journey

Marketing a Nonfiction Book: Using Your Website to Enhance the Journey

journeyI’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it: marketing a nonfiction book is totally different from marketing fiction. In the latter, your story takes people into a fictional world that gives them a break from their daily life. In the former, you’re most likely educating people on something that will help them enhance their daily life. That’s true no matter what type of nonfiction you write: whether your book is about a war that happened hundreds of years ago, tips on home decor, or a way for people to find meaning and purpose through spirituality.

In essence, your nonfiction book provides a lesson to you readers. By the time they’re done reading it, they’ve been through a journey that has taught them something they didn’t know before. And, hopefully, that’s a journey they’re happy they took.

With that in mind, here are some interesting ways to use your website to further enhance that journey (and hopefully, increase the number of people buying your book). Depending on the subject matter of your book, one of these ideas might work better than others.

  1. Serial blog posts. You can use the material in your book (or come up with additional material) to use blog posts to help people along the way. So, for example, if your book is about how to reinvent your career midlife, you could write one blog post each week about the specific steps you have to take to get there. For example, the first post could be a brief explanation of how to do a self assessment to determine what you’re good at. The second could be full of resume-writing tips. The third about how to build a strong LinkedIn profile, etc… And by getting interested readers to your site regularly, you’re able to promote your book wherever appropriate.
  2. Weekly emails. This is building on the serial blog post idea. In this case, let’s say you write a book about getting organized. Allow your readers to sign up for your “Organization boot camp.” Each week, you would send them a separate email (these would all be pre-written, of course) with specific tips on what they could do that week in order to meet their personal organization goals. And it goes without saying … each email would tell them that they could get more detailed information from your book, along with a link to purchase it.
  3. Chapter-by-chapter discussion guides. What better way to sweeten the pot for a potential reader than to tell them that after they have purchased the book, they can come back to your site at the end of each chapter for a downloadable discussion guide that will help them better understand what they’ve absorbed. So if your book is about, say the Great Depression, the discussion guide that you offer will allow them to go on the site after reading chapter 1, and ask/answer a few questions that will help them have an even better understanding of what caused the Great Depression before moving on to the next chapter.
  4. Podcasts/videos. To say podcasts and videos are popular today would be an understatement. They are the most popular forms of media out there. So maybe you want your weekly lesson plan to be in video or podcast format instead of a written email. Maybe you want your chapter discussion guides to be actual discussions between you and another expert, talking through the most interesting things you covered in that chapter. Maybe you’re even debating the subject. Take about a great way to reinforce a concept and make the reading experience even more satisfying!
  5. Ask the expert features. People love being able to ask a question of an expert. And if you’re a nonfiction author … well, you’re an expert. After reading your book, people might have questions that are gnawing away at them, like, “How do I know if renovating my kitchen will really be worth it?” or “What would really happen if our country really embraced libertarianism, as you recommend?” By providing them with an avenue to ask you these questions – and get responses in real time – you are offering a truly satisfying journey. That can be done via a live expert chat, or simply exchanging comments via Facebook or your blog.

Embrace the fact that people will be in a new and better place in their lives after reading your book. Then, you can start to figure out which of these ideas – or others – will truly make the journey more satisfying. And yes. Like it or not, it is a journey.

SuperwomanSmarts

Case Study: What One Author Website Does Right … and Wrong

SuperwomanSmarts -- an author websiteI stumbled upon a press release this morning about an author website that was just re-launched: www.superwomansmarts.com/.

There are a bunch of things about this site that I like … and a lot of elements that I didn’t have quite as good a reaction to.

Now, I don’t claim to be the final word on this. Some people may disagree with my opinions. But here’s my assessment of what this site does right — and what it does wrong — based on my experience building websites for authors.

What This Author Website Does Right

Design
Whomever designed this site is good. The site was clearly built in WordPress, but with enough customization to really stand out and look different and unique. The site is also mobile-friendly, a huge plus in 2016.

