Photo credit: Skley via ChairsHunt / CC BY-ND

E-mail Tips for Authors: Building and Using Your E-mail Lists

Photo credit: Skley via ChairsHunt / CC BY-ND

Photo credit: Skley via ChairsHunt / CC BY-ND

Some people think email is soooo 2000s. After all, isn’t everyone communicating via Facetime, Snapchat, Twitter and such… now?

Not necessarily! Email can still be extremely useful as an author marketing tool. Here are some basic e-mail tips for authors … from collecting email addresses to using your lists wisely.

Step by Step E-mail Tips for Authors

Step 1: Set up an email collection system
In order to start collecting emails on your author website, you need to have a place to store them. There are a few basic systems that you can choose to use.

The first is a simple WordPress plug-in (assuming your site is built on WordPress). One basic one is just called “Newsletter.” This is a free system that stores any email addresses that people enter on your site, and offers some bells and whistles, too, like newsletter creation, the ability for users to unsubscribe automatically (a legal requirement) and more.

Other people opt to go with something a bit more complicated, like MailChimp. This service is also free up to a certain point (once your email list gets to about 2,000, there can be a charge involved). It offers a bit more flexibility in terms of newsletter design, analytics and more.

Then there’s a more advanced service, like Constant Contact. There’s a monthly fee associated with this one, but it has more bells and whistles.

All of these types of services are incredibly easy to set up and give you a simple code to put on your site. Which one you choose should depend on how much time, energy and money you want to invest in this project. But the concept of all of them are relatively similar: Any email address entered through the site is automatically stored in the system, and that list can easily be accessed any time.

Step 2: Plan your communications with subscribers
Just collecting email addresses isn’t enough. You actually need to … you know …. use them. And this plan should be mapped out before you start collecting addresses, because (as you will see in step 3), you need to tell people what to expect before they sign up.

Start by planning how frequently you’re going to send to that list. Will it be a monthly newsletter? Will you just send everyone a quick notification every time you post a new blog entry? Or will it be a news-based notification — like if you’re doing a radio show tomorrow?

Once you’ve figured out the strategy you want to use, then make sure you have everything you need in place — like a newsletter template, a blog feed etc… — to make this actually doable.

Step 3: Start collecting emails!
So now that you CAN collect email addresses, how do you actually convince people to start giving you their email? It’s not as easy as you may think.

I’ve written extensively about this in the past, like in this post: 4 Ways to Improve and Increase Your Email Sign-Ups. So I’ll keep this one short.

But here’s the gist of it: People need a reason to sign up. They’re not going to give out their email for no reason. So offer an incentive, like a free download. And make sure you spell out what they should expect to receive and when if they give you their email address.

Finally, it’s important that you tell anyone and everyone that you will not sell or share their email. That assurance of security is essential.

Step 4: Think outside the box about utilizing your list
In this super-helpful recent article on PW by Jane Friedman, she outlines many of her recommendations for using email lists creatively. Here are some highlights.

  • Review your list and determine if anyone on it might benefit from an individualized email instead of a mass email. For example, if someone is an influencer (like a blogger who reviews books), this is someone that you might want to pull out of the larger list. You can then reach out individually to each of these influencers with a more customized message. This will increase the likelihood of making the most of that relationship.
  •  Your email list can be an essential tool in your book release strategy. For example, if you send out a newsletter pre-launch, you can include key details about where the book is available. You might also want to consider offering bonuses for people who buy the book on a particular day (like the day of launch). This can help you sell a lot of books at once, and might allow you to make it on one of Amazon’s top seller lists.
  • Consider collecting additional information from users, and then segmenting your email lists. Asking for more than just an email can be risky (the more you ask for, the more people will bail out). But if you want to be bold, consider collecting additional information, like where someone lives or how many of your books they’ve already read. This will allow you to segment your list and do what’s called “targeted newsletter sends” — dividing your list based on the specific message. In other words, you could notify only people in the midwest if you were doing a local book signing. Or allow you to send separate newsletters to people who are already your superfans vs. the newbies.

