good reads for authors

March in Review: 5 Good Reads for Authors

good reads for authorsHappy April! Here’s what you might have missed in March. It’s time to catch up on your reading. Presenting … 5 Good Reads for Authors

Good Reads for Authors, March 2017

1. Should Indie Authors Publish Exclusively With Amazon or Not?
A new report from Author Earnings doesn’t completely answer the question, but it will help writers decide.
March 6, 2017 | Observer

2. 6 book publishing models in 2017
Discover today’s six book publishing models and get advice on how to figure out whose book publishing advice you can trust
March 8, 2017 | Build Book Buzz

3. The Indie Author’s Guide to Paid Reviews
For indie authors who have some room in their marketing budgets, paid book review services can be an appealing option.
March 10, 2017 | Publishers Weekly

4. Why Is It Important to Write Unique Blog Content?
There will always be room for another blog, but you cannot get away with poorly written content anymore. Writing unique and informative posts is where the money is at.
March 17, 2017 | Just Publishing Advice

4. Author Marketing Plans: Why Yours Should Be Unique
Are you looking for ready-made author marketing plans? Hoping to find a simple checklist that tells you everything you need to do to get your book out there to a wide audience? Well, sorry … I have some bad news for you.
March 23, 2017 | Smart Author Sites

author marketing plans

Author Marketing Plans: Why Yours Should Be Unique

Are you looking for ready-made author marketing plans? Hoping to find a simple checklist that tells you everything you need to do to get your book out there to a wide audience? Well, sorry … I have some bad news for you.

Why Author Marketing Plans Need to Be Customized

author marketing plans

Image courtesy of jk1991 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No two books are alike. No two authors are alike. And the audience for one book will be drawn to things that are drastically different from the audience for another book.

Here’s are two examples (note: these are completely made up):

Judy Smith: A children’s book author who writes a series for girls ages 8-10 about tween drama.

Mike Jones: A historian who writes biographies about war heroes in American history.

What would you recommend as a “standard” marketing plan for these two authors? What things should they both be doing?

Sure, some of it would be the same. Yes, they each need an ISBN. And yes, likely an author website and/or a Facebook page. But beyond that? Almost nothing about their author marketing plans would be the same.

Some examples of what Judy’s author marketing plans might include are:

  • A press release speaking to teachers/librarians about her series
  • A presence on Instagram/Facebook (to reach moms)
  • Fun online games on her website for girls in her target age group
  • Offering free copies to parents she knows and asking them to spread the word
  • A fun book launch party at her local community center, dance school or gymnastics school
  • Speaking engagements at elementary schools in her area

And Mike’s author marketing plan might involve:

  • Local events at libraries/senior centers
  • Book readings for local veteran’s groups
  • A presence on GoodReads, speaking to those who are interested in history
  • A comprehensive SEO strategy to drive traffic to his author website when people search for terms surrounding historical war heroes
  • Some targeted ads on Facebook for those with an interest in the topic

See? Night and day.

One Example of a Unique Author Marketing Plan

guy-garcia-swarmI recently came across this article about a bestselling author using virtual reality as a marketing tool for his book. I must admit that I had never thought about this as an option for authors, but it made all the sense in the world.

Guy Garcia’s new book, entitled Swarm, is described as a fast-paced, action-packed novel with an undercurrent of technology, showing how its evolution is faster than we, as people can absorb or understand —  and how it’s changing us in ways we can’t possibly predict.

So, of course, people who are interested in that type of book would be attracted to virtual reality. Hence his idea to use VR as a marketing tool.

In the VR experience he created to promote this book, he allows readers to “enter Swarm’s virtual reality” and “bring readers inside the mind of a character who is born online and rules a digital realm with the power to transform the real world.”

Here are a few quotes from him about how he came up with this idea and why….

“The key to marketing your book is embedded in your characters, and your story and the emotions and ideas that drove you to write the book in the first place … That’s your audience, find out what they do and where they are and go after them.”

“You are the best salesperson to represent your ideas and passion, and the most convincing billboard for why people should pay for the privilege of reading your work.”

Swarm, because of its subject matter and story line, is inherently suited for mixed reality marketing platforms, but marketing books of any kind with only standard ad and promotion channels in mind is a limiting strategy, full of missed opportunities.”

How to Create Your Own Author Marketing Plans

Not having much knowledge myself about virtual reality or the genre of his book, this is not an idea I ever could have come up with myself. But as Guy says himself, YOU are the best person to come up with your marketing plan.

In other words, you may have a wonderful team of people that can create your online presence for you, write press releases, and try to spread the word about your book. But no one knows your genre or your audience better than you do. And the best ideas about how to reach them in a new and unique way is likely floating around in your mind.

