author website questions

10 Things About Author Websites That Might Surprise You

author website questionsOver the last decade, we have built websites for hundreds and hundreds of authors. And since we do this for a living, we tend to know the ins and outs of author websites like the back of our hands. But, surprisingly, there are some basic facts that I’ve found that many of the authors we work with don’t know or don’t understand.

With that in mind, here are 10 things that might surprise you about building and maintaining an author website.

1. Building your site doesn’t pay for hosting your site. I can’t tell you how many clients I have worked with who think that once they pay to get a site built, that their site can then live on indefinitely without paying an additional penny. That’s not how it works. I like to explain that a site hosting fee is like paying rent for your space on the internet. Think of it like a store: you pay a large one-time fee to get the store launched, but you still have to pay rent each month for your store space. Hosting is similar.

2. Domains are separate from hosting. Along those lines, there’s often a lot of confusion about paying for hosting vs. paying for your domain. So let me clear that up here. Think of your domain as the name of the store you want to open. You need to first decide on and purchase your domain. The fee for that is nominal — only about $15 per year. You then own that. And YOU need to own it — not whomever is building or hosting your site. You can then build a site and point that domain name over to it. To continue with the analogy, that’s like putting your store name on the awning in front of the space you’re renting. For as long as you’re going to be in that space, you will keep the domain pointing there. But if you ever decide to have another site built or have your site hosted elsewhere (i.e. move your store to a larger location), you can simply then re-point the domain to the new server. But the two are distinctly different.

3. Email boxes can fill up. Yup, it can happen. Over the course of five years or so, you might accrue 50,000 emails. Each and every one of those is taking up space on your server. Eventually, your server will tell you that it can’t house any more email, and the address will stop working. Be proactive about this and clean out your email box every once in a while.

4. Google Analytics is a free service. So many people ask me about if/how they can get a website traffic report. If anyone wants to charge you for a report like this, they’re hosing you. That’s because Google Analytics offers free website traffic reports to anyone who wants them. You can sign up easily with any email address associated with Google. You can then get an account number, which you simply have to put in the right place on your site. Then, voila! You can log back in to your Google Analytics account any time to view your traffic numbers.

5. Today’s sites are built off templates with modules. This is sort of a long and complicated point, but I’ll try to keep it brief. Today’s websites are built off templates. Each of those has a pretty structured layout. And each page follows the same layout. What this means is that it’s super important you choose the right template. A design firm like Smart Author Sites can help you adjust that template somewhat — to insert your own color scheme, logo, widgets, photos, etc… but the structure is pre-built. This means that you can’t have each page look different, and you can’t simply “move,” say, the social networking icons from the bottom to the top of the page. So choose your theme wisely.

6. Sites and themes need to be updated. The internet is ever changing. And there are people out there getting into and hacking sites each and every minute. As a result, the good guys have to keep trying to stay on top of things, and continually update security settings. So if you have a WordPress site, it’s essential that you log in at least once a week and run any updates that they recommend. If you have a site hosted through us, we will do that for you. But either way, it’s essential for your site security that it be done.

7. People don’t always enter a site through the homepage. I have this conversation at least once a week. Clients want to, say, feature their book on their homepage … and nowhere else on the site. This comes from a natural assumption that visitors always come into a site through a homepage. This is especially common among authors, who tend to think of sites linearly — like a book. That’s not the way people use the web, though. In this particular example, let’s say someone does a Google search for the author’s name and comes into the site through the author bio page. They may never have seen that homepage. And let’s say they’re then looking to learn more about the book. They go to the site navigation … there’s no “book” tab. Would they know to go to the homepage to find the book details? Not likely. So it’s important to remember that the homepage is like a teaser — not a replacement  — the other sections of the site.

8. Site design affects load time. I’ve worked with many authors that want the most beautiful site in the world. They want rich photos, illustrations and detailed design. Can it be done? Sure. But is there a cost? Yes. It’s load time. The more images there are on a page, the longer that page is going to take to load. And longer load times cost you site traffic — both in terms of frustrated users who can’t get the page to load and the search engines who punish you for having a site with long load times. So it’s important to find the balance in your site design between functionality and appearance.