As Jane says at the end of her article, “That’s the point at which email marketing becomes among the most valuable and profitable marketing tools, where you can tie specific sales goals to each email you send out.”

I couldn’t agree more.

author website questions

10 Things About Author Websites That Might Surprise You

author website questionsOver the last decade, we have built websites for hundreds and hundreds of authors. And since we do this for a living, we tend to know the ins and outs of author websites like the back of our hands. But, surprisingly, there are some basic facts that I’ve found that many of the authors we work with don’t know or don’t understand.

With that in mind, here are 10 things that might surprise you about building and maintaining an author website.

1. Building your site doesn’t pay for hosting your site. I can’t tell you how many clients I have worked with who think that once they pay to get a site built, that their site can then live on indefinitely without paying an additional penny. That’s not how it works. I like to explain that a site hosting fee is like paying rent for your space on the internet. Think of it like a store: you pay a large one-time fee to get the store launched, but you still have to pay rent each month for your store space. Hosting is similar.

2. Domains are separate from hosting. Along those lines, there’s often a lot of confusion about paying for hosting vs. paying for your domain. So let me clear that up here. Think of your domain as the name of the store you want to open. You need to first decide on and purchase your domain. The fee for that is nominal — only about $15 per year. You then own that. And YOU need to own it — not whomever is building or hosting your site. You can then build a site and point that domain name over to it. To continue with the analogy, that’s like putting your store name on the awning in front of the space you’re renting. For as long as you’re going to be in that space, you will keep the domain pointing there. But if you ever decide to have another site built or have your site hosted elsewhere (i.e. move your store to a larger location), you can simply then re-point the domain to the new server. But the two are distinctly different.

3. Email boxes can fill up. Yup, it can happen. Over the course of five years or so, you might accrue 50,000 emails. Each and every one of those is taking up space on your server. Eventually, your server will tell you that it can’t house any more email, and the address will stop working. Be proactive about this and clean out your email box every once in a while.

4. Google Analytics is a free service. So many people ask me about if/how they can get a website traffic report. If anyone wants to charge you for a report like this, they’re hosing you. That’s because Google Analytics offers free website traffic reports to anyone who wants them. You can sign up easily with any email address associated with Google. You can then get an account number, which you simply have to put in the right place on your site. Then, voila! You can log back in to your Google Analytics account any time to view your traffic numbers.

5. Today’s sites are built off templates with modules. This is sort of a long and complicated point, but I’ll try to keep it brief. Today’s websites are built off templates. Each of those has a pretty structured layout. And each page follows the same layout. What this means is that it’s super important you choose the right template. A design firm like Smart Author Sites can help you adjust that template somewhat — to insert your own color scheme, logo, widgets, photos, etc… but the structure is pre-built. This means that you can’t have each page look different, and you can’t simply “move,” say, the social networking icons from the bottom to the top of the page. So choose your theme wisely.

6. Sites and themes need to be updated. The internet is ever changing. And there are people out there getting into and hacking sites each and every minute. As a result, the good guys have to keep trying to stay on top of things, and continually update security settings. So if you have a WordPress site, it’s essential that you log in at least once a week and run any updates that they recommend. If you have a site hosted through us, we will do that for you. But either way, it’s essential for your site security that it be done.

7. People don’t always enter a site through the homepage. I have this conversation at least once a week. Clients want to, say, feature their book on their homepage … and nowhere else on the site. This comes from a natural assumption that visitors always come into a site through a homepage. This is especially common among authors, who tend to think of sites linearly — like a book. That’s not the way people use the web, though. In this particular example, let’s say someone does a Google search for the author’s name and comes into the site through the author bio page. They may never have seen that homepage. And let’s say they’re then looking to learn more about the book. They go to the site navigation … there’s no “book” tab. Would they know to go to the homepage to find the book details? Not likely. So it’s important to remember that the homepage is like a teaser — not a replacement  — the other sections of the site.

