5 Ways to Make Your Author Website Interactive

interactive-gears“Interactive” is a buzz word in today’s online world. Author websites are no exception.

So what is interactivity, exactly? Well, let’s start with a few definitions:

  • (of two people or things) influencing or having an effect on each other
  • designed to respond to the actions, commands, etc., of a user
  • involving the actions or input of a user; especially : of, relating to, or being a two-way electronic communication system (as a telephone, cable television, or a computer) that involves a user’s orders (as for information or merchandise) or responses (as to a poll)

In other words, an “interactive” website is one where it’s not just you, the creator of the site, who’s doing the talking. It’s a conversation between you and the users of the site, with user experiences changing depending on what they do, and what other users are doing.

You can certainly understand why people enjoy an interactive site. After all, it means that a user has some level of participation in the site and can really play a role in where it goes. With that in mind, here are five ways that an author can make his or her site interactive.

1. Encourage comments. This is the easiest — and most common — type of interactivity on websites. Every site that’s built in WordPress or a similar blogging tool will come pre-built with commenting features. This means that on any page of the site, or in any blog post, someone who is reading it can respond and post a comment. Other readers can then respond to the first comment, or to the post/page in general. I always encourage authors to end blog posts with questions for readers, or with blurbs encouraging them to post their thoughts on the issue at hand. This is interactivity at its most basic.

2. Run polls. Another fun little widget that you can include on your author website is a poll. Come up with a daily/weekly/monthly poll question related to your book’s subject matter. Then just post it on the site and voila! Readers will be asked to vote, and they will be able to see how other people voted. Not sure what to poll about? Here’s an example. Let’s say that you wrote your first book of a series, and it ends in a bit of a cliffhanger. Run a poll on your site asking readers to guess how things are going to turn out in book number two.

3. Have contests. People love contests. Actually, I should rephrase that. People love winning contests. So do something simple, like raffling off a free autographed copy of your book, or offering to do a live Skype chat with a book club to talk about your book. Encourage people to enter the contest by doing something simple; like giving you an email address. The give away is minimal for you, and you’ll get a whole lot out of doing it.

4. Solicit personal stories and ideas. I read a post on LinkedIn this morning about this. A woman who is writing a children’s book about a beloved dog said this: “Since the books target young children, do you think an interactive website where adoptive dog families are encouraged to share stories and photos would be an effective way to build loyal readers and drive sales?” My answer? Absolutely! In cases like this, when you allow people to post their own pictures/stories online, they’re likely to share those pages with friends, which will only increase your traffic further. It’s a win-win.

5. Let visitors impact your next book. This is a little outside the box, but I’ve seen it work brilliantly. Start a conversation on your site about your next book. Tell people that you’re creating a main character who is going to X, Y and Z. Then ask them what they think the name of such a character should be. Or give them three names to choose from and see which one they like best. It doesn’t always have to be a character name that you’re letting visitors choose; this is just one good example of how to allow your readers to really participate in the book and the website. Think about what would work for you, and use your website as an interactive vehicle to make it happen.

Do you have other ideas of ways to make your author website interactive? Share them with us.

See? We’re interactive, too 🙂

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