of a (very) slightly technical nature (don't panic, there won't be a test later). What is this "blueprint," exactly? The blueprint is the website's Information Architecture (IA) diagram. It shows how the content of a website is organized hierarchically — i.e. the logical relationship of the information. This diagram is related to your site's navigation. In other words, you need to know how each piece of information relates to the other, otherwise your site will be difficult to navigate (and many, if not most, visitors will leave in frustration).

Ready? Then, let's get started.

My List

  • Info on my works-in-progress
  • A Short Bio with a "headshot"
  • My Writing Blog
  • Twitter feed
  • A page where I can "give back" in some way to other writers (especially pre-published writers) (For Writers)
  • A way to contact me
  • A way to search the site
  • Links to other authors / sites of interest (what I think is interesting!)
  • Some way to display "social media" badges/links (including goodreads)
  • Links to other sites where I blog (about writing)

This is the information I want my site to convey (at least at this point in my writing career). You'll notice that my list isn't in any order, and that in many cases I just generally describe what I think I want a "page" of the website to do. Your list may or may not look similar to mine. If you're a published author, your list should also have a "books" entry of some sort, probably with links to buy your books, as well as a complete bibliography.

The next step is to convert the list into a hierarchical diagram. This is the hard part and may take a few tries to get right. The first thing I decided for my site was to put my writing blog on the home page. I wanted to make sure that the first page a visitor sees has content that changes over time, rather than a "static" (that is, unchanging) welcome message. If I was a published writer, I would probably choose to have my books on the home page in some way — especially "news" about upcoming releases and book signings.

Here are a few examples I tried, using my list, that didn't work (click to enlarge).

Finally, I realized that some of the items on my list are things that don't belong on a separate page. They're things I want visible on every page: twitter feed, social media links, site search, favorite links. This is information I need to keep track of, but that doesn't belong in the hierarchical diagram (and doesn't have to be dealt with when you create your site navigation).

Here's my final diagram. Note that I made changes to some of the names in the boxes — "Bio" became "About" and "Works-In-Progress" became "Books." These changes reflect the names I decided to use for site navigation. Using "Books" was important to me, because I won't have to make changes to my site layout once I'm published (thinking positively here!).

It looks simple, doesn't it? It should — there's only so much information my site needs to convey, and I wanted to make it simple to navigate. There may come a time when I have multiple books/series published (still thinking positively!), and when that time comes, my site architecture might look like this...

Play around with your list and create IA diagrams until you're satisfied with what you have. Remember, at this point you haven't committed to anything, so it's okay to change things around! Next time we'll take your diagram and start thinking about your site layout — still on paper.

REFERENCES

Head First Web Design: A solid, if quirky, take on web design that's worth checking out.


Deborah Wright
Website: www.Deborah-Wright.com
Twitter: @DeborahBWright
Facebook: Deborah.Wright.Author

 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Author Co-op

I recently had a post up on the Savvy Blog about the author co-op I joined.  In case you didn't get over there, here it is again.

An Author's cooperative is a group of like-minded Indie authors who work together to promote, market, and invest in one another’s future. 

A Co-op concept is that all authors share the burden of the work, lending the skills they have to others, and sharing the costs. As one who likes to help other writers and join forces to learn how we can each improve our writing and our sales, it was a logical move for me.

As a cooperative, we all add our collective talents to the pot when discussing the above mentioned goals. And to reach those goals, Melissa Yuan-Innes and I hopped on Maggie Jaimeson’s tail and joined her dba Windtree Press. This is a website where we, the Coop authors of Windtree Press, sell our books and add the Windtree Press logo and information to our books when we format them. It’s one small step at making our Indie book look more legitimate in the eyes of the self-publish biased reader. 
By having a place that people can find our books to purchase in the most popular formats; mobi, epub, pdf, and print, we bring the masses to our respective books and draw on the reader data we receive to market our books to the people who are reading the same genre. 