8. Site design affects load time. I’ve worked with many authors that want the most beautiful site in the world. They want rich photos, illustrations and detailed design. Can it be done? Sure. But is there a cost? Yes. It’s load time. The more images there are on a page, the longer that page is going to take to load. And longer load times cost you site traffic — both in terms of frustrated users who can’t get the page to load and the search engines who punish you for having a site with long load times. So it’s important to find the balance in your site design between functionality and appearance.

9. Site content is distinct from site design. When you look at a page of an author website, you see many things: a header, a logo, a navigation, and maybe a photo and a lot of text. But for developers, that one page can be divided into two very distinct areas: the design and the content. In other words, the site design is the more complicated, code-based section of the page. It’s also the stuff that stays consistent throughout the site. For example, every page will have your logo, your name and your navigation. It’s the text and photos that differ from page to page that qualifies as your site content. That’s the stuff that’s super easy to swap in and out — either from page to page or from day to day. This may not make a lot of sense or have a lot of meaning to you, but it’s huge to us. Because your site design is a whole lot more complicated — and difficult to make alterations to — than the words on your bio page, for example.

10. Yes, it’s easy to link out. This question has probably surprised me more than any other. I’ve talked to so many authors who have asked me if they can have links from their author websites to buy their books on Amazon, B&N, etc… Yes. Absolutely. Linking out to a bookselling site is one of the easiest things you can possibly do. It’s a no-brainer.

Do you have additional questions like these? Anything you want clarification on? Post them below!

should i be blogging or using social

Should I Be Blogging, Posting on Social, Or Both?

should i be blogging or using socialAuthors have limited time on their hands. In today’s busy world, who doesn’t?

So I frequently have authors who are wondering where they should invest what little marketing time they have.

If you’ve ever asked the question, “Should I be blogging or investing my time in building a following on social?” we finally have some answers.

Thanks to our friends at Contently, who recently published Does Your Content Need a Permanent Home? we have some important questions you can ask yourself when making this decision…. I’ve taken their recommended questions and customized them for authors…

Questions to Ask Yourself: Should I Be Blogging, Posting on Social, Or Both?

1. Who’s your target readership?
Who will be reading your book, anyway? Is it 50-year-old businessmen? Fifteen-year-old girls? If you’re primarily looking to reach an older, more academically-minded audience, a blog is probably a good place to dedicate your time and effort. That will allow you to drive them to your site, where you can offer additional materials and really sell your brand. If your audience skews younger, you’re probably better off offering snack-size bits — in either text or video format — that they can enjoy for a quick moment, and then go on with their day.

2. How important is ownership to you?
Do you know what the biggest difference between a blog and a social presence is? Well, it’s that you actually own your blog, and you have no ownership of anything on social. Not only does that mean that a social networking platform can take down anything you post if they’re so inclined, it also means that if they shut down their site, everything you’ve written there can disappear completely. And here’s another downside of lack of ownership when you post on social … you don’t really own the list of followers you acquire through social. So you may have 50,000 people following you on Twitter, but if Twitter were to cease to exist, that list would vanish completely. And if Twitter became less popular and people stopped paying attention to it? You would have no way to reach out to those followers again, short of getting them all to follow you on a new platform. Collect the same list of followers on your own site, for example, and you can collect contact info, etc… That is then yours, and you can use it for ever and ever. So if owning your material and your contact list is important to you, then blogging makes the most sense. If not, social will do just fine.

3. Do you regularly post about time-sensitive things?
Unless your blog grows to the point where it’s rivaling CNN, your blog posts are never going to be showing up at the top of a Google search result on the same day that you post it. Your social posts, on the other hand, very well might. So here’s a scenario: Let’s say you write a book about global warming. And then there’s a tropical storm, which you attribute to global warming, about to hit the US. You want to write about that, right? If you do it in blog format, it may get read … but certainly not when the search term “Tropical Storm Alberto” is trending on Google. If you post in social, with the proper hashtag, you have a much better chance of jumping on that opportunity.

