Roundup: 4 Must-Reads on Author Websites and Author Marketing

author-website-desktopOver the last two weeks, I’ve come across four really wonderful pieces of content (on other sites) about author websites and author marketing.

Here’s a quick synopsis of each one, and links to read them in full. Authors won’t want to miss these!

1. 10 Ways Authors Can Help Each Other with Book Marketing

Here are some of the highlights of the 10 great tips listed in this piece on how authors can work together to cross-market:

  • Plan a “local authors night” at a bookstore
  • Guest blog for each other
  • Read and review each other’s books
  • Use their books as contest giveaway

2. Book Party:  Five Steps to Success

This post, written by Ellen Cassedy (who recently hosted a book party for my poet friend), includes tips for a successful book party. Examples include:

  • Choosing the right time
  • Not being afraid to take risks
  • Using social media to promote the event
  • Planning a program for the event

3. How to Create a Street Team for Your Book

Author Meagan Francis put together a full-blown “street team” to promote her book. Now, she shares her story on Build Book Buzz. Some of the questions she answers include:

  • Who should be on my launch team?
  • How should I approach potential launch team members?
  • What should I ask of my launch team members?
  • Should you do this too?

4. How to Sell Your Books With Your Own Website Quiz

This piece is somewhat mistitled. It sounds like you need to create a website quiz to sell books. But that’s not what this is. Instead, it’s a quiz that YOU can take to determine how good a job you’re doing selling your book through your author website. And I think it’s pretty good. Questions asked include:

  • Have you hired a webmaster without writing your web copy first?
  • Do you make it easy for your potential buyer to buy?
  • Do you give your visitors what they want – free content?
  • Does your website increase client base and product sales enough?

Read these four pieces and you will have a head start on marketing and selling your book. Enjoy!



A Creative Way to Get People Interacting With Your Author Website

I stumbled across this article on Publishers Weekly this morning. It talks about a major publisher — Berkley, an imprint of Penguin — testing out two book covers for the same book. The goal is to see which one gets a better response.

As part of the testing process, they are posting photos of both covers (right) on Facebook and asking people to vote on which one they like better.book_covers

According to PW, “The ‘V’ cover seemed to gain traction on Penguin’s ‘Love Always’ Facebook page, whose followers are being asked to vote on their cover preference. Among 29 comments posted as of Monday morning, 21 endorsed the red V, and 20 of those endorsements came from women. There were six votes for the image, three of them by men.”

It’s a “great way to make everyone part of the experience,” said Cindy Hwang, Virgin’s editor.

And this got me thinking … what’s to stop other authors — even those who are self-publishing — from doing the same thing?

The Benefits

Utilizing this type of polling/commenting is certainly a good way to make readers feel involved in the site (and in the production of the book).

It’s especially helpful for authors who have one book published already (and a fanbase in place) and want to build some buzz for their second book.

Best of all, website visitors are really likely to share a fun poll or conversation like this one. Which means that not only will you be strengthening your own fanbase, you’ll actually be expanding your fanbase. It’s a win-win.

How to Make It Work

So what can you do on your author website? Here are a few ideas that I’ve seen work…

  • Let readers vote on — and comment on — their favorite book cover
  • Let readers choose the name of a character in the book
  • Ask readers which two characters from your first book should become a couple in the second

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Think outside the box, and come up with your own ideas for how to make your author website a truly interactive place. Then share them with us!


Copying an Author Website Design: What’s Legal, What’s Ethical

mirror_imageWe recently received a request from a new client. He loved a previous author website design that we had built, and asked us to pretty much duplicate it exactly — just replacing the other author’s photos with his own.

This led to quite a conundrum for us. And here’s why….

Legal Issues
I’m not a lawyer. Nor do I play one on TV. But I do have to wonder what an author actually owns the rights to in terms of their website design. The site in question (which I will not identify, for obvious reasons) was a uniquely-built website that a client paid top dollar for. We designed and coded it from scratch, and gave him a wonderful final product. It was not a template, nor was it ever intended to be a template.

That leaves me wondering … does this client own the rights to that design? How much would need to be changed for it to be a different site?

