Archive for February, 2012
Just last week, I posted a blog entry about the various options you have for selling your book online. One of those options was PayPal.
Well, sure enough, news broke late last week that may change things a bit … at least if your book is a little bit racy.
According to msnbc.com’s Technolog, “In recent weeks, the company has been letting e-book publishers know that PayPal will no longer handle transactions for e-books its considers to be obscene.”
Smashwords founder Mark Coker reports that on Feb. 18, PayPal’s enforcement division “contacted Smashwords with an ultimatum. As with the other e-book retailers affected by this enforcement, PayPal gave us only a few days to achieve compliance otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal services. I’ve had multiple conversations with PayPal over the last several days to better understand their requirements.”
As a result, Smashwords sent out an email to all their authors, and posted the letter on their website. You can read it here.
According to reports, PayPal’s hot-button issues (i.e. the things that they consider too obscene to be in the books they sell) are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica.
True, the large majority of authors don’t write books that cover these subjects. So you probably don’t need to worry … yet.
But just the fact that PayPal is getting into the business of censoring books means that by selling your books through them, you’re essentially letting them dictate what can and can’t be in your writing. What’s to say that they won’t expand their restrictions to include violence, graphic sex, or anti-American sentiment?
At this point in time, there’s really no harm in selling your book through PayPal. But keep this news in the back of your mind … because I wouldn’t be surprised if the battle between “the artist” and “the censor” rears its ugly head again in the future.
Let me start this post by saying that I just read one of the best blog posts ever! It was written by an author, Roni Loren, and I highly recommend that every author read it. The subject? How make an author website unique and interesting.
Some of these ideas are ones that I’ve been pitching to clients for a long time. Others are new and interesting ideas. Here’s an excerpt from the article on the important things to think about as you build a site (and how to accomplish each of these goals):
1) Give deeper insight into your books
A few Ideas:
- Inspiration photos for your characters, setting, scenes, time period, etc.
- Character Interviews
- Deleted chapters
- Bonus epilogues, prologues, or short stories
- Tell where you got your story idea from
- Genealogy charts for your characters or series
- Photos of the pets of your characters
- Fun facts about the writing of the book
- Quizzes or contests
- Book lists with books listed in order and by series
- Book trailers
2) Give deeper insight into you, the author
This is not about navel-gazing and me, me, me all the time, but share yourself with your readers in an interesting and engaging way. A few ideas:
- A non-boring FAQ
- The story of how you got published
- A blog where you show your voice and personality
- Picture of your pets (would advise you not to put your kids pics up)
- A widget that shows what you’re reading or what you’ve read
- Your recommendations for authors you enjoy or a list of your favorite books
- Interview your spouse for a post (I’ve done that a few times on here.)
- Vlog so we can actually see and hear you
- Info for aspiring writers
- Photos (not avatars) of yourself – at minimum a nice author photo, but also could be you with readers at signings, or doing something fun, that kind of thing.
- Share your hobby – What else do you enjoy besides writing? Into scrapbooking or sailing or cooking? Talk about it. For instance, I have a concert obsession so I blogged about that Monday, but also made a Pinterest board listing all the concerts I’ve been to.
- Have any big goals or challenges? – Maybe you’re trying to run a marathon by June or maybe you want to read 100 books this year or you want to learn how to bake bread. Talk about it and get readers involved. They might be trying to do the same kinds of things.
3) Encourage the reader to not just stick around but come back again.
You have to keep content fresh. If someone stops by and has their way with your website and clicks on everything, what is going to compel them to come back? Some ideas:
Roni, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
We build author websites all the time, and every one of them (at least for an author who already has a book published) includes one or more links to “buy the book.” After all, that’s one of the primary goals of an author website, right?
However, selling books online isn’t as cut and dry as you may thing. There are several very, very different ways of selling books, and many authors getting started haven’t really thought it out yet. So, I thought I would write this post to help clear things up a bit.
Here are the three main methods for actually selling books through the website … from the one that requires the least amount of work to the one that requires the most.
1. Link to Amazon, B&N, etc… About 90% of the clients we build sites for go with this option. It’s the simplest, cleanest and easiest way to do it. Simply include links to buy the book from your publisher and/or the major online vendors (Amazon, B&N, Indie Publishing and Powell’s). Those third-party sites will then take care of payment processing and distribution. It’s no fuss, no muss. However, there are a few downsides to this method, including the fact that your cut of the revenue is pretty small. Plus, there’s no official reporting on how many sales you get through the site, so it’s hard to measure your success.
2. Sell through PayPal. How did we ever live before PayPal? It’s an incredibly simple, easy, and affordable way to collect payment. You can set up a PayPal account for free, and then we can build a “Buy” button and embed it on your website (see an example here: http://www.dinkidiaussiebooks.com/store/). PayPal takes a small percentage of your sales price, but that’s nominal compared to selling through Amazon, etc… Be aware, however: if you’re selling the book yourself, you are completely responsible for distribution. Be prepared to be boxing and sending out books yourself.