4. What’s your primary online goal?
I frequently ask authors what their primary goal out of their website is. It usually falls into one of two categories: getting his/her name out there and building a following, or selling books. If your goal is the former — building your name — then social may be a good place for you to focus your efforts. By building followers on Facebook/Twitter, you are getting your name and your posts in front of a large number of people. They will regularly see you in their feed, and they will get to know your name, your face and your brand. Mission accomplished. If, on the other hand, you want to focus more on selling books, a blog may serve you better. People are far less likely to go out of their way to buy your book off of a series of cute social posts. In order to take the plunge and actually make a purchase, it usually requires something a bit stronger: an impressive blog post on an impressive website that nicely ties your book in to your overall message.

5. Is your website mobile-friendly?
While this isn’t directly related to the social vs. blog question, it is something to keep in mind. I wrote a post just a few weeks ago about the damage that can be done to your site if it’s not mobile-friendly. If that’s the case, and your site is less than optimal for the mobile audience, then it’s probably not worth your time to invest heavily in a blog on that site. Unless you plan to redesign in the near future, focus on social.

6. Do you write fiction or nonfiction?
This is another common conversation I have with authors. The truth is that marketing a fiction book is very, very different from marketing a nonfiction book. That ties back to two big reasons.

  • People read fiction books for pleasure, and nonfiction books for learnings.
  • People usually get fiction books recommended to them by friends/colleagues, while they very well may find out about a nonfiction book through browsing sites on topics that they find especially interesting.

Both of these scenarios spell out the following equation:
fiction books > nonfiction books on social
nonfiction books > fiction books on blogging

Now, you may have answered these six questions and still felt unsatisfied. After all, you might have answered three questions in one direction and three in the other. In short, we haven’t answered the question yet: “Should I be blogging?”

And that’s not for us to answer. That’s for you to ponder and figure out. Hopefully this post is a good first step in helping you do that.

author must reads laptop

Author Must Reads from April

author must reads laptop

Another month has come and gone. In case you missed any of it, here are the five author must reads from April. Grab your cup of coffee and catch up!

1. Are You Making These Mistakes With Your Amazon Book Description?
Build Book Buzz
April 6, 2016

2. Making Money as an Author: A Mathematical Breakdown
Smart Author Sites
April 14, 2016

3. Creating a Perfect “About Me” Page (Infographic)
Build Book Buzz
No date

4. An Author’s Guide to Digital Marketing
Forbes
April 20, 2016

5. Do You Have a Mobile-Friendly Author Website?
Smart Author Sites
April 28, 2016

Enjoy your month of May, everyone!

mobile-friendly-author-website

Do You Have a Mobile Friendly Author Website?

mobile-friendly-author-websiteWhat makes a site mobile friendly? And what’s the problem if yours isn’t? How do you even know if your author website is mobile friendly? Today, we break down these questions and help you better understand the hows and whys of a mobile friendly author website.

What Does Mobile-Friendly Mean?

As its name implies, a mobile friendly website is one that is easy to use on the small screen of a mobile device. This can also be referred to as a website using responsive web design. In other words, a website that is only designed for a full-size desktop screen may be difficult to use on a smartphone. It may involve scrolling left/right to view the full page, or zooming in to read words. A mobile friendly site, which is built using responsive design software, is actually able to detect the size of the screen that you are viewing it on and adjust how the site appears accordingly so that it becomes more vertical than horizontal, compresses the navigation, and more.

How Do You Know If You Have a Mobile Friendly Author Website?

If your site was built in the last year or so, it’s very likely mobile friendly. But if it’s older than that, it could be hit or miss. Start by taking a look at your site on multiple devices. Visit it on a smartphone, a tablet and more. Does the design change based on the size of the device? Is it easy to use on a small screen? You should know pretty quickly.

