From Andrew Updegrove: Tales of Adversego:
When I released my first book four years ago, I wasn’t convinced I needed an author site. After all, an Amazon Author Page includes most of the basic elements needed to establish a web presence, and it’s free to boot. I decided to build one anyway for the experience I’d gain in doing so, and now it’s time for a major rebuild. Here’s why.
As in every other aspect of learning how to self-publish, there’s an endless amount of low-value (and sometimes downright wrong) “how to” stuff out there, as well as an infinite number of service providers that care a lot about getting your business, but little (if at all) about helping you get business. They’ll be delighted to sell you a formulaic site, take your money and say “good luck” (others are very good, by the way, so shop around). Finding the straight story about what’s worth doing and what is simply a waste of time and money is a challenge and a chore.
In point of fact, having a simple, static web site is likely to have little to no value at all. So paying hundreds of dollars to set one up, or spending a lot of time to figure out how to do it yourself for free, will be right up there with buying a press release – an almost complete waste of time and money. At the other extreme, setting one up and going wild with it, but in the wrong ways, may be an even larger, unproductive time sink.
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It’s important to start by recognizing that there are four things an author site must do as well as possible:
- It must provide a clear, compelling reason for a visitor to buy each of your books, and make it as easy as possible for a visitor to make an impulse buying decision (e.g., include buttons linking to your book or author page at each major distributor through which your books are available).
- It should help build your brand, which includes you as well as any sub-brands it would be smart to create (e.g., specific book series and characters).
- Along with related promotional activities, it must help you establish a growing number of identified followers with whom you can communicate, both independently as well as via posts at the site. That way you can let your readers know when you release a new book, and hope to enlist them to help you promote it.
- It must be easily discoverable by people making appropriate web searches.
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Many author sites (including this one) devolve into efforts to connect with other authors rather than acting as effective sales tools. Why? Because authors are more likely to interact, and it’s nice to be noticed. So the author starts to serve the audience they’ve been able to attract rather than continue directing their efforts to the more difficult goal of acquiring a reader base.
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So let’s take it the next level down. What types of features should your site include?
- Obviously, your books should be very prominently displayed. Those authors that don’t have lots of news and opportunities for engagement to update should be sure that their books are the most prominent elements of the home page. I said “obviously,” but surprisingly enough, there are many author sites where this is not the case.
- You should tell your readers enough about yourself to allow visitors to connect with you as a person, since the person that writes the books is – or should be – part of the brand in order to permit your brand-building efforts to be as effective as possible (again, not as obvious as it sounds). If you are a fiction writer, consider making the style of your bio hip, flip, provocative, confessional or whatever in order to support the particular brand image that you want to create (that’s another serious topic, but one for another occasion). In any event, the text that introduces her to her readers shouldn’t be something appropriate to embed in a resume. If you want, you can stop here. But you can take this a lot further with a blog in which you share insights about, for example, how and why you write what you do, and what may be coming up next (much more on this topic to follow).
- Further to the same point, the banner of the site should feature your name, and not that of a specific book or book series (in some cases it may make sense to have a separate site to best build the brand for a series).
- For each book, the site should have a separate page, with a description, large size image of the cover, as well as other features of the author’s choosing, such as outtakes from reviews, references to prizes the book has won, endorsements, etc. But keep each book page short – no more than a screen or so. If you want to include more, do it via links to additional pages or sources. And, of course, include those Buy links.
- Include sample chapters from each book, with more Buy buttons at the end.
- Include a newsletter sign-up form in the side bar on every page, as well as invitations to use that form (with links) wherever appropriate within the main body of other pages.
- Never use your home page as your blog page. Put that under a separate tab.
- Keep the structure of the site and the navigation clean and traditional – make it easy for a visitor to find what they’re looking for by putting things under tabs with titles they’re used to.
Link to the rest at Andrew Updegrove: Tales of Adversego
Here’s a link to Andrew Updegrove’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.