Archive for June, 2010
One of the biggest challenges in developing a website — any type of website — is speaking to a variety of audiences. For instance, when I was working on developing a website for a private school, it was hard to make sure that current parents, potential parents, and alumni all felt like the website spoke to them and met their needs.
An author website is very similar, in that there are always different audiences that are visiting. The greatest challenge in regards to an author website is making sure that both potential readers and previous readers are both spoken to.
For instance, I’m a big believer in making it as easy as possible to buy the book (or books) from any page on an author website. But you have to be careful not to make the site too marketing-centric. Because if someone already has read the book and comes to the author website only to find that you’re trying to get them to buy it again, then you haven’t really satisfied them.
Conversely, if your website focuses on conversations about the book, or offering previews of future books, then people who are newbies might feel left out. They may leave the site before they even find out about your latest book and why they’d benefit from reading it.
There isn’t one specific equation, or magic solution, that ensures your website will suit both of these audiences. But here’s how I suggest you go about doing it properly.
- Prioritize Your Goals. Every author is in a different and unique situation. A person who’s written their autobiography has very different needs in a website than a romance writer who’s just released their debut novel. If your sole goal for the website is selling books, then speak primarily to the audience of people who will buy it — those who haven’t read the book yet. If your goal is to build a fan base for all your future books, then you should primarily be encouraging people to sign up for your newsletter, interact with other fans of your writing, and come back to the site regularly.
- Use Your Space Wisely. A website may be unlimited in some ways, but good, quality space is not one of them. When someone comes to your homepage, what do they see? What’s immediately visible to the eye — without any scrolling or clicking? Make sure you have at least one element speaking to each of your audiences viewable at first glance.
- Put Your Navigation to Good Use. Have very clear tabs in your navigation that would make it easy for anyone to figure out where they should go. Have an “About the Book” page or a “Featured Excerpt” page where you speak to an audience who probably doesn’t know much about the book. Make sure there’s also an “Ask the Author,” or “Readers Talk Back” type page where people who want to talk about the book or the subject matter can interact with you and/or each other. The clearer the names of these types of pages are, the easier it will be for people to find their way around.
Have you ever visited an author website and felt like it was speaking to someone else? What would you have done differently? Tell us what you think!
And if you’re ready to start discussing your author website, contact us today for a free consultation!
Ask any reader and they’ll probably say that one of the reasons they visit an author website is to learn more about the author. They want to get a peek into who the author is as a person. But how do you know what to share? How do you get personal … but not too personal?
First, here are some of the personal things that site visitors say they would want to see on your author website:
- Your story about how you started writing and got published
- A photo album of pictures
- What books/music/websites you’re into
- A blog that conveys your distinct personality
- What inspired you to write each book (for non-fiction authors), or where the idea for the story came from (for fiction authors)
- Your daily journey toward the next book
- Details about your involvement in any community projects, charity work, etc…
- A background about where you grew up, your marital status, etc…
Basically, people are saying that what they want from the website is to get to know you better. But there’s a flip side to that. Because an author can get too personal at times. Here are some don’ts…
- DON’T provide any details about exactly where you live or where your children go to school. There are stalkers out there, you know.
- DON’T blog or tweet about things that readers might find boring. Like driving your kids to a soccer game or deciding what to eat for dinner.
- DON’T get negative. Even if you’re having a bad day, no one wants to read blog posts about how you’re getting mean emails or someone cut you off on the road.
What’s your experience — either as an author with a website or as a reader visiting an author website? What do you want to see? What works? Share your thoughts here!
Ready to talk with us about building your own author website? Contact us today for a free consultation!
What’s the main purpose of author websites? It’s publicity! Which is why it’s so frustrating when authors make someone from another website or media outlet jump through hoops in an effort to feature them and their books. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot!
Case in point: A blogger who covers books stumbles upon an author website. He’s interested in reviewing the book on his website. But he can’t find a picture of the book cover that’s high-enough quality for him to use on his blog. Or he can’t find the author picture that’s usable. So he gives up and goes somewhere else in frustration.
