Book Giveaways: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Authors are willing to try a lot of things to promote their books. Giving copies away for free is one of them.

That’s not to say that free book giveaways are a bad thing. In fact, there are some significant benefits to doing so.

Here’s what you need to know about the potential positives and negatives of free book giveaways:

Photo credit: Jessica/Flickr

Photo credit: Jessica/Flickr

The Positives
It’s pretty simple. Giving your book away for free will significantly increase its reach. After all, who isn’t willing to accept something for free? And when they get it, then they’re likely to read it. And when they read it … well, maybe they’ll love it. Maybe they’ll tell their friends about it. Maybe they’re rave about it on Amazon. And maybe … just maybe … you’ve built a fan for life. When your next book comes out, you’ll have a loyal reader. And then, they’ll be willing to actually pay whatever you charge for your new release.

The Negatives
Let’s start with the simplest of the negatives: there’s no money to be made when you’re giving something away for free. In fact, you are likely taking a loss when you do this. That’s especially true if you’re giving away print copies of a book. But even with electronic copies (which cost nothing to actually create or give away), you’ve still invested a whole lot of time, energy (and possibly money) in the giveaway campaign.

But, apparently, that isn’t the only drawback to giving your book away for free. As I discovered in a recent conversation on LinkedIn, there’s another, more obscure problem: a de-valuing of your product.

The conversation started with this post:

This is a question I pondered in my last blog post, after I’d received a one-star rating for my blog anthology, “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run.” It then occurred to me that the person that gave me the one-star rating won my book via a Goodreads giveaway.

Has anyone else encountered something like this, where they’ve given copies of their books away, either as a promotion or as a way to garner reviews, only for that to turn around and bite you? I’m beginning to think a book giveaway wasn’t such a great idea to begin with.  

And the responses seemed to back up this claim. Here are some of the highlights:

It’s true people devalue the free. When I was a stage performer, free shows would end up badly promoted and lacking tech support. — John Kulm

Yes, especially with Amazon’s free books. My worst reviews came from giving my book away. Most people connect free to garbage, so I’m sure these readers (the ones who left the bad reviews) were already biased to think the book was no good.  —Richard Houston  

There is definitely a correlation in marketing that goes something like, “In the absence of other signals, the buyer equates quality with price.” —Lucy Gold (500+)                      

So maybe there is something to be learned here. Maybe free book giveaways have a certain caché that come with them. This is something all authors should keep in mind before launching such a campaign.

But before you get too down on book giveaways, I’m going to include a quote from one last comment in that same conversation on LinkedIn:

I think giveaways are a great way to promote your book, but they are more effective if yes, you have a larger number overall, but also if it is part of a promotional event where people realize you are giving away a few number of books for the purpose of promoting it, not necessarily because you just want to give them away — which, unfortunately, can sometimes SEEM to be the case, even if it isn’t.

I’d say keep doing it, but maybe on a smaller scale, and only as promotional ventures that truly make sure people are aware they are being blessed with a free book instead of being given “just” a free book. —Jessica DuBois


So there you have it! All you need to know about the potential benefits and drawbacks of a book giveaway. Make your choice wisely and best of luck!

Authors: What Are Your Options for Selling Your Book?

ecommerceAll authors (at least the ones that I’ve spoken to) want to sell copies of their book. What many of them are confused about are the various ways to sell their book, and how to decide which one best suits their personal situation and preferences.

With that in mind, I will address the three primary ways that an author can go about selling their books via their author website (from easiest to hardest), and the benefits/drawbacks of each one.

Option #1: Do None of the Work Yourself

It can’t be simpler than this. Put a “Buy the Book” link on your website, and allow visitors to select whether they want to purchase it through the publisher site, Amazon, B&N, etc… One click and they’re done. And there’s nothing else you have to do.

The benefits: It’s free. It’s easy. There’s little to no hassle, since you’re not collecting money or shipping books.

The drawbacks: You’re probably familiar with the miniscule percentage of the profits that you get when Amazon sells a copy of your book. If you allow them to do all the work, they’re going to reap most of the rewards.

And yet, this is the option that the majority of authors choose. After all, they’re writers … not booksellers.

Option #2: Do Some of the Work Yourself

With this method of selling books, you get to call some of the shots. This option allows readers to buy the book through your website, but you don’t actually do any of the legwork. Instead, offers come straight through your site and right into the order system of the printing/distribution company that you’ve hired. They process the orders and collect an agreed-upon fee.

