Posts Tagged ‘book website’
I’ve worked in the web industry for 15 years. I’ve been talking about SEO and ROI for as long as I can remember. But what I often don’t remember is that most people don’t know exactly what those acronyms mean.
With that in mind, here are the translations of a wealth of abbreviations you might hear as you talk about building and maintaining your author website (and why it’s important to understand them).
- B2B – Business to business
(If you wrote a book for businesses, you’d build a B2B site)
- B2C – Business to consumer
(The large majority of books are for general readers; those authors build B2C sites)
- CMS – Content management system
(We use WordPress, but there are a variety of CMSs used to house website content and allow authors to make their own updates)
- CTR - Click-thru rate
(Let’s say you send out a newsletter to promote your website. The percentage of people who actually click on the link from that newsletter to your site is your click-thru rate.)
- FTP – File Transfer Protocol
(Changes are often made to your site via FTP. It’s basically a way to upload and download files from the web to your computer)
- HTML – HyperText Markup Language
(Many of our older sites — pre WordPress — were built in HTML, or straight web code)
- PPC – Pay per click
(If you were to run a paid ad campaign, you would do so on a pay-per-click basis)
- RSS - Really simple syndication
(This refers to a simple way for people to sign up and receive notification every time you post a new blog entry)
- ROI- Return on investment
(How do you know if your PPC campaign is working? That’s based on how much money you’ve made off of it, or your return on investment)
- SEM – Search engine marketing
(That paid ad campaign I just mentioned? It would be part of a search engine marketing campaign)
- SEO - Search engine optimization
(This is the organic — i.e. free — way to get your site to appear near the top of Google search results)
- SMM – Social media marketing
(This refers to your efforts to market your book and your site through Facebook, Twitter, etc…)
- URL - Uniform Resource Locator
(This is your website address. Every site must have a unique URL)
- WYSIWYG – What you see is what you get
(Have you ever made an update in WordPress, and been able to make changes without having to adjust code? That’s WYSIWYG)
Whew! Are you lettered out yet?
If you’ve heard other terms and aren’t sure what they mean, feel free to post a question in the “comments” section below! I’ll do my best to help!
Okay, so you’ve built an author website. Congratulations! But just because the site is live doesn’t mean that people will find it. Here’s what you need to know about all the ways people can and will find your site, and what you can do to increase the odds of it happening.
1. Search engines. Optimize your site properly and people searching for your name, your book title, or the subject matter of your book will find your website near the top of their search results. This is probably one of the most important efforts you can put in to building your website! A blog can also be a huge tool in terms of boosting your traffic from the search engines.
2. Interviews. Plan to do an interview with your local TV or radio station? How about the newspaper? Always — and I repeat, always — mention your web address. People will undoubtedly go there to learn more about you.
3. Offline materials. Print business cards with your domain name on it. Make mouse pads, pencils, mini-calendars … whatever suits your fancy. But make sure to print your URL in big, bold letters on whatever you have made.
4. Your email signature. Every email you send should include your name, your book title, and your web address at the footer. This doesn’t cost a thing to set up, so it’s a no-brainer.
5. Social sharing. Let’s say you keep a blog on your site (which I highly recommend). Someone will read one of your posts. Someone will like one of your posts. That person may then choose to share your post on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Voila! A whole new audience has been exposed to your site.
6. Word of mouth. Make sure to talk about your writing — and your website — wherever it’s appropriate. Chat with strangers at the airport. Mention it to colleagues at work, or friends at a birthday party. Spread the word!
7. Cross-promotion. Make sure to include links to your author site from your Facebook page, your Google+ account, etc…
8. Cross-linking. Are there other authors whose works you like? Do you know people who write in a similar genre? Reach out to other authors (or organizations, individuals, etc…) and ask if they’d be interested in linking to your site, and vice versa. This is a great way to expose your target audience to your writings.
9. YouTube. Do you have a YouTube account? Have you uploaded any videos about your writings and your books? Make sure your YouTube account provides a nice segue to your author site.
