author website templates as a house frame

Author Website Templates: 5 Things You Need to Know

So you want to build an author website. It used to be that doing so would require a large technical team to design your site and then hand-code the whole thing in HTML. Not very practical (or cheap). But now, with author website templates, that process can be a whole lot easier.

author website templates as a house frame

Courtesy of Photo by khunaspix/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So whether you work with a design/development/consulting firm like us, or choose one of your favorite author website templates and create your own site, here are five things you need to know.

Important Facts About Author Website Templates

1. A “WordPress theme” is just another name for a website template. We build all of our author websites in WordPress. And within WordPress, there are thousands and thousands of themes available. A theme is just WordPress lingo for an author website template. They are one in the same.

2. Think of a template as the frame of a house. An architect designs a house. He/she determines how the house will lay out, how the entry foyer will be shaped and where the bathrooms sit. But that’s just the frame of the house. Notice that an architect doesn’t decide what colors the walls will be, where the couches will sit or whether or not there is trim around the floorboards or a wooden handrail on the staircase. Your author website template is pretty much the same thing as the work of an architect. It spells out for you how your site is laid out, but not what is on it. In other words, it might designate some space for a header image, but what exactly is in that image is totally up to you.

3. Most author website templates today are mobile-responsive. I’ve written many, many posts about the importance of mobile responsiveness in today’s world. Today, nearly every author website template is mobile responsive. In other words, each of these themes is built in “modules” — sections of the page that lay out differently on desktop and on mobile, with the purpose of giving users the ideal experience regardless of which device they are viewing the site on. However …. some older themes that haven’t been updated may not be mobile-responsive, so it’s definitely worth making sure the one you are choosing is current before diving in.

4. Different author website templates offer different amounts of customization. We talked about the framework of the house. But the analogy kind of ends there. Because different themes allow you to do different things with them. Some author website templates give you more flexibility than others to move things around, change sizing, etc… Do your research (and study other users’ reviews of the theme) to make sure that the one you choose will give you the flexibility you’re looking for. And without going into too much of a shameless plug, I will say that when you work with Smart Author Sites, who has developers who can really dig into a theme, your flexibility to adjust that author website template is multiplied.

5. You get what you pay for. There really is a difference between free themes and paid themes. The majority of WordPress themes are free. But you will also find some that are “premium”; those that require paying a fee to use them. So are the ones that require payment better? Well, yes … especially if you’re building this site on your own. Just a few of the reasons why include:

  • a premium theme often comes with a support team if you need help
  • they generally look more professional/less templated than free themes
  • there are more options for customization of these themes
  • they are updated by the developer more often, reducing long-term security risks

Now, obviously the cost associated with some of these (sometimes $100 or more) make them out of reach for some authors. It’s up to you to decide the best route to take.

We work with clients all the time to find the right author website template to meet their needs, and then customize that theme to be exactly what an author wants it to be. But if you decide to go it alone, choosing the right author website template and adjusting it as you see fit is crucial to building yourself a successful presence on the web.

 

author tips october

5 Author Tips from October

author tips octoberIt’s time for our monthly round-up again! If you missed any of these five author tips that were published in October, this is your chance to catch up. Enjoy!

October Author Tips: 5 Must-Reads

1. Your Author Page: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself
In this post, we explore a few different approaches to a successful author page, and examples of people who have done interesting things with theirs.
Smart Author Sites/October 11, 2016

2. Anatomy of a Book Cover
We are always admonished to not “judge a book by its cover,” but that’s exactly what happens, because your book cover is a retail package.
BookCoaching.com/October 11, 2016

3. Pitch Your Book to Holiday Gift Guides
Would your book make a good holiday gift? Now’s the time to start thinking about how you’ll pitch it to annual holiday gift guides that run in newspapers and on websites and blogs.
Build Book Buzz/October 12, 2016

4. Is Social Media Toxic to Writing?
What happens when an author won’t join social media?
Publishers Weekly/October 14, 2016

5. Website Hack: 5 Reasons Your Author Site Might Be Down
Here are five possible causes of your site being down, and what you can do about each one.
Smart Author Sites/October 27, 2016

Happy November!

how to promote your book

How to Promote Your Book on Your Website

how to promote your bookEver wonder how to promote your book online? Whether or not you already have an author website, there are definitely right ways and there are wrong ways to feature (and hopefully sell) your book there. Here are some examples of the dos and don’ts.

