Welcome To The Writer’s Journey: Mary Mackey On Writing Advice and the Writer’s Life

Amazon River, Welcome to the Writer's Journey Welcome to my blog The Writer’s Journey and my People Who Make Books Happen Interview Series. Each month I interview agents; book designers; magazine editors; writers; people who have expertise in digital publishing, and anyone else who has important things to say about writing, publishing, publicizing, selling, reading and enjoying books. I also give writing advice and post about Brazil, the Amazon, the Goddess-worshiping cultures of Neolithic Europe, and other topics.

Coming in October in People Who Make Books Happen: Agent Michael Larsen describes how to write a non-fiction book proposal that will sell your book

Read the September People Who Make Books Happen interview:  Bestselling Author Ellen Sussman on Surviving Rejection: Interview with Novelist Ellen Sussman  Who Tells Us How She Survived Rejection to Become a Bestselling Author

Previously posted interviews in the People Who Make Books Happen Interview Series : 

Designing Websites For Writers Part One: Interview with Professional Website Designer Linda Lee 

Designing Websites For Writers Part Two, Checklists: Interview with Professional Website Designer Linda Lee

How to Get An Agent And Other Tips for Writers: Interview with Celebrity Literary Agent Andy Ross.  

How To Design a Book Cover that Sells Books: Interview with  Genius Book Cover Designer Claudia Carlson

Helping Independent Bookstores Survive and Thrive: Interview with Amy Thomas owner of Pegasus Bookstores

Three Great Reasons To Still Print on Paper: Interview with poet and Catamaran poetry editor Zack Rogow

HOW TO FIND POSTS: This blog is indexed to take you straight to the things you want to read. To find a complete list of the  interviews in my People Who Make Books Happen series without scrolling through all my posts, you can go to the right hand side of any page on my website where you will find a menu labeled TOPICS.  Click on PEOPLE WHO MAKE BOOKS HAPPEN INTERVIEW SERIES to see a complete list of interviews  in The People Who Make Books Happen series. In a similar fashion, you can click on BRAZIL to see all posts I have written about Brazil, on WRITING ADVICE to see all posts that offer writing advice about things like overcoming writer’s block and digital publishing, and so forth.  Presently the TOPICS Menu offers you direct access to my  posts on the following topics: BRAZIL, DIGITAL PUBLISHING, GODDESSES, PEOPLE WHO MAKE BOOKS HAPPEN INTERVIEW SERIES, THE ENVIRONMENT,  WRITING ADVICE, COMEDY, NEWS, NOVELS, PERSONAL STORIES, POETRY, VIDEOS OF MARY MACKEY and READINGS.

 You’re warmly invited to in the conversation by posting questions or comments. I love to hear from you.




Come hear Mary Mackey’s love poems set to music

  Maps and Lists, Holly Munoz


Thursday, September 25, 2014, San Francisco, CA: Mary Mackey reads her love poems including “The Kama Sutra of Kindness: Position Number 2″ at the launch party for San Francisco musician-songwriter Holly Munoz’s debut album Maps and Lists. TIME: 7:00 pm. PLACE: The San Francisco Institute of Possibility, Private Warehouse on Caesar Chavez at Mission, San Francisco. Mary’s “Kama Sutra of Kindness: Position Number 2″ is recited as “Interlude” on the final track of the Maps and Lists. To purchase tickets to this event, click here. (Holly is so cool that she is recording on vinyl!). Between the sets, Mary will do a short reading of her love poems and other poems from Travelers With No Ticket Home.

Mary Mackey Reads Saturday at Alta Solano in Berkeley

Folk and Fine Art Gallery Berkeley Alta Solano reading seriesSaturday September 21, 2014, Berkeley, CA: Poets Mary Mackey and Dale Jensen read their poetry in the Alta Solano LIT OUT LOUD series.  TIME: 7:15 pm. PLACE: Folk & Fine Art Gallery, 1861-A Solano Ave., Berkeley (in the small alleyway just above Pegasus Books).