10. Paid online advertising. There are a variety of ways to “advertise” online — from paid banner ads to Google Adwords campaigns to Facebook “boosts.” But before you start shelling out money for these sorts of things, talk to an expert who can guide you towards the efforts that will provide the best bang for your buck.
Can you think of any other ways that someone may find your site? Share them with us!
I’ve helped build websites for hundreds of authors. I’ve seen the best and the worst. And while I could list a whole lot more than 20 “don’ts” here, I’m going to limit the damage to just the most egregious errors.
Without further ado … 20 things not to do with your author website:
1. Incorporate a blog … and then never update it.
2. Create a Flash-only homepage that isn’t viewable on a mobile device.
3. Make it difficult to actually buy the book.
4. Talk too much about yourself.
5. Have audio that plays as soon as someone arrives (talk about a way to get people to leave!)
6. Promote the book instead of what people will actually get out of the book.
7. Not have a place where readers can submit questions or comments.
8. Use the site like a portfolio that’s never updated.
9. Have a site navigation that is complicated or changes from page to page.
10. Not make it clear upon arrival what your genre/subject matter is.
11. Go too image-heavy in the design. (This can seriously increase load time and hurt search engine optimization.)
12. Go too text-heavy in the design. (Sure, this sounds contradictory, but it needs to be a balance.)
13. Not have a way to collect email addresses. This is a marketing no-no!
14. Keep the site design the same for decades. Seriously.
15. Forget to integrate social media buttons, widgets, etc…
16. Name the site after the first book … and then publish another book. Oops!
17. Not optimize the site for keywords.
18. Design a site that in no way resembles the book cover.
19. Not include downloadable photos, press releases, etc… for the media.
20. Put the most important information on the homepage and only the homepage. (A large percentage of visitors will never see your homepage!)
Okay, I’m out. I’m sure I could come up with 20 more, but now I punt to you. What are the mistakes you often see on author sites? Share them with me!
I tell every client the same thing: each and every author website is different. And an author’s homepage is no exception.
For example, compare the website that belongs to a doctor who writes and speaks about his area of expertise with that of a novelist who writes about alien invasions and doesn’t want anyone to know what he looks like. Different websites? Absolutely. Different homepages? Yup.
With that in mind, here are five types of homepage strategies, and the types of authors they work best for.
1. The author-centric homepage. This type of homepage is perfect for the author who wants to build his or her presence online. The primary picture on the homepage is that of the author, and the author’s name is also prominently displayed. When you arrive on a site like this, there’s no doubt what it’s about: the author.
2. The book-focused homepage. Sometimes, a website is built with the specific goal of promoting a specific book. That homepage includes a prominent photo of the book cover, along with a book description, links to read more about the book, possibly a book trailer, and (of course) links to purchase the book.
3. The series-of-books-focused homepage. Often, a writer has completed more than one book. He or she wants to promote all of those books on the homepage, with very little focus on him or herself. On those homepages, we feature a compilation of books, highlighting each one’s strengths.
4. The information-centric homepage. Maybe you wrote a book about a specific topic that you find very important. The purpose of your website is not only to promote that book, but also to spread the word about this very important subject matter. This type of homepage is chock full of information about the cause, as well as photos of the book, the author, etc…
5. The welcoming homepage. Some authors like to use their homepages as “windows” of sorts into their websites, their books, their personal lives, etc… Sites like these usually have a homepage that features a “Welcome” message (there was even an article about this recently in the Huffington Post), which serves to explain who the author is and what he or she hopes you will get out of the website and the books. This homepage also usually includes links to the various sections of the site, so that a reader can easily learn more about the author, the books, etc…
Now, I have described for you these five types of author website homepages; they are all different and unique in their own way. But remember: you don’t necessarily have to pick one of these and run with it. In fact, these 10 examples that I’ve sent you make up just a fraction of the 200+ author websites we’ve built. And a large portion of those are some hybrid of two or more of these types of homepages.