We all have a say in what happens at Windtree Press, and we all pay the expenses of monthly hosting which pays for the database backend processing of the e-commerce site, including book selling, credit card processing, PayPal merchant integration, customer management, and marketing. As a new member joins, the cost will be divided again equally. If we decide to hire a part-time digital assistant, a marketing person, or a technical programmer the cost will be shared by all members. The costs are paid upfront each month whether we sell or not. 
Bringing in new members has to be agreed upon by all the current members. A new member has to have the quality of writing and presentation that fits with the quality already at the Co-op. They also have to participate fully in running the press and making decisions. To make the Co-op work and be cohesive the current members have to trust that the person who comes to the group has a well-edited book with a quality story and presentation. Every book can’t be quality checked by every member. Once a member is in the Co-op, it is up to them to keep the quality up in their work. The new member also shouldn’t need to be reminded they are to participate in quarterly meetings or do their fair share of work. This is a coop, and all members must be involved in all decisions. 

Which brings the question: Does everyone in the Co-op have to be a friend? No. I knew Maggie from our local RWA chapter, and we are fans of each other’s writing. But I had never met Melissa until our first Co-op phone conference. During that meeting, we learned we are all on the same page as to how to get our books out to the public and that we all want to have as much say in our careers as we can. 
While the Co-op is a collective of ideas and work, each author is responsible for writing, editing, cover designs, formatting, and the uploading to vendors (i.e., Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks etc.) outside of Windtree Press on their own. The Press does NOT offer any of these services, and all book development costs are paid by the individual author. 

With direct marketing, I have control over the metadata that is indexed and put on the web. This increases my books being discovered. The press website provides metadata for my book and its relationship to other books on the Windtree Press website. 
The benefits I saw in being part of a Cooperative were; giving more legitimacy to my work by putting a logo and press on my books to make the reader take them more serious when browsing the millions of possible books to purchase, and by having a website where my books can be purchased and I can gather information on who is purchasing my books, I have the chance to garner more readers by using that information for marketing. Another bonus to having our own e-commerce website is getting paid full value for our books rather than give a third party a part of the money. 

As stated above, when I was approached to join the Windtree Press Co-op I had to first say, “What is that?” After visiting with Maggie and Melissa about the Co-op and then reading more articles online about other successful Co-ops, I didn’t hesitate to jump on what appears to be the new wave of Indie publishing. Just like the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”, I believe it takes a group effort for Indie authors to lift their books to the cream of the book industry. 
I hope you will stop by and take a look at http://windtreepress.com .

Monday, March 25, 2013

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome! This is the Mid-Willamette Valley Romance Writers weekly progress check-in. We want to hear from you!

Did you meet your writing goals last week?  What do you plan to accomplish this week?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Oh, today is Thursday?


My apologies! Because I work at home doing things I love, it often takes me awhile to figure out what day it is. However, I usually surface long enough to make my commitments--I'm a bit slow in doing that today. So this blog post is late. 

Adding to my usual offhand attitude about the day and time is the stunner of one of my dogs dying suddenly on Monday afternoon. I consider myself pretty intuitive and am an animal communicator, so I knew his passing would be connected to his seizures and he wouldn't be in that physical body very long. Still, this took me totally by surprise. 

Interestingly, his presence is stronger than ever and, after some intense grieving, I am at peace with what happened. And my beloved Stewart is pushing me even stronger to pursue my dreams. 

So I am! I've made great progress on the last contracted story of my Halo Legacy Series; have a draft cover that is different enough from others I've designed that I'm not sure it will be the final one. So I'm sharing it with you here for comments. I'm not going to tell you what the story is about, because I want to have your honest comments--what does this cover say to you about the story?

Thank you in advance!

P.S. If you looked at the draft cover earlier and think this one looks different, it is! As I'm working on this story, I also had thoughts about the cover, so changed it. I like this one much better, but would still like comments. :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome! This is the Mid-Willamette Valley Romance Writers weekly progress check-in. We want to hear from you!

