Talk to people in most fields and their goals are pretty clear. A restaurant owner wants to have a successful restaurant. An accountant wants to make a good living doing what he’s doing. But authors? It’s not so simple.
Based on my experience, authors can have goals that range from wanting to sell their first book to getting their next book published to being a life coach and speaker. Knowing exactly what this goal is is important: it basically dictates anything and everything we do in terms of developing the website.
Here are the most common author goals that I encounter and how we make those work on author websites:
Goal #1: Sell the Book
Many authors I speak to have put a lot of time, money and effort into their first book. They just want to sell enough copies of it to at least make their money back. If that’s your goal, then the website should be primarily book-focused. It should include featured excerpts, tantalizing teasers, etc… There should be “Buy the Book” links anywhere and everywhere. After all, that’s what you want people to do, right?
Goal #2: Get My Book Published
Whether you’re building the website because you’re hoping to get your first book published, or you self-published the first one and are hoping to have a publishing house pick up the next one, your website should clearly speak to agents/publishers about who you are and why they should be interested in your writing. Include your bio and profile on the site. If you’ve done any audio/video interviews, include those too; they show that you present well. Finally, blog regularly and collect email addresses. Agents and publishers will be more inclined to work with you if they know that you’re already marketing yourself.
Goal #3: Spread the Word
I work with many nonfiction authors who have written books about subjects near and dear to their heart: religion, addiction, grief, etc… Many of them wrote the book with the goal of helping humanity. That’s a noble goal, but it’s quite a weighty task. Many of these authors want to use the website in a similar way; as a place where people who have already read the book can learn more, ask questions, interact, etc… If this is your goal, you need to create a “community” website. Have a place for people to submit questions and share their stories. Offer regular tips or words of wisdom to visitors. Include links to other books, websites, and organizations that may be helpful to your readers. The most important thing you can do in this situation is to interact.
Goal #4: Build a Career Around The Book’s Subject Matter
This ties into #3 … I talk with a lot of authors who want to build careers doing speaking engagements, coaching, or consulting around the subject matter of the book. If this is one of your goals, then you need to create an area on the website that speaks specifically about your background, your services, etc… Include clientele, testimonials, and any audio/video that touts your services. Also, keep a calendar of events and/or news where you can announce your newest engagements, clients, etc..
Goal #5: Become a Bestselling Author
Every author wants their book to become a bestseller. But how, exactly, do you do that? If I knew the answer to that, I’d be a bestselling author myself! But I can tell you this: the first step to becoming a bestselling author is building buzz around your book. So think outside the box and don’t be afraid to do something daring. Hold contests on the website with sweet giveaways. Consider giving out hundreds of “free” copies of your book (people who like it will tell their friends!). Contact other websites, groups, bloggers, etc… and see how you can get your book promoted to their audience. Remember, the best written books are not always bestsellers (and vice versa). Selling millions of copies is often as much a result of creative marketing than any great piece of literature.