Outbox Online https://www.outboxonline.com Wed, 13 Dec 2017 07:22:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Website Design for Writers: Creating a Great Author Website Before You’re Published? https://www.outboxonline.com/website-design-writers-creating-great-author-website-youre-published/ https://www.outboxonline.com/website-design-writers-creating-great-author-website-youre-published/#respond Wed, 22 Nov 2017 11:30:37 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=46768

More often than not, my author web design clients hire me when they have a book about to be published.  Sometimes it’s a first book, and sometimes they’re revamping their site after they have a few books under their belt … sometimes they’re self-published, and sometimes they have a publisher … but every so often
Read more

The post Website Design for Writers: Creating a Great Author Website Before You’re Published? appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>

More often than not, my author web design clients hire me when they have a book about to be published.  Sometimes it’s a first book, and sometimes they’re revamping their site after they have a few books under their belt … sometimes they’re self-published, and sometimes they have a publisher … but every so often I work on website design for writers before they’ve released a book at all.  My work in these cases is directed at helping them build their platform for a future self-publishing project, or because they want to attract a publisher or agent.

And there are lots of good reasons for this being a rare occurrence, most notably that until you have a published book (and even then!) you may not have the budget to hire someone to create an author website for you.  The issue that some writers run into, however, is that agents & publishers want to see proof of your platform as part of your pitch (woah, alliteration).  So, how do you establish that without a website showing you’re a writer with a following?  And do you really need a website to prove that?

Let’s first start by defining what I mean by a writer’s platform & following:

  • It’s your ability to sell books & influence an audience because of your work.
  • It’s your brand as an author — something well defined & easy to understand.
  • It’s organic & sustained growth of your social media following, your website visitors, your newsletter, or other channels.
  • It’s your ability to connect with (and reach) fans & be authentic.

And here are some ways you might do that (with, or without, a writer’s website):

  1. Start a newsletter.  Of course you’ll need a place for people to sign up for this (ie: a website or link from a social profile), but there are few better ways to connect with people & stay on their mind than by showing up with something entertaining/valuable in their inbox on a regular basis.  The key to a successful newsletter is the newsletter itself.  If you write something that people find valuable because it’s informative, or makes them laugh, or is otherwise a unique respite from a crazy world, they’re going to be willing to subscribe to it and share it with friends.  Growing your list takes time & perseverance, but pays off in the end when you’re ready to tell those people about your new book release.
  2. Start a blog / website.  Like a newsletter, you’re writing content that connects with your audience over time, but unlike a newsletter, your blog and website content is available on the internet and searchable all the time.  Personally, I like the one-two-punch of doing blog posts that people can subscribe to by email because you get the best of both worlds.  A blog/website can be very easy to set up, and can even be free with platforms like WordPress.com or Blogger.  If you’re not sure what you might blog about (and, surprisingly, many writers aren’t), I’ve written a bunch of ideas of blog posts for authors here and also (with examples) here.  And your writer website doesn’t have to be complicated — think of it as a home for your author brand online.  It should allow people to get to know you & your work, link them to ways they can participate (follow you on social media or subscribe), and allow people to get in touch with you.  Starting simple is always a good idea, and you can read suggestions for what you might include on your author website here.
  3. Write for other people.  If you’re just starting out, contact bloggers who you think might benefit from your content, or pitch outlets like Huffington Post with ideas for stories related to your genre.  Think about your writing not only as something that can exist on your own outlets, but throughout the internet showing proof of your verisimilitude.  It’s more important at this point to be prolific than proprietary.
  4. Social media.  A Facebook page and a Twitter profile are probably the most popular avenues for this, but Instagram & YouTube continue to gain momentum.  If you don’t already know the stories of Dog Rates or Humans of New York turning their social media success into book deals (and beyond), you should look them up! The key to success here, like with everything, is to become a reliable resource that people want to turn to again and again.  Simply advertising to people isn’t going to do that, but curating relevant content, sharing valuable information, and crafting posts your target audience enjoys will.  If you love what you’re sharing, it’s very likely your audience will too.
  5. Speaking / Media appearances.  You might be asking yourself, “well, Kate, if I was already making media appearances I wouldn’t need your advice about this!”  But you might not be thinking broadly enough … let’s say you’re an expert at yoga for people with mobility issues (currently on my mind because of a knee injury).  You’ve reached this point because you were/are a yoga instructor and realized lots of people need modified poses as they either recover from injury or live with a lifelong mobility issue.  Someone from your local paper / radio station / tv news hears about you or attends one of your classes, and is doing a story on staying fit in maturity and wants to use you as a source.  Now there’s a great clip of you talking about this online.  Someone else from a nearby city sees it and uses you as a source for their own work on their popular blog.  Now you’ve got a couple of great pieces you can reference in your own blog on this topic, exposing you to a much larger audience, bringing you closer to your dream of writing a book on this topic.