How Does Not Having a Mobile-Friendly Author Website Cost You?

There are two big problems with having an author website today that’s not mobile friendly. One is fairly obvious. The other is not.

First, the obvious reason … you’re going to lose visitors. About 50% of web browsing in 2016 is done on mobile devices. That means that half the people who visit your website are likely to have a difficult or unsatisfying experience. Maybe they have to scroll to the right to view the full page. Maybe they have trouble using the navigation that was built for a desktop. Maybe they have to zoom in to read words. Not only is your site going to be difficult for them, but it’s also likely to appear out of date … after all, just about every site designed today is mobile-friendly. That’s not a good impression to leave with potential readers.

And now for the lesser-known problem with a site that’s not mobile friendly … Google is going to punish you for it. Google is well aware that larger percentages of people than ever are using mobile devices to browse the web. And what’s most important to Google? It’s that their users have a satisfying experience on whatever sites Google sends them to. So it’s in Google’s best interest to ensure that the sites they recommend are mobile-friendly.

As such, Google put together a page about the hows and whys of mobile-friendly sites. It even includes a test you can take to determine if your site meets Google’s mobile-friendly criteria. And if your site doesn’t pass their test for being mobile friendly? Well, then you very well may see a drop in your search engine rankings. In other words, Google will likely demote you on search result pages, below other sites that are mobile friendly. This can have a significant impact on your website traffic.

How Can You Make Your Site Mobile Friendly?

So now that you understand why it’s important to have a mobile friendly author website, how do you go about getting one? There are various ways you can do that — at varying costs, of course — but nearly all of them involve a redesign of the site. You can’t take the currently site that you have and simply make it mobile-friendly. It will need to be rebuilt from scratch with a code that is mobile-responsive.

There are free options, of course. WordPress offers a variety of templates that are mobile-friendly, and you can simply select one, migrate your content over, and get your new site up and running from there. If you’re willing to invest a little more, though, you can work with a design and development firm like Smart Author Sites to recreate the things you love about your current site in a mobile-friendly version. Plus, we offer expert advice on setting goals for your site, driving visitors there, and more.

Either way, if your site isn’t mobile friendly, you may be unknowingly costing yourself a lot of site traffic and a lot of readers. That’s a mistake most authors don’t want to make.

identifying your target reader

Identifying Your Target Reader: Tips for Authors

identifying your target readerIt’s true. Writing is a business. That’s especially the case in today’s world of sell-it-yourself self-publishing. So as a business person, you need to put on the thinking cap of a business executive. First task? Identifying your target reader.

Just as the people who founded Pepsi Cola, Hasbro or Amazon mapped out their business plans and identified who their customers would be, you — the author — need to do the same. After all, if you’re not keeping your readers (aka customers) in mind at each and every step of your journey, then you’re potentially costing yourself success.

How to Go About Identifying Your Target Reader

Start with your genre. Which type of user generally reads that type of book? Are they male or female? What’s the age range? Are they more likely to read a hard copy or an e-book?

Chris Jones, an award-winning writing coach, recommends in a HuffPost article that you actually, “create an avatar, a fictional character on paper based on who your ideal reader is” to help you to stay on target with your message and your marketing. Here are some questions he recommends you ask as you’re creating this persona:

  • What do they look like?
  • What are their book buying habits?
  • What do they most like to read about?
  • Where do they like to find information on their favorite authors within your genre?

The Realities of Identifying Your Target Reader

So how will identifying your target reader actually change what you’re doing as an author? Well, there are a few different ways your daily activities can — and should — be adjusted by your continual reminders about your target reader.

