Shetterly is a fascinating writer, and he covers a LOT of material here. He is consistently thought-provoking, and he is at his best here, struggling with complicated issues and walking through his thoughts and personal journey.That's about as good as it can get.
A sharp knock on my door, seconds before it opened. The assistant director poked his head into my dressing room and told me they were ready for me on the stage.
I closed my book. “Here I go!”
We walked into the stage together, and I continued on into the set where we were rehearsing this particular scene. Kaley and Johnny were already on there when I sat down next to them.
“You should never take that hat off,” Johnny said to me.
I looked at him to see if he was being sincere, or giving me the business. Before I could figure out which one it was, he said, “it looks really good on you.”
I smiled. “You are one of my fashion heroes, so that really means a lot to me.”
Inside, I secretly felt cool for almost three whole seconds.
“I mean it,” he said.
“Thank you. That was very kind.”
Kaley dramatically put her script down. “WOULD YOU TWO GET A ROOM ALREADY?!”
I gave Johnny a sly look that he did not return. “Do you want to just sit on that couch together?” I asked.
We all laughed together, and the director called for quiet.
We ran the scene, and I killed a joke*. We ran it a second time, and I nailed the beats I needed to nail. I felt calm and focused and — for the first time I think, ever, since I started working on the show — like I really and truly deserved to be there. I’m not gonna lie to you, Marge: it felt really good.
I thanked the director for the notes he gave me, and returned to my dressing room where I waited to be called back to the stage, to bring Evil Wil Wheaton (who is decidedly less evil than he used to be) back to life.
Later, I saw Melissa and Kaley waiting to run one of their scenes. “Let’s take a picture for the Internet,” I said.
“I really like that hat on you,” Melissa said.
“Thanks,” I said, “I was just lazy this morning and didn’t want to do my hair, because it’s just a tiny bit too long and I can’t get it to behave. But I’m getting compliments, which is pretty awesome.”
I held out my camera, and we took a silly picture that I put on Twitter.
The writers all came into the stage, and we ran the entire episode for them. Everyone laughed really hard in all the right places, and it’s pretty clear that this episode works. I can’t wait for the audience to see it on Tuesday, and I am so grateful that I get to be part of this wonderful experience.
*Note that this means I wrecked the joke, because I delivered the line poorly. This can be confusing to normal people who hear us talk about comedy, because when a joke works, we say that the joke “killed”. So: killing a joke is bad, but making a joke that kills is good.
Comedians are obsessed with death, I guess, or at least dying on stage.
There's something about staring at wrecks for a while that makes me start thinking...
You know, stuff like:
Is it true cannibals won't eat clowns because they taste funny?
And why don't sheep shrink when it rains?
Ever wonder what color Smurfs turn when they're choked?
Or if a cow laughs, does milk come out of her nose?
And can a cow be lactose intolerant?
Why don't they make mouse-flavored cat food?
(Don't they have the guts?)
Do frogs have to wait an hour after eating before they get out of the water?
Because this guy already looks a little cramped.
When sign makers go on strike, what do they write on their signs?
( , !)
And why isn't phonetic spelled the way it sounds?
While we're at it, how come "monosyllabic" isn't?
Oh, and what if there weren't any hypothetical questions?
You know, the other thing staring at cake wrecks does is make me want to take a nap.
I'll do that while you think about this stuff, OK?
Profound thanks to Linn S., Marcos G., Kathryn P., Katie F., Christine C., Kristen P., Susan H., Catharine, and Aimee H. for seeing the deep philosophical meaning behind these wrecks, and to my Mom and Dad for sending me the e-mail that got me started down this path.
This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.
As an author, it’s important to tell people about your books and publications. The BOOKS page features your books, no surprise. But what–specifically–do readers want to know? Because you haven’t got the site up yet, just write this in your favorite software and save till later.
Newly Released. Find some way to highlight new titles. These are exciting times for a reader and fan when they find out you have a new title! Keep them happy by putting new books up front and center. You’ll want to play with your page’s layout to make this stand out. You may also want to consider putting this information on the Home Page somewhere. Exciting news like this could go in several places on your site (HOME, NEWS, BOOKS, ABOUT), so consider where and how you might highlight it.
Book List. On the list of your books, include title, subtitle, ISBN(s), versions it is availble in (Paperback, hardcover, library, audio, ebook, pdf, etc.), synopsis, awards, reviews. Besides all that “metadata,” include a photo of the book cover. All of this needs to be neatly organized and displayed. Do you doubt the importance of this information? Metadata expert Renée Register says, “Online bookselling exposed the metadata and moved it to the heart of the book shopping experience.” Neglect these details at your own risk!
