Introducing “Author Website in a Box” (beta)

26 June 2019

From The Digital Reader:

For the past couple weeks I have been working on a new project, and I think it’s gotten to the point where it’s ready for public testing and feedback.

The project has the working title of “Author Website in a Box”, and it is intended to provide a complete author website based on WordPress.

The site has everything from a home page to a contact page, about the author page, and even bookshelf pages. I even included dummy content that you can replace, and I installed SEO, security, backup, and other essential plugins.

  • Yoast (an SEO plugin – it helps readers find you in search engines)
  • Novelist (a bookshelf plugin that makes it easy to display your books)
  • All in One WP Security (a firewall plugin that keeps hackers out)
  • Contact Form 7 (the best free contact form plugin)
  • Mailmunch (a great plugin for integrating your mailing list into your site)

The site has a good general design which can be improved upon or customized with a little work. It is built using SiteOrigin’s pagebuilder, my preferred tool for building author websites. Almost everyone I know agrees that while it is not the best tool available, it is relatively easy to learn. It’s also free, which means I can include a copy for you to use with this site.

I have a version of the site myself (this is what I use to develop the site for you to download) which you can see here:

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG thought Nate’s dummy site looked promising.

If you’re going to play with it with your own content, read Nate’s Caveats carefully.

PG will second some of Nate’s warnings:

  1. Never play around with new plumbing/apps/etc. on your principal business website. You can buy a weird domain name for $5 bucks at some places online. Install WordPress there and put some dummy data in to get an idea of how it looks.
  2. If the dummy site looks good, make a copy of your main website and move it over to your dummy domain. If you Google “moving a website to a new domain“, you’ll find techniques, tools and a WordPress video that talks about it.
  3. PG has moved some sites to new domains in the distant past, but can’t remember exactly which tool(s) he used, but it wasn’t terribly difficult or time-consuming. If you move your entire site, including your current theme, that might make it easier for you to compare the usability of your potential new theme with your current theme pretty easily.
  4. If this sounds daunting for you, contact Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader or somebody else who really knows what he/she is doing. (PG knows your unemployed brother-in-law will work on your site at no charge just for the experience, but if you’re in the business of writing instead of the business of fixing website glitches that appear and disappear at random and trying to live with a site that never looks quite right even without glitches, spending a little money for qualified assistance will save you lots of time and serious heartburn. A semi-functioning website doesn’t do a very good job of attracting new readers.)


45+ Author Websites with Stellar Designs

26 June 2019

From BookBub:

Many successful authors have websites that are the hub of their online marketing activity — they provide a central platform for everything from blogging to book sales and email newsletters. But what should you include in an author website?

We’ve compiled 45 stellar examples to give you some ideas. These sites can provide inspiration for any authors or publishers looking to launch or redesign an author website.

. . . .

To appear on this list of examples, sites had to meet most, if not all, of the following criteria:

  • Include a list of published books
  • Prominently display new or impending releases
  • Provide an obvious way to subscribe for updates
  • Provide a way to contact the author
  • Include links to the author’s social media profiles
  • Display a list of upcoming events
  • Include a blog to showcase the author’s personality and/or writing process
  • Be easy to navigate
  • Have a clean, unique design
  • Be mobile friendly

We’ve made sure to include both traditional and self-published authors, along with a variety of styles and genres, so everyone can find some inspiration.

1. Bella Andre

2. Brett Battles

. . . .

18. Kevin Hearne

. . . .

22. Rachel Howzell Hall

Link to the rest at BookBub

PG has to admit that he liked some of the designs, but others looked pretty generic and home-made (by people who do not have a design-centric person in their home).

Clean design is great, but (in PG’s immanently humble opinion), it’s easy to slip over the line from clean-cool to clean-generic.

Rectangular blocks of text against a contrasting plain background have been done before.

Arial, Helvetica and Times Roman (New, Old or in-between) have been done, done, done, done, before, before, before, before.

The combination of rectangular blocks of text and Arial/Helvetica/Times Roman can be used in original and impactful ways, but (in PG’s gracefully cultivated opinion) doing that is hard and rare and most people don’t succeed.

That said, PG thought Bookbub’s minimum standards bullet point list of criteria provided a good checklist against which an author might wish to compare her/his/zir/hir/eir/vis/tem/eir website to make certain the fundamentals are sound and complete.

For ideas on fonts, see Stop Using Arial & Helvetica in which Arial is described as “Microsoft’s bastard son (rip-off) of Helvetica. It’s just a bad copy of Helvetica – a really bad one. It’s just ugly.”

