What Not to Post

Back in the early days of blogging, circa December 2000, you could pretty much get away with saying anything, because nobody knew what the heck a blog was anyway. Wanna trash your family? Sure! Want to complain about your job? Right on.

But, people, you can’t do that anymore! Blogging is in the public now, and your blog is not hard to find. If, like me, you’re using your blog as a marketing tool, it’s all the easier for people to find it and to link it with you.

All of that means that you need to think about your blogging a little more, and be a little careful about what you’re saying. I can see some of you writhing under the restrictions already. If you’re the kind of person that has to say what you have to say, and damn the consequences, this is going to be hard for you. You might consider starting an anonymous blog (although what’s the fun of a blog if you can’t share it with the people you know?) or a password-protected blog.

For those of you that are braving the public and attributable blog, though, here are my suggestions on What Not to Post:

  1. Anything you don’t want your boss to read.
  2. Anything you don’t want your mom to read.
  3. Embarrassing photos of anyone who could beat you up.
  4. Stories involving your friends that they didn’t say you could post. Otherwise, they’ll end all conversations with you with the phrase, “But don’t put that on your blog!”
  5. Stuff you’ll wish you could take back later. Teh Internets remembers everything.

Good and scared now? Then my job here is done. ;) Go forth and post!

Your Elevator Pitch

I bet you thought that you only had to pitch your book before you sold it. Wrong! People are routinely going to ask you, “What’s your book about?” And you’re going to have to be able to tell them in roughly ten seconds. So practice your pitching, even after selling!

My favorite article on pitching is Virginia Kantra’s Guide to Perfect Pitch. She gives a great jumping off point for how to formulate the structure of your pitch. You can also use some of the stuff you did for your synopsis or blurb for your pitch.

I personally think that the most important part of pitching is practicing, which is a little hard to do by yourself. Sure, you can practice to your dog, but dogs don’t generally talk back. Editors and agents do! I had one pitch once where I had my whole schpeil memorized, but the agent kept interrupting to ask questions, and it threw me for a loop!

What are your best pitching tips and resources?

Twitter Advice Round-up

Over the months, I’ve written quite a lot of advice on getting the best out of Twitter. There are a LOT of supposed social media experts out there, and I in no way claim to be one of them, but I love learning how other people use different tools, so I’m sharing in the spirit of collaboration. Please share your Twitter tips with me, too!

Here’s a round-up of all the Twitter advice I’ve ever given (at least in writing):

You DO Have Time to Tweet: 5 Time-Saving Twitter Tips — This is my first ever post for our shiny new company blog. I’m pretty psyched about it! (My day job is at Brooks Bell Interactive, a super awesome direct online marketing agency.)

Helpful Stuff Update: The Best Free iPhone Apps — I mention a Twitter iPhone app that I love in this post, called TweetDeck.

Helpful Stuff: The Best Free iPhone Apps — This is the original Best Free iPhone Apps post. I list Ping.fm as one of my favorite apps. It’s a Twitter/Facebook/Brightkite/whatever else updater.

Powering Up Twitter — This article outlines how I take advantage off all the things Twitter lets you do, and how I make it do more than it was ever really intended to do.

Interview on the 15secondpitch BlogTalkRadio show — I talk quite a lot about Twitter in this interview, so take a listen.

Twitter as Recruiter — How I landed my current job via Twitter.

Ok, your turn. Share your Twitter tips in the comments or leave a link to your Twitter tips blog post. I’d love to see what you think!

Shelfari, Unbound and You

Probably all of you have heard of Shelfari, based on their early spamming of all your friends’ address books. Yeah, ok, that was kind of bad, but Shelfari has managed to come into its own, and I think the most exciting feature about Shelfari is its Unbound section. It’s basically a huge author wiki (a web page that can be edited by anyone and everyone) where you can find out all about your favorite authors. TechCrunch described it as possibly becoming the IMDB of authors.

So what does this mean for you, the author?

Your options:

1. Edit your own Unbound page. You’ll have to sign up for a Shelfari account, but you never have to use it except to edit your Unbound page, if you don’t feel like it. Just add all the info you want to add and you’re done!

2. Link your Shelfari profile to your Unbound page. If you like the idea of Shelfari and think you’ll be able to connect with your readers based on what you’re reading, go ahead and create an actual in-use Shelfari profile and link it to your Unbound page. Look for the small, “Are you the author?” link at the bottom of your Unbound page.

Have fun!

Making Loops Less Loopy

If you’re struggling to figure out when to post your promotion to the various email loops, join KyAnn Waters‘ Yahoo Group, Promotion Loop Schedule.

