Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Clearing my Throat

What an odd name for a blog? Actually, no.

This morning I was up and preparing for my day. I have deadlines for the publications I work for/with and they all fall right around the first of each month.

At the same time I have Fiction and Non-Fiction projects that require my time.

And I have my usual responsibilities.

I was up about 1 1/2 hrs early today to start work on these things and just as I began I was seized by an overwhelming fear. These "moments" have recently increased as my success has taken a fevered pitch. NO you have not seen me on the radio talk shows or television yet, but in publishing things work at a snail's pace. The things that are currently in the works have me so overwhelmed with excitement that I find myself nearly terrified that something will go wrong and they'll all fall like a house of cards when a breeze blows.

That is where I was this morning. Looking at the stack of work to do, I felt completely inadequate. And for some reason my memory took me back to my childhood when my dad would clear his throat just before speaking.

It was a simply act. Two bursts of air in the back of his throat, always covered by a polite fist. But it told me something was coming. I was about to learn something, hear something, be instructed. My husband still laughs that, even though I'm 32, if my dad happens to clear his throat I stop what I'm doing and focus my attention on him. Sometimes my dad will speak, other times he'll look at my expectant eyes and say "What? I was just clearing my throat."

I don't know why this statement, or this memory was so strong for me this morning. All I know is when I felt terrified, inadequate and without the answers I needed, I remembered my dad clearing his throat. I remembered what it was to be expectant, but without fear. I remembered that for some silly reason, that simple sound comforted me. It was familiar. I knew what to expect.

Maybe it is time for me to clear my throat, in a manner of speaking. Clear away the junk that is blocking my author's voice from being fully heard. Maybe it is time for me to prepare to speak. Or maybe I need to turn my ear to the one who cleared his voice this morning. When I was sitting alone on my living room couch feeling overwhelmed. I heard someone clear his voice.

And with the expectation of a child, I waited for his voice. All fear gone. I fully expected my answer.

I have to go, I have preparation to do.

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Learning from a multi-published author

I'm very excited that my friend, Amy Wallace, has agreed to talk to us today about her second book, Healing Promises. It is interesting to see how writing and marketing change from one book to the other.

Writing Career Coach: Amy, first of all thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to include us on your blog tour.

AW: You’re very welcome and thank you for having me here! A tour for Healing Promises wouldn’t have been complete without stopping by because you and your husband were such an integral part of the story behind Healing Promises.

Writing Career Coach: This is the second book in the Defenders of Hope series for Multnomah, how was the process of bringing book two to publication different from book 1?

AW: Writing Ransomed Dreams the first time was total fun. I knew no rules and had no one telling me I had no idea what I was doing. ;-) Then I found out just how much I didn’t know. But writing Healing Promises was great because I not only knew the rules, but had also survived a major edit and lived to tell about it. Plus, I’d loved seeing Ransomed Dreams polished up and shining after edits. That helped me keep going with Healing Promises because I knew at the end of the editing process the story would be even better.

Writing Career Coach: Your website says that prior to publishing books you had pieces published in compilations. How did those shorter pieces help you to prepare?

AW: Writing shorter creative fiction stories taught me how to pack some punch into as few words as possible and also how to work with an editor. Plus, the income from a few of those stories paid my way to a writing conference where I learned even more about the nuts, bolts and heart of writing.

Writing Career Coach: Amy, you did a great job on creating a realistic character in Clint. To my readers, Amy and I met as she was writing Healing Promises. Her character was going through cancer treatment for the same cancer my husband had. She was writing the book as Chris, my husband, was starting Chemo. It was a “coincidence” that has made us great friends. How did you manage to write such believable characters?

AW: The characters in Healing Promises came to life because I had a number of amazing people share their cancer journeys with such gut-wrenching honesty. One example was meeting Tiff through ACFW and learning that her husband had the exact cancer I’d already been researching. Talk about a very cool God-incidence!

Another aspect that breathed life into the characters is what my writing mentor calls “bleeding into your work.” I’ve learned by watching God use my jagged-edged memories as I write that He wastes nothing in our lives. And when we’re willing to open ourselves up and let our characters feel what we felt in all its ugliness and transforming beauty, readers will sense that truth throughout the pages.

Writing Career Coach: Well, Amy, it worked. I wanted you to know when Chris read on page 21 “He already hated the miserable port deforming his chest just below his right collar bone. Who cared if the implanted device made filling his body with toxic chemicals easier? Two days, and he still couldn’t look at the thing.” Chris said “Yep.”

You captured in those first pages exactly what a man feels at that moment. Everyone may see what I mean by going to this page to read the first chapter of Healing Promises.

AW: Wow, it’s high praise to hear that Clint’s thoughts resonated with your husband. Thank you so much for sharing that.

Writing Career Coach: I know you’re involved in other things now that you’ve completed and turned in Enduring Justice, the final book of this series, due out spring of 2009. Tell us about some of those things.

AW: I’m excited about the next suspense series I’m working on as these stories have been brewing in my heart a long time. As to what they’re about…let’s just say they include law enforcement, families with children, and intense storylines.

Writing Career Coach: And you’ve been nominated for a pretty big award for the first book of this series, Ransomed Dreams. Tell us about how you found out. What was your reaction?

AW: I’m still very stunned and totally excited about being a RITA finalist. And the story behind my finding out highlights that. I’m usually busy with homeschooling, so I don’t typically answer the phone during school hours. The morning of the big call, the phone rang about six times, all from the same area code. I kept thinking the telemarketer would give up soon. So I was less than excited to answer when they called again during naptime. But then the very kind woman said she was calling about an RWA contest where I’d finaled. I was too surprised to really hear all that she said or even the name of the contest. Later that evening, I went to a writer’s meeting and told my story to a friend who’s served with RWA. She about jumped out of her chair with excitement and proceeded to tell me I’d finaled in the RITA, a contest I’ve heard described as the Academy Awards for writing. When that news sunk in all I could do was dance in open-mouthed awe that my first novel was nominated for such an amazing award.

Writing Career Coach: That is amazing. You should be excited. Thank you for stopping by, Amy. I hope all my readers will go get a copy of Ransomed Dreams and Healing Promises. They are really excellent stories.

AW: Thanks for having me here, Tiff!