And you might choose more than one of these to tackle, which is great!

It’s important to realize that there is no magic formula for this — what’s right for you is a combination of where your audience is (you want to meet them there) and what you’re willing to actually do / have time for.  If someone tells you that you won’t be successful without a Twitter following, that’s a bunch of bologna.  If you have a massive following on Facebook, and that’s where your audience is, and you really hate using Twitter, definitely don’t force yourself to use Twitter just because someone tells you it’s a good idea.

Your author platform might have a website, or it might not, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that it really comes down to your ability to connect with your audience.  There are lots of ways to do that, so spend some time to figure out what works best for you and get started.  The best platforms start small and grow — don’t worry about getting all your ducks in a row, it’s more important to be done than to be perfect!

 

The post Website Design for Writers: Creating a Great Author Website Before You’re Published? appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>
https://www.outboxonline.com/website-design-writers-creating-great-author-website-youre-published/feed/ 0
What to Look for in a Web Host https://www.outboxonline.com/look-web-host/ https://www.outboxonline.com/look-web-host/#respond Wed, 08 Nov 2017 11:43:47 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=46224

I regularly have web design clients who either don’t yet have a web host, and need one, or have one they don’t like and want a new one. I make my recommendations available here on this Website Resources page.  It’s two companies, really, Bluehost and SiteGround. But I don’t get into very much about WHY
Read more

The post What to Look for in a Web Host appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>

I regularly have web design clients who either don’t yet have a web host, and need one, or have one they don’t like and want a new one. I make my recommendations available here on this Website Resources page.  It’s two companies, really, Bluehost and SiteGround. But I don’t get into very much about WHY I recommend those companies, so I thought I’d do that here.

If you don’t know what a web host is, or why you need one in addition to your domain name, I suggest you read this blog post that I wrote as an intro: Getting Your Domain Name(s) & Web Hosting Organized

I’ve worked on hundreds of websites over the years, and it’s always nice when things get off to a good start by being able to count on your web host to be there when and how you need them.  You’d be surprised by how many web hosting companies aren’t easily available to help, or provide woefully inadequate and ill-informed help, or who even intentionally mislead and blame their customers for issues that are undeniably the host’s fault.

It’s not the average website owner’s job to know all the things a web hosting company does & how they all work.  That’s why you hire a web hosting company.  And even though your web designer knows more, it’s not even their job to know all the things a web hosting company does & how they all work.  And I get it — there are lots and lots of things that can go wrong with a site.  And a platform like WordPress adds a layer of complexity with themes and plugins that can create issues, and it can be a grey area about who can and should help sort through a problem.  Your web designer should be able to solve many issues that have to do with WordPress updates, or plugin conflicts, and other compatibility issues.  But when all else fails, if your web host is unwilling to help if your site is down, or even point you in the right direction, what good are they?  Especially when there are companies out there who will have your back when you need help.

All that said, what are some things you should look for in a web hosting company? Here are some of the important ones:

