7 Easy (and Free) Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Author Website

So your author web site is launched. Congratulations! But the work is just beginning. Because what good is a website if no one is visiting it?

Here are some simple ways to ensure that your website gets looked at…

  1. Amass a list of contacts. It should include as many people as possible — anyone you may have worked with, talked to about your book, etc… Send a mass email to your all of them letting them know about your new website and encouraging them to visit it.
  2. Use social networks to promote your website. Tweet about it. Include it on your Facebook profile and tout in in Facebook posts as much as possible. Include it on your LinkedIn page.
  3. Add your URL to your email signature. Make sure that every email you send not only includes your name in the signature, but also a link to your website.
  4. Always mention your site at appearances. Are you doing book signings? Or speaking engagements? Make sure to mention your website and let people know what they can find there.
  5. Become involved in blogs. Find other blogs in the same genre as your website. Then start posting comments and getting involved in the conversations. Link back to your site whenever appropriate.
  6. Create your own video. Videos can go viral! So grab a little camera and make a brief (3 minutes or less) video about your book. Make sure to mention your website in the video. Then upload it to YouTube and send it around to friends.
  7. Add your URL to all bylines. If you write any articles on the web, make sure to include your site address in the byline.

Have any other ideas that have worked for you? Please share them here!

When Should You Launch Your Author Website?

I get asked this question a lot, so it only makes sense to use this blog post to answer it … even for those people that haven’t asked!

Basically, there’s no bad time to launch an author website. The goal of the website will be different depending on what the status of the book is, but there’s always a benefit.

For instance…

When you’re just finishing your manuscript/looking for a publisher, having a website can give you a huge advantage over other people who are looking for a publisher. It tells the publishing company that you understand that you need to do your own marketing and that you’ve already begun the process. And an attractive site tells them that you can do it well. Publishers do less and less marketing of books nowadays (unless it’s one of the very few books that they predict to be a big seller), so the ball is in your court. They know it. You should know it. And a website lets them know that you do.

The obvious time to launch your website is just before your book is released. This is certainly when your site can carry the most punch in terms of building buzz for it, getting people to pre-order copies, and ultimately (hopefully!) selling lots and lots of copies of your book when it’s released.

What’s less obvious is the benefit of launching an author website six months or so after your book has come out. But I have a lot of authors who contact me at that point, because they’re frustrated with how their book has sold and the publicity that their publisher has (or hasn’t) done for them. Is there much that a website can do for you at this point? Yes and no. The truth is that it probably can’t turn your first book into the bestseller you wanted it to be. Can it promote that book and sell more copies than you were? Absolutely. But it can do more than that…

At this point, you’ve realized that you need to do your own marketing (albeit, a bit late), so just jump in and get started. If nothing else, getting a site up and running now will give you the online presence that will give your next book a leg up. Consider this a lesson learned.

Ready to build your author website? Contact us today for a free consultation.

Top 10 Peeves from Booksellers and Readers About Author Websites

Thanks to Bookseller Jolie at DearAuthor.com, we now have the Top 10 Peeves from Booksellers and Readers About Author Websites. Here’s what they are and, of course, my two cents on each of them.

#1 – Series links are not easily identifiable.  This should be its own special link on the home page!
When readers find a book they like, they want everything they can get their hands on!!! Whether it’s more in that series or another series you may have!

Booksellers want to stock your series, have all the books on hand. 9 times out of 10 a reader will buy all the books in the series, if a bookstore has them. While booksellers are a smart bunch, we can’t know ALL the books that are interconnected! Like the reader, we’ll go to the author’s website for the information.

My take: An author should definitely have all the books in a series interconnected. If the entire website is based on the series, then it should be fairly obvious at the outset. If the website focuses on the author, the series should be linked together through the navigation. A good example of this is http://www.eliotpattison.com, where author Eliot Pattison has a tab in his navigation for each of his two series of books, with the individual books within each series being dropdowns from those tabs.
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# 2  Printable booklist – This makes it so easy for the reader to print and take to the bookstore! And makes it even easier for the bookseller!
The list should have all your books listed on one page, series in chronological order and separated, ISBNs, dates!! Prices and publishers optional but it can’t hurt to have that information too!!
I say printable because, when you print it, all the information should be there and not cut off the page. Everyone’s computer is different so making the list simple and easy is best!

