Here’s the nice thing about social media. If you ask for help, people respond. That’s exactly what happened after I revealed the challenges I faced while establishing an online presence (see my post on 10/22). Within a day of that post, I received many useful social media tips from people who know a whole lot more than me. This included comments from an old boyfriend, now a social media expert, whom I haven’t seen in twenty-five years. You gotta love Facebook!
In this post, I’ll discuss my experience of building a website. A few years back, I had decided, mistakenly, that the only way I could understand the Internet is if I built a website from scratch. Conversely, I live in a house I didn’t build, I eat food I don’t grow, and though I have no working knowledge of engines, I still drive a car. Yet for some reason, I insisted on the “from scratch” method when building a website.
I purchased a three-year contract from GoDaddy that translated into over 1,000 days spent harassing their customer service agents. My finished product, an awkwardly designed website, looked like a pre-school Lego project. By the end of my contract, all I wanted to do was tell daddy where to go.
Two important learning points: 1) I’m not able to manage and execute all aspects of my writing career and 2) I am responsible for controlling and maintaining my online image. On the outside chance a potential reader found me, the reader’s experience had to be positive, and my homespun site was telling the wrong story. So I went back to the Internet to find someone to help me use the Internet. I identified three local web designers. My final choice was based on my inability to function fully in a virtual world. Joe Tartaglione from OutBoost Media came to my home, sat at my kitchen table and patiently let me draw my web vision with a pencil and paper. Amazingly, Joe was able to translate my chicken scratch into a working website.
Next I had to tackle site content. As much as I love Katrina and the Wave’s pop tune “Walking on Sunshine,” I didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder, a single-page site featuring a single book cover. I wanted readers to linger long enough to get a sense of my voice and the many aspects to my work. And for that, I needed to create content.
Luckily, I had a few short stories worth repackaging, and for that effort I sought Lois Karlin’s expertise. Lois transformed my word files into professionally formatted eBooks and then uploaded the finished products to online retailers like Smashwords. Partnering with retailers turned out to be extremely beneficial: it increased the Google search results for my name. Now when a reader searches for “Deirdre Verne,” the resulting entries fill an entire page. Suddenly, I had an online presence.
Did all of this cost money? Yes, but it gave me a sense of control that I can now extend through many social media channels. My current challenge is to integrate my online touch points, like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit etc., in such a way that readers receive a consistent and hopefully appealing message about my books each time they land on a page featuring my work. I’m not there yet, but I’m hoping this post generates more good advice.