That’s the last thing an author wants to have happen. You want to make it as easy as possible for someone to decide to highlight you or your book somewhere else in the media — be it in print or in cyberspace.
Blogger India Drummond, who has faced this type of frustration when trying to feature an author on her blog, offers these five tips to make things easier for folks like her.
- Write a bio for your website. If I’m going to review a book, I always try to find an author website to get more info on the author. You’d be surprised how many authors don’t bother to put anything about themselves on their blogs / websites! But if I’m going to interview an author, it really helps if I know a bit about their interests (beyond their own work) so I can think of some questions to ask. Info like day job, hobbies, family, pets, or even favourite books or movies can help me think of interesting questions!
- Provide (on your website) a photo of yourself and your book cover(s) in a large enough format that I can put one or both in a post and have them look good. A lot of blogs seem to use teeny tiny profile shots. Don’t make me hunt around the web to find your book cover. Sure, I can maybe find it on your publisher’s website or on amazon, but having to search for info like this is one one of the reasons it’s so time consuming to do a review post!
- If you’re willing to do guest posts, write some ahead of time! That way when I ask you if you want to do a guest post, you can reply saying, “Sure, I have three articles ready. Here’s the first paragraph of each one. Which would you like to use?”
- Make it easy to contact you. You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but I run into author websites all the time that have no contact method beyond leaving a comment on their blog! I recently wrote to an author this way, wanting to interivew her on my blog, and left my email address. When I hadn’t heard from her a week later, I went back to see if she’d even approved my comment. She had, and she’d replied there, rather than emailing me! She asked me to email her my interview questions, but there was no email address on her website anywhere! I moved on to easier pickings. Sorry, but there are a lot of good books out there, and I’m not going to work that hard to help authors who can’t be bothered.
- Have blurbs, exerpts, and review quotes on your website. Again, just to make life easier for those who want to write about you!
And I’ll add my two cents here as well … You should make all these things easy to find on your site. Don’t make someone go to the book page for the book cover photo and the bio page for the author photo. Instead, create a “Media” page or a “Press” page on your website, and amass all the information there that someone might need.
After all, something so simple could mean thousands and thousands of new fans. What’s to lose?
Ready to talk to us about building your author website? Click here for a free consultation!
This is one thing that I often recommend to clients as we’re discussing what kinds of content their author website should include. It’s a downloadable book club discussion guide.
If you think your book might be appropriate for a book club (and what book isn’t, really?), then you should be making it as easy as possible for someone in a book club to find your book and get ideas about how to integrate it into their book club. One of the best ways to do that is to provide them with this discussion guide.
Not only would a good discussion guide make it easier for someone to understand why your book should be reviewed by their club, but it could also improve the discussion itself. The better (and more heated) the discussion is, the more likely book club members are going to mention the book to their friends.
So what should be in such a guide? Here are six ideas, courtesy of Chlorine Books.
1. Direct your questions at the appropriate age level for your book. If you’ve written a children’s fiction or non-fiction book, questions should be targeted at the reading level of your book’s market.
2. Questions for adult fiction or non-fiction books should include a range of questions so that different levels of book groups can find questions that appeal to their groups.
3. For fiction books, are there any current or historic events that impact the story you’ve told? If so, create questions based on these events.
4. As people often read discussion questions before reading the book, be careful about accidentally revealing a fiction book’s surprise plot points in the questions. With careful consideration, you will usually be able to find a way to discuss a question topic without revealing these plot points.
5. Before making available your discussion questions, test them on friends who haven’t read the book yet. Check that the questions mean to others what these questions mean to you.
6. Offer the questions to anyone who might be interested besides making the questions available as a free download on your website or other author platforms.
Hopefully, these ideas will help you put together an effective discussion guide, and, as a result, your book will become the hot topic in book clubs across the country!
Ready to talk with us about your author website? Contact us today for a free consultation!
