Author Archives: Ruth Ann Nordin

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out http://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.

Websites and Blogs: Simpler Is Better

I just got off a website that had so many things going on with it that I could barely find the content I was looking for.  I’m getting increasingly frustrated with websites and blogs that seem like a maze.  I understand that people are adding flashy gimmicks to their sites because it looks awesome, but it’s gotten to the point where I am overwhelmed by almost half of the sites I ever go to anymore.  I am starting to unsubscribe now from these sites because I don’t have the patience to keep sorting through everything to get to what I want.

(And just to clarify, these aren’t just author sites I’m talking about.  These things are covered by a wide variety of consumer products like insurance, financial planning, and shoes.  My point is this: it seems to be everywhere.)

Just like in writing a story, I think simple is best.  When you complicate things, you make the reader (or potential reader) work harder to figure out what is going on.  Also, we’re in a global community now with a wide range of people checking out our content.  Some people may not be as “hip” to technology as we are.  Or English could be their second language, and it’s hard for them to sort through all the lingo we take for granted.   I like to think of a website or a blog is a place to say, “Welcome!  Thank you for stopping by.  Relax.  Take a look around.  Browse at your leisure.” The best way to do that, in my opinion, is by keeping things simple.

So here are my recommendations for keeping your site simple and easy to navigate:

1. Watch the text color and the background color.

White letters on a black background does look neat, but it’s hard on the eyes.  Also, keep in mind that someone might want to print out a post you write if this is on your blog.  I heard of a blog post that had red lettering on a green background.  This would be a nightmare to print out.  Sure, the person can select “black and white” print, but will they think to do it (or even know how?).

2. Font size and type.

You want something that’s both easy to read and neat.  Bigger font size is good for introducing a division in the topic on the post.  For example, “2. Font size and type” above can be larger.  It can also have a fancier kind of font if you want.  But for the regular text like what you’re reading here, I think it’s best to go with the default font size and type.

3. De-clutter the page.

On your website, your newest book should be the focal point, so this should be where the eyes first go to when someone stops by.  Past books should be on other pages.

You can point out other pages in your header (if it’s one that scrolls across like Joleene Naylor or Melanie Nilles does).

Or you can point to other pages in your site somewhere in a menu bar.  Stephannie Beman has her pages listed on a menu at the bottom of the header on her website, and Rami Ungar has his menu at the very top of his blog.

Any other things you want to point out (such as social media links) in your home page should be unobtrusive and to the side of the content that’s being featured.

On your blog, your main focal point is the text of your blog post.  If you want to add a picture, feel free.   I wouldn’t do too many in case it take someone with an older computer or slow internet longer to download the page, though.  Not everyone has the newest computer nor does everyone have the fastest internet available to them.  The more pictures you have, the longer it can take for them to access your post, and some may not be patient enough to stick around.

4. Make it easy to comment.

I’m guessing you want people to comment on your blog post.  If not, turn off comments.  If you do want people to comment, then make it as easy for them to comment as possible.  I have seen some blogs that require you to pretty much verify you’re an actual human being each and every time you want to leave a comment on the blog.  Some then proceed to make me manually subscribe to future comments via my inbox.  So not only do I click on the “notify me of future comments” box, but I then have to go to my inbox and verify that I want to be notified if there are future comments.   Another person had a pop-up menu asking me to sign-up for their newsletter before I could even leave a comment.

I don’t know if these techniques really work for the people using them, but I am not inclined to bother leaving comments anymore on those blogs.  (Unless the person is a friend.  I will only go through that kind of headache for a friend.  And this person has to be a really good friend.  If I was just a regular reader, I would not do it.)

5.  I’m on the fence about the pop-up box asking people to sign up for a newsletter.

It seems like almost every blog or website I go to lately has this pop-up box asking me to sign up for a newsletter.  This isn’t just authors.  It’s on a variety of products, and I think it’s the frequency of this method that has caused me to be annoyed with it.  I didn’t mind it so much when it happened once in a while, but now it seems to be all over the place.

Now, I almost didn’t add the “pop-up box” in this list because I know it’ll ruffle some feathers.  I know people who do this, and I understand why they do it.  I’ve even heard this method is effective.  But then I thought, “This is something that does annoy me as a potential consumer.  I have actually decided not to buy hats or software because of one of these pop-up boxes.

Personally,  I would rather find the sign-up form for a newsletter somewhere else on the site.  Like to the side of the main page or on a separate page entirely.  This way, it doesn’t interfere with what I’m trying to read.  I realize all I have to do it “click out” of the box, but that’s an extra step that I don’t always have the patience for, especially when I need something quick and the kids won’t leave me alone.

After conducting an informal survey of readers’ preferences on Facebook, I learned most of them don’t like the pop-up ads.  Some are okay as long as you can “X” out of the box.  But for those who browse blogs and websites on their mobile phones, they said they did not have the open to “X” out of the pop-up box.  I don’t surf the internet with my iPhone.  I use the computer for that.  I’m taking their word for it.