So before you start building your own author site, I recommend you take a look at these vastly different styles of author homepages. Figure out which ones best match what you’re looking to do. And talk with your web designer (hopefully us!) about how you can create the perfect homepage to meet your needs.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is a crucial piece in website development. A site that is not properly optimized will rarely show up on people’s search results. As a result, that site can lose a large percentage of potential visitors. And in the case of authors, that could mean reduced book sales and a smaller number of “followers.”
Yes, all of this is true. But there’s one big caveat that comes with this statement. Poor SEO can only reduce your potential traffic and book sales if people are searching for keywords related to your book. And in the case of fiction authors, that’s a huge if.
Let me explain….
Let’s say your a nonfiction author and you wrote a book on how to write the perfect resume. There are going to be thousands of people each month going to Google, Yahoo or Bing and searching for something like “resume samples” (49,500 on Google, according to the Google Keyword tool). By not optimizing your site for that and related keywords, you will be losing a wealth of potential readers.
But let’s say that you’re a novelist who wrote a book in the suspense genre. What exactly would you optimize your site for? “Suspense book?” That gets 20 searches on Google each month. How about “great suspense novel?” That gets 40. Is SEO worth it for you? Probably not.
Here’s the truth of the matter: people do not find their next fun read by searching for it on Google.
People find self-help books, historical books, and biographies by searching for those terms on Google. That’s because they’re already looking for information on a subject matter that interests them. But novels? People find out about their next good read from water cooler talk, reading a good review online, or having it recommended through someone on GoodReads who tends to have similar taste in books.
If you’re a nonfiction author, your site must be optimized for the relevant search terms. Here at Smart Author Sites, we do that for our clients.
But if you’re a fiction author? You’re much better off investing your time and money on social networking, guest blogging, and getting people to review your book.
After all, it’s just common sense…
There are thousands — if not millions — of authors out there trying to make a name for themselves. Most of them have very little in terms of publicity agents, marketing experience, etc… So they’re basically fighting an uphill battle.
That’s why so many authors are looking for ways to connect with other authors, and potentially help one another. With that in mind, here are nine creative ways that authors can team up to help promote one another’s books, author websites, etc…
1. Share, share, share. Are other authors posting blog entries? Tweeting? Pass on what you’re reading of theirs to your friends, readers, etc… If they do the same for you, you can increase your reach exponentially.
2. Like one another. Clicking on a Facebook “Like” button is so simple. And yet, doing so really does help to spread the word. So swap “like”s. What’s there to lose?
3. Guest blog post for one another. Do you have a blog? Does your friend, an author, have a blog? Why not write a guest post for his or her site, and vice versa. Not only will this breathe some fresh life into your own blog, but it will get your writing out to a new group of readers.
4. Review one another’s books. Post a review/recommendation of another author’s book on your site. Have him or her do the same for you. If you speak to a similar audience, you’re exposing a whole new crop of readers to a book they may not have heard of otherwise.
5. Interview one another. Use one of your blog posts to interview your author friend about his her book, writing habits, publishing lessons learned, marketing techniques used, etc… Again, it’s a great way to get new faces in front of an existing readership.
6. Offer special deals/giveaways. Why not consider providing a special deal or giveaway to people who came to your site through your friend’s author site or social media page? Any incentive that will get people to buy your book or give you their email address is a good thing.
7. Consider doing group tours. Not actual tours, of course: virtual tours. But by teaming up, you can offer book clubs, libraries, schools, etc… the opportunity to double the attendance by featuring two authors (and triple, if three of you get together).
8. Promote each other through other forms of social media. Do you have a GoodReads account? Make sure to cross-promote there as well. Ditto if you follow people on Twitter, highlight book covers on Pinterest, etc…
9. Create a group blog. This is a little harder to do, but it’s not unheard of. Get a group of authors together and create an author blog site. Agree to each post, say, once a week. The more posts you have, the more you will become a can’t miss destination for other authors. Then, make sure each of your books/websites get fair promotion.
