What Should an Author’s Homepage Accomplish?

Look at a dozen author websites — and websites in general — and you’ll find vastly different types of homepages. Some are flashy and exciting … some are informational … some are promotional. So what’s the best type of homepage for you? And what should the ideal homepage accomplish? Here are some ideas:

The Flashy Homepage
Who it’s for: This type of homepage — one that’s heavy in images or Flash — can work for an author whose writing style is dramatic fiction.

Benefits and drawbacks: An author who writes dramatic books should have a website that visually conveys the same feeling as the text in the book. If done correctly, it will certainly entice visitors to delve into the site to learn more. However, these types of homepages carry several risks. One is that the lack of text can seriously hurt you in terms of search engine optimization. The other potential drawback is losing people … someone who winds up on your site through a link or search engine result may or may not be interested enough in delving further into your site to learn more about you or your book.

Examples: We haven’t built too many sites like this, but here are a few:
http://www.llanosfigueroa.com/
http://www.farrelltrading.com/

The Informational Homepage
Who it’s for:
A homepage that provides a lot of information — about the book, the author and/or the subject matter — is perfect for a nonfiction author who has an expertise in the subject or wants the site to serve as a resource for people who may have already read the book and want to learn more.

Benefits and drawbacks: An informational homepage can serve as an index of sorts, providing a taste of the various pieces of the site and what people can find if they delve deeper. It can include the beginning of an author bio, the most recent blog entry, links to resources, book excerpts, etc… Almost everyone who visits a site like this will find something on the homepage that they want to click on. And the drawbacks? Well, some authors would find homepages like these “boring.” If you’re the type of author who wants something dramatic, this type of homepage may seem a little too much like an online newspaper to you.

Examples:
http://www.watereddowntruth.com/
http://www.unbecominganurse.org/
http://www.quangxpham.com/

The Book Promotion Homepage
Who it’s for:
A homepage like this is for an author who isn’t afraid to really be a blatant marketer of their books. Everything on a promotional homepage is with the purpose of selling the book. The text and pictures are promotional and site visitors aren’t really encouraged to click around the site. Instead they’re directed to buy the book NOW!

Benefits and drawbacks: Well, the benefits are obvious. If done properly, a promotional homepage makes someone more likely to buy the book immediately, rather than delve deeper into the site. But some site visitors could be turned off by the promotional tone and decide that they’d rather visit a website that provides them more information before asking them to pay.

Examples:
http://www.financialstrategyfordivorce.com/
http://www.richardzwolinski.com
http://www.danwald.com/

The Author Promotion Homepage
Who it’s for:
This is similar to a book promotion homepage, but its goal is to “sell” the author. Whether that be to publishers, agents or readers.

Benefits and drawbacks: Much like the book promotion homepage, the benefits of this type of homepage are obvious. For authors who already are established, it can get site visitors to join the email list or pre-order a future book. For those who are looking to get published, it immediately gives publishers or agents a chance to get to know you and your writings. The drawbacks are similar as well, in that some people could be turned off by self-promotion.

Examples:
http://www.joycechapmanlebra.com/
http://www.julieschumacher.com/
http://www.authorsherryjones.com/
http://www.cherylwilsonharris.com/

So which type of homepage best suits your needs? We’ll be happy to help. Contact us today for a free consultation about building you the right website.

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!

Thanks for the Plug!

A special thank you to our author, Sherry Jones, who mentioned that we created her website. In a post on GoodReads.com, she said:

“I have a very cool website with lots of goodies, created by smartauthorsites.com.”

Thanks, Sherry!!

Do Blogs Belong on Writers’ Websites?

I recently came upon a post in The online journal of writer Jon Gibbs. He proposes that an author’s blog should be completely separate from their website. Here’s how he sums it up:

“From a strictly self-promotional point of view, there are two types of people in the world: those who’ve at least heard of you, and those who aren’t even aware you exist. … Your website is really for people who at the very least, know your name. Your blog, on the other hand, is for everyone, and that’s why it doesn’t belong on your site. It belongs out there in big wide world, where it has more opportunities to add to that list of people who know your name. It’s there to let people know you exist, that you’re an interesting person, and yes, that you happen to be a writer.”

I venture to disagree with Jon. It seems like he’s approaching this from the perspective that people who find your site or your blog do it by actually typing in your URL. So those who know you will go directly to your site. Those who don’t will go to your blog.

But what are the stats on how people really find websites? According to a consulting company called ISL, only 20% of a site’s visitors go directly to a website. The other 80% come from search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc…) or referring sites (sites that link to yours).

So what does that means for authors? Most people who visit your site (or your blog) will actually stumble upon it because they have searched for a particular keyword or visited another site that referenced yours. In my opinion, that pretty much negates the “site for people who know you” argument. They’ll wind up on your site whether they know you or not.

So the next question is this: Where do you want people to go when they stumble upon your content in a search result? Do you want them to go to a blog that’s completely separate from your website? Or do you want them to come to a blog that resides within your website? I would argue the latter. By having your blog as a piece of your site, it allows people to find your site based upon its subject matter, but also gain immediate exposure to your other work — your books, your speaking services, etc…

If that same visitor ends up on a blog that is not tied into your author website, then what do you gain from it? If you’re lucky enough for them to love your blog and want to come back regularly, then maybe, over time, they’ll become familiar with your name and dig further to find your author website. But why make it so difficult? Why not get the most out of the traffic and take advantage of each and every visitor so that they can see your book(s) and maybe even purchase it right away — just because they’re interested in the subject matter?

From a business perspective, I don’t see any reason to separate the two. What do you think?

A Blog Entry About Blogging

I was reading an interesting article over the weekend in Internet & Marketing Report magazine. It had to do with the benefits of blogging and how anyone can blog to drive traffic to their website. Here are some of the highlights of that article, and how the information specifically pertains to websites for writers.

According to the article, a major study has shown that blogs do pay off in terms of site traffic — even those that don’t require a lot of research or writing.

The study found that sites with blogs had:

  • 55% more visitors to their sites. That means more book sales.
  • 97% more inbound links. Other sites are more likely to link to a blog than to static web content. This can also help with SEO.
  • 434% more indexed pages (those that can show up on search engines). The more pages that have been “indexed,” the more likely your site is to show up on search engine results.

So the fact that a blog increases your site traffic is pretty much a no-brainer at this point. But what’s more challenging is authors figuring out what to blog about. Or finding the time to blog. Or differentiating their blog from others. Here are a few ideas mentioned in the article to help people start blogging…

  1. Go with the bare bones. You don’t need to spend hours writing detailed blog entries. Your blog entries could be press releases about your book, or links to industry news stories that are of interest to a similar audience.
  2. Let the ideas come to you. Not sure what to blog about? Maybe you don’t have to come up with the ideas. Again, industry news — and your take on them — is a great source of blogging material. Or ask your site visitors to tell you what they’re interested in hearing about from you and then blog on those topics. Take a frequent question that you get and use your blog to answer it.
  3. Go multimedia. A blog doesn’t have to be straight text. You can include photos from a recent book signing, an audio transcript of a reading, etc… Again, these are things that you can use elsewhere, but can also serve as blog entries.

See? Blogging can be a lot easier than you may think. And it can increase your site traffic by 55%! That’s not something to sneeze at!