9. Site content is distinct from site design. When you look at a page of an author website, you see many things: a header, a logo, a navigation, and maybe a photo and a lot of text. But for developers, that one page can be divided into two very distinct areas: the design and the content. In other words, the site design is the more complicated, code-based section of the page. It’s also the stuff that stays consistent throughout the site. For example, every page will have your logo, your name and your navigation. It’s the text and photos that differ from page to page that qualifies as your site content. That’s the stuff that’s super easy to swap in and out — either from page to page or from day to day. This may not make a lot of sense or have a lot of meaning to you, but it’s huge to us. Because your site design is a whole lot more complicated — and difficult to make alterations to — than the words on your bio page, for example.

10. Yes, it’s easy to link out. This question has probably surprised me more than any other. I’ve talked to so many authors who have asked me if they can have links from their author websites to buy their books on Amazon, B&N, etc… Yes. Absolutely. Linking out to a bookselling site is one of the easiest things you can possibly do. It’s a no-brainer.

Do you have additional questions like these? Anything you want clarification on? Post them below!

Do You Have a Mobile Friendly Author Website?

mobile-friendly-author-websiteWhat makes a site mobile friendly? And what’s the problem if yours isn’t? How do you even know if your author website is mobile friendly? Today, we break down these questions and help you better understand the hows and whys of a mobile friendly author website.

What Does Mobile-Friendly Mean?

As its name implies, a mobile friendly website is one that is easy to use on the small screen of a mobile device. This can also be referred to as a website using responsive web design. In other words, a website that is only designed for a full-size desktop screen may be difficult to use on a smartphone. It may involve scrolling left/right to view the full page, or zooming in to read words. A mobile friendly site, which is built using responsive design software, is actually able to detect the size of the screen that you are viewing it on and adjust how the site appears accordingly so that it becomes more vertical than horizontal, compresses the navigation, and more.

How Do You Know If You Have a Mobile Friendly Author Website?

If your site was built in the last year or so, it’s very likely mobile friendly. But if it’s older than that, it could be hit or miss. Start by taking a look at your site on multiple devices. Visit it on a smartphone, a tablet and more. Does the design change based on the size of the device? Is it easy to use on a small screen? You should know pretty quickly.

How Does Not Having a Mobile-Friendly Author Website Cost You?

There are two big problems with having an author website today that’s not mobile friendly. One is fairly obvious. The other is not.

First, the obvious reason … you’re going to lose visitors. About 50% of web browsing in 2016 is done on mobile devices. That means that half the people who visit your website are likely to have a difficult or unsatisfying experience. Maybe they have to scroll to the right to view the full page. Maybe they have trouble using the navigation that was built for a desktop. Maybe they have to zoom in to read words. Not only is your site going to be difficult for them, but it’s also likely to appear out of date … after all, just about every site designed today is mobile-friendly. That’s not a good impression to leave with potential readers.

And now for the lesser-known problem with a site that’s not mobile friendly … Google is going to punish you for it. Google is well aware that larger percentages of people than ever are using mobile devices to browse the web. And what’s most important to Google? It’s that their users have a satisfying experience on whatever sites Google sends them to. So it’s in Google’s best interest to ensure that the sites they recommend are mobile-friendly.

As such, Google put together a page about the hows and whys of mobile-friendly sites. It even includes a test you can take to determine if your site meets Google’s mobile-friendly criteria. And if your site doesn’t pass their test for being mobile friendly? Well, then you very well may see a drop in your search engine rankings. In other words, Google will likely demote you on search result pages, below other sites that are mobile friendly. This can have a significant impact on your website traffic.

How Can You Make Your Site Mobile Friendly?

So now that you understand why it’s important to have a mobile friendly author website, how do you go about getting one? There are various ways you can do that — at varying costs, of course — but nearly all of them involve a redesign of the site. You can’t take the currently site that you have and simply make it mobile-friendly. It will need to be rebuilt from scratch with a code that is mobile-responsive.

There are free options, of course. WordPress offers a variety of templates that are mobile-friendly, and you can simply select one, migrate your content over, and get your new site up and running from there. If you’re willing to invest a little more, though, you can work with a design and development firm like Smart Author Sites to recreate the things you love about your current site in a mobile-friendly version. Plus, we offer expert advice on setting goals for your site, driving visitors there, and more.