How to Promote Your Book: The “Do’s”

  • DO make sure your book is prominently featured on your homepage … “above the fold” as we call it.
  • DO have a separate “book” page that people can land on if they are looking for more information.
  • DO include your book cover and links to purchase it on every page of your site.
  • DO create/highlight a book trailer … or even a video of you talking about the book.
  • DO have a book teaser on your homepage, and a longer book summary available for readers on the book page.
  • DO offer a free chapter and/or book excerpts that will allow people to get a sense of the tone.
  • DO include reviews/testimonials about the book.
  • DO add some “book extras” to your website, like a “behind the book” story or secrets about how certain characters got their names.
  • DO make it super clear who your book speaks to and why that audience would want to read it.
  • DO maintain a blog and/or a social media presence to continue tying your book into current news and events.
  • DO optimize your site for the search engines so that people can easily find your book.
  • DO include any honors your book may have won. Why not???
  • DO make it clear all the ways your book may be available (hardcover, paperback, e-book, etc…)
  • DO make it clear if you’re working on another book or if your book is part of a series … you want to build a legion of fans who follow your writing.

How to Promote Your Book: A Few “Dont’s”

  • DON’T only feature your book on your homepage. It deserves a page of its own!
  • DON’T expect people to buy a book when the description of it is only a paragraph or two long.
  • DON’T make it hard for people to buy the book. Make the buy buttons prominent and clear.
  • DON’T make your book excerpt so cool or flashy that it’s not readable on all devices. A PDF is fine!
  • DON’T use a low-quality photo for your book cover. You want this to be large and attention grabbing!

Do you have any additional dos or don’ts you’d want to add to this list? Anything on other author sites that impressed you (or did the opposite)? Share them with us!

web novel sample

Web Novel: What Is It and Should You Release One?

web novel sampleI sometimes get asked the question: “What is a web novel?” Authors hear the term and want to know … is a web novel the same thing as an e-book? How do web novels get distributed?

Here are five things you need to know about web novels, and whether or not you might want to consider releasing one.

5 Web Novel Facts

1. A web novel is exactly what it sounds like: a novel published on the web. These can also be referred to as a “virtual novel,” or “webfiction.” But note that these do NOT encompass e-books that are published through Amazon or other online retailers. Web novels are usually released in blog format … and if they end up being published, they are often referred to as a “blook” — a blog that turned into a book.

2. A web novel is usually released by the chapter. While most books (including e-books) are usually released all at once in their entirety, a web novel is usually released chapter by chapter — so one chapter this week and one chapter the next … and so on. That keeps users coming back regularly to keep reading.

3. Web novels are generally offered for free. That’s right. Since most web novels are not available via Amazon and such, they are almost always offered free of charge by the author for people who are particularly interested in their writing. There have been a few cases in which an author charges for access to their web novel, but those are few and far between.

4. A web novel can be a good jumping off platform for an author. Some aspiring novelists use a web novel to gain recognition and a fan base for their work while they try to get the attention of a publishing company. Some web novels can actually end up being turned into full-fledged print books, should a publishing company choose to work with that author. Of course, there will be some editing and tweaking of the story that happens during that time.

5. Anyone can write and release a web novel. It’s true. Basically, all you need is an online platform or author website. Then you can use the blog tool (or something similar) to start releasing your story. Make sure to invite all your friends, social networking followers, etc… to subscribe to your feed so that they can be notified whenever a new chapter is posted.

