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?

WRONG!

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:

Newsletter sign-up
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.


Progress
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.

Why?

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.

I took this screen shot shortly after making adjustments on my website. After a few weeks, my webpage for Carpe Demon comes up as #1

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 herehttp://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:

  1. What are you reading?
  2. Who's your favourite authors?
  3. 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:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1m25ot1DybkOir27mwprZd0Y9GJb0SEOm/view?usp=sharing





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:

Some people's comments are not getting posted (I still get notifications about them, but there's no option to approve, nor should there be. I don't have an approval system for comments on new posts.). Please make sure you complete the comment verification to ensure you're not a bot. Thank you!

Comments

  1. Great suggestions! Some of these I have, others I don't. Time to look into it all. Thanks for the tips!

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome! Thanks for visiting :-)

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  2. Wow! Your blog is so informative. Thank you so much for offering all your suggestions. You've done all this and had a baby? How do you do it? I don't have a website yet. It just seems too daunting. Did you make your site on your own, did you hire someone to start you off? Once again, thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks C.B. And you're welcome! Yes I have two young kids, but this is my passion and only hobby so any spare time I have (admittedly little) I spend on writing related things. I'm also blessed with good sleepers (*phew*).

      I made my own website. I'm fairly tech-savvy, but I didn't need to be in order to use weebly. It's a drag and drop style web platform that I highly recommend. And there's a free option where you can just play around. It costs money now to change the URL or web address to something without .weebly in it, but their rates are fairly good. I haven't paid for an upgraded account. I've literally spent $0 on my website.

      Don't get overwhelmed by it. Just start practicing. It's better to have something up, even if it's one page with your book and contact information than nothing at all, imo.

      Good luck!

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    2. I also recommend building your own so you can make changes and stay fluid with the market and current events

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  3. Thank you so much for this post! Amazingly helpful info. You've inspired me.

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    1. You'e welcome Sandra! I'm glad you found it helpful :-)

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  4. JC thank you for the tips. Most of the ideas I have already done, but a few I will be implementing as time allows. Thanks so much!

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome! I'm glad you found it helpful. I also had a few of these already implemented, but it never hurts to review our practices! Thanks for stopping by and commenting :-)

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  5. Wow. Wonderful, very helpful information. That's a lot to digest (and do!) I really appreciate your sharing these valuable tips.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Judy! I'm so glad you found it helpful :-)

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  6. Very helpful post, JC. Some of these I was doing, others I wasn't. I'll have to go through my website. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! I'm happy you found it useful :-)

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  7. Great suggestions J.C! Thank you for posting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! I'm glad you liked them :-)

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  8. Thanks for the website tips. I've been waffling between building my own or paying someone to do it. I love the idea of handling everything myself, so will likely give it a try when I have time. I'm saving all your tips as most of them do apply to me. Great subject, thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting Cat! I highly recommend setting up something, even if it's a basic passive website. You can pick away at all this stuff as time goes by. I'm personally a DIY fan. 1) I'm cheap, and 2) I can make changes whenever I want when I want. There's no delay or additional charge. But that's just me and my two cents. You can take it or laugh at it 😉

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  9. This is wonderful, J.C.! Thanks for the tips- your website looks great!

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    1. Thanks Maureen! Glad it's helpful :-)

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