Authors can upgrade their webpages to the 21st century!

Over the past several posts I’ve discussed RWD (responsive web design), and the milestones Outskirts Press has identified as it transitions all its web properties to RWD. Today I’m pleased to announce that all our published authors can easily and quickly upgrade their current author webpages to RWD.

mobile-upgrade

In my last post I detailed the 13 cool features of the new RWD upgrade. But the easiest way to see how the upgrade looks and works is to take a look at it for one of our Fandemonium books.  Be sure to check it out on a desktop, your tablet, and your smartphone, and you will see why RWD webpages are the wave of the future: it’s like having a regular webpage, a mobile site, and an “app” for your smart phone all at once!

If you’ve published with Outskirts Press, upgrading your author webpage (or webpages, if you’ve published multiple books) is as easy as clicking here.

 

 

13 Lucky Features in the new Author Webpage Upgrade

Within the next 30 days, Outskirts Press authors will be able to upgrade their Free Author Webpages to a new, cutting-edge RWD design.   To find out what is so awesome about RWD, read this recent post here. I’ve been discussing ousite-smallr company’s migration to RWD for a number of posts, and the specific milestones that we have completed thus far, along with those left to complete.   “Author Webpages” was milestone #4, and I introduced the new look for upgraded Author Webpages here.

For this post, we are going to take a closer look at the new RWD Upgrade for Outskirts Press Author Webpages, and the 13 cool features that accompany it.  A full screen-grab of an upgraded Author Webpage is to the right, along with 13 numbered features that I will discuss in detail below.  Of course, you can get a closer look by visiting the new upgraded version of this page at http://outskirtspress.com/opcollection2

  1. Outskirts Press authors have the choice of publishing under our imprint of “Outskirts Press, Inc” or their own publishing imprint name using our “Private Label ISBN” option, which registers an exclusive ISBN under their own publishing name.  A new feature of the Upgraded Author Webpage is that Private Label authors have THEIR publishing name displayed, rather than “Outskirts Press, Inc.”
  2. A new menu bar has been added to the Upgraded Author Webpage, which allows easy navigation to each section of the page: Book Details, Author Information, Book Excerpt, and Multi-Media. If an author has chosen to leave a section blank (didn’t add any multi-media, for instance), then that menu option is omitted automatically.
  3. The pertinent sales information remains and contains the title, sub-title, author name, publication date, page count, and genre.
  4. Every available edition of the author’s book is now available to purchase in whatever format (and from whatever source) the buyer prefers.  Paperback and hardback editions can be purchased directly from Outskirts Press for a 10% discount (authors still get their full royalty). This is a new feature for Emerald authors, who can now utilize our bookstore to sell their books rather than handling the details themselves.  PDF e-files are still available for instant download if the author selected that option. A new feature offers a direct link to the iTunes edition if the author purchased the Standard iPad e-book edition.  Still present from previous versions of the author webpage are links to the book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which also brings shoppers’ attention to the possible availability of Kindle and/or Nook e-book editions of the book.
  5. The book’s front cover is displayed along with a Facebook “Like” button. A new feature is the addition of the Pinterest “Pin it” button, so your visitors can easily “pin” your book cover to their Pinterest Boards.
  6. The “Book Details” section remains, and is still modifiable within the author’s Publishing Center.  You can still use different font colors or hotlink to images with a rudimentary understanding of HTML. With this update, authors can no longer change their old author webpage layout or site colors.
  7. The “Book Excerpt” section remains, and is still modifiable within the author’s Publishing Center. You can still use different font colors or hotlink to images with a rudimentary understanding of HTML.  A new feature is the clean omission of this section if an author has chosen not to include an excerpt.
  8. The “About the Author” section and author’s biography both remain, which includes the author’s photo for Diamond, Pearl, and Ruby authors (if they provided it). The author bio text is still modifiable within the author’s Publishing Center.
  9. An exciting new feature of the Upgraded Author Webpage is the “social media” connection in the “About the Author” section, whereby an author can add up to six direct links to his or her Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Linked-In, or Instagram accounts.  Just add the URL details in your Author Profile and be a Ruby, Diamond, or Pearl author for the “social media connection” functionality to be added to your Upgraded Author Webpage automatically.
  10. The “Also by” section remains for Diamond and Pearl authors, but is much more visually interesting since it showcases the front covers of every book you’ve published with Outskirts Press (or your own publishing imprint). Click on the cover and you’re taken to that book’s Author Webpage (which you can also choose to upgrade).
  11. The “Multi-Media” section remains for Audio Excerpts recorded by the author and/or for optional Book Video Trailers. A new feature to the Upgraded Author Webpage: The Audio files now play on iPhones.  This section is cleanly omitted if the author does not have an audio excerpt or a book video.
  12. The Outskirts Press “footer” provides easy contact information to Outskirts Press (to resolve any potential ordering or technical issues for your readers), plus easy access to the full gamut of our Social Media Author Communities.
  13. If the optional Private Label ISBN was used to publish the book, all the Outskirts Press “branding” is removed from the author’s webpage.

