Writing Wednesday: Website Tips #websitebuilding #tips #authorlife
Coming out of a year-long maternity leave gave me time and clarity to review my promotional and marketing tactics. One thing I never gave much thought to (besides setting up) was my website. I put it up relatively fast and without much effort, slapped my books on the page and included some reviews, awards and contact information. I read a lot of marketing and promotional blogs and articles all touting the importance of a good website. I figured I was good. I didn't need to do anything else to my website besides general maintenance and updating my books because it looked nice and contained the pertinent information. Right?
I needed to improve my website (and still do), because at the end of the day, although my website is ABOUT me and my books, it's FOR the readers. When I originally designed my website, I lost site...ha, ha, ha, get it? Get it?!?...of this one simple, yet crucial fact.
I needed to turn my website
from PASSIVE to INTERACTIVE
In no particular order, here's some of the little nip and tucks I've given, or plan to give, my website, and recommend the fellow writer to consider doing as well:
If you have a newsletter, make the sign-up for it prominent. Don't hide it. I used to unobtrusively place my sign-up at the bottom of each page. In the almost 4 years I've had my website, I had a grand total of 0 (ZERO!!) newsletter signups from my website. Don't fret, I got them elsewhere, but this stat was and is very telling. Since I moved the sign-up to the top of my homepage and added a pop-up form a little over a month ago, I've had twenty people sign-up. Twenty! Now, that's not a huge number compared to the big fish, but it's better than zero!
Note: I don't want to be totally obnoxious, though, or alienate would-be-readers, so my pop-up shows up the first time they visit and then stays away for a looooong time.
Don't have a newsletter? Get one. I recommend Mailchimp if you're starting out because it's free for the first 2000 subscribers. You don't have to pay while you're building you list and figuring things out and it's very user friendly.
Eager readers go to your site to glean what little information they can about upcoming releases and your progress on current projects. This is why it's important to have newsletter sign-ups available (see above). You can also add a progress bar (or two...or three). Weebly, the platform I use for my website has more than one progress bar app I can use. I chose the free one because I think it looks great and conveys the information I want it to, while costing me nothing.
Clickable book covers
If you have have a book cover on your webpage, and it's not an Amazon preview (more about that below), make sure it's clickable and sends the reader either to an information page about the book or to a vendor to purchase. A pet peeve of readers (including myself) is clicking on a cover only to get a larger image of the cover. Ugh!
Include Amazon book previews
This is such a nice feature! And super easy to implement. There's an "<embed>" link below the buy buttons on the right of the screen for your book on Amazon.com. Just copy and paste the preview option into the html feature of your blog or website and boom! Preview installed. If you have an Amazon Associates account, make sure you're logged in first and your ID will automatically be added to the link.
If there's enough interest in this subject, I can do a separate post with pictures on how to do this for blogger, weebly and WP websites.
Include endorsements and reviews WITH the book
I have a review page, but after thinking about improving my website to make it more reader friendly, this one makes sense. Not all readers want to click over to get more information. Adding a Goodreads widget to include recent reviews under the book's blurb is an easy fix (for steps on how to do this, go here). For endorsements and review sites, remember to give credit where credit is due and provide a link to the posted review where possible.
"This is a series that has it all, demons, vampires, shifters, sex, lies, betrayals and more. It has to be read in order and you won't be sorry."
~ Linda Tonis, Paranormal Romance Guild
N.B. I'd also add a link for the above review, but the guild is still in the process of porting their reviews over from their old site to their new site and as of this post's publication date, they haven't ported this particular review over yet
One page for every book
Some use a landing page, some use a splash page, some use just a plain old regular page. While each of these are slightly different, they all help promote a single product. I don't care what option you choose or what you want to call it, you need to have a separate, distinct page on your website solely devoted to every book.
You should Google your name and book title and have your website come up as one of the top links. Having a specific landing page for each book increases your SEO. If you don't have an individual page for each book, this will lessen the probability your website will pop up in the top 5 results. Also, readers don't want to be clicking around to find more information about your book. Make it easy for them.
One page listing all books
My books are sorted by genre, and the books in the series are listed in sequential order. Each title is clickable and will direct readers to the individual landing page for that particular book (see above). Both the main book page and the individual book pages have the cover, blurb and buying options.
You might think a book page is redundant if you have a page for every book, but one of my biggest pet peeves as a reader is trying to figure out which book comes next in a series and which books belong to which series. I shouldn't have to search hard or long to figure this information out, yet I've had to do exactly that with other authors. By having both types of pages, you also increase your SEO.
