Authors: Get Creative With Your ‘Thank You’ Page

I stumbled across a really interesting idea yesterday while reading a marketing magazine. It’s one that I’m going to implement on our site when I get a chance, and I encourage you to as well!

Most of the authors I build websites for have a “thank you” page somewhere on the site. Maybe it’s the page someone is taken to after they sign up for the newsletter …. or submit a question/comment … or buy the book! These “thank you” pages are usually pretty boring. After all, their purpose is usually just to let the person know that their submission — whatever kind it is — has been received.

But why not do more with a “thank you” page than just say “thank you?” Here are some ideas of creative ways authors can put such a page to better use:

  • Include links to your social networking profiles, so that people can connect with you other ways as well
  • Ask if someone who has signed up for your newsletter would ALSO like to get the RSS feed from your blog
  • Offer a fun link to a book excerpt that isn’t available anywhere else on the site
  • Write a funny tidbit about how much you enjoy receiving comments like the one a reader just submitted

These are just a few ideas … feel free to get creative with it in a way that works best for you. And please do share any other fun ideas you might have in the “comments” section below.

And if you’re ready to talk with us about building your own author web site — one with a dynamic “thank you” page, of course — contact us today for a free consultation!

New and Innovate Ways to Sell Yourself and Your Books

I came across a really interesting blog entry today on The WM Freelance Writers’ Connection. In it, blogger and author Angela Atkinson talks about a contest she had on her own site (with the three winners getting free copies of her e-book), asking readers for the best and most unique marketing ideas they could muster. Ironically, just holding this contest was a pretty good marketing tactic, so good for you, Angela!

Here are the winners… Hopefully, some of these ideas may help authors like you!

First Place: Monica Holtz

One idea: Donate a portion of the book’s proceeds to a nonprofit organization, and reap higher sales. I did this with my book, Emily at the Zoo (holtzcreativeenterprises.com), and sales have been going strong at retail locations in my area for more than a year.

Another idea: Carry books with you everywhere. When an acquaintance asks what you’ve been doing lately, you can show the person your book. I have sold books this way in the parking lot of a grocery store, at a wedding reception, at meetings, and many other places.

Second Place: Ruth Molinar

1.One idea might be to partner with another author who has a complementary book or service and each of you offer the other’s product as a “bonus” for a limited time.

2. Seek endorsement or back cover blurbs from industry giants or academics.

3. Since you are already on the Kindle and going to other formats (Nook please!), you could work with the house (amazon or B&N) for “feature” you. I know that B&N does this and I have picked up books I would not have otherwise.

3a. B&N also has an excerpt feature for Nook owners to read a small section of the beginning of the book to prompt/tempt buyers— I know this has worked great because I have bought WAY more than I should have because of this!

Third Place: Diane Stephenson

One way is to pre-sell your book. Contact your entire list with an offer of a discount for ordering before the publishing date. Don’t have a list? Post it on your blog with an opt-in page and ask others to post it on their blogs with a link back to your opt-in and the promise of a copy of the book for helping you.

If you attend writers’ conferences there is often an opportunity to display and sell your books and also network with other attendees. You never know who you might meet there – an editor, agent, etc.

Enjoy! And, as always, feel free to contact us about marketing YOUR book online. Take advantage of our free consultation by contacting us today!

Is an Author Website Worth the Investment?

Many authors wonder if building an author website is going to be worth it. After all, it’s an investment that may or may not get paid back to you.

Building an author website can do a lot more for you than make money. It can raise your profile, build a fanbase, etc… But that leads to the question: How do you put a dollar amount on it? How can you ensure that you get your money back and more?

That’s a hard question to answer. But what I CAN do is tell you all the different ways that you can financially benefit from your author website — both directly and indirectly — and then it’s up to you to figure out how much is worth spending.

Direct Benefits
There are only a few ways to collect money directly off your website. They are:

  • Selling your latest book. This is the obvious way to make money on an author website. Exactly how many books you sell (and how much money you make off of each sale) can depend on your publishing status, how much traffic you get, and how good a job you do selling your book on the website.
  • Advertising. There’s no reason you can’t put a Google adwords ad on your website. I can’t say we do it often, but we can do it. And it’s a nice way to collect a little bit of money each month.

