Monday, February 13, 2012

Blog Critique: Callie Kingston

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

I love me some Callie Kingston. And she's today's blog critique. And I've got some different stuff to talk about in regards to her blog. So go run your little mousies over to her blog so we can get discussing below. 


Callie, I'm just going to quickly make some remarks about your actual blog so I can get to the good stuff:
  • You have a nice palette. I particularly like how it relates to the emotions and colors of your book, Undertow. 
  • But there is an awful lot of purple. Consider pulling some of pink from your sunset into your post headers.
  • Funny story about your header: Your name is in a really nice font. But older computers don't always have that font. Joe's computer had to download it and until it did, it showed your font in Comic Sans. The graphic world seems to have an intense hatred toward Comic Sans. Go ahead and google "Comic Sans" and you'll see what I mean. Joe's initial feelings to your blog were, let's just say negative, until the real font loaded. There is a way to fix that - Consider making your header a graphic. Then everyone will see the same thing no matter what. While you're at it...
  • I would love to see that background swirly feel of your cover incorporated in your header. It would make it so much more vibrant.
  • Your blog is really clean and contains pertinent info so I don't have a lot to suggest here. I do think that you need to clean up the bottom of your template. It's obvious that you just stuffed all the extras down below. I'd get rid of the networked blogs. That's not necessary when you already have a follow button. And I'd put your labels higher on the sidebar - those are important, don't bury them. 
  • Oh, one more thing: Put a link to buy your book on your sidebar under your profile. This is important! People need to see your product right away when coming to your blog.
Okay, on to the good stuff. Callie is interested in how to attract readers who don't write and who don't blog.   First, let's all take a moment to laugh out loud, because that really is the million dollar question, isn't it? 

Now that we're done laughing, it is a real valid question that all of us face. And just because there isn't one great answer doesn't mean that there aren't strategies. Many, many strategies in fact, and too many to list here. In my not-so-humble marketing expertise opinion, the reason there are so many strategies is because marketing is a very individual and personal and that is why people like me make a living by researching and giving you personalized results.  But all you creative writer types are the perfect type of people to do this yourselves. Let's walk through where I would begin this process using Callie's book.
  1. Ask yourself - who reads my book? what other books do they read? what other subjects interest them? Callie answered:  Undertow's target audience is an older YA audience and what some are calling "New Adult," so around ages 16 - 22. I also believe there's significant cross-over potential into women's fiction. If a reader enjoyed Wintergirls, they may also enjoy the combination of contemporary serious topic and a touch of supernatural in Undertow. Finally, readers who have experienced mental illness or have interest in psychological issues will appreciate the strength the protagonist displays in dealing with her circumstances.
  2. Now we get Googling.What do other authors do that attracts readers? Where are my readers on the internet? For Callie, let's start with Wintergirls. 
    1. First stop is the official website. My favorite thing to check out is the author blog. Why? Because if readers are directly communicating with the author, it's here. This is where we can learn more about them. This is also true of Author or Book Facebook pages. But before we step over to the blog, I see that Laurie Halse Anderson has info for Students and Teachers. Callie needs to read everything on these pages and steal, steal, steal! I mean, um, get ideas!   Some ideas I get from perusing this: Make a study guide for your book. Post it on your blog or website. Spam  Email teachers and university professors a blurb about your book and include a link to your resources. You can find emails on most school websites. YES, THIS TAKES WORK! MARKETING IS WORK!
    2. Now to Laurie's blog. Laurie blogs a lot about the subjects of her books. We can't all do this very successfully, but some authors can do this very well. Laurie's books are about serious subjects like anorexia and rape. By making her blog a supportive environment for these topics, she will attract potential readers through Google searches on those subjects. Some ideas for Callie: start a weekly post on psychological issues that are related to your book. You can talk about some of the things you discovered in your own research. Or, find blogs on the topics you want to discuss and ask for those bloggers to guest post. Use keywords in your blog post titles so that people interested in these subjects will find you.
    3. Next stop, Amazon. Search for Wintergirls and see what other books are recommended in that little bar that says Customers Who Bought This Also Viewed... Then do steps 1 and 2 with those books that turn up. Callie should check out If I Stay by Gayle Forman, Willow by Julia Hoban, Cut by Patricia McCormick, and so on.
  3. Back to Google.  I would now want to find out where people who read Wintergirls and these other books are posting. So this time when I search for Wintergirls I'm looking for blog posts, etc. And not author blog posts, but reader posts or comments. This is harder and may involve going several pages deep into Google results. I see Wintergirls has a MySpace page. I would peruse the comments and see if you can track down what type of people those readers are. Spend time on the sites where the fans are like this site. Reading through these posts may give you some inspiration to attract these same fans.
  4. Whew! We're tired now. And we really haven't come up with any specific strategies. But this is where we start.  This is what I would do to begin any internet marketing campaign for any book. 
Is this helpful? Do you have some other ideas for Callie or advice on her blog?

