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Author practices

Six Steps to a More Engaging Author Website, Part 2

Posted on: November 2nd, 2013 | No comments 

In our latest post, we shared three out of six steps many of the most engaging effective author websites have in common.   In part two, we provide three more.  I’d love to hear your ideas about what we missed!

4) Hosting a Dynamic Blog: Websites with a built in blog get 55 percent more traffic than websites without a blog. While that’s a compelling argument to have a blog our recommendation is to only maintain one if it’s updated at a minimum once a week—if not more. A good blog should offer a steady flow of insight into the author’s activities, thoughts, and ideas.

  • Author and NYT journalist Daniel Coyle (The Talent Code) blogs frequently on his site. In fact, his blog is front and center: it’s the main feature on the homepage. In addition to its frequency, Coyle integrates pictures and videos and has catchy post titles—“How to Spark Motivation? (Step One: Shut Your Mouth)”; “A Two-Minute Video That Might Change the Way Your Kid Thinks”; and “Best Parenting Tip Ever.”
  • Dan Ariely, (Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions) an author and professor, posts his “Ask Ariely” Q&A column from the Wall Street Journal to his blog. The questions are varied and Ariely’s responses are brief and interesting (he incorporates plenty of behavioral science research into his answers). The bottom line: Ariely blogs prolifically about his field of interest and expertise making the blog a must-read.

5) Having a “Rockstar” Testimonial: It’s always better to have other people talk about how great you are and author Richard Florida (The Rise of the Creative Class) hit the jackpot on this front. His homepage features a video clip of U2 front man Bono recommending Florida’s bestselling book to a panel

Six Steps to a More Engaging Author Website, Part 1

Posted on: October 18th, 2013 | 1 comment 

In a previous post, we established why authors should have their own website. An engaging author website is the gateway to multiple audiences: agents, editors, the media, readers, and reviewers, and thus, it should showcase your work and ideas and give people a sense of your personality. Setting up a website yourself or hiring an affordable designer does not mean you’ll have to spend a significant amount of time or money. In fact, you’ll expend more time and energy on your Twitter and Facebook accounts than your website in the long run because once set up, all you have to do is update the site with fresh content.

In the next two posts, we highlight features from several nonfiction author websites that we think are effective in engaging readers and building traffic. We hope these ideas inspire you to be creative on your own site.  All of these can be developed by you, without spending more money  on a web engineer or designer.

1) Crafting an Effective Tagline: A tagline, which should feature prominently on your homepage, does two things: it either summarizes you and your expertise or it describes what your book is about. It signals to the reader that you are an expert and your website contains the best information on a particular subject. We also find that a tagline sets the website’s tone. Check out the following:

  • On author and entrepreneur Chip Conley’s (Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow) main website (Conley has two other book-related sites), the first thing you’ll see is the following tagline: “Creating Transformation at the Intersection of Business + Psychology.” (The tagline is placed next to Conley’s inspirational TED Talk.)
  •  “The Movement That Is Transforming How New Products Are Built And Launched.”

Key Elements of Author Websites (post 1 of 4)

Posted on: October 14th, 2013 | 1 comment 

Big Fish Media has added website design to our portfolio of services.  During the last six months, we have developed the official website for the legacy of C.K. Prahalad; and the website for the book Choosing Change, by Susan Goldsworthy and Walter McFarland.  We’ll have more news about our planned offerings soon; along the way, we’ve been doing our homework on top issues for nonfiction authors deciding to develop a website for their book. Over the next week or so, we will publish four posts offering insight, tactics, advice, and best practices to authors, drawn from our experience and analysis of successful nonfiction author websites.

Remember that in almost every case, authors need to be active in social media as well as operating a successful website. And, as Jason Allen Ashlock wrote in his excellent column The Truth About Author Websites, many experts believe a bad website does more harm than good.  Because of the importance of costs and providing updated and new content, we still recommend WordPress as the best development platform and learning to self-admin your site is critical.

Consider a few of these basic must-dos for an author’s website, assuming his or her book is going to be published commercially and in distribution:

1. Keep content fresh: whether via blogging, news updates, interactive Q&A features, or other means; don’t allow your site to become stale (if you’re going to have a blog, be committed to creating new material at least once a week). Link to your social media.