For more ideas on fonts, see Best Times New Roman Alternatives: Fonts to Avoid Default Fonts – “I had to believe there were other ways of presenting information that didn’t involve Times New Roman words endlessly written on a white freaking document.”

(Yes PG is aware that TPV could improve in the fonts department, but he likes the color, textures and mood of his current WordPress theme and whenever he looks for a good alternative that isn’t ten years behind the times, he can’t find one he likes as well or that he can make look like Ancient Faithful, the theme that (like this sentence) just won’t die. He’ll try out more alternative themes on TPV to gather comments at some time in the future.)

Can Piracy Save Literature? a Bestselling Author Says Yes

19 June 2019

From Blop Culture:

Paulo Coelho is one of the most well-known Brazilian writers; he sells millions of books all over the world yet surprisingly he’s a firm supporter of piracy. So much so that he even pirates his own books.

The entertainment industry will tell you that nothing is for free and that you must pay up, otherwise creators will starve. But will they, really? Is it that simple? Paulo Coelho might seem like an exception, but Game of Thrones, another juggernaut of the entertainment industry, further underlines his reasoning: as GoT grew in popularity more and more pirated copies of the hit show were distributed across the internet, yet ratings continued to climb.

. . . .

Piracy is, to some extent, a way in, an open door for consumers to get to know an author, a series, or artist. Game of Thrones is officially the most pirated TV-show in internet history, yet it also became one of the highest-rated shows in entertainment history.

In fact, piracy not only didn’t hurt ratings, but created a much-needed buzz for the show in the early days. Through piracy distribution you’re reaching people who maybe can’t afford to subscribe to cable or to HBO Go, but can turn into consumers of GoT merchandise or become evangelist for the show on social media, for example.

Researchers found that piracy can help a TV show by creating a “shadow competition” in which both manufacturer and distributor benefit, albeit in delayed fashion. That said, it’s not complicated to understand why: imagine 5 million people are watching a show. Only they will buy merchandise, buy tickets for a movie based on the show, watch a spin off, etc.

But if you have an additional 10 million or more people watching the show through torrent or any illegal streaming website, the buzz generated will be amplified. You may not immediately profit from viewings, but in the long run, it will be beneficial for the brand as a whole — and the resultant effect will be having to spend less on things like paid advertising.

. . . .

In 2012, Paulo Coelho wrote in his blog that readers were “welcome to download my books for free and, if you enjoy them, buy a hard copy — that way we can tell the industry that greed leads to nowhere.”

There are studies that show that people who download music illegally are also those who buy more music, because piracy is a way to introduce the listener (or the reader, in our case) to a band, a musician (or a writer). Coelho agrees, for him “‘Pirating’ can act as an introduction to an artist’s work. If you like his or her idea, then you will want to have it in your house; a good idea doesn’t need protection.”

Link to the rest at Blop Culture

PG notes that he does not always agree with everything he posts on TPV.

Should Authors Have More Control over Their Covers?

19 June 2019

From Nathan Bransford:

It often comes as a surprise to people that authors in the traditional book world don’t have that much control over their book cover.

Approval is rare. Consultation is more common, but how meaningful and sincere that consultation is vary greatly. (I liked to joke when I was an agent that authors are often consulted on a scale of love to simply adore).

So bestselling author Daniel José Older caused a stir when, in a thread urging authors to not take what they’re offered at face value, he urged authors to fight for approval over their cover:

. . . .

. . . .

Should authors have control over their covers?

I’m somewhat split on this one.

On the one hand, publishers really do have a great deal of expertise on covers. They have a sense of what’s worked in the past, they know the tastes of key accounts (for instance, if Target or Barnes & Noble doesn’t like your cover, guess what, your cover is getting changed), and the people who source and design the covers are enormously talented.

On the other hand… in my opinion it’s still more art than science, and I don’t know that publishers are quite rigorous enough in the way they bring data and A/B testing to bear with covers (I’d love to be corrected on this if I’m wrong). I’ve also seen authors get pigeonholed with their covers in seriously unfortunate ways.

And fundamentally, even if publishers did bring more data and objectivity to bear, that expertise still skews toward looking backward rather than forward. What’s worked in the past isn’t necessarily an indicator of what will work in the future. Some of the most iconic cover designs in history were marked departures from what came before and were simply great design and true to the book.

To me, it’s authors who are most in tune with what note their book is trying to strike. Authors may not be graphic design or product marketing experts and they should be humble about that, but they are in tune with some ineffable cultural chords.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford

PG says those who fall into the “let the publisher decide on the cover” side of this argument are operating from an unstated assumption that publishers are good at what they do. They know their business.

