Keeping in Touch: Updating the Contact Form on Your Author Website

If Smart Author Sites has built your author website and you have a contact form on the “contact” page of your site, you may be wondering if it is possible to update the fields on your own.

Here’s the good news: it certainly is! With the helpful guide below, you will learn how to modify which fields your readers can fill in, and even create more complex options — including Dropdown menus, checkboxes and more.

Contact Form 7 for WordPress

We like to use the Contact Form 7 plugin to create your contact form (unless otherwise specified, of course). This is a great plugin that has many different options and features. You can get quite creative with these forms and you don’t even need to know any coding or HTML. This is a really nice bonus — after all, you are an author, not a web developer. That’s our job!

To get started modifying an existing form you can follow these steps:

1. Log-in to WordPress

2. In the navigation menu on the left, go to “Contact” and select “Contact Forms”.

3. You will see a new screen that lists all the contact forms you currently have running on your author website. Go ahead and click the name of the form you wish to modify.

Adding a New Field

On the next screen you will get a first-hand look at the nuts and bolts of the contact form fields. The top left-hand box is the place where the fields are generated. This section is compiled by using some basic HTML with fields that are generated by Contact Form 7. It might look intimidating, but it is relatively simple to add new fields.

To get a sense of how the form works, you will see options like Name, Email, Subject and Message that will match what appears live on your contact page. This section will vary slightly depending on what fields already exist on this form.

To add a new field, there are a few easy steps to take. For the purposes of this example, let’s say you want to add field that reads “How did you hear about me?” and offers  a dropdown menu with a few options that a user could choose from.

To do this, take a look at the blank box on the right-hand side of the page. There will be a dropdown menu here that says Generate tag. Here you can select this dropdown menu and one of the many field types to add to the form. In this example you will select Drop-down Menu.

When you make this selection, a new box will appear that shows several small fields including Name, id, class and choices. This is a simple builder that will allow you to customize your own fields to add to your contact form. Follow these steps to create a new field with options:

1. In the Name field give your new field a unique identifying title rather than the default name and number that appear in the box. It should probably be one word and should be descriptive of your question. In this case you can use “referral.”

2. In the choices field you will add the items to appear in your dropdown menu as selectable options for your website visitors. Go ahead and fill out an option on each line.

3. You will see some code appear in a field that says “Copy this code and paste it into the form left.” Go ahead and copy the code, and then paste it in the location on the left box where you would like the question to appear. It can appear anywhere on the form, but should always go before the Send code at the bottom which usually looks something like this:

[submit "Send"]

4. In the left box, go ahead and add text before the code you pasted that asks the question. In this case you can say, “How did you hear about us?” So in the left box you might end up adding something like:

How did you hear about us?
[select referral "Google Search" "Via a Friend" "Through my Book" "Other"]

5. Back in the right-hand box you will see a box at the very bottom that reads “And, put this code into the Mail fields below.”

Go ahead and copy this code and then scroll down on the page. In a box on the bottom-right you will see a box that says “message body”. This is the e-mail you receive when the form is sent. To make sure the new field you created sends the field go ahead and add the code you copied in step #4 to the place in this field you would like to appear when you receive the email. You can also write a line of descriptor text so you recognize your new field. So you might paste:

How did you hear about us: [referral]

Into the box.

6. Finally, save the form and give it a test run!

Other Things You Can Do

It is possible to add all types of fields into the contact form — and even make certain fields required. Just make sure to fill out your preferences on the right-side box then paste the code that Contact Form 7 generates in the appropriate places.

With a bit of practice you will get the hang of it quickly! However, if you do have questions feel free to get in touch and we will be happy to help!


Why All Author Websites Are Not the Same

shoesHave you ever wondered why many restaurant websites look exactly the same? That’s because every restaurant pretty much wants the same thing out of a website: a page for the menu, a page for directions, a page for hours/contact info, and possibly a way to order food for pick-up.

