What Authors Should Read: November in Review

what authors should read

Photo credit: Foter.com / CC0

Another month has come and gone (and we are in the midst of the holiday season). We did a lot of posting and sharing in November — both of our own content and of other sites’ interesting articles, blog posts and more.

In case you missed any of it, here’s a summary of what authors should read to stay on top of industry trends.

What Authors Should Read From November

1. Is Passion for Your Book Enough? Include These 10 Hot Selling Points
Knowing these before you write your book will make all of your copy more organized, succinct, easy to read and engaging.
Book Coaching, November 5, 2016

2. Author Website Templates: 5 Things You Need to Know
So you want to build an author website. Here’s what you need to know about selecting and utilizing the right author website templates.
Smart Author Sites, November 7, 2016

3. Guest Blog Post: Author Website Tips
This article offering author website tips is our second guest post from Irish children’s book author Avril O’Reilly, who I met when she took one of my book marketing courses.
Build Book Buzz, November 16, 2016

4. Social Media Marketing Evolves
As social media platforms get more crowded, indie authors are recalibrating their marketing efforts.
Publishers Weekly, November 18, 2016

5. 4 Steps to Selling More Books with Less Social Media
Traditionally and self-published authors use Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to help sell books. But should they be doing that?
Digital Book World, November 28, 2016

Happy reading!

selling books online

Selling Books Online: 5 Things You Need to Know

selling books onlineOkay, you’ve written your first novel and you’re interested in selling books online … so how do you actually go about that?

Here are five basic tenets to help you get started selling books online…

1. It’s not that difficult to get a book listed on Amazon. Even if you didn’t publish your book through Amazon, that doesn’t mean you can’t sell it there. It just takes a few easy steps to create your Amazon page and sell your book. Here are some instructions from Amazon’s Author Central on how to do that. And the nice part about selling through them is that you don’t have to worry about collecting money, distribution, etc… It’s all pretty simple.

2. There are other options for selling books online. Let’s say you don’t want people to have to go through Amazon to buy your book. Maybe you want to keep 100% of the profits. Or maybe you want to incentivize people to buy it directly from you by, say, offering a signed copy of the book to your buyers. In that case, there are several simple ways to sell the book yourself, assuming you have an on-site platform already. The simplest and most efficient way is via PayPal. This will allow you to create a product page, set prices for the book (and for shipping) and then easily embed that “buy” button on your author website. If you want to get even more sophisticated (or if you plan to sell more than just a book — say, your book and corresponding t-shirts, hats, etc…), you can set up your own online shopping cart. That takes a bit more work to build, but it would allow people to do all their shopping right there on your website. You can learn more about these various options in our post on how to sell books through your author website.

3. … but if you do, be aware of tax implications.
This is an important message for those of you who plan to sell the books yourselves. Talk to a financial professional in your state before beginning this venture! Find out about sales tax in your local area and what you’re required to charge buyers. The last thing you want is to get in trouble with the authorities.

4. Have a firm marketing plan in place. Just having a way to sell your book (or even having it listed on Amazon) is not what’s going to actually sell your book; just like setting up a lemonade stand on your street isn’t going to sell much lemonade. In order to successfully begin your venture of selling books online, you need to follow these basic steps: 1) Identify your audience; 2) Figure out how to reach that audience; 3) Drive them to where the book is sold; 4) Incentivize purchasing it. Now, those four steps sound pretty simple, but they’re not. If you’re not a marketing person at heart, I recommend you talk to someone who has some background in this. Even if he or she is just serving as a consultant for a short time, that consultation can help you firm up those plans and kick off your campaign. For example, if your book is a romance novel, you might be able to determine that your audience is female, ages 30-60, they spend a lot of time on Facebook and Pinterest, and could be driven to your site via paid ads on Facebook and/or viral pins. Once they get to your site, you might then want to offer them some kind of discount/donation to a charity for buying your book, or a cool bracelet if they recommend it to their book club. This is just one very specific example, but it’s a good idea of the detail involved in doing this right.

5. Make good decisions about selling print books, ebooks or both. Books aren’t just books anymore. Nowadays, you could sell your book in print (hardcover/softcover), an e-book, a PDF, etc… Again, this ladders back up to knowing your audience and how they prefer to read. A younger audience may prefer Kindle, while an older audience wants to hold the book. Genre matters as well. Now, you could certain decide to go with all of these options and offer your book however someone wants to read it. But be aware that each one is an investment in time and money, so choose wisely.

Selling books online may be easy in theory (technology does wonders, doesn’t it?), but it requires a lot of time, thought and planning to do it right. If you want help with any of these steps, you’re always welcome to reach out to us for a free consultation.

Good luck and happy bookselling.

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!

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!

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!

Author Website Technology: 5 Must-Have Features

author website technologyJust like everything else, author website technology is changing rapidly. So what are the latest must-haves on your author website? Whether you’re just building your site, or you have an older site that needs some updating, here are five features that we highly recommend for authors.

Author Website Technology Musts

1. Newsletter sign-up functionality. What’s the best way to get someone to come back to your site multiple times? It’s by collecting their email address, so that you can continue to keep in touch with them. I’ve written extensively about strategies for compelling readers to sign up for your newsletter; but from a tech perspective, you actually need a way for them to do that. There are various types of author website technology that allow newsletter sign-ups, from simple and free WordPress plug-ins that collect/maintain the list to more advanced options (which often involve a fee) like Mail Chimp. But regardless of which type of service meets your needs, you won’t want to have an author website without a way to properly build your email list.