18 comments:

Sue Roebuck said...

Wonderful post, Laura. Work never stops for authors, does it? Gone are the days when all we had to do was write :-( You've given some very helpful tips

AlexJCavanaugh said...

Yes, a little more color and spice would do it. (Not like pepper or salt though.)
I found a wider audience for my book beyond people who like science fiction by following blogs with similar interests of mine besides writing. Depending on the genre of her book, she could find a lot of potential readers by looking for her target audience.

Janet Johnson said...

Okay, I know who to come to for marketing tips when I (hopefully!) need them some day. Of course I'll be stealing (I mean getting ideas) for now. :)

Callie Kingston said...

Thank you for this fantabulous critique! Your suggestions are excellent and I'm off to put them in action ASAP!

Callie Kingston

Kate Coursey said...

I love the idea of a blog critique! I've never seen it done before. Great concept, and I might have to rethink my own blog :). I'm excited to get to know you better during the campaign!

Freya Morris said...

Great tips. The header (with title) and background are a bit dark for me - I'd like to see them a bit brighter. They don't... oh wait... just clicked on blog and the tool bar has just gone pink - wow - so much better. I would never have thought such a tiny bit could lift it up like that. Makes me feel more jolly already. I would perhaps splash this colour a little more - on titles etc. Great work!

Jennifer M. Eaton said...

This is a really great analysis. What a neat idea. So many people are out there with blogs that don't work... it's great that someone with a marketing perspective is willing to take a look. Kudos to you!

Kathiorampeterson said...

This is great information. I'm going to copy and paste this. Thank you.

Southpaw said...

As a graphic designer, I can confirm the strong dislike of comic sans. I, however, did not see it I saw the intended font. I love the colors, too. The only thing that bothers me is that there is a large space between your header and subheader making that area look too empty.

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks, Sue! But I do think writers always had to do more than write. I think they used to do a lot more book tours and traveling than they do now. They also used to always be starving. Today, it's possible to make a living. Not easy, but possible.

Laura Barnes said...

That's great advice. There's nothing like the voice of true experience. As for the spice - how about some oregano or rosemary? Rosemary's always a favorite of mine.

Laura Barnes said...

Go for it. And then tell me if any of them work. :)

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks!!

I'm actually not campaigning this time. I'm too swamped with a revision critique. But I'm glad to meet you!

Laura Barnes said...

I agree! Much better :)

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks, Jennifer!

Laura Barnes said...

Thank YOU! and let me know if you find any of it works for you :)

Melissa Sugar said...

Very informative. I always love your blog critiques. Uhh Laura, Where is your "About me" and "contact me" section on your blog????????????? Just asking, cause .... well you know. You give the best advice .

Laura Barnes said...

Ha ha ha ha ha. Have you read this post? http://laurabwriter.blogspot.com/2011/10/do-as-i-say-not-as-i-do.html (I do have "Contact Info", by the way, instead of "Contact Me")

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