So is a web novel for you? Well, if you are a fiction writer who is trying to build a following, it may be worth considering — assuming you’re willing to give away your work for free. Based on the information above, it’s up to you to figure out whether this is the right starting point.

sell books

How to Sell Books Through Your Author Website

It’s one of the primary reasons an author creates a website: to sell books. And yet, these same authors still seem to be confused about some of the logistics of how to sell books. Here are some frequently asked questions.

sell booksCan I include links to Amazon, B&N, etc… to sell books?

Linking out to Amazon, B&N, your publisher — or any other sites that sells your book — is incredibly easy. In fact, we often recommend that authors include links to ALL the sites that sell their books (so as not to appear to favor one seller over another). All you have to do is choose the text and/or icons that you want to serve as links, and then use the handy dandy link feature in WordPress to make sure each one goes to the right place. Voila!

Can I sell books myself?

Absolutely. There are a variety of ways to do this — some easier than others. The simplest is to create a PayPal account. PayPal will then allow you to set a price for the book, a shipping charge, and a tax percentage. You then get an embed code from PayPal that you can put on your site. Once someone clicks on that “buy” link, they make the payment through PayPal, you get notification via email, and then you can take care of shipping it to the buyer.

There are far more complicated systems as well, but most authors start with the basic PayPal function. If you want more detail on your options, check out this blog post on the various ways to sell books.

How do I know if someone has bought my book through my site?

This is actually more complicated than it sounds. Obviously, if you’re selling the book yourself via PayPal, you know if someone has purchased it. But tracking that purchase can be a lot more complicated when it’s simply someone coming to your site, clicking a link to Amazon and then making the purchase.

My recommendation is that you set up an Amazon Affiliate account. This will allow you to put a specific tracking code on your links. Not only does this let you see who has gone from your site to directly to purchase your book on Amazon, but it also actually gives you a small percentage of the sale price as a commission! That’s a win-win.

What kinds of incentives can I offer on my website to sell books?

If you plan to sell the book yourself, there are a variety of incentives you can offer for someone to make the purchase. Since you’ll be doing the actual packaging and shipping, you might opt to include a “bonus” gift along with the book. That could be a printable discussion guide, some swag that relates to the book … or whatever else you can come up with. I’ve also worked with authors who autograph each and every copy of the book that someone buys through them. So if it ever becomes a bestseller….

Incentives are more challenging when you’re not the one selling the book. But if anyone has found a successful idea, please share it with us!

How do I get people to my website in the first place so that they’ll buy my book?

It’s true. People actually have to arrive on your website before they can decide to buy your book through your website. And there are professionals who make careers out of telling authors how to drive traffic to their site, so it’s not exactly a science that i can explain in a few sentences.

But here are some strategies (and more info on each one) that we have found to be successful for authors:

Any last tips on how to sell books through my author website?

Yes! Make it easy for a visitor to your site to buy the book. Don’t make people click around in order to figure out how to make the purchase. Have a “buy” link on each and every page. Make sure it’s clear and prominent. It’s a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often I see that happen.

Happy book sales!

best selling authors orb or light

Best Selling Authors: 10 Marketing Secrets

best selling authors orb or lightWhat better way to join the exclusive club of best selling authors than … well … to hear how others did it?

With that in mind, I have scoured the web and collected 10 quotes from best selling authors on their secrets to their success, as it relates to marketing efforts.

