Archive for June, 2011
Sellbox.com, a company that provides digital media authoring, conversion services and digital marketing support to authors and publishers of ebooks and mobile apps, featured us in a blog post.
Check it out!
One of the things I frequently recommend for an author homepage is a “welcome” message, in which you give first-time visitors a good understanding of who you are, what you write about, and what people will get out of your book and your website.
It’s Marketing 101: If a visitor can’t figure out the point of a site in a few seconds, they’ll leave.
Here are some common mistakes that authors make which can get in the way of conveying their message:
- They have their most recent blog entries at the top of the homepage at the expense of the most important thing that visitors should see when they arrive
- They feature their book covers in the most prominent spot on the site — without any explanation of what the book is about or who it’s for
- They make their website so image-heavy that it takes forever to load and/or the images outweigh any text that actually has something to say
- They use a Flash intro, which is fun to look at, but really accomplishes nothing in terms of getting the message out there (not to mention the other problems that come with Flash: search engines can’t read your site, mobile users can’t view it, etc…)
There are actually many different ways that an author can convey this message effectively on the homepage. They include:
- Using a tagline in the header (http://yolandashanks.com/)
- Including a tantalizing one-sentence summary of the book (http://www.topekatornado.com/)
- A colored/highlighted “headline” that grabs people’s attention (http://www.thematchstory.com/)
- An introductory paragraph that explains what you hope people will get out of the book and the website (http://thecancermd.com/)
- A bulleted list of questions and/or the appropriate audience for the book (http://timodonnell.org/)
It’s a sad fact, but the majority of people who visit your website will leave in a few seconds. But you can increase the percentage who stay if you can grab their attention and pique their interest in those precious few seconds that you do have. The best way to do that is with a clear and concise message.
I came across this post on a message board, complaining that author websites are always boring. That got me thinking: How do you define ‘boring’? To whom are these sites boring? Are author websites supposed to be entertaining? What could authors do to make them more entertaining?
Here’s the truth of the matter: author websites generally aren’t meant to be entertaining. Generally, an author has one or more “goals” for the website (otherwise they wouldn’t be investing the money in it), and that goal has a financial gain associated with it. Keeping people entertained isn’t usually one of those goals.
An author website is usually built with the aim of:
- Selling books to readers and potential readers
- Promoting the author as an author/writer/speaker/professional
- Enhancing the information offered in the book for the greater good (i.e. if the book is on alcoholism, including links to various rehab organizations on the website)
But what exactly could an author do to still accomplish these goals, AND make their site less boring? Well, I suppose an author could put games, puzzles, etc… on the website. Maybe readers would enjoy that. I’m just not sure if there’s really any particular benefit to the author for doing that.
So, you tell me.
- Readers: Would you be more likely to buy an author’s next book if their website has fun, interactive elements on it?
- Publishers: Would you be more likely to publish an author’s next book if their website is more fun?
If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, please share your thoughts on what kinds of things can an author add to his or her website to make it less boring?
I’m open to your ideas!
I’ve said for a long time that every author website should include a photo of the book cover(s) and links to buy on every page. But what’s become even more of an issue of late is the various ways a book can be sold, and the various vendors that sell it.
When I first started creating author websites, Amazon was the preferred vendor for selling books. We had one “Buy the Book” link under each cover, and that simply linked to Amazon.
But times have certainly changed. Here’s what’s happened in the last five years:
- Some self-published authors have decided to sell the book themselves — even offering autographed copies to those who buy directly from them.
- Books are now available in Kindle/Nook/iTunes form, as well as the traditional hard copy
- Book vendors have made a point of demanding that they receive equal attention in a Buy the Book link. I’ve had authors contacted by companies like B&N, who tell them that unless their site is given equal weight with Amazon on the author website, they would stop selling the book altogether.
So what does all this mean? Well, it certainly makes selling books more complicated.
In short, you can’t really have one “Buy the Book” link any more. If you do, it needs to at least link to a menu of the various ways the book can be bought. Here are a few examples of ways that we’ve done that:
- Lost in Plain Sight — the “Buy the Book” link goes to a page that lists the various vendors
- Clare O’Donohue — there are buttons for each vendor right next to the book cover
- Rebecca Merrill — we included links to each vendor (and each form of the book that’s sold through the vendors) under the book cover
- Coach Coretese — we include a PayPal “Buy the Book” payment icon
Offering all these options is a nice perk for consumers as well. After all, if a potential reader has free shipping with Amazon, prefers to pay via PayPal or has a gift certificate for Barnes & Noble, then he or she will have an extra incentive to buy your book if you offer it through their preferred vendor.