Either way, if your site isn’t mobile friendly, you may be unknowingly costing yourself a lot of site traffic and a lot of readers. That’s a mistake most authors don’t want to make.

making money as an author data

Making Money as an Author: A Mathematical Breakdown

Making money as an author is easier said than done. After all, what percentage of today’s authors actually make a profit from their writing? It’s miniscule. And yet, some would argue that it’s certainly possible. You just have to make the right business decisions.

As a baseball fan, I am very aware of the concept of “Moneyball.” There was even a movie made about it. That concept — which has to do with basically doing a mathematical analysis of a business and making decisions accordingly — can be applied to just about any industry. And now, it’s being applied to publishing.

See the chart below, which was put together by Andrew Rhomberg, the founder of Jellybooks, a reader analytics company based in London. The idea for his business is pretty simple, actually. Much like we have television ratings that let us know how many people watch a full TV show or fast forward through commercials, Jellybooks goes above and beyond just seeing who is downloading e-books. It is tracking how people are actually reading these e-books.

According to the NY Times, Jellybooks (with the readers’ consent, of course) tracks, “when people read and for how long, how far they get in a book and how quickly they read, among other details.” And for those of you who are familiar with the world of the web, Jellybooks uses words like “engagement” and “analytics” to explain their data. In other words, they’re bringing book reading into the 21st century. And this quick peek at their findings are pretty incredible.

making money as an author data

Source: Jellybooks

 

Key Takeaways From This Research

  • Among the readers who agreed to be a part of this study, they actually finished less than half of the books tested.
    • Only 5 percent of the books had a completion rate of over 75%.
    • Sixty percent of books fell into a range where between 25 and 50% of test readers finished them.
  • Those readers who didn’t complete the full book typically gave up in the early chapters (as the chart above suggests).
    • Women tended to stop reading after 50 to 100 pages, men after 30 to 50.
  • Different genres had different completion rates. For example, business books had surprisingly low completion rates.

Making Money as an Author Off This Research

So why does this research matter, you might ask? If you get someone to buy the book, why should you care if they finish it? Well, that’s what this study seeks to help explain. Here are a few reasons you should care. After all, your likelihood of making money as an author may depend on it

You could spend a boatload on book marketing, but the truth is that word of mouth — be it on social media, at work, or at a dinner party — is the strongest marketing tool out there for authors. In other words, there’s nothing that will help your book be successful more than a group of loyal readers who love the book and recommend it to their friends. And, as I’m sure you can figure out, a reader is pretty unlikely to recommend a book to a friend if he or she chose not to finish it. In other words, these statistics can clue you in as to both how good your book really is, and how likely it is to be recommended to other readers.

And publishers are listening. After all, that’s mainly who all this Jellybooks data is geared to. The professionals in the publishing industry are deciding which books to put marketing efforts into — or even which books to publish going forward — by analyzing this data.

Much like how moneyball is being applied to major league baseball today, publishers are now analyzing books by genre, the age group it appeals to, gender appeal and more. They are comparing those potential books to others that are similar in previous studies. If those had good completion rates, the publishers are more likely to put time and effort into similar books going forward. If not … well, you may not be in luck.

If you’re an author in today’s world of moneyball publishing, it would behoove you not to study up on this type of data. Understand completion rates, analytics and more. It may make the difference between becoming a bestselling author and a struggling writer.

 

February Author Round-Up: 5 Things You Might Have Missed

A new month is here already. Here’s an author round up of five things you might have missed in the month of February … and that we think are definitely worth going back to author-round-up-calendarread!

1. Marketing Your Books Through Current Events
Smart Author Sites
February 11, 2016

2. 7 Proven Ways to Use Content Curation to Become a Recognized Authority in Your Industry
Donna Gunter, LinkedIn
February 17, 2016

3. 10 rock-solid reasons why authors should build an email list
Joan Stewart, Build Book Buzz
February 17, 2016

4. Good Marketing. Poor Author Website Design. Does It Matter?
Smart Author Sites
February 18, 2016

5. The Self-Publishers Guide to Marketing Author Blogs
Publishers Weekly
February 19, 2016

If you stumbled across any other good articles in February that you’d like to share with other authors, please do so!

Marketing Your Books Through Current Events

googletrendsQuick. Check out Google Trends. What do you see?

In case you’re not aware of Google Trends, it’s the branch of Google that shows you which search terms are being entered the most right now. And what is the thread that always seems to carry through each and every one of them? That would be news.