Best Selling Authors Marketing Secrets

1. Publish your novels in fast succession.

“Have several novels in the pipeline—finished or nearly so—when you present your first work to a publisher or go the self-publishing route.”
—Kathy Reichs

2. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

“I know so many people who want to be writers. But let me tell you, they really don’t want to be writers. They want to have been writers. They wish they had a book in print. They don’t want to go through the work of getting the damn book out. There is a huge difference.”
—James Michener

3. Identify your audience and your genre before you even start writing.

“There’s no mystique about the writing business, although many people consider me blasphemous when I say that. … To create something you want to sell, you first study and research the market, then you develop the product to the best of your ability.”
—Clive Cussler

4. Have thick skin when you face criticism.

“The critics can make fun of Barbara Cartland. I was quite amused by the critic who once called me ‘an animated meringue.’ But they can’t get away from the fact that I know what women want—and that’s to be flung across a man’s saddle, or into the long grass by a loving husband.”
—Barbara Cartland

5. Take control of your writing career.

“Having my first publisher destroy my dream debut made me realize that I had to take control of my career. I couldn’t leave it in the hands of a publisher interested in only his bottom line. I had to find my readers and connect with them in ways that no publisher ever could. And I had to learn how to be CEO of Me, Incorporated.”
—CJ Lyons

6. Be willing to work for reviews.

“Instead of asking family and friends to write reviews of our books, we should consider courting real reviews by running special promotions. Short $.99 sales or free promos (where Amazon price-matches Smashwords or other sites) are good ways for readers to discover us.”
—Elizabeth Spann Craig

7. Surround yourself with the right people.

“The learning curve on selling e-books is tough. If I didn’t have indie pals like Chris Keniston, J.M. Madden, J.C. Cliff, and Becky McGraw, who helped me navigate this new world, I wouldn’t be as successful as I am today. There’s no manual on how to sell e-books, and if you’re unlucky enough to hit a pothole, it can demolish your career in a heartbeat.”
—Lindsay McKenna

8. Start your marketing efforts before your book is published.

“Start your mailing list while you’re polishing your books and getting them ready to release. Build it via a clean, functional, engaging website and other social media that you’re comfortable with (people can tell when you’re not having fun and simply ‘working’ them, so play to your strengths). Start sending out newsletters–keep them genuine as if you’re writing to the one person who most loves your writing and truly wants to know what is going on with your life and your books.”
—CJ Lyons

9. Be patient.

“It’s difficult to get your work read, so don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t happen straight away for you (it didn’t for me either!).If no one reads your work, use ebooks and get it out there on the internet. You can get an audience at the click of the button, and you’ll soon know if your work is any good or not as they’ll tell you.”
—Amanda Prowse

10. Think of your writing career as a business.

“You have to take this seriously as a business, but only if you want it to be a business. Many people consider their writing to be more about therapy, or just self-expression. But I wanted to change my career from IT consultant to author-entrepreneur, and I wasn’t content to accept the ‘poor author in the garret’ myth. So that’s the first thing, take it seriously.”
—Joanna Penn

good author reads for august

August Round-Up: 5 Good Author Reads

Happy September, everyone. I can’t believe it’s time to bid adieu to summer! But all good things must come to an end. Including the month of August. In case you missed it, here are five good author reads from the month that you might have missed.

good author reads for augustGood Author Reads from August

1. Trade Journals: The Book Publicist’s Secret Weapon
“Trade journals offer book-selling, career-building opportunities for authors of both nonfiction and fiction. What are they and what can you expect?
Build Book Buzz | August 2, 2016

2. 5 Mistakes Authors Make With Their Websites
I have already discussed the importance of the way your present your book and how you can market it better. However I have started to note a problematic trend- that of the bad website.
LinkedIn | August 5, 2016

3. DIY: How to Price a Self-Published E-Book
Setting a book’s price requires some creativity on the part of the author, a careful consideration of the book’s potential audience, and an assessment of what the author hopes to accomplish with the book.
Publishers Weekly | August 5, 2016

4. Author Website Load Time: 7 Things You Sh
ould Know

What’s my website load time? How do I speed it up? To help you get answers, here are seven things you need to know about website load time.
Smart Author Sites | August 24, 2016

5. Six-figure Book Promotion Strategies for Authors
In this interview, the author of over 100 books in niche genres covers effective book promotion strategies, the Amazon Algorithm and much more.
Written Word Media | August 25, 2016

Do you have other good author reads to share? Please post them in our comments box below!

what's my website load time

Website Load Time: 7 Things You Should Know

website load time“What’s my website load time?” … “Why is my site so slow?” … “How can I speed it up?”