Monday, April 28, 2008


Today I was reading a blog that was talking about how the internet revolution has allowed many opportunities to work from home, while at the same time required the need for more discipline.

That got me thinkings.

I am so glad I graduated from college 10 years ago [actually, 10 years ago next month] long before email, cell phones and txt had taken over. Email was just starting as a regular means of communication and the internet was not quite mainstream.

I was extremely disciplined and focused.

I have seen with the advent of the internet culture so many opportunities for my kids to learn and grow. They are able to email their grandparents in Florida or see places I grew up [via google earth]. But with the internet, comes the need for discipline.

The same is true with writers.

We have the opportunity to make our work so much more authentic [via online research], so much less expensive [using email rather than snail mail] and more widely known [blogs, E-zines]. However, in this chaos it is not the loudest that thrives...but the most genuine.

We have become very good at tuning out ads, but yet we still focus on them when we seek to market our own writing. We need to stop and discipline ourselves. Don't look for the easiest way to advertise [easy does not mean effective] and instead, we need to take advantage of this wonderful internet revolution to look around at what some others are using to get their message out.

I read 3 books this week [in genres I don't normally read] and I learned a great deal about writing and effectively selling. It was like a piece to the puzzle that I'd been trying to figure out suddenly slid in to place with a "click". If I hadn't taken the time to research it there is no way I would have seen it. I had to try something different. I did something I normally wouldn't do.

So look at what you're currently doing. Assess the success of each part of your writing life. How are you learning, what are you reading, what is the market doing?

Let these changes influence the way you do your writing and marketing.

Of course, I'm not advocating jumping at every little whim that comes along, but rather be DISCIPLINED to take not of what others are doing that works. There will come a time when what you're doing isn't as successful as it was before. During those times you need to have ideas in mind to implement.

It is a successful writer who works in the moment, but plans for tomorrow.

Are you successful?

I have to go, I have Coaching to do. Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter

Friday, April 25, 2008

Using what you know to get to where you're going

I've been working on marketing plans for projects quite a bit lately and I have noticed that many people don't recognize how to use what they already know, and connections they already have, to get to where they're going.

In a marketing plan you are simply outlining for a potential publishing house what you can do to market a book, and how marketable the project is overall. This can seem very daunting until you realize the way you can use your background to build your future.

First, public speaking. Public speaking is a very common way to establish a platform. Randy Ingermanson has a great teaching on this. He interviewed a woman who is a professional speaker [that is how she earns her living]. There are many tips that make the cost of the product well worth it.

Second, previously published works. If you have already published then you can use the current readership, or subscribers to your website, to build from to create a larger sphere of influence. If you were published in a collection of works [like a group of 3-4 novellas in a single bound volume] then possibly working with other authors on the project would work well.

Maybe you are recognized in a particular industry? I have told the story before about being in network marketing and learning a great deal from it. The day I finally relented and pursued my call to write was at a regional meeting. The Senior Regional Vice President had invited a speaker to come talk to us about reaching your full potential. As I sat there I was energized to pursue my dream...writing books. And it wasn't the man's 7 figure cash advance that had inspired me either. :-)

I remember how the SRVP had influence over the 200+ people sitting in that thousands more. When she recommended one of us read a book it spread through the group and hundreds of people bought it, simply on her recommendation.

So being recognized doesn't mean being head of a multi-national corporation, it could simply mean having a large family or colleagues who value your opinion.

But what if you aren't a professional speaker? Or multi-published? Or even recognized in a particular industry?

The concept of pyromarketing [see link to the website on the right] shows you that you really only need a small group of people who are excited about what you are doing to launch something big.

So who is that target audience. Dig deep in your story, among the subplots and research, and find that group. As you look there are likely going to be quite a few different ways to impact people of different groups based on the way you emphasize different aspects of your book.

And take time to look in your past: What you've learned; Where you've been; associations you've made. See how different skills you've learned have prepared you for your dream of writing. Then add these things to your marketing plan. See how they begin to fit together.

It will give you a stronger plan. And you'll likely be amazed at what you learn about yourself.

I have to go, I have marketing to do.

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Scheduling Interruptions


Do you ever feel time gets away from you. If you are planning to write a major book, or write articles on a regular basis, you will need to learn how to schedule interruptions.

What do I mean by that?

You need to plan them in to your overall calendar.

If you look back on the blogs this month you'll see we've talked a good bit about focusing and getting things done. That is because as the weather gets beautiful [and those of you with children in school have them to tend] it will be easier for you to lose track of time...and your writing.

As a homeschooling mom, I actually find I have MORE time in the summer. That is because the 4 1/2 hours of ballet [I have 4 daughters], and the hours spent homeschooling each day are suddenly GONE. The kids can play and run outside....but they don't.

While there may seem to be more time, it actually requires more focus to remain in your routine as the summer months approach.

However, you must schedule some interruptions.

If you fill your calendar to its fullest potential each day, you will always be disappointed. That is why in my time management systems I always put a time pad in.

How much are you trying to schedule in to each day? Are there tasks your doing [chores] that others could do [family]? Are there things you could do together [listen to books on tape while cleaning or driving] to help your writing career?

Finally, are you giving yourself one day off each week to do NOTHING? I know I'm not. That is likely why I'm so exhausted. My productivity had dwindled away to about half what it normally is. So, I think I'll take some time next week to do nothing. [Ugh, even the thought of it puts a knot in my stomach]. I'll still need to school the kids and do the housework, but then maybe I'll take a few minutes to blow bubbles with my 5 year old or play Stratego with my 9 year old. Maybe I'll let my seven year old make lunch [she loves to make sandwiches for her sisters] and I'll not complain when she leaves my kitchen a mess.

Maybe I'll sit back and let my imagination fun wild. Maybe I'll make up a story to tell my kids.

Are you scheduling in interruptions [good and bad]? If you do, your writing will be better for it.

I have to go now, I have editing to do.

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Grabbing your reader

An important part of marketing your book is having a story your target audience will read. As some of you know, I offer editing services as a content editor in addition to my Career Coaching services [if you'd like to know more you may contact me through my website]. So today we're going to talk a bit about craft. Without craft, all the marketing in the world is pointless.

