Establishing Your Brand
This web site, and the materials on it, are examples of one essential step you must take - establishing your 'brand'. All your efforts, regardless of media or marketing venue, serve a common purpose of defining your writing and yourself as a person, and presenting them to the reading public. Unless you do this, unless you define yourself clearly in order for the reader to distinguish you from the Great Unwashed, you will have no more impact than metaphorically wandering the halls mumbling to the portraits on the wall.
Your 'brand' is your unique expression, the public face you show the world. As such, it can take any form, from a simple list of your titles to (as we see here) an extensive effort to support independent authorship, and by doing so to garner support and reader interest. This involves not only pushing your titles, but presenting the 'Inner You' so the reader can understand what kind of person you are. This is essential to Personal Marketing, which is every bit as important, if not moreso, than promoting your work. Right now the average reader doesn't know you from Adam, so why should he buy from you when there is so much more out there to dazzle his eyes? Survival in this age depends on getting noticed, and in a positive sense.
The most effective tool for this is your Web Site. Yes, the Internet is a can of worms, but it can be conquered with time and effort. Your reward for all this hard work is a direct pipeline to the reading public which allows you to give them all the insight and personality they can stomach.
You have no doubt seen ads for easy-to-build web sites: these are the 'kit form' for JAVA and the like, and can be a real hassle to get working right. (They were designed by uber geeks for other geeks. Even the supposedly 'free' sites like Wordpress are a hassle. Unless you swing that way, you are better off without.)
Here are some of the basic elements of home brewed webslinging:
HTML: The most common code used to generate web sites is Hypertext Markup Language known far and wide as HTML. This is an old, long standing programing language, and has been upgraded repeatedly over the years. Not only is it widely used and easy to work with, but it is solidly reliable, too. There are several more advanced (complicated) systems out there, notably JAVA, which the all-in-one web companies will try to hustle on you. but don't go there! JAVA et al are skittish, unreliable garbage, and HTML can deliver everything you need for your purposes.
PERL: This is another Old School programming language which plays well with HTML, can do everything the more complex softwares can, and is boilerplate reliable.
This link will take you to a downloadable instruction PDF for these basic HTML tricks. Use your right-click and select Download Linked File.
Download HTML / PERL Instructions
Computer Generated Input (CGI): Your web server will provide a file on your site labeled CGI-BIN This is where all the interactive software, downloadable files, etc. go. CGI is the means by which you provide interactivity and efficient use to your site. Everything involved in interactitity should go into the CGI-BIN to keep it from getting lost. If you can't find it, you can't link to it. Go figure. The best computer language for CGI is PERL, which is much more reliable than JAVA. Your server company can provide the various snippets of PERL you need, or you can use samples provided in our Download File (although they may need to be edited by the server company).
Some important CGI functions include:
'Meta Data': If you look at the code for a typical HTML page, the first few lines are the 'Meta Data'. These start out by telling your computer this is a web page, then follows up by inputing such goodies as the page title, background, Top Logo, Search data ('spiders'), etc. Once you have this established, you can simply copy it to the individual pages, changing various elements as desired.
Link Tree: In the same vein, you need to have a standardized group of links at the bottom of each page so the reader can access other topics. Be sure to include a Site Map, a simple listing of all topic pages with links to help those who get lost. Rather than listing each topic, group them together by subject matter, and provide a sub-index page with the individual listings. Once you have a blank page made up with Meta Data and Link Tree, simply save off as many copies as you need, changing the HTML title, of course.
Server Side Includes: A Server Side Include (SSI) is a brief bit of code which tells your browser to reach out to the server and retrieve a file to include in that spot. This is one of the most versatile tools in providing web site interactivity. There are any number of neat tricks one can do with SSI: this site's Index Page is practically all done with them.
Your News Desk: one useful thing to add is a link to any news services you subscribe to. These can distribute your News Bulletin to a wide variety of publications. Some of these are free (their circulation is admittedly limited) while the paid sites can gain you better coverage. If its free why not? Include the SSI News Window on your Index page where it will immediately hit the newly arrived reader.