Indirect Benefits
But there are so many more ways to indirectly benefit financially from your author website! Like…

  • Selling your book … just not on the website. Don’t judge the success of your website on how many books are sold through the site itself. Many people will want to go to the bookstore to buy it. Others will go back to Amazon.com later on and order it.
  • Selling your NEXT book. This is the beauty of an author website instead of a book website. With an author site, you can tout your next book before it’s available. You can collect email addresses of people who want to be notified as soon as that book is for sale. By having an author website, you can sell copies of your next book before it’s even published.
  • Network schmoozing… Having an author website can give you a HUGE leg up in the industry. Agents, publishers and the media will be far more likely to contact you and consider you an established author/expert if you have a website.
  • Promoting your services. Maybe you’re a career coach who wrote a book on success. Maybe you’re an expert on real estate who offers workshops, too. Your author website can be a great tool for not only promoting your writing, but also promoting your additional paid services to those who are impressed with your book.
  • Spread the word about book signings. You can promote any upcoming book signings on your website (and through Facebook/Twitter, etc…) to help improve the turnout. The benefit is twofold: 1) you can sell more books there; 2) you can build a better buzz about you and your book.

See what we mean? Whether or not you should spend the money to build an author website shouldn’t be determined only by how many books you plan to sell through the website. In fact, there are so many more ways that you can earn back what you invested … and hopefully a lot more!

Ready to talk with us about building your own author website? Contact us today for a free consultation!

6 Tips for Pre-Selling Your Book

If you’re a smart author — and all our Smart Author Sites clients are 🙂  — you’ll have your website up-and-running well before your book is published. In fact, your website may have even helped to get your book published.

But exactly what should an author be doing with the website for the months leading up to the book’s release date? How do you promote a book that’s not on the shelves yet? Here’s what you can do to get a head start selling copies of your book:

1. Post reviews. If your book is reviewed by a publication pre-release, get that review up on the website ASAP. Especially if it’s a good review.

2. Keep your blog current. Post regularly about things related to your book and/or its release. Make sure people keep coming back for more.

3. Conduct contests. The winner will get an autographed copy of your book as soon as it’s available. Again, this is a great way to create some buzz before the book is even released.

4. Offer a pre-sale price. Obviously, you can only do this if you’re selling the book yourself. But it’s a great way to let people pre-order the book at a discount.

5. Include pre-order links. As soon as your book is available for pre-order on Amazon or B&N, get those links set up from every page of your website. Make it easy for people to order your book immediately.

6. Collect email addresses. Offer an incentive for everyone who visits your website to share their email address. Then, as soon as the book is released, you have a ready-made list of interested parties that you can email with the announcement that the book is available for purchase.

Did you do anything else on your website leading up to the book release that helped increase sales? Share your experiences!

And if you’re ready to talk with us about building your author website, contact us now for a free consultation!

3 Reasons Why an Author Website Really Helps Sell Books

There’s been some buzz in the industry this past week regarding an informal survey about why people choose to buy their books. In summary, the survey reveals that:

  • The most common reasons why someone will buy a book is because they like the author and/or because it was recommended by a friend
  • A good book review is also quite influential
  • Hardly anyone will decide to buy a new book because of an author website, blog, advertising, or social networking

So the natural question to ask in response is this: “Is an author website really worth it?” The purpose of this blog entry is for me to answer that question for you … with a resounding YES. Here are three reasons why:

1. Word of mouth has to start somewhere. The odds that your book will become the next Harry Potter is small. But it’s even smaller if you DON’T do the marketing yourself. Sure, you can’t create all the buzz yourself. But you have to start somewhere. Use your author website, blog and social networking to get the word out there. Once you get the ball rolling, who knows where it will go!

2. Help your readers stay in the loop. Let’s say that your first book was released last year, and your second book is due out in a few months. So just how are the people who are already fond of your writing going to hear about it? Unless you’re Stephen King, there aren’t going to be public proclamations about your new book release. That’s where your website and social networking are crucial. By getting fans of your first book to come to the website, to sign up for your newsletter, and to check out your blog regularly, you can make sure they know about your second book. And hopefully your third and fourth as well.

3. Get your book reviewed. Just last week, I was organizing a blog tour for an author I work with. I contacted a variety of blogs and websites recommending that they visit her website to learn more about her book. Then I suggested that they review her book, or allow her to guest blog on their websites. As a result, we already have four websites that will either be reviewing her book and/or having her write for their site in the next month. Without having built a website of her own, how would we be able to inform these bloggers about the author or her book? How would we get the book reviewed by their sites? And, ultimately, how would those who would buy the book because they were impressed by the review ever get reached?

So, in my humble opinion, the survey was a bit incomplete. Because it only touches on the last step that happens before people buy a book — be it a review, a release of a second book, or having the book discussed at the water cooler. It completely ignores what an author needs to do to make those things happen. An an author website, blog, and/or social networking profiles are pretty much essential in getting there.