Self Publishing Branding on Social Media Channels

On this blog I have often discussed the topic of marketing & branding, particularly as it applies to self publishing and social media (sites like Facebook and YouTube, etc.).  In fact, in some specific posts in the past, I displayed graphics presenting the way in which Outskirts Press brands itself on multiple social media channels in an effort to market our brand consistently.  Previously, these graphics featured the tagline: Write Anything, Publish Everything, Market Everywhere along with three individuals in the act of writing, publishing, and marketing, respectively.

As is so often the case, Facebook and YouTube then decided to change their “look” once again. And at roughly the same time, Outskirts Press added Pinterest to our list of active social media channels.  Plus, we wanted to concentrate more specifically on the monthly promotions and discounts we offer.  Self Publishing is becoming more competitive than ever before, and even though Top Consumer Reviews has rated Outskirts Press the #1 self-publishing company (more on that in the near future), we still have to compete aggressively for those authors who shop based solely on price (rather than high quality and service).

So our promotions became the focal point of our branding considerations. And we wanted to continue to carry that branding & marketing across our growing family of social media sites which now includes Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, YouTube, various blogs, Google Plus, and Pinterest.

Like everything, branding and promotion begins on our own website, where we hold the most control over look and functionality. So here is an example of how a monthly promotion appears on our home page:

Self publishing branding at Outskirts Press
Self Publishing Branding at Outskirts Press

Facebook was next.  We wanted to utilize the “Cover” graphic Facebook allocates for branding purposes to visually connect the same promotion, while still simultaneously mentioning other monthly events occurring on our Facebook page AND continuing to remind new visitors to “Like” us:

Self publishing branding on Facebook
Self Publishing branding on Facebook

Since Facebook superimposes a square Avatar graphic in the lower left-hand corner of the Cover Graphic, our Facebook graphic also attempts to incorporate that into the overall design aesthetic by using a “lifestyle” image of people engaged in the act of reading and/or writing (typically with large smiles on their faces).  Facebook Terms of Service prevent us from placing our actual URL in this cover graphic (although if you look around at other Facebook pages, there are plenty of companies doing it anyway), so we simply say “Visit our website for details” and then include a link to our site in the “About” box directly below the Avatar graphic.

This “Visit our Website” wording is also helpful on YouTube, which also superimposes a URL over whatever Cover Graphic you upload.  YouTube’s Channel lay-out changed recently by “borrowing” the same “Cover Graphic” concept from Facebook.  In their case, however, the cover graphic specifications are more demanding because YouTube accounts for various platforms, resolutions, and even high-retina displays like the iPad 2+.    All of this falls under the realm of “Responsive Website Design” which, if I find time, I will begin to blog about more in the future as Outskirts Press begins to make that design transition for all our online properties. But, in the meantime, just know that creating the cover graphic for YouTube requires an initially HUGE graphic that is then dynamically cropped to appear correctly on multiple devices.  Easier said than done, but we ultimately end up with this.