3. Set up a full-blown shopping cart. I can count on one hand the number of authors who opted to go for this. The reasons for that are twofold: 1) it’s a lot of work to get it set up; 2) it’s a lot of money to get it set up. That said, having your own online shopping cart built into the website is quite a snazzy option. Doing so gives you lots of perks that you don’t get through PayPal, including the ability to charge tax by state/county, the freedom to sell multiple items at a time (a true shopping cart), and the consistency of your site design on all of the shopping cart pages (see http://thehealinghour.com/store/). Just like with PayPal, however, the distribution is still all on you … or whomever you hire to take care of it.
One of the first conversations I often have with authors is about these three very different selling options. Every author wants to make sure it’s easy to buy their book, but depending on how much time, effort and money they want to put into the selling process, only one of these options is usually the right fit for an individual author.
Someone started a conversation about this on LinkedIn a few days ago. The question was very simple:
How does one really get people to go to their web site so they can follow their blogs?
I thought it would be valuable to compile some of the responses. I will continue to add to this as I see more valuable recommendations posted…
- Write stuff people want to know. They will tend to find it.
- Emily Veinglory
- Contact other bloggers and trade links. Participate in relevant forums and put the link in your sig line. (Not just forums for writers, but for readers, too.)
- It takes time and lots of it. But content and guest blogs work.
- If you build it, and search engines can find it, in my experience they do come. You can then add value with all these SEO and networking strategies.
- When I post a new blog piece, I blurb it out on Facebook and Twitter and I find that if I do it repeatedly, two or three times a day for a few days, my web traffic increases commensurately – often at least 9 or 10 times the norm.
If you have any words of advice, share them in the comments box below. Otherwise, I’ll keep adding other ideas shared on LinkedIn…
- So far, the only method I have found is to tweet like crazy, and tell people I have a website. I also have several people in my email contact list, and include my website URL with every email I send.
-R Clint Peters
- One easy thing–you can set your social media profiles to automatically pull in your blog.
- The first and most basic step, however, is quality content. We are all completely overwhelmed with information. Everyone is vying for our attention. The best way to stand out is the write something great that will create a strong emotional reaction or resonance with readers. Make them laugh, cry, scream, learn or think of something in a completely new way.
- There are some aggregator which promotes your blog/ sites address. You have to be register there your blog or site. Also whenever you write something you can share the link on facebook or other social networking sites, from where the people will come to your blog.
- Share your website on social media, share it with your friends, share your blog with other people who are using the same blog website. Link to other peoples blogs, post comments on other people blogs and websites so that they might take a look at yours in return.
- Generous unselfish comments on relevant blogs are a great way to build connections. Your name will be a link to your site.
-Joel D Canfield
I just finished reading a great post by a woman named Sonia Marsh. It was titled A Successful Way to Build Your Author Platform. I’m going to take a few ideas from that article and give them a slightly different angle: how to build an author blog that can get your name and profile out there.
1. Remember what your readers are looking for. Nobody will follow your blog if you’re writing about your trip to the supermarket or what you ate for dinner. People want to get something of value out of your blog. If you’re a nonfiction writer, blog about the subject matter of your books. When possible, take stories in the news and give them your own spin. After all, you’re somewhat of an expert in the topic. If you’re a fiction writer, think about what readers and other writers would find most interesting. Would they enjoy following your characters’ lives after the book? Would they want to hear about what went into writing the book? Where you might have hit writers block? Find your niche and stick with it.
2. Be patient. I can’t tell you how many authors I’ve worked with who start to blog and then stop because they feel like no one is reading their blog. I have two things to say about that: one is that you always need to remember that the number of comments on your blog is not a reflection of how many people are reading it. One comment may be showing up on a particular post, but 100 people might have read it. The other thing I always remind authors is that a blog can take a long time to build a following. Give it 3-6 months before you make a decision about whether or not it’s worth the time.
3. Pose questions … and answer them. A blog is an interactive tool. That’s one of the wonderful things about the internet: you can use your blog to pose questions, encourage comments, etc… Make sure to end each blog post with a question for people to respond to. And then respond to the responses. By interacting with your readers, you’ll build a loyal blog following.
4. Don’t be afraid to give things away for free. You can never get something for nothing. A blog is very much an exchange: you provide your readers with helpful information and they, in return, follow your blog, recommend you to friends, and help get you the exposure you’re looking for. Give away your ideas, your advice and your words of wisdom. Readers will return the favor.