According to KyAnn:

I don’t use Outlook and my yahoo loops are on an account that I only visit when I’m promoting so I needed a way to keep track of when/where/what to promote. So I started a loop to send me reminders to my personal email. here is the loop addy: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Promotion_Loop_Schedule This loop won’t generate any email except yahoo reminders that today you can post on which loops. The loops that you can post on any day are all in one listing that will go out daily. I’m sure there will be kinks in the process, but I needed something to come to my inbox that said drop a promo here.

I thought since I’m doing this for myself I might as well make the calendar available for anyone else who is going crazy with promotions and all the loops and rules.

And feel free to share the link with anyone who could use the info.

Thanks KyAnn!

SEO Guide for the Rest of Us

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a term that gets thrown around a lot in the webmaster world. Basically, SEO is a process by which you make your website more easily searchable by the big searchy types (Google, Yahoo, MSN) and get a better rank on those search results pages. SEO experts will have you believe that you need said experts to optimize your site for you or you are DOOMED to a crappy page rank and no search engine hits ever, so help them God.

That is not necessarily true. I know I’m going to have angry SEO experts sending me nasty emails for this, but I think Search Engine Optimization is largely a racket. You do not need an entire company to make your site searchable. You just don’t.

There are many things you can do on your own to make your site searchable, and, at the same time, make it a better site for your visitors.

So here’s Sonja’s SEO Guide for the Rest of Us:

Get someone to link to your homepage. A lot of times, that’s your publisher. If you have a profile on your publisher’s site, make sure it links back to your site. Once you are linked from another site, the search engines can automatically find you. This goes for all your other places on the web too. Have a MySpace page? Make sure you link back to your homepage. A blog? Same thing. A word of caution though: beware of big sites whose main purpose is a “link exchange.” If you are linked from a page a search engine has classified as a bad apple, it may actually hurt your page rank.

Put titles on your pages. Look at the top of your browser window right now and you will see a title in the bar at the very top that says Promo-Ho.com or Promo-Ho.com: SEO Guide for the Rest of Us. That is your title and it is very important. If you are using a blog platform, this is likely the blog title you submitted when you set yourself up for the first time. If you are designing a website, your editing program should have a title input space. Never leave that space blank! Be sure your title is concise and appropriate. For example, the title on my author page is Sonja Foust, Romance Author. If you have a particular genre you write in, you might use that instead: Jane Doe, Historical Romance Author, for example. Why are titles so important? This is the first thing people will see when they search for your site as the big, bold, linked piece of text. In addition, search engines look at titles first to judge the contents of your site.

Use as much text as you can. Some web designers love Flash (fancy animations) and graphics and lots of other fancy stuff, and that’s fine to an extent, but search engine “crawlers” (the little robots who circulate around the internet and read every website ever created) can’t read Flash and graphics. If you can make it work, your navigation menu should be text rather than graphics, or at least have an “alt” tag that matches the text of your graphic. (Your web designer will know what that means.) Use as much text as you can in the content of your pages too, rather than pictures, and when you do have pictures, don’t forget to descriptively “alt” tag them.

Have a clear navigation design. This will involve a menu running across the top or along the side of your page, most likely. Every page should be reachable from at least one static (unchanging) text link. Usually, that means the menu on each page should look exactly like the menus on all the other pages. If you have graphics in use for your menu bar, you may choose to do a duplication of your menu bar along the bottom as text, as I’ve done on my site.

Make your content good. Google says, “Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it” (Webmaster Guidelines). Your bio is a good place to do this. “My name is Jane Doe and I write historical romances with mysterious twists,” will do better than, “My name is Jane Doe and I’m a mother of three,” when someone searches for a historical mystery, for example.

Use meta tags. If you’re not a web designer and you have no idea what meta tags are, don’t run screaming yet. They’re pretty easy. Meta tags go in the head section of your document. You’ll have to look at the HTML code of your site, and then insert appropriate tags as explained at Google Help. Don’t fret, though. If this is something you don’t feel like tackling, it’s not the most important thing in the world, despite what some SEO experts will tell you.

If you can follow some or most of those simple guidelines, you’re well on your way to being searchable on the web. Good luck! As always, leave suggestions or other comments in the comments.

Managing Your Life on the Interwebs

If you’re like me, sometimes you get a leeeeetle carried away with promoting yourself, especially when it’s so easy to do. I mean, really, it takes 20 seconds to create a profile on the newest social networking site and BAM! that’s more promotion for you (and your Emeril for the day).

