Special Offers on Author Websites

Like it or not, an author website really is a sales tool. And whether you’re talking about selling the book or “selling” the author, the philosophy is very much the same as any other sales tool. People like special offers.

But this isn’t a Macy’s holiday sale. How exactly can a writer’s website use special offers to its advantage? Here are a few ideas…

  1. Offer a discount. Are you selling your own book (as opposed to selling through Amazon or B&N)? If so, offer a special discount to people buying from you. You’d still make more money than if you sold it through a third party.
  2. Prompt people to order in advance. Amazon often does this. Encourage people to pre-order the book at a discount. This can not only increase sales, but give you a better idea of how your book is going to do before its released.
  3. Sell autographed copies. Now this is something that no one else can do. Encourage people to purchase autographed copies of your book. You can offer them at the same price as others, or jack up the price to make some money. But it’s certainly a special (and unique) offer. Rick Niece, one of my clients, does this. Click here to see it.
  4. Encourage newsletter sign-ups. While it may not bring in as much money as a sold copy of the book, the email address of someone interested in your writing is worth a lot. A hearty list will give you a ready-made audience to send special offers to, or promote your next book. So offer a reward for someone signing up for your e-mail newsletter, such as a free book excerpt.
  5. Have a contest. The theme of your contest can vary depending on your genre, but think along the lines of readers submitting stories, book reviews, etc… Then you can have a winner declared each month. That winner would get some kind of prize, such as an autographed copy of your book or their story featured on the website. This is a great way to make your site unique and interactive. Kimberly K. Jones is one client of mine who has done this. Click here to see a sample.

Do you have any other ideas for special offers? Share them with us!

Why Book Authors Need Their Own Websites

Still not convinced that you should have your own author website or book website?

Phyllis Zimbler Miller, marketing guru, book author, and owner of the Internet Marketing company www.MillerMosaicLLC.com, recently wrote an article called “Why Book Authors Need Their Own Websites.”

Here’s an abbreviated version of the list of reasons she gave:

  1. If you use social networking sites to promote your book, you’ll want to have a dedicated site to send your “fans” to so they can learn more about you and the book.
  2. Your publisher site is essentially a site you share with other authors. You don’t want to potentially have visitors distracted by other books and other authors being promoted on the same site.
  3. You want to collect site visitor information, so that you can have a list of contacts to use in the future to promote your current book or a future book.
  4. You can incorporate your blog, video, etc.. to your author site to enhance the interactive, multimedia experience.
  5. If you have book signings or speaking engagements, you can use your website to promote them.
  6. You can add book reviews or testimonials that help make your book look more appealing to site visitors.

All of these benefits mean that your site visitors will have a good experience on your website … and, done properly, that will lead to increased book sales. I’m sure Phyllis will agree with me when I say that an author website will ultimately pay for itself.

Ready to get started? Contact us today for a free consultation!

SEO vs. SEM for Authors

I have worked with many authors who ask me about search engine optimization. Many aren’t sure what the difference is between SEO and SEM/Google Adwords, another service we author. So hopefully this post will clear things up a bit.

First, here are the simple definitions of each one:

Search engine optimization (or SEO) is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a website from search engines via “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”)

Search engine marketing (or SEM), referred to on Google as Google Adwords, involves paying for your pre-written search result text to appear when someone searches for a specific keyword, and paying the search engine for each click you get on that ad.

Now, on the surface, SEO looks far preferable to SEM, since it’s free! You can get as many visits to your website as possible and not have to pay a penny for them. But it’s not so simple. Which of these methods works best for you (if not both) really depends on your situation.

With organic SEO, getting to the top of search results generally takes 6 months to a year of effort. We’ve done it for our business (search for “websites for authors” and we’re the top result), but it takes a great deal of time and effort. If you have a book coming out in two months, SEM is a lot more effective in terms of allowing you to appear on the first page of search results immediately.

In addition, the search engines are always changing how they rank sites. So even if you put in loads of effort to get to the top of search results, you may or may not stay there over time. It could all go to waste if they change their ranking system.

Organic search engine optimization also limits you to focusing on several keywords. For example, as I described above, our site shows up at the top if you search for “Websites for Authors,” but not necessarily “Author Websites” or “Writer Websiters” (although we’re working on it … partially by making those words links to our homepage right here). It takes a lot of work and very specific keyword focus to get it to work. So if your priority is to show up at the top of search results if someone searches for your name or your book title, that’s very doable through SEO. But if you have a variety of different areas you want to focus your keywords in, it gets a little more difficult.

SEM also allows you to keep incredible statistics of the clicks you get. You can see how many people searched for each keyword you’re bidding on, what percentage of people clicked on that keyword, and what percentage of those clicks turned into purchases of your book! In this case, you get what you pay for.

Now, this all may sound like I’m down on SEO and pushing SEM. I’m not really. They both work. But too many people opt for SEO simply because it’s free. And then they get upset when they’re not showing up at the top of search results right away. SEM can get you immediate results within your control — just at a price. SEO takes a lot longer and a lot more work — but it’s free. See how that works?

So here’s how I sum things up. If you’ve just built a writer website with the goal of promoting an upcoming book, you’re better off paying for clicks and ensuring that you get traffic to your website right away. If you’re building your author web site as a long-term resource, promoting your writings and your books over the next several years, then SEO may very well do the trick for you.

I could go on for ages about this (hence, there being books on the subject), but I won’t. Should you be interested in learning more about SEO or SEM, I’ll be happy to go through the details with anyone willing to listen. Just contact us.

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.

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.

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.

Welcome, Authors!

Welcome to the new SmartAuthorSites.com blog! Here, we will keep you updated on the latest news regarding author websites, online marketing for authors, and how to turn your book into a bestseller through a comprehensive online strategy. We’ll also let you know what’s going on within SmartAuthorSites.com as we continue to grow and expand the company in exciting ways. We hope you check back regularly!