Guest Post: Ben Jones on Online Presence + Blogoversary Giveaway 1[CLOSED]

A Writer’s Website and

Why You Need an Online Store

by

Benjamin Jones

For an independent/self publishing, author having a website is akin to having a drivers license – everybody should have one. Believe it or not, there are some of us who haven’t taken that necessary step and setup their own website so, if you’re one of those, stop reading this post and head over to www.weebly.com, www.webs.com or any of the other sites where you can setup your own site for free. We’ll give you a minute to do that before proceeding…..

Alright, now that that’s taken care of (and all joking aside), one of the first things I did when I seriously started pursuing this writing career of mine was to start my website and begin building my “brand” as your website becomes the main way that people really begin to notice you and your work and becomes a “one stop shop”, serving as nucleus of your writing world on the web. Something I have found useful (which I didn’t think of when I first got my website) was the ability to cross promote with other authors. I have linked up with fellow authors on Twitter and have put either a banner ad or a link to their book on my page in exchange for them doing the same thing for me on their site. It’s not only a good way to build publicity for your site but also a good way to link up/network with other authors.

There are many things that people put on their websites but I find these to be the core pages that every writer should have:

  • Contact page – it’s imperative that people be able to contact you, be it via email, Twitter, Facebook, etc… It allows you a chance to interact and build a fan base, especially via social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • Reviews page – if you have gotten any reviews on your work then you need to show them off (even put a few on the front/home page of your site to entice potential readers/customers to keep reading). I don’t know about you but, if I read/see that someone likes something, then I’m going to be more inclined to check it out for myself. Be sure to provide a link to the original source of the review so that people don’t think you made it up. 😉  Also, you can use this page to provide little snippets/excerpts of your work to entice people to buy (or create a whole new page for this purpose). Give the reader a little bit to get them interested so they’ll want to buy the rest.
  • A page for updates – as you continue to build your fan base you will want to let your fans/readers know what’s going on with you and your work so update your site often to keep them coming back.

Besides the above things the other necessity is an online store which I feel is important enough to warrant it’s own separate paragraph. When I first decided on setting up an online store for my site I thought that it was going to be hard but it is/was surprisingly easy. After setting up my site I then headed over to Paypal where I already had an account due to my eBay usage and clicked on their “Merchant Services” link and from there it was setting up descriptions and prices for my items, copying the HTML code for the checkout button onto my site and then voila – my store was up and running! As a note: I’m sure there are other sites that will let you setup an online store through them but Paypal is the one I use and the only one I’m really familiar with.

Why would I need an online store you maybe asking? The real question is why wouldn’t you want an online store?  Yes you can have your books on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, etc… w/out having them listed on your site but let’s take a look at the benefits of having your own online store:

  • If people are already on your site then they are more willing to buy if the link/page is right there as opposed to having to go to a different page and find it. You can always post links to the other places where your book is located on your online store page but have the focus be on your site first because….
  • You keep more of the money! Amazon and Barnes & Noble (and the rest) can get your book in front of more eyes but they’re going to keep more of YOUR money for that service. Using Paypal I get to keep about 95% of the sale price where some places the royalty rate is anywhere from 35 to 70%.
  • You can sell stuff other than books. You can have posters, magnets, calendars, t-shirts or any other number of things to go along with your book and any extra income is good income.

These are just a few of the reasons why you should have an online store on your site.

In conclusion, if you don’t have a website, GET ONE! If you have a website make sure that you have an online store where you can sell your books (and merchandise). Remember that your website is an extension of you and should be looked at as a part of your “brand”. Make it accessible to the readers, keep it updated regularly and let the reader know about the author as well as the books you’re writing.

Good luck and happy writing!

Ben Jones.

Ben is the author of the H.U.B. series of horror books. Find more on him and his series at www.whatishub.net or send him an email at ben@whatishub.net

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Thanks, Ben. I definitely appreciate the time you’ve taken to share with us about the value of having an online presence.

To blog readers 🙂 If you haven’t done so, take some time to tinker around on the H.U.B. site.

Now I’m hijacking this guest post. 🙂

So last week I checked the calendar and realized my one year blogoversary was on the horizon. January 6, 2010 to be exact. What to do? What to do? A giveaway is always nice. However, I wanted the giveaways to represent the directly this blog has been going lately–a slant toward indie. So, in honor of one year blogging and Indie authors, we’re going with an Indie theme.

To kick it off, Ben Jones has offered 5 copies of H.U.B. Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Okay, here’s how it goes. Five winners, five prizes.

  • One winner will receive a copy of H.U.B. Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Ben Jones plus their choice of a book up to $10 from the Book Depository. *This prize is international to anywhere the Book Depository ships.
  • Four winners will receive a copy of H.U.B. Volume 1 and Volume 2. *International.

So how do you win? Simple. Fill out the Form.

The rules!

  • Become a blog follower. See Google Friends Connect to the left.
  • You’ll earn 1 point for completing the form and additional point if you tweet and leave the link.
  • You may tweet once per day after your initial entry for an extra 2 points. Use the same form. 🙂
  • Comments are appreciated, but only entries from the form count.
  • Giveaway ends Friday, January 7, 2011.
  • Please read the giveaway policy for the nitty gritty.

