Your author website is a reflection of you as a writer and of your book as a work of art. It pays to make sure it is as enticing as the story you’ve spent months (or years) laboring over. Here are six ways to improve your author website.
Every author — independent, traditionally published, or otherwise — needs a website. A Facebook page doesn’t count, nor does a Twitter or LinkedIn profile. In today’s dynamic and competitive book market, you need a space that provides a complete picture of what you’re offering. That space needs to feature your writing, your various channels of engagement, and all the intangibles that set you apart. It’s a critical component of your brand.
And while it’s necessary for all authors to have a website, it’s even more important for self-published authors.
Having a comprehensive website (and general web presence) is a way of leveling the playing field and giving your book a chance to compete with the big-name authors and traditionally published books in the market.
But not every author website is created equal: I’ve even seen authors’ sites that have damaged their books’ market potential. Luckily, it’s not difficult to improve your author website to ensure it elevates your book’s potential instead of stifling it.
Tip #1: Identify the primary goal for your site
The first step in building a successful author website is establishing a mission for it. What are you hoping to accomplish? Are you trying to sell more books? Build an author platform? Start conversations with your readers? Whatever your primary goal is, define it, then use it to inform the focus of your site.
If your goal is to sell books, make sure your book is the first thing readers see when they navigate to your site. If your goal is to build your platform, actively prompt readers to subscribe to your various social channels.
By focusing on one goal, you can ensure your site does at least one thing really well. This will give you the foundation needed to start building other features later on.
Tip #2: Give readers three ways to buy your books.
Whatever the primary goal for your site, you need to give visitors a way to buy your books.
You should give your readers no more than three buying options to choose from. One of these will likely be Amazon. Another can be an alternative outlet like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or even Walmart.com. And the final option should link to your own e-commerce page — like the BookShop pages provided to BookBaby authors.
Tip #3: Collect email addresses
Like all savvy marketers, successful independent authors understand that email is an invaluable channel when it comes to connecting with readers. Are you placing an emphasis on your email channel, or are you chasing Twitter followers and Facebook likes?
While building Twitter and Facebook followings are important, they’re not nearly as influential as your email list. My rule of thumb: one email subscriber is equal to 25 likes on social media. Why? Because people are simply more careful about subscribing to something via email than they are about following someone on Twitter. Then, once you have someone’s email contact, you can build a more genuine and direct relationship with them than you can through social media. With a well-crafted email newsletter, you can build fans for life.
Tip #4: Make your website mobile-friendly
One of the most common problems plaguing inadequate websites is they aren’t geared to adjust to mobile devices, which makes the presentation look choppy at best. You want a “responsive” website, meaning it optimizes itself for the device used by the visitor, from laptops to iPhones and every size in between.
You might not think having a responsive website is all that important until you consider how many people use iPads or iPhones to search the web. At BookBaby, we’re seeing that about 35 percent of visitors to our site are using some kind of mobile device.
If your author website is not optimized to ensure these readers have a positive experience when they come to you, you’re severely limiting your reach.
Tip #5: Invest in design
Just as professional design and editing services are essential to ensuring your printed book can compete with traditionally published works, it pays to ensure your author website looks like those used by traditionally published authors.
There are a variety of services you can use for this (e.g. Wix, WordPress, Squarespace, and HostBaby) that make it simple for anyone to create their own website. But these sites will only help you reach a baseline. Authors now compete in an extremely crowded market, and if you really want to take your online profile to another level, it may be worth collaborating with a professional web designer.
Tip #6: Offer enticing incentives
A great way to attract readers’ attention — and entice them to provide you their personal email addresses — is to offer them with something of value. In publishing, the most common lead magnet is some kind of free content: usually chapters from your book, or perhaps even an entire eBook. This is especially common for authors who have written a series. Hook readers by giving them book one, and then contact them by email and get them to buy book two (and three, and four). Giving away content like this helps you engage with readers. It also makes readers more likely to “repay the favor” of receiving free content by buying your book.
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