Bestselling Author Ellen Sussman on Surviving Rejection

Ellen Sussman Tells How She Survived Rejection To Become a Bestselling Author

Ellen SussmanMary: Welcome to my People Who Make Books Happen Interview Series,  Ellen. You’re the author of four national bestselling novels: A Wedding in Provence, The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons and On a Night Like This.  I think it’s hard for people to image anyone with your level of success ever got rejection letters. Yet, you’ve said that you received “piles” of them. I’d like to talk to you about how you persisted through rejection, how you kept going, and why you didn’t give up. Let’s start by going back to the earliest stages of your career. How old were you when you started writing?

Ellen: Believe it or not, I decided that I wanted to be a writer when I was six years old! And I never veered off course. I couldn’t support myself as a writer until many many years later, so I always had a day job, but writing was my passion and my purpose throughout my life.

Mary: What’s the first piece of fiction you wrote? Was it praised? Were you encouraged by your parents or teachers to continue writing? Or did you start out with rejection?

Ellen: I had great support for my writing through high school, college and grad school. I won prizes and fellowships and I guess I got a little cocky. I thought that when I sent out my first short stories they would all be accepted! Boy, was I wrong. I have a folder of rejection letters that’s a mile high (or it just seems that way) – and it took a good ten years before I started publishing stories in literary magazines.

Maybe that early praise helped me survive the rejection years. It’s so hard to keep going when every editor seems to be saying no no no. Somehow you have to believe in yourself when no one else does. Or you have to be remarkably stubborn. I must have some combination of both.

Mary: I assume you were an avid reader from a very early age, yes? If so, which authors inspired and influenced you to make the choices you made?

Ellen: I read all the time! In high school I was greatly influenced by Hemingway and Salinger – I wrote terrible imitations of them both. In college I expanded my horizons. I think almost everything I read influences me. I beg, borrow and steal. That makes it sound much worse than it is! In truth, I’m always learning from the masters. How do they do it? Can I try that technique? It keeps me growing as a writer.

Mary: Let’s talk about those “piles” of rejection letter you’ve received.  Can you tell us roughly how many there’ve been?

EllenI couldn’t possibly count them all. Seriously. I submitted stories to magazines for years – sometimes a story would be accepted at one magazine after having been rejected at 40 other magazines! I’ve written a couple of novels that haven’t been published. Now that really hurt. But, in fact, they weren’t good enough – I can see that now.

Mary: What was the first thing you submitted that got rejected? Do you recall what the letter said?

Ellen: Right after graduate school I sent off my best story to the New Yorker. And so I began to collect form rejection letters from them. Eventually I did get personalized rejection letters from them, always encouraging me to try again. That meant a great deal to me.

Mary: Many writers give up when their work is rejected and never submit anything again.  Have you ever decided to give up writing permanently?

Ellen: Yes – but that decision only lasted one day! About 15 years ago, I finally realized that I wasn’t going to be able to find a publisher for a novel that I had worked on for a few years. I announced to my family that I was quitting writing. They all ignored me. A day later I started a new novel.

Mary: What changed your mind? What gave you the strength to continue?

Ellen: I have to write. I’m pretty miserable when I’m not writing. And most of the time I can keep the noise of the publishing world out of my head. That’s when I most enjoy the process.

Mary: How does a writer know when the rejection is valid and when it isn’t? How do you decide if you should revise, rewrite, or abandon a piece of work; or leave it exactly as you wrote it and submit it somewhere else?

Ellen: Great question. If I received the same kind of comment from a few different editors, then I would start to pay attention. Also, if what they said rang true to me, then I would push myself to do another rewrite.

Mary: Do you still occasionally get rejection letters, or is all that behind you now that you are a famous, bestselling author?

Ellen: Oh, I still get rejection letters! I wrote a novel after On a Night Like This (my first novel – which was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller) and it was rejected everywhere! Now I realize that it wasn’t good enough but at the time so baffled. I thought I finally had success – wouldn’t more success follow? Not unless the work is good enough!

Mary: Before you go, is there any additional advice you can offer writers about surviving rejection and continuing to write?

Ellen: Surround yourself with a writers group that’s supportive or loving friends who boost you up when you need it. It’s tough to stand strong when the rejection letters accumulate. Believe in yourself and in your work.