In other words, on the day of the Super Bowl, the most popular search terms were “Super Bowl,” “NFL,” “Denver Broncos” etc… On the day of a presidential primary, the top search terms are the names of the candidates, the state that’s voting, etc… This isn’t rocket science. People are searching for what’s top of mind that day.

So why does this matter to authors? Because taking advantage of these top trends can play a role in marketing your books. Let me explain…

Making the Connection

“What does my book have to do with today’s news?”, you might ask. For some people, making this connection is easy. If you’ve written a book on politics, it’s a no-brainer to think about how to tie your book in to the conversation surrounding the presidential election. But for a large majority of authors, this isn’t such an easy connection. That’s where your creative mind comes into play. Here are three scenarios of book topics and things in the news as I write this … and how you can link them.

Romance Novel and the Super Bowl

These two things seem to be polar opposites, correct? Well, that’s exactly where the connection lies. What a great opportunity to bring up the fact that chances are, if you’re a fan of romance novels, you are not all that into watching the Super Bowl. This is where you create, say, a live chat with the author during the Super Bowl. Or you remind people that your book is the perfect one to read while their significant others are wrapped up with football.

Psychology Book and the Presidential Election

This year’s Presidential election is … well … fascinating. We’ve got competitive candidates in both parties, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who are using extremely non-conventional approaches to the election. And no matter how you feel about these candidates, studying their tendencies — and their supporters’ devotion — is practically a psychology experiment. This is the perfect time for an author to step in and talk about the intensity of the feelings behind the support for these candidates. Are they feeling angry? Why? What’s the best way for them to express this anger? Is there room for personal growth for either these candidates or their followers? Or are they MORE in tune with themselves than the other candidates? Again, this is ripe conversation for fodder among authors who dabble in the spirituality/self-help/psychology arena.

Historical Biography and the Flint Water Crisis

So we’ve all heard about the awful situation in Flint, Michigan. Kids — and let’s not forget pets — are being filled with lead through the drinking water. The results are already awful, and could only get worse over time. So what does this have to do with a historical biography? Well, let’s look at the leadership in Flint, in the state of Michigan and in the US government. What are they doing to fix the problem? What caused the problem in the first place, and who is responsible? If you have written a biography on, say, John F. Kennedy, Jr., you probably know something about his position on the involvement of government in this type of issue — both on a local and national level. Maybe you even know if he worked on any bills related to clean drinking water. If nothing else, this is your opportunity to write a piece along the lines of “What Would JFK Do?” in response to this current crisis.

Obviously, you are not likely to fit into one of these three scenarios exactly. But this (hopefully) will give you some ideas about how to think outside the box and find the link.

Utilizing the Connection for Marketing Your Book

So now that you’ve found the connection, what do you do with it? Here are a few different ways to take advantage of the news cycle and use it as an opportunity to market your book. All of these routes will help — in one way or another — get a mention of your book in front of a portion of the many, many people searching for these popular keywords.

  1. Blog, blog, blog. Yup, it all goes back to blogging. This is the easiest and quickest way for you to get your message out there. Write one or more blog posts specifically tying your book to a top news story. Make sure to use specific tools/plug-ins that allow you to properly optimize the piece for those search terms. For example, here are dummy titles for each of the three scenarios outlined above:

    “Forget the Super Bowl! Read _____” (optimized for “Super Bowl”)
    “Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and the Psychology Behind Them” (optimized for the candidates names)
    “The Flint Water Crisis: What Would JFK Do?” (optimized for “Flint water crisis”)

    By properly writing and optimizing these pieces, you can try to break through to the audience specifically looking for more on these news items. Is it easy to compete with top news organizations for these keywords? Of course not. But a good effort might just sneak you in. And if your title is interesting and clickable enough, it will attract the perfect audience of potential readers.

  2. Pitch articles. There are hundreds of sites out there just looking for good writers to pitch good story ideas to them. Giving an interesting slant to a popular news story is just icing on the cake. Think about local publications/news sites that you can easily reach out to, and also think big — like HuffPost — and pitch your ideas there as well. It may be as simple as finding other bloggers and asking them if you can guest blog on their site. Depending on the specific subject matter, identify five or so relevant sites that accept story submission ideas and make your pitch.