As a result, there are businesses out there which have created templates for these types of sites. They allow restaurant owners to simply upload their logo, enter their information, and voila! It’s cheap and easy for everyone. And restaurants, for example, can do this because all restaurants build websites with the same goal: your business.

So what makes authors different from restaurants? And why can’t we just create one template for author websites and adjust it with a different name/photo/book cover for each individual?

Different Genres
Let’s start with the most obvious reason: books in different genres need drastically different websites. Imagine that a website that’s promoting a children’s book looks exactly the same as a site promoting a novel about alien invasions. Now imagine a website for a self-help book about resume writing or healthy eating. Should any of these look the same? Absolutely not!

A children’s book website needs to have a design and layout that is warm and friendly. A website promoting a novel needs to look like the setting of that novel. And a non-fiction site should clearly convey the subject matter of the book. In short, one type of website could not — and should not — be used for all of these genres.

Different Goals
What’s your goal for your author website? Is it to sell books? Is it to build a fanbase? To lure a publisher into publishing your next book? Every author has a different reason for building their website. In fact, for some authors, it’s more than one reason.

Understanding an author’s website goals is essential for designing the site properly. In other words, a website that focuses on a particular book is completely different than one that focuses on the author … which is completely different from one that focuses on a series of books or a political issue. Each and every author has a different website goal, and the site needs to reflect that goal.

Different Things to Promote
Some authors have multiple books already written and want to promote and sell them all. Other authors have written one book and want to sell complimentary items (like jewelry with their brand name on it) as well.

There are other authors who want to “sell” more than just goods. They want to promote their side businesses, for example, which is related to their book’s subject matter. Or they want to build speaking platforms for themselves and create a second career as a public speaker in that subject matter.


So, you see, authors are NOT like restaurants. They are individuals — ranging from doctors to lawyers to novelists — each with their own types of books, plans for the future, and additional services.

Just like each author is unique, each author website must be unique as well.


Vlogging for Authors: Why a Video Presence is a Great Way to Connect (Part 2)

In my previous post, I discussed the ins and outs of video-blogging (or vlogging) for authors and why this can be a great way to keep your readers interested.

These days almost anyone can create a great video blog!

All you need is a decent internet connection, a laptop or desktop computer purchased in the last several years and a YouTube account and you can become a star.

Ok, it takes a bit more time and effort than just that, but it has never been easier to begin your vlogging career. Are you ready to make the plunge? If so, here is a guide on how to get started.

Step 1: Record your vlog(s)!

It is always good practice to begin with a few good bits of original content (rather than just one). There is a lot of information on the web and if you “launch” your career with more than one video, you probably have a greater chance of obtaining subscribers right off the bat. This shows that you intend to keep vlogging.

You can film yourself with a built-in webcam on your desktop or laptop computer. Here is a simple guide on how to record your first video blog!

Make sure that the subject matter is engaging and interesting to your audience. I know… easier said than done! If you aren’t sure just what to start talking about when you get in front of the camera, one good piece of advice is to think about some of your favorite video blogs. What makes these interesting? What type of content really grabs you?

Here are some good ideas for authors if you need a good starting place:

  • Upcoming book tours
  • The meaning behind certain events or characters in your books
  • Current events related to your genre
  • Ideas inspired by themes in your book
  • Other books you are reading and why you enjoy reading those authors
  • Potential future releases

Step 2: Start Your YouTube Career

Ok. Why YouTube?

There are endless reasons, but I explained one of the biggest in part 1 of this article. It just allows a huge degree of flexibility and makes it easy for you to track who is following your videos.

Once you have recorded your first videos, you can create a YouTube account and channel. This process is also very simple. You will be asked to link your YouTube account to you Google account, and then you will be asked to create a channel. Your channel name should be the name you go under as an author, even if it is a pen name. It needs to match what is on your book covers. This is because it makes you easy to find on YouTube via search. It would not be helpful if readers were looking for Michael Crichton’s YouTube channel and he has called himself Peyton Manning, for example. You get the idea.

YouTube’s video upload system is extremely simple, and from a technical perspective, it’s functionality is kind of amazing. You literally just need to drag your video file into the box that appears from your desktop and it will compress your video (pretty much any file type under the sun) into a viewer-friendly YouTube video which can be seen in multiple sizes across the web in many languages. Isn’t technology amazing?

The next screen (once your video has completed uploading) will encourage you to add keywords, a video title and a description for the video, all of which you should do.

It is important that your video can be discovered not only through your website, but through your YouTube channel as well. All the videos you upload are stored on your channel, and others can subscribe to your channel with ease.

The little red “subscribe” button is a key element to watch on your channel, as when others subscribe this number will continue to go up!

Step 3: Embed Your Videos on your site

The final step is to cross-post your vlogs onto your website. YouTube makes this EXTREMELY simple. This is all you need to do:

  1. Click on the main URL of your YouTube video you would like to embed on your WordPress author website, which will look something like this (just an example)
  2. Below the video click the “share” button (underlined in the image above)
  3. Click the “embed” button which appears beneath the row with the “share” button.
  4. If you want to size your video appropriately you can select a different video size from the dropdown menu beneath. This will determine how large the video will appear on your website after embedding
  5. You will see a few lines of code appear once selecting “embed”. Go ahead and copy this code, then go to your WordPress author website.
  6. Open your vlog post and click on the “Text” tab that appears above and to the right of the post editor (if it is not already selected), as you need to be in text move to embed videos
  7. Paste this code directly into your editor in the place you would like your video to appear.

That’s it! You are done!

You have just created a YouTube channel, added a video to YouTube’s system, and then cross-posted it to your website.

I hope this was a helpful guide in getting started adding videos to your repertoire of blogging. It really as a great way to reach your audience and is a very good way to jumpstart your traffic numbers in the early going.


4 Ways to Use Video for Online Book Promotion

video-cameraThere’s no doubt about it: people love watching videos. Just scour the web and you’ll see  … video is pretty darn popular nowadays.

But just how can an author use video to promote his or her book? Here are a few ways…

1. Book trailer. People often ask me what a book trailer is. Well, it’s just like a movie trailer, but for a book! Now that’s a bit simplified (after all, a movie trailer usually involves cuts from an actual movie). But the concept is the same; create a video that serves as a teaser for the book and tell the story in a way that really whets people’s appetites. There are a variety of ways to create a book trailer — from hiring a production firm and actors to doing your own voiceover and using photos — but my best advice is to make sure your book trailer is top-notch. After all, if your video looks amateurish, what will people expect your book to be like?


2. Vlogging. We’ve talked a lot about the importance of author blogs. So what are author vlogs? Well, they’re pretty much blogs in video format. In other words, instead of writing your blog entries, you’d turn on the camera and talk through them. Regardless of what your blog is about — from politics to animals to humor — if you have a strong personality, then you should consider vlogging in place of blogging.

If you’re interested in vlogging, here’s a good video to get you started:

3. A website welcome video. For many authors, I recommend a welcome message on the author homepage. This message would welcome visitors to the website and briefly explain what the author hopes people will get out of the book and the website. Usually, this is done in a brief paragraph. But there’s no reason why it can’t be done in a video. In fact, a video can be far more welcoming than a few written sentences. After all, a video gives you the chance to present yourself to your readers and let your personality shine through!


4. Video interviews. A recent article on Publishers Weekly talks about how academic publishers are jumping on the video interview bandwagon. You should, too! After all, having someone ask you good questions about yourself and your book, and having it recorded on camera, can be a great way to get your message out there.

Gregory Kornbluh, Web Content Manager for Harvard University Press (HUP), has been leading their video effort. He tells Publishers Weekly that HUP author videos each attract about 1,500–2,500 views, though some authors, like mathematician Paul Lockhart, author of Measurement, a book that offers elegant solutions to complex math problems, has racked up more than 23,000 views.

Regardless of which format you decide to use video in, the one most important thing you can do with each and every video is to put it on YouTube! In fact, I highly recommend creating a YouTube channel to house all your videos.

The benefits of having your video on YouTube are plentiful, including:

  • It allows other websites/bloggers to embed your video on their site
  • It helps drive traffic from YouTube to your website or blog
  • People can find videos on YouTube that they probably wouldn’t find just on your blog

Think about the best way that you can incorporate video into your online book promotion efforts. Then upload your videos to your site and to YouTube and see where it takes you!



Tips for Writing and Marketing a Book That’s Sells

author_on_computerWriting a book is a huge undertaking. Marketing a book is an even harder one.

Think about it: There are thousands of books published by publishing houses each year. And how many books are self-published? It’s pretty much that number squared.

So how do you become one of the few authors whose books really sell? Even more importantly: How do you ensure that you will at least make enough money to offset the expenses of becoming a published author?

Well, to be honest, the odds of doing either are small. But thankfully, it’s not like playing the lottery. There are actual, concrete things you can do to increase the odds that your book will sell. Based on my experience, here are some suggestions…

Before you start writing…

Fiction authors: Have a niche audience in mind.
There are a million mystery writers out there. Ditto for children’s book writers, self-help writers, etc… So start by thinking about how your book is uniquely different from all the others in the industry. Is it about a specific place or time in history (which can bring in people who have a special interest in those subjects)? Does it combine two genres that often don’t go together (like spirituality and mystery, for example)? Figure out what makes your story different from the norm, and make sure you stick to it as your writing the book.

Nonfiction authors: Assess the market.
Make sure you’re writing about what people are looking for. If your specialty is career services, for example, you don’t want to write a book about changing careers in a time where unemployment is sky-high. In that type of market, you’d be much better off writing a book about how to write the perfect resume or what to say in a job interview. That’s what people are looking for, so the market is there waiting for you. Take the time to figure out what the needs/interests are before delving in.

While you’re writing…

It’s never too early to start thinking about marketing a book. While you’re writing it is as good a time as any. Start talking about your book to friends, family and colleagues. Start building an author website and a social media presence.

One of the best things you can do is start a blog. It may sound like a boatload of work to be blogging while you’re also writing your book, but it’s never too early to start building a following.

Most importantly, start collecting email addresses! Even if it’s just friends and family at the beginning, you want to have a ready-made list of people to announce your book to as soon as it’s available.

While you’re publishing/getting published…

Now’s the time to really start ramping up your marketing efforts. You want to be at the pique of your marketing and campaigning several months before your book becomes available. Those efforts should include:

  • Planning a book launch promotion strategy
  • Sending copies of it to reviewers and bloggers
  • Holding contests on your website
  • Actively promoting your book release date on your website and on social media
  • Blogging like crazy
  • Forming relationships with others who have written similar books and/or speak to your target audience
  • Creating author presences on GoodReads and Amazon
  • Connecting with book clubs that might be interested in your book

And most importantly .. reaching out to that niche audience I mentioned.

How do I do that?

Well, that depends on your audience. But here are a few examples.

If you wrote a book about real estate law, for example, you’d want to be targeting real estate attorneys, investors, etc… You’d want to advertise in publications that they read, get your book reviewed by or testimonials written from people in the field, and offer to blog for free on sites that industry insiders read regularly.

On the other hand, if you wrote a novel that takes place in Martha’s Vineyard, you’d want to focus a lot of your attention on that individual area. You should reach out personally to every bookstore owner in the area and make sure they’re carrying your book. You could offer to do speeches at the local community centers, or visit the local book clubs for discussion.

You get the idea … The more specific your nice audience is, the more likely you’ll be able to get your book to stand out from the rest.

Good luck!


Do you have other ideas about how to get your book to sell? Share them below!


Vlogging for Authors: Why a Video Presence is a Great Way to Connect (Part 1)

In this two-part guide, I will discuss the benefits of vlogging for authors and show you how to start your own video channel on YouTube to connect with your readers! Stay tuned. Part 2 will be posted a week from today.

Do you have an author blog, but are struggling to find new ways to connect with your visitors? Are you frustrated with the lack of comments and readers your blog receives?

Maybe it’s time to put things in motion!

Vlogging (otherwise known as video-blogging) is still a relatively new concept, and the vast majority of our authors do not make use of it’s potentially-vast power.

In fact, there are many ways in which vlogging can actually be superior to the old-fashioned medium of words on a computer screen.

Benefits of Vlogging over Blogging

1. It is more personal

This one is pretty obvious, but it can pay very large dividends quickly. It is often difficult to get a sense of an author’s personality when it’s just letters on a screen, even with very frequent blog posts. You an only connect with your readers so much if they can’t actually see you.

A video blog is another level of connection between you and your readers. It’s a great way to convey emotion, humor, and insight, and even use visual tricks to keep your followers much more engaged.

2. It can look professional

If you have a good web camera and video-editing software (which comes with almost all computers today) you can put together some nice-looking videos that can help you come off as engaged, professional and even “state of the art.”

Let’s say you’ve written some great books on leadership and innovation, like our client Soren Kaplan. If you give weekly or monthly business tips delivered on video and you put time, effort and thought into keeping the quality of those videos fresh and original, you can bet that they will eventually draw interest.

3. It offers another great way to track metrics and traffic: YouTube

Using YouTube for storage of your video blogs is optional, but we strongly recommend it. When your videos live on YouTube, you can easily embed them on your vlog.

You read that right… your videos can then be found BOTH on your website AND on YouTube. If someone searches “great business ideas” and happens to land on your video on YouTube, watches your video there, and sees that you have a website and a book, you may very well have a new follower (and reader). Imagine gaining a wealth of new followers and eventually vlogging weekly, with readers commenting on your YouTube channel and your blog. Wouldn’t that be nice? It’s very possible!

YouTube is just another way you can be discovered, and their great built-in analytics help you target your videos to specific audiences.

Closing Thoughts

Starting to feel lost? Fear not!

In Part 2 of this series we will be talking about how to get started vlogging from a technical perspective. I will walk you through a step-by-step process of setting up a YouTube account launching your vlogging career!


5 Ways to Make Your Author Website Interactive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See? We’re interactive, too :)


How Often Should Authors Blog?

This is easily one of the most commonly-asked questions when I’m discussing social media and blogging with a new client. And the answer isn’t as simple as it may seem.

Whether or not you have an author website, this question is pertinent to anyone who has an online presence; so non-authors, feel free to read on!

The case against blogging too often

One common misconception is that you can never really blog “too much,” as more information online is always better, right? This actually isn’t always the case.

Let’s say you have just released your new thriller noir, “The Great Treasure of Niagara Falls.” You put together a great marketing package, have us build a popular author website, and become active on the social networking scene. Blogging comes naturally to you, and you make a vow to write a new entry every single day.

After a couple of months, your book sales are much better than you anticipated, you have quite a few blog followers, and your fans demand a book sequel. Happily, you begin to work on penning the second book in what will be come a series with “The Overworked Janitor of Niagara Falls.” You have promised your fans a hard deadline of the book release date.

However, coming up with a blog entry every single day proves to be a challenge. You didn’t take into consideration how difficult it could be to blog AND write your sequel. Your blog starts to suffer, the timeline of your new book release date gets pushed back and you are now blogging every few days. And then every week… and then once a month.

This starts to look bad to your readers, who are wondering if you are disappearing. They lose interest in your blog, which may reflect badly on your book sales and online image. Your blogging career is going over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

To make a long story short, you do not want to bite off more than you can chew when it comes to blogging. If you are an author, keep in mind that blogging is writing — and serious blogging can be just as involved and time-consuming as writing a book. It is easy to get burned out, which can have a negative effect on your online presence, and ultimately your sales.

Building consistency in the blogging world takes a lot of time, so make sure you can actually keep up with the frequency goals you have set for yourself.

The case against not blogging enough

Each time you write a new blog post, you are doing the following:

  • Creating a brand new web page and a new URL for the search engines to discover. This will increase your website traffic for different keywords.
  • Adding to the information on your website, which over time keeps people on the site
  • Building your audience, readership, and fanbase
  • Encouraging discussion in the comments feed below the new entry

If you do not blog very often, you will never be able to generate a long list of subscribers and keep visitors coming back for more. After all, how is it possible to become a loyal reader of a blog that only gets updated every few months? This is like subscribing to the New York Times and having it only show up on holidays. (At least your blog is free.)

One of the worst things you can do is start out blogging fairly consistently and then fade away … and ultimately stop altogether. This makes it look like your website is out of date, the information is not as valid, you are not doing well professionally, the website isn’t being updated, you didn’t pay the internet bill, or any combination of the above.

Also, some writers start out blogging very passionately, and then when they do not gain readers right away, they lose interest. It is important to be patient! It can often take between 50-70 blog posts before you start to build an audience, and it is uncommon to have loyal visitors to a website with fewer than 30 posts.

The key words to blogging are consistency and persistence!

Great! … So how often should I blog?

Now that I’ve given you the negative aspects of both extremes it is time to answer the main question!

In general, it is wise to pick a frequency that you feel you can meet without burning out and make it a goal to stick to it. Anywhere from weekly to a few times a week is usually good. Less than twice a month isn’t really consistent enough, unless you remove the dates from each blog post… but then why blog at all? More than once a day is probably too much, unless you have guest bloggers or have endless energy for blogging.

It is important to keep in mind that blogging can be a fun, informal way to connect with your visitors and keep them engaged. There isn’t an absolute rule as to how often to keep your blog updated, but the advice above should help give you some general guidelines.

Good luck!


15 Quick Tips About Websites for Authors

check-markI’ve been building author websites for nearly a decade now. I’ve seen the best — and the worst — of websites for authors. With that in mind, here are 15 things you need to know about what to do (and what not to do) when you’re building yourself an author website.

  1. Having an author website can help you get published. The larger the following you have before reaching out to a publisher, the more likely that publisher is going to invest time and money in you.
  2. Author websites MUST be mobile-friendly. It’s 2014, and every author website needs to be visible on mobile devices, including both tablets/iPads and smartphones/iPhones.
  3. The best thing an author can do on his or her website is blog, blog, blog. The worst thing an author can do is build a blog and then not keep it current. After all, if an author isn’t paying attention to the site, why should a visitor?
  4. The design of an author website should convey the genre of the book(s). For example, a romance author should have a website that’s romantic in nature; it shouldn’t be so cookie-cutter that it looks similar to that of a children’s book author or a nonfiction author.
  5. An author website is part of an author’s brand. Before building an author website, you need to have a very clear idea of your overall brand and message. And that message should clearly come across when someone arrives on the site, in the form of a tagline or something similar.
  6. The average amount of time someone spends on a website? Three seconds. Make sure your author website is strong enough to take advantage of those three seconds and really grab a reader’s attention.
  7. Too many authors forget to collect email addresses. There is no good reason an author shouldn’t use his or her website to build an email list. Even if there isn’t going to be a traditional newsletter, that email list can turn out to be invaluable when there’s a new book to announce.
  8. Book authors aren’t always copywriters. Writing the text for an author website is a very different beast from writing a book. If you have a history of writing marketing copy, great. If not, then have someone who does work with you on writing the copy for your website.
  9. Be wary of too much design. The design of a website is important. Too much design can make the site hard to use or unfriendly to the search engines. Trust the experts to find the right balance between design and functionality.
  10. Author websites can interact well with social media. Some people might tell you that if you have a Facebook presence, you don’t need a website … or vice versa. Don’t believe them. Use your website to build followers on social media (by embedding links and widgets). Then use social media to drive traffic to your website, where you can really sell your brand.
  11. Building an author website doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get traffic to it. You know that saying, “If you build it, they will come?” Not true for author websites. Building a website is the first step. Getting traffic there is a whole other ballgame.
  12. An author needs to decide early on: is it a book website or an author websiteIs the goal of the site to sell the current book? Or is it to build a following for the author? Ensuring that the brand and the message is clear from the beginning is essential.
  13. Every page needs a “buy the book” link. How is that website ultimately going to pay for itself? By selling books, of course. With that in mind, don’t make it difficult for people to buy your book from the site. Include “buy the book” links everywhere the book cover appears.
  14. When it comes to SEO, time is your best friend. A new author website isn’t going to show up on Google search results right away. It can take weeks for it to appear at all. And then, it can take months (as well as some SEO strategies) to start climbing up the search results ladder. Patience is key.
  15. Author websites need to address all audiences. It’s not just readers that visit these sites. There are agents, publishers, media, book club organizers, etc… who may wind up there. Make sure they each can find exactly what they’re looking for quickly and easily.

Whew! Those are my 15 quick tips on websites for authors. If you have any of your own recommendations to add, please do!


3 Cool WordPress Publishing Tricks You May Not Know About

Authors who make frequent use of WordPress’ blogging system know that publishing their posts isn’t always an exact science. Nor should it be; after all, you are a writer, not a web developer!

However, no matter how skilled you may grow while working with WordPress it is very easy to overlook some of the best features about blogging with this fantastic content management system.

Anyone who knows WordPress basics learns how to write a blog post and then click the magic blue “Publish” button to make the post live. This is one of the very first things you will learn how to do when you start blogging. However, this is far from the end of the story.

Below is a guide on how to take advantage of a few useful publishing tricks with your WordPress site!

1. Not another second (of guessing!)

Have you ever published a great new blog post only to find that the formatting looks weird once it goes live? How embarrassing. It happens all too often, doesn’t it?

There is hope for you, however. If you look on the top-right hand corner of the “Publish” box there is a wonderful button called “Preview.” Go ahead — press it. A new tab will open and show you a preview of what the post will look like without needing to even make it live!

This is very useful for long blog posts with multiple images, or if you would rather see how your post will look on your site without publishing. True, many of you have probably discovered this handy shortcut, but if you have not it is well worth checking out!

No more live, messy posts. Now you can make multiple revisions to the layout before publishing your eventual masterpiece.

2. You shall not pass!

Okay, you have a great new blog post written, and it looks great in preview mode. Let’s say, however, that you would rather not share your blog post with the whole world just yet. Maybe you have a sneak preview of your next book that you would like to only share with “beta readers” for now. Or perhaps you want to put up amazing new pictures of your Dachshund, but feel this isn’t appropriate for your general readers.

Whatever the reason, the good news is that it is actually very easy to password-protect your blog posts. In that same magic “Publish” window we showed you earlier, you can click to edit the “Visibility” button, Then click the circle next to “Password protected”. Finally, you can set a password for the blog post.

The result? Once you publish this post, the only people who will be able to read it are those who know the password. Handy, no?

3. Auto-posting: How to blog in your sleep

Everyone needs a break now and then, right?

Let’s say that you are traveling to a tropical island that has no internet connection (You poor soul.) However, you have a loyal readership that has come to expect a post from you every other day.

What will you do? You don’t need to make your readers wait a week for you to return to the land of the connected. Instead, you can write all the entries at once and then auto-post them!

It is possible to write any number of blog posts at once, and instead of publishing them, schedule them to go live at a date and time of your choosing.

To work this bit of magic, simply return to that “publish” window, and under the “Publish immediately” text change the date and time, then click the blue button which will now say “Schedule.” Simple, no? Congratulations! Your blog post will automatically appear live on the exact date and time you set.

Final thoughts

Some of these surprising WordPress tricks for authors can really help you not only manage your blogging schedule a bit better, but also improve the quality of your posts. Stay tuned for more ideas to come!