My take: I can honestly say I’ve never seen this on an author website. Is it common to go to the bookstore and want to buy every book by one author at the same time? Wouldn’t you want to buy one, see if you like it, and then buy others?
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#3 A contact the author link should be visible on the home page it’s the easiest way for us to tell you how great your books are!
Romance readers love to tell you how much they liked your book! They love that connection to a book and its author as well! So do booksellers for that matter. I’m often telling authors how wonderful they are! Psst, here’s another secret–I may even tell you special tid-bits! Like how you book is doing in our stores or if we’ve got your book placed in special locations, or your book is selected for our promotions!

My take: I agree with this. Personally, I always recommend that we put the contact link in the site navigation. And I also like to tie a newsletter sign-up into the contact page. But that’s another story …
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#4 The most recent book should be featured on front page with sequel links, etc.
Again, it’s all about a reader getting the most out of your website! If we know the information is at our fingertips – that’s the first place we’ll go!

My take: The most recent book should definitely be featured most prominently on the homepage (who calls it “front page” anyway?). That doesn’t mean you can’t feature your other books below it, though.
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#5 – Everywhere there is a book mentioned, there should be a 13 digit ISBN . . .
The easiest way to locate a book online and in a bookstore is through this handy number. When used, it’s THAT specific book found very quick and easy!! Readers would rather be reading the book than spending too much time looking for it!

My take: I agree with the concept here, but do they really mean “everywhere” the book is mentioned? That’s a little much, don’t you think? If you look at any of the author websites I’ve worked on, you’ll see just how many times a book is mentioned on an author’s website. You couldn’t possibly list the ISBN everywhere. But I do recommend that you include the ISBN and pub details on the “The Book” page of the site. That’s where it’s appropriate. And another note on this … if you have proper “Buy the Book” links on your website, people won’t need an ISBN, because you’ll be linking directly to the book’s page on Amazon, B&N, etc… For people who plan to go to the bookstore and buy the book, the ISBN is helpful. But I’m not sure it should be as prominent as they recommend here.
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#6 – Coming soon should be on the first page as well. And update it often . . . it’s what keeps us coming back!!!
We’ve just finished your latest book and already we’re looking for more! And we want to go directly to the source – YOU! So what’s next???

My take: I’ll ignore the “first page” reference again here. Other than that, I totally agree. Keeping your site new and fresh and highlighting upcoming books is a great way to keep people coming back and giving them the information they want as soon as they arrive.
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#7 – Don’t make us work to buy/sell your books! Keep things simple . . .
The easier it is, the quicker it is, the more time we have to read and sell more!! Make the links easy, don’t hyphenate ISBNs, etc.

My take: I referenced this above. You should definitely have a “Buy the Book” link on every page of the site. If you want to include an ISBN with it, fine. But it should be one click to the page where you can actually purchase the book.
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#8 – Who would you compare your stories to?
Ex: If you like sexy historicals by Sabrina Jeffries, you’ll love my new book. . .
Or compare it to another medium, if you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you’ll love my new paranormal series. . . We may not always agree, but in the end, it gives us a direction and a place of reference to start.

My take: Interesting… I often recommend that an author have a “welcome” box on their homepage where they briefly discuss who would benefit from/enjoy their books and their website. It’s sort of the same idea. But I’ve never thought of comparing yourself to similar authors. Good idea!
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#9 – Let me know future books in a series . . . dates if you have them or general concepts and plans are great too!
Again, when we readers and booksellers find something we love – we want more!!! And if we have to wait for another book, that’s okay, but give us the lowdown about who, what, when, where – please any information!!!

My take: This was sort of covered before, as well. Even before all the books in a series are published, they should at least be touted. Here’s an example of one of the author sites I built where we do just that:
http://www.thelossofcertainty.com
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#10 – Toot your horn — let us know of all the awards you’ve won, etc.
I know there was recent debate on this site about this, but what it comes down to is – you’ve been chosen, over others. Readers and booksellers are interested, especially when we’re looking for a new author, new book. And let’s face it, we ALWAYS are!!

This is more importantly the case when sending out promos to booksellers, if we haven’t had the chance to read your book – at least we know SOMEONE did – and LIKED it enough to give it an award!!!

