7 Things You Can do Right Now to Improve Your Author Website

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
  • Images
  • Amount of text
A/B testing is wayyyyy too complicated for me to go into detail here. I’ll leave it to the experts at Smashing Magazine.

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.

 

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  • http://colinmarks.com colin marks

    Excellent post, thanks. I’m doing most of the things you suggest, but there are some some great pointers here. I would definitely suggest to anyone to use Google analytics, its a fantastic tool to judge your traffic flow. C

  • http://laurapepperwu.wordpress.com LPepWu

    Totally agree Colin, Google Analytics has helped me a lot. I’m off to look at your site now!

  • http://brenda-steve.blogspot.com/ Brenda

    Great post! Thanks for the tips. Going to look at my blog to see if all my ducks are in a roll.

  • http://www.small-world-bookworks.com Jane Booth

    Great post, Laura, thank you. The A/B testing is something I haven’t really explored, but definitely worth considering. I’ve only just discovered your blog, and am catching up slowly, but very impressed by how clear and informative it is.

    My most recent website is for Alex Russell’s “iDream Ice-Cream iScream”. The book’s between genres, and could best be described as either an ‘epic poem’ or a ‘thriller in verse’. We decided that the best way to showcase this on his website was to add audio tracks of him reading the work, as he uses a great deal of word-play that benefits from being read aloud. It may not work for some authors, of course – in part it depends on the work – but it does establish a certain level of contact with the author, simply to hear their voice. I’d be interested to know your opinion. The website address is: http://www.alexrussellwriting.com

  • http://www.small-world-bookworks.com Jane Booth

    Great post, Laura, thank you. The A/B testing is something I haven’t really explored, but definitely worth considering. I’ve only just discovered your blog, and am catching up slowly, but very impressed by how clear and informative it is.

    My most recent website is for Alex Russell’s “iDream Ice-Cream iScream”. The book’s between genres, and could best be described as either an ‘epic poem’ or a ‘thriller in verse’. We decided that the best way to showcase this on his website was to add audio tracks of him reading the work, as he uses a great deal of word-play that benefits from being read aloud. It may not work for some authors, of course – in part it depends on the work – but it does establish a certain level of contact with the author, simply to hear their voice. I’d be interested to know your opinion. The website address is: http://www.alexrussellwriting.com

  • http://laurapepperwu.wordpress.com LPepWu

    Thanks Brenda. Let me know if you have any questions :)

  • http://laurapepperwu.wordpress.com LPepWu

    Thanks for the kind words, Jane. I like the idea you have, it’s quite innovative and seems to work well for Alex’s work. The only thing to consider is that many people won’t be able to listen to it (say at work, or in a public place), so it is important to have text there too for those who can’t listen in.
    Some more suggestions (hope you don’t mind me taking the liberty): it might help to have a clear description of the genre/ style of Alex’s work at the top of the home page (as you described to me above) in order for those landing on the page for the first time to be absolutely clear on what to expect.
    Additionally, the about page contains a lot of interesting information – do you think you could break it down into bullet points or shorter paragraphs? Unfortunately we have to accept that internet readers have a short attention span. Having some images (of Alex? of themes in his work?) would also help to hold attention.
    Keep up the good work!

  • http://laurapepperwu.wordpress.com LPepWu

    Thanks for the kind words, Jane. I like the idea you have, it’s quite innovative and seems to work well for Alex’s work. The only thing to consider is that many people won’t be able to listen to it (say at work, or in a public place), so it is important to have text there too for those who can’t listen in.
    Some more suggestions (hope you don’t mind me taking the liberty): it might help to have a clear description of the genre/ style of Alex’s work at the top of the home page (as you described to me above) in order for those landing on the page for the first time to be absolutely clear on what to expect.
    Additionally, the about page contains a lot of interesting information – do you think you could break it down into bullet points or shorter paragraphs? Unfortunately we have to accept that internet readers have a short attention span. Having some images (of Alex? of themes in his work?) would also help to hold attention.
    Keep up the good work!

  • James F. Landers

    As your profile mentions promotions, perhaps you might know of anyone who handles book/website promotion for a percentage of retail sales?

    We wish more info about Google Analytics was around when we created websites for our first title back in January – now many months of experience
    would seem to be lost. We certainly will consider GA for websites for future
    releases.

    Thank you.

  • http://www.30daybooks.com 30 Day Books

    Hi James, I don’t know anyone that I can personally recommend to you, apologies. I think it’s rare but it does happen.

    As for Google Analytics, you can still add this to your website anytime, but you are right, you can’t retrieve the data up to this point.
    You’ll certainly benefit from using it in the future :) Thanks for commenting!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/author.tl.james Tl James

    great information!!!

  • Morgen Bailey

    Hi Laura.

    I’ve been blogging (heavily – 1500+ posts) since March 2011 and gleaned some valuable tips from your post. Thank you!

    Morgen Bailey
    http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com

  • laurapepwu

    Wow, that is some heavy blogging, Morgen. Nice!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mogulbaby Nicci Leigh

    Great information to enhance my author site, thanks Laura! ~ Nicci Leigh

  • http://www.30daybooks.com LPepWu

    Very welcome, Nicci!

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  • Vijay

    Good info for Inde authors

  • http://twitter.com/LaurenClark_Bks Lauren Clark

    So true about the Killer Posts! The good ones take 5xs as long …! xx, Lauren