Interview Transcripts

Tobi Kibel Piatek: The Writer's Website 9/20/07



Legend:
Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Hello all.

 

Welcome to our Professional Connection live interview.

 

Tonight we'll be chatting with Tobi Piatek.

 

Educator, writer, curriculum developer, web designer, graphic artist, intercultural communicator, eLearning developer and speaker, Tobi Kibel Piatek combines writing, design and marketing skills with technology. She frequently works with writers (new and established) to help them define and build their online platform to help them get their message in front of their audience. In her writer's hat, Tobi focuses on writing books, columns and courses for educators. She has developed projects for Oregon Public Broadcasting, PBS, Portland State University and more. Her work appears in print and on the web.

 

You can take a look at her website at: www.synergenii.com

 

Tobi, I'm so pleased to welcome you here tonight. Thanks for coming!

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Thanks for inviting me.

Mary Rosenblum

So let's begin at the beginning here. Which came first for you...

 

the writing or the website design?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Oh definitely writing -

 

I wrote stories as soon as I could read - around age 5 - before - long before computers much less websites.

Mary Rosenblum

Oh very cool.

 

And you work in education, too. Didn't you tell me you're currently designing or working on an interactive college course?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Yes - I am the writer of an online course designed to help teachers and mentors and others who work with kids, understand how to keep kids at risk, in school.

Mary Rosenblum

Ah, Gail as a perfect question to start us off.

gail

When -- and why -- should a writer consider developing a web-site?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

When they have something to share with the world - a product, a service, news, information.

Mary Rosenblum

So even someone who's not publishing yet can still offer prospective readers something on a website?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Oh yes - you might want a place to post your articles for example.

Mary Rosenblum

So what should a novice think about when planning a website?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Your audience. ...

 

Your message and the look and feel of the site you create must match your audience

Mary Rosenblum

So your audience will be your readers or prospective readers. How do you match that site to your readers?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Your readers yes, but most important - the ones who will BUY your book.

 

Parents are the audience for kids books. So are libraries and schools

Mary Rosenblum

So if you write romance, your readers are probably women. But what if your genre is pretty diverse in terms of readers? Say mystery? What do you go by then?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Who are you writing for? Keep the faces of the people you imagine reading and buying your books in mind. Women buy books for men and vice versa. Design a site that is good for anyone.

gail

When you say the message must match the audience, are you saying a writer needs to create various web-sites if they write in different genres? Or, can that be done through development of different "pages"?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

No - my website makes it clear who I work with - all is you need is one site. However, if you are a parent, looking for a book for a five year old, and you go to a site covered with bloody corpses - there is dissonance.

 

Create your site to appeal to your most likely audience

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding! :-) So while you can include your various genres under one roof, so to speak, that may not work if you write in 'dissonant' genres, say Christian romance and erotica!

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Probably true.

jasond

If you use your short stories as site content before they're published, aren't you eliminating your chances for selling first rights?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Yes

 

Why would you post your stories on your site? Your goal, I assume is to sell them, not give them away

Mary Rosenblum

More and more writers are being encouraged by publishers to post previously published work or segments of work for sale currently as PR.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Previously published stories are a different issue

gail

When posting articles or stories that have already been published, must the author wait until rights revert back (if applicable) before posting them to their web-site?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

I don't know. I would guess this is relevant to your agreement with your publisher

 

You may consider, if the work is available online, including links in your website to your content on other sites.

Mary Rosenblum

I can answer that question, actually. You must have unencumbered electronic rights in order to post on your website.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Thank you Mary

Mary Rosenblum

So what do you consider some critical components to a writer's website? Links to purchasing locations, I assume? Powell’s, amazon.com, etc?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Most important is a domain name.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Establishing a domain name is like choosing a location to build your home. It needs to be just right.

k c morlock

With our audience in mind are there dos and don'ts for domain names?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

As a writer, you might want to use your own name, as in www.janewrite.com, or, you might want to use a book title, or create a domain name that reflects your expertise or theme. Of course, someone else may share your name, or your idea for a domain name. The best place to find out whether your choice is available, or what options you might have is to visit www.godaddy.com. This is the place to start your search, and purchase the domain name you choose. Notice that when you enter a domain name, GoDaddy will offer alternatives if your original choice is not available (e.g., janewrite.org, janeauthor.com, and janewriteonline.com).

 

When you find the name you want, purchase that name for at least three years. First, it saves you money, and second, it protects the name for you.

 

This is very important: Save ALL the documentation you receive from GoDaddy – you will need it when you establish your host. Remember your password.

Mary Rosenblum

I think you'd better explain how domain names work in general for those who don't entirely understand it.