2. Invest in a WordPress-savvy designer for a simple, elegant and functional approach. That may seem like obvious advice.  What’s important is to visualize information in a style that consumers are used to: note the design on Simon & Schuster’s new websites. 

3. In terms of functionality, the

Self-Publishing: What’s Your Motivation?

Posted on: October 3rd, 2013 | 2 comments 

by Sarita Venkat

Big Fish Media is chronicling author Susan Price in a series of posts as she navigates the world of self-publishing. We follow the choices she faces, the decisions she makes, and the challenges she encounters in all areas, including research, production, and marketing. We’ll also offer tips, resources, and insights about self-publishing.

 Even before Susan self-publishes her book she has something many—if not most—self-published authors lack: a solid foundation. In our conversations I learn what sets Susan apart from other writers.

  • Having passion: If you are writing a book to make money, stop right now. The only way you’ll succeed is if you are deeply passionate about your topic. Working with parents to help them instill philanthropic values such as giving and serving in their children (toddlers to teenagers) is Susan’s passion.
  • Being clear and focused: Susan has a purpose for writing her book: she wants to update her 2001 book The Giving Family: Raising Our Children To Help Others. For the new book, she will incorporate fresh ideas and insights that reflect giving in the digital age. Susan is also writing this new book to secure more speaking engagements. (“I am an extrovert and giving speeches is a great way to interact with people.”)
  • Understanding self-publishing: Susan has already traveled the traditional publishing path with her previous six books. But she wanted to try something different this time. Similar to other authors, she wants to retain more control of the publishing process and prefers not to find an agent or publisher this time. But, Susan is aware that it won’t be easy. If you are self-publishing be clear about what parts of the process you will do and those that you will outsource.
  • Being a subject matter expert: Susan has been

The Power of Posting Up

Posted on: July 23rd, 2013 | No comments 

Our clients and health care reform gurus Al Lewis and Tom Emerick (working from time-to-time with Vik Khanna) are selling books and generating buzz through a series of blog articles in major news and information sites ranging from the Wall Street Journal to Harvard Business Review to Fortune and The Health Care Blog.

What makes their content marketing so effective? First, they’re outstanding writers with an unusually sharp ability to frame an argument. Just as important, they take a clear position, they know the editorial needs of the brands where they want to be published, and they take direction from editors. All writers can all take a page out of their book.

We’re pleased we could work with them on placements that include (check them out—they’re funny and persuasive):

To learn more about Tom Emerick’s and Al Lewis’ landmark new handbook for managing (and saving) health care, Cracking Health Costs, visit their websites: or


Get Publishers to “Pre-Approve” Your Manuscript Approach

Posted on: July 23rd, 2013 | No comments 

Here’s a thought for nonfiction authors—particularly in service categories such as business and finance where your book was not acquired for your literary genius. While the pressure of finishing a manuscript against a deadline will always tap some level of emotional exhaustion, in our current publishing age, there is one major uncertainty you can remove from this process: whether you are delivering the manuscript your editor wants.

Many times books are acquired on the basis of a proposal and sample chapters. The publisher’s team will have “liked” some part of the book’s plan, and discussed changing particular sections. In other circumstances, the publisher may say very little about the manuscript.

After acquiring your book, most editors will want to see an early chapter; some will want to see more than one, or see chapters on a regular basis. Despite their good intentions and early engagement, some editors may postpone grappling with your early chapters, and based on a single, sample chapter will urge you to complete the book.

But here’s the catch: months or years later when you hand in your manuscript, that editor may have forgotten all about liking your detailed plan or even signing off on a particular direction. In fact, you may receive extensive edits and requests to restructure the text after submission—which is your editor’s right.  To build more certainty into the review process, work closely with your editor immediately after acquisition to sign off on an early, detailed outline for the final manuscript. Here’s are a few tactics:

  • Submit a full, detailed chapter outline and chapters (when they are ready) after your book deal is completed.
  • Front load a few solid conversations with your editor about the outline and chapters and get comments in writing. By asking your editor for comments on the outline, you’ll