Author websites and blogs are a vital element of an author’s online marketing efforts; it’s the hub where they can control their image, brand, appeal to the press and communicate directly with their readers.
A site doesn’t have to be anything too fancy, however it should include certain elements in order for it to effectively promote the author and his/her books. Here are the seven “must-haves” for any author website!
1. Add a contact email address & make it visible on the home page; not just social media links. An actual email address! If you’re concerned about getting spam, spell it out. For example awesomeperson at awesomenet dot com. It’s very irritating not being able to find the contact button right away, and you might lose out on great opportunities if you make people hunt to find out how to get in touch. Make it super obvious!
2. Make your book cover image(s) prominent, to familiarize people with your books. Display it/ them across several pages of your site, and make it clickable to Amazon or wherever you want to drive sales. You can use the Amazon showcase plugin for WordPress to display your book cover, along with some reviews, and a buy button.
[Update: September 2012: The new theme from 30 Day Books, Authorlicious, is integrated with Amazon, so whenever the price or number of reviews changes on Amazon, your site will reflect these changes automatically too. Pretty sweet, huh?]
3. Give away free writing samples/ free chapters. Make it a good one, representative of the book or your writing. Be generous about giving away free content – it’s what gets people hooked and wanting to purchase the whole thing.
4. Include a media page – If the press/ bloggers/ site owners want to work with you, make their frantic lives easier, and have all the information they might need available in one place! Below is a picture from my media page.
5. Make social media links prominent: Display (very, very visibly) Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, GoodReads Google Plus, Pinterest etc profiles if you have them. Also add a ‘Share this’ option to the bottom of your blogposts so that people can easily share your content with their social media followers.
Add an RSS feed button so that people can easily add you to their Google reader/ other online subscriber and stay connected.
6. Make purchasing options obvious!: If people are halfway interested in buying your book, make it a cinch! People are inherently lazy so, make the process as simplified and hand-held as possible. Display all online retailers purchase buttons along with an obvious call-to-action. ‘Buy your copy now!’ or ‘Get yours today!’ are both good options.
Whether you include a price or not is something you might wish to A/B test (see below), making sure to track conversion rates using Google Analytics (also see below).
7. Collect email addresses through a sign up form: What happens if Twitter and Facebook die tomorrow? You want some other way of contacting the readers and followers you have worked so hard to connect with. All social media sites have a shelf-life, but mailing lists are evergreen and building yours should be a priority.
Plus, through your mailing list you can send out newsletters or updates and communicate with your readers a lot more directly than through social media which is a busy and crowded space. I use MailChimp to manage my mailing list (it’s free up to 2,000 subscribers). AWEBER and Constant Contact are popular alternatives.
3 Other things to consider with your Author site:
1. Landing Page A/ B testing: A/B testing is basically having two versions of your landing page to test which one is performing better. How do you measure performance? By seeing which version of the page results in more conversions (defined by book sales, clicks onto Amazon, newsletter sign ups etc). There are so many elements on your page that you can A/B test, and the key is to change one small thing at any time. You’ll be surprised at how small tweaks can result in big changes to your conversion rates. Some ideas –
- Font style & size
- Placement of call to action (purchase button, sign up form)
- Product description
- Headlines & subtitles
- Website colors
- Product pricing – visible or not visible
- Amount of text
2. Google Analytics
You’ll never know what you are doing right, or wrong unless you have detailed stats in place telling you where your traffic is coming from, how long they are staying on which page, and where the top exit pages are. I rely on Google Analytics like a student relies on their tutor or supervisor. It tells me what’s working and what isn’t. If you don’t understand Google Analytics well, it’s worth learning and there are some great, free tutorials on YouTube to show you how. Here are some from Nathalie Lussier.
3. Does a website need a blog? Content matters for your SEO (Search engine results) and if you can carve out 2 hours a week to write and upload at least one post, it’s a good use of time.
If you don’t have much time for regular blogging, make it count instead – Killer posts that are revisited over and over work better than fluffy ones. I spent about 10 hours on my most popular post. Seriously. Others take me 1 hour. Killer posts work better and drive more traffic for longer.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on Author Websites. Know of any good ones? (Shameless plugs welcome – if the site is decent!).
pssstt…. Looking for a new author website? 30 Day Books has just released Authorlicious, a WordPress theme built *just* for indie and self-published authors! Find out more here…
Laura Pepper Wu is the co-founder of 30 Day Books: a book studio. She has worked with a variety of authors to successfully promote their books, including many Amazon best-sellers. Laura is the author of wedding non-fiction guides and book marketing guides 77 Ways to Find New Readers for Your Self-Published Book and Fire Up Amazon!
Laura also runs Ladies Who Critique, a critique-partner finding site. When she's not working at the studio, you can find her walking her dog, "yoga-ing" or at a coffee shop in Seattle.