articles for authors

Articles for Authors: What You Might Have Missed in February

articles for authors

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happy March, everyone.  Since February came and went so quickly, you may have missed some of these really helpful articles for authors – put together from various places across the web. Here are five our our favorites.

5 Must-Read Articles for Authors

  1. The Indie Author’s Guide to Customer Reviews
    How indie authors can turn that discouraging “no customer reviews yet” message into star ratings and commentary.
    Publishers Weekly, February 1, 2017
  2. Are You Confusing Your Readers?
    Here are five signs you might be confusing readers with your book’s category and description. If you confuse readers, you’ll also cripple sales.
    Build Book Buzz, February 8, 2017
  3. Writing an Effective Book Description: 7 Ways to Turn Browsers Into Buyers
    Today I share 7 tips on how to write a book description that will turn browsers into buyers.
    Karen Woodward, February 14, 2017
  4. The 7 Benefits Of Inviting Guest Authors To Your Blog
    Attracting guest posts to your blog, written by outsiders, is a strategy of enormous potential value. Here are seven reasons why.
    Forbes, February 15, 2017
  5. I Want to Stop Blogging. Now What?
    Here are three questions I frequently get when people want to stop blogging, and what you as an author need to know about cutting ties with your blog.
    Smart Author Sites, February 16, 2017

Happy Reading!

author who wants to stop blogging

I Want to Stop Blogging. Now What?

author who wants to stop blogging

Image courtesy of jk1991 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve been building websites for authors for over a decade. Many of them were built with blogs. So it’s not surprising that after all this time, I occasionally get the question, “I want to stop blogging. Is that okay? Will it hurt book sales?”

Look, unless you are a professional blogger with a following in the thousands, the chances are that you are not going to be inclined or inspired to continue blogging for more than a few years. Eventually, that fire burns out.

Here are three questions I frequently get when people want to stop blogging, and what you as an author need to know about cutting ties with your blog.

1. Can I just stop blogging cold turkey? Should I notify my followers?

Yes, you absolutely can just quit if you want. There’s nothing stopping you. If you’re done, you’re done.

However, it’s probably a good idea for you to thank your followers by writing a last post that explains why you’re going to “take a break” from blogging. I would refrain from saying that you’re quitting for good — you never know when you might get the urge again. Some followers might be disappointed, but they’ll understand.

2. Should I shut down my blog completely?

If you no longer want to be responsible for maintaining a domain name, site hosting, images, etc… you certainly can. That’s especially true if you’re walking away from writing altogether and get no benefit from eyeballs on your site.

But my strong recommendation is that you leave your blog as it is and simply let your already-created posts continue to live on. Here’s why.

All of your previous blog posts have been submitted to Google, and are likely already showing up on some people’s search results. That’s the result of the work that you put into them. Ditto with any links to your blog posts from other sites, social shares, etc… If you take your blog down completely, you will lose all those placements. If you do nothing and just allow the posts to live on in infamy, you’ll still get traffic to them. And as long as there’s a plug for your book on the pages where those blog posts live, you’ll still potentially generate sales from them.

Now here’s the tricky part: if your blog is a stand-alone entity (i.e. its own domain name), there’s little reason why you should change anything after you stop blogging. Just let it sit. If, however, your blog is a section of a larger author website that you want to maintain, my recommendation is that you keep the blog posts living, but take the links to your blog off the site. In other words, if “blog” was one of the tabs in your navigation, have it removed. You certainly don’t want a user coming to the site, clicking on a “blog” link and seeing that you haven’t updated it in several years. Just removing that link should rid you of the problem.

3. How will it impact traffic to my website and/or book sales if I stop blogging?

I’d be lying if I said there would be no impact at all if you stopped blogging. Just having regularly-published content that is optimized for the search engines drives additional traffic to your site. There’s no question about that. And since traffic = book sales, you may see a small hit there as well.

But the impact might not be quite as huge as you fear. After all, if you keep your old blog posts alive, the equity that those have built over time will still be sending traffic your way. In addition, if you maintain your author website apart from the blog, that will continue to generate some of the traffic you had before — especially if people are searching for your name or your book title.

Just how much your site traffic and book sales are impacted can vary when you stop blogging — depending on how much you relied on your blog for site traffic before. If nothing else, take a short time off of blogging and assess the difference before deciding whether to quit altogether.