Message clarity
The bulleted list of what Superwoman Smarts has to offer, along with a “welcome” message, is crucial. It allows people to clearly get their bearings when they arrive. Thankfully, this isn’t one of those sites that plops you into the latest blog entry and leaves you trying to figure out what it’s all about.

Video, video, video
Having video on your site is crucial. This site has it front and center as a way for people to understand what the site is about.

Offering benefits for signing up
I have a lot of authors ask me what the secret is to collecting email addresses. The answer? A reason for someone to give you their email address. This site nicely tells people exactly what they’ll get for signing up — from access to podcasts and webinars to private discussion groups that let you connect with other members.

What This Author Website Does Wrong

Now we get to the good stuff, right? Well, here goes…

Serious branding and URL confusion
So you come to SuperwomanSmarts.com, and you think you’re on the site’s homepage. Well, you’re not. And that’s a problem. You see, the main URL for the site is AundreaYWilcox.com. SuperwomanSmarts.com is not its own site — it’s a subsection of Aundrea’s site, and the URL simply directs you to that subpage. Plus, no matter where you click around on the site, the URL is still SuperwomanSmarts.com. And that leads to a whole bunch of confusion. For example:

  • You might wonder, as I initially did, why the header of the site says Aundrea Y. Wilcox if the site name is Superwoman Smarts.
  • Here’s a question: What happens if you click around the site (as I did) and then attempt to go back to the “homepage”? You would click on “home,” right? And then you’d be on Aundrea’s homepage, even though it still says you’re on SuperwomanSmarts.com. Incredibly confusing!
  • There’s clearly some brand confusion here. What is it that we’re supposed to be buying into? SuperwomanSmarts? Or the speaker Aundrea Y. Wilcox? Personally, I think that if Superwoman Smarts is its own brand, then it needs its own site. Period.

Unexpected music
This is just my personal pet peeve, but I can’t stand when you come to a site and it starts blaring music at you. If you accidentally left your sound on and, say, are at work or have a sleeping baby next to you, that’s experience is sure to make you start whispering obscenities at the site. And then leave!

Heavy promotion
Unlike many author websites, this one actually aims not to sell just books, but also retail wear, like t-shirts and the like. And while, if successful, that’s a great idea, I wonder if there’s a little too much pushing of products when you arrive here. After all, the first thing the site needs to do is sell you on the ideas behind it, and once you’re deep enough, it can start encouraging you to spend money on products. Instead, it feels a bit like there’s a huge ad right on the homepage.

Still to Be Determined

Requiring payment
This is honestly one of the boldest things I’ve ever seen done on an author website. Aundrea and Superwoman Smarts (still not clear on which one it is) wants you to “upgrade” and pay for full membership to the site. Here’s the description of what you get with a full membership:

“… upgrade to a VIP Member for $17/month—the cost of a movie ticket and popcorn (and a bottled water if you’re lucky)—and gain expanded access to member detail pages with direct contact information and special offers (and a PREMIUM listing for yourself), live webinars, podcasts, video trainings, the mentoring program, and more exclusive content! If you have the time and the drive to do more with what you have—no matter how little you think you have—these deliverables will help you finally execute on your vision.”

In other words, Superwoman Smarts is offering women the chance to connect with other female professionals, promote their own services, and receive special offers, trainings and professional mentorship if you pay a monthly fee. That’s a tall ask. Personally, I would love to see how many people have already signed up for this. My hunch is that it’s probably not many. But this is something to keep an eye on … because any new way for authors to make money is worth watching.

 

Do you have a site you’d like me to do this type of assessment of? Submit your URL in the comments box below and I’ll be happy to offer my two cents.

Photo credit: Eleaf via Foter.com / CC BY

6 Questions You MUST Ask an Author Website Development Firm

Photo credit: Eleaf via Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: Eleaf via Foter.com / CC BY

I’ve been running Smart Author Sites for a decade now. I’ve worked with hundreds of authors (and, truth be told, put together hundreds more proposals than that). Many authors that have come to me have done so after developing a website previously … and then regretting it for one reason or another.

If you are considering having an author website developed, or if you’re talking to an author website development firm, here are five questions you must ask — and answers that should make you run the other way — before signing anything or giving out your credit card number.