Ready to speak with us about developing an author website? Contact us today for a free consultation!

6 Tips for Promoting Your Book and Website Through Facebook

Practically everyone over the age of 15 is on Facebook. Which makes it an incredible opportunity to promote your book. Think of it as a newspaper that everyone is reading … and you can advertise for free in it!

But just how to do that can be a little more challenging than you think.

Facebook can be a bit intimidating for those out of high school. It’s huge, it’s fast-moving, and the functionality and privacy settings seem to change monthly. And, most challenging of all, there are no “directions.” You just have to figure it out.

With that in mind, here are the steps authors should take to promote themselves and their books on Facebook….

1. Create a profile. If you already have a personal profile on Facebook (that you use for personal reasons), then create a separate, professional profile for you and/or your book. It may be a pain to have two profiles, but it’s worth it. You want to have one that’s focused on your career. And you don’t want the general public looking at pictures of your kids!

2. Start friending people. This is the primary way that people will find you on Facebook, so it’s really important that you start adding friends. Start with your list of personal friends. Then browse the friends of your friends and invite all of them to friend you. All “friending” means is that your notes will show up on their homepage and vice versa. When your Facebook profile is for marketing purposes, the more friends the better!

3. Post, post, post. It’s easy to create a Facebook profile and then never touch it again. But that would be a huge mistake. It’s important that your name stay right in front of all your Facebook friends. And the only way to do that is to keep posting on Facebook. Your posts will then show up on all your “friends'” homepages, along with links to your Facebook profile. Again, it’s free exposure! Posts can be as simple as “Working on my next novel now” to announcing your book’s sales milestones.

4. Sync up your blog with your Facebook profile. There’s a nifty feature within your Facebook profile called “Notes.” I would tell you where to find this, but it seems to change all the time. But if you can find it, there will be a place where you can enter the URL of your blog’s RSS feed. It sounds complicated, but it’s pretty easy if you can find it. This is something I do for clients all the time. Once it’s set up, any blog post that you publish will automatically populate in Facebook. This is a HUGE time-saver. These posts will show up on your profile AND on the homepage of all of your friends, just like if you posted it on Facebook yourself. One caveat on this, though … your blog posts don’t show up immediately. There’s a delay of a few hours. And unless you know exactly when it posts, it may be pushed down on your homepage pretty quickly. How quickly depends on how many friends you have an how often they post. But rest assured, some people will see it!

5. Join groups. Find the Facebook groups that are filled with people who are interested in your subject matter. Join those groups, invite those group members to “friend” you, and join the group conversations whenever possible.

6. Don’t forget about links! Within your Facebook profile, make sure to include links to your website, links to buy your book, etc… After all, that’s the whole purpose of it! You don’t want people to be interested in you and your book, but have no idea where to find out more about it!

Have you found Facebook to be an effective marketing tool for you and your book? Do you use any cool features or widgets that aren’t mentioned here? Share your thoughts! And don’t forget to contact us for your free consultation about building and/or marketing your author website!

Why Would Someone Buy Your Book?

In case you missed my post a few days ago, I provided some really interesting details from Bowker’s newly-released “2009 Book Consumer Annual Review: U.S. Demographics & Buying Behaviors.” Click here to read it.

What I touched on a bit in that post, but would like to expand on here, is the segment on what makes people buy books. By understanding that, we can have a much better idea on how to market our own books.

Here’s a segment-by-segment breakdown of the brief PW report on the subject and an analysis of each point:

The study found topic/subject and author to be the two most important motivating factors, although there was a distinct difference between fiction and nonfiction. The author was the single most important reason consumers chose a novel, while subject was the top buying factor for nonfiction titles.

This is something I’ve been saying for a while. Marketing a fiction book is completely different from marketing a non-fiction book. In some ways, non-fiction is easier to sell, since you have a ready-made audience of people looking for information on a certain topic. Personally, I love reading books about politics. I’ll buy a political book, but not necessarily a self-help book. I’m sure every non-fiction fan has their own section of the bookstore they head to. The key is to catch the eye of the reader who already is looking for books in your genre.

Fiction is a completely different story. People usually choose to read a novel because it’s what their friends are reading. Or because they’re a fan of the author. In this sense, an author website (as opposed to a book website) is even more essential for a fiction author. This study proves the importance of keeping your readers interested and occupied so that when your next book comes out, they’re around to find out about it.