Ellen sussman bookcover A wedding in ProvanceEllen Sussman’s new bestselling Novel is A Wedding In Province

She is the New York Times bestselling author of four novels altogether:  A Wedding in Provence, The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons, and On a Night Like This. She is also the editor of two critically acclaimed anthologies, Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave and Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex. She teaches through Stanford Continuing Studies and in private classes. To learn more about Ellen Sussman and her work, visit her website at www.ellensussman.com


Dear Readers: Join this conversation about People Who Make Books Happen. You are warmly invited to ask Ellen Sussman questions or leave a comment. See the other interviews in this series for information about How To Get An Agent, How To Design A Book Cover That Sells Books,  Helping Independent Bookstores Survive and Thrive, Three Great Reasons To Still Print On Paper, Designing Websites For Writers, and more. This is where the experts hang out.

And remember to come back next month to read the another great interview in the People Who Make Books Happen  series.

A Celebration of the Indigenous Cultures of the Americas

 Berkeley Art House and Cultural CenterA Celebration of the Indigenous Cultures of the Americas at the Art House Gallery & Cultural Center, Sunday September 7, 2014.  The Poetry Unbound Reading Series will celebrate the indigenous cultures of the Americas with three very different readers. Kim Shuck, whose ancestors hail from the Tsalagi and Sauk and Fox peoples, will grace us with her woven words and insights. John Paige will present a variety of his expert and gorgeous translations from Nahuatl, language of the Aztecs. And Mary Mackey will share her acclaimed poetic observations from decades of travel in the Amazon. The Poetry Unbound Series is curated by Richard Loranger, Carla Brundage, and Clive Matson. TIME: 5:00 pm. PLACE: Art House Gallery & Cultural Center, 2905 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley CA. The featured readings will be followed by a brief open mic.

Poetry Reading at the John Natsoulas Gallery, Davis CA

 John Nasoulas Gallery exhibition paintingThursday September 5, 2014, Davis CA: Mary Mackey will poems from Travelers With No Ticket Home at the John Natsoulas Center for The Arts.  TIME: 8:OO pm. PLACE: John Natsoulas Center for The Arts, 521 First Street, Davis CA (at the corner of E and First). Joining her will be Sacramento poet Andrew Williamson. This reading is curated by Dr. Andy Jones, host of the popular radio show “Doctor Andy’s Poetry and Technology Hour.” (KDVS 90.3). After Mary and Andrew read, there will be an open mic. Free and open to the public.

Dr. Andy’s Poetry and Technology Hour to Host Poet Mary Mackey

August 20 5-6 PM on KDVS 90.3 FM Live and Streaming

old fashioned radioThis coming Wednesday at 5:00 PM,  Dr. Andy Jones will host Mary Mackey on his popular radio show Dr. Andy’s Poetry and Technology Hour. Mary will be reading poems from her three most recent collections Travelers With No Ticket Home, Sugar Zone, and Breaking The Fever. KDVS 90.3 FM (Live and Streaming)


Music, Fun, and Poetry at Ohmega Salvage in Berkeley

Ohmega Salvage logoOn Saturday, August 23, 2014, Berkeley, CA:  Mary Mackey and former California Poet Laureate  Al Young will read their poetry at the burgeoning cultural arts center Ohmega Salvage, one of Berkeley, Calif.’s oldest antique and salvage stores. Famed Berkeley slide guitarist, Freddie Roulette will perform along with other musical guests.  TIME: 1:00 PM; PLACE: Ohmega Salvage, 2407 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA. Free and open to the public.

Designing Websites for Writers Part Two, Checklists

Interview With Professional Website Designer Linda Lee

checklistWelcome to the People Who Make Books Happen Interview Series. This month I’m again talking to Linda Lee, professional website designer and founder of AskMePC Webdesign. This is Part Two of a two-part interview with Linda about designing websites for writers.  Last month in Designing Websites For Writers Part One, Linda talked about why every serious writer needs a website and what should be on it. In this interview, she is going share additional information about designing websites for writers and give us a list of do’s and don’ts. 

Mary: Welcome back, Linda. Could you please begin by telling us what’s the most important thing for a writer to have on his or her website? In other words, what’s absolutely necessary?