Call to Action. Yes, ask people to read your book. Marketers know that asking for the sale is crucial to closing a deal. You must provide a “call to action,” a link to a sales page, links to a sample chapter, or invitation to see you speak somewhere. Or you may want to ask people to sign up for your newsletter. Without the Call to Action, your page is worthless. Later, when we actually set up the book pages, we’ll look at WordPress plugins that might be helpful here.
Keeping series in order. Often a fan will look for information on the sequence of books in a series. What title is the first one? Second one? And so on. Sometimes, there’s a discussion about reading a series in the order they were published, or in chronological order within the world of the stories, or the order in which they were written. You can satisfy the curious reader by providing all three series orders, if you like. But give them some sort of ordered list to keep them happy.
Forthcoming books. It’s never too early to get readers excited about your next book. As soon as you can get your next book(s) listed on your BOOKS page. It’s always fun to do blog posts of cover reveals, to offer advance copies or free sample chapters. Remember that your readers want to know this information! You are giving them exactly what they want.
Let’s remind ourselves of what readers want when they visit an author website:
- Exclusive, unpublished writing. 43% of survey respondents said they return regularly for exclusive content.
- Insider Information. 36% of readers (especially men) want “insider” tidbits.
- Freebies. 33% want downloadable extras like icons and sample chapters.
- Fans under the age of 35: contests, puzzles, and games, with prizes like autographed copies of books.
How can you implement some of these things on the BOOKS Page? Some of these could go on a NEWS Page, too—you’ll have to decide if you want the content in just one place or in multiple places.
Sample Chapters. When a reader flips through a book in a physical book store, they read through the first couples pages (well, maybe just the first couple paragraph, or even just the first paragraph.) If they make it through that much, they are more likely to buy the book. Give readers what they want: Sample Chapters or excerpts. You could do this by putting the chapter on the site, providing a free pdf download, or creating an epub that is free. Which ever you choose, sample chapters are important to include here.
Free Books. Some writers/publishers offer free books for a week: WMG Publishing offers a Novel Tuesday and Free Fiction Friday. They limit some of these offerings to a single week–which is brilliant because if you’re a fan, you’ve got to visit their site weekly.
Exclusive Content: Readers also want exclusive content, not found anywhere else. If they can find the information/content somewhere else, why would they bother to come to your site? No reason! This could be Out-takes from the book, or related short stories. For example, I wrote a Prologue to one book and decided that it didn’t need to be include in the book itself. That Prologue will go up on the book page with an explanation of how it fit into the writing of the story: read it here.
Do you have outtakes, favorite chapters that didn’t make it into the book? Think about the extras provided on DVD these days: deleted scenes, exclusive interviews, in-depth look at a character’s background and how the actor/actress portrays him/her, a discussion of costumes or make-up, and so on. Your fans are interested in these types of things, too.
Insider Information: If your stories appeal to men, they especially want insider info. Background information, where and how you did research, inspirations for your story, your biggest struggles and biggest successes as you wrote this story, etc. Anything that gives the reader insider info is great.
My picture book, THE JOURNEY OF OLIVER K. WOODMAN, has an interested “Easter egg.” The illustrator, Joe Cepeda, does a self-portrait in many of his books. Look for him on the Utah 4th of July parade. He’s behind the convertible wearing an orange shirt; on his shoulder is his son waving an American flag; next to him in a green shirt is his wife.
Coloring sheets, book trailers, puzzles, games, teacher’s guides. Anything extra you offer is icing on the cake! For my book, PRAIRIE STORMS, I created several book trailers while working with kids and they are on the book’s page. There’s also a value-added book trailer.
“Sounds of the Prairie” Book Trailer:
A dog says, “Bow Wow.” A cat says, “Meow.”
A groundhog says, “???”
A skunk says, “???”
In fact, few people have heard a skunk or groundhog. But you can hear them now!
Listen to the sounds made by these prairie animals.
Once you have the basic page set up, you can also add a CURRENT RELEASE and COMING SOON pages, if you want. If you’re committed to keeping these up to date!
What if you don’t have any books yet? Do you have any publications? If so, list the most important and most recognizable of those. If not, why not offer a sample of your writing? That’s what Ruth McNally Bradshaw and Greg Pincus did–and they got contracts. If that’s not for you, then think about what else readers want that you could put here. For example, readers and fans want to know your literary tastes. You could start a book club, post reviews, list your Top 10 Favorite books, or something similar. Be creative and make it fun. Update often, so readers come back. Don’t ignore this page! Make it something that will connect with your audience in some way.
Leave a comment with a link to a great BOOKS Page. What is different or exciting about this page? How does this example help others understand what to put on their own BOOKS Page?