There are thousands of author websites out there. And most of them are pretty standard in terms of what they include. But sometimes, an author website has to be pretty different from others. A book that’s being published internationally is one of those instances.
I’m going to use a few of the author websites I created as examples here. These authors also happen to be a few of my favorite clients — Ann Weisgarber and Sherry Jones — whose books were published in many countries.
Here’s what we did with AnnWeisgarber.com and AuthorSherryJones.com to promote their books in multiple countries. If you are building a website for such a book, you may want to steal some of these ideas…
- Include links to buy the book from websites based in as many countries as possible (Amazon.co.uk, for instance). You want it to be as easy as possible for people to purchase the book published in their language, and sold through their currency.
- Create duplicate websites (or at least pages of the website) in whatever languages the book is published in. See Ann’s French website and Sherry’s Spanish website.
- Don’t let multiple book covers confuse people! Books published in different countries often have different covers. So make it as clear as possible which covers correspond with which country’s publication. We do this on Ann’s homepage and Sherry’ International News page.
- Include news and reviews, sorted by country, as we also did on Sherry’s International News page.
- If the book is published by different publishing companies in different countries, make sure to list each publishing company’s name and a link to their website. Again, this was done on Sherry’s site.
So what do you think? Are we missing anything? Did these ideas help you? Please share your thoughts!
And if you’re interested in talking with us about developing a website for your international book, contact us today for a free consultation!
I was reading a recent issue of The Internet & Marketing Report last night. And there were two completely separate articles in this issue that both seemed to tie together somehow. The theme of both? Keep your design simple!
Now, this publication is generally for marketing professionals who oversee websites that sell products or services. It’s not exactly the same as an author web site, but it’s similar enough. Both types of websites have a primary goal: “selling” something. For an author, it’s usually the book. For a business, it’s primarily their services (or the items in their e-commerce store). But the idea is pretty much the same.
And The Internet and Marketing Report has some pretty interesting information about what works (and what doesn’t) in terms of successful online sales. Here’s an overview of what the two articles have to say…
1. Fancy designs and fonts are distracting. Too many site designers go a little overboard in terms of being different and artistic. But the best converting sites are often pretty simple and boring.
2. Keep your “call to action” in a primary place. For an author, the “call to action” on any given page might be buying the book. It might be signing up for the newsletter. But be very clear on each page of your website exactly what that goal is, and make it the most eye-catching thing on the page.
3. Declutter! Again, what pleases a designer may not be what pleases the reader. Bold graphical elements (like rotating images) can be distracting. Is the navigation hard to find or scan? Let your potential readers have an experience that’s easy on the eye.
4. Use colors intelligently. Bright colors catch people’s attention. So use the boldest, brightest colors on the part of the page where you want people to spend their time.
5. Stick to a conventional layout. Whether they know it or not, web visitors intuitively know where to look for things on a website. So if you’re site differs from convention, it’s easy for people to feel lost.
6. Keep your navigation on the top or left hand side. Again, people don’t really think about where a navigation is. They just know where to automatically look for it. They only notice it when it’s not where they expect it to be. And that makes it more likely that they leave your site out of frustration.
7. Put your most important content on the left half of the page. Web users spend 69% of their time viewing the left half of any page, and only 30% of their time on the right, according to Jakob Nielsen’s Useit.com. So only use the right hand column for less-important content, such as FAQs, asking for site feedback, etc…
As much as you may want to defy convention, fight that urge to make your website totally different and unique. Making these smart decisions early in the design phase will only increase your book sales.
Ready to talk with us about designing your author website? Contact us today for a free consultation.
I came across a blog post the other day on problems that people run into in choosing, creating and sharing their URLs. With that in mind, here’s my take on how to make sure your do your author website URL properly.
First, let’s define a URL for those of you who are sick of ATMs and GNCs (enough abbreviations, right?). A URL is basically your web address. For authors, it’s often YourName.com or YourBookTitle.com.