  3. Use social media. How many people are talking about top news items via Twitter or Facebook? That would be a lot. Just look at how many tweets were sent out during the Super Bowl. Do some quick sleuthing online to find out which hashtags are being used for tweets related to the news item you’re connecting with. Then use that tweet to inject yourself into the conversation and make the connection with your book. For example, a post that reads, “#superbowl Bored to tears? Buy an e-copy of ____ now” can reach your target audience. Ditto with Facebook … find conversations going on related to hot news items, and chime in with your quick blurb (or link to your blog post).

Again, there are a million ways you can go about this — both how you make the connection and how you get the word out. But no matter what type of book you’ve written, piggybacking on today’s hot news items can be your ticket to reaching a whole new audience.

 

Our 5 Most-Read Blog Posts in 2015

Johan Larsson / photo on flickr

Johan Larsson / photo on flickr

A new year has begun, and with it will come a whole new batch of blog posts — chock full of advice, the latest news in the industry and more.

But first, feast on our most-read blog posts of 2015. Please note that not all of these were published in 2015 (some are older than that) … but they certainly were read! We hope these have been helpful to you, and here’s to an even better 2016.

  1. How to Write the Perfect Book Teaser
    When I’m working with an author to create an effective homepage, one of the things that I always ask a writer to do is create a book teaser … something that really whets the appetite of a visitor in the few seconds that you have their attention. Then you give them links to read more about the book, read an excerpt, or … of course … buy the book….

  2. The Importance of an Author Tagline (and How to Write One!)
    Picture this. You go to an author’s website. Or you end up on the website because … well … you’re not quite sure how. The homepage of the website includes the author’s name in huge letters, on top of a large, adorable photo of him or her. “Aw … what a nice photo,” you think…

  3. Authors: Create Your Own Wikipedia Page
    Did you know that Wikipedia is one of the most popular ways of doing research on the web? In some ways, that’s kind of crazy. After all, it’s not experts who post information on Wikipedia — covering everything from the Berlin Wall to the history of the Slinky toy. It’s your average guy who creates a Wikipedia page about something or someone and puts in what they know. Other people can then add to that information. It’s basically a wealth of knowledge from common folk (another example of Web 2.0) that stays there unless someone else finds it to be incorrect…

  4. 6 Things Elizabeth Gilbert Does Right on Her Author Website (and You Can, Too)
    Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert (known best for Eat, Pray, Love) has an amazing author website. And no, we didn’t build it. But when I stumbled upon it today, I was immediately impressed by it. Why? Here are six reasons…

  5. Building Your Author Media Page/Press Kit
    Do you have a media page on your author website? It’s purpose is to provide the media with the information they might need to feature you in their next piece. If you decide to have a press page on your website, here are some ideas about what it should include…

  6. Looking to Get Published? Consider Harper Collins’ Authonomy
    If you’re an author looking to get published by a major publishing house, you may want to consider posting your book on Harper Collins’ Authonomy website. Here’s the scoop….

  7. What Is a Book Landing Page and Do You Need One?
    You may or may not have heard the term “landing page” in the context of an author website. But you very well may not know exactly what a landing page is. It’s time to learn!

  8. 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…

  9. Author Newsletters: Tips, Misconceptions, and More!
    Several of my clients have asked me to send out newsletters to their mailing lists recently. But none of them seemed to understand exactly what a newsletter can do (or the information you can cull out of sending a newsletter). With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to outline exactly what an author newsletter can do, when it should be used, and what kind of information you can cull from it…

  10. A New Way for Authors to Get ‘Discovered’
    I came across this article today on MediaBistro. Just thought I’d share it with my author friends. Apparently, Penguin has created a new website called Book Country — a place where authors can connect with reviewers, publishing professionals, and readers…

Have an idea for a future blog entry you’d like to see? Make your recommendation in the comments section below.

5 Things Authors Can Learn From the 2015 Smashwords Survey

smashwordslogoSmashwords recently released the results of its annual survey. And the results are … well … interesting.

If you want to read the full report, you can check it out on the Smashwords blog. But here’s a summary of what you, as an author, can take from the 2015 Smashwords survey.