The benefits: Unlike with Amazon/B&N, you get to set the price that your book sells for. You do that knowing how much you’re paying for printing and shipping, so (in other words), you determine your profit. This type of system also allows you to better track sales than if you were to link out to sell.

The drawbacks: You’d have to first set up some kind of payment acceptance system through your site (more on that below). Then, you’d have to treat it like a business: keeping track of the money coming in, the money going out, etc…

Option #3: Do All of the Work Yourself

Okay, you’ve decided that you want to take the bull by the horns and sell the book yourself. This would mean that you keep a stock of books handy, accept orders through your website, and ship the copies of the books that are ordered. This option gives you all the control in the world over selling your book, but can also be a huge responsibility. After all, you’re responsible for processing the orders, shipping the books, etc…

It’s also worth noting that there are two different ways that you can go about accepting payments on the website. The first, and easiest, option is to set up a free account via PayPal and embed a PayPal button on your website. This will allow visitors to simply click a “buy” link, go to the PayPal site, and make their payment: the order will then come to you. However, some authors (especially ones who want to sell more than just their current book) will opt to create built-in shopping carts on their website. This is a lot more costly and time-intensive than a simple PayPal button, but it allows you to sell multiple items at once and doesn’t take people off your website to make payments.

The benefits: You’re in complete control. You set the prices. You create “discounts” for buying in bulk. You pack and ship the items. And who gets to keep all the profits? You.

The drawbacks: There’s a reason why distribution companies often handle this sort of stuff. Because it can be a full-time job. You have to be processing orders as soon as they come in. You have to go to the post office to mail the items. You have to pre-order as many copies of your book as you might conceivably need in case you’re lucky enough to get a big order. In short, it’s like running your own business. And it comes with all the responsibilities of that as well. After all, if a customer has a complaint about what they ordered, who are they going to call? That would be you.

If you’re still unsure about which book selling technique best suits your situation and your needs, contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll be happy to help!

Buy the Book Links: What’s an Author to Do?

buythebookOne of the most important elements of an author website is an easy way (ideally with one click) for a site visitor to take the plunge and buy the book. But that’s easier said than done: not in a technical sense, of course (setting up a link is easy), but in terms of deciding which retailer sites to link to.

The Big Two
Obviously, the first one that everyone thinks of is Amazon. It’s truly the site that dominates the market. And not just the book market, mind you, but just about every product you can buy online.

Then there’s B&N. We always recommend that authors offer links to buy the book from both sites, because we’ve heard reports that if an author decides to only provide a link to one of the two big online retailers, the other can threaten to pull that book from its site altogether. That’s something no one wants.

Borders used to be the third of this “big three,” but that’s no longer an option.

From Two to Two Thousand?
So are two links enough? What about all the other thousands of booksellers out there?

Well, they’re now speaking up. A new article in The Bookseller, titled Anger over authors’ website links to Amazon includes quotes from independent booksellers who are sick and tired of authors only linking to Amazon (or Amazon and B&N) to sell copies of their books. And who can blame them? After all, if you had a tiny little store, how would you feel if your product manufacturers kept sending potential clients to buy their stuff at WalMart?

In the article, Keith Smith from Warwick & Kenilworth bookshops says: “As someone who owns two independent bookshops I feel angry that these authors, unthinkingly or by design, have chosen to support Amazon, W H Smith or Waterstones without giving a fig for independent bookshops. Many of these are authors who, when asked, will say they couldn’t imagine life without their local bookshop. But words need to be matched by deeds if they are to make a difference.”

I totally understand his anger. But what’s an author to do? After all, it’s a lot easier to set up one Amazon link than it is to set up thousands of links to every online retailer. Or even more challenging: to list every single independent bookstore that carries the book in question.

Feedback From Authors
Here are responses from a few authors that appear later in the article:

Author Alison Weir defended herself, commenting: “Publishing, as you must know, is going through hard times and every author and publisher wants to maximise sales. When I set up my website, my webmaster told me I could link to Amazon, so I told him to go ahead. My American publishers then asked me to link to other bookstores. I’m not sure how Keith Smith envisages linking to every independent bookseller in a practical way – how many must there be? The fact remains that not one, including him, has ever asked me to do so. But if they had, I would have worked out a way to do it. If you look on my website you will see links to other websites whose owners requested a link. Linking to Amazon does not mean that I do not support independents.”