Linda: I’d be happy to. Here is my personal checklist for author websites:

1. Great Biography/About Page. Get help if you cannot write it yourself.
2. Book Sales Pages for each book. Each book you have needs its own page.
3. Social media connections, and author centric things like connecting to your Amazon blog, Amazon Central Author Page, or any online publications your write for. Connecting with Goodreads, Redroom and writing groups or groups that you are in or support like California Writers Club, and Women’s National Book Association, Litquake, or the San Francisco Writers Conference.
4. Media section/page. All your interviews, radio, podcasts, TV, listed and linked.
5. Event calendar for speaking events, lectures, personal appearances, and book signings.
6. Email sign up list so you can develop a solid email list of your readers.
7. Contact page so people can get in touch with you.
8. In addition to all of the above, your website should feature clear, easy-to-use navigation and sidebars set up correctly.

People want to know about you and your books and/or your writing. They want to know how to contact you and where to buy your books. They should be able to go to your website and do all of that with ease.

Mary: What are some things that are good to have but not absolutely essential?

1. Adding a slideshow highlighting your books and interesting things you are working on is fun and eye-catching.
2. You should add a photo to every page and every post for visual interest.The internet is a visual medium and you need those pops of color.
3. Adding videos you  have created and or adding videos from other sources to your site is another good tactic.
4. You can add podcasts to your site using audio plugins.
5. You can add clips of you on TV or clips of interviews that have been filmed. You can also post links to the written interviews people have done with you as well as the full text of those interviews.
6. Testimonials and Reviews are most helpful once you start getting them.
7. Using plugins, you can conduct polls which will interest and engage your readers.
Those are just a few fun extras.

Mary: I know that you design sites so that the people who own them can update them without having to go through a webmaster every time they want to make a change. How hard it is to learn how to manage your own site?

Linda; Once I became the webmaster for clients, I found that the most tedious and not very fun part of the job was doing updates and minor changes on pages for these HTML websites. That is when I found out about WordPress and started learning how to design websites using WordPress. I wanted to be able to train my clients to do their own updates, so they could use their sites without having to email their webmaster, to change a word, or update a page or a photo or a paragraph. WordPress created software which you can use with the ease of a word-processing document. You can login, do updates, write new articles and make changes yourself. You do not need to learn code or HTML. Normal not web savvy people can learn how to run their own websites.

You could buy WordPress for Dummies, but that’s the hard way. When you’re learning how to update your own site, it’s easy to get so overwhelmed that you can’t even figure out what questions you should be asking. There are other options. Personally, I’ve found a direct student-teacher relationship works best, because you can ask your instructor to clarify things as you go along. I offer remote training classes via the internet and WordPress boot camps locally to help train my clients and others who are interested in learning to update their sites. I’ve found that most people can do the basics after my two hour training. It has been very satisfying to watch clients, many who are intimidated by the web, learn how to run their own websites.

Mary: Do you have any plans to expand this?

Linda: Yes, in the near future I plan to make it possible for people to subscribe to an online forum called WordPress Total Training which will provide them with ongoing support and training.  One of the great things about WordPress is that over 200 million websites use it. Depending on what you want, a lot of free help or paid help is available.

Mary: What are the worst mistakes people make when they create sites?

Linda: Worrying too much about the design or colors and taking years sometimes to get a site up and running.
Get the site up! You can make changes along the way.  Another major mistake is building the site and then never using it.  I’d say this is the number one mistake. I see so many websites that are launched, and the person is excited and ready to go gangbusters, and then they abandon their site.They lose interest or they get overwhelmed. There is no new content, no new blog posts or articles. You click and find out that everything is two years old and out of date.

If this happens to you, get some help. Take a refresher course.  Ask people for suggestions. Get your excitement back.
When you are active with your site, it can be fun. You will have readers and comments and you will want to be there.
You need to stay active with your website.  You need to post at least once a month and stay connected to your site.

Mary: Could you please leave us with a general list of the do’s and don’ts of website design.

Linda: The Don’ts:
1. Don’t make it complicated. You have 5-10 seconds to keep a reader on your site. If they cannot find what they are looking for, they will bounce.
2. Huge graphics and photos that take up the entire page are a trend right now. I’ve found that most people do not enjoy this. They want to find what they came to your site for.
3. Don’t use too many colors in a web site. Keep to a simple color scheme
4. Do not have videos or audios or music that starts automatically. People hate that.