One last caveat … as much as your friend may be your friend, make sure that you’re not wasting your time cross promoting with him or her. In other words, if you have 100,000 followers on your blog and your friend has 5,000, it may not be worth your time for you to “help” one another. Always ask potential authors for information on their following before deciding whether it makes sense to proceed. If the two of you are in the same ballpark, then it’s probably a good arrangement.
Looking for additional advice on selling or marketing your book? Contact us today at Smart Author Sites for a free consultation!
Every author who contacts me does so because he/she knows it’s time to build a website. But what these authors often don’t understand is just how important it is to have a long-term vision when building a site. Think too short term and you might make mistakes that are hard to rectify down the line.
Here are five examples of how short-term thinking can damage an author’s web presence.
1. Naming the site after a book. There are certainly instances in which a website should be named after a book — not the author. But unless an author is absolutely, positively sure that he or she won’t be writing any other books in a similar genre, it’s a good bet to go with the author’s name as the website name. Otherwise, what is he or she to do when the next book comes out?
2. Making the website resemble/represent the first book. This is very similar to the item above. All too often, an author builds a website that reflects the first book cover. Maybe it uses the same color scheme as the book cover. Maybe the design is structured around an image or icon used on the cover. Regardless, this tells site visitors (either consciously or subconsciously) that the website is an extension of that book. Any future books will look out of place without a complete redesign.
3. Not collecting email addresses. I always (and I repeat, always!) recommend that authors start collecting email addresses of site visitors who are interested in their works. “But I don’t plan to send newsletters or anything,” they sometimes tell me. It doesn’t matter. Even if you never plan to do anything with the list, it’s a good thing to have. After all, you never know what you’ll be doing in the future — a TV interview, perhaps, or publishing another book — that you would love to alert all your followers about. Build the list. Figure out what you want to do with it later.
4. Making the site too design-heavy. Web design can be a beautiful thing. But it can also be overdone. Remember: images can be a pain in the you know what to change. So, for example, don’t have your homepage text appear in an image. It may look pretty, but it won’t be easy to update when you have a new announcement to make. Ditto with the navigation. If the tabs on your site are images, it’s a whole lot harder to add a new page when you want to promote your new book trailer, press release, etc…
5. Not blogging or focusing on SEO. An author website is a long-term investment. It takes lots of time and energy to build it to where it needs to be. Over time, it will rise on the search engine rankings. The blog (if it’s regularly updated) will build a group of followers. Anyone who doesn’t want to invest the time in either of these things is thinking short-term. He or she is also not being realistic. A site is not going to jump of the top of Google search results just for existing. It’s going to take some sweat and some thought to make it work, but a good author website is well worth it.
Can you think of any other short-term mistakes authors make on their websites? Share them with us!
All authors (at least the ones that I’ve spoken to) want to sell copies of their book. What many of them are confused about are the various ways to sell their book, and how to decide which one best suits their personal situation and preferences.
With that in mind, I will address the three primary ways that an author can go about selling their books via their author website (from easiest to hardest), and the benefits/drawbacks of each one.
Option #1: Do None of the Work Yourself
It can’t be simpler than this. Put a “Buy the Book” link on your website, and allow visitors to select whether they want to purchase it through the publisher site, Amazon, B&N, etc… One click and they’re done. And there’s nothing else you have to do.
The benefits: It’s free. It’s easy. There’s little to no hassle, since you’re not collecting money or shipping books.
The drawbacks: You’re probably familiar with the miniscule percentage of the profits that you get when Amazon sells a copy of your book. If you allow them to do all the work, they’re going to reap most of the rewards.
And yet, this is the option that the majority of authors choose. After all, they’re writers … not booksellers.
Option #2: Do Some of the Work Yourself
With this method of selling books, you get to call some of the shots. This option allows readers to buy the book through your website, but you don’t actually do any of the legwork. Instead, offers come straight through your site and right into the order system of the printing/distribution company that you’ve hired. They process the orders and collect an agreed-upon fee.
The benefits: Unlike with Amazon/B&N, you get to set the price that your book sells for. You do that knowing how much you’re paying for printing and shipping, so (in other words), you determine your profit. This type of system also allows you to better track sales than if you were to link out to sell.