Yesterday, I showed the importance of that by showing you an awful scene in a suspense novel. If you were reading a suspense book would you be impressed with writing like that? Likely you wouldn't.

But each genre has its own tone. People suspend reality and WANT to be pulled in to your stories. They will give you SOME leeway, but not much. If you are writing a sci-fi your reader will expect detailed scientific information or a plot twist involving some kind of species. They will not read long if your book is full of flowery, literary prose.

If you're writing suspense, you need to keep the pace moving. Give the reader time to breath...but always with anticipation of the next danger. Think of a roller coaster. You are creaking up that hill slowly...but OH the anticipation of the plunge.

If you're writing a romance...keep the romantic tension high. Don't satisfy the reader too quickly or what reason do they have to continue the book?

The best way to do this is to read a few books in the genre you write for and feel the tone and pace inherent in each style.

I am a huge language person. I speak French and English fluently. I am fluent in American Sign language [which I taught myself when I was 10 years old] and I know some German and Braille. What I have learned is that each language has it's own flow and style. Idioms are based on the culture and a shared "inside joke". Learning a language is about more than vocabulary and grammar. It is about understanding the cultural basis...if you want to gain fluency.

The same is true in writing great books. The language of a Non-Fiction Christian living book is very different from the language used in writing a horror novel.

While blending genres [like Ted Dekker did in the Red/Black/White Trilogy] is fun. You still must know what primary genre you're writing in, and be true to that readership.

So spend time developing your unique authors voice. Get a feel for the "culture" of your readership. It will help you develop a book that is more marketable-and enjoyable to read.

I've got to go, I have reading to do.

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter

Monday, April 21, 2008

Reading our old stuff

Happy Monday,

This last weekend I was working on revisions for a Novel manuscript I wrote two years ago. I have someone who wants to see it when I have it reworked so I have spent a good deal of my down time working on that project. I am working in a new subplot which means mapping all the scenes and rebuilding the new subplot around the story line that already exists.

As I read through this work I realized how much I'd grown as a writer in the last two years. The scenes that I'd felt were full of heart stopping fell flat. The places where the characters reveal little bits about themselves...well, I was embarrassed that anyone had ever seen this before.

BUT the encouraging part was that I was now recognizing these problems in my writing and I'd learned enough to correct them. I'd like to encourage you to pull one of your old manuscripts off your shelf and look at it. See if you see any sentences like this:

“Dreama, you are such an incredible woman. I am the happiest when I am with you.” ...He spoke in to the flames again feeling confident enough to speak full volume. “You make me want to be more than I am. I want to be someone you could be proud of.”


I wrote that in a suspense novel. Even I rolled my eyes at this horrible bit of TELLING in my own book.

So do any of you have funny lines that you've found in edits? [Your own work only, please. I want us to embarrass no one but ourselves.]

And if you read this, how would you edit it using showing verses telling?

Just so you all know I am editing this scene. In fact, it is likely I'm going to slice this whole overly sentimental bit out of the manuscript all together.

So lets start this week with a laugh and a look at craft. Post some of your funny lines in the comments, or share how you'd edit the one above.

I have to go now, obviously I have some editing to do.

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter

Friday, April 18, 2008

Building a reputation

So we have lessons on how to write a query letter for an agent, ideas on creating the marketing portion of our proposal, but how to you build a platform.

You need to build a reputation.

Google your name. Go ahead, I'll wait.

What did you find? Is any of it you? Is it something that someone would like to read?

Start to create a plan to build an online presence.

If you have any aspirations to write a book go NOW and purchase your domain. Last week you learned all about ways to do that from Tiffany Stockton [it is worth reading last weeks Wed-Fri blogs if you missed them.]

Now, start to find places to write for. A mentor of mine used to say that you have to write a million bad words before you start to write good words. Since he's published over 30 novels, I think I'll listen. :-)

Start working on your writing by submitting to various online and print publications.

And always be PROFESSIONAL.

The publishing industry is a tight group. Word gets around. Make sure the word on the street about you is POSITIVE.

And when you write an article, tell your blog readers. Give them the opportunity to celebrate your successes with you.

The stories will help you build a reputation with your future readership, they also give you a chance to build a reputation with editors.

Finally, when you're putting all these elements in your book proposals these can help you build a reputation with your future editors and agents.

So what would you like to know more about? Next week I'll use my blog to answer individual questions you may have.

I've got to go now. It's 78 today and will be in the low 60s tomorrow. I have relaxing to do!!

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Writing your book proposal: Marketing

Hello and happy Thursday!!

I can hardly believe how quickly this week is flashing past me. Here in the Toledo Ohio area we are finally seeing temperatures consistently in the 50s-60s and this next week we'll creep in the 70s!!! Okay, so it snowed a week ago, but I believe spring may be almost here!!!

Yes, you southerners may gloat about your BEAUTIFULLY warm temps. I don't mind. The sun has been out for 3 days straight!! Almost unprecedented in the North. :-)

Today I want to get you thinking about what you should include in the marketing portion of your book proposal.

The marketing portion should tell the publisher how marketable your project is as well as show how YOU'RE going to help market the book. Remember, the primary responsibility for marketing this book WILL fall on your shoulders, so start thinking now!!

So, start thinking how you can spread the word about you book.

Can you write articles? For what publications?
Do you currently have a platform? How can it be used to spread the word about your book?
Who would you like to have as an influencer on the book?

These are some of the things you need to include in your marketing portion. Don't simply tell them that you'll write articles, tell them specifically what articles you'll submit to. If you have a local connection in one of your books [if it's set in a certain town] then see if you can work with that local community to spread the word.

What things can YOU do to increase exposure?

If you'd like specific mentoring on creating your own marketing proposal [or creating a market] then email me using the contact form on my website. I'd be happy to tell you more about my mentoring services.

I have to go, I have marketing to do.

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stuck on Almost?

Today I had planned on talking about some of the things a person should include in their marketing proposal for an editor/agent, but then something happened last night.

I got frustrated.

Do you ever get that way? You feel like you're working so hard, but not getting any further. It seems all the study, the effort, the practice, is getting you no further.

You want to write a great story but when you finish you get nothing but blank expressions from your reader. Or even worse, you get gushing that you know is unmerited.

