How May I Serve You?

I participated in my first-ever webinar last week, given by social media guru Thomas Umstaddt. I don’t know about you, but when I think social media, the two names that come to mind are Mr. Umstaddt and Kristen Lamb. And although he said some things that oppose what Kristen Lamb might advise, the core of their philosophy remains the same.

Serve the reader. Whether that be book readers, blog readers, or people who read our Facebook or Twitter updates. 

In a post titled Making Marketing More About Them and Less About Us, Jody Hedlund says, “The needs of the reader should be at the heart of our marketing and publicity efforts.”

I love this message.

It’s a message that is near and dear to my heart. Because to be quite honest, focusing on myself is exhausting. The more I focus on myself, the more self-conscious and insecure I feel. I start to second-guess everything I tweet. Everything I post. I start to worry, “What if nobody likes me? What if nobody even notices me!?”

The whole thing becomes very draining. Very….unfun.

The only cure I’ve found is the one Jody Hedlund, Kristen Lamb, and Thomas Umstaddt offer.

Take our eyes off ourselves and focus outward.

Which is no natural thing.

We are self-centered creatures. Or let me back that train up. I am a self-centered creature. It’s so, so, so easy for me to get wrapped up in my little world. But then I read a blog post like Jody’s or listen to a webinar from Thomas or read a book by Kristen and I receive a much needed slap in the face.

Switch gears, Katie.

Marketing is about being a blessing. Marketing is about serving. Marketing is not about me. 

And as soon as I start looking outward again, it’s like a sharp pin pops my growing tension and this whole thing turns fun again. Energizing, even.

My newest endeavor, as I wade these waters of debut authorship, is creating an author website. And as I start to think about what I want my website to look like and what types of pages I want it to have and what information I want to provide and what colors I want to use, I’m taking this advice to heart.

How can I create a website that is less about me and more about my reader?

It’s an important question for any of us, no matter what we’re doing. It’s a question I haven’t figured out yet. But will continue to ponder as I work with my web designer.

Let’s Talk: What features do you enjoy in an author website? In what ways can an author make their website more about the reader and less about themselves? Please share!removetweetmeme

38 thoughts on “How May I Serve You?

  1. Stacy Henrie

    I love the idea of marketing being about serving the reader! I like an author website to include a little bit about their journey to publication. It's always fun to read that people I admire didn't have success fall straight into their laps.

  2. Susan J. Reinhardt

    Hi Katie –

    I like author websites to be:

    1) Easy to read. Black backgrounds give me a headache.

    2) If they're by a historical author, I like a page with interesting facts.

    3) Contact information, so I can get in touch with them to comment or request an interview.

    That's my short list. πŸ™‚


  3. Kathi Oram Peterson

    I love Kristen Lamb and Jody Hedlund. They give great advice. And isn't it so true…marketing online is about servicing others? You have a great blog. I'm so glad I found you.

  4. Carol J. Garvin

    Yours is a great blog, Katie… attractive to view, interesting to read. I'm sure your professional website will be an equally nice reflection of you and your book themes. With the focus on your stories I think you'll maintain your goal of having it more about your readers than about you. You're on the right track.

  5. Elle Strauss

    Having a heart of what I can give vs what I can get, is always more beneficial to both the giver and the getter. I think it takes pressure off of authors having to market themselves when they can view it this way.

  6. Patti

    Like a few people have already said. I like sites that are easy to use and don't take forever to load up, plus a what's next section is fun.

  7. Jaime Wright

    UPCOMING BOOKS! I love preordering books on Amazon. I've been to a few author sites who only feature books available to order but not books scheduled to be released. That's important to me πŸ™‚

  8. Beth K. Vogt

    Chiming in late. I'll blame it on just getting back from vacation!
    I'm tracking with you, Katie, on several fronts. One: What is the "why" of social media? (And please don't let it be all about me!) Two: Revamping my website to reflect my switch from fiction to nonfiction.
    I'll be glad to share some of my answers–as soon as I find them! ;o)

  9. Rosslyn Elliott

    I met Thomas several years ago and have seen him at conferences since then. He is a sharp guy.

    Service is key, but sometimes we don't realize that the greatest service we give others is love.

  10. Sarah Forgrave

    You do such a great job at this, Katie!

