Open Blog Weekend: Is your author website working for you?
Once you have a website as an author, there is a myth that it will just work and pull in thousands of new sales. To some extent it will work, but as with anything, people (most importantly readers) will need to know it is there to benefit from any sort of promotion, and this takes some time and effort. If your website isn’t pulling in as much attention as you hoped, here are a few elements you may wish to check you’re doing correctly.
Is Your Design Working?
The first question to ask yourself is whether your design is working. A website design, and in fact all elements of your book promotion should appeal to your reader in the same way that your book cover needs to. It needs to be branded, professional and targeted to your market. Lack of branding can confuse a reader to believing they haven’t come to the correct website and lack of professionalism can damage your author image. It may be that if they see a badly edited or designed website, this may reflect onto your writing and books. If you put them off with your promotion, you are going to lose their attention very quickly. Professionalism creates a great sense of legitimacy in you as an author and your work before they’ve even picked up the book.
If you feel your design isn’t as professional as other authors that write in your genre, spend a little time on some design research. It is likely that as an author, you read, or have read, in the genre you write, so take some time out to browse popular authors to see what they are offering from their websites, and how their design is pulling in your potential readers.
Another question I come across a lot is authors who write books in two genres. Do you really need two websites for each market? The answer depends really on what the genres are. If they complement each-other, then it’s possible that you will be offering books to readers that read both styles; for example historical fiction and historical non-fiction. However if your books are polar opposites (I’ve seen websites offering sweet historical romances and modern erotica), then you need to consider using separate websites. You want to avoid deterring readers at all costs. You also need to ensure that your brand is represented, and it may be that this isn’t consistent over your two different genres.
Remember, statistically you have three seconds to convince your website visitor to stay on your website. I will give you a few tips on how to do this, other than having the correct design, in a later post.
Is Your Content Working?
After looking at the design, you will want to concentrate on exactly what your author website contains. Is your existing content offering visitors something they are looking for? As I just mentioned, it’s down to the three second rule. You need to immediately let you visitor know they are in the right place (design), where you want them to go (content and design) and how to get there (content).
Assuming you have covered the first point of design, you then need to let them know what you want them to do. You can do this by ensuring your content is clear and not overwhelming. Your book/s should have prominence, with an immediate link to ‘find out more’ and purchase links. You also need to provide a clear navigation to other pages. This can be done through a menu, making sure the links are clear and concise. Don’t name your pages with quirky titles – you may know what it means, but you readers may not. In other words, the page that contains information on your books, should be labelled in your menu as ‘Books’, not ‘My Library’, ‘My World’ or ‘Offerings’. Keep it simple, so that people can easily navigate around your website. You will also want to ensure that any references in your text to your book are linked to the Book page. That way, if people are reading, they don’t need to scroll to the top of the page to find the menu again. I know this sounds particularly lazy, but any encouragement is essential.
When it comes to the amount of content you provide in your website, this can vary enormously between author’s websites. Some have thousands of words on each page, which quite frankly, unless you’re JK Rowling, people aren’t going to read or take that much of an interest in. You want them to read your book, not pages and pages of content on your website. Remember that your website is ultimately a selling tool, and a place for current readers to find out more about you and your other works. People get very bored, very easily, so keep what you write shorter (around two to three paragraphs is ideal) in order to keep their attention. I will be talking about exactly which content you want on each page in a later post (exactly so as not to overwhelm you…and keep you coming back – I do practice what I preach!).
It’s not just the amount of content you need to consider though, you will also want to consider the quality. Does your website offer something that readers can’t find anywhere else? People love to believe they have found something exclusive, so offer just that on your website. For example 43% of readers agree that they will return to a website if it offers free short stories from an author they like, and 33% admit to wanting a free sample chapter prior to buying a book. Both these can be offered on your website.
Another way to bring people back to your website is via Newsletters and Blogs. If you have the time, you can spend a short while on a daily, weekly or monthly basis writing a few hundred words to let your followers know that you have something new to offer them, some news to share, or an interesting discussion on the topic of your work. It is important again not to overwhelm them with too much information, or too frequently. A newsletter does provide visibility, but people will all too quickly delete a newsletter emailed to them without reading it if it lands in their inbox too often. A blog on the other hand allows them to drop in when they have the time. There are obvious advantages to both, and some authors will use both for assurance that they’re reaching as many readers as possible.
If you have any questions about design and content, or would like a friendly critique of your website, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me on @authordesigner.
I will reiterate the point that if you keep your website updated (no reader enjoys an out-of-date website), then you have more reasons to pull in visitors to your website. And of course, a website is one of the best promotional tools, which you can update as often as needed, so take advantage of it! It doesn’t need to take very long, but can have a big effect.