PG can respond with confidence, “This is not always the case.”

Sometimes, publishers do a terrible job with a book. From editing to proofing to marketing to accounting, sometimes publishers perform in a horribly inept manner.

Large publishers, small publishers, established publishers, new publishers can and do make idiotic decisions and stupid mistakes. The more such decisions are challenged and mistakes exposed, the more vigorously the idiots defend them.

PG found a nice comparison of Malpractice vs. Negligence in lay terms at a site called Diffen:

Negligence is a failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances. In tort law, negligence applies to harm caused by carelessness, not intentional harm.

Malpractice is a type of negligence; it is often called “professional negligence”. It occurs when a licensed professional (like a doctor, lawyer or accountant) fails to provide services as per the standards set by the governing body (“standard of care”), subsequently causing harm to the plaintiff.

Link to the rest at Diffen

When a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, an engineer, etc., fails to act in accordance with the standards of her/his profession, they are subject to being sued for malpractice.

When anyone acts in a negligent manner and someone is harmed, generally, they may be sued to obtain compensation for the consequences of their negligence.

Publishers are not licensed to be in the publishing business by any government authority (at least in the US), so, technically, there is no such thing as publishing malpractice right now.

However, publishers hold themselves out to be knowledgeable professionals operating in the publishing business. Why else would an author ever approach a publisher with a manuscript if not to have the manuscript professionally published in a competent manner?

If we apply the Negligence definition above to someone (or a group of someones) who says, “I am a publisher,” what do we get?

PG suggests the following definition for negligence by a publisher:

Failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances when the person is representing her/him/itself to be a publisher and entering into contracts to publish manuscripts owned by others.

Given that standard of care, PG suggests that publishers large and small regularly act in a negligent manner, thereby harming authors.

Back to the OP – A book’s cover design is perhaps the single most important element in the marketing and selling of a book.

The cover design stops (or doesn’t stop) someone browsing through the world’s largest bookstore, Amazon. In an online or a physical bookstore, instead of seeing a single book, a potential purchaser is usually presented with a group of books to choose from, and, hominids being primarily visual creatures, the cover design – color, artwork, formatting of title, etc. – is the most eye-catching element of the book. If the cover is off-putting or bland, the potential purchaser is likely to move on to something that looks more interesting at first glance.

A good argument can be made that the author’s name and reputation is even more important than the cover design, but PG suggests this standard only applies to books written by authors whose names are recognized by a reasonably large number of readers, a number large enough to constitute a commercially useful target market.

A commercially useful target market must be much larger for an author who is commercially published (many mouths demanding to be fed at the publisher) than it is for an indie author.

So, generally speaking, other than for a relatively small number of authors, a book’s cover design is the single most important element in the marketing and selling of a book that is commercially published.

Perhaps an author is independently wealthy and writes as a hobby.

That person does not need to worry about covers.

Every other author has a cogent business requirement for a good cover. Just as the author should be consulted about recommended changes in the manuscript (and have ultimate veto power), the author should be consulted and have veto power about the cover.

We’re getting down to the bottom of the list of rational reasons a publisher might not want to give an author any say about the cover of the author’s book.

This last reason is:

“What if the author is a crazy person?”

PG turns to one of the fundamental business principles that govern his legal practice:



Construction Guy Instagram Influencer Turns out to Be Coffee Ad Stunt

19 June 2019

From Petapixel:

A construction guy named Omar in Austin, Texas, became an “Instagram influencer” recently after attracting hundreds of thousands of followers to his @justaconstructionguy account with just a handful of photos. But it turns out the guy was a carefully crafted persona designed to help a small coffee shop sell coffee.

After being created in May, the account shot to Insta-stardom when it was Tweeted out by Twitter user @barbzlovescarbs, who purported to be Omar’s daughter.

In his photos and captions, Omar was apparently an ordinary construction worker who had a knack for poking fun at Instagram’s exploding “influencer” culture:

. . . .

The coffee roaster Cuvée Coffee in Austin finally revealed that the whole thing is actually a clever marketing stunt that resulted from a “creative brainstorming session.”

“The whole idea was what we always thought as an influencer, and what we used as an influencer in the past, they don’t always fit our brand,” owner Mike McKim tells BuzzFeed News. “We need a different type of influencer: a hard-worker, blue-collar guy.”

McKim enlisted the help of the advertising agency Bandolier Media, which helped him to create “Omar”, a fake influencer persona who’s played by an actual Austin-area construction worker. @cuveecoffee is tagged in several of Omar’s posts. After the @barbzlovescarbs Tweet, things just took off, spreading through social media and sites like Reddit.

