3 Creative Ways to Sync up Your Email List, Social Networking Followers

It’s a rare breed of author who has thousands of names on their email list and just as many followers on Facebook and Twitter. Most authors have either built a website and are just getting into social networking, or have been active on social networking sites and are just now creating a website and building an email list.

Either way, you may be wondering how you can have the best of both worlds and get people to sign up on every type of platform. An article in Internet and Marketing Report cites three different companies and the creative ways they migrated groups from email to social networking and vice versa. Don’t be afraid to steal these ideas!

1. Go viral. A company named Dingo offered its customers a $20 coupon if they signed up for the e-mail newsletter and “Liked” their Facebook page. But there was a catch: In order for the promotion to kick in, the company’s Facebook page needed to get its total number of fans from 300 up to 5,000.  And it worked. Within three days of sending out the note, they reached their goal.

2. Offer a reward. Timbuk2 wanted to get its newsletter subscribers to be Facebook fans, too. So they sent out an email blast informing everyone that those who became a Facebook fan in the next however-many hours would be entered to win a bike, helmet, or messenger bag. No surprise … it worked.

3. Keep exclusive content private. Crocs had tons of followers on Facebook and Twitter, but not too many email subscribers. So they posted on their wall and started tweeting about special deals and offers that are only available through their email newsletter. To make it even easier, they included a sign-up app on their Facebook page. We don’t know just how successful this effort was, but the Crocs execs describe it as a “giant leap” in subscribers.

Hope these ideas help you, too!

The 7 Most Common Author Website Mistakes

I came across a blog entry today from Phyllis Zimbler Miller, an Internet Business Consultant. Her blog entry, titled A Book’s Promotion Should Be Helped by a Book Author Website backs up what I’ve been saying to clients for years!

So many clients I’ve worked with have wanted Flash intro pages on their websites. Or they’ve shot down the idea of collecting email addresses because, “I won’t have a newsletter.” I always give in, of course, because they’re the client! But maybe this will help clear things up a bit.

Here are the biggest mistakes made in author websites, according to Phyllis, and my own two cents on each one:

1. Splash page that puts an extra click between the potential website visitor and the home page with the important book information (splash pages are no longer “in fashion” and should be eliminated)

Sooooo true! I say this all the time. Splash pages are annoying. They keep a user from getting to what they’re looking for. And they’re awful for SEO. A lose-lose.

2. Home page that doesn’t clearly state front-and-center whether the book is fiction or nonfiction and what the book is about

This is a no-brainer. For most authors, I recommend a “welcome” box at the top of their homepage to immediately explain what the book and website are about, who they speak to, and what they hope to accomplish. For some fiction books, I instead recommend that we just include the book cover and a tantalizing description of the book on the homepage. But either way, the subject matter is front and center!

3. Home page and subsequent pages without a clear BUY THIS BOOK NOW button “above the fold” (before having to scroll down the page)

If your goal is to sell the book, then why do authors sometimes make it so difficult for people to do that? I tell authors that we should have a “Buy the Book” link available in big letters on every page of the website. Sometimes, we work it into the navigation. But more often it’s just underneath the book cover wherever it appears. Why make people click around when they want to buy the book?

4. Not offering a free sample chapter to entice people to read more (in other words, buy the book)

Anyone who thinks they’re giving away too much by offering one or more excerpts needs to take a class in marketing.

5. Not collecting email addresses to keep people informed of the author’s new writing developments (email marketing can be very effective for keeping connected with a book author’s fans)

Again, one of my pet peeves. For every author I work with, I recommend we build a newsletter sign-up box on the homepage. I also recommend that we ask permission of everyone submitting a comment through the site to add their email address to the newsletter list. It’s such a simple (and free) thing to do. And having a ready-made list of people interested in your writing can be priceless!

6. Photo or background art on home page that has nothing to do with the book and is confusing to the website visitor.

I do agree with Phyllis on this one, but not quite as passionately as the others. For some authors, they really want the website to reflect their personality. So if they like flowers, and they want flowers as their background image, who am I to tell them it doesn’t work? Even if their book is about, say, career success. It’s a strange fit, but an author site really needs to suit the author.

7. Another major problem for promoting books is authors who only have blogs with no websites.

Ding, ding, ding! This is the biggest (and most common) mistake I come across. So many authors think they can just set up a free blog account and that would replace a website. Not so! When someone visits your blog, they will immediately see the last thing you wrote. It could be about the writer’s block that struck last night or your interesting conversation at the supermarket. But what they WON’T see is your book. Or the tantalizing description of it that will make people want to buy your book. The homepage of an author’s website is a marketing tool and should be used as such. A blog is a great feature to be a part of an author website, but can certainly not replace one altogether!

Okay, what are your pet peeves on author websites? What makes you cringe? Share your thoughts!

