I am a content person. There’s no way around it. And as much as I may write about website design or layout or usability, my real bread and butter is content.
With that in mind, here are some of the most common content mistakes I see authors making on their websites.
1. Writing for print, not the web. Writing a book is drastically different from writing for the web. Even writing for a magazine is different. People reading print — be it in the form of a book or a magazine — are more willing to sit down and actually … you know … read. People “reading” on the web are far more likely to skim. So any content written for the web needs to be broken down with subheads, bullets, bolded text, etc… In other words, in less than five seconds someone should be able to understand everything that’s on a page of your site. That is drastically different from the type of writing most authors are used to.
2. Being too sales-y. Yes, you want people to buy your book. But you probably should refrain from literally asking people to buy your book. To borrow a quote from a piece I recently read entitled The Counterintuitive Art of Promoting Books, “Really, almost no strategy that starts with trying to get people to “buy your book” works. Instead, good platform building starts years ahead of time and is not primarily focused on selling books, even if publishing and selling books is part of your larger strategy to expand your audience and influence.Those of us on social media, especially Twitter, have all seen the classic mistakes that authors make in book promotion. Their book comes out…and then they join Twitter! Their feed is all about…THEIR NEW BOOK. They use Twitter bots to get tens of thousands of followers…TO BUY THEIR BOOK.” You get the point.
3. Not writing shareable content. Take a look at what people are actually sharing on Facebook and Twitter. They are all different types of pieces — from ones that are funny to ones that are helpful — but they all have an interesting angle. Take the time to pay attention to what your friends are sharing, and then test out writing your own blog entries that are similar in nature until you find something what works. Many authors just write about whatever comes to mind, and have no idea if and when people are sharing. But social sharing is one of the best ways to drive traffic — and ultimately, new readers — to your site. So it shouldn’t be ignored.
4. Being all over the place. Quick. In five seconds, tell me what your online persona is about. If you can’t, then there’s a problem. Someone should be able to understand who you are at first glance of your site. And then everything else you publish on the site should back that up. So if, for example, you are someone who provides an inspiring message to divorcees, then every post you write, every page on your site — even your bio — should be part of that message. It all needs to fit under the brand. Even sharing the fact that you have a dog on your bio page should be tied into your message about companionship. Too many authors try to bring too many things to the table — sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re serious, and sometimes they write a blog post about a trip to the supermarket. Find your message and personality and use your content to back it up.
5. Too much text. Sure, you have a lot to tell your audience. But does your book description really need to be seven paragraphs? Could you say the same in two? And what about video? Could you create a book trailer in video format that might accomplish the same thing (if not more?) We are all writers at heart, and we lean towards words. But remember: the general public does not. In fact, the success of YouTube and Pinterest over the last five years are a direct result of the fact that many members of society (your readership!) would prefer to look at pictures or watch videos on the web. So think about how you can minimize the text on your site and you very well may be able to increase your appeal.