First, it can impact the actual writing of your story. For example, if you have identified that your target reader is older, you may decide that you want to be a little less gruesome in the way you tell the story of a character’s death. After all, a 60-year-old probably isn’t as enthralled by the blood and guts as a teenager would be. Or, conversely, if your story is geared towards 20-somethings, you may decide that you want to tweak the habits of one of your characters to make him or her more relatable to that generation. Similarly, if your book speaks to the less educated, you may want to write shorter sentences and paragraphs, while a more savvy audience may find that structure a bit patronizing. There are various ways — both big and small — that keeping your reader in mind can impact your writing.

Second, identifying your target reader can impact the whens and hows of publishing your book. I mentioned before that it’s important to think about how your readers will ingest your book. Will they be binge readers, in which case you may want to release all three books of your trilogy simultaneously? Will they be reading it as an e-book or a hard copy? Do you really need to publish it in both formats, or is it a better use of your time and money to focus on one? Is your reader more likely to read your book on the beach in the summer? If that’s the case, time your release accordingly.

Lastly — and possibly most importantly — identifying your target reader should be a crucial piece of your marketing efforts. After all, how are you going to get your book in the hands of the right people if you don’t know who they are, where they are, and how they’re investing their time?

For your online efforts, pick your website strategy and social networking channels accordingly. If your audience is a group of professionals, LinkedIn may very well be worth your time. If your book is aimed at teenagers, then Instagram or SnapChat might be a better use of it. Similarly, create an author website and blog that meet your readers’ needs and preferences. Would they prefer to read a humorous blog post each week? Or would a more static site that they can turn to for information at their leisure better serve them?

Your offline efforts can also be impacted by this. If you’re trying to reach suburban moms, speaking events at book clubs or libraries may be worth your time. That effort would be far less impactful with a younger audience. Once you’ve identified your target reader, think about how and where you can meet them where they are: nursing homes, community centers, schools, etc…

The Benefits of Identifying Your Target Reader

The benefits of all this should be obvious: increased book sales. By properly identifying your target readers and making sure that all aspects of your book efforts — from writing to publishing to marketing — are geared specifically towards them, you’re increasing the likelihood of them hearing about your book, buying your book, loving your book and telling their friends about your book. And that, folks, is how bestsellers are made.

making money as an author data

Making Money as an Author: A Mathematical Breakdown

Making money as an author is easier said than done. After all, what percentage of today’s authors actually make a profit from their writing? It’s miniscule. And yet, some would argue that it’s certainly possible. You just have to make the right business decisions.

As a baseball fan, I am very aware of the concept of “Moneyball.” There was even a movie made about it. That concept — which has to do with basically doing a mathematical analysis of a business and making decisions accordingly — can be applied to just about any industry. And now, it’s being applied to publishing.

See the chart below, which was put together by Andrew Rhomberg, the founder of Jellybooks, a reader analytics company based in London. The idea for his business is pretty simple, actually. Much like we have television ratings that let us know how many people watch a full TV show or fast forward through commercials, Jellybooks goes above and beyond just seeing who is downloading e-books. It is tracking how people are actually reading these e-books.

According to the NY Times, Jellybooks (with the readers’ consent, of course) tracks, “when people read and for how long, how far they get in a book and how quickly they read, among other details.” And for those of you who are familiar with the world of the web, Jellybooks uses words like “engagement” and “analytics” to explain their data. In other words, they’re bringing book reading into the 21st century. And this quick peek at their findings are pretty incredible.

making money as an author data

Source: Jellybooks

 

Key Takeaways From This Research

  • Among the readers who agreed to be a part of this study, they actually finished less than half of the books tested.
    • Only 5 percent of the books had a completion rate of over 75%.
    • Sixty percent of books fell into a range where between 25 and 50% of test readers finished them.
  • Those readers who didn’t complete the full book typically gave up in the early chapters (as the chart above suggests).
    • Women tended to stop reading after 50 to 100 pages, men after 30 to 50.
  • Different genres had different completion rates. For example, business books had surprisingly low completion rates.