Novelist Joanne Harris said: “I am more than happy to include links to independent bookshops. I know how much I owe them and I support them fully.”

Julia Donaldson told The Bookseller changing the links on her website was something she had been planning to do “for some time”. She said: “I want to think carefully about how I do it. Independent bookshops really are something I care about very much and I have been feeling guilty about it. But when I first set up my website, this is what was suggested to me would be the easiest thing to do.”

What’s an Author to Do?
This entire issue can be summed up relatively quickly and easily. Independent booksellers are upset about Amazon and B&N being the sites that authors are sending readers to for purchasing the book. And that’s valid.

But it’s also true that the logistics of setting up thousands of links is … well … not really doable. It’s so much easier for authors to link to the big retailers, and it’s just as easy for readers to click on those links and make the purchases quickly and easily. Doing anything more complicated will not only be a challenge for the author and his or her webmaster, but it may make the experience even more complicated for the buyer.

So what’s an author to do? I don’t have the answer. If you have any great ideas, please share them with us!

To (Give It Away for) Free or Not to Free? That Is the Question

Okay, I apologize for the tacky play on words in the title. I just couldn’t resist.

Anyway, I came across a conversation on LinkedIn this morning about the benefits (and arguments against) giving away ebooks for free.

The post that started the conversation certainly grabbed my attention. It read:

We authors needs to band together and say “NO MORE FREE BOOKS.” Does a CEO offer his services for free? Does an employee tell their boss “This week I’ll work for free?” How do we solve it?

The responses were  … well … quite mixed. I thought I would pull out the most interesting quotes from the arguments on both sides so that you can help form your own decision about whether or not to offer your book for free as part of a promotional package.

The Pros

The Baen Free Library has demonstrated that free books increase sales of backlist titles. I am putting another of my books up there soon. I also “snippet” — post chapters of — forthcoming books for free, up to about half the book’s contents.
Ryk Spoor

My sales were increased tremendously by using the program on Amazon. At the start my sales were up over a thousand percent over the pre program sales figures. And now, at the end of nine months with the program my sales are consistently two hundred percent over pre program sales.
Michael “Duke” Davis

“Free” is not a new concept. Free attracts people who might pay for your stuff in the future. Think of a free e-book as your loss leader.
Susan Wenger

I find it works extremely well when you have a series. I gave away book one of my vampire series and book 2 sales soared. Giving books away is a long term investment and the more books you have published, the better it will pay off!
Janiera Eldridge

When I started this writing gig, I questioned the “free” thing as well. Then I was picked up by a small press who absolutely does not agree with “free”, but does encourage giveaways. On the release of my debut novel, I was provided with 25 free Smashwords coupons to use for reviews, promos, etc. I’ve used them judiciously, and have seen some good return. I agree with others here, “Free” is a marketing decision, and is typically for a limited time. Ever hear of “buy one, get one free?” This has been used by some of the world’d biggest retailers and suppliers for years, because it works.
Debbie McClure

The Cons

Since I signed up for KDP which locks you in for 90 days, I’ve learned that it’s almost a game with many to dowload as many free books as they can – many times in the triple digits. And, they don’t read them, they just collect them. If it were mandatory that there were no free books online ever, the good, the bad and the ugly would be weeded out fairly quickly. With 1300 downloads, I’m think Wow! People will review and the word will get out. Not true. I’ve had l7 reviews in a month (since it was printed) and most of these people have written me via my website and paid for the book. Fifteen five-star and two four-star. As far as I can tell, the free downloads did not help my sales. Maybe they will eventually, but not yet.. If you pull a book up on Amazon or B & N and read the first page, you know whether the book is worthy enough to read. I’m not saying mine is worthy or better than others, I feel that a book should be purchased because it’s a good book,not because it’s free.
Kimberly Shursen

Some authors choose to put their ebooks up on sites like Smashwords for free. That is a personal choice, although it’s been argued that a lot of these are worth even less than the asking price. Some writers do this because they simply want their books to be read and don’t care about bringing in money. Others are looking to create a following as they develop their talent. Either way it would be very rare to hear someone say: “wow this is such a great book I would have paid to read it!”
Gordon Williams

Just remember if you sell yourself cheap why should a reader value your book more than you do?
Ron Mahedy


In summary, I think the pros outweigh the cons. But what really came through in the responses to this original post is that it’s up to each and every author to decide whether this is the right form of marketing for the book in question. As one person so succinctly put it: I don’t see anyone forcing authors to give away their books for free.