Link to the rest at Petapixel

How Indie Bookshops Are Fighting Back

17 June 2019

From The Guardian:

As global temperatures rise at the rate political standards fall, the news that independent bookshops are reviving gives rare cause for celebration. Last year the number of indies on UK high streets grew for the second year running – by 15 to 883, according to the Booksellers Association. As a reader, writer and literary salon host, I’m delighted.

. . . .

This resurgence is partly thanks to Independent Bookshop Week, which started on Saturday and runs to 22 June. Across Britain and Ireland indies are doing what they do best: hosting readings and signings, cooking up literary lunches and generally feeding curiosity. Bookshop crawls are quite the thing now and you can join one locally or engage in literary tourism farther afield. Check the hashtag or just join a convoy of people with Books are my Bag totes – I refuse to wash the Tracey Emin special edition.

Reading is solitary and social – for over 10 years I’ve hosted literary salons inspired by Madame de Pompadour and the 18th-century salonnières. Now based at the Savoy, my salon is simple – a mix of established and emerging writers read new work, then we talk about it and them too. Nowadays, readers want to meet writers (whether writers like it or not). I’m lucky enough to love it and have toured over 50 indies since my novel You Will Be Safe Here came out in April.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG will note that the increase of independent bookstores in Britain by 15 to 883 is an annual growth of 1.7% – not exactly what PG would call boom times.

Here’s a bit of historical perspective, also from The Guardian:

Before 2017, the number in the UK and Ireland had declined every year since 1995, when there were 1,894 independent bookshops. A low of just 867 shops was reached in 2016. . . .

PG further suggests that the population of Britain is also relevant in calculating whether bookshops are actually becoming more interesting to its population.

Here is British population on the two dates mentioned in the OP:

1995 – 58.02 million Britons

2019 – 66.85 million Britons

A bit of calculation demonstrates that the number of bookstore per 100,000 Britons has declined precipitously:



Boookstores per

100,000 Britons

1995     58,020,000                          3.26
2019     68,850,000                          1.28

The Complete Guide to Attracting a Loyal Audience for Your Writing

11 June 2019

From Medium:

Admit it. You want more fans for your writing.

You’re tired of writing posts nobody reads and being jealous of other online writers who hit a home run every time they publish.

You know it’s possible to attract an audience of loyal fans because you see others doing it, but for you, it feels like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube while blindfolded.

. . . .

The Subtle Psychology of Attracting an Audience Online

I have many author friends.

We all collaborate in a Facebook group and talk about strategies to attract more readers and sell more books.

I found a tactic that virtually guaranteed I’d get 100 subscribers to sign up to my mailing list with each post I wrote. I shared the strategy with them.

They loved it. They all told me they’d try it.

I checked in with them a few weeks later to see their results.

None of them tried it.

A few weeks later, I checked the group again. They were still asking each other about strategies to attract more readers for their list, even though I gave them a solid strategy none of them tried.


Moments like this cement the idea that tips on their own don’t help. If you want to build a writing career and attract the fans you need to make it happen, start with your psychology.

. . . .

The strategy I gave my author friends was straightforward, but they overcomplicated the situation.

Attracting an audience is simple — You find out where your potential audience hangs out, and you write posts they resonate with.

That’s it.

I’m giving you the step-by-step playbook to help you. If you follow it to the letter, it’ll work. It won’t work, however, if you get in your own way. Your mentality either provides a path to success or a series of obstacles.

. . . .

The Number One Lie Writers Tell Themselves

John starts a blog or creates an account on Medium. He writes a few blog posts. Maybe he shares them on social media. He hits publish, waits, and no one shows up.

He decides this writing thing is a sham. After all, he did all the work and no one showed up.

“Why even try?” He thinks. He gives up and blames everyone else but himselffor his lack of success.

John doesn’t realize the importance of promoting his work. He believes great work should stand on its own and attract people.

There are many writers like John, who think, “If I build it, they’ll come.”

If you use logic, it makes no sense.

How are people supposed to find your writing if you don’t promote it?

. . . .

If you want success so badly it causes you to become self-centered, you’ll focus on yourself too much and ignore the signs pointing you in the direction of your desired outcome.

I fall victim to my ego at times.

I’ll write a blog post I think should be written instead of asking my readers what they want to learn about.

I’ll hastily launch a new product without doing enough customer research.

I do my best to remember my work is for you. I’m here to help you because I know how it feels to be stuck in the weeds and lost. When I remember why I’m doing the work I do, the process is ten times easier.

If you focus on your goals and your vision alone, you can lose sight of the people who will make or break your writing career. You can’t be a successful writer if nobody reads your work.