2. SEO plug-in. I write extensively about SEO strategies — from how to form blog posts to keyword research strategies. But, once again, it’s the author website technology that has to be in place to make it work. There are a variety of plug-ins that WordPress offers for SEO — from the simple to the more advanced. My personal preference is called Yoast. It allows you to enter the preferred keyword for each page on your site and then guides you on how to make sure to properly incorporate it in the appropriate places. This makes a huge difference in how your site places on search results.

3. Social networking integration. Maybe you have a strong author presence on Facebook. Or Twitter. Maybe LinkedIn is more appropriate for your writing. You probably have an author profile on Amazon, or a page on GoodReads. And if video is your thing, then you may have a YouTube channel. All of these are social networking channels, and whichever ones you’re involved in need to be prominently displayed on your site. Whether you go with simple social networking buttons in the top right corner, or you have fully-embedded widgets from your most active profiles, make sure those are visible. So if a reader who is very active on Facebook comes to your site, she can easily find your Facebook page and become a fan or follower.

4. “Buy the book” links. It’s such a no-brainer, ad yet it’s frequently forgotten. Make it easy for people to buy your book! If you prefer to sell copies yourself, there are easy ways to integrate a PayPal buy button on your site. But most authors simply choose to offer links to buy the book through Amazon, B&N etc… Give buyers as many options as possible (since just about everyone has a preference) and make it a prominent, easy click.

5. Mobile-friendly design. This is one of the most important pieces in author website technology today. I’ve written full pieces about the whats and hows of mobile-friendly design, but here’s the gist: more than half of today’s internet users are browsing on their phones or tablets. In addition, Google is punishing sites that are not mobile-friendly by having them fall lower on the search results pages. All of this adds up to one basic rule: Make sure your author website is in a design format that adjusts for mobile devices. It’s that simple. The majority of current WordPress themes are mobile-friendly, so it’s simply a matter of selecting the right one, checking it on your mobile device, and running a simple mobile-friendly test on Google.

Don’t let today’s author website technology leave you in the dust. Make sure you have these five features in place on your author website.

June Roundup: 5 Don’t-Miss Author Reads

Happy July, everyone! With June now in the rear view mirror, here are some author reads that you might have missed (and that you can now catch up on)…

Author Reads From June

1. Author uses novel tactic to promote book
Build Book Buzz
June 1, 2016

2. May 2016 Author Earnings Report: the definitive million-title study of US author earnings
Author Earnings
June 2, 2016

3. Facebook Live for Authors: What You Need to Know
Smart Author Sites
June 10, 2016

4. Authors: SEO Blog Posts in 3 Easy Steps
Smart Author Sites
June 16, 2016

5. As E-book Sales Decline, Digital Fatigue Grows
Publishers Weekly
June 17, 2016

Enjoy summer while it lasts! And if you stumble across any other good author reads, please share them with us in the comments box below.

seo blog search

Authors: SEO Blog Posts in 3 Easy Steps

I’ve written many, many times about why authors should be blogging. One of the main reasons? Search engine optimization.

Let me explain. Authors — especially nonfiction authors — should be regularly posting blog entries. Each one of those entries should be optimized for the proper search term — something that a reader interested in your subject matter might actually be searching for on Google. For example, if you write a book about how to lose weight, you would also want to write various blog posts on the topic. By optimizing those posts for the right keywords, you can attract the audience of people searching for terms like, “How can I lose 5 pounds?” and drive them to your author website. Then you can promote the book while they’re there and expose potential readers to your title.

But how do you actually SEO blog posts to make sure that you show up high on those search results? How do you make sure to optimize your blog posts for the right keywords? Here are three easy steps.

3 Steps to SEO Blog Posts

Step 1: Install the right plug-in.

In WordPress, my preferred plug-in is called Yoast SEO. But if you’re using a different platform, I’m sure there’s another one you can use. This will provide you with the information you need in order to ensure that you’re doing SEO the right way (see step 3).

Step 2: Find the right keywords. For a fee, I can do advanced keyword research for my clients. I then provide them with a long list of specific keywords to target on their site. But there’s an easier way to do this if you don’t want to make that kind of investment. You can simply start typing a search term into the Google search bar to get a good keyword idea. See the photo below to see what I mean.

seo blog search

 

 

 

 

 

In this instance, if you’re writing a blog post with tips about losing weight, you can start typing in your guess for a search term and Google will literally tell you exactly what people are searching for. Pick one of those keywords (one you haven’t used before) and decide that you’re going to optimize your blog post for that one specifically.

Step 3: Work the keywords into the right places.

There are certain staples to properly optimizing a blog post for a specific keyword. Those include having the keyword (exactly) appear:

  • In the title
  • In the URL
  • As an “alt” tag on an image in the post
  • In the first paragraph of the post
  • In the metadescription
  • In subheads throughout the piece

The nice thing about a plug-in like Yoast is that it consistently reminds you of these things. If you do it right, then all the circles are green. If you forget something, it always reminds you. See below.

seo blog yoast

Simply perform steps 2 and 3 each and every time you post a blog entry, and you should start noticing your traffic (and conversation in your blog) increasing.

author must reads

5 Author Must Reads: May in Review

author must readsHard to believe it’s June already! In case you missed any of our author must reads from May, here are the highlights.

1. Q&A: How one picture book author turned dream into successful publishing career
WRAL
May 15, 2016

2. Want to Succeed in Self-Publishing? Don’t Get Hung Up on Reviews: Tips from an Indie Author
Publishers Weekly
May 16, 2016

3. Goodreads Offering Personalized Daily E-book Discounts
Publishers Weekly
May 17, 2016

4. 10 Things About Author Websites That Might Surprise You
Smart Author Sites
May 19, 2016

5. The Author’s Guide to Book Marketing
Digital Book World
May 24, 2016

Happy unofficial start to summer, everyone!