Self publishing branding on YouTube
Self Publishing Branding on YouTube

You can see that the actual “content” of the graphic is respectively small in this sample due to the requirements of the Responsive Website Design specifications for this graphic. In other words, this graphic has to look just as good on an iPhone being held vertically, which decreases the width of this graphic substantially.

Next comes Linked-In, which fortunately, doesn’t yet concern itself with Responsive Website Design specifications for its uploads (although I imagine that is simply a matter of time), so we’re safe uploading a fairly cut-n-dry image of a set height and width:

Self publishing branding on Linked-In
Self Publishing Branding on Linked-In

Pinterest is next, and given the constraints set out by their “Boards” we’re unable to use optimal graphics for the Board page, leaving us with this:

Self publishing branding on Pinterest
Self Publishing Branding on Pinterest

That leaves three other self publishing social media channels for Outskirts Press:  Twitter,  Self-Publishing News, and Google +.   They don’t fall so easily into the above branding category, so I’ll discuss them next time…

Brent Sampson explains the Production Milestones Achievement Awards – The Approved Production Award

Now that we have unveiled our Facebook Self Publishing Achievement awards, the five categories, and the specific awards that are within each category, I will focus on each award over the next couple of months.   The categories are arranged in rough chronological order — it’s most likely an author will achieve an award within the first category (Production Milestones) prior to achieving an award in any other category. Likewise, an award in the second category is more likely to be achieved before an award in the third category, and so forth.

The first category, the Production Milestones, is currently comprised of five awards, with a sixth on the way.  Every author will win at least one award in the Production Milestones category for publishing with Outskirts Press (provided they “connect” their Facebook Account to their Outskirts Press account when prompted during the publishing process).  The Approved Production Award is achieved upon completion of a major Production Milestone, and one that is met by every publishing author. This is the stage at which all the pre-production steps have been completed, and the manuscript and all its customization is passed to our production department so the book can be designed, formatted, and completed in accordance with the author’s wishes.

Upon reaching and completing this important publishing milestone, our authors participating in our Facebook Achievements will be able to automatically notify their Facebook friends/fans/followers of their achievement, and they will receive the Approved Production Award from Outskirts Press.

We’ll talk about more Production Milestones next time.

Facebook Achievements for Self Publishing Authors

In my June 21st post I blogged about the new Facebook Achievements we are launching at Outskirts Press for self-publishing authors. We’ve been conducting beta tests on the functionality for about a month now, and this follows what has been about 6 months of development time (off and on).  The functionality is already “live” for new authors coming into Outskirts Press and soon we will be adding the functionality to all our current authors, too.

Our Facebook Achievements are based upon the concept of “gamification” which is the concept of motivating “action” in a user-base by providing awards and public recognition for accomplishing certain tasks — in essence, making a “game” out of something that is typically seen as more “mundane.” For most of our authors, publishing their book is one of the most exciting things they’ll ever do in their lives, so it’s not really necessary to “Reward” publication with an “Achievement Award.”  But, with every book that is published, there are numerous steps (or milestones) that must be accomplished and some of them, to be honest, are more mundane than others.   So our goal with our Facebook Achievements is to publicly acknowledge an author when he or she accomplishes important tasks in the pre-production, production, publishing, or marketing processes.

For Outskirts Press, we have divided our self publishing achievements into four categories, and the Award Graphics they can earn are “color-coded” to each category.

The first category is “Production Milestones,” which currently has 5 Achievement Awards, with a 6th one in the works. By publishing a book, every author will earn at least one award in this category and can relatively easily earn 2 out of the 6 awards. But it would require publishing at least 3 books to “Sweep” the Production Milestones category and earn all the awards.