Again, I understand why authors do this, and I won’t stop coming to your blog or website because of it.  When an author is looking to build their list, this is one of the methods open for them to do.  But there are other ways to gain subscribers to your email list.  You can leave an option for people to sign up for your newsletter at the end of your books (which has worked for me).  You can run a giveaway or a free book in return for people signing up for your newsletter (which I heard is also effective, though there seems to be a high unsubscribe rate afterwards).  Or, as I mentioned above, you can have it to the side of the main page or on a separate page on your site.

But like I said, I’m not going to avoid your site because of it.

6.  Automatic videos or audio.

I’m not a fan.  It can be slow in loading if you don’t have fast internet.  It can also be distracting.  Sometimes I’m already listening to something while I’m browsing the internet.  To have something auto-play during that time is jarring.  Also, there have been a couple of times when I have the volume on my computer turned all the way up because of a low quality video on You Tube, and if there is something that auto-plays (the news is really bad for this), it’s jarring to have something loud suddenly play at you without expecting it.

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I think when it doubt, keep things simple.  What tips do you have for keeping things simple on a blog or website?

Categories: Uncategorized | 20 Comments

Stress: How To Cope When the Mountain of Work Only Increases

An author’s life is an incredibly busy one.  The easy part is writing your book.  It’s what happens after you hit publish that can have you running around doing a million things at once.  Whether it’s family, friends, the household budget, chores, appointments with the dentist/doctor/etc, and things like car repairs, we are already busy.

Now, add to this the job we have of promoting our work.  We must juggle social media.  We must answer emails.  We must update our website and/or blog.  We must line up things with editors/cover artists/formatters (or do these things ourselves), though I would advise to never do the edit yourself because it’s hard to catch everything when you’re reading what “should” be there instead of what is actually there.  On top of all of that, we have to keep track of our expenses and our income for tax purposes.

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There is so much we do.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but it seems that for every one thing I accomplish, two more things pile up on my “To Do” list.  So how are we to cope in a world that is constantly demanding our attention?

Keep Writing or Write More

Sadly, this is the one thing we do that is easiest to push back because the other things require us to do something for other people.  All of our promotional efforts focus in on others, and we often put others before ourselves.  (I’m not saying this is always a bad thing, but if you don’t take care of yourself, then you won’t have the emotional reserve to take care of others.)

For most of us, we need to write.  It is the only thing that keeps us sane in the middle of our stressful lives.  So if we were to “not write”, then we would only get stressed out even more.  Writing has a calming effect on us.  It clears our minds and helps us focus.  So I believe writing needs to be at the top of our priority list in order to help us do everything else.

How much writing should you do?  That will depend on your particular situation.  A good rule of thumb is to figure out how much time you need to write in order to feel calm and relaxed.  For me, it’s two hours minimum.  Once I hit the two hour mark, I feel at peace with the world around me.  I don’t have to do this every day, but I can’t go for longer than two consecutive days without getting irritable and restless.  Your own threshold will be unique to you.

It’s Okay If You Don’t Answer Emails, Blog Comments, or Facebook/Twitter/Google Plus/Etc Comment Today

Unless there is an emergency to tend to, it’s okay to push all of these aside for when you have more room in your calendar for them.  One thing I have found helpful is to write 250-300 words, answer 1-2 emails or comment from a social media site, then go back to writing another 250-300 words.

This way  the social end of my writing business doesn’t take away from the actual writing.  Of course, it requires some discipline.  It’s easy to get distracted by a funny picture or video.  So if you need to be offline while writing, then wait until you’re done writing in order to get to the social stuff.  On days I don’t write, I’ll carve out 1-3 hours to catch up on the social side of writing.

Whatever way works best for you is the one to go with.  Just because the tips above helps me, it doesn’t mean they’ll work for everyone.

Say No To Things You Can’t Handle

We all have our limits, and knowing where yours is can be a huge life saver.   It is hard to say no when someone wants something from us.  (This something is often our time.)

Carefully weigh the pros and cons before saying yes.  Can you still get everything on your list done if you say yes?  Will you have the energy you need later on in the day to do your work?  Will the creative flow still be there?  Do you feel like everything is in order, so when you come back, you’re not going to feel stressed out?  If you say can yes to those things, then you can say yes to the person’s request.  If you say no to any of them, see if you can do the thing for that person at a more convenient time.  (Unless you don’t want to do it.  Then, by all means, just say you can’t do it.)

Prioritize Your Tasks

I like to have a calendar next to me where I can keep notes on what I need to do and on what day they need to be done.  I plan out this calendar a week in advance unless there’s an appointment I scheduled six months in advance (like a trip to the dentist).  You may be able to plot out your writing and social media tasks for a longer time span.  My attention span is pretty short, so I need to keep my timeline short.

I don’t keep a detailed list.  I know some people who do, but I would go crazy if I did that.  I take 2-4 main things I want to do that week.  I don’t write down the every day things I do.  I just write the things I do once in a while, such as “make blog post for newsletter blog,” “write up letter for email list recipients,” or “update website.”  Then I make those the main focus for the next coupe of days, and I do these in addition to my writing.

However you want to handle your list is up to you.  There is no right or wrong way to do it as long as it helps you keep focused on the main things you want to get done.