1. Offering things for free makes a difference. It’s kind of a no-brainer. If a store that sells accessories is offering a free handbag, you’re more likely to go to the store to take advantage of the free handbag… and then purchase a few other things you like there. The same is true with books. For the first time this year, Smashwords analyzed the difference in sales between series with free series starters and series without free series starters.  The results were clear: the free series starter group earned 66% more.  In addition, free books (not surprisingly) got 41 times more downloads than priced books. For many authors, that’s a good first step to building loyal readers. As they describe on Smashwords, “A free book allows a reader to try you risk free, and if you’re offering them a great full length book, that’s a lot of hours the reader has spent with your words in which you’re earning and deserving their continued readership. Free works!”

2. There’s a value to preordering. For the first time, Smashwords compared the percentage of books available for preorder with those simply uploaded the day of release, as well as the sales of each one. Interestingly, less than 10 percent of the books available through Smashwords were available for preorder … and yet, two thirds of their top 200 bestselling titles were able to be preordered.  That’s right: that small 10% of books made up 66% of the top sellers. Think about that for a minute. Then use that as motivation to allow people to preorder your book.

3. People still want traditional book-length books. There’s not a lot of detail in the report, but the stat is clear: longer books do better than some of today’s shorter e-books. Whether or not that trend will change as the industry changes is still to be determined.

4. $3.99 is the pricing sweet spot for e-books. Some interesting stats in here about the prices that help sell the most books. For the third year in a row, according to Smashwords, authors sold more units and earned more overall income with books priced at $3.99.  As they explain, “This is significant because it counters the concern of some authors that the glut of high-quality will lead to ever lower prices.  For great authors, readers are still willing to pay.” And the worst price point? That would be $1.99. “If you write full length fiction and you have books priced at $1.99, trying increasing the price to $2.99 or $3.99, and if your book performs as the aggregate does, you’ll probably sell more units.  Or if it’s short and $2.99+ is too high, try 99 cents instead because the data suggests you’ll earn more and reach about 65% more readers,” Smashwords recommends.

5. Successful authors have a blog and social media presence. Much like people wanting stuff that’s free, this is another no brainer. According to the latest Smashwords research, bestselling authors are more likely to have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, as well as more likely to have a blog. If you’re interested in building an author website, blog or social media presence, we can certainly help you with that.

Keep in mind that all of this data is specific to Smashwords, which only publishes e-books, so do with it as you wish. But personally, I think there’s some really interesting stuff here about the current and future world of publishing.

September Round-Up: 5 Must Reads for Authors

fall-photoOctober is here already, and fall is in full swing. With that in mind, here are five must reads for authors from the month of September. If you missed any of these the first time around, here’s your chance to catch up!

  1. An author reveals ten secrets to marketing your own book
    Scroll.in
    September 9, 2015
  2. 5 Things I Love About Haruki Murakami’s Author Website
    Smart Author Sites
    September 10, 2015
  3. What ‘Game of Thrones’ Author George R.R. Martin Can Teach You About Marketing
    Marketing Profs
    September 16, 2015
  4. Book Marketing 201
    Publishers Weekly
    September 25, 2015
  5. 3 Steps to More Social Media Followers
    Build Book Buzz
    September 30, 2015

Happy Fall! And happy writing!

Should I Self Publish? The Answer Seems to Be …

should i self publishBy pure coincidence, I came across three articles today that all, in different ways, conveyed the same message. Self-publishing is the way to go.

Why? Well, let’s go over what we can learn from each of these pieces…

1. In this infographic, we learn that self-published authors are now selling more books than the big five publishers, at least in the e-book universe. This is quite a change from even a few years ago.

2. Here’s a whole article explaining why traditional publishing will fail (and is, in fact, failing). Here’s my favorite segment from the piece.

A lot of traditional publishing companies are stuck in some pre-internet era purgatory. They spend an enormous amount of resources sifting through the sludge pile and investing all their time and money in a couple authors they hope will sell big. And sometimes they choose wrong.

The internet has changed things. Crowdsourcing quality work and letting audiences decide who succeeds is where publishing is headed.

And as the article points out, self-publishing companies have the opportunity to make 30% of a book’s profits, with little-to-no upfront cost in publishing the book. Why wouldn’t more entrepreneurs be jumping on that bandwagon?

3. Last by not least is this piece on book marketing. One of the takeaways? Being published doesn’t necessarily help an author.

