book-landing-page

What Is a Book Landing Page and Do You Need One?

book-landing-pageYou may or may not have heard the term “landing page” in the context of an author website. But you very well may not know exactly what a landing page is. It’s time to learn!

What Is a Landing Page?
The term “landing page” refers to where someone will enter, or “land,” on your website. And despite a common misconception, that’s not the same thing as a homepage.

While a homepage is essentially a table of contents for the entire website, a landing page is a much more focused beast. In other words, it takes one section of your website and becomes the place that people land when they want to learn more about it. And you want them to do one very clear thing while they’re there. The industry term for that is a “call to action.”

The definition of a landing page on Wikipedia is as follows:

The purpose of the … landing page is to persuade a visitor to take action by completing a transaction. This is accomplished by providing a form that needs to be filled out. The visitor information is obtained in order to add the visitor’s email address to a mailing list as a future prospect. A transactional email campaign can be established in the future. The goal is to capture as much information about the visitor as possible. The ultimate goal is to convert the visitor into a customer.

We even have a landing page on our own site. Check out this page and you will see that we have one very clear call to action here: give us your contact info! Make sense?

What Is a Book Landing Page?
So how does this concept of a landing page translate to a book?

Think about it this way: On your author website, you may offer a blog, links to connect with you via social networking, an email sign-up, a link to buy the book, downloadable PDFs and more. On a landing page, you reduce the confusion for visitors and give them one very clear direction. In this instance, it would be a large “Buy the Book” button — and no other options.

Statistics show that the fewer options you offer, the greater the chances that people will follow the one option that does exist. In this case, book sales.

What Would Be on a Book Landing Page?
If the primary purpose of your book landing page is to sell copies (which we are assuming it is), then everything on the page should be with the goal of convincing someone to buy the book. Examples of what to include are:

  • A large photo of the book cover, along with the title and publishing details
  • An eye-catching list of reasons why someone would benefit from the book (i.e. Double your salary in one year after reading this book!)
  • Testimonials/review quotes about the book
  • A large “Buy the Book” link, with options to purchase through Amazon, B&N, etc…

Who Should You Send to a Book Landing Page? Who Should You Not?
Since we’re assuming that the main purpose of your landing page is to sell books, then anyone who you would like to buy a copy of the book can — and should — be sent to your landing page. So if, for example, you’re talking about your book at a book club meeting or at the public library, you can hand out business cards sending people to the landing page of your book.

But there are plenty of people whom you might want to visit your website and NOT buy a copy of the book. For example, if you’re talking to an agent about the next book that you’re working on, or if you are encouraging someone who has already read your book to sign up for your email newsletter, you do not want to send them to a landing page. Instead, you want them to peruse the rest of the site and take a different action.

This is why a book landing page is simply one page of an entire website. It will be perfect for some visitors, but it’s not where you’d want to send others.

So Do You Need a Book Landing Page?
That depends. Here are some questions to ask yourself when making that decision:

  • What percentage of your audience fits into the category of people who you would want to simply purchase your book?
  • Would you rather visitors to do more than one thing when they arrive (say, buy the book AND sign up for your email newsletter)
  • What is the biggest strength of your site? Is it the book? Your blog? Would someone “miss out” if all they did was buy the book?
  • Is your main website an author website? If so — and is named after you (JaneSmith.com, for example) — then you may want to consider having a book landing page with the book title as a URL for clear differentiation.

Not every author needs a book landing page. But it’s definitely a tool that any author should have in his or her back pocket to boost book sales.

Happy Landing!

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linkedin-groups

Writers Speak Up: “My Biggest Author Mistake Was…”

linkedin-groupsThere’s a new conversation going on in an author group I belong to on LinkedIn. And boy is it a doozy!