“The author” finished below “browsing through a book” as a reason for buying a nonfiction work.

This sentence in particular points to the importance of featured excerpts. While people traditionally browse through a book in a bookstore, that’s a lot harder to do online. Which is even more reason why you MUST have featured excerpts on your website. For nonfiction authors, I usually recommend that they include more than one featured excerpt — giving a reader more of a browsing experience. One thing I commonly recommend is a table of contents, with various chapter names linking to brief excerpts from those chapters. For fiction authors, one long excerpt makes a lot of sense. Less so for non-fiction authors, and this seems to back that up.

The most common way consumers became aware of a title in 2009 was at a store through an in-store display, with recommendation the second most popular.

This doesn’t distinguish between fiction and non-fiction, but I’ll tackle it anyway. An in-store display is great. And we can always try and replicate something similar online. By getting your book in people’s faces as much as possible, you’ll be able to accomplish what’s close to an in-store display. So get your book reviewed (and your cover displayed) on as many websites and blogs as possible. Get links to your website worked in whenever you do interviews or write articles. Create your own display of sorts!

With hundreds of thousands of new books on the market,  it can be quite a challenge to get yours to stand out. But, hopefully, this information will give us a place to start!

Ready to talk with us about marketing your book online? Contact us today for a free consultation!

The Bookselling Market: What’s Hot, What’s Not

Bowker recently released the “2009 Book Consumer Annual Review: U.S. Demographics & Buying Behaviors.” It was based on responses from 43,000 people in book publishing. And while it would cost you a whopping $1,000 to download and read the complete report, here are some highlights, courtesy of Publishers Weekly. This is some pretty interesting information for people who are trying to decide whether to publish an e-book, whether to try and get their book carried in bookstores, etc…

What’s Selling

  • Chain bookstores accounted for 27% of unit sales in 2009, while the e-commerce segment represented 21% of units sold.
  • The only other channel to have at least a 10% share of the market was book clubs, which had an 11% share.
  • The bookstore chains’ leadership position was more pronounced when sales are measured in dollars, with the chains grabbing 37% of dollar volume, while e-tailers, which discount heavily, taking 19% of dollars spent.
  • The study found Barnes & Noble to be the largest seller of print titles, with a 15% share of units purchased compared to 13% for Amazon and 10% for Borders.
  • Adult fiction was the largest of the major categories in 2009, generating 40% of units sold, although only 28% of the dollar volume due in part to the large number of fiction books that are sold as low-priced mass market paperbacks.
  • Young adult (boosted by Stephenie Meyer) and general fiction were the two largest subgenres, accounting for 8% of unit sales each last year. Romance and thriller/espionage each had a 6% share of units.
  • Paperbacks accounted for 59% of units sold in 2009, while hardcovers represented 36% of units.
  • E-books accounted for only 1.7% of unit volume in the year and a little more than 2% of dollars.
  • E-book buyers are using e-tailers to buy both their print and digital titles. In the first quarter of 2009, 37% of e-book buyers bought print books online, a figure that rose to 55% in the first period of 2010.

Who’s Buying

  • Eighty-one percent of both unit sales and dollar volume in 2009 came from consumers who had at least some college education.
  • Women generally buy more books than men. But not by the percentages you might think. In the Matures age bracket—readers born before 1948, men accounted for 48% of units and 54% of dollars spent, while in the Baby Boomer group (born between 1948 and 1966), men also accounted for 54% of dollar volume, although their unit market share was only 43%.
  • Examining why consumers buy books, the study found topic/subject and author to be the two most important motivating factors, although there was a distinct difference between fiction and nonfiction.
  • The most common way consumers became aware of a title in 2009 was at a store through an in-store display, with recommendation the second most popular.

Interesting information, right? I’ll post another entry in a few days further delving into why people buy specific books, but this is some good information to absorb as you begin your book publishing and book marketing endeavors.

Want to speak with us about developing an author website? Contact us today for a free consultation!

Marketing a Fiction Book vs. Marketing a Nonfiction Book

There are lots of companies that say they can market your book online. And maybe they can. But what they fail to tell you is that there’s not one standard formula that works for all authors. Marketing a teen horror novel is very, very different from trying to sell copies of a self-help book about finding your soul mate. Very different audiences.

I could spend hours writing about how reaching tweens and teens requires more social networking, while reaching 60-somethings is more effectively done through search engines, but I won’t bother. Instead, the purpose of this post is to talk about the specific differences between marketing fiction books and non-fiction books.