  1. Will I be able to update the website myself? When I started this business 10 years ago, content management systems were only used by huge, content-rich sites (like CNN, for example). Now, just about every site is on an easy-to-update content management system, like WordPress. Make sure to ask if the site they will be developing for you will be on a content management system that allows you to easily log in and make changes to the website on your own. It’s essential for authors to be able to log in at any time and post blog entries, site updates, photos, and more.
  2. Is there a charge per page? I’ve actually been asked this question multiple times. At first, it sounded crazy to me. Why would you charge per page? But I’ve come to understand that there are actually companies that charge you on a per page basis for site development. Here’s what you need to know: The significant cost of building a website is in the design and development. That code is then duplicated on each and every page of the site. There might be a small degree of customization that goes into laying out the text and photos in the body of each page, but that’s minimal. In WordPress, adding a page is as simple as clicking a button. So anyone who wants to charge you more for a five-page site than a three-page site is selling you a bag of goods.
  3. Is the site mobile friendly? It’s 2016. A large percentage of people are viewing the web via a mobile phone and/or tablet. For a site to be built today and not be mobile friendly is insane. And yet, this isn’t a crazy question to ask. The same sites that are not built on a content management system (i.e. they are hand-coded) may also not be mobile friendly. So make sure to ask this question and confirm that yours will be before moving forward.
  4. How much will hosting cost me? Have you seen all those commercials in which companies offer to build you a website for free? Have you ever stopped to think how they make money? The answer is: hosting. In other words, they will build you the website for free and then charge you an arm and a leg to keep it up and running after they’ve built it. So make sure you get a price quote on hosting before moving forward with design. Speaking of which …
  5. Who owns the site? So this company will build you the site. Maybe they will build it on their own server. If so, it’s important to make sure that you actually own the site going forward. In other words, let’s say they build you the site, and then let’s say that you decide down the line that you want to have it hosted somewhere else, or have another company manage it for you or make changes to it. Can you do that? If they own the site, you can’t. So this is a crucial thing to know.
  6. What kind of services do you provide post-launch? There are too many design and development firms out there that build you the site, hand it over to you, and wash their hands clean. That’s not a situation you want to be in. What if you need larger-scale design changes made down the line? What if you have a simple question about how to add an image to the page? Make sure that the firm you work with will continue to work with you after the site is launched — helping you keep it fresh and making any changes you need going forward. There may be a small cost associated with that (in our case, the only qualification is that you keep the site hosted with us), but it may well be worth it.

Have you run into any other pitfalls working with companies designing your author website? Any other words of wisdom you’d want to give to other authors? Share them in the comments box below.

Johan Larsson / photo on flickr

Our 5 Most-Read Blog Posts in 2015

Johan Larsson / photo on flickr

Johan Larsson / photo on flickr

A new year has begun, and with it will come a whole new batch of blog posts — chock full of advice, the latest news in the industry and more.

But first, feast on our most-read blog posts of 2015. Please note that not all of these were published in 2015 (some are older than that) … but they certainly were read! We hope these have been helpful to you, and here’s to an even better 2016.

  1. How to Write the Perfect Book Teaser
    When I’m working with an author to create an effective homepage, one of the things that I always ask a writer to do is create a book teaser … something that really whets the appetite of a visitor in the few seconds that you have their attention. Then you give them links to read more about the book, read an excerpt, or … of course … buy the book….