The group is called “Authors, Writers, Publishers, Editors, & Writing Professionals.” The question? “What is the worst mistake you made in the history of your career as an author, which you will not want a fellow author to make?” Here are some of the responses you won’t want to miss…

——-

On Writing a Manuscript

“I think my biggest mistake was starting and stopping. Several times now. If I had just perservered and pushed through the mental and creative blocks and the ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ stuff, I’d be a lot further ahead.”
Patricia A. Guthrie

“I sent a children’s book manuscript to a publisher. Six months later, Hasbro was advertising toys named like characters in my book. Coincidence? Maybe, but that’s the reason for my decision to copyright everything–first and foremost.”
M.H. Johnson

“One of the worst things I ever did was to accept terms on contracts which I could have challenged and made infinitely better. I did learn more about all of this with time, but, looking back, I let too much get away from me and whenever I teach a class on how to negotiate contracts, I urge writers and illustrators to dig into contract negotiations in every way they can, do research, ask questions BEFORE you sign.”

Deborah Nourse Lattimore

——-

On Getting Published/Self-Publishing

“I self published those first two books that should have been left in the drawer.”
Adrian Collins

“My biggest mistake? Self-publishing my first novel. I had what seemed good reasons at the time, and I’m not really ashamed of the book now; although it could certainly have used an editor, it’s not full of typos, grammar and punctuation errors, etc. But I had NO idea how to market anything, and consequently almost no one has bought or read the book.”
Mary Patterson Thornburg

“My biggest mistake in my career as an author came shortly after selling my first book to Macmillan for a big advance. I thought I could do it all myself, so I turned down an offer from a top-tier NYC literary agent who offered to represent me. Why should I give someone else a percentage for what I could do myself?

“Sure wish I had signed, because once I started writing fiction, I learned what an agent does to earn that percentage.”
Larry Constantine

“For me, it has been choosing publishers. I seem to have a run of back luck with them. I’m not bragging here, but with my third novel I had five publisher’s offer me a contract, and in the end, I ended up choosing the wrong one. Wish I could have that one back. The publisher has an awful editing and formatting team, and they don’t like to pay their authors. I’m finding more and more that you need an agent to make it anywhere in this business. Even though all three of my publisher’s have been traditional, they are small presses, and like the rest of the world they want more money…”
david brown

——-

On Post-Publication Marketing/Outreach

“Being an ass in public to fellow authors, publishing professionals, or even fans can be a career killer. There are still stories circulating about things authors have said during panel discussions at conventions. Rule #1: don’t be a dick.”
Chris Jackson

“My biggest mistake was not educating myself on the norms of traditional publishing. I was fortunate to publish with one of the big six (and some really great things have come from that) but I relied on them to do the marketing, not realising I would have that support for only the month of publication and then it was up to me. I was totally unprepared. I should have had a website, social media presence, my own press releases, marketing plan etc etc. Big learning curve!”
Elly Taylor

 

So what has been your biggest author mistake so far? What would you want to warn other authors not to do? Share your stories in the comments box below!

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calendar

December Author Round-up: Must Reads for the New Year

calendarThere have been a lot of good pieces of content published over the past month — many of which I highly recommend for authors. Here’s a quick round-up of our five favorites (in addition to our own, of course).

Amazon Offers All-You-Can-Eat Books. Authors Turn Up Noses.
New York Times, December 28

Set book marketing goals for 2015
Build Book Buzz, December 16

Publishing Service Index: December 2014
Independent Publishing Magazine, December 5

The Author Platform Effect: Techniques to Grow Your Mobile Audience
Nessgraphica, December 3

Why you shouldn’t give your book away
Build Book Buzz, December 2

Enjoy! And stay tuned for more!

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2015_glasses

5 Author Website-Related New Year’s Resolutions

author website 2015 resolutions2015 is rapidly approaching, and with a new year comes new goals, new technologies and new promises. With that in mind, here are five things that authors might consider making their 2015 new year’s resolution.

