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!

3 Musts for Titling Your Author Blog Posts

article-blog-titleNow how’s this for playing with reality? I’m blogging about blogging.

But seriously, each week, I have to first come up with an idea for a blog post, and then come up with a good title for that post. I’ve written extensively about the former — ideas for author blog posts. What I haven’t yet talked about is the strategy for writing good titles for those blog entries.

With that in mind, here are three things to keep in mind when you are coming up with your titles…

1. Keywords, keywords, keywords. For each blog post you write, have one particular keyword or series of keywords in mind. That string MUST make it into the title. For example, this particular blog entry has the term “author blog posts” as its primary key term. That string of words is in the title and in the body of the piece. So when someone goes to Google and searches for “author blog posts,” this piece should show up on their search results. Also, each post you write  should have a different keyword term to focus on … otherwise, you’re basically competing with yourself.

2. Think about numbers. For the last decade and a half, one thing has consistently been true about story/blog titles on the web. People love numbers. Have you ever noticed that a large percentage of my own blog entries start with “5 ways to …” or “3 things not to …”? There’s a reason for that. Titles that start with numerals quickly send a message to users that this piece will be easy to read and digest. It also gives them an idea of length. In other words, they know before they even go to the piece that it’s going to be a quick and easy read, and not a lengthy NY Times magazine piece.

3. Be provacative. Here are two potential titles for a blog post. Which one would you be more enticed to click on?

  • The Struggles I Had Writing My Book
  • 5 Reasons I Felt Dirty After Writing My Book

I think, if you tested these two, the second would get far more clicks than the first. Why? Well, it’s more provocative. And, like it or not, that’s what sells. A title like that would pique people’s interest. And not only would users be more likely to click on it, but they would also be more likely to share it with their friends. In other words, don’t be afraid to be a little bit daring with your titles and push the boundaries.

Now, obviously, it’s difficult do to all three of these things in the same title. If you can, great. If you have to settle for two, that’s okay. But I highly recommend you go through this checklist each and every time you’re adding a new blog post. At the end of the day, your site traffic numbers will benefit as a result.

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!

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!

5 Free or Almost-Free Ways to Market Your Book

free-ways-to-market-your-bookWe build websites for authors. And no, we don’t build them for free. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t provide authors with lots of ideas about other ways they can market their books at little to no cost.

Based on what I’ve heard from authors in the decade I’ve been doing this, here are five ideas for free or almost-free ways ways to market your book.

1. Facebook and Twitter. If you haven’t done so already, create your own professional profile on Facebook. Make sure it’s completely separate from your personal Facebook profile.  Same thing with Twitter. Then use those platforms to post teasers about your book, share news about its release, and send traffic to your blog, YouTube page, etc… (more on that below).

2. A virtual book launch party. Celebrate the launch of your book by hosting a virtual book launch party. Here’s a great read on how to plan such a party, who to invite, and how to make it a can’t miss event. Again, the cost is minimal, and the potential benefit is plenty.

3. A blog. I’ve written many, many posts before about the importance of an author blog. In short, a blog is one of the best ways to attract an audience and expose potential readers to your book. Hook people with your blog, then present your book to them. And those “people” can be readers … or they can be agents or publishers. As another writer recently shared on LinkedIn: “E L James who wrote 50 shades of Grey had a blog for two years and each month had a new chapter she ended up with over 200,000 followers before the book was published.”

4. Video, video, video. Video is only becoming more and more popular. Check out this post on why video is practically becoming a must for today’s author. And while video can be very expensive (if you hire a top-notch production company), it can also be free. Equally free is the YouTube channel that you can use to share your video and get the word out about your book. Think about this: YouTube is now the second most-used search engine after Google. Without video, you are excluding yourself from the second largest search engine.

5. Guest blogging. Almost every blogger would love to have someone in their genre offer to write a guest post for them. I know I would. It’s free work that someone else is willing to do for you. Plus, a guest blogger is often willing to share that post with their audience, thus driving more traffic to your site. So consider bringing guest bloggers on to your blog. And, even more importantly, offer to guest blog for other bloggers in your genre. It can just be a short post about your subject matter, with a reference to your book. You can even offer a copy as a prize drawing. Again, it’s a great (and free) way to introduce your book to a new (and engaged) audience.

Do you have other ideas about free ways to market your book? Share them below!

Another Reason to Perfect the Mobile Version of Your Author Website

mobile-friendlyLike it or not, mobile is the wave of the future. As each year goes by, a larger and larger percentage of people surfing the web are doing it on a smartphone. This further enhances the need for every author to have a mobile-friendly design.

But, apparently, having a functional mobile version of your author website can now even impact your desktop users. How? Google.

As Google begins to acknowledge the growing impact of the mobile audience, they are changing the rules. According to a recent article on Mashable, starting this month, “when you do a Google search on mobile, search results will prioritize websites that the search engine deems “mobile-friendly.”