——————

So, in short, if you want to stop blogging, here are my key takeaways for you:

  • Don’t take the blog down completely. You don’t want to lose the equity you’ve built over time.
  • Look at it as taking a break from blogging. You can always change your mind later if you’re re-inspired, or if you see that your traffic is significantly impacted.
  • Remove any links to your blog from your author website. You don’t want to drive people to something outdated.
author tip sheet

Author Tip Sheets: The Whys and Hows

author tip sheetYou may have heard about an author tip sheet, sometimes called an author sell sheet. You may have even been told that you should have one. But what in the world is an author tip sheet? Let’s answer some of your questions.

What Is An Author Tip Sheet?

Think of an author tip sheet as a resume or a brochure for your book. It’s your one-page pitch about what the book is about, who it’s for and what people need to know about it. I like to think of it as sort of an abbreviated print version of  your author website.

Why Should I Have an Author Tip Sheet?

Every business person has a business card. Every company has a brochure. Your author tip sheet is the equivalent. When you meet someone who might be interested in your book — be it an agent/publisher, bookseller or reader — your author tip sheet is the thing you want to leave behind. Many authors swear by it as a primary way to make a meaningful connection with people who can take their book to the next level.

What Should Go Into an Author Tip Sheet?

As I mentioned before, an author tip sheet is very much like an author website. It should be a one-pager that includes the most important elements about your book.

There are certain musts on an author tip sheet, including:

  • Your book title and book cover
  • A brief book description
  • Publishing details (publisher name, ISBN, pub date, price, page count, etc…)
  • Purchasing options (formats, bulk order options, etc…)
  • Your target audience and why they will be interested
  • Your website/blog URL and/or social media accounts

Other optional elements to include (depending on your subject matter, book publishing status, etc…) could include:

  • Your book marketing plan
  • Comparable titles
  • Review blurbs and/or testimonials
  • Special honors you or the book have received
  • Your bio and/or a list of other books you’ve published
  • Fast facts about why your book is a must read, (i.e. Did you know that 1/3 of Americans …..)

What Format Is It in?

As you have probably figured out by now, an author tip sheet is usually a printed one-pager that you can leave behind when you visit a bookstore or other professional contact. Experts also recommend that the one-pager be available as a PDF that is accessible through your website. This will allow site visitors to print it out — and start handing it out — thus increasing your reach.

Do You Have Examples of Other Author Tip Sheets?

Yup. Here are a few that might serve as good models for you if you’re interested in getting started.

Dorothy Hamilton, Love What You Do
(created by iUniverse)

Brian Thomas Schmidt, The Worker Prince

Tom Harbin, MD, Waking Up Blind

So How Do I Make One?

If you’re working with an outside firm that handles anything from web design to book cover design to PR, they should be able to create an author tip sheet for you. But if you’re going it alone and want to create one yourself, there are a variety of websites that offer downloadable templates. Here are just a few we’ve found:

Hopefully, this has helped you better understand what an author tip sheet is, why you need one and how to make one. If you have experiences — good or bad — with your author tip sheet, please share them with us in the comments box below.

how do you track book sales

How Do You Track Book Sales?

how do you track book salesSo you have an author website. And you, of course, have links to buy your book through your website (or at least I hope you do!) But how do you track book sales? In other words, how do you know if people are actually clicking on those links? And how do you know how many books are being sold?

There are actually few options for doing this.

How Do You Track Book Sales From Your Site?

Yes, you can track how many people are clicking on each of your “Buy the book” links. You can even track where they are clicking on them (From your blog? The book description page?) and which particular link they are going to (Amazon Kindle? B&N? Your hardcover?)

All of this can be done relatively simply – and for free – through a redirect URL or WordPress plug-in. This means that you can create a custom, hidden URL for each link that then redirects to the actual link. So, in other words, you could create a “page” on your site – let’s call it /buy-amazon-hardcover – that immediately redirects to your hardcover page on Amazon. No user clicking on the link would ever see that “blank” page on your site, because they’re only on it for a millisecond before they’re redirected to Amazon. But your site analytics records that visit, and any time you log in to view your analytics you can find out how many people actually went there — or, in layman’s terms, clicked on that particular Amazon link.

As I mentioned before, there are simple WordPress plugins that can do this work for you as well. The one we’ve used is called Redirection and it automates the process of creating these redirect URLs.