1. I will blog/update my site regularly. There’s a reason this is the first potential resolution on the list. This is where I see the most authors getting lax, or letting things slide. I regularly see blogs that haven’t been updated in months, or “upcoming events” listed that have dates long in the past. Look, it’s hard to stay on top of these types of things. After all, authors have a lot of other things to do. But consider this: if you visited a website and saw that it hadn’t been updated in a while, what would your reaction be? Probably something like, “If he/she isn’t paying attention to it, why should I?” That in and of itself is enough reason for you to make sure your website is always current, and looks like it’s tended to.

2. I will make sure my site is mobile-friendly. Mobile is taking over the world. Seriously. The number of mobile users has grown tremendously in the past few years, and it’s only continuing to get larger. Whether it’s phones or tablets, a large percentage of web users nowadays are not using a desktop computer with a large screen. So when is the last time you looked at your site on a mobile device? How about multiple mobile devices (say, an iPhone and a tablet)? If your site doesn’t offer the optimal user experience on those devices, then you should make your goal for 2015 to make sure that every mobile user has as good an experience on your site as a desktop user.

3. I will begin adding video to my website. I recently posted another entry on video. And, if you haven’t gotten into video yet, the numbers are pretty scary. In short, video is the future of the web. As much as you and I may be “authors” (i.e. people of the written word), we will fall behind the times unless we start thinking about ways to incorporate video into our author websites.  Whether they’re vlogs, book trailers or curated YouTube videos, don’t let video pass you by this upcoming year.

4. I will take an objective look at my site. When you look at your author website on a regular basis, it’s hard to know what it looks like to new users. It’s kind of like your spouse: he or she may look beautiful to you every day, because you don’t notice that receding hairline or those few extra pounds. But to someone new, those things might be evident. In other words, take a step back and look at your website like you’re seeing it for the first time. Does the design look current? Is it clear at first glance what kind of writer you are? Does the tagline you put under your name still apply? Is there anything on the site that looks out of place? Sometimes, it helps to step away for a little bit before you come back with fresh eyes. You may be surprised at what you see.

5. I will think about new ways to make my site interesting. This is where I stop giving you specific ideas and toss the ball into your court. The best author websites are the ones in which the authors have started their own trends. Maybe they are asking readers to vote on a title for their next book. Maybe they’re running a writing contest for aspiring writers in their genre. Maybe they’re doing live video chats with users, answering questions. The ideas are endless, and it’s up to you to come up with them. So make a resolution to think outside the box this upcoming year and make your site one that others will want to emulate.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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pottermore

JK Rowling and “Book Secrets”

pottermoreWhen I put together a proposal for a fiction author, I often recommend adding a feature to the site called “Behind the Book” or “Book Secrets.”

Well, it appears as if JK Rowling is taking my advice (wink, wink).

What JK Rowling Is Doing

I came across this story today about new writings she is releasing on Pottermore.com in honor of the holidays.

According to the Daily Telegraph, “One of the stories that will be published as part of the ‘festive surprise’ will contain details about what Rowling thinks about the young wizard’s enemy, Draco Malfoy.”

This follows her previous Halloween post in which she shared her “personal opinions on the character of Dolores Umbridge, a teacher at Hogwarts whom she compared to Lord Voldemort because of her ‘desire to control, to punish, and to inflict pain, all in the name of law and order.’ … Rowling also explained that Umbridge was based on two real people she had encountered during her life.”

What You Can Do Like JK Rowling

So what do I mean when I recommend posting a section called “Behind the Book” or “Book Secrets?” Well, I like to think of it as a place on the website — be it a page or a series of blog entries — where people who have read the book can get “bonus” material that they can’t find anywhere else. Think of it as a special thank you for those who read the book, and a way to keep fans of your writing engaged between book publications.

Examples of the types of things you can post in this section include:

  • tidbits on how certain characters got their names
  • which characters were based on real-life people
  • segments of the book that might have been cut during the editing phase
  • at which points you might have hit writers block
  • if there are hidden messages in the book that a reader might have missed
  • which characters are your favorites
  • which celebrities you could envision playing your characters in a movie

and the list of options is endless!