5. Do not make people have to sign up or click something to get to your main site.Why would you want to put roadblocks up for your readers?
6. Do not put a bunch of ads on your website that are intrusive and overwhelm the site.

The Do’s

1. Clean,  simple layout and navigation. Make it easy for your reader to find what they are looking for.
2. A clear menu bar.
3. A clear message for your website.
4. Social media badges for easy access and connecting.
5. A Blog section
6. Add new content at least once a month. Once a week is ideal.
7. Make sure your links are easy to notice and are underlined.
8. Use lots of images and graphics for visual pop.
9. Keep it to 3 key colors for design.

Mary: Before you leave us, what’s the most important advice you can offer a writer who is in the process of designing and managing his or her own website?

Linda: Stay realistic about your website. Good websites take time to build. If you want the best results out of your site, be patient. By adding new content, and staying attentive to your website will build your page rank in Google and gain followers over time. It is not an instant process.

Mary: Thank you Linda. You’ve given us a lot of very useful information. Just a reminder: My previous interview with Linda Lee can be found at Designing Websites For Writers Part One.

Dear Readers: Join this conversation about People Who Make Books Happen. You are warmly invited to ask Linda Lee questions or leave a comment. See the other interviews in this series for information about How To Get An Agent, How To Design A Book Cover That Sells Books,  Helping Independent Bookstores Survive and Thrive, Three Great Reasons To Still Print On Paper, and more. This is where the experts hang out.

And remember to come back next month to read another interview.



Jonah Raskin reviews Mary Mackey’s “Sugar Zone”

11 Sugar Zone, Cover, poems by Mary Mackey - CopyRead Jonah Raskin’s review of Mary Mackey’s Sugar Zone just published in Culture Counter Magazine by clicking here. Raskin praises the poems in Sugar Zone calling them “fluid, organic,” “magical,” and “tightly designed,” drawing on “the force of the Amazon itself.”

“The poems I like best,” Raskin says, “are about ghosts, hosts, disappearances and reappearances. They embody the richness of Brazil itself that’s inhabited by prowling jaguars and purple snails: the nation that pulses with the blood of the great anaconda and that’s polluted by the smoke of burning rainforests.”

Raskin notes that Sugar Zone “offers apocalyptic poems, private poems and poems about the limits of human expression . . . You might finish the book feeling you’ve made a terrifying and exhilarating journey, that you’ve searched the depths of your own soul and that you’d go back again with the poet herself as guide and translator who dishes out catastrophe and beauty, the sweetness of sugar cane, and the bitterness of Brazil itself.

Click here to read Jonah Raskin’s the full review of Sugar Zone.

In 2012, Sugar Zone received the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature.

Designing Websites for Writers Part One

Interview With Professional Website Designer Linda Lee

Linda LeeWelcome to the People Who Make Books Happen Interview Series. This month I’m talking to Linda Lee, professional website designer and founder of AskMePC Webdesign. This is Part One of a two-part interview with Linda about designing websites for writers.  Linda designed my website (http://marymackey.com/), but I’m not getting any discounts for interviewing her. I hired several website designers who didn’t work out before I found Linda. She proved to be easy to work with and very competent, so I decided to persuade her to share her knowledge about website design.

Mary: Linda, could you please begin by telling us why a writer needs a website? Why should someone go to all the expense and trouble of setting one up when anyone can get a Facebook Page for free?

Linda: I believe that it’s vital for every serious writer to have a website. With a website you can create a solid presence and identity as an author in ways that merely having a Facebook page will not do for you.

Mary: What’s the one of the most important things a website can do for you?

Linda:  A website can connect you directly with your own domain name. That domain name can be the name you use as an author. For example, if Shakespeare probably would have gone for shakespeare.com. If your author name is taken already, you can add the word “Author” as in shakespeareauthor.com. This is effective on several fronts. You have the keyword, “author” in your domain name. On the other hand,  if anyone looks for you in the search engines by your name  alone, it will still  pull up your website. They do not have to use the word “author.”

Mary: What are some of the other important things?

Linda: You can have a Sales Page for each one of your books on your website. This is important for the people who will be doing searches by your book titles. A title search will not take them to your Facebook page, but it will take them to the book’s sales page on your website where they will find a description of your book and all the ways they can buy it.