Then you sit down to read a book, to learn a little about craft, and this published book is AWFUL. "How in the WORLD did this think make it in print, let alone on the best-seller list?" You resist the urge to throw it across the room, instead opting to toss it on the table and go in the other room.

That was my evening last night [except I was listening to a book on tape].

I wanted to encourage all of you who are stuck at ALMOST

ALMOST published
ALMOST a requested full manuscript
ALMOST able to go to writer's conferences
ALMOST done with your first manuscript
ALMOST happy with your writing

ALMOST ready to give up...

Every writer has been there. It is the successful ones who push through that "ALMOST" and write better because of it.

Tomorrow we will talk about marketing, today I needed to stop and blog to myself.

I'll see you tomorrow, today I have more learning to do.

Your coach for the journey, Tiffany Colter

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How do you research a market?

Happy Tuesday

Today I'd like to talk about the importance of collecting reliable research. No matter what you're writing, you will need to do research.

Now don't fill your head with memories off college term papers in a stuffy library. Some of my research has been sitting at Panera Bread. I watch people walk in the front door to see how they act. Some will walk in with quick strides, go straight to the register, order, and out the door. Others come in and stand a few feet back from the counter [a clear indication that they are still making a selection]. Then conversations float about, many of them cell phone conversations. I don't eavesdrop on people, but I do notice the WAY people talk.

You need to do research in all aspects of your writing. You must research to create believable characters and scenes. Then research the market.

And it is THAT research we are going to cover today.

How do you research a market?

When you are writing up your proposals for an editor or agent you need to take the time to find out about the marketability of what you're writing. Excellent craft is always key, but if you've written a time travel book, and time travel books just aren't selling right now, it is highly unlikely yours will sell. At least at the moment.

I suggest a few different ways to research the market.

1. Amazon
Go to, do a search of books that are the genre and topic of yours. How did they do? What were their names? Did any of them have unique twists?

2. Library
Next it would be wise to go to the library and look at some of the books. What sets them apart? Are they literary? How long ago were they published?

3. Check out book reviews
What were some of the praises? What were some of the criticisms? How do they compare to your writing?

There are, of course, many others. I'd love for some of you to share how you research the market. But for now, these will give you a good start.

And when you realize your idea was not as original as you thought, don't freak out!! You don't want to be the FIRST to EVER have an idea. You want to be AMONG the first. :-)

And if you want to read a REALLY great lesson on crafting a query letter, Agent Rachelle Gardner has one on her blog. Go check it out.

I've got to go. I have marketing to do.

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter

Monday, April 14, 2008

What would you pay for your dream?

I got an interesting email today. It was from my Ebay watch list.

There is currently an Ebay auction going on [the auction number is 300214603704 if you're interested] with the top prize being your story read and critiqued by and Editor. If he likes it [and wants to buy it], you get an agent and editor.

It is for a great cause [helping out a fellow author] and it is a great opportunity.

But I wondered as I read it, what am I willing to pay for my dream? Am I willing to give up an evening of sitcom reruns? Am I willing to give up some sleep?

Many of the people I admire had to sacrifice to get to where they are. In fact, when I was talking to a writer on the verge of publication a few months back I told her she sounded tired. She said "Sometimes sacrifices have to be made".

That 6 word sentence has echoed in my mind from that time to now. I realize reaching our dreams means putting in the effort to learn. That is nothing new. When I work with people through my coaching program we spend a good amount of time talking about what we should do.

But I really think we also need to think about the price we're willing to pay to reach our goals. I've allowed myself to be refocused these last few weeks. I have been pulled in so many directions that I haven't really been able to FOCUS [Focus On Course Until Successful as I read in a Robert Kiyosaki book]

In college I had a one track mind, every termI wanted to see my cumulative GPA go up. At the end of my 1st quarter of college I'd earned an A, A-, and B+. Someone who was always making fun of me said "Well, Tiffany, you'll see that [my cumulative GPA] go down every term from now on." Then she laughed at me. Grr, I hated when people made fun of me for being "brainy". I hated it double when they were telling me that while predicting my demise.

OHHH she made me so mad that I decided I'd make it go UP every quarter. Not only that, but I'd do it taking only upper level [300-400 level] courses and honors classes. I was NOT going to be dictated to.

And when I graduated college my cumulative GPA was a 3.9. I only got 3 more B+ my entire college career and NEVER anything lower.

I paid a high price to prove someone wrong. I spent long hours studying. I had no life outside work and school. My husband dropped me off at the University at 7am and many nights picked me up at 10pm. I didn't take time to eat in the cafeteria, opting to live on PB&J or the raw potatoes that I microwaved in the Student Union. I paid a huge price in time. And was rewarded.

But now I have people who see potential in my writing. I've gone a long way towards proving myself as a writing career coach. I have people who have learned from my courses and who have grown as writers through my mentorship. I even have editors and agents who call me a colleague [a designation I would have fainted at just 3 years ago]. What am I doing to prove them RIGHT? What am I paying for my dream NOW?

I thought I'd share with you what I'm personally doing now. Maybe you'll get some ideas to grow as a writer. [Those of you in the One Month of Purpose contest will recognize some of these.]

1. Writing a to-do list every Sunday.
2. Listening to books on tape as I do housework and while in the car.
3. Reading a minimum of 30 minutes each night.
4. Working on my fiction daily
5. Developing new products and improving existing products as part of my writing career coach course
6. Building up other writers at every opportunity.
7. Honestly answering questions and not giving "half answers" in order to protect my marketing strategy. If excellent business people hadn't been honest with me, I wouldn't be where I am today. I strive to do the same for others.
8. Give up ONE thing I'd like to do in order to focus on my writing.
9 Spend more time with my kids [they have such great imaginations. And they're SO cute!!]

So, what are you paying for your dream? Or are you making excuses about why you CAN'T do anything. I know sacrifices have to be made, and you need to decide which ones YOU are going to make [no fair taking time away from your kids to work and still spending an hour playing computer solitaire or watching the latest episode of "The Biggest Loser" or "Deal or No Deal"].

And if you'd like to jump ahead of the line, the auction closes 4/15 [yep tomorrow] at 9am pacific time. The bidding right now is just over $200. Good luck!

I've got to go. I have writing to do.