Making Money as an Author Off This Research

So why does this research matter, you might ask? If you get someone to buy the book, why should you care if they finish it? Well, that’s what this study seeks to help explain. Here are a few reasons you should care. After all, your likelihood of making money as an author may depend on it

You could spend a boatload on book marketing, but the truth is that word of mouth — be it on social media, at work, or at a dinner party — is the strongest marketing tool out there for authors. In other words, there’s nothing that will help your book be successful more than a group of loyal readers who love the book and recommend it to their friends. And, as I’m sure you can figure out, a reader is pretty unlikely to recommend a book to a friend if he or she chose not to finish it. In other words, these statistics can clue you in as to both how good your book really is, and how likely it is to be recommended to other readers.

And publishers are listening. After all, that’s mainly who all this Jellybooks data is geared to. The professionals in the publishing industry are deciding which books to put marketing efforts into — or even which books to publish going forward — by analyzing this data.

Much like how moneyball is being applied to major league baseball today, publishers are now analyzing books by genre, the age group it appeals to, gender appeal and more. They are comparing those potential books to others that are similar in previous studies. If those had good completion rates, the publishers are more likely to put time and effort into similar books going forward. If not … well, you may not be in luck.

If you’re an author in today’s world of moneyball publishing, it would behoove you not to study up on this type of data. Understand completion rates, analytics and more. It may make the difference between becoming a bestselling author and a struggling writer.

 

Photo credit: clasesdeperiodismo via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

5 Author Must Reads: March in Review

Another month has come and gone. And in case you missed any of these author must reads, now is your time to catch up!

1. Ask the #IndieExperts: Book Trends and Marketing
Publishers Weekly
March 21, 2016

2. 5 Common Author Blog SEO Mistakes

Smart Author Sites
March 10, 2016

3. New Rules for Successful Authors in 2016
BookCoaching.com
March 9, 2016

4. How smart book marketing got me a second publishing contract
Build Book Buzz
March 9, 2016

5. 5 Powerful Ways Authors Can Boost Results on LinkedIn
Nonfiction Association
March 1, 2016

Happy April, everyone! Feel free to post your recommended articles in the comments section below!

building-an-author-website

6 Steps to Building an Author Website

building-an-author-websiteThis seems like such a simple concept for a blog post. After all, I’ve been blogging about everything having to do with building an author website for more than five years now. It’s kind of shocking that I have never simply laid out all the steps to getting there, since I’ve covered such minutia surrounding it — everything from metadata to content partnerships, YouTube strategies and more.

Well, now it’s time. In the theme of simplicity, here are the steps to building an author website — from the day you decide to do it through the exciting site launch.

1. Purchase your domain name. 

Yes, you need to do this yourself. If you work with us, we are happy to walk you through it. We can also consult with you on the best domain name choices available. Here are some guidelines I’ve covered in previous posts.

2. Build your site map and strategy. 

I’m a little biased here, because this is where my heart lies. I work closely with each and every client to clearly map out a site map and site strategy. This includes deciding on your key actions (getting people to buy the book? encouraging newsletter sign-ups?), as well as what information should be front and center on your homepage, and what other content you want to include (book discussion guides? youtube videos? press kit?). It’s not always easy to figure out how to organize all of that content so that it’s easily found by readers, publishers and press. This is a key part of the process of building an author website, and I think it’s crucial that this step come before the design begins.

3. Kick off the design process. 

Now it’s time to design the site around that structure. When we are working with clients, this is when we start talking about the nitty gritty in site design — from layout preferences to color, fonts, photography and more. And if you’re working with a designer like us, it’s always helpful if you come prepared with a few other sites you’d like to model yours after — whether they belong to authors or anyone else. But even if you’re designing your own site off a template, this is where you make important decisions about how your site appears. It’s super important that it look professional and maintain the feel of your book cover and your genre.

4. Populate the pages with content. 

So the site has been designed. And you absolutely love it. Now it’s time to fill in the blanks. In other words, you now have a canvas to work with and it’s time to start doing what you are best at — writing. Create your tantalizing book blurb for the homepage. Craft the author bio. Start blogging. We provide clients with WordPress training at the beginning of this phase so that they can really feel like they own the site from this point forward, and can be comfortable adding or changing content — both before and after launch.