As authors, we hear about plagiarism all the time. We are careful not to plagiarize. We understand just what is okay to copy (and source) and what is not. This is far less clear when it comes to design.

Ethical Issues
Let’s just say, for the moment, that it’s perfectly legal for us to take the design that we built one client and repurpose it for another client. That still leaves another question, though … is it ethical?

In other words, if we promised one client a unique website, and collected payment for a unique website, would it be unethical for us to then, essentially, turn it into a pre-built template and re-use it for another client?

Our feeling is that this just isn’t fair. Legal or not, it’s not ethical.

Finally, I should ask the question: Why would an author want a website that’s identical to someone else’s? It’s one thing to say, “I really like this site, and I want to copy this, this and this” from it. It’s another thing to say that you want a site that matches it exactly.

There is the chance that someone — an agent or publisher, perhaps — will stumble upon both sites and wonder how they got to be exactly the same (and what that says about the authors in question). It’s also possible that the author whose site it was first would find the second one and be … well … a bit peeved that someone else copied their work. In my opinion, the drawbacks of this kind of arrangement would far outweigh the benefits for all parties involved.

So what do we do? Well, we’ve told this client that we cannot copy someone else’s website entirely. We can take bits and pieces, but we cannot replicate it to a tee.

Much like plagiarism, there’s a fine line here. But it’s a line that we had to draw. And I know I’ll sleep better because of it.


What Authors Are Saying About Book Promotion Musts

book-promotionI came across a conversation on LinkedIn this morning. One new author posed a very open-ended question, “What is a must have in your Book Promotion Plan?”

The answers, of course, varied a great deal — depending on their backgrounds, genres, etc… But here are some of the highlights.



Julia BohannaYou need to be connected everywhere: Twitter and Facebook in particular. Engage people with YOU – why you wrote the book, subjects that are close to your heart, small parts of your day. Link with many, talk to many but do not sell in bald pushy ways. It’s about being out in the world, making people engage with you but in a crafty way, you will be building up anticipation for your book.
Julia Bohanna

Raam AnandI’m not sure whether you have “webinars” in your marketing plan… but depending on your genre, I suggest doing webinars regularly, using Google+ Hangouts. I have had great success with webinars and when people are getting valuable content on the webinar, most of them usually don’t mind buying the book, right off the bat (at the end of the webinar). You can even give a bonus (chapter, video?) for buying your book right after the webinar.
Raam Anand


Karen Sanderson Creat[e] a tribe of friends and substantial, meaningful connections before you promote a book.  … Promote others you believe in — they are more likely to promote you if you have done it for them.
Karen Sanderson

Jim SnowdenThe three elements I’d throw in would be settling on measurable objectives, deciding on (and sticking to) a reasonable budget, and pooling resources with fellow authors.

A measurable objective could be something like raising page views on your blog by 5% per month, acquiring 20 Amazon reviews in the next 60 days, or arranging 5 local bookstore events. If you exceed or meet those objectives, great. If you fall short, you can reevaluate your methods.
Jim Snowden


I, of course, added another comment about the importance of an author website. If you have ideas you’d like added to this list, post them in the comments box below. Otherwise, I will continue to add to this list as interesting comments come in.


What Annoys You on Author Websites?

shoutingToday’s blog post is intended to be more of a conversation than anything else. So … here goes.

There are tons of good author websites out there, and many others that are less than desirable.

So today, let’s focus on those that aren’t our favorites. Use the comments box below to share with us the pet peeves that you have about author websites. I’m going to start by sharing five of my “favorites.”

1. Music playing as soon as you arrive (there might be people around me!)

2. Too much design and not enough information (pretty only goes so far…)

3. A navigation with too many links (sites should be easy to browse)

4. Navigation that changes from page to page (this is how we know where we are, people!)

5. A Flash intro (need I say more?)


Okay, now it’s your turn. Share with us what really bugs you about author websites. Then make sure not to make these mistakes on your own site!


5 Commonly Misused Phrases Related to Author Websites

surprised-faceMost people, in general, like to think (or act) like they know a lot more than they actually do. Writers creating their own author websites is no exception.