Your writing isn’t about you — not if you want to make a career out of it and income from it. Writing for an audience means writing at the intersection of what you love and what people want to read.

. . . .

Tools of the Trade

If you want fans for your writing, you need to create a “home base” online for people to find your work.

You want to have your own website instead of having an account on a blogging platform like Medium or Blogger.


When your writing is on your own website, it looks more professional.

Also, you’re free to do what you want with it. Other blogging platforms have restrictions on the features you’re allowed to have. Some forbid you from selling anything on their platform.

You want to make money, right? Owning your own website gives you the freedom to build a business around your writing.

. . . .

Why You Absolutely Must Have an Email List

You need an email list because it’s the lifeblood of your writing career.

Email marketing is still the number one channel for reaching fans and customers.

An email list helps you:

  • Communicate with your readers and send them new material
  • Learn about their needs and give you new ideas to write about
  • Create a relationship with your readers
  • Sell books and other products to your readers

The first three are more important than the last item. You want to develop a relationship with your readers and learn about them before you try to sell anything to them.

Link to the rest at Medium

Your Book Marketing Plan Won’t Work

9 June 2019

From Joe Konrath:

So you wrote a book.


Now you should celebrate. Enjoy the moment. I suggest craft beer. My go-to is barrel aged stouts, invented and perfected by Goose Island. But Prairie Artisan, The Bruery, Alesmith, Founders, Stone, Central Waters, Epic, Boulevard, Oskar Blues, and Avery also work well. More suggestions welcome in the comments.

Now, after celebrating, you are creating a marketing plan.

You’re nervous, but you’ve been an avid student, devouring everything you can on how to sell books. And you’ve discovered a lot of chatter about a lot of things, including:


The catchall go-to for all authors. You have two Facebook pages, a personal one and a public one. You’re on Twitter. You’re on Instagram and Tumblr and Pinterest and Flickr and Reddit and 4chan and 8chan and Kboards and Goodreads and Blogger and you are constantly posting new and interesting content because you’re smart enough to know that yelling “BUY MY BOOK!” doesn’t sell anything.

Guess what? Posting new and interesting content doesn’t sell anything either.

When was the last time you actually bought anything because someone liked it on Facebook? Or retweeted a product link?

Your social media isn’t going to sell much for you. This blog gets millions of hits a year. You’re one of them.

How many books of mine have you bought? Can you name any? What’s the latest one?

. . . .


You’re not going to sell a lot of books on social media. While social media does help inform fans that you have a new book out, or something priced cheap, it won’t amount to many sales.

That’s not to say you should ignore social media. But it isn’t going to cover your car payment. Stop thinking it will.

. . . .


There is no book you can read that will help you improve your sales to a degree that was worth the time and money you wasted on it.

Feel free not to believe me. Feel free to tell me about the book that helped you sell a zillion copies. But beware: I’m gonna check your rank and post it and make you feel stupid.

. . . .


You’re doing well if you break even. And while you can crow about the intangibles of “finding a new fan who buys your whole backlist” the fact is that any serious attempt to explode your sales using ads will require you spending a LOT of time tweaking them, and a LOT of money buying them.

I’ve spent tens of thousands on advertising over the years. NOTHING is guaranteed. They all require a lot of thought and effort. And all the effort you spend on ads is less time you spend writing.

. . . .


That’s the question, isn’t it?

I’ve driven myself half-insane trying to figure out how to sell ebooks. And I’ve sold a lot. But, like many, my sales have slowed down over the years. I used to make $800k a year. Now I make less than half of that.


Well, the reason I broke out and made major money was due to pure luck. Amazon created the Kindle and allowed authors to self-pub with DTP (now KDP). I was uniquely suited to exploit this new type of media because I had ten shelf novels that publishers had rejected, and I now had the opportunity to self-publish them while undercutting traditional publishers on price. Then, as ebooks grew in popularity, I got my backlist back and was able to leverage a whole lot of cheap books into a whole lot of money.

I still make a lot of money. But when Amazon introduced Kindle Unlimited, my income cut in half, and has never recovered.

Luck again. Amazon giveth and Amazon taketh away.

I have gotten some decent publicity in my time. It never moved the needle on sales.

I’ve had a very popular blog. It never moved the needle on sales.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

PG has missed Joe Konrath.

Joe’s blog was required reading for anyone interested in self-publishing for a long time, then he went quiet for a while. PG doesn’t know why and figures that it’s Joe’s business and he’ll tell us if he wants us to know.

Now that Joe’s made a couple of new posts, PG has recalled how much he enjoys Joe’s unique voice and views.

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