This link will take you to a downloadable instruction PDF for working with News Bulletins, plus a few free distribution sources. Use your right-click and select Download Linked File.
Download News Bulletin Instructions
SSIs for Variety: another clever thing HTML can do is allow you to add and change material on your site without having to redo and reload the page. All you need is to designate a spot you want the SSI to occupy, set the style perimeters, and create a TXT file (using ASCII text) keyed to that spot. Give each SSI location a unique title, such as NewStuff1. Then, to change your content, simply write a text file titled NewStuff1 and tuck it into your CGI-BIN.
One neat trick is to have a splashy headline appear right below your Top Line Logo. This can be made to change every time the page is accessed by including a Rotating Beacon SSI. This can also be used for rotating images, Top Line Logos, backgrounds, and "Quote Of The Day" materials.
The URL This is your exclusive 'address' on the web by which search engines, etc, can find you. Your URL will be established when you register your web site.
Server Provided Materials: Your web server can also provide (free or at a reasonable price) various features such as a Mail Form, Hit Counter, Polling Feature, etc. Check these out when choosing a server.
As for software, you don't need anything special. HTML is written in ASCII, a common form used by most software, and your word processing software will likely have it. (I use Mac's 'ExtendScript Toolkit'.) Certainly OpenOffice has it, as (if you must) does MS Word.
One nice thing about building a web site is you can have your software open to build the page and your web browser open to see the results instantly. Simply save your latest work and hit the browser's 'REFRESH'. That way you don't need to waste the effort uploading your in-progress work to the server.
Finally, after your web site is ready and uploaded, you will need to register it. This is done through INTERNIC, an agency chartered by the government to administer the dozens of URLs which make up the internet. Your server admin can set that up for you, and send you their annual renewal notices.
Now, about your site's content:
Remember always this is a selling tool. Remember, too, that you need to keep your readers entertained so they'll stick around to be marketed to. (Since you write Spec Fi, you should have this down as second nature.) As a selling tool, your content should include material about yourself (personal marketing) as well as material about your works. These materials should include a cover image, the rear cover blurb, as well as a brief description of what the story is about. Check any of the listings for my work to see examples of what I'm talking about. Things to include are the first chapter (a huge draw since it pulls them into the story, then leaves them dangling), and any review comments you receive.
Be sure to include LINKS to where they can get this work. Impulse Buying is a vital part of your marketing strategy. Strew their path with temptation, always.
As for the rest: bits of humor, human interest tidbits, notes about your writing, etc, are all excellent ways of building your personal image, essential to your Guerilla Marketing. Your web site was created on a machine, using machine language, uploaded to another machine for access by still more machines: show a human face, always.
Of course once you get your web site built, you will need to upload it to a SERVER. There are no end of server companies, who may charge various monthly fees and whose performance varies widely. I went through three servers before finding an acceptable one, clear up in Canada:
To do this, you will need an UPLOADER software, like Fetch.
This will allow you to tap directly into the file vault of your server and upload your pages, CGI, images, etc. A word of advice about Fetch: once you upload your materials, you have to set the Permissions on each item, illustration, downloadable file, etc so your readers can access them. The button you need to hit in Fetch is kind of hard to find: it's the "?" button. The rest is fairly easy.
Finally, and this most important: once your web site is established, don't go wandering off and ignore it. The same old content, no matter how extensive, will grow stale in time. Always be adding some new tidbit: a short story, an article, some human interest material, anything. And be sure to mark these new items on your Index page, ideally with an SSI so all you need is a brief TXT file in your CGI-BIN.
Copyright And Copy Wrong
Your Web Site
Contracts And Other Snares
Who Do You Trust?
Crunching The Numbers
Guerillas In Our Midst - Part 1: Conventions
Guerillas In Our Midst - Part 2: YouTube
Guerillas In Our Midst - Part 3: Networking
Guerillas In Our Midst - Part 4: Advertising
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