Did you meet your writing goals last week?  What do you plan to accomplish this week?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Digging Deeper

I had the good fortune last Saturday to attend the Donald Maass Workshop, Writing 21st Century Fiction, put on by the Rose City Romance Writers (see Meggan's post from Tuesday). If you're a writer and ever have the chance to attend one of his workshops or lectures—do it. You won't be sorry.

A lot of the information was familiar, but it was presented in a way that it struck a new chord (for me, anyway). Here are the highlights that resonated the most with me.

"Don't write what is safe."

Writing what's easy, expected, common, familiar, will not touch readers. You need to dig deeper into the story—and into your own experiences—and write what you're afraid to write.

We—and by extension, our characters—never feel just one emotion at a time. Use those secondary emotions, instead of "skimming the surface" by writing the primary (expected) emotion in a scene, to create a visceral connection to the reader.

"Write the unexpected."

What is the one thing your character would never do? Write that. Now what happens?

Yes, this is a variation on "don't write what is safe," but I can't tell you the epiphany I had as I thought about this question. I'd done all the usual things while plotting and writing The Lazarus Gambit — escalated the conflict, made the bad moments worse, and, and, and...I realized I'd played it safe, for my heroine and for myself. Well, not any more!

"Stories are inherently bigger than life."

Don't be afraid of the fromage! Just be sure to set the context before you deliver the cheese. In other words, don't be afraid of writing "over the top." Readers are engaged with and want stories that are bigger than life.

"Story is an infinite well."

Don't save things. Series writers have a tendency to hold things back/save things up for future books in the series. Don't! Put them in — you'll find more later! Story is an infinite well, and the more you write, the more the ideas will come. If you hold back, out of the fear that you won't be able to think of something later, you'll short-change what you're writing now — and it will show.

These are a few of the things that stood out to me in a workshop packed with great information. I've already planned serious changes to The Lazarus Gambit, and I know I'll apply these to future books, as well.


Deborah Wright
Website: www.Deborah-Wright.com
Twitter: @DeborahBWright
Facebook: Deborah.Wright.Author

 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome! This is the Mid-Willamette Valley Romance Writers weekly progress check-in. We want to hear from you!

Did you meet your writing goals last week?  What do you plan to accomplish this week?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Free Books Driving Series Sales

Hi, all.

I just did a cover reveal for the fourth novella in my "Deeds of the Ariane" fantasy series:

I wasn't sure I'd be writing the fourth story, since the first three didn't sell much at all in 2012. (My Pajaro Bay series has been turning a nice profit but this series was just sitting there like a bump on a log doing nothin'.)

So after Tina Folsom visited my local chapter and mentioned that she made the first books in her series free in order to drive sales to the rest of the series, I decided to try it. I had nothing to lose, so why not?

It took a while, but after Lark's Quest: The Search had been free on Barnes & Noble and iTunes for a while, Amazon.com price-matched it to $0.

So did it work? Well, the cover above is the answer. The fourth book is now a *much* higher priority for me, and will get completed this year, since the first three are now selling almost as well as my other series.

I'm not sure making a book free would be worth it if it's a stand-alone. That used to work (I did it with my first book in the KDP Select program last year, and it drove the book up on the bestseller lists for a while last spring).  Amazon seems to have changed the way they calculate free "sales", so making a book temporarily free doesn't seem to have as much impact long-term as it used to.

But if you have a series, and would like to raise visibility, making the first one free for a long time (not the KDP Select 1-5 day limit, but weeks or months at a time) seems to work, at least for me.

So that's my little tip for the day--sometimes giving something away can make potential readers aware of you, and then, if you're lucky, they'll check out the rest of your books.

Happy writing, all.

~Barb

Monday, March 04, 2013

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome! This is the Mid-Willamette Valley Romance Writers weekly progress check-in. We want to hear from you!

Did you meet your writing goals last week?  What do you plan to accomplish this week?

Friday, March 01, 2013

Catching Meara

I'm a little slow with the post. I thought I was the last Friday of the month so wasn't really paying too much attention. Yesterday was a crazy day and I was babysitting a sick granddaughter. Then it was hubby's birthday. We went out to dinner then stopped at Joanne's Fabrics and saw Meggan. (but I don't know how to spell her name.) hmm... I should go look it up.