Here are five things to keep in mind as you try to come up with your own version of the virtual reality idea…

  1. Who is reading your book? How old are they? What gender are they?
  2. Where are these people spending their leisure time? Online? At a senior center?
  3. What is it about your book that appeals most to them?
  4. What can you offer them that’s different and unique?
  5. What do you know that your readers would like to know? How can you share that with them?
  6. How can you take advantage of technology to connect with them?

Again, I can’t spell out your author marketing plans. I don’t know your book, your subject matter, or your audience the way you do. Nor can I create a templated list of items that each and every author should check off to promote their books.

Instead, I hope this advice will help spark ideas for you to put together your own successful marketing plan. Good luck!

author website domain name

Author Website Domain Name: 5 Fast Facts

author website domain name

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s the first thing you need to do when you are building an author website: choose a domain name! And yet, many people get tripped up by the experience. Here are five fast facts that may help make the process of choosing an author website domain name a little bit smoother and easier.

1. An author website domain name costs very little.

While building and hosting a site may come with some cost, a domain name shouldn’t break the bank. For about $15/year you can purchase your domain. So even if the domain you purchase isn’t the perfect one, that’s okay. Don’t let anyone try to charge you an arm and a leg for it.

2. Your domain name is not the same as your site hosting.

In order for your website to be live online, it will have to be hosted somewhere. Think of that as paying rent for your space on the internet. But well before you get there, you need to have your domain name purchased. One common misconception among authors is that their author website domain name and hosting are one in the same. They are not. The two entities — both of which are required to have a functioning site — can be purchased through the same company, but they don’t have to be. And, too often, an author only remembers their login for their domain name and not their site hosting, or vice versa. These are two very distinct items. Think of one as the copyright to your book (the domain) and one the book itself (the hosting.)

3. You can purchase multiple domain names.

I’ve worked with many authors who purchase multiple domains and have them all point to the same site. That’s perfectly fine. If you want to purchase your name at .net, .com and .org, great. If you want both your name and each of your book titles to all be domains that take people to your author site, that’s totally doable. You will need to select one primary domain (the one that is visible to your audience), but there’s no limit to how many domains you can purchase. Any time someone enters any one of those domains, they will end up on your website.

4. Unless it’s not available, your author website domain name should match the name on your book cover.

Let’s say you go by the name of Joe, but your book is published under Joseph. Or you use your middle initial on your book cover. In those instances, what do you do? Do you reserve a domain by the name people know you as? Or by the one you’ve published under? Again, you can purchase multiple domains, so in many cases I would recommend both. But your primary domain — the one that people see — should match as closely as possible to your author name. Now, if you have a relatively common name, like Joseph Smith, you may have to get more creative. So JosephSmith.com may not be available, but you can always try JosephSmithBooks.com, AuthorJosephSmith.com, etc…

5. You should ALWAYS own your own domain.

I can’t stress this to authors enough. Never let another organization purchase your domain name for you. They might build your website and own the rights to all your files. They might host your site. But at the end of the day, your author website domain name has to be yours. If at some point you decide to terminate the relationship with whomever built your site, you want to have full control over that domain. Because, if you own it, you can always have a new site built under that domain. If someone else owns it, they essentially own your brand and can do with it as they wish. That’s a marketing no-no for authors.

Hopefully, this has cleared up some confusion you might have had about author website domain names. If you have any additional questions, feel free to post them in the comments box below and I will be happy to provide a response! Or feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

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.
good reads for authors

Good Reads for Authors from January (No Pun Intended)

good reads for authors

Image courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Another month has come and gone. And with that in mind, here’s a list of the good reads (and no, I don’t mean GoodReads) for authors and writers that were published in January. If you missed any of these, now’s the time to go back and make sure you don’t miss them.

January in Review: 5 Good Reads for Authors

1. Memoir Author’s Book Marketing Success Story
Jen Miller leveraged her platform, skills, and experience to turn her memoir launch into abook marketing success story. Here’s how she did it.
BuildBookBuzz, January 4, 2017

2. Building a Platform to Land a Book Deal: Why It Often Fails
If you’re preparing to pitch your nonfiction work to agents or publishers, you’ve probably heard about the necessity of having a platform.
JaneFriedman.com, January 5, 2017

3. 8 Book Marketing Mistakes to Ban in 2017
Avoid the most common book marketing blunders made by self-publishing authors.
Reedsy.com, January 10, 2017

4. 10 Times Book Reviewers Totally Got It Wrong
I love reading book reviews but I always take them with a grain of salt. Thing is, no matter how much of an expert the reviewer is, a review is an opinion, not a fact.
#AmReading, January 24, 21017

5. Author Tip Sheet: The Whys and Hows
You may have heard about an author tip sheet, sometimes called an author sell sheet. But what in the world is it? Let’s answer some of your questions.
SmartAuthorSites.com, January 26, 2017

Happy February, everyone! If you come across other good reads for authors this month, please share them with us.

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.