Your coach for the journey, Tiffany Colter

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Importance of Meta Tags, Content and Keywords

For the past 2 days, we have covered how you can get an affordable web site up and running without breaking the bank, as well as some of the key points to consider when planning out the content and various aspects of your web site.

Today, we’ll be discussing marketing for your site and the importance of topics that might be foreign to a lot of people. The world of web sites and the Internet can be a formidable place if you don’t enter it equipped with some basic tools. Once you have these tools, the possibly intimidating idea of building a web site doesn’t seem so bad after all.

But, web sites are not the Field of Dreams either. Just because you build it does not mean they will come. You have to do your part in promoting it. Just like using a web site to market your career and your writing, you need to use the tools and resources available to market your site once it’s up and running.

Mythbuster here: Google will not send throngs of site visitors by tomorrow. You have to work at it to build your visitor and audience.

1. Market and promote your web site.

If you're serious about writing and you know you want to make it your career, get out there and market now. Start building the traffic and the ranking in Google. It's never too early. The longer the site is out there, the more chance you have to promote and market in advance and the higher in rank will be. Plus, an editor or agent will see that you're already ahead of the game with publicity, and that's almost always a bonus in any book.

Here is the core of your work. Even before you get your site launched and publish your first page online, you’ll want to have your business cards made, your flyers/brochures created, your signature updated in your email, a list links with others who are interested in placing a link to your site, and so much more.

Some additional basic tips are:

• Get a good and easy to remember URL (usually your name or pen name)
• Put it in your signature line on all of your emails
• Add it to your signature of every post you make to a blog, message board, forum or interactive interface
• List it on any/all publicity material
• Include your link/URL everywhere; on business cards, in your email signature, on letterhead and flyers and brochures; via word of mouth, etc.
• Network with other writers and authors and seek out link exchange opportunities. The more VALID/RELATED sites that link to you, the higher the ranking in Google
• Register with the Open Directory (; sometimes takes up to 6 months to get listed; start *early*
• Format your “Meta Tags”

Ahh, meta tags. Such an odd-sounding term and such an unfamiliar but essential component of any web site. These are found in the header of the site's HTML coding—that is, the text behind the scenes of any web site that tells the web browser how to display and format a site. Meta tags are crucial for ranking in search engines and enabling people to find you when they look. All of the important information pertaining to your web site is contained here. Proper customization and completion is of the utmost importance.

When a search engine “indexes” your site, it looks for certain components in the coding (or commands) of your site. When it displays your site as the result of a user search, what you have in your meta tags is used to describe your site to others. Occasionally you’ll see site descriptions in search results that don’t seem to make much sense. These are sites without meta tags, so the search engine simply grabs whatever text it can find that it assumes is relevant to the search.

Don’t allow the computer to think for you when it comes to your site. Tell it what to think by customizing your meta tags.

The two biggest components are DESCRIPTION and KEYWORDS.

Description – a 15-25 summary of what browsers will find on your site. This is where you take everything you have and condense it down to a quick “pitch” to browsers who have done a search on a given topic and see your site among many others in their search engine.

Ex. Welcome to author Amber Miller's place. Stop by for a visit, read my blog, or check out my latest book release. Wherever you go, be touched and inspired.

Ex. Welcome to Eagle Designs, a professional design company specializing in competitive web site design and maintenance at low costs without sacrificing the quality you deserve.

If you’re not sure about your description, ask others to offer their opinions and suggestions. Do some browsing on your own and see what comes up in the search engines on related sites to what your site has.

Keywords – these are the words you would like to have associated with your site, so that when browsers type this words, your site is among the ones that a search engine will grab to display to the browser. Although it is common to want to load your keywords with everything imaginable, you do not want to overdo it. Search engines will rank your site based upon keyword relevance and frequency of appearance of those keywords throughout your web site.

So, just like with the description, you want to make sure the keywords are relevant. Then, you’ll want to go over your content to be sure you make use of those words as much as possible within the text of your site.

Ex: eagle designs, web site design, graphic design, blog formatting, web blogs, marketing, e-commerce, shopping cart, consultation, promotion, home-based business, low costs, affordable

All of these are used in a variety of places scattered through the Eagle Designs site. So, when someone types in these words or any combination of them, the chances of my site being one that is displayed are higher than if I only threw a bunch of keywords together and didn’t match them to the content of the site.

Marketing is such a broad subject. One friend and fellow author, Randy Ingermanson, has some phenomenal techniques he’s employed on his web site. He also includes a lot of these tips in his Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine. But before you turn away because of the word “fiction” in the name, let me assure you that the marketing techniques he mentions are good for anyone, no matter what type of writing you do. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so by visiting He has over 5000 subscribers with more joining every day!

In a recent newsletter, he stated the 3 main purposes of a web site from a marketing standpoint. Those are lead development, brand recognition and product sales. The content of your site will determine the brand or feel you are trying to create. Any links you have to e-commerce web sites will establish product sales, but the number 1 focus of a starter web site is to develop your leads.

Marketing professionals will look at this above everything else when it comes down to determining if your writing is worthwhile enough for them to publish. If they know you have a mailing list of 500, and that you can notify this list of the publication of your work a few weeks before it releases or is published, they will be thrilled.

A general rule of thumb is "give them a reason to come back." Find a way to make them WANT to return and see what you have to offer. If you only update your site when a new book is coming out or to offer a free book drawing, chances are, you'll get a handful of repeat visitors. But, you won't get anywhere near as many as if you find a creative way to bring them back. A niche, a special feature, or a connection to what you write would be possible avenues to pursue.

Start a mailing list/newsletter and stick with it. Stay on schedule with updating web site visitors on what you're doing and what to expect in the near future. It can be once or twice a year, every quarter, every other month, or even every month if you have enough to share. The important thing is to stay in touch and be consistent on the frequency. Blogging also works as a stand-in for this if you are just getting started, but make sure you have a way to collect the emails or names of visitors for when you ARE ready to start a newsletter.

We’ve only touched the surface with this information, but it’s a good reference to get you started. The best advice is to do your research. Talk to others. Visit other sites. Plan out your site. Get ready for the increased exposure and make plans to be actively involved in the promotion, updates and marketing.