So take my advice (and JK Rowling’s, apparently). Think about a Book Secrets page on your author website.

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video

5 Reasons Why (and How) to Include Video on Your Author Website

videoVideo may not be the easiest type of content to produce for an author website. After all, it’s a whole lot easier for a writer to … you know … WRITE than it is to set up a camera, try to look nice, create a video, edit a video and then upload that video.

But here are some statistics that might really surprise you about the future of video on the web.

  1. One third of all online activity now is spent watching videos.
  2. People who watch online videos are more likely to share what they’ve watched.
  3. Video will account for nearly 75 percent of all web traffic by 2017
  4. Users more likely to click on a link in Google search if it shows a video
  5. The second biggest search engine now is YouTube. It has more search than AOL, Bing & Yahoo combined.

Convinced, yet, that video is becoming a must for all websites? Author websites are certainly no exception.

With that in mind, here are a few different ways that we’ve seen authors successfully use video on their websites:

  • Book trailers (examples: http://chipwagarbooks.com and http://newtonfrohlich.com)
    A book trailer, much like a movie trailer, is like a video promo for a book. And book trailers can take many forms — from actual actors telling the story of the book to a compilation of words and photos from the book with a musical background. Figure out how to tell your book’s story in two minutes or less and consider having a book trailer produced to spread the word.
  • Book readings
    Do you ever do readings of the book for bookstores, book clubs, etc..? Why not have those recorded and shared on your website? After all, it shouldn’t only be people in your local area who have the benefit of watching you read an excerpt from your book.
  • Author interviews (examples: http://laurenmbloom.com and http://themanopauseman.com)
    Were you interviewed on local TV? Make sure to get a link that allows you to embed the video on your website. And if you haven’t been interviewed, don’t fret. You can create your own interview! Write out some questions that you envision your readers would be interested in having answered, and have a trusted friend “interview” you and ask you those questions.
  • Live video chats
    Consider having a one-time, live video event during which you invite readers to join you online and ask questions, provide feedback on your book, etc… This can be done via YouStream or a similar service. Then make sure the entire session is recorded — it can then continue to live on your site in the form of a playable video for future visitors.
  • Vlogs (example: http://the3minutementor.com)
    Short for “video logs,” vlogs are basically blogs conveyed in the form of video. And much like blogs, these vlogs are relatively simple to produce and don’t require a whole lot of professional preparation. Just like you would be inspired to write a blog entry, you would be inspired to do a quick vlog. Just turn on your webcam, share your tidbit and post it. Voila!

Do you have other video ideas that you’ve used on your author website? Share them with us now!

 

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www

6 Tips for Choosing the Right Domain Name for Your Author Website

wwwIt’s the first thing you do when you decide to create an author website. It also may be the most important: choosing your domain name.

Here are six things to keep in mind when you make that big decision.

1. What’s the purpose of the site? Is this a book-focused site, a series-focused site or an author-focused site? In most cases, authors will say the third and choose their own name as the domain name. This allows the site to expand down the line when the author publishes another book, decides to do speaking engagements, or branches out to other types of writing. Regardless of your priorities, it’s important to recognize what the main purpose of the site is — selling books, promoting the next book in a series, attracting a publisher, etc… — and then choosing a name accordingly.

 2. What’s in a name? If you decide to go with your name as the domain name, there are a few things to keep in mind as you’re reserving your final URL. For example, if your name is very common, the domain may already be taken. MarySmith.com may not be available any more. In those cases, consider MarySmithBooks.com or AuthorMarySmith.com. On the other hand, if your name is too unusual — say Francescha Verranzano — you need to be aware that a lot of people may misspell your name. In those instances, you should think about the most common misspellings of your name and possibly reserve the misspelled domain names as well (more on that below).

3. Go out on a limb for a .com. So MarySmith.com is taken. So how about MarySmith.net? A good general rule is that you should try everything under the sun to get a .com. People tend not to remember the .net at the end of a domain. So you’re better off with MarySmithBooks.com than you are with MarySmith.net.