  2. The Importance of an Author Tagline (and How to Write One!)
    Picture this. You go to an author’s website. Or you end up on the website because … well … you’re not quite sure how. The homepage of the website includes the author’s name in huge letters, on top of a large, adorable photo of him or her. “Aw … what a nice photo,” you think…

  3. Authors: Create Your Own Wikipedia Page
    Did you know that Wikipedia is one of the most popular ways of doing research on the web? In some ways, that’s kind of crazy. After all, it’s not experts who post information on Wikipedia — covering everything from the Berlin Wall to the history of the Slinky toy. It’s your average guy who creates a Wikipedia page about something or someone and puts in what they know. Other people can then add to that information. It’s basically a wealth of knowledge from common folk (another example of Web 2.0) that stays there unless someone else finds it to be incorrect…

  4. 6 Things Elizabeth Gilbert Does Right on Her Author Website (and You Can, Too)
    Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert (known best for Eat, Pray, Love) has an amazing author website. And no, we didn’t build it. But when I stumbled upon it today, I was immediately impressed by it. Why? Here are six reasons…

  5. Building Your Author Media Page/Press Kit
    Do you have a media page on your author website? It’s purpose is to provide the media with the information they might need to feature you in their next piece. If you decide to have a press page on your website, here are some ideas about what it should include…

  6. Looking to Get Published? Consider Harper Collins’ Authonomy
    If you’re an author looking to get published by a major publishing house, you may want to consider posting your book on Harper Collins’ Authonomy website. Here’s the scoop….

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

  8. 6 Tips for Pre-Selling Your Book
    If you’re a smart author — and all our Smart Author Sites clients are 🙂 — you’ll have your website up-and-running well before your book is published. In fact, your website may have even helped to get your book published. But exactly what should an author be doing with the website for the months leading up to the book’s release date? How do you promote a book that’s not on the shelves yet? Here’s what you can do to get a head start selling copies of your book…

  9. Author Newsletters: Tips, Misconceptions, and More!
    Several of my clients have asked me to send out newsletters to their mailing lists recently. But none of them seemed to understand exactly what a newsletter can do (or the information you can cull out of sending a newsletter). With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to outline exactly what an author newsletter can do, when it should be used, and what kind of information you can cull from it…

  10. A New Way for Authors to Get ‘Discovered’
    I came across this article today on MediaBistro. Just thought I’d share it with my author friends. Apparently, Penguin has created a new website called Book Country — a place where authors can connect with reviewers, publishing professionals, and readers…

Have an idea for a future blog entry you’d like to see? Make your recommendation in the comments section below.

new-years-eve

5 Author Website-Related New Year’s Resolutions

new-years-eve2016 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 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!

infographic

4 Ideas for Kick-Ass Author Website Content

infographicWhat kind of content do you have on your author website? Sure, you have a bio page, a book description, and a few killer book reviews. But is that what’s really going to woo readers?

The best way to drive new traffic (i.e. potential readers) to your site is to create some kick-ass author website content – content that gets socially shared, viewed on YouTube, and piques the interest of people who like your writing and your subject matter. And in today’s world, simple articles or blog entries just won’t do it any more. People want content that is more dynamic, interactive, and visually stimulating.

So what kinds of content might do that? Here are four ideas.

1. Videos, videos, videos. I have written blog posts before about how video has become the most popular form of content on the internet. As depressing as this may be for writers, there are plenty of people out there who would prefer to watch a video than read written words. In fact, videos are shared more than articles, and the second most popular search engine on the web today (after Google, of course) is YouTube. So consider turning your blog into a vlog, and creating short video snippets (2-3 minutes is ideal). You can upload your videos directly to Facebook as well, meaning you no longer have to write a blurb for Facebook than then links to your blog. Whether your videos are humorous, inspirational, suspenseful (or whatever your writing style is) you can reach a whole new audience by delving into this content type.

2. Infographics. People just love infographics. They’re easy to scan, fun to read, and highly sharable. They go bananas on Pinterest. According to Business.com, a recent Google Trends chart (below) shows just how much people are searching for infographics now, as opposed to five years ago. If you have good information to share, you’re more likely to get people interested in it if you present it as an infographic instead of straight text.

googletrendschart.742by393

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For example, let’s say you write a book about divorce. Consider creating an infographic that breaks down divorce rates by decade, by age, by ethnicity, etc… People just love to absorb information in a visual way, and an infographic like this will get your message out to a much wider audience. Hopefully, many of them will then want to learn more and visit your website, or buy your book.

