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!

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.

September Round-Up: 5 Must Reads for Authors

fall-photoOctober is here already, and fall is in full swing. With that in mind, here are five must reads for authors from the month of September. If you missed any of these the first time around, here’s your chance to catch up!

  1. An author reveals ten secrets to marketing your own book
    Scroll.in
    September 9, 2015
  2. 5 Things I Love About Haruki Murakami’s Author Website
    Smart Author Sites
    September 10, 2015
  3. What ‘Game of Thrones’ Author George R.R. Martin Can Teach You About Marketing
    Marketing Profs
    September 16, 2015
  4. Book Marketing 201
    Publishers Weekly
    September 25, 2015
  5. 3 Steps to More Social Media Followers
    Build Book Buzz
    September 30, 2015

Happy Fall! And happy writing!

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.

August Round-Up: 5 Must Reads for Authors

august-must-readsAs hard as it is to believe, it’s Labor Day weekend already. August has come and gone. With that in mind, here’s a summary of the best links we found in the month of August. These are must reads for authors who want to take book marketing to the next level.

1. Creating a Social Media Hashtag Campaign to Promote Your Book
Smart Author Sites
August 6, 2015

2. Extending Your Social Media Reach: Working the Facebook Author Tag Feature
Huffington Post
August 8, 2015

3. Stop Grading an Author’s Social Media Presence
Digital Book World
August 12, 2015

4. “Keep a Small but Dedicated Street Team” — Interviewing Eliot Peper
Reedsy
August 21, 2015

5. One Author Social Media Campaign Gets Creative
Smart Author Sites
August 27, 2015

Happy September, everyone!

One Author Social Media Campaign Gets Creative

legacy-of-kings-twitter-campaignSocial media is an important key to an author’s success. That’s especially true for fiction authors, since most readers don’t find their next read by searching on Google; they find it after they’re exposed to it through their social circles. Hence, the need for an author social media campaign.

But one of the challenges many authors have is figuring out how to tie the theme of their book in to Facebook or Twitter. For example, what should the writer of a mystery/romance book tweet about to gain traction?

Well, here’s a creative idea, just launched by Harlequin Teen. It’s a Twitter campaign for Legacy of Kings, the first book in Eleanor Herman’s new YA series.

Here’s a blurb from Publishers Weekly about it.

Bryn Collier, digital marketing manager at the publisher, said she created the technology with a freelance developer over the course of a few weeks. The “bot,” as Collier referred to the oracle, will respond to the hashtag #asklegacyofkings with one of 100 statements. The idea, she said, is that readers can tweet a question to @HarlequinTeen with the hashtag—sent examples include “Will I achieve my goal of going to college abroad?” and “Will the guy I love ever love me back?”—to receive a “prediction” written by Herman.

The promotion, which launched on Monday, ties into the theme of the historical fantasy series, called Blood of Gods and Royals. One of the main characters in the books, Kat, is on a mission to kill the queen in order to avenge her mother, who was an oracle.

Herman, an adult author who is breaking into the YA space with the series, is also a historian. Collier said that the author relied on her knowledge of Greek history to create a digital oracle that “channels the [Greek] gods and goddesses” as well as “other prolific thinkers.” The responses therefore include tidbits like this one, credited to Athena: ‘It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.’ There is also this nugget, from Poseiden: ‘Journeys that start out rough often end in smooth sailing.’

In other words, this YA novel ties into Greek history. The twitter campaign takes advantage of a readers’ interest in sci-fi, Greek history, gods and goddesses, etc… to let them have their questions answered with wise words of wisdom. Brilliant!

So how can you do something similar? While you may not have the budget of a publisher to build a database like this, you can use this type of idea as a jumping off point. For example, if you’re a fiction writer, maybe the main character of your book series can answer questions about her life on twitter via a hashtag. Or if you’re a nonfiction writer, maybe you, the author, can respond to reader questions that tap into your expertise through a twitter chat?

This type of example is one all authors can follow — both those who are self-publishing and otherwise — to figure out what resonates with their readership and build a successful social networking campaign around it.

Happy Tweeting!

June Round-Up: 5 Must-Reads for Authors

june-calendarI can’t believe June has come and gone already! So in case you missed it … here are the five must-reads for authors from the month of June.

1. Facebook Advertising for Authors, by Mark Dawson: Part 1
Reedsy Blog
June 4, 2015

2. How to Sell Out a Book Signing Without Being a Celebrity
Build Book Buzz
June 2, 2015

3. Author Websites: 5 Big Ways to Create Loyal Readers
Reedsy Blog
June 16, 2015

4. How to Ask for Book Endorsements
A. Piper Bergi
June 17, 2015

5. Designing an Author Website Without a Book Cover
Smart Author Sites
June 25, 2015

Enjoy your month of July everyone!

Author Wisdom: What I Wished I’d Known Sooner

author-tic-tac-toeI stumbled across this really interesting converstaion on LinkedIn. The question was posed to authors: “What’s the one biggest surprise or thing you wish someone would have told you about the authoring or publishing process?”