In the article, the author, of book marketing firm Publishing Push, tells the story of meeting an author who went through a traditional publishing house … and ended up having to do all his own marketing after the fact. He compares that story to one of self-published authors he’s worked with who have had highly successful marketing efforts right off the bat.

In the latter cases, the self-published author got to choose his own marketing firm (and choose well), and the results were apparent. Less so when trusting the marketing department of a publishing house.

So for you self published authors … congratulations. Recent data is showing that you made a good choice. And if you are wondering, “Should I self publish?” The answer certainly seems to be “YES!”

What’s Your Author Brand?

brandingLike it or not, today’s author also has to be a marketer. And what is it that you are marketing? Well, it’s your brand.

But what exactly is your author brand? What are your options? What’s going to stick in everyone’s mind after they’ve visited your site?

Here are four directions that I’ve seen authors go in terms of their branding, and examples of each one. I hope this sparks ideas for you!

1. Yourself. This is probably the case for 75% of the authors that I work with. Their brand is … well … themselves.

This is most relevant for authors who want to become household names (hello, Stephen King!) and hope to write multiple books in a specific genre. For a nonfiction author, your self-focused brand might also include any consulting or speaking you hope to do on the same topic.

For a self-branded site, your name would be both the URL and “title” at the header of your site. Your photo would also be prominent, and the site design should clearly reflect your personality and the genre you’re writing in.

Goals of an author-branded site would be to build followers (email sign-ups, likes, people “following” you, return visitors) so that people who like your first book will then be aware of your upcoming books, and you have a way to continue communicating with them as each future book comes to fruition.

See examples of author-branded sites that we’ve built at:

2. Your book. Maybe you were inspired to write this one book. It could be a biography. It could be your story of survival through a crisis. Maybe it’s a collection of stories you put together. But if your plan is to write this one book — and only one book — then it makes sense for the book to be the brand. After all, the goal is to sell the book, right? It’s not to build a legion of fans.

In a case of a book site, the site title and URL should reflect the book title, and the book cover should be front and center in the design. In addition, the site’s look and feel should directly resemble the book cover. After all, the site is an extension of the book in these cases, so it makes all the sense in the world to carry the colors and graphics from the book cover into the book-focused website.

The goal of a book-branded site is simple: sell the book. This type of site should should have “buy the book” buttons everywhere, and primarily should serve to whet people’s appetite until they make the purchase.

See examples of book-branded sites:

3. Your series. Let’s say that you want to be the next JK Rowling. You’ve just finished your first Harry Potter-like book, and plan to write the rest of the series over the next few years.

This site, in many ways, would be a hybrid of the two above. The title/URL should be the same as the name of the book series. The design should also be very closely tied to the book covers, and contain any color schemes, images or fonts that will run through the entire series. But the goals of this site would be closer to that of an author-focused brand. After all, not only do you want people to buy the first book, but you want to make sure you retain their attention for the future books. Collecting email addresses/subscribers/followers is key, because that’s the best way to make sure that you catch their attention again when the next book of the series is out.

See examples of series-branded sites at:

4. Your cause. Maybe your brand is much bigger than yourself or your book. Maybe you are trying to start a movement or build a new product line. That movement could be spiritual in nature, it could be political, or it could be a service that you offer. Regardless, in these instances, you and the book are only pieces of the puzzle. The true goal is bigger than both of you.

For sites like these, a uniquely-designed logo is key. That logo needs to have a catchy title — and picking a name for your brand is not something to take lightly — and should be something that will hopefully be recognizable to a wide audience in the future. Think nonprofit, like Autism Speaks, or for-profit, like, H&R Block. Sure those are big examples, but they’re good role models.

Front and center in your site design should be your mission and why people should be interested. This can be done in images, video and/or text … or all of the above. The book can be featured prominently in the design, but it should be viewed as a supporting item to boost the message, not the end all and be all.

The beauty of a cause-based site is that it can grow as much as you want it to. Plan to sell t-shirts and bracelets that advance the mission? That will fit nicely into the brand. Want to start a petition on your site, sell your services, or build an online community for people to connect on the issue? That also is an easy addition. All of it ties into the goal of your book and your website; you and the book are just part of the supporting cast, if you will.

Here are some examples of cause-based websites

See how different your website will be depending on which type of branding you decide to go with? Choose wisely … it will make a big difference in the success of your book, your website, and ultimately, your brand.