Sonia ends her blog post with the following paragraph:
The more you connect and help others, the more people will subscribe to your blog or website, and you will gradually build an authentic platform with loyal followers. It won’t happen overnight, but once people realize that you care about them, and are willing to share helpful information, all the pieces suddenly fit together. That’s when the magic happens, and you know you’ve accomplished something more than simply being an author who wants to sell her book.
I couldn’t agree more!
I came across a great post today (which I found through an author group on LinkedIn) on BookBuzz. It lists the 12 essentials to an author platform. But for the purpose of this blog, I’m going to pull out all of the things related to the online experience, since that’s the focus of what we do.
Here are excerpts from the post that are relevant:
1. E-mail list/Newsletter subscribers. Offer a freebie on your website – the first chapter of your book, an audio interview, or a white paper or report – in exchange for a name and e-mail address…. It’s important to keep your name and topic in front of the people who are most likely to buy your book; a regular e-mail newsletter is an excellent way to do that.
2. Facebook/Twitter followers. You don’t need a completed book to create a Facebook fan page [or a Twitter account]. Post content that gets followers involved and engaged. Invite your fans to bring other fans along, too.
3. A blog plus subscribers and traffic. I’m surprised at the number of bloggers who don’t make it possible for visitors to receive their blog postings by e-mail or RSS feed. They’re missing the opportunity to generate repeat traffic – and to measure their fan base. Google Analytics and other tools and resources help measure traffic volume, too, but a truer measure of your fan base is that list of people who sign up to receive more of your content
4. Syndicated column. Whether you’re self- or service-syndicated, your column helps you create fans all over the country or the world. Similarly, a regular column in a traditional or online media outlet makes a key contribution to your author platform.
I must start this post with a confession: I come from a web content background. I was working on website content development and content strategy back in the 1990s. A lot has changed since then, but one thing hasn’t: content still is the staple of the internet.
I’ve told my nonfiction authors time and time again that blogging can make or break their website. And it’s true. A blog is one of the best ways to keep a website fresh, informative, and yes, full of fresh content.
Why am I bringing this up now? Well, I just read an article in my trusted Internet & Marketing Report which cited a case of a lighting company that discovered the importance of content on their site. Here are a few excerpts from the article, written by Larry Lauck, of AmericanLightingAssoc.com, which sells lighting equipment:
Things are changing rapidly in our industry, and customers were having a hard time keeping up. … So we made a huge leap: We scrapped our website and created a new one. … this time, we put the industry news our customers were thirsty for front and center. … We put links to articles on our main navigation bar so visitors could spot them easily … then we added short weekly webinars on the changes in the industry … Focusing on providing the info our visitors needed has paid off immensely. Traffic to our site has increased significantly, and we’re getting incredible feedback from visitors.
See? Content made all the difference. Not only did it increase traffic to the website, but it also helped build a stronger, more trusting relationship between the company and its customers.
There’s no doubt that creating content takes a lot of work on your part. But that’s the point: it’s by putting in that effort — and offering your followers valuable information for free — that your relationships are built.
Nonfiction authors should take note. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to create that blog. Write regularly about issues in the news related to the subject matter of your book. If you have some expertise in the field, all the better. Offer news, opinions, analysis, etc…
By using your website as a source of content for your readers, you’re helping to form a relationship beyond just seller/sellee. You’re building a trust, a follower, and (hopefully) a life-long reader of your work.
What can be more valuable than that?
Everyone wants their book mentioned all over the world of social media. After all, the more you’re talked about through blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc… the more exposure you and your book will get. That can only be a good thing.
But how do you keep track of how the word about your book is spreading across all the social media channels? That’s where this new tool comes in…
According to Publishers Weekly, Books-A-Million is teaming up with CoverCake, a a Silicon Valley based technology startup focused on book publishing, to create “a technology platform that can track overall and specific responses to titles and publishers made on multiple social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads and YouTube.”
Best of all, the technology uses sophisticated algorithms to aggregate vast amounts of data so that it can:
- provide a list of all relevant comments and posts
- categorize all comments as positive, negative or neutral
- deliver an aggregate score of total comments
- break down the level of activities on each social media site
- isolate the individual posters on all the social media networks who are mentioning the book
Jeff Costello, v-p sales at CoverCake, told Publishers Weekly that by using CoverCake, “publishers and marketers can track individual titles and get specific data on how many people are posting about a specific title on Twitter, say, on any other social media site. Users can track the online discussion around genres—biography, fiction, travel, romance and so on—the gender of readers for a specific title or specific publishers and authors. CoverCake scans data and provides numerical assessments as well as color-coded graphs of activity across abroad range of social media channels. Using their account dashboard to navigate the site, users can even retrieve the specific posts, comments and reviews from Amazon and other sites.”
Watch the demo below of how the tool works:
I think this is going to be a really helpful tool for my clients going forward!