 

And host for that matter.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Once your have a domain name, you will need a web host. Essentially, your host provides the real estate (unreal estate?) on which to build your site.

 

Your domain creates an address where people can find you on the web. This address is the place where you build your site. Your host owns the property - you pay rent in the form of hosting fees

Mary Rosenblum

What about the usually-free website space offered by such companies as earthlink, comcast, and yahoo?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

You are already paying them for some service such as email and the ability to get onto the web

 

So, web space is provided as part of your package of services

Mary Rosenblum

Are they a good choice for hosts?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Yes - depending on your needs. Not all websites contain the same content and features. If you want more than a very basic site, you may want to consider other hosts

quixote

What should we look for in a hosting service? (Considering that most writers are not very wealthy)

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Its not the hosting service that's of greatest importance, its the web content. As long as you have enough space to host your site, and the site does not tend to crash every day, you are probably fine.

gail

Is there a clear benefit to creating a web-site for promotion of only one novel?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Yes - ...

 

You build a website as part of your business platform. It is a way to establish your identity. Do you really exist in this high tech world if you can't be found on Google?

 

Your website is another way for you connect with – readers, editors, other writers, book store owners, resources, the public -

Mary Rosenblum

That is a very great reality, and these days publishers nearly require you to have a website.

infinitedot

How can you best market your site online?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

A website, no matter how well done, is a little like a lonely platform. It doesn’t do much good unless people a) know its there, and b) know how to get there.

 

Viewers who get to your web site, arrive in different ways – they may enter your web address (if they know it), you may Google your name or a title (also requires know something. Or, they can search for e.g., children’s books about fire trucks. It’s the searches that hold potential for a wide array of visitors – but how do you bring them to your site selling your book about fire trucks, and not the dozen other sites like that out on the web?

 

You need Keywords.

 

The term Keyword refers to a word or phrase used by Internet users to find information online

Mary Rosenblum

And these are embedded on the web page, correct?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

And in the back end - in the html code

gskearney

Are any of the promotional services worth the money? I'm talking about people who say they can get your site into more search engines and such.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Keywords are big business. I know that these services have benefited many people - are they worth it for you? It depends on so many factors.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

There are ways to do this yourself however. Your keywords should describe you, your product, your location, your services, your titles, your expertise, your target audience etc.

payton

What about using those templates offered by yahoo? Do these work pretty well for making a website?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

That's a clear yes and no

.

They have the advantage of being inexpensive - but, if you do not work with them properly, they look like they are worth every penny you spent :-) Unless you can create links, can be consistent in your choice of fonts, have decent color sense, and understand how to write you copy, and plan your navigation, they can look really bad

jasond

When providing samples/excerpts for your site, is it better to use the regular text of the html document or use a PDF?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Once again it depends. If I am going to just read a quick 'taste' of your work ... text is fine. If I am going to download a chapter ... then pdf.

Mary Rosenblum

You mentioned navigation. Can we talk about its importance here? What makes for 'good' navigation and what is a problem?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

There's a great rule for web design - Don’t Make Me Think. Good navigation is simple, obvious and consistent. Click here to go to the About Page, here to find my email address. No mysteries

Mary Rosenblum

One example...I visited a writers webpage the other day and looked for a link to purchase the book. Could not find one anywhere.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Poor planning - its like having a store that no one can find

k c morlock

Should a writer find a web maker or use software and what kind?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

In my opinion - most writers are good writers. Web design is a skill. Its easy to build a bad website. It takes a professional to build a great one

Mary Rosenblum

So let's take a minute here. Say a writer comes to you. He write hard-boiled mysteries. And he wants a website. Where do you begin? What do you include? How do you do the design process? Can you walk us through this scenario?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Is his book in print? What does he want his site to do? He might want to sell books and related materials on the site - or he may want to just link to Amazon....

 

Does he want to include a calendar of events to let people know about readings or sales?

 

What kind of art or photos does he want to include? Does he want hi-end features such as flash? A video or audio of himself reading? Links to interviews/

 

As you can see - this is not simple. A key question - what is your budget?