Here’s to selling more copies!
I came across two different articles in the last two days that are about completely separate things, but they both relate to self-publishing. And they’re both pretty encouraging for those who opt to self-publish.
First, I saw this piece about literary agents shifting careers to become self-publishing consultants. The article spotlights three different agents who, in different ways, are moving over to the field of self-publishing. It’s a must-read — covering topics like how these agents/consultants make their money, how they moved into self publishing (hint: they had great books that weren’t being picked up by publishers), and what kinds of services they offer to authors who opt to self-publish.
Then, earlier today, I came across this article, announcing that John Locke has become the first self-published author (eighth overall) to join the Kindle Million Club. Yes, this means that a self-published author sold one million kindle editions of his book. That’s pretty much every self-published author’s dream! I’d certainly love to find out what his marketing plan was. I’m sure you would, too.
So, in conclusion, the last few days have been pretty good for the self-publishing industry. Just like many of the other trends in our society (tablet computers, Hulu, etc…), self-publishing is definitely on the upswing. That’s good news to all of you authors who have opted to self-publish or are considering it for the future.
I’ve had many authors ask me about book trailers. Some have heard of them, but don’t really understand what they are. Others are wondering exactly how they can help sell the book. With that in mind, here’s what every author needs to know about book trailers.
What Is a Book Trailer?
A book trailer is just like a movie trailer … except it’s promoting a book. Of course, from the production end, they’re far from the same thing. A movie trailer is simply snippets from the movie. A book trailer needs to be made specifically for this purpose. Some authors choose to have actors hired to play the characters in the trailer. Others just want images/graphics/text. Some go with a voice-over, too. These short snippets (usually a few minutes long) are used as a “hook” to get people interested in reading a book, much like they’d see a preview in a movie theater and want to go see that movie.
Who Should Get a Book Trailer Made?
In my humble opinion, the people who benefit most from book trailers are those who have written fiction books (I don’t see much benefit from nonfiction) that are dramatic in nature. Writers of suspense, mysteries, sci-fi, romance novels, etc… can get a lot out of a book trailer. Those genres are well-suited for a video that gives people the feel of the book.
How Do You Get People to See Your Book Trailer?
If you choose to have a book trailer made, you’ll obviously want to get as many eyes on it as possible. Include it on your website (it can be embedded and playable right on your homepage), and include links to it on your blog, your Facebook page, your email signature, etc… Also, make sure to upload your book trailer to YouTube. That’s where it’s likely to really go viral. Lastly, make sure to optimize your book trailer — especially on YouTube. By giving it the right name and putting in the right keywords and tags, you can get your trailer to show up when people are searching for those keywords.
Is It Worth the Money?
That’s a question I can’t answer. I would hate to tell any author to invest the funds, and then have it not bring the return they’re looking for. But I encourage you to talk with other authors and see what their experience with book trailers was like. Was it worth it for them? You can start by checking out this conversation on CreateSpace.
How about you? What did you do with your book trailer? If you could do it again, what would you do differently? Please share your thoughts!
The internet is a vast world. There are millions of websites, any of which could be talking about you and/or your book right now. So how is an author supposed to know what’s being said? Or worse, how to find the source of incorrect information? Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to make this happen.
First, every author (and everyone in general) should sign up for Google Alerts. This is a free service, and all you need is an account with Google. Just enter your name, your book title, or any variation thereof. Voila! You will receive an email daily or weekly (your choice) that lists and links to any mention of the specific keywords you entered. If something is being said about you or your book on the internet, you’ll hear about it.
Another good option for keeping tabs on internet buzz is called Addictomatic.com. By entering your name or any terms you want to search for, the site will build a page for you that lists all of the recent mentions of the search term. It even breaks up all of the links into Twitter, Bing, Flickr, blogs, etc… Just bookmark the page and go back there regularly. It will automatically feed you the most recent information every time you visit. Just like Google Alerts, this is a free service.
You can’t be everywhere at once (nor should you want to be!), but these services should help authors like you keep tabs on what’s being said about you and your book. You may just find your best review or testimonial this way!
I came across this article today on MediaBistro. Just thought I’d share it with my author friends.