This month I'm looking forward to the release of Catching Meara the first in The McKenna Clan series.
I will have a two day prerelease sale at Rogue Phoenix Press. Catching Meara will be $0.99 on March 8th and March 9th. More about that later.

Catching Meara will have a review tour with Goddessfish, starting March 18th.


BLURB:

CATCHING MEARA

Meara Thorton was a feisty, world-class computer hacker—cornered by the FBI and shockingly given the chance to be their newly acquired technical analyst.  Brilliant and intuitive, yet aching with the loss of everyone she has cared about, her restless heart led her to discover a love she fought and a world she didn't know could possibly exist.

Jace McKenna was an enigma, a loner, impossibly handsome, sincere and committed. The Apache shapeshifter blood running through his veins burned hotter than the blistering Sierra Madre sun. Jace knew the moment he caught Meara's scent she was his for eternity.

EXCERPT:

EXCERPT:

Meara had been seconds from revelation, mere seconds. Now quivering with terror, she huddled in the corner of her electrified office while lights flashed and popped all around her, knowing there was no where to run. Monitors flashed and burst, exploding and sending shards of liquid fire into the air. A cop entered the small room, his arms stretched forward, gun in both hands and a flashlight on top of his gun.

Three more cops followed behind. No, they were government agents. The logo printed in white across their chest announced their profession.

Bright lights swept the room in a slow steady arc, searching for her. Finally resting on her face, she shielded her eyes. Smoke from the crucified computers filled the cubicle, making the agents choke. Sweat from fear beaded on her forehead, and her heart lurched to her throat. She closed her hands over her heart as if she could slow the furious beating.

"Hewitt, check this out. There might be more than this one. Barrister go search through the other rooms."

"Right, McKenna."

"My name is Jace McKenna," the man said as he approached cautiously, kicking debris from under foot until he stood above her. "Put your hands in the air."

His voice held so much authority and sounded so calm. For a moment she thought he meant to reassure then she remembered she was his prisoner. Well, she would be as soon as she complied with his demands.

Jace, appeared dark, dangerous, handsome and tall, she noted at first. Very tall, which was hard to miss, since she was skinny and short. His eyes were an amber color with a hint of green. He towered over her. Beneath the deceiving bulkiness of his bulletproof vest, she observed next, his shoulders were very broad, and though his hips were lean, his thighs, tightly hugged by his jeans, were muscled and powerful.

His hair was blacker than the midnight sky, nearly indigo with its sheen, his amber eyes were cast into a rugged face that appeared naturally tanned. He was probably somewhere in his late twenties or early thirties. He seemed fierce, alive with a striking tension and a volatile energy that seemed to exude from him.

Shaking, sweat dripping down her face, Meara slowly raised her trembling arms. "D-don't shoot--me, please" She heard the pathetic whimper in her voice as she blinked the stinging sweat from her eyes where it melded with her mascara. Her heart pounded so hard against her chest she was sure it would burst through her ribs.

"Stand up, slowly."


EXCERPT:

"I can't--sleep. I can't close my eyes."

"Why ever not?"

"I'm afraid that cat will show up again. Any suggestions? Any besides keep all the doors and windows closed?" Like a drill sergeant, she marched through his open front door.

She didn't hear footsteps behind her, but she did hear the door close. He was always as silent as cat stalking a mouse. She didn't sense his presence until his hands were on her and he was spinning her around. Surprised, she cried out. The spinning sensations caused her to stumble. She fell down to the floor and he followed.

She was beneath him and he was sprawled over her, taut, tense, his chest naked and the muscles rippling. She wanted to trace the rosettes on his body. They were everywhere and she'd never noticed how many he had. His eyes seemed to blaze, searing, into her. "Meara," he began. "Dear god, Meara." Then he fell silent. He groaned as his fingers moved into her hair...and he was kissing her...really kissing her.