If you build it; they will come…but they won’t stay…unless you give them a reason to return.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

How a quality web site can help build your business or career

Yesterday, we learned a little about tips and tricks for getting an affordable web site up and running. Today, we’re going to talk about how to take that web site and make it stand out to others.

A web site is a must for anyone in the writing industry, no matter where you work. And if you’re already published, you need to make sure your site is functioning at the optimum level. When you are sure this is where God called you to be, make plans to start your web site. Your site informs visitors and readers of what’s available and what’s coming soon. Even before your first book is published, you can establish a connection with site visitors and readers by sharing personal stories, tidbits/samples of your writing, photos, links, posting to a blog or journal, etc.

A web site can also mean the difference between a contract and a rejection. If an editor, agent or publisher is considering you and another author for similar projects, the first thing he/she will do is browse the Internet to see if you are “online.” If you do not have a web site, and the other person does, you will most likely get the rejection and the other author will get the contract.

Gone are the days when you sell a book and the publisher does all the work. Today, publishers are looking for authors who can market themselves successfully and work with their marketing team rather than sit back and want someone else to do the work for them. Even if your site is only 1 page, it’s a site. And it gives you an edge over those who don’t have one.

We have already discussed getting a domain and finding a host for your site. Now, let’s talk about the design and content.

1. Determine how many pages there will be to your site and decide on an overall scope.

You might also want to determine who your target audience will be and cater your site to them. Don’t try to please everyone. Find your niche and what works for you. Then, expand as the needs arise.

Pages every site is recommended to contain:

• Main/Introductory page
• Resume or Work samples
• Contact page/Guestbook

Pages recommended as additional:

• Writing samples/book excerpts
• Bookstore and book cover graphics/descriptions (if books available online)
• Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) or Discussion Questions for your book(s)
• Appearance schedule; book signings; speaking engagements
• Personal photos from events or places visited; online journal; blog
• Page of links and other favorite sites

Now, you can combine those first 3 pages into one if necessary. You can have an introductory paragraph followed by the resume and/or samples and use the sidebar of your site for the contact form. However, it’s smoother and cleaner when you can expand this out to 3 pages. The additional pages are recommended for when you’re up and running or if you have the content at the onset to fill them.

2. Decide on a color scheme and graphics.

This is where you get to unleash your creativity and let it soar! You’ll want a site that reflects you while also reflecting what you write. You want it to be eye-catching, but not an eyesore. You want it to give your visitors a heads up, not a headache.

Here are some tips:

• Keep it simple
• Browse other sites to get ideas
• Provide navigation on every page; make sure it is in the same place on every page for easy access
• Jazz up your home page to make it stand out, but don’t overdo it
• Determine the overall feel you wish to convey and utilize color shades to change the emotion for individual pages

3. Determine what will go on which page.

Once you have your graphics and color scheme, you need to plan out the content of the pages you’ve designed or had designed. Stick with themes and related subject matter on one page. Don’t try to cram everything onto one page unless you’re starting simple. It could be a nightmare for your visitors to find things, and if they’re frustrated, they’re more likely to quit and leave. You don’t want that.

Here are some more tips:

• Keep it simple; don’t clutter the pages with too much
• Use space to create a clean look
• Maintain uniformity in layout and design; creates overall cohesiveness
• Make sure your images load quickly; if a page takes longer than 10-15 seconds to load, visitors will more than likely leave
• Include “extras” or “goodies” such as a favorite quote, weather, jokes, etc. that changes periodically (make sure you stay consistent with this)
• Step up your navigation; when you reference a link within the content of your page to something else, link it right there
• Use templates or “include” files on every page to eliminate the need to update every page when you make changes to the navigation; minimal HTML (HyperText Markup Language) needed
• Make your site interactive; provide a guestbook, ways for visitors to get involved, surveys/polls, message board, etc.

Whatever you decide, stick with it. Make sure it’s a site that you’re proud to share with others and honored to call your own.

Overall, the best advice is to do your research. Talk to others. Visit other sites. Make a plan for your site. Remember, you only have a few seconds to make a good impression and grab your visitors’ attention. It’s a competitive world out there, and you want to be on the leading edge.

Get ready for the increased exposure and to be actively involved in the promotion, updates and marketing. If you build it; they will come…but they won’t stay…unless you give them a reason to return.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about meta tags, keywords and ways to jump your site higher in the ranking of search engines.

Thanks for coming today.

Tiffany Stockton
Eagle Designs

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

You CAN Get a Web Site Without Breaking the Bank

I'm thrilled to welcome Tiffany Stockton of Eagle Designs to share with us a few ideas to help you market your Writing Business. If you're not ready to make a website now I hope you'll print this material out and save it for when you are.
~Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter

Hi! Thanks for having me here, Tiff. To those reading, the two of us joke all the time about me having the "other half of her brain" since we share the same first name and have partnered together in this wacky world of web design. I'm here today to share with you some tips and suggestions to help guide you along that same path. Feel free to leave a comment with any questions you might have or even if you would like to share from your own experience.

And now, without further ado. Let's get started!

In this world of the Information Superhighway, Internet, World Wide Web, and interconnected technical communities, getting on board with the electronic train is the way to go. Before you even begin thinking about your site, though, you have to answer yourself one question:

Should I build my site myself or should I hire someone else to do it for me?

This isn’t an easy question to answer, but some things to consider are your time, your ability to learn HTML (HyperText Markup Language, the basic language of the Internet), who you hire, how much content you have to put on your site, how much money you have, etc.

If you decide to hire someone, you should always ask for referrals from that person, then interview those referrals to determine the credentials of the person you’re considering. Ask questions about timeliness, professionalism, approachability, cost and what’s included in that cost, satisfaction and if they’d hire that person again.

If you decide to go it on your own, look for WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) programs or pick up a book to help you learn basic HTML. I recommend "HTML for Dummies" or the "Idiot’s Guide to HTML." Ignore the somewhat deprecating titles and get them for their gold mines of knowledge and tips.

For a list of resources and guides and other tips to help you on your web design journey, consult the links page on our web site (

Websites are just one marketing tool and are not the end all and be all of your publicity. Most authors do not question if the cost of printing bookmarks or business cards is worthwhile, but most authors I know make or have bookmarks and business cards made.