But here’s one thing this free functionality doesn’t do: let you know if people actually went through with the purchase. In other words, it tells you if people clicked on the link from your site that took them to the page on Amazon where they could buy the book. What it doesn’t tell you is if those same people actually followed through with the purchase.

How Do You Track Book Sales in Total?

So now we’ve talked about tracking how many books you’ve sold through your site. But what about tracking book sales in total? You clearly want to know how many books you’re selling, regardless of where the buyers are coming from.

The free option for doing this can be pretty time consuming. Essentially, any site where your book is sold will allow you to view that data. Your Amazon Author Central account will essentially allow you to view how many copies of your book were sold on Amazon – as well as some other partner sites.

But I still hear from authors that their sales through Smashwords, etc… are not included in these reports. They find themselves looking at multiple sources to figure out how many copies they’ve sold, and then working to crunch all the numbers into one place. Not fun.

Thankfully, there are several paid services that help you track all your book sales in one place without the legwork.

One is called Shelley Hitz. It allows you to enter your book information from multiple sites that sell it (Amazon, Smashwords, etc…) and it will generate all the data for you. It allows you to try it for free for 14 days and then the cost is anywhere up to $9.99/month (depending on how many books you’re tracking the sales of).

Another similar option is the downloadable Story Box Software. It offers similar features and allows you to run reports, download your data into Excel files, etc…. The difference with this service is that there’s a one-time fee to download it — $89.99 – and then you can use it for as long as you need. It also offers a free trial.

I’m sure there are plenty more websites, apps, etc… that can help with this. These are just the ones I’ve heard of through word of mouth.

So how do you track book sales? Well, there are a variety of options. It all depends on what you want to know, how you want to get that information, and – like everything else in life — how much you’re willing to pay for it.

Group Blogs: The Hows and Whys for Authors

So you know you should blog to promote your book. But you worry it will be a waste of your time and effort. The solution? Group blogs.

Why Authors Should Consider Group Blogs

First, let’s define group blogs. These are individual blogs on specific topics that have multiple authors, each contributing posts.

Group Blogs for Authors -- Image courtesy of olovedog at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of olovedog at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, in other words, you might create a group blog on, say, weight loss. Then you might have five different authors who each have written books on diet, exercise, etc… who regularly contribute to this blog with their own individual posts. People who visit the blog would be able to read all the posts in chronological order, or simply read the ones by the contributor they are most interested in. Each of those posts would also include promotion of the individual titles that each author has written and/or links to their personal site.

The benefits of group blogs for authors like you is numerous, including:

  • You can expose yourself to a new audience. In other words, people following one of the other blog contributors are likely to see your posts as well.
  • The shared responsibility of keeping the blog updated doesn’t sit solely on you; it’s a team that keeps it alive and kicking.
  • More posts = more traffic = more book sales. It’s simple.

Creating or Joining Group Blogs

If group blogs sounds more palatable to you than blogging on your own, how would you go about doing it?

First, see if there are already any group blogs created in your genre. Do some Google searching to identify any that may be out there, and then reach out to those bloggers about becoming a contributor.

If there aren’t any group blogs in your genre, you can start your own if you’re willing to take on the responsibility. Start by setting up a blog for free at WordPress.com. Post one or two entries yourself to set the tone and theme. Then reach out to other authors in your field (if you know them personally, great; if not, a simple search should allow you to find authors promoting themselves) and ask them if they’re interested in being a contributor. Create posts on Facebook and/or LinkedIn pitching group blogging — you can link to this blog post — and asking those who are interested to reach out.

Group Blogging Tips

If you are going lead a group blog, here are some tips and things to keep in mind.

  • You can add authors and contributors easily through WP Admin. Go to Users → Invite New to invite others to join your team to be contributors or authors (more on this distinction below).
  • Decide if you want final authority over everything posted on your group blog. If you give contributors “author” rights, they can post and publish instantaneously. Or you can decide to make them “contributors,” in which case you would be able to review each post before it goes live.
  • Make sure to have each contributor create a user profile and gravatar. This will allow visitors to easily differentiate between each contributor.
  • You can also have each author be his or her own “category” of posts, making it easy for readers to sort posts by contributor.
  • Have all your contributors follow the same guidelines about tagging blog posts, optimizing them for keywords, etc… Consistency is key.
  • Use the super-cool author widgets that WordPress offers. Consider “Author’s Widget” — “an easy, direct way to display your team, as shown on The Smoke-Filled Room. When configuring the widget, you can adjust some settings, from a custom widget title, to the number of posts to show for each author, to the ability to specify avatar size.” Or try “Author Grid,” which brings in the photos of each of your authors/editors.