Should Self-Published Authors Take Advantage of the Kindle Select Program?

Nearly every new author today is opting to self publish. Okay, not always opting. Often, it’s their only choice. But regardless, there are thousands of authors out there self-publishing their books, and each of them is looking for a way to make their book stand out. Enter Kindle Select.

In case you haven’t heard of it, Kindle Direct Publishing Select (KDP Select) is a program that Amazon offers to their self-published authors. According to Amazon, here are the benefits of such a program:

  • Earn higher royalties Earn your share of the KDP Select Global Fund amount when readers borrow your books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Plus, earn 70% royalty for sales to customers in Japan, India and Brazil.
  • Make your book free to readers worldwide for a limited time The Promotions Manager tool will allow you to directly schedule and control the promotion of free books.
  • Reach a new audience Distribute books through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and reach the growing number of Amazon Prime customers on,, and

But, as with anything, there is a drawback. As Amazon explains: When you choose to enroll your book in KDP Select, you’re committing to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP. During the period of exclusivity, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. However, you can continue to distribute your book in physical format, or in any format other than digital.

So how does an author know whether Amazon Select is the right option for their newest release? Well, they turn to other authors, of course. I came across a conversation among authors on LinkedIn this morning about just that, and I thought I would include some excerpts so that you can make an informed decision for yourself.

Here are some of what the authors had to say:


The Positive

I have eight books in the Select program and think it has been the greatest thing since sliced bread,

I use the give-a-way program carefully. The first month I was in it I gave away about 2200 books for free, However, I also raised my sales over 1000%. After that for the next five months it dropped down to where I was giving away maybe twenty books a month but still selling about an average 200% above my starting sales numbers.

I am now going to drop out of the program and put my books back into all the markets and see how I do. I am quite happy with my six months results and would recommend it to anyone. But my name and books are much more well known now and I am getting a nice little following. So it’s time to spread out.

When I say I use it carefully here are some of the things I learned. If you are only going to try one book in it, don’t waste your time. You only get five days in three months to use the free book bit. Of course that isn’t going to get any notice. Eight books worked out wonderfully for me. What I found worked best for me is I give away a different free book every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I start the rotation with one of my best books. The second book is also one of my best, the third (or Sunday book) would be one that wasn’t doing so well, and I just keep rotating them in this order through the ninety days. I don’t give away any books om Monday thru Thursday. I found the response to be very low on those days.

Some people have told me that I would have still had a lot of sales for that period if I weren’t giving away the books. I guess that could be true, but for the two years leading up to that point my sales were poor so what else could have jump started my income?

A lot of the success still depends on your marketing. There is no substitute for good marketing. I am learning all the time…

Michael “Duke” Davis “The Dukester”

I gave away a lot of free books, but I’m not sure how much it helped my sales. But as a new novelist, I felt it was more important to get the first novel out rather than try for a big profit.

From the standpoint of getting my name out there, the select program worked. I’ve recieved lots of “fan mail” via twitter/facebook/email and have to field daily questions about when the next book will be out. So it looks like I’m on my way to a loyal following.
Alex Reissig

The Negative
This issue has been fully debated on various blogs, forums, and especially the Smashwords blog and on Mark Coker’s updates. Coker makes very strong points that it’s not good to have books exclusively on one site since you’re sacrificing sales at all other sites, i.e., iTunes Store, Nook, Sony Reader, and smartphone apps. Amazon may still be the largest seller of ebooks, but their share of the market is declining.

You’re giving readers more places to find your books if you have them distributed widely across all tablets, readers, smartphones.
Jack Erickson


Not a lot of comments, but some insightful ones. If you have any experience with Amazon Select that you would like to share, do so in the comments box below.

And for the rest of you … good luck making your decision!

Why (and How) Authors Should Build LinkedIn Profiles

I know. You’re probably cringing. Because after all this advice that you’ve been getting about blogging and building presences on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, GoodReads, etc… the last thing you probably want to hear is about why you should dedicate a little time to LinkedIn. But that’s what I’m about to tell you.