But choosing your URL and conveying it properly isn’t as easy as you’d think. Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare to choose your web address:
1. Consider common misspellings. Unless your name is Mike Smith or Tom Jones, it’s likely that someone might misspell your name when they go to type in your URL. So make sure to reserve alternate URLs with common misspellings of your name and have them redirect to your website.
2. Take advantage of caps. The internet doesn’t distinguish between capital letters and lowercase letters. So if you type in MIKESMITH.com, it takes you to the same place as mikesmith.com. Which means that it’s up to you to decide how you want to present your URL. So should your URL appear on your website and other materials in all caps or all lowercase letters? Neither! Domain names should never appear in all caps or all lowercase. That’s makes it hard to read. So make the first letter of each word capitalized and the rest lowercase. MikeSmith.com or MikeSmithsBooks.com. Much easier, right?
3. No spaces or special characters! In the real world, there may be a space between your first name and last name. In your email address, there may be a dot or an underscore. But in a URL, there should be none of the above. No one wants to have to tell people to go to Mike.Smith.com. It’s just “MikeSmith.com.” Or if that domain name isn’t available, “AuthorMikeSmith.com.” And a space isn’t even an option in a URL.
4. Get your domain name on one line. When you design your site, make sure your entire URL fits on one line. Ditto on your business cards. Once you break it up to two lines, it just gets confusing.
5. Ditch the “http://” When you’re doing interviews or book signings, you want to be able to quickly tell people how to find your website. So don’t waste your time repeating “http … colon … slash slash” (and don’t even get me started on people saying “backslash” — a very, very common mistake). In fact, most of the time you don’t even need to say “www.” Just say “MikeSmith.com” and leave it at that. It’s easier for you to say, and easier for people to remember. And it makes you sound much more tech-savvy.
Do you have any other words of wisdom about choosing or displaying your URL? If so, please share it here!
Ready to discuss developing your author website? Contact us today for a free consultation!
When you look at other authors who write in your genre or on the same subject matter, you very well may view them as competition. But the purpose of this post is to convince you that those authors aren’t your competitors. They’re your potential allies.
First, when someone has an interest in a subject matter or genre, they don’t usually stick to one author or one book. They like to test the waters and read different viewpoints, different voices. So just because someone chooses to buy someone else’s book, doesn’t mean they won’t buy yours, too.
So that explains why other authors aren’t competition. Now it’s time to explain how they can actually be your allies.
In the world of internet marketing, there’s nothing more valuable than links to your website. Those links help in two different ways:
- They are found by people who are on other websites that cover a similar subject matter — essentially your target audience.
- They help improve your site’s placement on the search engines. The more links there are to your website, the more reputable the site appears to Google, Yahoo, etc…
What better place for a link to your website than from another author’s site? And that author may very well feel the same way.
Enter content sharing.
This can be done in a variety of ways. But the idea is the same. And it benefits both of you. You each offer some valuable site content for the other author’s website. That content, of course, includes a plug of your book and a link to your website. It enhances the site experience for readers who are already familiar with the site, and it helps them find a new author in a genre that’s of interest to them. A win-win.
Here are a few different forms of content sharing…
- Excerpts: This is the simplest way to do it. Just swap segments of your book with another author and offer each on the other one’s website.
- Articles: If you’re a non-fiction author, you may have already written a piece or two on your subject matter. Reach out to similar author websites and offer them the rights to publish your article free of charge (with a link, of course). And ask them for the same. Or write an original article that really suits the needs of the other author’s website.
- Guest Blogging: This is probably the option that I think is most valuable. Form a partnership with another author, and plan to regularly “guest blog” on each other’s websites. Guest blogging can be in the form of an interview with the author, a feature on the author, or just letting him or her post entries on your blog. This keeps both blogs updated, lively, and interesting. It’s great for authors who are sometimes at a loss as to what to blog about. And, again, it gets your name and website out there.
Want more ideas on how to drive traffic to your author website? Contact us for a free consultation!