4. Avoid hyphens. Another common “out” authors often take when their first choice for a domain name is taken is to go with a hyphen between their first and last name — say Mary-Smith.com. This is yet another instance of choosing something that is commonly forgotten.

5. Feel free to reserve multiple domains. There’s only one domain name that’s going to be the official domain of your site. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t purchase as many domains as you’d like and then have each of them forward to your primary one. So if Mary Smith writes a book titled “The Road Once Walked,” she could have MarySmithBooks.com as her primary domain name, but also have anyone who enters TheRoadOnceWalked.com be redirected to her author site. Similarly Francescha Verranzano might want to purchase FrancheskaVerrazano.com and have it redirect to her site. Domains are relatively cheap, and there’s no downside to owning multiple ones.

6. Splurge and spend the $10 on an actual domain. Too many people pinch pennies in the wrong places. A domain name is one of them. Sure, you can have a site for free where the domain name ends in .wordpress.com or .blogspot.com. But that just confuses things for users. A real domain name will make you look far more professional, and the cost is really minimal.

 

Did you make any mistakes in choosing a domain? Anything you wish you’d done differently? Share your ideas with us!

 

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writing-query-letter

7 Tips for Authors on Writing a Successful Query Letter

writing-query-letter
Query letters are a lot like resumes: People are always wanting to know how to write one that stands out from the pack. And most people don’t have a clue…

Based on everything that I’ve read and heard from other authors, here’s what I’ve learned about how to write a great query letter….

1. Start with the essentials. Don’t forget to include the most important information early on in the letter! That includes the tentative book title, word count, genre and target audience. An agent wants to know that these things are a good fit before he or she reads any further. Then…

2. Grab an agent’s attention. Forget the bland, “I am contacting you today seeking representation….” That’s boring, and it’s true of everyone. So, early on in your letter, include an outstanding quote from the book, a tantalizing question that the book raises, or an endorsement. Make sure the agent gest an immediate feel for your characters, your voice, and your story.

3. Show your professionalism. Make it clear in your letter that you’re not just a wanna-be writer. You’re a professional writer. Explain what you’ve already published, the writer’s conferences you’ve attended, and whatever other work makes it clear that you’re not just some Joe Schmoe who wrote a book.

4. Compare your book to others in your genre. This is yet another area in which you can really show how savvy you are. Explain which other books in your genre are similar to yours, and how and why yours is different. If there’s a way to also work in an explanation about why your book would be especially popular in the upcoming years (i.e. the Presidential election), make sure to do so.

5. Keep it brief. Like anyone else scouring through hundreds of letters, an agent is probably not going to read every word in your query letter. So limit the length to one page at most, and make sure the strongest elements stand out.

6. Tailor it to each individual agent. Again, think of it like a resume. Each job is different. So is each agent. Research what other authors he or she has represented before, discuss how you found him or her, and why you think you’d be a good fit for one another. If the agent has a blog, make sure to read it before drafting the letter, and reference it in the query.

7. Show off your marketing talents. In today’s world of book publishing, marketing a book is the responsibility of the author … until you’re a best-seller of course. With that in mind, you’ll get a huge leg up on the competition if you explicitly state in the query letter what you’ve already done — and what you plan to do — to market the book. That means including a link to your author website, mentioning the number of followers you’ve already built on Twitter, highlighting your blog and/or Facebook presence, etc….

Follow these seven guidelines and you’ll greatly increase your chances of getting a call from an agent. After all, writing a great book isn’t necessarily what makes an author a bestseller. Getting that book picked up by the right people is just as important.

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ebooks

Print or eBook: Which Is Right for You?

ebooksI spent much of this morning reading about trends in the sales of print vs. digital books. So what did I learn?

Well, the good news is that the traditional book definitely isn’t dead. Indie booksellers and traditionalist rejoice!