With that in mind, here are five phrases that I’ve heard from clients more than once in relation to author websites. Everyone will start sounding a whole lot more tech-savvy when they stop using phrases like these…

  1. I want a web page.
    Yes, there is such thing as a “web page.” It refers to one page of a website. When a client tells me she wants to build herself an author webpage, it’s like nails on a chalkboard. If you want more than one page, it’s an author website you’re asking about.
  2. I want to download a video to my site.
    People commonly confuse “upload” and “download.” You download a file FROM a site. You upload a file TO a site. Uploading is sharing, and downloading is taking.
  3. What should the buttons on my website be?
    Those of us in the industry do not call them buttons. Nor do we call them title bars. They are the elements of your website navigation.
  4. What happens when people press on that link?
    Users don’t “press” on links. They click on links.
  5. Is my site search-engine friendly?
    Nearly every site out there today is search-engine friendly. Unless you specifically block the site from being indexed by the search engines (tech jargon, I know), it’s “friendly.” What you really want to ask is if the site is optimized for the search engines. Just because it’s friendly (i.e. It can be read by Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc…) doesn’t mean that you’ve taken the necessary steps to optimize it for your name, your book title and select keywords.

Designers/developers/web editors out there … are there other terms like these that you repeatedly hear people using mistakenly? If so, please share them with us in the comments box!


5 Summertime Goals for Your Author Website

beachMemorial Day has come and gone, and we know what that means … the unofficial start of summer. But while everyone else is thinking about sunscreen, beach towels and barbecues, I’m encouraging you to take this opportunity to set some summer goals for your author website.

Here are five ideas….

1. Set traffic goals. I’m starting with the hardest goal of all. That’s because website traffic notoriously goes down in the summertime. (People have better things to do in beautiful weather than sit in front of a computer all day). But what’s better than a challenge? So if you don’t have one already, set up a Google Analytics account (it’s free) and integrate it into your website. Then you can check your website traffic reports as often as you’d like to find out how many people have visited the site, which pages/posts they visit the most, how long they stayed, etc… Analyze those numbers and make changes to your site accordingly. Then set a traffic goal for yourself. If, for example, you got 100 site visitors in the month of April, aim for 150 per month this summer. It’s a high goal — especially during the summer — but set it, aim for it, and do what you can to get it. After all, more traffic = more book sales!

2. Blog more often. Yup. It’s true. The more you blog, the more traffic you’ll get to your site — not only now, but for months and months to come. That’s because more blog posts will improve your site’s search engine optimization placement and encourage more people to sign up for your RSS feed or email newsletter. Make a promise to yourself that you will blog more this summer — say twice a week instead of once — and then see how your numbers may have improved by the time the summer winds down.

3. Get creative. It’s very easy to fall into a pattern with your website. Maybe you log in once or twice a week to blog. Maybe you post news or links every once in a while. Consider this your opportunity to think outside the box a bit more and add some new life to your author website. For example, think about adding a weekly poll to the site. Or hosting a live chat. Or having a free book giveaway contest. It’s summer, so it’s time to shake things up a bit.

4. Make your book essential summer reading. People may spend less time in front of their computers over the summer, but there is one thing they do a lot more of: read! Take a look at your website right now. Is there anything you’re doing to promote your book as good summer reading material? If it’s beach reading, make sure that you sell it as a must-read for beachgoers. If it’s good school-related summer reading for parents/teachers/kids, note that as well. Figure out how you can make your book a can’t-miss this summer.

5. Promote to new faces. There are probably a lot of people you’re going to see this summer that you don’t see the rest of the year. Maybe they’re parents of other kids at your child’s summer camp. Maybe they’re friends from the beach club. This is your chance to get your book and your website in front of a fresh set of faces. So get those business cards printed. Make sure to mention your book to other parents at camp. See if you can get your book’s poster hung up in the swimming club.

If you need any help accomplishing these goals, you can always reach out to us for a free consultation. But execute these ideas, and you should notice a significant increase in your website’s traffic numbers (and sales numbers) by Labor Day. Happy Summer, everyone!