I know some of you are no doubt reading this and thinking you will break the bank by investing in a web site. I'm here to tell you that's not true. In fact, the majority of my clients have gotten started for under $300, some of them for even less than that when they began on their own and expanded later. That is also a viable option at the onset.

Steps to Building a Web Site

1. Get a Domain or park your web site on a free server.

Domain names (URL – Universal Resource Locator) are easy to get, and many services provide them at low costs. There are well-known services out there, but you can save money by knowing the tricks of the trade.

Yahoo/Geocities –
Bravenet/Bravepages –
DotEasy -- (using their web builder services after you've paid for domain registration)

2. Get a web host for your site.

This is separate from a domain. This is the space on the Internet that houses all of your files, images, pages and anything else associated with your website. You will benefit greatly from doing the research, asking others you know which hosts they’ve used, and comparing the features as well as talking to experienced people you know who can offer sound advice.

Here are some reliable web sites we’ve used for our clients:

Yahoo/Geocities –
Bravenet/Bravepages –

If you already have a web site, but perhaps are looking to cut the costs or even step up the content a little, the above sites will be a great place to start. And if you have taken the path to start on your own, but you're now looking for a more professional appearance, feel free to contact us through our web site and request a quote. You'll be surprised just how affordable it is to get a site you're proud to call your own. Feel free to view the list of clients and contact them as well to ask how they like our services.

Whether you're just getting started and thinking about a site, or whether you have one and it needs to be updated, don't delay. Every day that you don't have a viable web presence is one more day lost in the span of your career. And let's face it. We can't afford to lose possible clients or interest in this competitive world. We're only successful if people know we exist. And they won't know if we don't advertise.

Tomorrow, I'll be covering content and the quality of your web site, sharing important tips to help you shape your site for optimum navigation and attraction to the average web browser. I hope you'll come back to learn more.

Thanks for coming today.

Eagle Designs

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The One Month of Purpose Award

Tuesday is consistently the day of highest traffic here at Writing Career Coach. That is why I chose this day to announce a new award.

The One Month of Purpose Award

This is an award that will be given by and is designed to help writer's focus on their writing. Many of you who write novels are familiar with NaNoWriMo [or Nano as I like to call it]. That is the contest where writers are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. The winner gets a certificate and bragging rights for a year.

Thousands participate in this challenge every year. It is an AWESOME event.

The One Month of Purpose Award is to help writers at ALL levels focus on their writing HOLISTICALLY for one month. There are two categories with two different awards.

The first division is the Building to their Dream award. A score sheet is given to each participant which includes tasks that will help with craft, marketing, business development, and research. There is a point value given to each task, each week. At the end of the month, the participant with the highest point total win.
What does the winner of the Building to their Dream win? Free Writing Career Coach Course [in the form of a rebate], and a Feature written by me and posted to the Blog.

The Second Division is the Writer on the Move Award. This also has a scoresheet. Again this scoresheet focuses on craft, marketing, business development, and research. Again, the winner with the highest point total will win. The Writing on the Move Award winner will be featured on the Blog and will also receive their choice of 2 hours of Free phone coaching with me OR the Entire Writing Career Coach Library [From Intro to Part 5 (parts 2-5 as they are released later this year)]

Of course, the greatest reward will be the growth of your writing business.

The April One Month of Focus award is open now.

Eligibility: To be eligible for Writer on the Move Division of the One Month of Purpose Award, you must sign up for the Writing Career Coach Success Program (which means there are a maximum of five entries per month). When you register and pay you'll be asked if you'd like to participate and will be sent a score sheet and complete rules.

To be eligible for the Building to their Dream Division of the One Month of Purpose Award, you must sign up for one of the Writing Career Coach Courses. Simply email me through my website with the confirmation information from the download or CD purchase. [If you already own a course contact me through my website to tell me when and where it was purchased and that you'd like the score sheet and rules.]

That is it!!

And while you're at the website, look around and see what a great job Tiffany Stockton did. She will be on our blog starting tomorrow to share with you how YOU can use a website, and the internet, to build your writing business.

I'm excited to see your entries for the One Month of Focus Award!!

I've got to run, I'm scoring myself too!!

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter

Monday, April 7, 2008

Your image to the world


Wow, is it Monday already. I've been working on a couple of big projects for the last week and the days have all begun to blur together.

I LOVE the writer's life!!!

I'm very excited to announce my new website to you. I had Tiffany Stockton from Eagle-Designs do it for me and she did an EXCELLENT job.

You'll see on the resource page that I have answered the clamor [laugh] for digital downloads of my products. You'll also see that in the next few months I will be releasing 4 new products to help you develop your writing business.

So today I want you to consider the face that you're putting out to your audience.
Is it fresh?
Is it informative or relevant to your readers?

When you go to my site you'll see that I have made it very easy to navigate around my site. How easy is it for your readers to move from one page to another? Are the pages clean or cluttered? Is the tone right? [If you write murder mysteries don't have an English Garden on your home page...unless they take place in an English garden.

Think about what the theme of your writing [or editing, or other ] business is and make sure your website reflects that. I decided I didn't want my picture at the top, but maybe I'll add it back [my family picture is on my blog, and thus, accessible on my home page]. Update your site when it begins to get stale to you.

I'm also excited to have Tiffany Stockton as my guest later this week. She is going to share some teachings with us to help use our website to market our business. I hope you'll not only subscribe to the blog, but tell others to come learn.

And tomorrow I have an exciting announcement about two new awards for writers. You won't want to miss it.

I'll see you tomorrow, I have some marketing to do.

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter

Friday, April 4, 2008

You're on a collision course!

I've heard it so many times it is almost cliche

Luck=preparation + opportunity

Basically, it means that we create our own luck.

I was thinking of that today as I was working on a few projects I have in the works. I remembered back when I was in network marketing. My direct upline was the #5 income earner in the company at that time, earning $500,000+/year.

At the same time my husband was earning about $30,000/yr as a paramedic. One week she received her regular check and bonus check. Both were over $20,000 EACH. She earned in a week what Chris earned in a year.

I wanted to be successful like that. I wanted to build a strong business that would allow me the freedom to bless people, as well as help others be successful in their own ventures. Everyone told me never to hope for it, she was lucky. She was in the right place at the right time.