3. Slideshows/photography. You’ve heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In today’s world of social media, pictures just do better than words. Hands down. So consider getting your message across in photos instead of words. For example, let’s say you wrote a book about World War II. If you have any great photos to share from that era, create a slideshow of them on your site, and share them one-by-one on social. If, say, you wrote a book about pets, have people share their favorite pet pictures and create a slideshow of those online. Think outside the box, and ponder ways that you can use photography to tell your story.

4. White papers. You have information. Your readers want it. So how do you get it to them? Well, the book is one way, of course. But some people want something more immediate (and free). So consider creating downloadable white papers that your readers can use. Think about some of the overarching messages people get out of your book and create a brief, easy-to-absorb white paper that helps convey those messages from a high level. Include case studies/testimonials from other people who have learned/grown after reading your book. If you owned a pastry shop, this would be the free sample you’d give patrons to let them know just how good your pastries are. Do it right and you will have a long-term customer.

Obviously, all of these ideas are easier for nonfiction writers than fiction writers. But even novelists can think outside the box and come up with ways to create videos, graphics, photos, illustrations and more than really attract new readers.

And if there are other content types that you’ve integrated into your site that have taken off like gangbusters, please share your ideas with other authors below!

disappointed-man

Great Author Website Ideas, Poor Website Designs

disappointed-manEvery month or so, I like to scour the web and see what other authors are doing with their online marketing efforts. After all, what better way to find great ideas than from others doing similar work.

But what struck me today as I was reviewing a few sites was the brilliance of these author website ideas … and the serious lack of professionalism in presentation of execution.

Here are two examples. Apologies in advance to the authors in question. I hope they can view this as constructive critisism.

Case Study #1: PixyMusic.com

What it’s doing right: Well, this trilogy got some prominent coverage in the local paper. That’s something most authors would kill for. And what caught my attention the most was the blurb at the bottom of the article, which explained that while the first book isn’t going to be released for another month, you could actually receive a signed copy before the official launch date. That’s a brilliant way to get people to the site and give them something special for coming.

What it’s doing wrong: Have you looked at the site yet? Clearly, this author did not decide to go with a design firm. In trying to stay within a small budget, he created a site himself that looks really unprofessional. In fact, it doesn’t even look like it was created in WordPress or any of today’s free templated services. This instead looks like a dated site that was created in some kind of older web design software that then translated the design into HTML for him. If you were an agent of publisher, what would you think about signing this author to a contract? Great ideas, poor execution.

Case Study #2: ColtonsPocketDragon.com

What it’s doing right: I came across a press release today about this book series. It talks about how you can visit the author website to see short videos and inserts from each book. Again, it’s a great way to make a site really dynamic (who doesn’t love video?), and allow parents and kids to get a taste of these books, and hopefully fall in love.

What it’s doing wrong: Once again, execution is key. The site doesn’t exactly have a good UI (user interface) — with a header bar that isn’t consistent throughout the site, and a navigation that doesn’t include book titles, but instead refers to them as “Books 1, 2 and 3” (as if people remember which number book in a series they have read). In addition, the author clearly wanted a site that was moving and dynamic (note the moving words and such on the homepage), but it’s clear from the layout and fonts that it was not designed by a professional. Again, this appears to be an effort by an author to cut costs … but at what cost?

So what’s the moral of the story here? Innovative author website ideas are great. They can take a good book and make more people realize how good it is. But without a professional website design, even the best ideas can fall flat.

If your site resembles either of these, reach out to us for a free consultation on how to build a profesional-looking author website.

email

4 Musts for Building an Author Email List

emailI stumbled across this article on Publishers Weekly about why it’s important for authors to build email lists. In this day and age of social media, too many authors think that Facebook and Twitter followers are enough. They’re not.

To paraphrase the author of the piece, here are just a few of the reasons you shouldn’t neglect building an author email list:

  • You own your own email list and can do with it as you wish
  • You control what messages people receive, and when they receive them
  • You can track your emails in a way you can’t track social media

But here’s the challenge: How do you motivate people to sign up for your email list? After all, people are always hesitant to give out their email address. What kind of SPAM will they get? Who will their email address be sold to? Is the reward going to be worth the risk?