Do not get me wrong: You will never hear me say “promotion is bad.” That will not pass the lips of the Promo Ho. But you still need to be able to manage your promotion without giving up all your writing time. After all, writing a great book is the best form of promotion.

[“Yeah yeah,” says the peanut gallery. “Everyone always says that, but we came here for promotion ideas and we don’t want to hear, ‘write the best book you know how, rainbows and sunshine and kisses.'” So ok, moving on.]

In reality, setting up a profile just about everywhere is easy, and probably won’t hurt anything, as long as you’re not going to be obsessive about being uber (that was your German for the day) involved in every community. Par example (that was your French for the day), I have a MySpace page which I rarely check. I slapped up the profile years ago and updated it when I started my writing career, and I haven’t paid much attention to it since. Every week or so, I log in to delete the comment spam from hot chicks trying to get me to take surveys, accept friend requests, and generally do on-site clean-up. I used to cross-post all my blogs to MySpace too, but I’m lazy and not of infinite time allowances, so I don’t do that anymore. The point is, it’s free marketing, I have a presence on the site, and it takes next to no time to maintain.

The trick is figuring out where your home base is online and directing people to that. Par example (again), my MySpace page has a link to my main page and my blog. My main page is where you find all my writing info, and my blog is where you find everything you ever wanted to know and more about little old me. All my profiles around the web link to my main page and my blog.

And on my blog, I have links to all my social network sites and various other profiles in my right-hand sidebar, thanks to Profilactic.

Lifestreaming is a new trend in social networking. Basically, the goal of lifestreaming is to get all your social network “feeds” (the pieces of info you update regularly, like your blog) in one centralized place. That’s next to impossible, but Profilactic does a really decent job and is my lifestreamer of choice. Others out there are FriendFeed and MyBlogLog and there are a bunch of others I haven’t tried.

Think of organizing your online life as creating a treasure map. You can leave little pieces of you all over the internet, but your ultimate goal is for people to return to your home base and find the real good stuff.

Good luck! Leave your tips on social networking and lifestreaming in the comments.

Multiple Email Disorder

If you’re anything like me, you have several domain names, each with their own email address. How do you manage all that stuff, and how do you keep your identities separate?

I would suggest getting yourself a Gmail account. In my opinion, Gmail is the easiest way to manage multiple email addresses in one simple, web-based inbox.

Here’s a great post on how to get all of your emails consolidated into one Gmail inbox: Using Gmail as Your Universal Email Account

Done that? Good. Now we move on to the pretty stuff.

Unfortunately (because Gmail is awesome in so many other ways), Gmail’s default signature option is boring: plain text or plain text, you decide. So if you want your email signatures to have a little flare and you want a different signature for every address, consider installing Greasemonkey.

Greasemonkey is a Firefox add-on, so unless you’re using the Firefox web browser (why wouldn’t you be?) it won’t work. Luckily, Firefox is free. Download Firefox.

Greasemonkey is really easy to install. Just go to the Greasemonkey website and click Install Now. Told ya.

Now that you have Greasemonkey installed, you have to install the Gmail HTML signature script. That sounds all technical, but it’s not. Just go to the Gmail HTML Signatures website and click Download/Install. It does everything for you.

Now you’re ready to go. Open Gmail, and compose a new message. The dropdown menu at the top will contain all your email addresses, and you’ll notice a new link to the right that says Create Signature. Click it and a blank box will pop up. Now put whatever HTML code you want in there and voila! Pretty signatures!

It does require a little bit of HTML knowledge, but only really basic easy stuff. For a quick and dirty primer, check out the HTML Cheat Sheet.

Pretty cool, huh? So go wild with your new efficiently done email. Have fun! Email is internet word-of-mouth and it’s one of the best marketing tools you have!

Matchy Matchy

If you’ve tackled the project of designing your website, and now are ready to integrate your blog, it’s not as challenging as it might sound.

If you have a domain name, you can even make your domain names match. In Blogger, there are instructions for getting your custom domain here: http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=55373&topic=12451 It includes setup instructions for a lot of common hosts, like GoDaddy. The advantage of doing this is that your blog address is now http://blog.yourname.com instead of http://yourname.blogspot.com.

After that, all you have to do is get your menu links from your website pointing the right places and then format your blog so that your menu bar matches your webpage menu bar. In Blogger you can customize the heck out of your template, so have fun and experiment. Sometimes it takes a few tries, but if you’ve already designed your website, the hard part is over.

Lots On Websites

Erica Ridley has put together a great series of articles on website design for authors.

Read the articles!