Amanda Luedeke

October 11, 2012

Thursdays with Amanda: Social Media Critiques Part 4


Amanda Luedeke Literary AgentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.

A few weeks ago, I offered free social media critiques to those who replied before the 14th. You see, social media is a specialty of mine. Before becoming an agent, I worked for some years as a social media marketer at a marketing agency outside of Chicago. I worked with clients such as Vera Bradley, Peg Perego, Benjamin Moore and more. A somewhat longer description of what I did can be found in the first critique post.

1. Back Porch Reflections is a blog by Jackie

  • I don’t really know what this blog is trying to achieve. It seems like a sports or news blog with a mommy twist, but the title of the blog indicates it’s a personal journey type of thing. :/
  • I also struggle with the goal behind each post. Clearly, you’re into sports. But jumping from a very journalistic post on 10/05 to what starts as a journalistic post but ends more like a food-for-thought post on 09/30 to another journalistic-type/info-sharing post on 09/19 to further down the page where you have very personal posts. Clearly, you need to identify both your writing style and your theme for the blog.
  • Content aside, the design is a bit cluttered on the right nav, and the masthead is pretty lacking. Really be intentional about where you place things and how it looks (for example, in my browser there’s an Amazon ad that is kind of hanging in no-man’s land).
  • Get rid of ads.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Choose a theme and a writing style to go along with that theme. Remember, if you go with a journalistic approach, you aren’t going to be followed for your tug-at-the-heartstrings posts, but rather for the information you present. So in that case, you would drop a lot of the feel-good aspects of your posts and focus simply on facts and maybe a question or two posed to the readers.

2. Rajdeep Paulus wanted a critique of her blog‘s masthead.

  • I think this looks great. It’s clean, easy to read, looks professional and I think reflects who you are and what you’re trying to achieve on the blog.
  • The only critique would be the use of the Papyrus font 🙂 That font is pretty much hated by designers and readers alike. The good news is I think it kind of works in your masthead, though. So I wouldn’t rush to change it. Just know that in the future, Papyrus and Comic Sans are no-no’s.

3. Indigo Tree Publishing is a website by Steve.

  • The top of the site looks a bit bare, since your logo is pushed to the left.
  • The blue font cheapens the look a bit, I think. Also, I’d reword that paragraph. With only three books available, you need to be careful about making claims that the books represent a “broad range” and that they’re available in the “format you prefer.” (I looked at your ebooks-English page and saw that only one of your titles was available for digital download). Reword it, too, so that it’s more focused on the consumer as opposed to on the publishing house. Something like “Check out the latest from indie fiction authors.”
  • It may help to organize the books by genre, and also to focus on just a few genres when you’re getting started. It’s just easier to market to a single type of consumer than to try and reach everyone.
  • Your left nav is the same as your top nav…is there a reason behind this?
  • Do you have a place where fans can congregate and receive news? I’m thinking Facebook may be a good place for this.

RECOMMENDATIONS: If you want to make this venture profitable, focus  on a few genres and then pour your efforts into targeting those specific readers and gaining their trust. Reogranize the site so that the books are searchable by genre, not title. And try to create a brand for your publishing house. Avoid sounding like a run-of-the-mill house. What makes you different? Exploit that.

4. Shannon Hitchcock’s Freelance Writer Website is a website by Shannon Hitchcock

  • In your comment, you mentioned you have a debut novel coming out in 2013…but this site poses you as a nonfiction author. If the nonficiton thing is profitable for you, then you may want to set up a completely different site for your author persona. If the nonfiction thing isn’t profitable, then it’s time to switch gears and focus on fiction.
  • Everything is hard to read on your homepage. The color, the font–it confuses and strains the eye.
  • I’m not sure where I’m supposed to go. You have many options, but none of them (aside from the BLOG page) are very clear in terms of what I should expect when clicking on them. Figure out where you want people to go, and then narrow the choices and make it painstakingly clear what they can expect on each page.
  • What genre is your novel? Consider redesigning things to reflect a style that your readers would be naturally drawn to. The nature thing probably won’t cut it for most fiction readers.

RECOMMENDATIONS: I agree that you need a major redesign, but really take the time to think through it. Figure out what pages you’ll need and don’t overdo it by adding a bunch of extra stuff just because it’s important to you. Think first whether it will be important to your readers. And where can I connect with you online? I don’t see any links to Facebook or Twitter. It’s time to think about growing your social media presence.

5. Jen Greyson Author is a  blog by Jen Greyson

  • I wasn’t sure what the title of this blog was. The URL has it as being “The Survival Mama” but then the masthead talk about you being an author and something about “Survival. Mama’s Point of View”. I’d redo the masthead to focus simply on “The Survival Mama”. If you’re a published author, make a page in your top nav that says BOOK.
  • Really think about the order of your top nav. Why is “Blog Hops” first and “blog” last? Don’t people interact more with “blog?”
  • Combine your ABOUT page with your AS SEEN ON page and get rid of the WRITING PLATFORM page. Just trying to clean up your nav for you 🙂
  • You make it very clear how to connect via social media, which is great.
  • The Tuesday Train, though probably a good idea, really takes up a lot of space on your blog and it’s confusing to look at. Either blog more in-between Tuesdays or re-think how you present that on your blog.

RECOMMENDATIONS: This is supposed to be a mommy blog, but the content ranges from writer help to blog-growing tactics to link-sharing…with a little bit of mommy stuff mixed in. If you’ve found more success outside of the mommy thing, then maybe it’s time to drop that angle and focus on something that connects with your fans. If most of your readers are there because of the mommy connection, then I suggest dropping some of the extra stuff that you do and going back to what this blog was intended for.

Share your thoughts on these blogs! I want to hear what you think.


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  • Thank you Amanda! Good stuff! You know, I used some or your advice and it really gave The Hillbilly Bible a bounce! I appreciate y’all!

  • Debbie Maulsby says:

    Love the suggestions and professional opinions regarding all the blogs! Making notes and going to go through each one next week to see how they would apply to mine as well. Are you ever going to do this again? I know there are lots of others, like me, who would love to expand our base knowledge and value your opinion.
    Debbie Maulsby

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Thanks for reading 🙂 I probably won’t be doing it any time soon. I had over 100 responses that I have to work through.

  • Dana McNeely says:

    Hi, Amanda. I am making this post for a Facebook friend, who just happens to be blind. She told me she could reply to you by email but her technology doesn’t work to reply to this blog. She would love to have you critique her website. Her name is Jamie Britt. Her email is and website is: She can communicate easily by Facebook, email, or IM.

  • Jen Greyson | Author says:

    Great thoughts Amanda.
    I was totally cleaning house this morning, because it was Thursday and I wasn’t sure when you were stopping by! LOL

    I’ve been thinking about cleaning up the pages. Done and Done.

    As for the site subtitle….that was a recommendation from social media expert, Kristen Lamb. She suggested having a URL (which probably should have been my name, but alas…) then adding a subtitle that helped with branding. (an area I’m really struggling to hone right now) Masthead and subtitle on the list now of things to update once I figure out *what* my brand is.

    I’m a fiction writer, but didn’t want to make a platform around writing, or being a writer, so this was a topic I enjoyed…and my target audience–for both my book readers and blog readers–are moms. How do I laser in from here on a focus that will ultimately get me more readers?

    Debut novel coming out in May, so this is priority #1 for me.

    Thank you thank you for your thoughtful comments.

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      I think the URL works, but then you should probably reiterate it in the masthead. And it’s okay to also have a subtitle in the masthead. I hate ALWAYS using the Pioneer Woman as an example, but she does this (has both her blog title and subtitle in her masthead) and I think it’s great.

      And moms are a great target audience. Just be sure to focus on them with everything you do and it should work out nicely 🙂

    • Jen Greyson | Author says:

      Great tips.

      And after I made the comment about my name as url, I actually went out and bought it….and now I totally see what you’re saying about the url and masthead matching.

      …and Pioneer Woman is a great example for EVERYTHING 😉

  • Rajdeep "Raj" Paulus says:

    Thanks Amanda! What font would you suggest? I’m such a fan of fancy fonts, but it’s good to know that “they” say No! To fancy and keep it simple. 🙂 -Raj

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Lol. Typically, fancy fonts (or Script Fonts) don’t work well online because they’re hard to read. Sans Serif fonts are best. But more than anything, it’s important that your fonts complement one another and capture the mood. I think you can keep the Papyrus font you have, but just don’t overdo it 🙂

    • Rajdeep "Raj" Paulus says:

      Okay. Keepin’ it. And when “they” ask why? I’ll say, “Amanda said so!” 🙂

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