But here’s another thing that’s important to know: whether your book will sell well in print or ebook form may very well depend on your genre. Consider this…

  1.  Your nonfiction book will sell better in print. I would philosophize that this is because nonfiction books — self-help books, cookbooks, etc…. — are ones that people want to keep on their bookshelves with pride, and refer back to years later. You just can’t do that with an ebook.
  2. If your book is Sci-fi, paranormal romance, or Christian fiction, it’s likely to sell much better in electronic format. Statistics show that these are the three genres in which ebooks are far outpacing print.
  3. If you’re writing a children’s bookgo with both! Many people love the digital versions of children’s books and all its interactivity. Other people think of it as more “screen time” for kids and less “true reading.” As one person recently said in a letter to the editor printed in the NY Times, “If the tablet has Clifford the dog barking, then your child doesn’t have to imagine the sound of Clifford the dog barking. Electronic devices obviate the need for children to use their imagination because it does it for them.”
  4. Your erotica book is best suited for digital. Think about it. In an airport, on a beach or in any other public place … people can read erotica in ebook format without anyone having any idea what they’re reading. Holding a physical book? Not so much.
  5. Similarly, literary works do best in print … in which nosy people can actually see the covers. As an article in Britain’s The Guardian points out: “There is a literary snobbishness at play here, clearly. Reading has always been a competitive sport. Why else would anyone have read Ulysses?”

And finally, here’s a stat to really throw you for a loop. A recent study found that today’s electronic generation — kids between the ages of 16 and 24 — actually prefer print books to ebooks.

The top-rated reasons for preferring physical to digital products were: “I like to hold the product” (51%), “I am not restricted to a particular device” (20%), “I can easily share it” (10%), “I like the packaging” (9%), and “I can sell it when used” (6%).

So, if in doubt, do both. But if you have to choose, use these interesting stats above to determine which route is the right one for you to take. Happy Publishing!

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kindlescout

5 Things Authors Need to Know About Amazon Kindle Scout

kindlescoutHave you heard about Amazon’s new crowdsourcing publishing program? It’s called Amazon Kindle Scout, and it’s basically American Idol meets book publishing. Here are five things you need to know about this program that might just turn the publishing world upside down.

1. Almost anyone can post their manuscript to Amazon Kindle Scout. It’s kind of like an open audition. If you have written a book in English and want to get it published, you can post it through Amazon Kindle Scout and let the voters decide. The first genres open for submission are Romance, Mystery & Thriller and Science Fiction & Fantasy, but that is expected to expand going forward. Any adult with a valid U.S. bank account and a U.S. social security number or tax identification number is eligible.

2. There is no due date. Authors can post books at any time thoughout the year. Thirty days after a book is posted, the Kindle Scout team will review reader votes to determine whether the book will be published by Kindle Press. An author will be notified within 45 days of submission whether or not their book was selected. There will be a lot of voting going on during those 30 days, so it’s in your best interest to make sure your friends, family and colleagues are aware of the timeframe during which they can show their support for your book.

3. You can check out other entries before submitting your own. In fact, it’s highly recommended that you take a look at what other authors have done (book descriptions, thank-you notes, etc…) through Amazon Kindle Scout before submitting your own materials. See what’s working and what’s not, and learn from it!

4. This is in no way self-publishing. According to Publishers Weekly, selected authors will receive a $1,500 advance, a five-year renewable publishing contract and a 50% e-book royalty rate upon selection. In other words, if your book gets chosen for publication, you don’t pay a penny to get your book published. That’s every author’s dream right about now.

5. You must agree to the Kindle Press Submission & Publishing Agreement to participate. Under the agreement, you grant Amazon a 45-day exclusivity period to consider your work for publication. If they select your book, Amazon then has the exclusive, worldwide rights to publish your book in digital and audio formats in all languages for a 5-year renewable term. If they don’t select your book, you get all your rights back after 45 days.

Learn more about Amazon Kindle Scout and whether or not it’s the right option for you.

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