Here are four musts for building a proper email list.

  1. Have a good email list management system. So a user enters their email address on your site. Where does that go? Make sure that you have a system in place before you start collecting this information; a system which stores the email addresses and keeps track of sign-ups, unsubsribes, etc… These types of tools not only take some of the day-to-day management away from you, but they ensure that you’re never breaking SPAM laws. There are some plug-ins within WordPress that do this for you, or you could sign up for an account with MailChimp, which is free until you have more than 2,000 names on your list.
  2. Promise security. You’ve seen the messages. “We promise not to share your email address with anyone.” This is a crucial message to share with your visitors, because too many sites collect your email address and then share it with a third party. For example, say you write a book about pregnancy. And say you collect email addresses of people visiting your site. It’s a safe assumption that a good number of them are moms-to-be. Then, say, that you sell that list of email addresses to Pampers or Gerber. Those industries would have a real reason to want access to your email list, and would probably pay you good money to do so. But your users probably wouldn’t be thrilled to start getting emails from a company that they never agreed to receive notifications from. This is a great example of why it’s so important to promise people that you won’t sell their information.
  3. Offer a real incentive. What’s the main reason you give out your email address? It’s probably not because you’re especially interested in receiving yet another newsletter. It’s usually because there’s some sort of incentive (financial or otherwise) for doing so. Maybe you’ll get 20% off your next purchase. Maybe it will get you access to some helpful white papers. Think about what you can offer your readers (book club discussion guides, an autographed copy of the book, etc…) as a benefit for signing up and highlight that benefit in a prominent place.
  4. Make it clear what people are signing up for. This is yet another reason why people may hesitate to give out an email address. What exactly are they going to be getting? Are you going to be sending daily tips? A monthly newsletter? Your newly-posted blog entries? Random emails whenever you have news to share, like a new book being released? Spell out for your readers what they should expect to receive if they give you their email address, which should help relieve some trepidation.

And here’s an extra perk if you’re successful: authors who have a robust email list are especially appealing to publishers. So follow these leads and watch your subscriber list start to grow.

author-tagline

13 Great Attention-Grabbing Lines on Author Websites

author-taglineSo often, I recommend that an author write a tagline or attention-grabbing intro sentence for their homepage. This helps visitors get a really good idea of whose site they’re on in about 5 seconds. After all, the author’s name across the top — “John Jones,” for example — could be an accountant, a spiritual consultant … or an author.

Plus, these first few seconds are an author’s chance to really grab someone’s attention and whet their appetite, or lose that potential reader forever. Sounds important, right?

And yet, many authors that I work with struggle over this. Sometimes they write three-paragraph soliliquies that are way too long. Other times they write something as uncreative as “Author” to appear right next to their name. And some authors just can’t figure out how to summarize their writing in a way that seems remotely interesting.

With that in mind, I have identified some author websites (some which we built, some we did not) that I think do an exceptional job of introducing the author’s writings in a brief blurb that really grabs people’s attention. Some of these appear right next to the author’s name, others are in a bolded sentence right in the middle of the homepage.

Hopefully one of these can be an inspiration for you.

1. MargueriteVardman.com

Life, death and everything in between

2. IsabellaLaFlesche.com

Best-selling author in search of all things chic

3. MaryMaddox.com

Writing that is not afraid of the dark

4. ThomasRichardHarry.com

Challenging today’s party politics

5. SteveRRoberts.com

Action-adventure, new characters, new places

6. CynthiaAttoney.com

I write character-driven teen novels with twisty plots–because life is complicated

7. EkaterinaBooks.com

Fiction for the young at heart

8. RichardAMDixon.com

Adventures of an infantry soldier

9. RichardSharpNovels.com

Words about time

10. FourHourBody.com

An uncommon guide to rapid fat-loss, incredible sex and becoming superhuman

11. PamelaMooreDionne.com

Is there something in string theory physics that can explain ghosts?

