good reads for authors

March in Review: 5 Good Reads for Authors

good reads for authorsHappy April! Here’s what you might have missed in March. It’s time to catch up on your reading. Presenting … 5 Good Reads for Authors

Good Reads for Authors, March 2017

1. Should Indie Authors Publish Exclusively With Amazon or Not?
A new report from Author Earnings doesn’t completely answer the question, but it will help writers decide.
March 6, 2017 | Observer

2. 6 book publishing models in 2017
Discover today’s six book publishing models and get advice on how to figure out whose book publishing advice you can trust
March 8, 2017 | Build Book Buzz

3. The Indie Author’s Guide to Paid Reviews
For indie authors who have some room in their marketing budgets, paid book review services can be an appealing option.
March 10, 2017 | Publishers Weekly

4. Why Is It Important to Write Unique Blog Content?
There will always be room for another blog, but you cannot get away with poorly written content anymore. Writing unique and informative posts is where the money is at.
March 17, 2017 | Just Publishing Advice

4. Author Marketing Plans: Why Yours Should Be Unique
Are you looking for ready-made author marketing plans? Hoping to find a simple checklist that tells you everything you need to do to get your book out there to a wide audience? Well, sorry … I have some bad news for you.
March 23, 2017 | Smart Author Sites

how do you track book sales

How Do You Track Book Sales?

how do you track book salesSo you have an author website. And you, of course, have links to buy your book through your website (or at least I hope you do!) But how do you track book sales? In other words, how do you know if people are actually clicking on those links? And how do you know how many books are being sold?

There are actually few options for doing this.

How Do You Track Book Sales From Your Site?

Yes, you can track how many people are clicking on each of your “Buy the book” links. You can even track where they are clicking on them (From your blog? The book description page?) and which particular link they are going to (Amazon Kindle? B&N? Your hardcover?)

All of this can be done relatively simply – and for free – through a redirect URL or WordPress plug-in. This means that you can create a custom, hidden URL for each link that then redirects to the actual link. So, in other words, you could create a “page” on your site – let’s call it /buy-amazon-hardcover – that immediately redirects to your hardcover page on Amazon. No user clicking on the link would ever see that “blank” page on your site, because they’re only on it for a millisecond before they’re redirected to Amazon. But your site analytics records that visit, and any time you log in to view your analytics you can find out how many people actually went there — or, in layman’s terms, clicked on that particular Amazon link.

As I mentioned before, there are simple WordPress plugins that can do this work for you as well. The one we’ve used is called Redirection and it automates the process of creating these redirect URLs.

But here’s one thing this free functionality doesn’t do: let you know if people actually went through with the purchase. In other words, it tells you if people clicked on the link from your site that took them to the page on Amazon where they could buy the book. What it doesn’t tell you is if those same people actually followed through with the purchase.

How Do You Track Book Sales in Total?

So now we’ve talked about tracking how many books you’ve sold through your site. But what about tracking book sales in total? You clearly want to know how many books you’re selling, regardless of where the buyers are coming from.

The free option for doing this can be pretty time consuming. Essentially, any site where your book is sold will allow you to view that data. Your Amazon Author Central account will essentially allow you to view how many copies of your book were sold on Amazon – as well as some other partner sites.

But I still hear from authors that their sales through Smashwords, etc… are not included in these reports. They find themselves looking at multiple sources to figure out how many copies they’ve sold, and then working to crunch all the numbers into one place. Not fun.

Thankfully, there are several paid services that help you track all your book sales in one place without the legwork.

One is called Shelley Hitz. It allows you to enter your book information from multiple sites that sell it (Amazon, Smashwords, etc…) and it will generate all the data for you. It allows you to try it for free for 14 days and then the cost is anywhere up to $9.99/month (depending on how many books you’re tracking the sales of).

Another similar option is the downloadable Story Box Software. It offers similar features and allows you to run reports, download your data into Excel files, etc…. The difference with this service is that there’s a one-time fee to download it — $89.99 – and then you can use it for as long as you need. It also offers a free trial.

I’m sure there are plenty more websites, apps, etc… that can help with this. These are just the ones I’ve heard of through word of mouth.

So how do you track book sales? Well, there are a variety of options. It all depends on what you want to know, how you want to get that information, and – like everything else in life — how much you’re willing to pay for it.

harukimurakami

5 Things I Love About Haruki Murakami’s Author Website

harukimurakamiVery rarely do I stumble across an author website that I wish I had built myself. This was one of them.

This brilliant Japanese novelist, author of Norwegian Wood and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, admits to being a bit of a recluse. And that’s what makes his author website so special: it is, in many ways, a peek inside his world that no one ever has gotten to see before.