Mary Rosenblum

And let's talk money here, because very few writers have a lot. The expert designer sounds like the optimal answer but...what ball park

Mary Rosenblum

are we playing in here, in terms of price?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

500$ -50000$ and up

Mary Rosenblum

Is that per year? One time?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Develop and design fees - one time. There maintenance fees, depending on how often the site changes, and there will be additional hosting fees - which can be quite low, or higher depending on the site features

gail

Once a web-site has been activated, is it still possible to add, remove, or change its content and appearance?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Oh yes. That's the beauty of the web. Unlike print, it can change in an instant

gail

When you design a web-site, do you guide your clients through the relative needs and requirements, or would you expect they have that data already decided?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

I am there guru and guide. I create not only a site design, but help them understand what they need to include to make the website work for them - as a marketing tool.

gail

My previous question was poorly phrased...Is there a benefit to creating separate web-sites for each novel published?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

No - its best to create a domain by Author Name - which is fairly standard. So, for example, at www.susanfletcher.com , I site I designed, Susan has many books. Each book has its own page on the site.

copper

Do we wait until the novel is published or merely written?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

When the novel is sold, you will want to begin to plan your marketing approach

Mary Rosenblum

Do you think there's any benefit to arousing reader interest before the book is sold?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Building buzz is good - also, planning ahead is good

quixote

Some writers (Jerry Pournelle comes to mind) show a log on their work in progress - can this be done on a web page -or is that a 'blog'?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

I am unfamiliar with what he does so I can not comment

gail

Some publishers want to know what the author has planned with regard to marketing and promotion. To that end, would it be better to establish a web-site before the novel's been sold?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Not necessarily - just the fact that you plan a site should be enough before you have the check in hand

gail

How effective is blogging, as opposed to creating a web-site, for novice writers?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

They are different animals. A blog can be part of your site - and a great marketing tool. However, they require a lot of work to keep current and fresh. Your site is less demanding

Mary Rosenblum

What about people who want to use Facebook or Myspace instead of a website?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

They have their place, especially to build buzz with younger audiences.

dt4heaven

If you build your own web site how can you be sure it is seen?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Refer back to the Keywords discussion earlier

jasond

Do you use Dreamweaver or something else?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

I use dreamweaver

gail

I've heard it said that when using a web-site for promotional purposes it's best to keep it as clean-looking as possible...skipping all the "frou-frou" graphics, fonts, and other distractions. Would you agree with this when designing a site for a creative-type? :)

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Who said? Beautiful design is its own reward - but bad design can really hurt your site

.

Check out my site - www.synergenii.com

gskearney

The problem is that graphic skills and writing skill are rarely found in the same brain. At least get someone with good visual taste to help with design if you don't have the skill yourself.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Someone like me

Mary Rosenblum

I was about to say that. J

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Thanks

Mary Rosenblum

When you take on clients do you handle the hosting as well?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

I am associated with a hosting company

Mary Rosenblum

So it can be simple for your clients. J

Tobi Kibel Piatek

This allows me to create high end sites that are very complex. Not all writers are poor remember - those who market and sell well, have money to spend

 

I try to make everything simple and direct for my clients

Mary Rosenblum

Can we use your website as an example? Can you explain to us why you designed it the way you did? I think that will be an excellent illustration of what we've been talking about tonight.

 

www.synergenii.com

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Why I designed it like I did? Its actually a new design and a new look. I got tired of the old look. I wanted something very simple. An important aspect are words on the home page - these are my key audience

 

My targets - and my services

 

Anyone looking understands what I do, and who I do it for and with

Mary Rosenblum

The main words, larger font: Creative Communications

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Yes?

Mary Rosenblum

Content Design • Web Design • eMail Marketing • Educational Materials • Presentations

 

Educators • Writers • Designers • Entrepreneurs • Organizations

Tobi Kibel Piatek

No explanations needed.

Mary Rosenblum

I'm just putting up the words you mentioned so folk don't have to click over there to see.

 

Very clear.

 

Your service first...large font.

 

Your services next.

 

Your potential clients next.

gail

Very nice design -- I've been perusing its contents since this forum began. J

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Thank you. My portfolio pages link to sites and projects I've designed so that potential clients can see my design skills and the variety of possibilities

gail

Is it possible for a writer (with some knowledge of HTML) to have a web-site designed for them, but which they can then do their own maintenance and upkeep?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

ABSOLUTELY

quixote

It has a very clean look. In services you mention 'self managed sites' -available. How much control does the owner have?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

I specialize in creating self-managed sites

 

You can add text, edit text, add pages, add photos and lots more.

 

Its a cool program

 

I build a template so that the design stays consistent

Mary Rosenblum

Very nice service, Tobi.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Thanks. By the way - you do not need any html or web skills to use the self-managed site. Its similar to using a word processor

jasond

You mentioned godaddy for domain names. any recommendations for reliable/affordable hosting?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Call or email me !!!

 

I have a long and good relationship with a host who is reliable and excellent and affordable

jokerman

Could someone start off with writing.com or the like instead?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Instead of a domain name?

Mary Rosenblum

Is that one of the websites that allow authors to have space there?

