Sunday, January 18, 2009

Marketing #1: Author Websites

In today's post I thought I would cover your website. I've already blogged on the #2 Marketing tool -- bookmarks so today I thought I should do #1 - Websites.

I was giving a seminar a few months back and one of the authors in the audience said ... you don't really need a website you needs a web presence. I'm afraid I'm going to have to respectfully disagree. Every author needs a website. Period.

The cost of websites is minimal. There are generally two aspects to the cost

  • Registering a URL (required) - the name of your site
  • Hosting (optional)
I use and to register a name it is $9.99 a year. And with that you can get free hosting. The hosting costs $4.74 for 12 months ($56.88 for the year). The only difference between free hosting and paying the $57 is that you will have a few adds at the top of your screen when you have a free account.

Here is an example of a website with ads (i.e. free hosting). Everything above the dark bar is put on automatically by GoDaddy. If you pay the $57/year that disappears. I personally think it is worth that small fee to be free of ads.

I personally recommend that you pick a URL based on your name not your book's name. Even if you have only one book now you might have more books in the future. If you really want to you can buy 2 URL's (your one for you and one for your book). I wouldn't recommend doing up separate pages for both - just have one website and "redirect" to the other. That way you have only one site to pay hosting on and only one site to maintain. To do the redirection make a file called .htaccess and place a line like the following in it:
Redirect /path-of-file-to-be-redirected URL-of-page-to-go-to
So if your names is Johnathan Strange the best URL I would recommend is Unfortunately there are several authors with Michael's name so we were not able to get that URL because it was already taken - we opted for When picking your URL remember that only letters, numbers, and hyphens are allowed.

In general I recommend you have pages for at least the following:
  • Books
  • Reviews
  • News
  • Author Bio
  • Contact

Above is a portion of the books page for Michael's website. The books page should have the following:

  • The cover of the book
  • Back of the book "blurb"
  • Reviews or testimonials
  • A link to buy the book (either direct from you or Amazon)
  • A sample chapter
  • Book Trailer (optional)
  • Your ISBN #'s

Of the list above - the most important (IMO) are your sample chapter, the "buy link" and your ISBN's. Having a place where people can "try before they buy" is important. When you meet a "resistant" buyer telling them to go read a sample chapter on-line is a great way to convert them to a sale. The reason you want your ISBN listed prominently is that only the most successful authors have their books sitting on the bookstore shelves. For most they will have to be special ordered and coming in armed with the ISBN will make that process easy.

Reviews sell...period. One of the things you need to do as an author is encourage those you talk to that enjoy your book to post reviews on-line. Then you need to repeat these testimonials on your website. After about 3 months after release Michael's site had 49 reviews (24 from Amazon, 19 from GoodReads, 6 from Shelfari). I made a table on the review page with the date of the review, its source (including a link so people could go to it) what the ranking was (5 star, 4 star etc) and either all or some of the posting. If the person made a long post - I took the "best paragraph" and posted a link to it so they could read the whole thing if they wanted.

This is an important page to show how active you are. If you are not currently doing press releases....start it is a way to generate some 'buzz' about your book and there are a lot of free sites to post your press releases to (again more in another post). Here use the table format like for reviews and list things such as:

  • Awards you were nominated for or won
  • Author interviews you did (with links to then of course)
  • Book Bloggers who reviewed your book (with links of course)
  • Upcoming Events - including Conventions, book clubs, and book signings
  • Recent News - A summary of all your press releases - did you expand your website, post a free chapter online, make a trailer, go to a conference - these are all things to highlight in your news area.
  • Previous Events - Especially important if you don't have any recent book events - this way people can see where you have been in the past and it helps to establish "legitimacy" to your book.
One thing to note - if you use BookTours (Again more on this in the future) - you can put a "widget" on your news page that will automatically list any book signings you have entered on that site. I have one running along the left side of Michael's News Page.

Always leave a way for readers, reviewers, or others to contact you. This can be as simple as listing your e-mail address or having a form where people can sign in and leave their information and notes. Encourage people to tell you how they liked (or didn't like) your book, or post typos etc. If filling out a form - make sure you store their email address and send them a personal thank you afterwards.

So that's about it for Websites - I encourage you to go out and look at Michael's Site to see how I did his - be sure to "steal" as necessary. I'll talk more in another post about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) but this should be a good amount to get you started.

1 comment:

Random said...

Sorry for the extreme case of delayed reaction, but I obviously came to your site late in the game. BTW, your site is great. Wow, what a great resource for writers.

Anyway, on to my questions:
What would your advice be for setting up a website for two writers who collaborate on their novels?

A follow-up to the above: The collaborating authors mentioned above would be myself and my twin brother. Do you see any benefit using the "twin brother angle" in marketing our books? (Assuming they are any good.) Or would we be better off creating a pseudonym that we we publish under?

RJ Spears