Here are the five things I love most about HarukiMurakami.com.

1. It’s the perfect balance of photos and text. Many author websites are too heavy one way or the other — they are all text with just a photo or two strategically placed, or they’re all images with little to no words. This site happens to find the perfect balance, with different photos on different pages, and just the right balance of graphics and powerful words.

2. Check out the amazing interactive picture of his desk. Want to know where Haruki does his writing? Check out the photo of his desk on his author page. And oh … that’s not just a static photo. Click on the plus sign on any of the items on his desk (like the coffee mug, for example) and read his commentary on the role that particular item plays in his writing. Brilliant!

3. There’s so much information on each individual book. Visit any individual book page on the site and see the cool slider function at the top, chock full of quotes from the book itself. What a great way to actually whet people’s appetites. Below that is the cover, the description and links to reviews, excerpts, discussion guides and more. It’s almost like each individual book has its own site, and there’s no shortage of things to learn about each book.

4. It also has a wealth of information about what’s behind the books. This section of the site may be hard to find (one of my only criticisms), but it’s well worth it once you do find it. The section called conversations includes excerpts from his conversations with his publisher/cover designer, interviews with him about the books, letters from his editors and more. It’s truly a sneak peek inside (and behind) the books. Plus, visit the music pages on his website and learn about the songs and the artists that have inspired him and his writings.

5. It has an interactive community. I love, love, love the community section of the site, which allows visitors to share their favorite characters, favorite scenes, and how fans discovered Haruki’s books. Fill out the simple form to share your story, or click around to read what other readers have shared. This really makes it an interactive experience, in which readers can speak to their favorite author … and each other.

This website is truly one that I see many others — myself included — modeling future sites after. It’s the perfect blend of information and interactivity, design and functionality. Kudos to Haruki and his Philadelphia-based design agency Blue Cadet. No wonder they won a Webbie!

www

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

tablo

A Social Network for Authors … From Down Under

tabloDoes Facebook have a new rival in the author community? They do if Melbourne-based publishing startup Tablo has anything to say about it. And you don’t need to be a resident of Australia to participate.

According to ITWire.com, Tablo was founded by 21-year-old Ash Davies (yikes! 21???), who recently completed a new round of funding. The company already says it’s helping over 10,000 authors publish to iBooks and Amazon.

Davies says that Tablo’s new social networking platform is “part of a wider effort to transform the writer from a solitary character into a social one by encouraging collaboration amongst authors and likeminded bookworms within an online community.”

According to Davies, the new, unique social network for authors will allow them to:

  • Create their own profiles (including a biography, a photo and a list of works)
  • Share their writing with others in the community
  • Browse the “bookshelves” of their favorite authors
  • Receive notifications as new chapters are written by their counterparts
  • Join groups with other writers in their genre

Here are some more quotes from Davies on the benefits of this venture for authors…

“Writing has traditionally been seen as a lonely endeavour. This, combined with the sad reality that the vast majority of authors struggle to see their work ever published, means that countless pages of writing from talented individuals, are never shared or read by others. Tablo is changing that.

“Publishing a book in 2014 should not be the same as it was in 1914. Yes, authors still put words onto a page (whether digital or paper), but an ambitious or talented writer shouldn’t need a huge publishing deal to ensure their words are read. With our new social features, readers can discover and follow authors from day one. This will help authors secure and grow a loyal readership.

“Very often the best writers are also the best readers, and technology today allows us to be both, anywhere, anytime, and on any device. The nature of the Tablo community means that the next bestseller might be written on a smartphone or discovered on an iPad, and be armed with a loyal fanbase before it’s even published.”

 If you’re interested in delving into this community, check out Tablo at https://tablo.io/. And please share your experiences with us! We’d love to know how it’s working for other authors!

An Exciting New Site: Self Employed Central

ust a quick note this afternoon to inform all of you about a newly-launched site that may be of interest to authors (and many other creative types). It’s www.SelfEmployedCentral.com, and it speaks to anyone who is (or hopes to be) a writer, artist, freelancer, small business owner, or professional in private practice. And, I confess, it’s my baby 🙂 I’ve been working on it for the last few months, and I’m really happy with how it has turned out.

I hope that SelfEmployedCentral.com will become a must-visit site for self-employed professionals — helping them stay on top of the latest news and expert advice having to do with small business funding, motivation, time management, the tax maze, finding health insurance, etc… I also hope it will be full of self-employed professionals sharing their own thoughts, opinions and musings on subjects relevant to them.

The site should be informative, controversial at times (don’t be afraid to debate the health care plan and it’s effect on freelancers), and also — hopefully — kind of fun.