Now, LinkedIn isn’t necessarily for each and every author. But if you fit into one of the following categories, you should seriously consider it:

1. You’re a nonfiction author. Yea, that’s about half of you. If you’ve written a nonfiction book, then you’re an “expert” in that field. So it’s important that you build a LinkedIn presence that establishes you in that genre. Because when the media is looking for someone to interview on the subject, LinkedIn may be one of the first places they go.

2. You’re looking for a book deal. Okay, that’s a lot of you, too. Unless you’ve self-published your book and are dedicated to doing the same going forward, you’re probably open to inquiries from agents and publishers. In that case, creating a professional author presence on LinkedIn will help you get noticed by those in the publishing field.

3. You want to build connections. Well, who doesn’t? The truth is that there are tons of other authors (or people in the field that you write about) who may be very good people for you to know professionally. LinkedIn is all about these professional connections … and those are hard to make without a professional profile.

Okay, so are you convinced? Now that you know you should create your profile, here’s some advice on exactly what (and what not) to do, courtesy of Social Media Today

  1. Make sure that your profile is “complete.” This means adding (at least) your industry, location, special skills, education, a summary, and two past positions.
  2. Make sure that your headshot is a good one! Don’t just crop a picture out of a recent family photo. Make it friendly, appealing, close range (filling the frame), and professional.
  3. Add “Author” and the name of your book to your work experience. Be sure to include a description of the book, and a link to purchase in the work history.  …  Also be sure to upload your book cover image and if you have a book trailer, add that as well. You can even offer a sample chapter here as well.
  4. Create a vanity URL. People won’t remember the system-generated URL, but they may remember your name.
  5. Connect your author website and/or Amazon page to your profile. LinkedIn lets you connect three other URLs to your profile. If you have an author website, always use that one. Other choices include your Facebook page, your author page on Amazon, or a glowing book review.
  6. Write your background summary in a conversational style. I use first person. Making your summary conversational demonstrates that you’re accessible and easy to communicate with.
  7. Think keywords! Make sure that the summary includes keywords related to your topic of expertise. Keywords for LinkedIn profiles can be sprinkled throughout the profile (in the headline, job descriptions, summary, etc.), and should be done without naturally.
  8. Add your book titles to the Publications section, as well as any guest posts you’ve written. Consider this an opportunity to showcase your work beyond what they can find on your website.

And I would like to add another tip to this list. Join author groups on LinkedIn and chat with your fellow authors about what they’re doing, what’s working, and what they feel is a waste of time. I belong to about five such groups and I find the advice extremely useful. Heck, I get most of the ideas for blog posts from those conversations.

In short, take a few minutes and set up your LinkedIn profile. It’s a lot less time consuming than Facebook, and may be a whole lot more helpful.

How These Authors Took the Bull By the Horns (and How You Can, Too)

Photo: Angela Mann, Kepler's

I came across an interesting read on this week. It’s about four YA authors who got together and organized their own book tour.

Here’s a summary of the article:

  • The touring authors – Martha Brockenbrough (Devine Intervention, Scholastic/Levine), Sean Beaudoin (The Infects, Candlewick), Kevin Emerson (The Lost Code, HarperCollins/Tegen), and Cat Patrick (Revived, Little, Brown) – are friends who met through the Seattle writing community.
  • The “You Are Next” tour, a nod to what the group calls “the next generation of books for the next generation of readers,” launched in January, with visits to schools and bookstores in Las Vegas, and San Francisco, and Portland, Ore.
  • To chart their itinerary, the authors brainstormed about West Coast cities they’d like to go to and bookstores they’d enjoyed visiting in the past. They contacted booksellers to arrange store and school visits, and circulated flyers announcing the tour.
  • The tour will next touch down in greater Los Angeles, where the quartet will make several store appearances during the week of March 25.
  • Capping off the week is a visit to Disneyland on March 30, when they will be joined by several other YA authors, plus bloggers, librarians, booksellers, and fans for a day of play.
  • At each stop on the You Are Next tour, which the authors are publicizing through its Facebook page and through their respective Twitter feeds, the authors offer a panel presentation that involves significant audience participation.
  • The authors show embarrassing photos of themselves (“including but not limited to prom photos,” she says), read from their books in voices mimicking those of celebrities, and give kids prizes if they guess correctly which “fun facts” pertain to which authors.