Here are highlights from some of the responses:

—–

You’re not just an author, you’re a marketing expert and a full-time promoter of your work. Writing the book is the easy part; selling it is a full time job and that job is now yours. If you know that going into it, and you educate yourself well, it’s great fun. If you don’t realize it ahead of time you’re in for a shock.
Susan Veness

This is such a great question and my mind is reeling with things I’d like to share, having been a professional cover designer for over 25 years ….new authors don’t realize that spine width drives that attention-grabbing factor, and that they can manipulate the book’s interior to arrive at a page count that increases perceived value. The ideal page count for a healthy minimal spine width of about a half-inch is 200+.
Kathi Dunn

If you’re going to be commission the photographer or illustrator yourself, make sure you have a robust, clear agreement ideally assigning copyright, or at the very least an exclusive right to publish in all formats without a time limit. You also need clear written (non-exclusive) permission to use any pre-existing material, text or illustrations, that falls outside fair usage allowances, again in all formats and without time limits. Permissions aren’t sexy but if you don’t get them right they can really bite you in the backside. Good luck with it all, look forward to seeing the result!
Alison Jones

That publishing one or two books is quite an accomplishment and you should be proud, but don’t quit your day job: there usually isn’t much money in books anymore.
Shawn Tassone, MD, PhD(c)

That 99% of the work would be the marketing of the book…. i thought it was all about writers block and empty screens.
Jeff Smith

As someone who helps authors build online presences for themselves, I find that the thing that surprises authors the most is the fact that they really need to build a brand — whether that brand is their name, their book title, their series, or their business name (of which their book is one piece). That brand has to be able to be summed up in one sentence and have a logo/color scheme. It’s difficult to take something as complicated as a writer or book and make it easily digestible, but that’s exactly what authors need to keep in mind all along the way.
— Me

———–

What surprised you? What do you wish you’d known sooner? Share your own author wisdom below!

5 Author Must Reads From May

mayApologize for posting this a little late this month. But with May quickly behind us (this time of year goes so fast!), here’s a summary of the the author must reads from the month.

1. Develop Your Author Platform to Position Yourself as a Leader
Eunice Nisbett/LinkedIn
May 1, 2015

2. Kick Ass Book Launch Tips (from Two Authors Who Really Know)
Publication Life
May 13, 2015

3. Another Reason to Perfect the Mobile Version of Your Author Website
Smart Author Sites
May 14, 2015

4. Author Blog Tips
Build Book Buzz
May 19, 2015

5. 5 Free (or Almost-Free) Ways to Market Your Book
Smart Author Sites
May 28, 2015

Happy June, everyone!

Should I Be Running a Paid Social Ad Campaign?

paid-ad-campaign-scaleI get this question from authors all the time. I’ve even seen recent conversations about it on LinkedIn. Here’s the primary question: “Should I be running a paid social ad campaign — like Google Adwords, Facebook ads, or Amazon ads — to increase awareness about my book?”

And the answer? Well, that’s almost always a resounding “no.”

Why Not?

Any time you invest money in something — especially advertising — what you’re looking for is a good ROI, or return on investment. In other words, you want to make sure you get more money back than you put in. That’s a pretty basic concept.

And yet, when it comes to authors investing in paid advertising campaigns, the ROI generally doesn’t add up.

Here’s why: If you sold jewelery, for example, and your margin of profit on each piece of jewelry sold was $500, you’d be more than willing to invest a fair amount in advertising in the hopes that you sold just one piece of jewelry. As long as you spent less than $500, you’d have a good ROI.

But when you sell books, the numbers are drastically different. As one LinkedIn user by tne name of Richard Milton breaks it down in regards to Amazon’s ad campaigns:

As the most efficient book retailer in the world, Amazon knows perfectly well (but don’t tell you the advertiser) that the industry standard click through rate is 0.1 per cent (one visitor in a thousand will click your ad) and the highest industry standard conversion rate (Amazon’s own) is 4%. This means that if 25,000 people see your ad, 25 of them will click on it and 1 will buy your book.

The average cost per click on Amazon currently for fiction is around $0.60 – $0.65.

Unless you are a megastar author or your book is a runaway best-seller, this means that you will spend more than receive.

I have found the same soft of logic to be true in relation to Google Ad campaigns and the like.

Let’s Do the Math

Here are the basic numbers that I saw when I was looking at these types of campaigns for authors…

Let’s say you’re spending 75 cents per click on your Google Adwords campaign, and you’ve capped your budget at $500/month. That means you get 667 clicks a month.

If you have a conversion rate of 5% — which would actually be relatively good — that means that 33 of the 667 visitors will have bought your book that month.

Now, let’s say you yourself make $3 per copy sold (and that would be a lot less for Kindle versions of your book). You would be bringing in $99 that month, significantly less than the $500 you invested.

Is It Ever Worth the Money?

I’m not one to be making grand statements that something does or doesn’t work for everyone. If you happen to write a great book about a topic that is extremely popular, it’s possible that you could make money off of these types of campaigns. After all, if your conversion rate is a lot higher than the 5% cited above (more like 25%), you would at least break even.

But based on everything I’ve seen, heard and read, I have yet to find one author for whom this is the case.

As another author in a similar LinkedIn conversation added: “Unlikely. I tried it for a while but got nowhere with it.”

So What Can I Do? 

I highly recommend authors use many of the free promotional online tools. These include:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Creating Facebook/Twitter profiles
  • Starting a blog
  • Reaching out to other sites about guest blogging

Here’s a recent post I wrote about free (or almost-free) ways to market your book. All you need to invest is time.

Happy promoting!