These are questions I frequently get asked by clients whose author websites take a while to load. To help you figure these things out, here are seven things you need to know about website load time.

Facts About Website Load Time

1. There are a variety of factors that can impact website load time. Load time literally refers to how long it takes a page on your website to fully load for a user. That’s the simple part. But what determines how quickly your website loads is dependent on a multitude of factors. Examples of some of what can speed up or slow down load time include:

  • Content or images on the page
  • The quality of the server it’s on
  • The plug-ins you have running
  • Back end code

These are some of the primary pieces that can impact load time, but it’s definitely not a comprehensive list. All of this is to say that speeding up website load time can be a complicated task.

2. Different pages have different load times. There’s really no such thing as a site load time. Each page of your site loads independently, and each one has its own time associated with it. So, for example, your book excerpt page — which may have a large image in it that shows pages of the book — could take a whole lot longer to load than a shorter page with a quick author bio. Make sure you examine the load time on each page of your site independently.

3. Slow load time is directly related to user abandonment. Yes, there is a cost to having a site that takes a long time to load. Basically, people just won’t wait for it. Check out this handy dandy chart, courtesy of Hobo.co.uk. It pretty much says it all.

facts about website load time

4. Website load time can be different on desktop and mobile. It’s true. The amount of time your site takes to load on a phone may or may not be drastically different from desktop. In other words, if your site is mobile-responsive (which nearly every new site is), by definition it provides a different user experience on desktop and on mobile. Which means that one version may use plug-ins or formatting that the other doesn’t, which can (of course) impact load time.

5. You can check/test your website load time(s). Yes, there are various tools that can allow you to do this. But the one that I find most effective is Google’s Pagespeed Insights. Not only will this grade your site load times for mobile and desktop, but it will tell you what you’re doing well and what you’re doing wrong, with concrete direction on how to improve your site speed score.

6. Website load time can affect SEO, too. One of the reasons I recommend the Google tool for testing your site speed is because there’s another hidden implication associated with slow site speed: a hit on your SEO placement. In other words, if Google deems your site to be too slow, it is also likely to determine that your site is a poor user experience and t’s going to penalize you by making the site show up lower on search results. So making sure that you get the seal of approval from the Google site speed test serves two purposes.

7. There are simple things you can do to decrease load time. The process of speeding up your website load time may or may not be simple, but it’s always start to smart with some of the lighter lifts before getting too in the weeds. Those include.

  • Optimizing the images on your site
  • Reducing the amount of content on specific pages
  • Uninstalling any plug-ins you’re no longer using

If these simple fixes don’t work, then you can start looking into if it would be helpful to have a developer reduce the CSS or JavaScript that is associated with each page. But first things’s first: figure out what your load times are and try some simple ways to speed them up. Your users will thank you.

kids reading books: children's authors

6 Tips for Children’s Authors

kids reading books: children's authorsChildren’s authors face some unique challenges. While authors of books about religion or history — or even a romance novelist — have a ready-made audience of people interested in that genre, children’s authors have more of an uphill battle. They need to identify their target audience and convince them that this book is the right one for their kids.

So how should children’s authors get their books out there and in the hands (and minds) of the right people? Here are six strategies to try.

Children’s Authors: 6 Things to Keep in Mind When Marketing Your Books

1. Word of mouth is key. There’s no one out there searching Google for “great kids books.” It just doesn’t happen. So how does a children’s book make it onto the bestseller list? The key is usually word of mouth. In other words, one child reads the book and loves it. Her mom is sitting at the playground the next day and starts talking to her friend about the great book that her daughter read the night before. That’s the beginning of what is ultimately a long chain of conversations about this “book my child loves.” So start by getting your book into the hands of as many parents as possible. Give out free copies. Offer a special deal for your e-book. The more kids that can read it, the more parents that can talk about it.