The drawbacks: You’d have to first set up some kind of payment acceptance system through your site (more on that below). Then, you’d have to treat it like a business: keeping track of the money coming in, the money going out, etc…
Option #3: Do All of the Work Yourself
Okay, you’ve decided that you want to take the bull by the horns and sell the book yourself. This would mean that you keep a stock of books handy, accept orders through your website, and ship the copies of the books that are ordered. This option gives you all the control in the world over selling your book, but can also be a huge responsibility. After all, you’re responsible for processing the orders, shipping the books, etc…
It’s also worth noting that there are two different ways that you can go about accepting payments on the website. The first, and easiest, option is to set up a free account via PayPal and embed a PayPal button on your website. This will allow visitors to simply click a “buy” link, go to the PayPal site, and make their payment: the order will then come to you. However, some authors (especially ones who want to sell more than just their current book) will opt to create built-in shopping carts on their website. This is a lot more costly and time-intensive than a simple PayPal button, but it allows you to sell multiple items at once and doesn’t take people off your website to make payments.
The benefits: You’re in complete control. You set the prices. You create “discounts” for buying in bulk. You pack and ship the items. And who gets to keep all the profits? You.
The drawbacks: There’s a reason why distribution companies often handle this sort of stuff. Because it can be a full-time job. You have to be processing orders as soon as they come in. You have to go to the post office to mail the items. You have to pre-order as many copies of your book as you might conceivably need in case you’re lucky enough to get a big order. In short, it’s like running your own business. And it comes with all the responsibilities of that as well. After all, if a customer has a complaint about what they ordered, who are they going to call? That would be you.
If you’re still unsure about which book selling technique best suits your situation and your needs, contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll be happy to help!
This is one of the most important questions I ask an author when we are beginning to work together. And, surprisingly, many of the authors that I speak to don’t really know the answer. So let me talk about the benefits of each of the major types of sites that authors build and how to go about deciding which one is right for you.
A Book Site
A book site refers to a website that focuses solely on one book or one series of books. It should be named after the book (or the series) and use images or graphics that come straight off the book covers or illustrations. So what’s the benefit of a book site? Well, it aims to promote and sell the book. Simple as that.
See an example of a book site at http://www.lostinplainsight.net/
An Author Site
Truth be told, the large majority of sites that I build for authors are truly author sites. That’s because most authors don’t write one book and then quit (or at least don’t plan to quit). Maybe they already are working on a second book. Maybe they do speaking engagements on the topic. Maybe they want to build a following. An author site also works to promote and sell a book (or multiple books), but its focus is primarily on the author. Such sites are usually named after an author (i.e. JohnSmith.com or JohnSmithBooks.com) and include the author’s name and photo in the most prominent places. In addition, sites like these give readers multiple ways to follow or contact the author, like a newsletter sign-up box, social media links or an easy-to-fill-out contact form.
See an example of an author site at http://donnawilsonphd.org/
A Branded Site
This is probably the most complicated of the three types of sites. Why? Well, because building a brand requires a lot of hard work. Even the naming is difficult. Take, for example, an author who writes a book on career building and also runs a business offering career coaching services. So what should he title his site? Well, step one is coming up with a brand name. In this case, possibilities could include anything from CareerCoachProfessional.com to LetMeHelpYourCareer.com. Then, he would have to have a logo created that encompassed that name and some sort of recognizable icon that would work on the website, business cards, etc… Finally, he would have to put together an entire marketing plan for getting that business name out there. So could a site like this be successful? Of course! In fact, at the end of the day, it could generate a lot of money if it’s done properly. Just read this post about how an author can use their book to be a springboard for selling all other types of products and services.
See an example of a branded site at http://themanopauseman.com/
A Do-Good Site
I have worked with authors who wrote a book primarily because they felt they had a very important message to get out to the community. Their goals aren’t about fame or fortune …. they’re about making the world a better place. So how do you build a site that is an extension of that? Well, you start by naming it after your cause. Maybe it’s BeNicetoAnimals.com or AchievingWordPeace.org. Then you come up with powerful, compelling images and colors they clearly convey your important message. A site like this is less about the author or the book or any products that are for sale: it’s about building a community of followers, and possibly even getting them to take action, like starting their own chapters of the organization or donating money to a worthy cause. Buttons to “donate” or “join the cause” should be prominent in such a site design.