These two categories of books are completely separate beasts. Let’s start with why people read them. Someone generally reads a non-fiction book to boost their knowledge on something. To learn more on a subject. That same person would probably read a novel because they find it relaxing. Or entertaining. Or they like the rush. Or the humor. You get the drift.

Here’s the point: What prompts someone to buy a fiction book is completely different from what prompts someone to buy a non-fiction book. Let’s start with those motivations and see how that brings us back to the marketing side of things.

What they Have in Common
There’s one thing that works for every type of book. It’s every author’s dream. It’s “buzz” or word of mouth. Your friends are all talking about this book. It’s the topic of conversation at the water cooler. So you have to buy it. It could be a biography or a fantasy. Doesn’t matter. If it’s popular, you need to read it to stay in the loop.

But tell the truth — what are the odds that your book will become cooler talk? If it does, then great! But if it doesn’t, you need to find other ways to reach potential readers. And that’s where marketing comes in.

Promoting a Non-Fiction Book
In some ways, it’s actually a lot easier to do the marketing for a non-fiction book. That’s because there are a wealth of potential readers out there who are looking for information on your particular subject at any given moment. They’re surfing the web, Googling terms, finding websites that cover the subject matter.

All you have to do is get your book in their face just as they’re doing the looking! True, that’s easier said than done. But a good place to start is with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Google Adwords. It also can involve reaching out to websites that cover the same subject and getting your book plugged as a resource. As a nonfiction author, people are actually looking for you … you just have to make sure they find you.

Promoting a Fiction Book
This is a little more tricky. Because chances are that your potential readers have never heard of you. Or your characters. They’re not necessarily looking for your book. Instead, you have to make sure your book finds them … and wins them over.

This is where the search engine strategy goes out the window. No one actually goes on Google and searches for “good novels.” That’s just not how people choose their reading materials. Instead, they’re likely to choose a book because it’s on this month’s book club list. Or it’s recommended on their favorite social networking site.

Yes, social networking — and really “getting yourself out there” is necessary to market a fiction book. It’s only when someone stumbles upon your book and is so enamored that they have to read it that they will actually buy your book. So contact groups or educators that you think would benefit from using your book. Recommend your book to bloggers and book club leaders. Get it out there in front of as many people as possible.

Is it more work? Yes. But the rewards are plentiful. Because unless you’re a former U.S. President writing an autobiography, or a famous journalist writing an expose about a celebrity, your non-fiction book isn’t likely to become a bestseller. But anyone can become the next Nora Roberts or J.K. Rowling. The right book and the right marketing can get you there.

Ready to talk to us about marketing your book online? Click here to take advantage of our free consultation!

Marketing a teen horror novel is very, very different from trying to sell copies of a self-help book about finding your soul mate.

How to Create a Book Trailer: What’s Working, What’s Not

There was a really interesting article this week in the New York Times about authors and book trailers. I highly recommend you read it (but please be aware you need to create a free NY Times account to do so). Here’s the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/11/fashion/11AuthorVideos.html

For those of you who don’t feel like registering, or don’t have the time to read the full article, here are some highlights:

  • Most authors feel like they’re out of their comfort zone when they have to make a video. After all, writing and acting are very different skill sets.
  • Publishers want to see you and know who you are before they even speak to you about publishing your book. At the very least, they want to know you don’t have two heads or a heavy speech impairment! Hence, the video …
  • Jeannette Walls, who starred in trailers for her books “The Glass Castle” and “Half Broke Horses“, received 157,775 hits for her Glass Castle video.
  • Author videos are becoming more mainstream. In 2008, Amazon began designating its top five videos of the year. In May, book videos had their own Oscar-ish awards show, the Mobys, for best and worst book video honors.
  • Videos are a must for the next generation. According to a 2009 online survey by Teenreads.com, 4 in 10 teenage readers said they liked to see book trailers on book-related blogs and 46 percent watched book trailers on YouTube. Even more startling, 45 percent bought a book after watching the trailer.
  • What works for author videos is elusive. But we’re starting to figure out what DOESN’T work. “It’s hard to make a visually interesting video of a writer talking, even when the author is a star,” said Nancy Sheppard, vice president for marketing at Viking. “We see enough static talking heads in the media.”

So here’s the gist: Authors now need videos. The hope is that those book trailers will go viral. They should be interesting and dramatic — not just an author talking. But to get an author to do that can be a bit challenging. Who knows … maybe you’ll be the author who figures it all out 🙂

Ready to talk with us about developing an online presence for yourself as an author? Click here to take advantage of our free consultation.