What a brilliant idea! These four YA authors came up with an innovative way to get their books in front of their target audience … and have fun all the while. I’m not sure who is paying for this trip — or how much the total cost will be — but this should be a model for authors everywhere.

Communicate with other authors in your genre. Think of them as idea-generators, not competitors. Together, you can think outside the box and come up with creative ideas like these four women did.

Is An Author’s Platform Now A Prerequisite?

I chimed in to a discussion on LinkedIn last week with this very same title: Is An Author’s Platform Now A Prerequisite?

Little did I know just how much commentary there was going to end up being.

A few people had commented before I found the post, saying that they felt an author platform was important. One of my favorite responses was from Ian Miller, who said, “You don’t need a platform to, write, but you need one to attract readers.”

I then chimed in with the following:

I agree with most of the comments here. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to get published without an author platform, but it means that you’re starting with a great disadvantage if you don’t have one. Put yourself in the position of a publisher: if you’re deciding between two or three authors, which one would you choose to publish? The one who has shown that he or she knows how to market books and has already built a following, or the one who hasn’t?

There have probably been 20 responses to my comment, mostly in agreement. But I thought I would give you some of the excerpts so that you can decide for yourself:

Beverly Bistransky • @Karen, Yes and No. I think the connection between the writer/author and editing publisher have quite a bit to do with who they choose to deal. At least the better publishers etiquette if you will, know that this is just as important as the author already having a current following especially if the author is changing their subject demeanor.

Elly Taylor • And, as I’m just finding now, there is a lot of platform building to be done between being published and achieving commercial success. In hindsight, I could have done more while waiting for the book to be published, especially as far as social media is concerned.

Nancy Root Miller • Karin sums it up nicely. I am in the process of researching agents and publishers for my cookbook. Nearly every one asks for details on your platform: what social media do you use, do you have a blog and/or website, do you teach, are you a regular guest on television or radio. If you’re a terrific writer without a “platform” and you’re lucky, you may be able to find a publisher or editor who will take a risk on you anyway. You’ll increase your chances if you participate in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (!), Pinterest, and so on.

Sean Concannon • A unique proposal, and demonstrated ability to write are just as important in getting published as having a platform. With a high quality project, and a strong platform, you are almost certain to get published. If you have a high quality project to sell, and no platform or very little in the way of a platform, it’s worth getting started. A strategy for nurturing your platform will make your project more attractive to potential agents, who will know that they can use the quality of your project in combination with the potential of your platform to sell your proposal to a publisher.

Tannera Kane • I recommend authors develop a platform before publication. ONe can always adjust the platform after publication if one aspect of marketing doesn’t work.

Brad Windhauser • Today, I think a writer needs a platform more importantly, an author needs to figure out how to construct a sensible platform. How can you attract an audience that compliments your work? I have a traditional website where people can find samples of my work, etc. I plug away on Twitter. I have FB. along with four other writer friends, I started a group blog (, a blog site we use to discuss writing. Since it’s a group blog, the burden of posting is spread out–and we all benefit from the attention each writer brings. I also started my own blog project ( where, as a gay author, I chronicle my reading of the Bible for the first time. Since I don’t openly court “Christian” readers, I’m using this blog to develop my voice and expose my style to a new audience (hopefully).

Allison Bruning • I think its especially important nowadays for authors to build a platform. There are so many books in the market it’s easy for a new author to get lost in the sea. But if they can work on making their presence known throughout the social networks and various writing oppurtunities out there then they may be able to drive traffic towards the fans they have acquired.

James Hockey • I think we are falling into the error of comparing apples with pears. Elly’s case above demonstrates the classic route forward for non-fiction where there is a manifest social need whether it be parenting or home electrics.
Fiction on the other hand is very different and without building a platform the author is likely to die the death of total invisibility.

Beverly Bistransky • The subject also in itself can end up being the platform. For example: a disorder that is rarely ever talked about. If it is well written and touches the audience in a tangible way, it will be its own platform, the subject disease that is.

Reynold Conger • In spite of all the articles about platforms, I still do not understand what a platform is. Obviously a good publicity campaign helps the sales of a book, but does this need a platform?

Gaurav Bhatnagar • Coming to the answer on the original post from @Gemma, yes, indeed, it’s required. Problem is not with book discovery or authors discovery… Today’s book lovers are much aware on what they want to read than ever. A platform can give an author a boost to their books, an enhancement to their knowledge, increased fan base, new friends helping each other and so on.