12. ChrisGuillebeau.com

The art of noncomformity

13. 2ndCenturyChristians.com

Explore the world of 2nd century Christianity

As you can see, these authors write fiction, nonfiction, YA novels, self-help books and more. A great tagline isn’t limited to one type of author or one type of genre. Think outside the box and come up with the right line for your website.

branding

What’s Your Author Brand?

brandingLike it or not, today’s author also has to be a marketer. And what is it that you are marketing? Well, it’s your brand.

But what exactly is your author brand? What are your options? What’s going to stick in everyone’s mind after they’ve visited your site?

Here are four directions that I’ve seen authors go in terms of their branding, and examples of each one. I hope this sparks ideas for you!

1. Yourself. This is probably the case for 75% of the authors that I work with. Their brand is … well … themselves.

This is most relevant for authors who want to become household names (hello, Stephen King!) and hope to write multiple books in a specific genre. For a nonfiction author, your self-focused brand might also include any consulting or speaking you hope to do on the same topic.

For a self-branded site, your name would be both the URL and “title” at the header of your site. Your photo would also be prominent, and the site design should clearly reflect your personality and the genre you’re writing in.

Goals of an author-branded site would be to build followers (email sign-ups, likes, people “following” you, return visitors) so that people who like your first book will then be aware of your upcoming books, and you have a way to continue communicating with them as each future book comes to fruition.

See examples of author-branded sites that we’ve built at:

2. Your book. Maybe you were inspired to write this one book. It could be a biography. It could be your story of survival through a crisis. Maybe it’s a collection of stories you put together. But if your plan is to write this one book — and only one book — then it makes sense for the book to be the brand. After all, the goal is to sell the book, right? It’s not to build a legion of fans.

In a case of a book site, the site title and URL should reflect the book title, and the book cover should be front and center in the design. In addition, the site’s look and feel should directly resemble the book cover. After all, the site is an extension of the book in these cases, so it makes all the sense in the world to carry the colors and graphics from the book cover into the book-focused website.

The goal of a book-branded site is simple: sell the book. This type of site should should have “buy the book” buttons everywhere, and primarily should serve to whet people’s appetite until they make the purchase.

See examples of book-branded sites:

3. Your series. Let’s say that you want to be the next JK Rowling. You’ve just finished your first Harry Potter-like book, and plan to write the rest of the series over the next few years.

This site, in many ways, would be a hybrid of the two above. The title/URL should be the same as the name of the book series. The design should also be very closely tied to the book covers, and contain any color schemes, images or fonts that will run through the entire series. But the goals of this site would be closer to that of an author-focused brand. After all, not only do you want people to buy the first book, but you want to make sure you retain their attention for the future books. Collecting email addresses/subscribers/followers is key, because that’s the best way to make sure that you catch their attention again when the next book of the series is out.

See examples of series-branded sites at:

4. Your cause. Maybe your brand is much bigger than yourself or your book. Maybe you are trying to start a movement or build a new product line. That movement could be spiritual in nature, it could be political, or it could be a service that you offer. Regardless, in these instances, you and the book are only pieces of the puzzle. The true goal is bigger than both of you.

For sites like these, a uniquely-designed logo is key. That logo needs to have a catchy title — and picking a name for your brand is not something to take lightly — and should be something that will hopefully be recognizable to a wide audience in the future. Think nonprofit, like Autism Speaks, or for-profit, like, H&R Block. Sure those are big examples, but they’re good role models.

Front and center in your site design should be your mission and why people should be interested. This can be done in images, video and/or text … or all of the above. The book can be featured prominently in the design, but it should be viewed as a supporting item to boost the message, not the end all and be all.

The beauty of a cause-based site is that it can grow as much as you want it to. Plan to sell t-shirts and bracelets that advance the mission? That will fit nicely into the brand. Want to start a petition on your site, sell your services, or build an online community for people to connect on the issue? That also is an easy addition. All of it ties into the goal of your book and your website; you and the book are just part of the supporting cast, if you will.

Here are some examples of cause-based websites

See how different your website will be depending on which type of branding you decide to go with? Choose wisely … it will make a big difference in the success of your book, your website, and ultimately, your brand.