2. Talk to multiple audiences. Who buys children’s books? Well, parents buy children’s books. Teachers add children’s books to their curriculum. Librarians make children’s book purchases. And, of course, you’ve got the kid who comes home from school and says, “Mommy … will you PLEASE buy me that book that little Timmy was reading?” In other words, children’s authors need to sell their books to multiple audiences. You, of course, want kids to love it. You also want to convince parents that it includes a good lesson for their child. And you want teachers and librarians to know that it’s a great book that will help their kids read (and maybe learn other things along the way). In other words, you need to position your book to each of these audiences uniquely, and possibly even dedicate specific flyers, social media messages, or pages on your website accordingly.

3. Think about events. An event can be many things. It can be a speaking engagement at the public library or local school. It can be a book reading and signing at a bookstore. Or an event can be a fun gathering at the local park or rec center. Maybe you invite kids there with lots of food, snacks and activities. Maybe you create life-like versions of your characters and have the kids interact with them. You can think as big or as small as possible, but actually having the opportunity to interact with parents and children will help you build a loyal fan following. You can find examples of great children’s authors’ events on the Children’s Book Council “Kid Lit” page.

4. Join a children’s book community. There are various organizations out there full of children’s authors (and sellers!) For example, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) boasts more than 22,000 members, and has various regional chapters that hold conferences throughout the year. Conferences like these — and others — allow writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, and agents to meet and get to know one another. Connect with professionals in the industry, and get a chance to schmooze with top children’s book publishers.

5. Make the online experience fun and interactive. Remember: your book is for kids. That means it needs to be fun. So make your children’s author website or social media presence just that. Examples of ways to do this can include:

  • A social media campaign in which you ask users to submit cute photos of kids reading your book
  • An online poll in which you allow readers (parents and kids alike) to choose the name of a character in your next book
  • A fun crossword puzzle that uses the names of characters/places in your book
  • A kids’ writing contest, in which kids can submit their own book reviews, recommended additions to your story, etc…

These are just a few ideas of ways to bring your story into an interactive online experience. Get creative and come up with your own.

6. Think big (and yes, I know that’s the name of a popular children’s book). What makes your book different and unique? How can you market it to your audience? Publishers Weekly recently cited a few good examples of authors who did just that. In promoting his children’s book about little league baseball, The Hometown All Stars, Kevin Christofora sold copies of it in bulk to a local little league team, which they could then re-sell to parents at full price as part of a fundraising effort. Laura Barta, author of My China Travel Journal, actually founded a toy company and included the book as a learning tool in a larger set of educational materials about China that also includes “color story cards for reading comprehension, a fabric play mat, and standup puzzle pieces.”

Get your book in front of as many kids, parents and teachers as possible, and let the word spread!

July in Review: 5 Great Author Reads

Happy August. Now that July has come and gone, we’ve gone ahead and put together the five author reads from the month that you won’t want to miss.

Author Reads from July

author reads july1. 70 Quick Tips That Will Boost Your Author Blog
Want more reader for your author blog? Here are 70 things you can do in 6 categories to improve your author blog’s impact.
Build Book Buzz | July 6, 2016

2. What Do My Analytics Really Mean?
Here are 10 specific things to look at in your Google Analytics, what they really mean, and what you should do as a result.
Smart Author SitesJuly 14, 2016

3. The Formula for More Book Sales
The formula for more book sales is simple. And, you don’t need to be a mathematician or chemist to apply it to your book.
Build Book Buzz | July 20, 2016

4. Amazon Books: 10 Things You Need to Know
From publishing rights to pricing and distribution … if you’re considering self-publishing through Amazon, here’s are 10 things you need to know.
Smart Author SitesJuly 21, 2016

5. 10 Self-Publishing Trends to Watch
Ten trends shaping the future of publishing
Publishers Weekly | July 22, 2016

Stay tuned for more author reads in August and beyond!