However, I knew her fairly well. I knew that luck was only a small portion of her success. She had spent years reading books on business, trying-and failing-in various ventures. She had earned her stripes.

When she saw an opportunity that she believed in, she jumped in with both feet. She worked hard for two years and built a solid business. Then she was able to go with that momentum and earn $500k working part time.

But she never stopped building.

That was the key to her success. She told me that every month she read at least one book to build her business. She also showed me that the success of her business came in working her strengths and meeting the needs of others. She was AMAZING at booking shows. So she booked a calendar full of shows and "dovetailed" [that means gave away] all the shows she didn't want to do. She would find people who were working hard at their business in her downline and give them 2 or three shows from her calendar. Sometimes, she'd invite consultants to watch her do a show, have them help her books shows, and then give them all the bookings from that show. She was mentoring those people. Her success was tied to her ability to help others see the potential in themselves.

She worked in her strengths and built her business consistently.

So in your writing business, consider your strengths. How can you use those things to build? Are you exceptional at creating believable characters? Use that to improve your writing and then teach another writer how to do it.

Are you like me? Do you have a passion to help other writers build their business? Teach them. I realize that I am "Training my competition" but I do it because I love helping people and because "Iron sharpens iron". I never want to get complacent in my writing, because I'll get sloppy. I teach you what I know works, then I continue to educate myself.

In physics I learned that velocity can be combined if things are going the same direction, but slowed if moving in different directions. Imagine a ball is rolling across a smooth floor. If you hit it from behind you'll send it faster across that floor. If you hit it from the opposite direction you can stop it or send it backwards. If it is sitting still on the floor you may cause it to move, but not with the same force as you would if it were already moving.

There is an opportunity on a collision course with us. The amount of forward progress each of us makes depends solely on how fast we are already moving when the opportunity catches us.

I need to go now. I have preparation to do.

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter.

ps. I heard from the majority of you who voted, both of you-laugh, and will be uploading links to the digital download formats of all of my products in the next few days.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Something you all need to read

Hello and happy Thursday,

I hope you've had a productive week of writing and marketing. I had a really great day. I spent 9 hours today at the library working so hard I actually was fully incapable of forming a sentence when my mom called tonight at 8pm [about 3 minutes after walking in the door.]

I read a blog that I want all of you to read and I really hope you'll come back over here to the comment section and tell me what surprised you about it.

I was truly surprised by the sales numbers of the top books. Okay, I realize some sell big, but to realize how few sell millions, or even thousands for that matter, was really shocking.

So please go to Chip's blog and read the April 2 posting and then leave notes in my comment section for today's blog.

I gotta go, my brains are oozing out of my ears. WAAAYYY too much thinking today!

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pulling it all together

Wow, we've had quite a deep week since Friday!

First, we talked about using our personality to be more productive. Then I stripped away all the excuses we've used to NOT accomplish our dreams and goals. Next, we talked about getting past those really tough days.

Now we're going to pull this together a little and talk about marketing your writing.

Some of you may have noticed over these last few weeks that I've posted a few polls asking for input from my readers. Here is something I've noticed:

Most people don't care.

Over the course of the polling period on each of these polls hundreds of people came to the site, and I got a total of 3 responses from each poll.

I admit this is a sweeping generalization but it seems to me, most people don't have an opinion on HOW you market a product. They want to know WHAT is in the product and HOW they'll benefit from having used/read the product.

What does that mean to us as writers?

I believe it means that we should not try to write TO the market. What I mean is don't write a book about a Crime Scene Investigator simply because CSI is a popular show.

It IS wise to know what genres are doing well. If you write Historical Romance then KNOW what publishing houses are taking. You don't want to write a Civil War Historical Romance if the market is completely saturated with them [unless you are simply practicing your craft].

The best thing to do is write a COMPELLING story within YOUR chosen genre [despite their popularity I am wholly unable to write a genre Romance novel. I keep trying to kill people and up the danger. That is because I write SUSPENSE/Thrillers, not Romance.]

We are writers, not politicians. Don't use polling to determine what you write. Let story reign. But be aware of fluctuations in the market so you know which of the many projects perking in your brain are most marketable now.

I'll see you later, I have clients to coach.

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Keep pushing!!!

Oh the day I've had!!

Do you ever say that? I have about 20 times today.

My husband had the day off and I had a clear calendar to do nothing but finish a big editing project for a client. I overslept but did not allow it to deter me. I still had plenty of time to get lots of work done. I was leaving the house, hubby was doing school with the kids while I was gone and I was going to stay at the library until they closed at 9pm. Ten hours of straight work [see my post on Friday to see why I was going to do that.]

So, I left the house at 10:40 am. I needed to make 2 stops on the way. One to get photos printed to send with the final Post Placement Report for my daughter [adpoted], and then off to the post office to send the PPRs Express Mail.

Then it took 30 minutes to print the pictures and get out of Kroger. And 30 minutes to tape the 20 photos to paper, get to the machine, and mail the package. Okay, to it was a bit longer than that because at 12:31 I arrived at the library to work. It was 3 hours later than I'd wanted but I'd still have a solid day of work.

I nestled in to a ultra-quiet corner of the library that was so little visited that they were storing the old card catalog furniture back there. I fired up the laptop, set out my work.

Then the computer froze.

Long story short after many tears and an hour of alternating between pleading with God and wanting to throw a temper tantrum, I loaded up my stuff, and drove the 15 minutes to my house. I had accomplished nothing other than burning about 2 gallons of gas [which here meant $6.30]. My husband fixed the problem in 5 minutes but it took me another hour to settle down. I was SOOOO mad. [Yep, I'm human too.]

But, now it is 5:17 and I'm finishing my blog and plugging away at this project. So I got 5 pages done instead of the 50 I'd planned on being done with by this point in the day.

I know after I have finished this and returned it to my client, I'll look back on today as one of those funny stories I tell groups of writers at my talks. But today I'm just tired.

But my reason to succeed is clear. So I push through the frustration, forget what is behind me and push forward to the goal. I'm not where I wanted to be but I'm farther than where I was.

So, if you're having one of THOSE days join me dusting off, pasting on a smile, and saying "This little irritation isn't going to block my dream."

I'll see all of you tomorrow. I've got clients counting on me today!!

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter