Keep Author Website Content New, Fresh and Interactive

How many writers websites have you looked at? What seems to be missing from most of them?

Based on my experience, one of the biggest problems with author web sites is that they’re stale and dull. They’re more like a portfolio than a website. They include author photos, a bio, and details on the books. But do sites like this really have readers coming back regularly? With hardly any new content, why would someone visit more than once?

Lesson number one in website content strategizing: Never let your homepage stay the same for too long. If someone comes to your website and the homepage hasn’t changed (barring them coming on the same day, of course), the odds are they’ll never come back. If you want people to continue to visit your site on a regular basis, use your homepage to feature the latest news, reviews, blog entries etc… It’s absolutely essential in getting return traffic.

And this ties in with another thing missing from many author websites: interactivity. After all, an author isn’t taking full advantage of the web unless they use their site to interact with readers. That could be done in a variety of ways — a blog, a message board, an “Ask the Author” section, a poll, a contest, reader-submitted reviews, etc.

Use your book web site as an opportunity to build and maintain a relationship with your readers. Don’t be afraid to communicate with your site visitors. And make sure these communications are on the website instead of in private emails … people love seeing that you read and respond to what they have to say. It makes them much more likely to feel actively engaged in your website.

These types of interactivity are just some of the ideas that I give to authors when I put together their free proposal. This is one of the greatest strengths of our company. We understand the importance of incorporating fresh, interactive content into an writer’s website. And based on the author’s book and genre, we come up with creative ways to do that in a style that’s perfect for their audience.

So contact us today and we’ll put together a free proposal for you.  Whether you’re a novice in terms of websites or a seasoned expert, we’ll help guide you through setting up the perfect writer website to achieve your goals. One that’s always fresh and interactive.

Want to Get FREE Publicity for Your Books? Try Pitch Rate

Another marketing tip from our friend Michael Volkin at SellaTonofBooks.com

As an author you are considered an expert in the field in which your book is written.  The press is always looking for experts to interview, especially during a timely news release. For example, my book on Social Networking for Authors recently drummed up some good press as someone interviewed me about the popularity of Facebook.  The press called me because they noticed I was an expert in the field of Social Networking.  You can get the same exposure for free, by going to PitchRate.com.

Pitch Rate is a free service that connects journalists with subject experts for free media coverage.

Simply create an account at Pitch Rate and fill in your profile as completely as possible. Your profile is what members of the press read before they decide to contact you.  This is your chance to show the world what you are an expert at and why you should be considered an expert.

You can set your account to receive daily emails from Pitch Rate to see who is looking for experts in your area.  Requests can be easily sorted by category or keywords by visiting the “Search Requests” tab once you’ve signed in.  Once you’ve found a request you’re interested in, simply make a pitch and all of your contact info contained in your profile will automatically be attached.  At this point, it’s just a matter of playing the waiting game to see if someone is interested in you and your book.

One of the constant struggles I see with authors is the need to be continually marketing your book to be successful.  A website like PitchRate.com is great for authors to be able to quickly set up an account and receive marketing opportunities for an extended period of time.  With just a few minutes of work, an author can expose him or herself to potentially hundreds of press opportunities.

For more tips and tricks on how to sell a ton of books, go to Michael Volkin’s new website SellaTonofBooks.com and purchase his new book Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth.

Author Takes Twitter to a New Level

An interesting article on PW.com yesterday talked about a new crowd-sourced short story on Twitter. Fantasy writer Neil Gaiman is starting the story, and fans can continue it with their own 140-character contributions. BBC audiobooks will eventually compile the full story based on the reader contributions (they’re expecting about 1,000) and the audiobook will ultimately be available for a free download.

You can read the full article here:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6701457.html?q=marketing

This is just one of the many new ideas that authors and publishers are having about using the internet and social networking sites to interact with readers and allow fans to be a part of the writing experience. Just something that all authors can keep in mind going forward…

Should You Sell the Book Yourself?

Here at Smart Author Sites, we’ve worked with many authors, a fair amount of whom are self-published. And one question that I frequently get asked by authors who are self-publishing is how easy/difficult it is for an author to sell their book themselves through the book web site. If you’re wondering whether to take the plunge, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Think $$$. There’s no question that the profit on book sales is much, much higher if you sell the book yourself (as opposed to linking to Amazon to sell the book). You get to set the price and keep a much larger percentage of it.
  • Don’t forget about distribution. Some authors intend to actually house copies of their own book and manually send them out to people who purchase the book through the site. That’s great when you’re talking about selling 10 books a month, but what do you plan to do if your book takes off like wildfire? You may want to look into distribution right off the bat so that you know what you’re getting into.
  • Talk to an accountant about taxes. Depending on which state you live in, there may be different laws about how you have to tax purchasers of your book both in and out of your state. Make sure you do your proper research on this before selling the book on your own, as not charging tax could get you into some hot water.
  • Choose the right shopping cart for your needs. The only thing that’s a given when it comes to selling books online is collecting payment. But there are so many different shopping cart services that go above and beyond just payment collection. Obviously, the simplest and cheapest way to go is simply to allow people to pay you through PayPal, but that doesn’t really allow you to charge different tax rates for people in different areas, etc… There are also shopping cart services through web hosting services (GoDaddy, Network Solutions…) that offer more enhanced services, such as product details and tax rates per county, but they are a bit more expensive and can involve a lot of setup work. Do your research into different types of shopping carts and figure out which one best meets your needs before jumping in.

If you want to see what other authors are doing, here are a few of the clients that we’ve worked with who are selling their own books:

Bob Abrams — Watered Down Truth
Paula Davies Scimeca — Unbecoming a Nurse
Randy Kempf — Happiness Lost and Found
Lynn Butler — Buzzin With Buzzy

Feel free to contact us any time for more tips and advice on selling your book through your author web site!

Sell More Books With Viral Videos/Book Trailers

So what’s a book trailer? Or a viral video for authors? How do you get one made? What should be in such a video? How do you get it to actually go viral? How does this lead to book sales? We’ve got the answers from a variety of sources…

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From Michael Volkin the author of the new hit book: Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth:

Viral videos are a great way to sell books.  According to Wikipedia “A viral video is a video clip that gains widespread popularity through the process of Internet sharing, typically through email or Instant messaging, blogs and other media sharing websites. Viral videos are often humorous in nature”.

There are three key points to consider when creating a viral video campaign:

1) Provide great, but ambiguous, content – Everyone loves to hear a great story. But in a viral video, the story has to be short (less than three minutes). Don’t think of creating a video that will sell your book, think of a video that will keep people entertained.

2) Generate a “residual” fan base – Once your video is built you can integrate other social media tools to build a user base and communicate with them.  To do this, follow the lessons learned in Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth.  It could be as simple as a subscribe link that notifies users of your updates.

3) SEO it– Your video has to be easily discovered through YouTube search and other popular online video sharing sites. Videos should have clear titles, an accurate description and appropriate keyword tags so that they can appears correctly in a YouTube search and targeted specifically.

A good viral video will spread over the internet like wildfire. See the top 20 viral videos circulating around the Internet now at: http://viralvideochart.unrulymedia.com/

Check out this viral video I created for an author during the last presidential election. It got great coverage. The video is ambiguous but gets people curious as to what is coming next. A typical viral video will cost about $2,000 but will be a great return on your investment if it works properly:
http://revver.com/u/jspinx

Michael Volkin the author of the new hit book: Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth. His book can be found at SellaTonofBooks.com

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From Sheila English, Founder of Circle of Seven Productions:

On creating a good book trailer…

Some key elements to a book trailer are:

  • Clearly state what the book is about
  • Don’t have too much text
  • Make sure your text is readable. Pretty text isn’t always easy to read.
  • Don’t have your text and visuals compete for the viewer’s attention
  • Follow all copyright laws- Use only photos or music you own or have licensed.
  • Convey the genre or genres
  • Set a mood with your music, audio, text or visuals
  • Keep them under 2 minutes (30-90 seconds works best under most circumstances)
  • Don’t give away the whole story!

On distributing your book trailer…

Anyone can put a video up on YouTube and MySpace. And if you are using TubeMogul (www.tubemogul.com) you can get your video up on 15 or so sites at one time.  But, which of those sites are best for your book or brand?  With over 450 online sites that take book video do you really want to have yours only on the sites where everyone else is? If you’re writing YA or chicklit are you posting to TeamSugar or Popbytes? If you’re writing urban fantasy are you sending to TerrorFeed or Crackle Horror? If you’re writing historical are sending your video to Clipblast or Magnolia? You need those micro sites that reach out to people who already have shown a predisposition to like your genre or storyline.

Distribution should go out to online communities to reach people, but it should also go out to booksellers, libraries and book clubs. All COS videos are sent to over 300 booksellers and over 5000 libraries. These are essential venues.

On services and cost…

We offer several different kinds of video. We have a Cover Story video that starts at $300 that includes distribution to popular and micro sites, booksellers and libraries.

Here is a link to where you can see the different types of videos:
http://www.cosproductions.com/OurWork/index.php

Whether you’re going to use COS or some other company you should take some time to know what you’re paying for and make your expectations and goals clear. Get references on the company if you’ve not used them before. Ask them what you will get for your money. A book trailer is a marketing tool. Like any tool you need to know how to use it for the best results.

Resources:
http://www.cosproductions.com/Resources/index.php

Includes:  White paper on Residual Marketing Effect of video utilization.

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Publisher’s Weekly also published a blurb yesterday about one particular book trailer (or viral video). This one  has broken from the traditional mold — basically, a movie trailer for a book — and is going viral on YouTube as we speak. Not a bad idea … thinking outside the box when it comes to book trailers.

Check out the book trailer for God, the Universe and Where I Fit In: A Psychic’s Reflections on Figuring Out the Rest of Your Life (HCI)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVIE9pXd_Gs

Read the full Publishers Weekly article:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6687830.html?q=trailer

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Whew! That’s a lot of information. But are you sold yet? The truth is that creating and distributing the right video can make a huge difference in terms of really getting your book out there.

Why All Authors Should Build an Email List

Every author web site has a “contact” page. It usually includes information on how to contact the author’s publisher, agent, etc… It may even include an email address where the author himself can be contacted. But here’s why it SHOULDN’T.

If you allow a site visitor to simply send you an email, you aren’t taking full advantage of the contact you’re making with them. You may or may not get their full name, which you might want to use later. And, more importantly, you won’t have the rights to send them an email newsletter down the line.

Instead, an author contact page should include a contact form. You can see examples of this on all of our SmartAuthorSites.com client websites (e.g. http://www.thelossofcertainty.com/contact.html).

By requiring that people contact you via this form, you’re collecting any information you might want about your readers (full name, location, etc…). More importantly, you also have the chance to add a simple line at the bottom of the submission form which, unless the site visitor un-checks it, gives you the legal right to add their email address to your mailing list.

This is HUGE! It allows you to start building an email list of people who are interested in your book, your writing, etc… This is like a ready-made marketing list (which some people would pay a lot of money for). It allows you to send out a simple email to everyone on that list when you have news you want to share (i.e. an interview coming up) or a new book coming out. Such a mailing list puts the ball in your court. Rather than people having to come to your website to learn about what’s going on with you, you can now reach out to them. This can help exponentially in terms of promoting yourself and selling your book.

Maintaining an email list is quick and easy. It’s as simple as keeping an Excel file with all the contact information. It’s something that you can do on your own, or our production team can do for you, should you build a site through us. Ditto with the actual email newsletters. You could send out simple text newsletters through your personal email address, or you could send out fancy, designed, HTML newsletters through us for as little as 2 cents per recipient.

No matter what you decide to do with your list (and even if you don’t know what you’ll do with it), make sure to start building one. There’s nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain.

Ready to get started? Contact us today to start discussing your writer website!

How to Make the Press Interested in You and Your Book

Another marketing tip for authors from Michael Volkin…

I can’t believe the number of authors I hear on the radio that get stumped by questions the host asks about their own book. Here is a tip that will not only make you sound better on the radio, but will make it easy on the press to want to pick you to interview as opposed to the hundreds of other books all competing for air time.

Write about 12-15 questions you would like the radio show host to ask you while on the air.  After the questions are written, copy them onto a separate document and write the answers to those questions.   Now you have two documents, one with questions and one with questions and answers.  The one with questions will go to the radio show host (or other press) and the one with the answers will be your copy to have on standby during the interview.  On the document with questions, put in parenthesis after each question how long the answer will take. For example: How long did it take you to write the book (answer takes 1 minute 30 seconds). This will greatly help the radio show host know how long each answer should take and helps the producer know long the interview will last.

Picture 50 books on a producers table, 49 of them are just authors looking for an interview.  The host will have to read the books, develop the questions and make a timeframe for the interview.  The other one is yours, with a list of questions and an exact time frame of the interview length.  You are doing the work for them and they are more than likely going to pick your book out of the bunch.

To get some radio interviews right now, go to www.BlogTalkRadio.com and contact some of the hosts with your new list of questions and watch your book sales take off.

For more tips and tricks on how to sell a ton of books, go to Michael Volkin’s new website SellaTonofBooks.com and purchase Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth.

Authors: To Blog or Not to Blog?

So many authors that I speak to have been told that they should be blogging. But they’re not exactly sure why, what they should be blogging about, or how it can help them sell books. And that’s exactly why blogging can be a complete failure.

The WORST thing an author can do is build a blog and then not update it. Sure an author might post a cute welcome message when the site launches, but that’s it. The blog sits there, idle, for months or years after that. And when people visit the website and they see a blog that hasn’t been touched, they immediately get the sense that the site is outdated. What could be of value? And they leave.

If you’re considering creating a blog, here’s what you need to know:

  • Why blog? A blog is a great way to keep your site new and fresh, to allow readers (and potential readers) to communicate with you, and to highlight your expertise in a field. A blog is really a source of conversation — you’d post something and then your readers could respond. Not to mention that a blog can help tremendously in terms of search engine optimization. Your blog will generally rank highly on Google search results with minimal effort (assuming you use the right keywords and such). This will allow people with interest in your subject matter to wind up on your site, where you can then promote your book.
  • What to blog about? Blogging is a very different beast depending on what kind of book you’ve written and whether or not you have an expertise in your field. If you’re a sex therapist, for instance, and have written a book on the subject, then it’s pretty easy to figure out what you should be blogging about. You could use your blog to answer questions that people submit about their sexual challenges, offer your commentary on news in your area of expertise, etc… People can visit your blog for free and if they like what you say and how you say it, then they’re likely to buy your book! The question of what to blog about can be a little more challenging for a nonfiction author or someone who isn’t an expert in a particular subject. That’s where you have to think outside the box. Should you blog about the challenges of being a writer? Should you blog about the characters in your book and how you envision their lives after the story ends? There are lots of interesting directions you can go in, and these are just some of the ideas that we at SmartAuthorSites.com offer in our free consultation to authors.
  • Is anyone reading it? Too many authors that have created blogs — and actually keep them up — feel like they’re writing for nothing. Even if they get one or two comments on a post, they wonder, “Is this really worth my time?” The answer is a resounding YES! One of the things I highly recommend for an author website — especially the blog — is setting up a site traffic report where you’re regularly updated on how many people have visited your site and/or your blog. It will probably be a lot more than you think. For every one or two comments to a blog post, that blog might have been viewed by 50-100 people! That’s a lot of potential book buyers.

So are you convinced? Ready to start blogging? We thought so…

Don’t forget to contact us for a free consultation on how to make a blog work for your writer website!

Use FriendFeed to Find a Ton of Customers

This is our first (of many) social networking tips from Michael Volkin. More details on him below…

FriendFeed.com is a website that in one place aggregates your friend’s (or potential customer’s) streams from across different social sites. In other words, from one user, you can view real-time updates from Twitter posts, Facebook updates and tons of other websites.  FriendFeed can be an extremely useful website for finding your target audience and selling books, but be careful of its addictive nature.  FriendFeed can easily give you information overload and you could get lost for hours clicking away at the vast amount of information.

To sell books on FriendFeed, simply create an account.  Once your account has been created, log in and click Browse/edit groups (bottom right side of the page).  Here, you can search for groups where your target audience may be.  For example, if your book is on sailboats, look for a boating club, or sailboat enthusiast group.  Join the group and start communicating with potential customers instantly.

Link up with me on FriendFeed and I’ll show you how to sell more books.  Log in, click “browse/edit friends” in the middle of the page on the right hand side. Then, click “find/invite friends”, and in the text box type mvolkin.  Once my picture pops up, simply click “subscribe”

For more tips and tricks on how to sell a ton of books, go to Michael Volkin’s new website SellaTonofBooks.com and purchase Social Networking for Authors-Untapped Possibilities for Wealth

A Common Author Sin

Most authors know that they need to build a writer website in order to properly promote themselves and their books. But too many authors build a website and then don’t bother to tell people about it. Big mistake!

Get your domain name out there. Get people to link to your site. Here are some really simple ways to spread the word about your book website.

  • Put the URL on the book jacket
  • Print out business cards that mention your site
  • Tell people at speaking engagements/book signings to visit your site
  • Put your URL in the signature line on all your emails
  • Mention your site whenever possible on message boards and blogs
  • Always make sure that any articles that include your byline also include a link to your site
  • Mention your site in any interviews, media, etc..
  • Reach out to other relevant author sites and propose linking to one another

See how simple (and affordable) this is? Not only will this reach the people who are looking at your blogs, articles, etc… but these links are also a large part of Google’s ranking system. The  more links to your site that you have, the higher you rank in SEO.