The Dos and Don’ts of Amazon.com Book Reviews

It’s common sense that having lots of rave reviews of your book on Amazon can increase book sales. But what’s the best way to get those reviews on there? Here are some do’s and dont’s:

  • Do send out an email to your full list of contacts, announcing when your book is released and encouraging them to go onto Amazon and post a review once they’ve read it.
  • Do not make up a dozen fake usernames on Amazon and start posting lots of similarly-sounding rave reviews of your book. How bad would that look if people figured it out?
  • Do ask your friends and family to post reviews of your book — in their own words. Also, make sure their usernames don’t match your last name!
  • Do not tell people what to say in their reviews of your book. Even if your friends and family aren’t great writers, it’s so much more natural when they choose their words themselves.
  • Do encourage your website visitors or people who write you to you to tell you how much they like your book to post book reviews on Amazon.
  • Do not allow your well-meaning mother-in-law or close friend to create a dozen fake accounts on Amazon and post glowing reviews of your book. That’s no different from you doing the same thing yourself.
  • Do approach people who are “Top Reviewers” on Amazon and ask them to review your book. They may or may not agree to do so, but their reviews are pretty well respected.

What strategy helped you get lots of good reviews on Amazon? Let us know!

7 Easy (and Free) Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Author Website

So your author web site is launched. Congratulations! But the work is just beginning. Because what good is a website if no one is visiting it?

Here are some simple ways to ensure that your website gets looked at…

  1. Amass a list of contacts. It should include as many people as possible — anyone you may have worked with, talked to about your book, etc… Send a mass email to your all of them letting them know about your new website and encouraging them to visit it.
  2. Use social networks to promote your website. Tweet about it. Include it on your Facebook profile and tout in in Facebook posts as much as possible. Include it on your LinkedIn page.
  3. Add your URL to your email signature. Make sure that every email you send not only includes your name in the signature, but also a link to your website.
  4. Always mention your site at appearances. Are you doing book signings? Or speaking engagements? Make sure to mention your website and let people know what they can find there.
  5. Become involved in blogs. Find other blogs in the same genre as your website. Then start posting comments and getting involved in the conversations. Link back to your site whenever appropriate.
  6. Create your own video. Videos can go viral! So grab a little camera and make a brief (3 minutes or less) video about your book. Make sure to mention your website in the video. Then upload it to YouTube and send it around to friends.
  7. Add your URL to all bylines. If you write any articles on the web, make sure to include your site address in the byline.

Have any other ideas that have worked for you? Please share them here!

Building a Long-Term Relationship With Your Readers

For some authors, the main goal of building a writer’s website is to sell their book. But I encourage most authors to think a little more long-term than that. Because one of the best things you can do with an author website is to make it a long-term destination for readers. The benefits of that are many, including:

  • Building and maintaining a fanbase for future books
  • Providing additional information and resources for people interested in your subject matter
  • Getting a chance to interact with your readers and find out what they would like more of from you

So how do you build this long-term relationship? How do you get people to visit your website after they read the book, and then come back regularly for weeks, months, or even years after that? Here are a few ideas…

  1. Blog, blog, blog. I always tell authors that if they’re willing to make the commitment to a blog, they should do it. It’s the best way to keep an author’s website new and fresh, and encourage people to come back regularly.
  2. Talk to readers. Have a place on the website where people can submit questions or comments to you about your book, your writings, or your field of expertise. Then pick out a few questions/comments each month and feature them on the website. And, of course, include your responses to each one. Make it a conversation.
  3. Have contests. Hold writing contests on the website. Or design contests. Whatever best suits your genre. Then the “winner” each month will get an autographed copy of the book, or a phone call with you.
  4. Review other books. If someone likes your writing, they would probably want to hear what other books in your genre you’re reading, and what you think of them. So have a regular book review page, where you recommend books for your fans to read. You could even include a message board where fans can discuss your recommended book each month.
  5. Add resources. If you’ve written a non-fiction book (say, on, how to get the job of your dreams), then you should have a place on the site where you offer things you couldn’t offer in print. They might be a list of other websites that might be valuable. Or downloadable worksheets. And, again, make it interactive. Have a place where readers can share their own recommendations for resources.
  6. Tie in your social networking platforms. If you regularly Tweet or update your Facebook page, make it easy for people to connect with you through those platforms on your website. Again, it’s a new way to interact with people and let them stay in the loop on what’s going on.

These are just a few of the ways to make your website a destination. Remember, a writer’s portfolio only goes so far. A writer’s website can build a community of people that may make your next book a bestseller.

Do you have any other website features that made your author site a destination? Let us know!

Personal Information, Safety and Your Author Website

When you’re building your author web site, do you spend any time thinking about how much information to share about yourself? About what email address to give out? About what might happen if you share too much? If not, maybe you should.

For some authors, these are obvious questions. For instance, one author I’ve worked with, Sherry Jones, wrote a very controversial book that incited the Islamic community. She faced death threats regularly. So she was very careful in building her website to make sure not to share too much about her life, her family, etc…

But what should an average author keep in mind? After all, there are plenty of nutjobs in the news lately who are perfectly willing to sacrifice an innocent person to send a message to the world. Not to mention cyberstalkers. It’s a scary world.

Here are some recommendations on how to keep your private information private online.

  • It’s okay to mention if you’re married, have kids, etc… but avoid sharing names, if possible. Also keep pictures of your children off the website.
  • If you live in a small town, avoid giving out the name of that town. Instead, just mention the geographic area of the state that you live in.
  • Use a post office box or your publisher’s address when you give out your mailing address on your website or blog. And set up a specific email address specifically for this purpose. Readers like to write to authors on occasion.
  • Ignore emails or blog comments that seem threatening or strange. Delete the comment, block the user or email address, and move on.

Have you had a bad experience with someone who found your website? Tell us what happened and how you would advise other authors to avoid those types of incidents in the future.

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!