Every author wants to build a website that generates thousands of visitors (and hopefully, thousands of books sold). Richard Bard has done just that. In the five weeks since his website launched, he’s had 5,000 visitors and over 9,000 pageviews. That’s impressive! Richard has also been kind enough to take the time to answer some questions we had for him about how he went about achieving such online success. Here are his responses …
Who built your website? How was the experience?
I interviewed several different website developers before selecting Karin and her staff at SmartAuthorSites.com. Karin’s extensive experience working with authors put her near the top of my list. But you know what sold me? I told her I wanted “the best site ever.” She had three “packages” available and I insisted on the most expensive of the three, assuming that’s what it would take. But when I outlined my requirements, she said I would be better off with a less expensive option. Not many companies would have done that. I signed the contract the next day. I enjoyed working with everyone on her staff and was particularly impressed with 1) the ability of their designer to produce an end-result in accordance with my specific ideas, and 2) the responsiveness of their primary coder, Mike, who made changes nearly as fast as I requested them (often two or three times the same day). Karin has an excellent team. I’m a happy client and proud of my website.
Which social networking sites do you regularly participate in? How many online followers do you have? How many page views have you gotten on your website?
- My Twitter handle is @Richard_Bard where I have 1,000 followers.
- I have 200 Facebook fans on the BRAINRUSH fan page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/BRAINRUSHthebook
- In the 5 weeks that my website has been “live” I’ve had had approximately 5,000 unique visits and 9,000 page views.
What is your “secret” to achieving this success? Were there any tricks or creative ideas (i.e. a contest) that you used?
Here’s what I told New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons in a recent interview:
A successful marketing campaign is predicated on two things: First and foremost, you need a good product—that’s the hard part. Once you’ve done that, all you need to do is make that product ‘discoverable’ by your target audience.
Step 1 — A good product: So how do you know when your book is good enough? The obvious answer is to get feedback from readers. There are countless forums, workshops, and writing classes that provide an excellent vehicle for this. Don’t be afraid. Thicken your skin and just do it. For BRAINRUSH I started with 7 or 8 classes at UCLA. Then I moved on to Authonomy.com and finally I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest two years in a row. It was a lengthy and humbling process but it was worth it. Instructor and reader feedback led to one revision after another, making the book better along the way. The original manuscript looks nothing like the final book. In the end your gut will tell you when your baby is good enough. Trust your instincts.
Step 2 — Make it discoverable: Believe it or not this is the easy part. Yes, it’s time consuming and it can get expensive if you’re in a rush (for ads and other placements), but if you’re patient it can be done on a small budget and a modest investment of time. Imagine this: You’re book is ready. You know it’s good because the feedback you’ve received in the past few months has been generally positive (if not, go back to Step 1!). Now imagine your book is accidentally placed on the Amazon Top-100 BS list. There you are amongst all those famous authors. (Wouldn’t that be nice?) What do you think your book sales will be tomorrow? What about next week after thousands of readers start sharing their comments online? If you’re not sure of the answer ask John Locke. Book sales will skyrocket because suddenly everybody sees it when they go to Amazon—it’s “discoverable”. They read a sample, buy it, love it, and tell a friend. Of course Amazon wasn’t willing to make that kind of mistake on my behalf so I needed to find a different solution.
So what did you do?
Not advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark; you know what you’re doing, but nobody else does.
Everyone says social networking is a must. I can’t disagree but I’m frustrated over how time consuming it can be. I’ve tried a little of it with Twitter and Facebook and I will continue to do so. However, I needed more. I blogged a couple times and even received some nice feedback. But everybody blogs and there are a zillion new books out there and only so many eyes. I wanted to come up with an original way make my book stand out, something nobody’s done before. A lot of folks recommend offering the book for free. I personally don’t like that approach. It diminishes the value of the product in the long run. The product is good, remember? It’s worth a few bucks. So instead of giving the book away I decided it would be better to give gifts to anyone who paid full price for my book ($2.99). I checked around. Nobody had ever done anything like that before. Good. As far as the gift choice—from a reader’s POV what could be better than a bestseller or two? So I got permission from three top bestselling authors—CJ Lyons, Michael Prescott, and Rick Murcer—and started gifting their books under a special promotion called “Feel the Rush” — Buy-1 Get-2 Free. The promotion was well received. BRAINRUSH sales jumped and people started talking about it. Best of all many of them emailed me after reading the book—and for the most part the response was positive. Many readers said they couldn’t put it down—including David Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash, who later gave a shout-out for the book at a major concert. Wow…that was a brain-rush! To be honest I was totally blown away. Sure I talk a good game up above about making sure the product was “good” but a hidden part of me is astounded every time a reader is actually moved by Jake’s story. What an incredible feeling.
Is there anything you would do differently if you were starting over again?
From a business perspective it would be great to have three books “in the can” before launching a campaign. I’ve had many readers tell me how anxious they are to read Book-2. (So am I!) If it had been ready to go, overall sales would have grown considerably—adding to the buzz. Three months later I could have released Book-3 to keep the fires burning. But that’s hindsight. Too late now, at least for me. Fortunately Book-2 is almost finished. It will be available for release in December—just in time for Christmas. (Fingers crossed!)
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned in the process of building your online presence as an author?
Be different in order to be newsworthy. It’s one thing to buy ads and sponsorships (which I heartily endorse), but the response from unsolicited mentions can make or break a campaign. Be creative. Indie book publishing via the digital age is an industry in its infancy. Become one of its founders by thinking outside the box.
How and where do you promote your website? Is the URL on business cards? Your email signature?
All of my ads, sponsorships, blogs, interviews, etc., include a link to my website. I created a special landing page there for the promotion. In my opinion, an Indie author needs a professional website above all else. How else can potential readers get to know you and your books? And remember—your website must grab a visitor’s attention within five seconds or you’ll lose them. So don’t be afraid to spend a little extra money up front to make sure it is an accurate reflection of you and your work. In the long run you’ll be glad you did.
Final words of wisdom for any new authors wondering how to get started….
Focus first on your book. Don’t move on to promotion and marketing until you’re convinced that the majority of your target audience will love it. After that, say your prayers and let ‘er rip!
If you’re interested you can see the BRAINRUSH promotion here: www.RichardBard.com/Promo
While you’re there you might get a laugh over the home-made trailer on my home page. I had to scramble to put it together as a placeholder when CreateSpace informed me that the “traditional” trailer was delayed six weeks. (Yes, the little kid in the video is really me!)