N.B. I hide my individual book pages from the navigation bar to keep my menu bar "clean"
Add Amazon Associate links
Here's the thing. It's hard to make money as a writer if you're not with the big 5 or have a serious mass following. If you're generating traffic toward Amazon, and they're willing to give you some pocket change for the effort, why shouldn't you collect it? Applying for an Amazon Associate link is easy and free. There's some rules and guidelines you need to be aware of and follow, not just from the Amazon side of things, but from your blog provider as well, so do some research before plunging into this one and make sure it's right for you.
Include buy links for a variety of vendors
This is one thing I can say I actually already did! *phew*. But it's important to constantly check your links to make sure they're working. The Wild Rose Press updated their website a while ago, and I'm embarrassed to say I missed a number of links when I updated my website. Also, if you get an Amazon Associates ID, you'll need to update your Amazon.com links to include it.
After reading an article on buy button graphics and their positive impact on sales, I will be slowly changing my buy links to graphic buttons, like these:
Make the home page of your website interactive and fun.
Bookbub's Book Marketing recommends prominently placing new or upcoming releases. I recommend checking out the link I've included, as they provide a lot of great examples of websites done well (and admittedly better than mine). They also cover FB Cover pictures, Instagram posts and Pinterest.
Back to the homepage...
You want to engage the curious visitors who stumble on your website and entice them to look more into you and your books. If it's just your generic "look at me" info, they're most likely going to move on unless they're specifically looking for information on your website. For my homepage, I used to have a short bio and a list of all my awards and nominations. *SNORE*. Now, I have my latest release, the progress bars, an interactive Buzzfeed quiz and a poll. I'm still not 100% happy with it, though, and I'm searching for fun ideas to include, so if you have an idea, or saw something neat on someone else's website, let me know!!
A contact form
Not everyone has social media, and not everyone feels comfortable tweeting or posting publicly to pages.
Book Club Materials
Okay, so the art of establishing book clubs is dying and the breed of book club readers is rare, but it's still worth putting out there. I write urban fantasy and paranormal, and when you boil it down, it's escapism at it's best (imo); however, my books still handle sensitive issues and ask deep questions worth reflecting on. On my website, I've provided book club reading questions in an editable word document and as a pdf, as well as a fancy media kit, a scent guide (it makes sense if you've read my books), and another contact form (to make it easy on them!). Have you read my books? Did I miss asking some great questions? Let me know. You can view the document here: http://www.jcmckenzie.ca/book-club.html
Information about you as an author
I'm not talking about your annual income, house address our your children's names. Provide information that will answer the following questions:
- What are you reading?
- Who's your favourite authors?
- When's your next book coming out?
Looking for more questions? Go to your favourite authors' websites and look at their FAQ section for ideas.
and most importantly...
DON'T WRITE ABOUT WRITING!
Okay, so writers are readers, too, but not all readers are writers. In fact, most readers are not writers, and they don't care about craft, punctuation, or the editing process. *sigh* I know it's rich for me to say "don't write about writing" when I'm doing exactly that, but your website should gear information for the reader, and if you have a blog, try to gear more than half of your posts to readers, not other writers. They want to know if your main hunky hero, who has become their newest book boyfriend, has a secret hobby he's too embarrassed to tell anyone about. They want to read the darlings you had to cut from your book for pacing reasons. Ilona Andrews (a husband-wife writing team) posted a new chapter each week of a new book as they write it for readers to gorge on before self-publishing the story with tons of success (it was their Innkeeper Chronicles, for those interested). Give the reader a little taste of what your writing is about and they'll come back.
Want to check out my new and (hopefully) improved website? Go to http://www.jcmckenzie.ca
Want a simplified website improvement checklist? View it below, or click on the link to view and/or download:
Did I miss something important, mess something up, or you want to add to the conversation? Is there something else you'd like me to cover in more detail? Let me know in the comments below.
Edited to add #1:
One fellow author/reader Calisa Selfridge contacted me to add her own tip and I think it's fabulous (and also something I've started to do and change on my own website):
Make sure the links that send your reader to another site (other than your own) open to a new tab or window. That way, the reader doesn't "lose" you in their web browsing and can come back to your website easily (a lot of readers won't hit the back button to find your after a lengthy foray into Amazon).
Make sure the links that send your reader to another page on your website don't open a new tab or window...because that's annoying!
Edited to add #2:
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