If you want to become a blogger for Self Employed Central, just post a comment in the box below. There’s no payment (at this time), but it will afford you the chance to include your bio/photo/link to your website at the end of each entry. And if we start getting a lot of traffic, that could lead to a lot of business!

Please check the site out and join the conversation. Hope you enjoy it!

Smart Author Sites Welcomes Author Bloggers!

Good news for all the authors and aspiring writers who’ve been following our blog. We now have a handful of Smart Author Sites clients who are going to be blogging here as well.

They’ll tell their stories of getting published (or self-publishing), their writing strategies, and what’s working for them in marketing themselves and their books. This blog should become a must-read for all authors who are looking to be successful (and who isn’t!)

Kicking off our author writing is Michelle Herrera Mulligan (www.michelleherreramulligan.com). More announcements to come!

Social Marketing: Is It Worth It?

I came across a really interesting blog entry (and subsequent conversation) by Barbara Vey, a regular Publishers Weekly blogger.  It starts like this …

Does the idea of Twitter cause you to tremble?
Is Facebook giving you heart palpitations?
Blogging becoming a four letter word?

If your answer to any of those questions is “yes,” then you’re not alone. In fact, you may also want to check out one of my previous blog entries: Getting the Introverted Author Out There

But back to Barbara’s blog … Barbara is speaking this week at a writer’s function in Washington and is looking for authors to chime in about how social networking has helped them, if it was worth their time, etc…

The responses are interesting. And I think it’s safe to assume that yes, social networking does work as a marketing tool for authors. Some of the more interesting comments (from authors, readers, book store owners, etc…) include….

I have to say that if it weren’t for Twitter and Facebook, I wouldn’t be reading some of the authors I do.

Owning a small Indie Bookstore, We have a store blog, I twitter and use FB. Authors on FB become a FAN of Indie Bookstores, we are good at promotion and getting your name out.

I’m a Facebook and Twitter newbie, but I must say, from the writer’s point of view, I’m enjoying Facebook particularly. Think I’m picking up a few new fans, or at least, people who seem interested in what I do!

Check out the whole blog entry and subsequent comments here.

But please do share your thoughts with us as well. How has social networking worked for you? Was it a challenge to get started? Do you feel like it’s gotten your name out there? Leave a reply below!


Using Your Website to Get Yourself Published

Too many people think that author websites are only for published authors. But more and more people have figured out how to use websites to actually get themselves published. Here’s how they’re doing it….

Why Build a Website
Odds are that you’re going to be submitting a proposal or manuscript to a publisher at some point. So how do you get yours to stand out from the crowd? A website is one way to do it. You can only get so much information into the envelope you send them, but you can do a whole lot more if you include a link to your website on every piece of paper in that envelope. It gives the publisher a chance to learn more about you, read your blog, see that people are commenting on your writing, and more. The message is twofold:

  1. You’ve already gotten a head start on marketing your book
  2. You already have people interested in your writing

What to Put on That Website
The most important thing that you can do with your website is this: Make it look professional! Don’t go with one of those one-page, build-it-yourself sites. Just think of how that would appear to a publisher. It basically tells them that you aren’t willing to invest very much in your book at this point. And if you don’t have much confidence in your book, how would they? So hired a design company — preferably one who specializes in author websites like we do — and build a website that will knock their socks off. Other elements that are musts at this point are:

  1. A blog where you can regularly post and take comments. Even if you just ask your friends to comment, this will give your site the feeling of “life”
  2. A newsletter sign-up box. Offer something special to people who sign up. And amass as large an email list as possible. Then make sure to put in the packet you send to the publisher just how many people have signed up for your email list. If you have a good number (over 1,000), it will be a huge selling point.
  3. Access to pieces of your manuscript. Allow a publisher to see your table of contents, read featured excerpts, etc… The more information you can allow them to view on your website (without giving away the farm), the better.
  4. Easy contact information. Have a call-out to publishers on your website. Make it easy for those who are interested in speaking with you further about the book to contact you via phone, email, etc… Don’t make them have to click around.

Now more than ever before, publishers are looking for authors who are willing to invest the time and money in marketing their own book. By building an effective, professional-looking website even before your book is published, you’ll be sending publishers a message that you’re aware of the commitment and ready to take it on. Essentially, that you’re ahead of the game.

Ready to talk with us about building your author website? Email me at karin@smartauthorsites.com.

A Goodbye to Stacey

A little off the topic of our usual blog entries, but I thought this might be a new and different way to say goodbye. One of the members of the Smart Author Sites staff, Stacey Elms, will be leaving us next month to go on to bigger and better things.

So I want to use this blog entry as a tribute to her and her work. If you’ve been one of the privileged clients who got to work with Stacey during her time with us, please post your goodbye message/thank you to her below.

Thanks for participating!