The second category is “Production Achievements.” It is possible to publish a book without achieving a single award in this category, although from what we know of our authors, the majority of them will earn at least one (and the award they win in this category will often vary significantly depending upon the author and/or book).  There are currently 4 achievements in this category with a 6th one in the works. It’s possible, although unlikely, that an author could sweep this category (meaning, win every award within the category) with a single book.

The third category is “Publishing Awards.”  Every author who connects their Outskirts Press account with their Facebook account will receive their Published Book award once their book is published.  These are the most complicated awards to program, so we currently have just one in this category, although more are planned.

The fourth category is “Marketing Achievements” which recognizes and acknowledges marketing tactics taken by the author after publication.  We currently have 5 awards in this category, with more on the way. Many of our authors would sweep this category with relative ease because our authors already understand (or are educated on) the necessity of marketing a published book.

The final category is “Marketing Milestones,” granted when the author reaches a milestone in the marketing process by focusing on a particular area of marketing, such as publicity, Amazon, awards, book tours, or promotional materials, etc.   The “Marketing Milestones” category and “Marketing Achievements” category are designed in such a way where it is extremely unlikely for an author to sweep both. In fact, just earning each Marketing Milestone award is quite an accomplishment, much less sweeping the entire category.

It might help to see the awards, divided by each category, so I’ll reveal that next time…

Another “Facebook Achievements” Update From Brent Sampson

Here is another update from our upcoming “Facebook Achievements” functionality that we are launching soon for self publishing authors with Outskirts Press:

Last week we announced our Beta test program on our Facebook page, and then on the following Monday (last Monday), we invited 25 of those Facebook friends to add a special Award to their Outskirts Press shopping cart as part of the Beta Test.  Interestingly, even though our Alpha Test (an internal test using some of our personal Facebook accounts) worked fine, this Beta Test (an external test featuring a small number of our actual authors) didn’t work nearly as well.  But that is what is important about testing — we took that information from the initial Beta Test on Monday and our web developers made some adjustments to how Outskirts Press was “communicating” with Facebook.

We then invited those authors to test the Award again and had greater success.  One thing we learned was that a greater percentage of authors than we expected do not leave themselves “logged-in” to Facebook, but rather log-out after their session with Facebook is complete.  Our Outskirts Press functionality works nearly seamlessly when the author is logged in simultaneously with Facebook and Outskirts Press (through cookies), but otherwise, in order to receive the Achievement on Facebook, the author must first “Connect to Facebook” via the typical blue button that is becoming more prevalent on websites.

Ultimately, the beta testing was successful because we caught bugs in the programming we may have otherwise missed, which will allow us to launch this new, complicated functionality more successfully in the coming weeks. Then, our authors will be able to conveniently and automatically share their writing, publishing, and marketing milestones and achievements with all their Facebook friends.

A Tale of Two Custom Covers: Part 4

Last week I shared a self-publishing experience with one of our authors in regard to our Custom Cover option and how she received two fantastic concepts to choose from. She ended upon wanting them both (one for her first book and the other for her next one).  But, since she loved them both, she wasn’t sure which cover to use first.   Well, at Outskirts Press, we like offering solutions to problems like that, and in this case, our Social Media Market Research option was ideal.   With this option, we present a number of different choices to our social media community (comprised of nearly 6,000 Facebook friends and over 5,000 blog followers on our blog at http://blog.outskirtspress.com), and we ask those active community members their opinions.

Authors not only get a chance to promote their books, but they also receive very good feedback from other writers and readers and book buyers.  Win-win.  Sometimes the decision is very close, and other times, there is a clear “winner” as in this case, where the “green” cover appears to be clearly in the lead (as of my writing this), with over 80% of the votes.  While choosing between the two custom cover concepts we present to authors is the most popular use of this Market Research Option, other uses include title selection and pricing scenarios.