Here are some common questions about this change.

Who will this affect?

The truth is that this change will impact nearly everyone. Forrester Research estimates that a whopping 38% of web sites for businesses with 1,000 or more employees don’t meet Google’s criteria for being mobile-friendly. That number is expected to be much higher for small businesses — let alone individual authors.

Also, if your author website is more than a few years old, it’s likely not to be considered up to snuff.

As the Mashable article explains, “The change will impact millions of sites, more than Google’s last major search ranking algorithm update, Google Panda. Panda, which was launched in 2011 and has been updated several times since then, downranked 12% of all sites that Google rated low-quality.”

What’s the impact of the change?
The change is simple to explain, but may have devastating results. If your site is not mobile friendly, you are likely to start appearing lower on a user’s search results. In other words, if you wrote a book on divorce, and your site had been showing up near the top for a search term related to divorce, you very well may lose that placement to sites that are more mobile-friendly.

What makes a site mobile-friendly?

There are a lot of criteria, but here’s a basic overview…

  • It avoids software like Flash
  • It features larger text
  • Most importantly, it has what’s called a responsive design that adjusts for mobile users

How can I tell if my site is mobile-friendly?
Whether or not a user would rate a site as mobile-friendly may be relative, but that’s irrelevent. Because all that matters here is whether Google finds your site mobile-friendly. So use their mobile-friendly test. You’ll get a quick and simple answer.

How can I make my site more mobile-friendly?
There’s no easy answer to that question. It depends greatly on how your site is built, when it was built, what platform it was built on, etc… It could involve a few simple and quick fixes, or you may be better off with a complete redesign.

But if you’re interested in making your site more mobile friendly, contact us at Smart Author Sites. We’ll help you make sure you stay near the top of search results.

Happy Googling.

5 Creative Ways to Use a Book’s Call to Action Page

eBook-Call-to-ActionI stumbled across a conversation on LinkedIn today about a “call to action” page in a book. Now, I know a lot about calls to action on a website (sections of a site that direct you to take a specific action, like buy the book or sign up for the email list), but I haven’t heard of such things in print before.

Here’s what I learned: the last page of your book is the perfect place to put a call to action. In other words, now that someone has read your whole book (and hopefully enjoyed it), it’s the time to encourage them to do something else.

Here are five things you can encourage people to do in your book’s call to action page.

1. Visit your website. This is a no-brainer. Use the last page of your book to give people the URL of your author website and explain what they can find there. Examples of things you can say include: “Enjoy this book? Learn more about [subject matter] via my blog at yourname.com/blog” (great for nonfiction authors), or “Find bonus material from the book! Download a discussion guide, read book secrets, and more. Visit yourname.com” (a good idea for novelists).

2. Purchase your previous books. If someone likes this book, chances are they’d like any other book you’ve written as well. This call to action page at the end is a great chance to list your previous books, display covers, and include any relevant information on where the books can be purchased (your site, Amazon, etc…).

3. Contact you for speaking engagements. Do you do any speaking on the subject matter that you wrote about? Then consider mentioning that on your call to action page, along with a specific way readers can contact you if they’re interested.

4. Review the book. There’s nothing that sells books like good reviews. So take this opportunity to ask the readers who have enjoyed your book to share their thoughts. Direct them to go to Amazon, GoodReads, etc… and post their own review.

5. Recommend the book via social media. This is another great way to get the word out. Direct your readers on exactly what you’d like them to do — maybe that’s following you on Facebook, tweeting about your book, and/or “liking” your author website.

Now, these are just five ideas. You might have more (and feel free to share those). But regardless of which of these calls to action you choose to use, here are a few guidelines that may be helpful…

  •  Be specific. Make things as simple and easy for your readers as possible. Include URLs, and give specific direction. In other words, don’t just tell someone to visit your site. Tell them the URL of your site. And instead of just asking people to review your book, tell them exactly what they have to do to get a review posted on Amazon.
  • Narrow a user’s options. While all five of these are good ideas for a call to action page, you definitely wouldn’t want to ask people to do all five. The very definition of a call to action is to clearly direct people to take an action. In other words, recommending five different actions would most likely be a confusing experience for users. Asking them to do one or two seems simpler to tackle.
  • Make it about them. Make it clear to your users that by taking this call to action, there will be some benefit for them. Maybe that’s the free downloads you offer. Maybe it’s a donation that is made for copies of your book that are purchased. Try not to present these calls to action as a favor to you; instead, make it a way for your user to feel like they’re doing something, accomplishing something and/or getting something.

Did you print a call to action page in your book? Share what worked (and didn’t work) in the comments box below.

FAQs About SEO for Author Websites

SEO_search_resultsI apologize in advance for the abbreviations in the title. I know that terms like SEO can be kind of confusing (and even intimidating) at times. And I often get questions about what SEO is, why it’s helpful and how to execute it properly. With that in mind, here are some of the questions I get asked most often about SEO for author websites — starting with the basics and moving on to the more advanced.

