Guest post by Rex Stevens
Your book is finally finished, but your job isn’t over. Now it’s time to promote your book and watch those sales numbers climb. Social media can help you spread the word, but social media alone can’t get you to your goal. What you need is an author’s website devoted solely to your work. A good author’s website can showcase your creativity and lets readers know who you are and where they can buy your latest book. Below are a few tips that will help you get started.
It Starts With Design
A great author website starts with a great design. A great design doesn’t have to break the bank. Some of the top designers in the world have designed templates and themes that you can buy for anywhere between about $20-100 and end up with a great looking site. Now there are pros and cons to buying a template vs. a custom design but that’s a topic for another post. So lets assume you’ve got your fancy new template all up and running, so what’s next?
Highlight Your Books
Let’s face it, as much as we love writing just to write, we need to find a way to pay for all that coffee or Mt. Dew that fuels our passion. To do that we need to sell some books! Feature short, entertaining descriptions of your latest books and images of cover art on your home page. Whether you write the copy for the descriptions or someone else does, every word should sound as if it came from your mouth. If you write zany novels, use the same voice for your website. Your readers will wonder if they’ve landed on the right website if the copy sounds like it was written by Jane Austen.
Make it easy for readers to buy your books by listing online and offline stores that carry your work. Be sure to include a link to an order form if you’re selling the book on your site or use a shopping cart to facilitate your orders. This can be done easily through PayPal or any number of plugins if you are using a Content Management System like WordPress. A great way to sell books on your own site is to offer signed copies of your book as an incentive for readers to buy from you directly.
Make Your Bio Scintillating
Give your readers all of the juicy details about yourself in the bio section of your website. You’re trying to relate to readers, not get a job, so skip the dry recitation of facts and figures. Tell your readers something interesting about yourself. Maybe you realized you wanted to be a fiction author after you penned “Hiram, the Lonely Caterpillar” in the third grade or perhaps you’ve won awards for your lima bean paintings.
Don’t forget to include a photograph of yourself next to your bio. If you don’t have a formal photograph, a casual shot will do. You’ll get extra points if you feature a photo that includes your lima bean paintings.
Readers will return to your site if you make it interesting and entertaining. Write a blog about your books and the writing process. Or take a cue from novelist Lisa Gardner and add a contest to your site. Readers submit the name of a friend or relative to her “Kill a Friend, Maim a Buddy” contest, and the winning entry becomes the name of the homicide victim in her next novel.
Ultimately you are reaching out to people not computers, so ditch the keyword jargon and just talk to your readers. The search engines are getting smarter and smarter at looking for natural sounding content so if you are creating value for your readers first, everything else will follow.
Build Your Own Audience
A lot of authors build their social media pages and think that’s enough but as we’ve seen with the recent changes to Facebook, those social media outlets can pull the rug out from under you at any moment leaving your promotion crippled at best or starting from scratch at worst.
Building your own audience on your website is the best way to combat this. That doesn’t mean you don’t build your social media following but try to get those same people over to your website to sign up for your newsletter so you can always reach them, no matter which way the social winds blow.
This can be done easily with a email newsletter software like MailChimp. MailChimp is great because its a powerful program, its easy to use, and best of all its free up to 2,000 subscribers! This is a great way for an author on a budget to reach out to his or her readers on a regular basis and when Google or Yahoo inevitably buys your social media platform of choice, you’re still good to go.
Stay in Touch
Speaking of newsletters, now that you have those coveted email addresses of your readers, what do you send them? The exact content you send your readers is going to vary by author but what we will focus on here is what’s in it for your reader. You’ve heard it before but its a cliché for a reason, WIIFM, What’s In It For Me?
Your readers do not care about your books, what they care about is what your book can do for them. Will it whisk them away to Narnia or put them in the middle of a Quidditch match?
Gary Vaynerchuck puts it best in his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Your “Jab” is your content, the value that you provide to your readers, and your “Right Hook” is your ask, or your offer. So when you are crafting content for your blog or social media or your newsletter you always want to remember, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, or in other words, Give, Give, Give, then ask for a sale.
But What Do I Give?
Ah, the age old question, what content do you provide to your readers. Well this will obviously vary by author and the audience you are trying to reach but a good rule of thumb is whenever you are crafting content, ask yourself, “Is this providing value to my reader?”
Now value doesn’t have to mean some big long blog posts with tons of information, it just has to be for the reader. So this could be a long blog posts comparing and contrasting Vampire lore or it could simply be cute cat pictures or anything in between. The important thing is that you are thinking of your reader, and what they would be interested in. So if you have given your readers something interesting to read, something to think about, or something to laugh about, then you’re in good shape.
Asking For The Sale
Okay, down to brass tacks. You won’t sell any books if you don’t ask for the sale. Too many times I’ve seen websites or social media profiles that do one extreme or the other. They either ask, ask, ask, and offer nothing of value, or they are too worried about offending someone or seeming needy that they try to provide as much value as they can and never ask for the sale.
As a writer myself I know its a unique situation to sell your books. I mean on the one hand, that’s the goal right? You’ve worked hard on this book and you want to get it in the hands of other people. On the other hand though, this is your baby, your blood, sweat and tears, a private affair shared only between you and your characters (well, and your editor if you’re into letting someone watch) 😉
But alas, we are here because you want to learn how to market your book and to do that you have got to ask for the sale. Make it easy for your readers to fall in love with you, your characters, the world you’ve created, and then make it easy for them to buy it.
REX STEVENS is is the founder of a small web design firm called Phoenix Design out of Tacoma, WA. He’s been building websites and helping people build and market their online presence for over 10 years. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @phoenixdesign.