Two Way Street: How Adding Interactive Elements to Your Author Website Will Help You Gain Followers

Are you looking to really gain a following on your author website? Have you been struggling to drive traffic to your blog via social networking and post sharing alone?

You are not alone. It isn’t easy marketing your books online. The fact that there are so many means of online communication — and it is simpler than ever to make use of them — mean that standing out has become difficult, to say the least.

So how do you really capture interest? Establish a two-way street with your customers. If you can reach them and encourage discussion you will open new doors.

“But the blog section of my website already encourages comments…” you might say, “and I am not getting any/very many of those!”

The good news is that there are still many unique, interactive channels of communication that will help you stand out if you have the time to put some extra effort in. Here are a few:

1. Polls

Let’s face it — everyone loves to give their opinion. Make use of the wp-polls plugin to ask questions of your visitors and easily track their responses. Your visitors will love this.

You can even do a “poll of the week” with a new blog entry where you ask your readers what they thought of your most recent book, who their favorite fictional character in your trilogy was, or provide a multiple choice of their favorite genres.

Polls are easy to add to your WordPress website, and you can write an engaging blurb with your poll on Facebook to attract readers to your blog.

2. Quizzes

Don’t worry – you aren’t getting quizzed on this blog entry.

There is a great WordPress plugin that allows you to easily build tests and quizzes. How can you make use of this feature exactly? Here are some possibilities:

  • If you are a children’s author you can put together a fun quiz for kids about your books.
  • Psychologists can write up their own personality tests (we put one of these together for one of our authors). And here’s the catch: visitors need to buy the book to take the quiz!
  • Other authors can put together tests to see how well readers understand themes in the novels.

You might think that these tests are a pretty silly addition to an author website and will not help you gain readers. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Tests and quizzes are HUGE in the online world. At the very least, putting one together and sharing it on your favorite social networking outlet should get you a few clicks right off the bat.

3. Contests

One of the best tricks you can use in conjunction with a new release is to have a “free book giveaway.” You could put together a contest where the winner receives a free, signed copy of your new book, or other prize that you would like to use as a giveaway.

The earlier you announce the contest and the more you cross-post the details to social networking outlets and your blog, the more entrants you will receive.

And let’s face it — when it comes to the online world, the only thing people like more than personality quizzes is free stuff. This is a great trick you can use to build a fanbase right off the bat. Even those who don’t win the contest will feel more connected to your work.

4. Forums

This one is a bit tricker as I don’t recommend adding a forum to your site unless you already have a decent traffic base. If you are getting fewer than about 100-150 regular returning visitors to your author blog per month, it might be too soon to consider a forum. In fact, it might be a liability having a bunch of zeros in the “new posts” section — people will think that you aren’t popular. You wouldn’t want that, would you?

Still, if you already have a decent following, this will encourage readers to return to your site with some regularity and engage in discussion with other forum members. This is great for creating large increases in traffic and returning visitors.

It also will help you build up excitement for your current and future releases as you get to watch your fans discuss your books!


Are there other interactive elements you’ve found to be successful on your author website? Share them in our comments section below.


Websites for Authors: Marketing Tools or Personal Exhibitions?

websites-for-authorsDo you know what one of the biggest struggles we run into with authors is? It’s the difference between what the author likes and what we know works.

Rather than try to explain further, let me give you an example…

A Hypothetical Situation

Author Jane Smith just finished writing a book.  She reaches out to us about building her an author website.

Based on all the information we collect about her book, her audience, and her goals for the website, we put together a proposal that includes recommendations for site layout, color scheme and content. It includes a tagline that summarizes what her book is about, a navigation that is easy to use, a color scheme that resembles the book cover, and various functionalities within the site itself that we have found to be helpful in increasing book sales.

But Jane pushes back. She wasn’t happy with the cover to begin with, and doesn’t want the site to use the same colors as the book cover. She also wants a super-large banner at the top of the site (which would push the content below the fold) because her best friend had a similar site and she really liked the way it looked. Oh, and she doesn’t want those large “buy the book” buttons because they seem too promotional.