    As far as an author website, I think it's okay to focus on the author to an extent. I mean, the reader is going there to learn more about the author and their books. πŸ™‚ But it has to come across as genuine. I think my favorites are authors who show that they're regular people like me, who talk about their families, their daily life, their joys and struggles, while also providing ways for me to find their books.

  11. Jennifer K. Hale

    Great post– definitely one I needed to read today! I've really been struggling with this whole social media thing. I'm still new to it, and I'm still trying to figure out what to do with it. I like knowing that I'm not the only one who has, at some point, worried about tweets and posts, and status updates and…the unfun stress it can become. But using it as a blessing?? Well, that's makes it all fun again. πŸ™‚

    Loved that post from Jody, too.
    And I can't wait to see your author website!!

  12. Jill

    Katie, sorry. The first time it loaded only w/ the brighter green of the background, rather than the softer green of the text boxes (which is fine). And it was seriously killing my eyes. I know that sounded really stupid, come to think of it.

  13. Katie Ganshert

    Linda – how exciting that you're waiting for content edits!! I was right there a couple months ago! Can't wait to hear how your experience goes!

    I'm taking notes everybody! So many great suggestions!

  14. Katie Ganshert

    LOL Jill – I was so confused! What was it doing before? My background is green.

    Anyway – I understand what you're saying. About being weary of people who say their philosophy is service. Because of course, as writers, we want people to read our books. I just hope I can be a blessing as i strive toward that goal – building a readership. Just like I hope my book will ultimately bless whoever reads it.

  15. David N Walker

    Wish I knew enough about websites to comment on how to improve one. I do know you're right on about serving the reader. Another adaptation of Jesus's teaching about serving others that can't help benefitting you also.

  16. Lynda Schab

    Such a wonderful post! You are absolutely right. Serving the reader should be our goal – and the icing on the cake is that when the reader feels as though they are getting something from your blog, they come back. Plain and simple.

    As for what I like to read, I love personal stuff. Anything the writer can share about struggles they're facing or accomplishments they've achieved (and how they did it)…I love cheering with other writers. I also love hearing about their experiences with things I'm now going through. Waiting for edits on my debut novel, I want to know everything about the process from signing the contract to publication. πŸ™‚

  17. Jill

    p.s. Your bright green background is gone. Maybe your blog didn't load properly the last time. Weird. So skip my comment that the green hurts my eyes.

  18. Marji Laine

    LOVED that webinar last week! So much information!

    Service is one of my favorite things about having a writer's blog.

    With a home-business website for the last several years, it has been so hard because I've always hoped for sales from my posts.

    Now, though, I don't have anything to sell! Yea! And I can just post in the hopes that I bring delight to the folks that are reading.

    That's so freeing when you think about it.

  19. Jill

    Ack! Networking is the least of my skills. But I know what I look for in an author site. I like bios, I like to know about the author, I like info about their books. But mostly, I like reading controversial and/or deep subjects. I like arguing and debating. I like it when I can talk with/ argue with an author. That feeds my internal fire. People that are too nice make me suspicious. I feel that I'm being manipulated, or that I'm not getting an accurate view of that person. Oh, and BTW, I especially suspect people whose philosophy is one of service. I hate being manipulated. I really do. And generally people who wave altruism flags aren't honest w/ themselves or anybody else.

    Okay, thanks for letting me rant. I appreciate the honest tone you already maintain on your blog. I think you're doing a great job. But your green background hurts my eyes. πŸ˜‰

  20. Heather Sunseri

    Katie, you are asking some amazing questions lately, and I'm finding I want to come back over and over to read the comments of what others are doing.

    The things that I like about author websites:

    Great content – More times than not, the main reason I return to a website is ONLY because they post good content regularly.

    white space – I do not prefer dark backgrounds with light-colored letters. It's hard to read.

    Fast to load – If a site struggles to load, it's hard to make a quick stop by. And let's face it, our readers' time is important.

    Bookmarking this post, Katie. Another great one!

  21. Catherine West

    This is awesome, Katie! And you have reminded me again that I really must get Kristen's book. I'm going to do that as soon as I finish this! From one who is still in the throes of trying to figure out the whole, "I'm published, now what?" question, I think you are giving very good advice here, because I too often think about whether or not the book is selling, and you're right, it's way too easy to make it all about me. I have really enjoyed the experience of making new friends because someone read my book and cared enough to email me and say so. Let me tell you, you're way ahead of the game here – by the time your books hit the shelves you'll have your plan ready to go, you can sit back and relax! Well, yeah… :0))

  22. M.E.

    The comments here are very insightful. Typically, I never read the comments section, but your readers are top-notch, Katie.