You also need a Blog. When you have a blog  on your website, every time you publish a post, it “pings” all the search engines and they re-crawl your website.

Mary: Why is it important to have the search engines constantly re-crawl your website?

Linda: Google pushes fresh content to the top of search results. When you regularly have new activity on your website, readers will see your site more often and more easily. In other words, regular activity such as blogging allows your readers to find you.

Mary: What if you just have frequent Facebook posts? That’s new material too, yes?

Linda: Yes, but people have to either join Facebook or be your friend before they can even read the short messages you post on Facebook. In contrast, the search engines also rank your website, so over time your site will come up more often as you keep adding new content. Facebook is not set up like this.  With a website you have  total control over both your website and your message.  There is no “clutter” or noise from other sources mixing in with your identity and message. Also, there are no ads and none of the major privacy issues your readers may encounter on Facebook.

A website is  a must in today’s publishing world. It is the first impression anyone will have of you as a professional author. For example, a reader reads your book and googles it.  A conference organizer hears about your book and googles it and cannot find a website for you. Someone in the media hears about your book and googles it. What do they find? How are they going to contact you? How are they going to learn about you and your work?

Mary: Could you please tell us some other things you can do if you have a website?

Linda:  You can create a site that reflects your ideas and style, visually as well as verbally. You can make it appealing and easy to negotiate. You can post free chapters for people to read and get feedback. You will be able to connect all your social media identities in one place using badges people can click to follow you. Finally, you should own everything you put online. If you are using a free website as your main identity, you will have no control over that in the end. Things change swiftly online and you want to own and keep all your own things in one place. Your website is the place to do that.

Mary: You’ve given us a lot of information. Just so we don’t get lost, could you please summarize why, in your professional opinion, it doesn’t work for a writer to just use Facebook as his or her website?

Linda: Let me list the main reasons for you:

Why not just use Facebook as my website?
•    Facebook is set up to be a place to connect with people. It is not the right place to use to promote yourself all the time. No one likes that.
•    Your website is all about you and your books and your journey as an author. Readers will go there to find information about you and your books   That is the purpose of a website.
•    People leave Facebook
•    Your messages easily get lost in the “noise” of Facebook.
•    If you are a serious author, publishers and agents expect you to have a website.
•    Often times now, they will not even consider your work until you set up a website. Why ? Because they need to see how serious you are about your writing career. A website has almost become step one. They want you to start building your audience and brand before they sign you.
•    You do not have control over Facebook, and they own your content. This is in their TOS. (Terms of Service).

Mary: Facebook owns all the content I put on their site? I didn’t know that! I’m going to have to try to plow my way through their Terms of Service and see what it actually stipulates. Like almost everyone I know, I just clicked on it without reading it. While I am recovering from finding out that I’ve signed my rights away to Facebook, tell us about your career. How did you start designing websites? What qualifications does it take? If you were looking for someone to design a site for you, what would you look for?

Linda: I started working online in 1998. Before that I was sales manager for a national recruiting firm. At the time, I had young children and wanted to work from home, so I started selling things on eBay and doing quite well. Then I discovered e-books, bought a huge reseller package of over 300 titles of “how to” e-books, and started selling them. I was selling over 500 e-books a week. It was crazy. This taught me how to sell online, how to set up ads, how to take photos and create a good sales page. How to set up downloads and troubleshoot problems online. It also taught me how to set up effective sales funnels and tools to work effectively online.Then eBay banned e-books. Overnight many of us were out of business.

I realized I needed to create my own website so that I owned everything and that could never happen to me again. I learned HTML and web design self-taught and  built my own site. In the process, I discovered that I had a knack for building websites, and my new career was born.

Mary: If you were looking for someone to design a site for you, what would you look for?

Linda: The first thing I would do is look at the designer’s own website and portfolio. Then I would check their references and testimonials. When looking for a website designer, you need to be sure to click on the websites they list in their portfolio. Do not be afraid to email those websites and ask how they liked working with the website designer. I have found many dishonest people who list sites that do not exist or sites that someone else designed. Or when you click to check a particular website, it turns out to be a different website altogether. So make sure to do due diligence.

Next, get a contract. Do not rely on emails or promises. In that contract make sure all the details and costs are spelled out. Make sure there is a time frame for completion that you both have agreed on. Many a person has come to me after their web designer flaked out or quit in the middle of the project, never to be seen again; so make sure you can phone them. Do not allow them to use email only. Get that contact information and be sure it works.

