Amanda Luedeke

September 20, 2012

Thursdays with Amanda: Social Media Critiqutes Part 2


Amanda 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.

You like my new picture?

If you don’t know, this week is ACFW — the big Christian writers conference. And since we work with both general market fiction and Christian fiction, we’re here in full force.

To commemorate, I asked my friend, Chris Kolmorgen (@ChrisKolmorgen) to whip up this take on the Christian historical romance book cover. You have me…ahem…I mean some sort of makeup-wearing girl in the foreground, a hunky man’s man lurking in the background, and some sense of setting (Downton Abbey anyone?).

So wish us luck! It’s going to be a fun week.

And now, on to your web critiques.

Quick background: 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. Thrillers & Killers is a blog by Maegan Beaumont

  • It’s very…red ๐Ÿ™‚ You’re doing what most bloggers do…you use a pre-made template and you haven’t yet ventured into the territory of creating your own masthead. But I strongly encourage you to do so. Adding a photo or some sort of image to the top part of your blog will make it more inviting, appealing and professional-looking.
  • You really should blog consistently. Even if it’s once per week. Just pick a day and be consistentย  on that day. Right now, you may go 10 days without a blog post. That’s just a lot of time during which your readers can forget about you.
  • There are quite a few typos in that little bio blurb on the right. Usually, I don’t pay much attention to typos, but when there are a handful in such a small space, it really stands out.
  • What’s your goal? Right now, you’re writing to writers. But if your goal is to use your blog to gain readers and sell books, then you need to start writing to READERS. Not writers.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Now that you have a book deal (congrats!), it’s really time to get serious about what you want out of this blog and social media. Start putting together a marketing plan and map out how you’re going to tackle the web NOW. You may have 12-18 months before your book releases. Use this time to get serious.

2. Seeking the Write Life is a blog/website by Aimee L. Salter

  • Whenever I come across a site that is A) offering writing advice and B) charging for critiques, my first instinct is to look for the author’s credentials. I’m looking for what books they’ve published, what publishing house they worked for, what authors they’re connected with. Stuff like that. So the first thing you need to do is make a case for your expertise. Center your ABOUT page on what makes you an expert and why I should trust you. That’s how you’re going to grow your business…which brings me to:
  • Do you want to help writers or do you want to be an author? I know you’re about to say “BOTH!” but stop. Stop right there. You can be both. You just can’t be both on one blog. You need to divide the two. Otherwise your book readers are going to come to your blog and be sorely disappointed when you’re discussing 1st vs 3rd voice (they could really care less) and those interested in your writing advice are going to roll their eyes when you start doing giveaways and fan art and so on.
  • I doubt you’re making anything on the ads, so you should just remove them.

Aimee also Tweets @AimeeLSalter

  • You seem to have a grasp of Twitter. I think my only suggestion would be to take an inventory of who you interact with on Twitter on a regular basis. And HOW MANY people do you interact with? You have lots of followers. So the goal should be to engage as many of them as you can and try not to form a cliq. Because if followers don’t engage, they’ll quickly forget why they followed you.

RECOMMENDATIONS: You have two worlds colliding in your blog…one is a world in which you’re a writing expert. The other, you’re an aspiring author. The two simply cannot coexist, because 1) discussing your agent and your book and your writing journey makes you sound less like an expert and more like a regular old writer, trying to make it big, and 2) you’re forcing your readers to be interested in two different things, when they’re really interested in one or the other.

3. Repeat Offender is a book website by Bradley Nickell

  • The font on the home page (the part that talks about the book) is hard to read.
  • There’s nothing here that tells me what the hook is. What made this case so big? What was the crime? Get more specific, and don’t expect readers to wade through the news stories links you provided. It’s up to you to hook them with what the book is about.
  • This is an example of how important it is to be aware of “the break” (The break is the bottom of the screen before scrolling down). I wrote the above before realizing that you had a ton of information below the break. Work at bringing it higher up so that it’s more obvious that you have to scroll down.
  • The book blurb that appears below the break on the home page needs to be rewritten in active voice. Right now, it reads much too passively. Avoid talking directly to the reader (don’t say “you”), and think “movie trailer.” Something like “In the midst of Sin City, one man vows revenge on those who put him behind bars…”
  • Where is your call to action? If you want us to buy or preorder the book, you need to show us how and where to do that. If you want us to spread the word, you need to show us how. Give your reader something to DO with the information they get from the site.

Bradley also submitted his Facebook Page

  • You have a huge following here! Clearly, this is where you should focus your marketing efforts.
  • I’m not sure your status updates are connecting with your readers (when you only get 3 likes out of 5,000+ followers, then it’s time to switch things up). Do some status experimentation and find out what gets your followers to interact with you. Each of them had a reason for liking your page. Maybe they wanted to hear juicy tidbits on true crime books. Maybe they wanted info on criminal or cases. Figure out why they joined the page and then cater to those desires.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Focus on Facebook. Mobilize those followers to promote the book. You do this by figuring out how to connect with them, gaining their trust and interest, and then putting them to work.

4. A Fine Day for an Epiphany is a blog by Gretchen O’Donnell

  • Okay, on behalf of the midwest…what are you doing living out in the boonies? It’s a well-known fact (even in Portland, OR) that rural America is vastly different than urban America. No matter where you go. I can’t tell you how many heart attacks I had moving from Chicago to Peoria, IL, where they said things like “cool beans” ๐Ÿ˜‰ My father-in-law happens to be one that says “dinner” when he means “lunch”…but only on Sundays. I don’t get it either. But he’s from Ohio. So that explains it. (Hi, Rich!)
  • This is a well-done mommy blog. You have all the right interactive tools readily available. If anything, I’d bump those social media buttons up on your right nav. Move your blogroll and archives sections way down (read: bottom). They tend to get the least interaction.
  • I’m not a huge fan of the blog title simply because it’s long with many words. When given to someone as a link, they may have trouble deciphering the phrase. Just something to think about.

Gretchen also submitted the blog, The View From My Window

  • This is so similar to your other blog…why didn’t they just use your existing blog? After all, the Epiphany one is much better. More polished. More professional. Has all the bells and whistles. I just think it’s weird you have this other one. BUT if they insist you have two, then you probably want to add all the doo-dads to this one that you have on your Epiphany one. That is, only if you care about making it nice. If it’s a huge hassle for not much return, then don’t worry about it.

RECOMMENDATIONS: your readers are clearly moms, and you seem to be doing pretty well with it. Hopefully, moms are also your target readership for your books? If not, then you can’t expect this blog to offer any sort of support should you get published. But if the answer is “yes! the ideal reader of my book is a mom!” then you really should focus on growing the readership and getting hardcore followers. Followers who will turn into die hard readers. You may want to check back on my posts about growing your blog readership for some tips.

5. Grace Covers Me is a blog/website by Christine Hoover

  • There’s a lot here to like. The site looks great, you’re a skilled and wonderful writer, and you have your social media buttons all ready to go AND the site is nicely organized.
  • With your book coming out, I’m curious if you’re going to do any speaking? If so, consider adding a speaking page that outlines what you could offer a church or women’s group, along with a schedule of upcoming events. Then be sure to publicize the heck out of each event you get.
  • This one’s minor, but I noticed you don’t use contractions. Any reason why? They’re great for making blog posts more conversational.
  • You may want to take a look at your posts and figure out 1) which ones got the most comments and 2) why. There may not be a clear answer, but what if there is?! What if by simply doing a how-to or a 10 Reasons To post once a week, you’re increase your comments? Worth checking out.
  • I love your free ebook. If not many have taken you up on the offer, maybe you need to mention it more? I only saw it mentioned once or twice.
  • You may have to spend time FINDING your readers. I’m sure pastor’s wives and women in ministry congregate online. Go to those places and make friends. Increased web numbers will follow.

RECOMMENDATIONS: This is a really well-done site, which means you’ve now entered the strategy phase. Figure out what works and what doesn’t in terms of gaining and engaging readers. Be prepared to make the tough calls on what content to publish and what to toss. Soon, you’ll have to market a book. Best get your site whipped into shape so that it ADDS to your book’s success.

ย Anyone else have ideas to add?

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  • Jess Stork says:

    I had never considered the difference between blogging to an audience of writers or an audience of readers. Thought provoking.

  • Laura Smith says:

    okay – the picture is totally cracking me up ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Bradley Nickell says:

    Amanda, thank you for the feedback on the Repeat Offender website and Facebook page.

    You are right, I have worked very hard to get the following at the Facebook page. Getting them there is one thing. It’s an entirely different thing to engage and get them to interact. I have used contests, gimmicks, humor, polls and other things to draw them out while the manuscript goes through the paces on the way to completion.

    I will be making changes you suggested very soon. It’s very kind of you to offer the information.

  • Amy Young says:

    Again, I loved week two and looked at every blog and your comments. I’m excited to get next weeks! Thanks!

  • Gretchen O'Donnell says:

    Thank you so much for your insights! I really appreciate your time and thoughts. I feel very blessed, actually, to have your response.
    As for why I live out here…very long story…but, in short, it’s NOT where I really want to be (I’m a U of Oregon grad and I love it out there)…but mostly, I’m here because of my husband’s job – no shock there – and I love him so I’m sticking with it! I blog often about living on Orcas Island, Washington, as well as some other places I’ve traveled to, and that has brought in some fun blogger interaction.
    Couple questions/comments: regarding my second blog – the “window” one – I tried to link my regular one into the newspaper’s system but I couldn’t make it work. They really wanted me to use their system as it’s set up…and, unfortunately, it doesn’t work as well as regular wordpress. Oh, well. It actually gets more readers daily because of the connection to the newspaper – about 75 a day on average. THOUGH, and you might have noticed this, NO ONE COMMENTS!!! The blogging world is new and weird to these people and they don’t know how to handle it! Still, the numbers make me happy and I’m definitely getting my name out in this area, at least. They actually print one of my posts once a month in the paper (or feature them on their homepage) and I often get comments about my articles when I’m in town – even from complete strangers who happen to see my name – clerks, for example. So that’s nice!
    Regarding my original blog – Epiphany – I have a question about readership/book audience. My book is for middle-grade kids…and I have no delusions that I’d be able to make a blog for them…so I read somewhere that I ought to blog for their moms…as they’re the ones buying the books. And so I began this blog. Any thoughts on that?
    I’m beginning to consider setting up a web page for me…though it feels weird to do so…but your post about that a while back was rather convincing.
    THANK YOU again for your words and time. Lots to think about…

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Yep, blogging for moms is a good strategy so long as you’re targeting the moms who have kids that fall into the right age group. If you’re not sure, you may want to do a blog post in which you talk about how your kids are growing up fast, then ask the readers how old THEIR kids are. Moms rarely pass up an opportunity to talk about their kids.

      In terms of getting interaction, are you leaving a question at the end of each post you do for the paper? Open-ended questions really get people to interact. But at the end of the day, the number of comments isn’t as important as the number of hits. So I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell says:

      Thank you again for your wisdom! Good ideas. I have put questions in in the past but haven’t for awhile as they didn’t seem to “work” to generate answers…but I didn’t give it much of a chance. Perhaps if I just stick with it they’ll see the questions and be unable to resist!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell says:

      Hi, I just wanted to stop by quick and tell you that one of my blog posts was “Freshly Pressed” on WordPress a couple of days ago! Very fun. I totally thought about your advice and quickly put the important widget letting everyone know at the top of the page so everyone will see it right away! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thanks for the shout-out, Amanda! Great critiques, as well. I hope you guys are all having fun at ACFW without me! ;P

  • Excellent advice, Amanda. Thank you!

  • Amanda,
    First of all, great pic!!! This post is a treasure-trove. Love this series. Got lots of homework for when I get back from the conference. Thank you for keeping us in the know.

  • Cherry Odelberg says:

    Love, love, love your new “profile pic.” It speaks volumes. Also just learned that MacGregor represents to the general market – big cheer. Now, back to read the rest of this post.

  • CharityHawkins says:

    I thought Grace Covers Me is beautifully designed, well-written, and practical. Even though I’m not a pastor’s wife, I’m tempted to hang out there a while and look at your gorgeous pictures! ๐Ÿ™‚ I think you are clearly doing what will speak to your target market. One thought I had is to comment frequently on the moneysavingmom site (and others like it). She has a huge following and yesterday had a question from someone with 162 responses about being a pastor’s wife, so clearly there are a lot who read her blog! She also accepts guest posts frequently, so you’d have an ideal spot to build your audience. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Christine says:

    Thank you, Amanda, for your insights!

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