What is SEO, anyway? What does it stand for? 

SEO stands for search engine optimization. The most popular search engines are Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Search engine optimization refers to making tweaks to your site so that it shows up at the top of search results on these search engines. In other words, if someone searches for “self-help book” on Google, your site may show up near the top of their results with proper SEO.

How would SEO help me?

By showing up at or near the top of search results for particular terms, you’re going to increase traffic to your site, thus increasing your number of copies sold, fans of your book, etc…

How do you choose the right keywords?

We offer something called an advanced SEO package. This means that not only do we optimize your site for various keywords, but we actually help you choose those keywords. To do that right, we use the Google keyword tool that allows you to enter various search terms and learn how many people are searching for each type of keyword, which variations of each one are most popular, and what the level of competition for each keyword is. By weighing each of those three results, you can select the specific keywords that will offer you the best bang for your buck.

Is SEO based on single words or would a book title or person’s name be counted as one keyword? What about versions of the same word? (nurse / nursing, for example)

The industry term might be “keyword,” but it definitely does not refer to one word. So a keyword could be “self-help books” or “resume building.” And yes, versions of the same word are important. So if your book is about becoming a nurse, you would want to make sure to work in both “nurse” and “nursing” as part of your keywords.

In choosing keywords, is it better to be more general or more specific?

The more specific the better. So, for example, rather than “nurse,” you’ll be much better off selecting a keyword like, “how to become a nurse.” This may seem counterintuitive — since it would reduce the number of people searching for your keywords — but there are two big benefits that come with the specificity: 1) you have far less competition, thus making you more likely to show up at the top of results; 2) you are reaching an audience that you know is looking for books specifically on your subject matter.

Does any keyword optimization come automatically with a web site, such as my name or book titles?

This type of basic SEO should come automatically with any website build. This is just a piece of the advanced package I described above. As long as your site is readable by the search engines (which someone would have to go out of their way not to be), your site should start showing up relatively quickly for your name or your book title. After all, unless your name is Jane Doe, it’s not like you’ll have a huge amount of competition for those keywords.

How long does it take to see results from SEO?

For a brand new site, it can take weeks to months for the site to start showing up on the search engines. And even then, it won’t immediately start off at the top. The search engines value time, and the longer a site has been around, the higher it will appear on search results. So expect your site to take a good few months before you actually hit your final placement. If your site has already been around for a while, however, and you are simply making changes to improve its SEO, expect those results to start paying off in about two to four weeks.

Are there any WordPress plugins to help with SEO?

Yes, there are many WordPress plug-ins that can help with SEO. Two that we recommend include “All in One SEO Plug-in” and “WordPress SEO for Yoast.” These types of plug-ins allow you to select keywords for both the site and for individual pages. In addition, the Yoast plug-in babysits your blog posts to make sure you do everything possible to optimize each post for the selected keywords. Best of all, these plug-ins are totally free.

Will redesigning my site impact my search engine rankings?

Generally, redesigning a site does impact SEO. At first, a site can take a brief hit from a redesign, and fall slightly on search result pages. However, almost always, the change ends up improving a site’s rankings (assuming it’s redesigned properly) and it should start showing up with better placement on search results within a month or two.

Is SEO work mostly on the front end (what users can see) or the back end (what users can’t see)?

The answer is really a little bit of both. There is a lot of work that can be done on the back end to improve your site’s search engine rankings — including alt tags for images and links, metadata, and more. However, there are a fair number of things that can be done on the front end as well, including ensuring that one or more specific keywords appear as a header or in the first paragraph of a particular page. So, in essence, proper SEO is done by both you (in terms of making sure you use the right terms in the right places) and your developer (to make sure that everything on the back end is optimized as well).

Have more questions about SEO? Post them in the comments box below and I will be happy to respond!

Special Deal for SAS Clients: 50% off Advanced SEO

seoThe first quarter of 2015 is coming to an end, and Q2 is just beginning. With that in mind, it’s time to announce our special deal for current clients in the second quarter.

From April 1 to June 30th, any current Smart Author Sites client can take advantage of our advanced SEO (or search engine optimization) service at half the cost!

This $500 value, available now for only $250, gets you the following:

  • Google keyword research to determine the 10-15 top keywords your site should be optimized for
  • Optimization of the site’s homepage for the 3-5 top keywords
  • Optimization of the remainder of the site pages for the remaining 10 keywords
  • Guidance on how to use your blog, YouTube, etc… to further optimize for the appropriate terms
  • Re-submission of your site to the major search engines

You should start to see a difference in your placement for those keywords within weeks of implementing these changes. Reach out through our ticketing system if you’re interested in taking advantage of this special offer.

Thanks as always for your business!