Mary: What’s the difference between designing a website for a business and designing a website for a writer?

Linda: The design process itself is not different. Design is the fun part of creating a website. Colors, general appearance, slideshows, social media connecting, branding– all of those constitute the fun part. The design part of my job is to create a site to each client’s tastes. This means that, as your web expert, I need to understand, your goal. What are you trying to achieve with this website? Questions about your tastes and your goals are the most important questions I ask in my consultations.  I need to know what components are needed and the long term plan you have for you website. Once I understand your goals and plans, I can draw on my experience to help you get where you want to be with your website. Studies show that you have 5-10 seconds to keep someone on your website. Your mission, and the main purpose of your website, needs to be to capture the reader and have your site be clear and easy to understand when the reader lands on it.

I have worked with professional technology companies that just want a strong branding presence. Their sole objective is the need to build trust for their brand, show a great modern “storefront,” and be found online. They are not trying to sell their products online. They are selling their business acumen and professionalism. They are also giving their clients their background and qualifications. This type of website is almost like a visual resume.

With an author’s website, everything is much more personal. Who are you? What do write about? What makes you and your books interesting and why would I want to read your work? Authors need to catch the reader’s attention. You can have humor as well as information about yourself on your website. In fact, you should. As a writer, you are your brand. So your site needs to be reflection of you.

Mary: How do you go about designing a website for a writer?

Linda: The basic components are the same for everyone, but when working with writers, there are certain features that are important to include. I’ve turned these features into a checklist for myself since I have done so many sites for writers.

Mary: We are going to discuss your checklists in Part Two of this interview. In the meantime, could you please give us urls to two or three sites you’ve created for writers and tell us what you like about them?

Linda: I’ll start with your website:  http://marymackey.com/

Your old site was not a good reflection of your ongoing, longtime success as a writer. When we designed your new site, we highlighted all your books with an extensive Book Overview Page. Each book listed links to the individual Sales Page, and then links to various places readers could purchase it. I don’t  create an Overview Page for all authors because they may only have one or two books. When a writer like you has so many titles, an Overview Page is critical.

Your readers want to be able to see all your titles on one page. New readers need to be able to find all your books in one place and not have to work to find new titles and spend time on Google searching for titles. Your website needs to be the ultimate location where your readers can find everything in one place and take it from there.

Mary: Many writers do things in addition to their writing. What kind of site would you build to blend those together? Could you give us another url that combines writing with other activities?

Linda: One of my clients is Michelle Chappel. Michelle is a musician, author, teacher and speaker. Her site is at  http://michellechappel.com/ The site I designed for her was picked as one of “15 Brilliant Websites That Will Inspire” by lifehack.com. On it we were able to highlight all her albums, and combine her other talents all in one place and capture the spirit of what she sings about and teaches.

Another fun website we did this year, is for a children’s book author, Elizabeth B. Martin at http://elizabethbmartin.com/
Elizabeth is an artist and writes children’s books. She brought me her website design ideas which she had drawn herself and laid out in a PDF. We took her drawings and used them to duplicate exactly what she had in her mind for her website. This included a flip book on her website for each book she had written. Children can go to her website and read the flipbooks of her actual books.  It is fun! We both felt that we had captured the whimsical side and fun of her work and brand.

Mary: Thank you, Linda. I look forward to hearing you give us more information about website design for writers in Part Two of this interview which will be appearing next month in People Who Make Books Happen. Meanwhile, I’m going to click on the sites you’ve mentioned to see what they look like. Are there links on your website to other sites that you’ve created ?

Linda: Yes. You can find over a fifty  examples of  websites I’ve designed on my Portfolio Page at  Askmepc Webdesign.

Dear Readers: Join this conversation about People Who Make Books Happen. You are warmly invited to ask Linda Lee questions or leave a comment. See the other interviews in this series for information about How To Get An Agent, How To Design A Book Cover That Sells Books,  Helping Independent Bookstores Survive and Thrive, Three Great Reasons To Still Print On Paper, and more. This is where the experts hang out.

And remember to come back next month to read Part Two of Designing Websites For Writers