Not as he had kissed her earlier. Not lightly, but with hunger, raw and animalistic. Openmouthed, his lips moved upon hers, wet, hot, enticing a response from her. His tongue swept her mouth, thrust inside and demanded she respond equally. Then he drew away, kissing her face, the tip of her nose, her closed eyelids. His tongue rimmed her lips before slipping inside her mouth again, so deeply the inferno raced throughout her body. She needed to touch him if only to reassure herself this too was not a dream.

She wanted to feel the warmth of his body and explore the contours that were all male animal, sleek and hard. And in turn she felt an overwhelming urge, the fire, and the desperation to have him at any cost.

His lips rose above hers just a fraction of an inch. She touched them delicately with her tongue, encircling them, nipping lightly. He held still to her gentle assault then swept his arms around her. Once again their mouth melded and the tasting and sweeping and hunger were shared. When they broke apart again, his hold on her eased, but the tension in him seemed greater, explosive. His breath fanning her cheeks, he whispered. "Meara, I'm sorry. I understand it's too soon. It's just..."

Beneath him she lay still, wondering what on earth was happening to her. It wasn't too soon. Yet maybe he had the right of it. Perhaps he didn't want her in that way. She had teased and taunted him, shown up at his door and practically begged for the kiss--for sex. Still she wondered how he could just walk away. It seemed to him the kiss was a mistake, but she'd live with the mistake and cherish the moment.

He was on his feet, one hand holding tight to his towel, the other reaching down to her, helping her to stand. She gazed at him, her fingers still entwined with his, her lips swollen and soft and wet from the kiss.

"Jace," she whispered his name. He didn't speak, and his eyes focused with hers. "I'm not what you want. I know I'm not the kind of girl..." Her voice trailed away miserably. She barely knew him, and she had imposed herself after long days at work. But she wondered if his desire was great enough, if she could seduce him.

"Meara, hush, you are exactly the kind of girl I would want." His voice was a low growl, his words fraught with tension, his eyes blazing.

EXCERPT:

The gunshots woke Meara from a sound sleep. She sat up in bed, sweat dripping from her forehead. She thought she saw a strange animal-like figure staring at her from outside--a wolf perhaps. But it wasn't the jaguar. Then it vanished.

"Jace!"

She was shivering, but she couldn't bring herself to move. She felt numb and so very empty. Jace was out there. He had gone outside to protect her, looking for a killer, so it seemed. He shouldn't have done that. He should have stayed where it was safe. Terror ripped through her.

Nowhere was safe.

He could get himself killed.

She knew Jace. He would tell himself he was trained. He would have to do it. He couldn't leave this to the men patrolling the house. And she knew he would never sit still while someone took crack shots at him. He would never wait this thing out. He could never live that way.

They couldn't live that way.

She sat on the bed and leaned her head against the headboard. It was solid and soothing. She realized Jace was going to stay out there until he caught the man. She also knew he wasn't going to stay around forever. She wasn't pretty enough, cute enough. She didn't have any curves, so to speak. It would be all over before she could blink.

And he was out there...

Risking his life for her...

She really couldn't bear it if he died. No matter what happened, she didn't want him hurt. She did love him, very much, and she needed to know he was alive somewhere.

A loud roar startled her.

At the harsh sound, she jumped alert. Scooting back on her bead as far as she could go, she cowered against the headboard for a brief second. Slowly she unpeeled herself from the bed and walked into her living room then toward the balcony.

The cat was covered with dirt, his eyes bright against the blackness of his fur. She opened the balcony doors and let the jaguar walk inside.

He let out a few whimpers then settled down on the rug, his tail moving up and down. He sounded as if he was in pain.

She arched her brows, staring at the cat and wondering if she should go to him. If it was safe. Good lord, Jace would have her hide if she approached the cat. But it wasn't one of the rules. She'd done everything just as he'd asked. Well, except for letting the cat inside her house. But the big black jaguar looked as if he needed her and he was wounded. Heck, she was more exhausted, but strangely she wasn't as terrified.

"Easy boy," she cooed as she slowly stepped toward the animal. She gritted her teeth against the creak and groan of the floorboards.