Have you tried group blogging? What worked for you? What pitfalls did you face? Share them with us!

most read posts of 2016

Our 5 Most-Read Posts of 2016

Happy New Year, everyone! 2017 is coming in with a bang! But before we look forward, let’s take a quick look backward at our most-read posts of 2016 — most-read by authors like yourself.

Here is a list of the five blog posts that got the most reads in the calendar year. Consider this your cliff notes if you missed any of it. Enjoy!

(And on a side note … apparently October and November were good months — they brought all of our most-read posts of the year. This is a pure coincidence.)

most read posts of 2016

Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. How to Promote Your Book on Your Website
Ever 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.
October 20, 2016

2. Getting an Agent for a Book: Why Self-Marketing Is Essential
So you’re starting to think about getting an agent for a book. Your manuscript is almost finished and it’s time to get it out there. Where do you start? In today’s world, I would argue, becoming a self-marketer before getting an agent for a book is essential.
November 17, 2016

 3. Your Author Page: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself
So you’ve decided to build an author website. Among other things, that website will include an author page. In this post, I explore a few different approaches to a successful author page, and examples of people who have done interesting things with theirs.
October 11, 2016

 4. Selling Books Online: 5 Things You Need to Know
Okay, 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…
November 29, 2016

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

Here’s to a great 2017 for all you authors out there!

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.

marketing tips for getting an agent for a book

Getting an Agent for a Book: Why Self-Marketing Is Essential

So you’re starting to think about getting an agent for a book. Your manuscript is almost finished and it’s time to get it out there. Where do you start?

In today’s world, I would argue, becoming a self-marketer before getting an agent for a book is essential. Now, not everyone agrees with that. I was just looking at a conversation on LinkedIn specifically about this. Here’s how it went…

marketing tips for getting an agent for a book

I personally got a kick out of the “trying to get your kid into Harvard before you meet any women” reference. But I would venture to say that argument is wrong. Here is why.

Point #1: You Need to Prove Your Marketing Chops Before Getting an Agent for a Book

In the olden days, authors were just authors. Publishers did everything else — from book editing to cover design to marketing. Well, the world has changed.

Some people mistakenly think that only self-published authors have to wear all those hats. But what they don’t realize is that the publishing industry has changed significantly in the last decade. Sure, publishers invest lots of time and energy in making sure that the upcoming books of their bestselling authors have the perfect covers, press releases sent to premium media outlets, and great presences on social media. But that’s only done for the authors that have already made them loads of money. Every other author they work with? They are on their own.

And that’s where pre-pub marketing plays in. Since a publisher knows that the success or failure of your first book depends, in part, on how good a marketer you are, they want to work with authors who understand marketing and have shown some success with it in the past. And agents know that. In other words, “good marketing=agent interest=publisher interest.”

Point #2: You Need to Sell Yourself to An Agent, So They Can Sell You to a Publisher

You may have written the best manuscript in the world. But unless you know how to sell it, it’s for naught. Trust me: the last thing an agent wants to have to do is spend his time helping you rework how you’re positioning your book before reaching out to publishers.

So as you start the process of getting an agent for a book, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who does my book appeal to?
  • Why is it different or unique from other books out there?
  • What is the most compelling aspect of my book?
  • How can I summarize my book in several paragraphs?

Keep these points in mind as you craft your inquiry letters and book summaries. These are questions a marketer would ask herself as she starts to scope out her brand — whether she was selling jewelry, real estate, or a book. So put on the hat of a marketer before reaching out to an agent. You need to show that you can sell your book before he will put himself out there to sell your book.

So How Do You Start Marketing Yourself?

While the term “marketing” can sound somewhat intimidating for some, here are some simple ways to get yourself started:

  • Build yourself an author website. I could go on and on about this. Or you can just contact us for a free consultation.
  • Create at least one social media presence for yourself. Here are some ideas on how to choose the right ones.
  • Start blogging to drive traffic to your site and help build your brand.
  • Collect email addresses. When an agent asks you how many names you have collected, be prepared to answer.

There’s obviously plenty more you can do, but taking these four steps are a great way to dip your toes in the marketing necessary for getting an agent for a book.

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!