Apparently, Penguin has created a new website called Book Country — a place where authors can connect with reviewers, publishing professionals, and readers. Here’s a direct quote from the article: “Authors can use the site to share their work and get some help polishing it off. The social site’s users includes an array of authors, editors and agents to help guide writers from rough draft to published work.”
For authors who are looking to get “discovered,” this is yet another way to get your manuscript in the right hands. Molly Barton, Director of Business Development at Penguin Group USA, says that Penguin editors are reading material on the site and looking for potential acquisitions. I hope she’s right!
Lastly, starting this summer, authors will be able to self-publish e-books through the website. So just in case the Penguin editors don’t snatch up your novel, you can take matters into your own hands.
This site certainly sounds like something worth checking out. If you get involved in it, please do let us know if it was any benefit to you.
Remember the days when the only “reviews” of your book were the ones published in newspapers and magazines? Boy, how times have changed. We’re now in the era of American Idol and Facebook — one where “Joe the Plumber” has a voice just as influential as educated journalists.
This new “voice of the people” has created a conundrum for authors: How do you handle bad reviews online? These pans of your book can be appearing on blogs, message boards, Amazon … or even your own website.
So what’s an author to do about such comments? Here’s what you should NOT do: ignore them.
Let’s start by looking at businesses and how they handle poor reviews of their services. A new study by Harris Interactive reveals that a large percentage of consumers who got a kind response from a company after writing a complaint on a social media site either deleted their negative review, posted a follow-up review in a more positive tone, and/or turned into loyal customers. It makes sense, right? People feel good when their voice is heard and their negative feelings acknowledged.
Now, an author is not a company, and a book is different from a service. But the idea is similar. People appreciate a response and respect for their opinion.
So what should you do if someone posts a negative review of your book on their blog, on Facebook or on Amazon? Reply to them! Tell them that you’re sorry they didn’t appreciate a specific aspect of your book, and ask them what they would have liked done differently. If they have any questions or were confused by anything, take the time to clarify what they might have misunderstood.
It’s hard for authors not to take poor reviews personally — even if they are written by people who know far less than you do about a good book. But it’s probably in your best interest to suck it up, be nice, and respond. Not only may you sway the person who didn’t like your book in the first place, but you could win over a whole slew of new readers by taking the time to respond kindly and politely.
How have you handled poor online reviews? Share your experiences with us!
An author needs a website. That’s a given. But who’s going to design it? And how should that process go? That’s a good question…
Common mistake #1: An author designs his or her own website
There are many technologies out there which make it easy for an author to sign up for a website hosting package and make their own do-it-yourself website. But that’s not the right way to go … for a variety of reasons. First, unless you’ve worked on websites before, you probably aren’t up-to-speed on the latest trends in websites, what’s working for other people, etc… It’s the equivalent of doing your own taxes when you’re not an accountant. Can you do it? Sure. But will you get the biggest refund? Probably not.
Common mistake #2: An author hires a standard website design company to design his or her website
I had a woman tell me recently that she hired a designer to create her website. He was local to her, in the Indianapolis area, and when he showed her his portfolio, nearly all of the sites he’d designed had been for race car drivers. I guess that’s fairly common in Indiana, but it begs the question: Why did this woman sign an agreement to work with him? He knows nothing about author websites, has no background designing author websites, and has no understanding of what’s working and what’s not for authors. A website designer might tell you that he or she can design any kind of site, and maybe it’s true, but why go with a general contractor to put in new plumbing if you could hire an actual plumber?
Common mistake #3: An author is inflexible about his or her website needs
I had an author call me on the phone today. She found my website and was interested in my services. She then went on to tell me that she’s basically mapped out everything she wants on the site and just wants me to make it happen. Now, that’s just short-sighted. I’ve built hundreds of author websites. I have a very good understanding of what other authors are doing. I know what’s worked on other sites and what hasn’t. Why in the world wouldn’t you want my input on what we should be doing with the website? I love it when an author comes to me with ideas and balances that by being open to my advice.
How it should go
An author should find a website designer and/or development company that specializes in author websites, and then start asking lots of questions about what the company does, how the process works, what their specialties are, etc… The author should be asked lots of questions during that conversation, too. The right kick-off meeting should involve information-collecting on both sides.
Finally, after deciding to work together, the author should share any ideas that he or she has, and ask for the opinion of the expert on staff with that company. Together, the expertise and experience that the company brings, along with the author’s creativity and unique understanding of the book and the audience, should create a great final product: an author website that benefits everyone.