My take: I couldn’t agree more. If you have won awards and the like, don’t be afraid to promote it on your homepage. After all, your website is a marketing tool, so don’t be afraid to market yourself!
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Interested in speaking with us about building you the perfect author website? Contact us today!

The ‘Musts’ of an Author’s Website

No two author websites are the same. But there are certain things that should be on every site. Notice I say “should be” … Search the web and you’ll find some authors’ websites that are missing some crucial information! While I’m a big supporter of making every author’s website unique, here are the no-brainers for author websites:

1. A domain name that supports your book. Even if you go with your name as the domain name of your site, you should also reserve your book title (if possible) and have it redirect to your author site. You don’t want people typing the name of your book into their browser and winding up elsewhere!

2. A “Buy the book” link on every page. The goal of your website is to sell books. So you need to make it as easy as possible for someone to buy your book or books throughout the site. A potential reader may be somewhere totally unexpected (i.e. a page focused on your other writings) when they decide to take the plunge, so the link to buy it should still be right in front of them.

3. Tie-ins to your social media profiles. What good is having a profile on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn if you don’t send people there? Have small buttons on your homepage that allow site visitors to follow you elsewhere.

4. An author bio. Even if you’re a private person who doesn’t want to share your life with the world, some sort of bio page is a must. Ideally, it should contain a photo of you and a description of your living situation, your career, and why you write.

5. A newsletter sign-up box. Don’t think you will send e-newsletters? Collect this information anyway. Getting the contact information for people who have shown interest in your writing is invaluable. You may not know it now, but you sure will appreciate having that list when your next book comes out and you want to tell people about it.

6. Book excerpts. How do you expect to get people to buy your book without whetting their appetite a little? You can choose to have one long excerpt from the book, or a bunch of shorter ones that give a taste of the different chapters in the book. When you go to the movies, there’s a reason they show trailers of future movies. Think of your excerpt(s) as a trailer of your book.

7. Contact information. A website is an interactive tool. So you don’t want to use it only as a way for you to talk to your readers. You want to let your readers talk to you, too. Whether you offer an email address or a simple contact form, make sure there’s a way for people visiting your site to communicate with you.

Anything I’m missing here? What do you think needs to be on an author website? Share your thoughts!

Should You Sell the Book Yourself?

Here at Smart Author Sites, we’ve worked with many authors, a fair amount of whom are self-published. And one question that I frequently get asked by authors who are self-publishing is how easy/difficult it is for an author to sell their book themselves through the book web site. If you’re wondering whether to take the plunge, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Think $$$. There’s no question that the profit on book sales is much, much higher if you sell the book yourself (as opposed to linking to Amazon to sell the book). You get to set the price and keep a much larger percentage of it.
  • Don’t forget about distribution. Some authors intend to actually house copies of their own book and manually send them out to people who purchase the book through the site. That’s great when you’re talking about selling 10 books a month, but what do you plan to do if your book takes off like wildfire? You may want to look into distribution right off the bat so that you know what you’re getting into.
  • Talk to an accountant about taxes. Depending on which state you live in, there may be different laws about how you have to tax purchasers of your book both in and out of your state. Make sure you do your proper research on this before selling the book on your own, as not charging tax could get you into some hot water.
  • Choose the right shopping cart for your needs. The only thing that’s a given when it comes to selling books online is collecting payment. But there are so many different shopping cart services that go above and beyond just payment collection. Obviously, the simplest and cheapest way to go is simply to allow people to pay you through PayPal, but that doesn’t really allow you to charge different tax rates for people in different areas, etc… There are also shopping cart services through web hosting services (GoDaddy, Network Solutions…) that offer more enhanced services, such as product details and tax rates per county, but they are a bit more expensive and can involve a lot of setup work. Do your research into different types of shopping carts and figure out which one best meets your needs before jumping in.

If you want to see what other authors are doing, here are a few of the clients that we’ve worked with who are selling their own books:

Bob Abrams — Watered Down Truth
Paula Davies Scimeca — Unbecoming a Nurse
Randy Kempf — Happiness Lost and Found
Lynn Butler — Buzzin With Buzzy

Feel free to contact us any time for more tips and advice on selling your book through your author web site!