See an example of a do-good site at http://angrymoms.org/
Obviously, one or two of these types of sites are going to jump out at you … and the others are going to seem completely unrelated to who you are and what you’re doing. But that’s okay. As long as you can recognize what type of site best suits your needs, you’ve taken the first step towards building an online presence that can help you achieve your goals … whatever those goals may be.
One of the most important elements of an author website is an easy way (ideally with one click) for a site visitor to take the plunge and buy the book. But that’s easier said than done: not in a technical sense, of course (setting up a link is easy), but in terms of deciding which retailer sites to link to.
The Big Two
Obviously, the first one that everyone thinks of is Amazon. It’s truly the site that dominates the market. And not just the book market, mind you, but just about every product you can buy online.
Then there’s B&N. We always recommend that authors offer links to buy the book from both sites, because we’ve heard reports that if an author decides to only provide a link to one of the two big online retailers, the other can threaten to pull that book from its site altogether. That’s something no one wants.
Borders used to be the third of this “big three,” but that’s no longer an option.
From Two to Two Thousand?
So are two links enough? What about all the other thousands of booksellers out there?
Well, they’re now speaking up. A new article in The Bookseller, titled Anger over authors’ website links to Amazon includes quotes from independent booksellers who are sick and tired of authors only linking to Amazon (or Amazon and B&N) to sell copies of their books. And who can blame them? After all, if you had a tiny little store, how would you feel if your product manufacturers kept sending potential clients to buy their stuff at WalMart?
In the article, Keith Smith from Warwick & Kenilworth bookshops says: “As someone who owns two independent bookshops I feel angry that these authors, unthinkingly or by design, have chosen to support Amazon, W H Smith or Waterstones without giving a fig for independent bookshops. Many of these are authors who, when asked, will say they couldn’t imagine life without their local bookshop. But words need to be matched by deeds if they are to make a difference.”
I totally understand his anger. But what’s an author to do? After all, it’s a lot easier to set up one Amazon link than it is to set up thousands of links to every online retailer. Or even more challenging: to list every single independent bookstore that carries the book in question.
Feedback From Authors
Here are responses from a few authors that appear later in the article:
Author Alison Weir defended herself, commenting: “Publishing, as you must know, is going through hard times and every author and publisher wants to maximise sales. When I set up my website, my webmaster told me I could link to Amazon, so I told him to go ahead. My American publishers then asked me to link to other bookstores. I’m not sure how Keith Smith envisages linking to every independent bookseller in a practical way – how many must there be? The fact remains that not one, including him, has ever asked me to do so. But if they had, I would have worked out a way to do it. If you look on my website you will see links to other websites whose owners requested a link. Linking to Amazon does not mean that I do not support independents.”
Novelist Joanne Harris said: “I am more than happy to include links to independent bookshops. I know how much I owe them and I support them fully.”
Julia Donaldson told The Bookseller changing the links on her website was something she had been planning to do “for some time”. She said: “I want to think carefully about how I do it. Independent bookshops really are something I care about very much and I have been feeling guilty about it. But when I first set up my website, this is what was suggested to me would be the easiest thing to do.”
What’s an Author to Do?
This entire issue can be summed up relatively quickly and easily. Independent booksellers are upset about Amazon and B&N being the sites that authors are sending readers to for purchasing the book. And that’s valid.
But it’s also true that the logistics of setting up thousands of links is … well … not really doable. It’s so much easier for authors to link to the big retailers, and it’s just as easy for readers to click on those links and make the purchases quickly and easily. Doing anything more complicated will not only be a challenge for the author and his or her webmaster, but it may make the experience even more complicated for the buyer.
So what’s an author to do? I don’t have the answer. If you have any great ideas, please share them with us!