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Well, those are my tips on managing stress.  I know there are the proper sleep and taking care of our health components involved, but I wanted to stick mainly with the writing part of our stressful lives.

What do you do to help cope with stress as a writer?  Got anything you can add to the things I mentioned?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Categories: Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Building Meaningful Relationships With Your Readers

I’ve had this post sitting in the draft folder for a year, and I’ve been waiting for the right time to use it.  Recently, I came across this great post “5 Mistakes Authors Make on Social Media” by Michael Cristiano, and I knew this was the right time to make the post below public.

My recommendation is to read the post given at the link above and then read what I have below.

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1.   Guess what, everyone?  I just wrote this fantastic thriller about a group a survivors who need to wade their way through the apocalypse while trying to find a cure for the virus that turns everyone into zombies.  Check it out on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks!   (This is either posted for the gazillionth time on the author’s social media page–or worse–posted on someone else’s page without their approval.)

or how about…

2.  Space Invasion has received a 4.5 star average out of 23 reviews on Amazon.  Check out why it’s so hot!  (Amazon link provided)

or how about…

3.  I know you guys are talking about romances, but I want to tell you about this fantasy I wrote which won the This Book is the Best Ever 2016 Award.  I know it’s not what you were asking for, but it is so well written that you will love it anyway.  Here’s the link!

or how about…

4.  That story about your kid is so funny.  It reminds me of the scene I wrote in my book, Alison’s Fake Fiancé,  when her toddler went into the store and ran into a large display and knocked everything over.  Here’s the link!

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What do all of the approaches above have in common?  They’re a hard sell.  And honestly, I don’t think they work.  We are saturated with ads in one form or another.  (All of the above are ads.  They just weren’t ads someone paid for.)  I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring ads of all kinds.  I don’t really “see” them when they’re there.

A better approach, in my opinion, would be to build relationships with readers instead of selling to them.  It requires a slow build.  It takes a lot of time.  And it probably won’t mean a massive amount of sales in a short period of time.  But I think it can be a very rewarding approach longterm because the readers you meet become real people instead of just numbers, and I enjoy getting to know who is reading and enjoying my work.

Alright, so let’s get to the nitty gritty of this post.

I like to start with this in mind: treat others as you want them to treat you.

I can tell when an author is engaged with me as a person vs when they’re just trying to sell me a book.  I’m inclined to read and buy books by authors who take the time to get to know me and care about me.  Early on (2010), an author was really nice to me, but the moment I read and reviewed her book, she stopped replying to my comments on her posts.  I still remember how that made me feel.  I felt like I’d been used, and I never want anyone else to feel that way.

Be yourself.  Hang out on places that interest you.  Have a good time.  Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Let’s say you’re shy.  Instead of initiating conversations, why not comment in the threads other people have started?  Let others lead and add whatever you can.  After a while, you’ll be more comfortable with some of the people you’re talking to, and you’ll open up.  But let it be a gradual process.

I do think Facebook could be effective for this.  I know Facebook isn’t as effective as it used to be, but it’s still a good way to engage with people who read books.  Just be sure when you are engaging, you’re not out promoting your books.  Be real.  Build friendships.  You can even create a Facebook group to chat with your readers.

You don’t need to be on Facebook.  Pick whatever social media site or sites you enjoy and spend your time and attention over there getting to know people.

I know what some of you are thinking.  “But if I don’t tell people I have a book to sell, how will they find it?”

Make sure your name links to your page on that social media.  Facebook and Twitter highlight your name.  This will take people to your page on that site.  Your page is where you link to your website in your profile.  On your website, you will have your books.  That is how people will find your books.

Another way they can find out is by asking you.  But let them do the asking.  Or, someone else might mention it in passing and arouse the person’s curiosity.  This needs to be someone you didn’t tell to do it.  No gaming the system, guys.  It needs to be honest and real.

Do I have friends who never read my books?  Yep.  There are some awesome people who haven’t read anything I’ve written who have been a huge blessing in my life.  So don’t limit your conversations only to those people that you believe will buy your books.  Be open to everyone.  Just like any friendship, it takes time to develop and involves being sincere.

Does this method take time?

Definitely.  I know it’s hard to wait in our instant gratification culture (at least in the United States where I live).  But anything worth doing often takes time.  When you went through school, you didn’t jump from kindergarten to high school.  You had to go through years to get there.  When you go to college, you don’t get your degree in one semester.  It takes time, effort, and dedication.  But when you take time to do these things, the reward makes all the work worth it.

And honestly, I’ve been far more blessed by people who read my books than they’ll ever be by me.  There were times I wanted to quit (such as this morning, believe it or not), but they were there to encourage me to keep going.  I would have given up long ago if it hadn’t been for them.  Money is just one factor to being an author.  The emotional support you get from your readers is a lot more valuable, in my opinion.  But yes, I do understand we need money in order to eat.  Like my mom used to say, “You can’t eat love.” But I think being your real self with others can lead to a solid foundation that can help you as you look for effective marketing techniques in the long run.  Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Categories: Book Promotion, Marketing & Promoting, The Reader, The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business

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