5. Get all your ducks in a row.

Now your site is populated. But do you have the link to buy the book working yet? How about your Facebook and Twitter accounts? Are they synched up with the site? Have you tested your contact form to make sure the email is coming through? Consider this your final dress rehearsal. Walk through each and every page on the site, click on every single link, and make sure it’s all functioning exactly as you want it to. Then…

6. Launch and promote! 

That’s right. This is when it all becomes very real. When we are working with clients, this is the final send-off. We then move the site from our private domain (where it wasn’t available to the public) to the final domain name the client has purchased. Finally, we submit the site to all the search engines (so that it can start appearing when people search for the author name, book title, and any other keyword we’ve optimized for) and also direct the client to start promoting it through social channels, email, etc…

Voila! That’s really it. Six simple steps. In reality, one or more of these may be a little more complicated than they sound, but I hope that breaking them down into buckets may help simplify the process — whether you’re working with us, another firm, or going it on your own. Here’s to building a great author website!

how-do-i-get-my-book-out-there

How Do I Get My Book Out There? Tips from the Experts

how-do-i-get-my-book-out-thereThis is the question just about every self-published author is asking. And so are many authors who went through publishing houses, too. “How do I get my book out there?”

In other words, authors are asking what they can do to get readers to take a chance on their work. What strategies or techniques will get the average reader to dedicate some time (and hopefully money) into reading your first book. Because if you’re confident in your work, you know that once they read the first book, they will be a fan for life.

Someone posed just this question to a team of successful authors and publishing experts at Publishers Weekly. Here are some suggestions, as proposed by the panelists.

1. Write more books!

Bestselling author Bella Andre recommends that you get started writing your second, third, and even fourth book before your first is a hit. “Once you have a four to five books out, and especially if they are in a connected world/series, then you are best able to begin promoting your books to readers,” she adds.

2. Become a good marketing copywriter.

Another bestselling author, Hugh Howey, says that a good writer should be able to write more than just a good book. He recommends that you hone your writing skills so that you can seamlessly craft interesting blog posts, book teasers, social networking posts and more. “Can you sell your book in a single sentence? If not, keep working on that sentence.”

3. Consider a giveaway or promotion.

The great publishing vet Jane Friedman shared her top recommendation: free stuff! As she put it, “The number one tool for any new or unknown indie author is the giveaway, whether that’s through Amazon, your own site, or a marketing service like BookBub.” And she’s right. I mean, who doesn’t want something for free? Joanna Penn, bestselling author and blogger, agrees. “Having a book for free is the very best way to get people to try your work. I have my first in series free on all e-book stores and I give away a novella on my site to entice people to sign up for my email list. You can also do giveaways on Goodreads and other sites.” Bella Andre chimes in here as well, suggesting, “You can try a temporary sale on the first book.”

4. Own a space in your genre.

Figure out exactly what type of book you have written. Then market accordingly. Jane Friedman notes that it’s especially important to make sure your website is properly updated with the right keywords for your book. “Ensure your book’s metadata is accurate and specific (your categories, tags, and description) — to make sure readers who are searching for your work’s themes, settings, or characters will be more likely find it.” Joanna Penn also recommends that you reach out to other book bloggers or reviewers in your genre to build relationships.

5. Make the right investments.

Sure, some things cost money. But many of them are worth it. Bella Andre points out that you can buy some online ads at a reasonable cost to increase the visibility of your books. Similarly, she talks about the importance of a really nice, professional-looking cover. I couldn’t agree more that getting a good book cover designer is definitely worth the investment. And, in my humble opinion, the same goes for working with a good author website development firm.

So if you’re asking the question, “How do I get my book out there?,” these five ideas will hopefully serve as a really good starting point.