    I agree – I like to go to an author's website and find out about the author's background, where I can connect with them online, what's coming next, and where they get their ideas.

    I don't like background music or cluttered, antiquated sites.

  23. Tana Adams

    I needed to hear this! I am ready to serve. I'm so glad to have this perspective. =)

  24. Jessica R. Patch

    Katie, love the post.

    From a reader's view, I like to know fun stuff about the author who wrote the book. Not just professional information. It makes them feel more real.

    I also like fun stuff from their book. Recipes used if it was about a chef. If they were remodeling a house, a picture of the house they modeled it from. Stuff like that.
    Karen Witemeyer's site is neat.

  25. Robert Burton Robinson

    P.S. I enjoyed Jody Hedlund's post too. Thanks for linking to it!

  26. Robert Burton Robinson

    Katie, I make my website more about the reader by giving away a ton of my writing for free: over 300,000 words, including five books and dozens of short stories.

    And, amazingly, even though people can read the books on my site, I still sell plenty of them in the Kindle Store, B&N, Apple, etc.

    For my latest mystery book, I'm giving a sample only. I plan to go that route with all of my coming books. But my first five will remain there on my website for free. And I continue to add a new short story each month.

    I don't know a better way to make my website about the reader than to give them what they want most: my writing. πŸ˜‰

    Best wishes for your website. Looks like you're off to a great start!

  27. Kelley

    What draws me to an author's website is that they seem real, easy to talk to. I want to feel like if I have a question, they would actually welcome a comment or an email.

    So far, I'd say you're off to a FABULOUS start πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for all your help!

  28. Tamika:

    Katie, the focus on ourselves is so draining!

    I'm taking Kristen's online class right now, and I've been so blessed. Her focus is teaching us to create a brand and a blog that serves our readers. High pill to swallow.

    My blog was essentially about writing and personal journey, but lacked the connection with a large audience. Kristen is teaching me to connect on topics that are passionate to who I am as a person and build relationships that way. Easier. Less draining. Servitude.

    I've also been in a class with Thomas, his approach drew me in as well. The audience is the focus.

    I'm excited to dive back into blogging with new content- created for my community!

  29. Keli Gwyn

    How exciting that you're working on your website, Katie. Sounds like the webinar was very helpful. I'd enjoy hearing more about it. Having taken an online workshop from Kristen, I'm curious how Thomas's views differ from hers.

  30. Erica Vetsch

    That webinar was Hilarious! LOL

    Author websites I like…One that has a picture of the author AND the name of the author clearly displayed.

    You wouldn't believe how many times this week I dropped into a blog I'd never read before only to find I couldn't locate the writer's name and picture.

  31. Wendy Paine Miller

    So many excellent points here!

    This is what I'm brainstorming for my new FB page…gaining a better understanding of what people are reading, how, and what they want.

    I'll share more and in more detail w/ you soon.

    But yes, I couldn't agree more. Networking and marketing are really about uplifting others, building strong bonds, and looking out…

    Just call me Love button Wendy

  32. Cassandra Frear

    Marketing is serving. Yes!

    Even more, marketing is ministry.

    I believe that if we give honor to others, then our own work will be honored in time — as long as it is a good work.

  33. Loree Huebner

    Great points.

    You have that teacher's heart. You know how to captivate a classroom…don't forget to use it. I bet you'll do great captivating ALL of your readers.

  34. Katie Ganshert

    Thanks Jennie! And I'm loving the feedback everyone! Thanks so much!

  35. Jennie Allen

    I feel you have always done this so well!

  36. KC

    Good information! I am no writer, but i aspire to be one, and in doing so i like reading blogs etc, but most importantly i like reading about the writer, I feel like that gives me a good sense of their foundation and usually it sorta determines whether i continue reading their info or not (maybe that is not good, but it's what attracts me to read further). I agree with Kara – the site should be easy to navigate!

  37. Kara

    Very good points. I like sites that are easy to navigate and not too busy looking. I love to know what the author is up to, how they get the ideas for their stories, where they will be for signings, conferences etc. I love Jody's page for writers on her website too!

  38. Laura Pauling

    For me, sites that are easy to use. I honestly don't go to them much though. But easy use and easy to find information I think is most important.


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