There are about 20 more comments in the conversation, but I’m going to stop there. The general consensus? “Yes, authors do need a platform to sell books.” That platform can manifest itself in various ways — an author website, a blog, a presence on social media, etc.. — but every author needs to be doing something. Just writing isn’t enough to be a professional writer any more.

If you’re interested in discussing your needs for an author website, contact us today for a free consultation. Good luck!

What Are Your Goals for Your Author Website?

Whenever I have an initial conversation with an author who is interested in building a website, there’s one question I ask that basically determines everything going forward: What are your goals for your site?

Why is this question so important? And how does it determine how the website will function?

Here are the three most common goals for an author website, and how each one manifests itself in how the site functions:

Goal #1: To Sell Books
Some authors have one, very simple goal for their author website: to sell copies of their book(s). They don’t want to build a profile for themselves. They don’t want to be doing a “greater good.” They just want to sell books. And once a site visitor clicks that “buy the book,” link, mission is accomplished.

If this is an author’s goal for the site, then the books need to be the central piece of the site. The design should resemble the book covers(s). The name should resemble the book title(s). The books should be front and center, and links to purchase them should be in every possible place.

See examples of book-oriented sites we’ve built at:

Goal #2: To Build an Author Presence
Sure, an author has written books. But, for some authors, the website isn’t about selling those books. For many authors I speak to, the website is supposed to be about them. Maybe it’s a place for them to bring together all of their writings under one umbrella. Maybe it’s because they want to become a recognized name in their genre. Maybe they want to build a career doing speaking engagements and media appearances on the topic. Regardless, these authors want a website that gets their name out there, builds a list of followers, and so on.

This site would be completely different from a website about one or more books. This site is about the author. It would be named after the author, be centered around the author’s name and photo, and focus on what the author brings to the table. The most important elements on a site like this include a place for visitors to sign up for e-mail notifications from the author, an author blog, and any media/press the author has gotten.

See examples of author-oriented sites we’ve built:

Goal #3: To Spread the Word
This is probably the least common of the three author goals, but it’s no less important than the others. You see, some authors write a book because they have a very important message that they want to get out there. And they view the website as an extension of that message. This type of author website is a place where people can learn more about the subject after they’ve read the book, where they can share their own stories, and where they can recommend other resources on the topic.

Such a website needs to be chock full of information — links, resources, a blog, a place for readers to chat, etc… It should offer what the book does and more.

See examples of these types of sites that we’ve built:

See? There’s no such thing as one type of author website. It’s extremely important that you figure out exactly what your goals are for your site before you get started.

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Author Success Story: Chip Wagar

Most authors would kill to get 500 visits to their website in a month. But that’s exactly what Chip Wagar accomplished in December on his author website,

So how did he do it? Here’s what he had to say…

Who built your website? How was the experience?

Smart Author Sites.  It was a great experience. They listened carefully to my ideas and carefully crafted a website that conveyed the essence and spirit of my book.

Which social networking sites do you regularly participate in? Facebook? Twitter? GoodReads? LinkedIn? Any others?

Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, History News Network, Bees Knees Reviews, Book Page Shoutouts, Deranged Book Lovers,  among others.

How many online followers do you have? How many pageviews have you gotten on your website?

I have over 134 Twitter followers and a similar number of “Likes” on Facebook.  I generally range between 12-40 page views a day on Facebook.

How has your online presence (be it through a website or social networking profiles) increased your visibility/book sales?

I don’t think there is any question that my book’s sales would not be nearly what they are without an on-line presence in this day and age.  I do not advertise in any other way.

What is your “secret” to achieving this success? Were there any tricks or creative ideas (i.e. a contest) that you used?

I try to find users on Facebook or Twitter who share common interests with the themes and times of my book.  For example, genealogy, history, travel and so forth are all good areas for me given the book involves historical fiction.

Is there anything you would do differently if you were starting over again?

Get started sooner on FB and other social media sites.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned in the process of building your online presence as an author?

Posting frequently helps a lot in building online presence.

How and where do you promote your website? Is the URL on business cards? Your email signature?

I usually funnel users to my website through social media.

Final words of wisdom for any new authors wondering how to get started….

There are very few “instant” successes among authors, particularly for your first book.  Be patient.  I believe that there are many Pulitzer Prize quality books out there that have not gotten recognition or sales because of flawed marketing efforts.