We have hit an impasse.

An Analogy

Now, let’s forget about websites for authors for a moment and talk about a similar situation in a different industry. In many cases, I like to equate building an author website with staging a home for sale.

If you were designing the interior of your home for the purpose of living in it, you would design it exactly to your specifications. After all, it would be for you, making it essential that you … you know … like it. And if your favorite color happens to be purple, then you should design your home with a purple theme. It’s for you, after all.

But if you’re redesigning the interior of a home with the purpose of flipping or selling the house, it would be a completely different story. In that situation, your goal would be to decorate the house in a way that other people would like.

And there are professionals who understand what needs to be done to get a house sold; colors should be neutral (it doesn’t matter how much you like purple), furniture should be sparse, personal photos should be completely removed, and everything should look fresh and clean.

Building an author website is much like doing interior design of a home for the purpose of a sale. Personal preference needs to come second. The expertise of professionals should come first.

The Lesson

There’s no denying the fact that an author should be happy with his or her website. Authors need to feel proud of the final product, and be comfortable promoting it as an extension of his or her professional self. That’s why we always work hard to find a compromise with Jane Smith and every other author who may have strong opinions about a site.

But at the end of the day, websites for authors are marketing tools. After all, you’re not paying the money and investing the time to get it built so that you’ll like it. You’re investing the time, money and effort to advance your career and/or sell books. And it’s important to keep that in mind when you’re working with a website design firm. They’ve done this before. They know what works (and what doesn’t).


5 Ways to Repurpose Content on Your Author Website

repurpose-mannequinsAs an author, you’re pretty good at writing. What you’re often not as good at is finding the time to do all that writing. For many, that can include blogging, social media posts, press releases, requests to agents/publishers/reviewers and more. It’s often more than one person can handle.

Enter repurposing.

First, let’s define what repurposing actually means. According to the Oxford English dictionary, to repurpose means to adapt for use in a different purpose: (i.e. they’ve taken a product that was originally designed for a CD-ROM and repurposed it for the Microsoft Network)

I’ve been working in website content for a decade and a half. I’ve repurposed content in every which way. But it occurs to me that many authors may not be familiar with the concept or how to repurpose to save themselves time.

With that in mind, I am presenting … how authors can repurpose content on (or from) their author website.

1. Repurpose book excerpts/short stories as blog posts. Can’t think of anything to blog about? This is a common problem for fiction authors. Use your blog as a place to publicize your new short stories. Or cut and paste brief excerpts from your book as blog entries, and really use them to whet people’s appetites. Creative writing and a blog do not have to be oil and water!

2. Repurpose your blog posts for social media. Think you need to write an entire blog post and different status updates for Facebook, Twitter, etc…? Wrong! Put your time and energy into your blog posts, and then use social media as a vehicle for promoting them. Write brief teasers for each post, and put them (and links, of course) as status updates on all your social media presences to keep your accounts active.

3. Repurpose your website content as marketing material. Writing a bio for your website? Use it as part of your press kit? Creating a book discussion guide for your website (which I often recommend that authors do)? Include it as a free giveaway when you’re doing book signings. Writing promotional copy about the book for use on the website? Reprint it on a flyer that is distributed to local booksellers. You get the idea…

4. Repurpose your website videos. This is huge! Are you making any videos for your website? Are you creating a book trailer or doing a “welcome” video? These should be promoted everywhere. While their original intent may have been for your website, they should also be making the rounds on YouTube, Vimeo, etc… People love sharing videos, and these can become huge social sharers for you.

5. Repurpose any external press releases or articles. Did you (or your publicist) write any press releases about you or the book? How about articles or guest blog posts for other sites? Why should these only exist elsewhere (unless you signed a contract stipulating that, of course)? Use these as blurbs in the “news and events” or “media and press” segments of your website. Simply writing a brief update and linking to the full pieces makes your site look more current, and you more high-profile.

See what I mean? Tweaking, re-printing, sharing and more allow you to take one piece that you wrote and turn it into multiple pieces of content that serve different purposes for you; both on and off your author website.

Happy Repurposing!