Remember to check back tomorrow for the next giveaway.
So share some of your favorite Indie Authors. 🙂

HUB is available at Barnes & Nobles || Amazon || The Book Depository || Kobo || iTunes

Drabble

So I was looking at my calendar of posts and realized I’ve been upping my days of activity. Then there’s today… a big blank spot. 🙂 So I asked myself… what can I offer to fill the hole. Well, Tuesdays I’ve been doing free reads. However, I don’t see why I can’t offer a little one today also. A little background about this.

According to Wikipedia, a drabble is an extremely short work of fiction exactly one hundred words in length. So once in a while, Janet Reid will do these contests. For this particular one she gave contestants this challenge: In 100 words or less tell me a story. Include the following words: honeywagon, flaws, stake, pivotal, fairbank.

So I gave it a try. And here’s the drabble I came up with. Behold ~ Honeywagon.

Sarah Fairbank raced down the dirt path, tripping over the flaws in the terrain. Her stomach cramped, forcing her to double over. She barely managed to stay upright, but the evil cackle behind her urged her forward.

Her brow beaded with sweat even as a chilled coursed through her. She pressed on; there was too much at stake to do otherwise. The gurgle which came next told her she’d reach a pivotal moment. She glanced back at the smirking girl holding the box of laxatives. Sarah would have her revenge. But first she had to make it to the honeywagon.

Needless to say, I didn’t win. But it was fun anyway. 🙂

Software Review: Adobe Photoshop Elements

This has been a long time coming. Really, I’m such a novice with this wicked tool, I probably shouldn’t even be writing this post. Even though this does not pertain to writing it self, I find Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 relevant to authors trying to design their own cover art.

I actually acquired this piece of software as a bonus when I purchased my graphic tablet way back in the spring. I’ve been using it off and on, but during the last couple of months I’ve been really trying to learn how to use this program. So what does Adobe have to say about their product??

The #1 selling consumer photo-editing software*, Adobe® Photoshop® Elements 9 delivers powerful options that make it easy to create extraordinary photos, quickly share your memories in Online Albums and unique print creations, and automatically organize and protect all your photos and video clips. Now you can unclutter or repair any photo with a brush stroke; match the style of one favorite photo to another; and easily create stunning pop art, reflection, portrait effects, and more.

Save $40 on Adobe Photoshop Elements 9

I opened this program with a very rudimentary knowledge of graphic design. Basically, I could use it like the Paint program which comes in the Windows accessory 🙂 and understood what a layer was. I’ll tell you, understanding and knowing how to put layers to use were two different things.

First thing I realized about PSE was it isn’t an easy product to master. One doesn’t just open PSE and expect to be an instant pro at graphic design. It takes work… a lot of work to make anything look outstanding, in my opinion. My brief brushes with other graphic manipulation programs suggest this isn’t uncommon. However, if you’re familiar with a different graphic manipulation program, your knowledge should translate well to PSE.

So you’ve got lil o’ me who’s pretty clueless about photo manipulation. What I found was a wealth of information and tutorials online on how to use my nifty little product. My attempts usually didn’t turn out as beautiful as the examples, but it goes along the lines “practice makes perfect.”

With the tutorials by my side along with a bit of trial and error, I went to work. One thing for sure, PSE is a powerful tool. Most every tutorial I discovered I was able to do (though my attempts were sloppy). I did run into some problems with tutorials specific to Photoshop CS, but through a little research I found quite a few workarounds. Some methods I used to get a CS feel included downloading add-ons or using a different PSE tool.

The biggest benefit to using a tool such as PSE is the concept of layers. Oh how I love layers. Let’s take a look at the cover art below.

I counted 4 images and 17 layers for the above cover art. Others may be able to do it in fewer and a far better job. But as I mentioned, I’m just a lowly novice. 🙂  One of the things I like about the layers is the ability to use entire images without altering the actual image. Take for instance the tiger in the upper right corner. The image is of a tiger standing in grass with a rock formation behind it. Of course you don’t see all that in the finished product, but it’s still there in PSE. By grouping it with a level layer, I was able to blot out everything but the head while persevering the image. I love that. It means if I change my mind later down the road, I don’t have to worry about where I’m getting the image. It’s still there… as is. Then by changing the lighting, I got the see-through appearance.

Despite using PSE for a few months, I still don’t know enough about the product to detail every single feature. However, I will tell you I’m enjoying PSE greatly. I am so happy I got it as part of my Intuos4 package.

If you’d like to give PSE a try for free, Adobe offers a 30-day trial.

  • Don’t forget you can receive $40 off after the instant and mail in rebates through this link or the PSE image above. Offer expires January 5, 2011.
  • As an Adobe affiliate, I do receive a small compensation if you click through my links to make your purchase.

Memory Lane: Cover Art Take Two

I received quite a bit of feedback from my early cover art designs of Shadow Cat. Very helpful. I took them into consideration and got rid of the animated images which many said gave it an amateurish look.

If you don’t remember the first attempts, behold!

Shadow Cat Solid

When you’re done laughing, feel free to keep reading.

Originally I thought to replace the woman above with a photograph of a woman. Then I started to worry about sex appeal. I figured more women would be inclined to purchase Shadow Cat than men since it’d be listed under romance. So goodbye Lady. Hello, Mister.

I actually liked the one above… and I didn’t like it. Somewhere along the line I realized the importance of a background. And of course, it doesn’t hurt to have more flesh. 🙂 And so the below cover art came to be.

Does this cover tempt you to want Shadow Cat for your very own? Why or why not? Inquiring minds want to know. Okay. I just want to know.

All of these examples I did in Photoshop Elements 7. If you’re interested in my review of the product, hop on over to the post.