 

I would think your own domain name is a lot better.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

A domain name is cheap seven or eight dollars a year - and generic ones are not available. How would anyone find you without a good domain name?

gail

As a resident of Canada, should I consider using a US (or international?) host for greater reliability or global accessibility -- or, is that even a factor?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

I don't know

Mary Rosenblum

I doubt it. Where your host is located doesn't make any difference. Mine is physically in the UK.

 

My feeling is that the website is very important, especially if you're doing any self promotion at all.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

I agree

Mary Rosenblum

And in this day of publishing you are expected to self promote, even if you publish with New York publisher.

 

Everybody googles first.

 

I know that when I look for guests, I'm shocked if I can't find a website for that person.

 

And...it rarely happens.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Its a great way to build your platform too - send your friends an email and send them to your site. That's basic marketing

Mary Rosenblum

A technophobe friend of mine, a SF writer no less, got told he HAD to have a website up. NOW.

 

Yes, that would be one way to spread your website, wouldn't it, Tobi? Include that url on your emails?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

I hear that more and more frequently - I get panicked calls from writers needing a site NOW

Mary Rosenblum

Publishers want that website.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Include your web address on EVERYTHING

Mary Rosenblum

What about cross linking? You include links to other sites, they link to you. Another good way to proliferate your site?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

True The more links you have, the stronger your platform. And that’s the bottom line – to help your website do its work for you – invite people in by getting the word out.

 

also . Create and send an eNewsletter – keep yourself in front of your audience on a regular basis, showcase articles, press, events, etc., and create new content for new uses (think articles and your website) at the same time. SynerGenii can help with this.

Mary Rosenblum

So you're really offering a marketing plan as much as you are designing a website, right?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Yes - they go in hand in hand. Your site is the platform for your marketing efforts - everything links to it

jasond

I'm currently working on a site to showcase my graphic design portfolio. Should I develop a separate site for my writing or just branch it off the art site?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

It is usually easiest to have one site. I often design sites with two "doors' one that links to one area and the other to a second area - many of us offer a variety of services

Mary Rosenblum

I recommend, Jasond, that you go look at the website portfolio on Tobi's website.

 

And since we're getting close to the end of our chat, I'd like to give you the opportunity...

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Or call or email for specific ideas

Mary Rosenblum

to go into detail about just what you offer. It sounds as if you are offering a lot for that outlay of hard earned cash.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

My website says it all (good design and planning you know)

 

Websites for writers that will not only look good, but become the basis of a marketing campaign, and grow with the writer

 

Graphic design, photography, and Content Development. I learned long ago that writing for the web is totally different than writing for print, I will help you get your message out on the web

Mary Rosenblum

Do you offer the client an estimate on cost when you first discuss what they want?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Of course - the client fills out a form that helps us both understand what he or she is looking for. That is what I use to determine costs

gail

Would fiction and non-fiction be "disparate" markets for a writer's web-site?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

No - YOU are the subject of your site. Your products are YOUR work. Design the site to feature you as author with different skills and services

quixote

From synergenii: " Learn about Search Engines, keywords and metatags" - How?

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Enter those words in Google and read ... that's a good way to start. When you talk to a web designer, ask about these things as well

Mary Rosenblum

We're going to let Tobi skip out a bit early...she has a deadline to meet. Tobi, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

gail

Synergenii is in my favorites folder! J Thank you for a very informative forum.

Mary Rosenblum

You have given folks some good things to think about in terms of a website, and I hope you end up with some new clients.

quixote

Thank you

Tobi Kibel Piatek

I hope to hear from you. I love being a favorite, Thank you all for your questions

Mary Rosenblum

And thank you for your great answers! You do a lovely job with your websites.

Tobi Kibel Piatek

Good night

Mary Rosenblum

Good night, all! Have a great weekend.

 

Return to Interview Transcripts


Home | Writing Course | Short Story | Full Story Writing Test 
 
Send Me Full Info | Enroll | Our Instructors | Our CredentialsSample Lesson 
College Credits | Tax Deductibility | From Overseas  | Writer's Bookstore  
Free Writer's News | Life Support for Writers | Chat Room  | Live Forum | Writing Craft
Calendar of Events | Professional Connection | Transcripts | Post a Note | Surviving & Thriving
 
Student Center | Privacy Policy | Web EditorComments | Writing for Children 

LongRidge Writers Group
91 Long Ridge Road, West Redding, Connecticut 06896
Telephone: 1-800-624-1476 ~ Fax: 203-792-8406
Email:
InformationService@LongRidgeWritersGroup.com

Copyright © Writer's Institute, Inc., 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
No part of the electronic transmission to which this notice is appended may be reproduced or redistributed in any form or manner without the express written permission of Writer's Institute, Inc.