  1. They support the kind of site you want to build.  If you’re gonna have a WordPress-based site, you want a solid WordPress Hosting Plan.  It will be optimized for speed and security for the WordPress platform, and you definitely want to take advantage of both.  It will also make it very easy to get WordPress installed & set up so that you can quickly get to building your site.  They may offer a cheaper web hosting plan that isn’t WordPress specific, but using it means your site will always sort-of limp along comparatively, and you’ll have to do extra leg work to get WordPress set up properly.  If you need to buy both a domain name & a web hosting plan at the same time, start with the best hosting plan and get your domain name in the same place for ease-of-use.  Often the domain name will be bundled for free.  Never choose your hosting plan based on the place you can buy the cheapest domain name.
  2. Their plans are optimized for speed.  Related to the above, the loading speed of your site will effect how you rank in search results, and is dependent on a number of factors, but most important among them is the server hardware your hosting plan uses, and how optimized it is (via caching, etc..) for your platform.  Often you’ll pay a bit more for more speed, and it’s almost always worth it.  If you’re not running a huge e-commerce site, you probably don’t need the super-ultimate option, but do look for an option that advertises and prioritizes speed.
  3. Their plans come with SSL.  In early 2017 Google decided that it would factor the security of your site into its search ranking — you’ve seen the kind of security they’re concerned with on the internet already when you visit a site and it says “secure” in your browser’s address bar and displays a little padlock, or the URL starts with “https://” (as opposed to just http://).  An SSL certificate is an add-on to a hosting plan that adds the “https://” to your URL and makes your browser show it as a secure site.  So even if you’re not gathering credit card information, having an SSL certificate is important these days.
  4. They answer the phone, and actually help you.  If you have a problem or a question, you want to talk with someone who will help you out.  You don’t want to be made to feel like an idiot, or to be blamed for your site’s issue, or railroaded into additional services you don’t need because you want your site fixed.  You just want them to help.  You also don’t want to have to wait for a million years, getting transferred from one person to the next.  If you can’t even easily find a phone number on a potential web host’s site, walk away.
  5. They support additional site needs.  You have a blog post that went viral & your traffic exploded?  Rather than bringing your site down entirely because your usage exceeds your plan, they contact you and help you figure out how to handle the additional traffic with a better plan. You need an email address with your domain name?  They can set that up and make it easy for you to add it to your email client of choice (eg: Gmail or Outlook).  You want to make sure there are regular backups being taken of your site in case something goes wrong or you get hacked?  That happens automatically and you can always access the backups if you need them.  You get the idea … identify what you need, and make sure your hosting plan supports what you’re looking to do.  Good hosting companies can handle all of it.

Keep in mind that you will read scurrilous things about every hosting company online.  And even the best companies aren’t perfect.  But if your website is the foundation of your business, don’t you want to invest in a company that has a good track record?

The post What to Look for in a Web Host appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>
https://www.outboxonline.com/look-web-host/feed/ 0
Children’s Book Author Websites: Designing for Kids, but Not Really https://www.outboxonline.com/childrens-book-author-websites-designing-kids-not-really/ https://www.outboxonline.com/childrens-book-author-websites-designing-kids-not-really/#respond Thu, 02 Nov 2017 12:15:29 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=46204

I love working on children’s book author websites — often there are beautiful illustrations, a sense of humor, and great colors to work with. And while many aspects of creating a website for children’s books are similar to any author or book website, (like providing information about the book & authors, letting people purchase it
Read more

The post Children’s Book Author Websites: Designing for Kids, but Not Really appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>

I love working on children’s book author websites — often there are beautiful illustrations, a sense of humor, and great colors to work with. And while many aspects of creating a website for children’s books are similar to any author or book website, (like providing information about the book & authors, letting people purchase it easily, and introducing the authors) there’s another level at play…

Children's Book Website Design

Consider who you’re designing for.

The important thing to consider with children’s books, like with any book, is that you have to understand the target audience.  And it’s not really kids.  As an example: kids themselves aren’t going to do a Google search for, “great children’s books,” but you know who will?  People like educators, parents, librarians, publishers and retailers.

So while lots of thought goes into the design of the book itself to appeal to kids, a different kind of thought needs to go into the design of the corresponding website so that it gets into the right kids’ hands & appeals to a broader audience.

Children's Book Website Design

Don’t overegg the pudding.

Websites for children’s books take their visual cues from the books themselves, and often there are great images to work with.  Sometimes some subtle animation can work really well to bring that to life, but I’d advise against things like music that plays automatically upon opening the page or using “baby language” or other attempts to set a child-like tone.   Rather than enhancing the experience of, say, the librarian who is visiting your website, that kind of thing will just muddy the message, and get in the way of any helpful content you want them to take away to bring your book to more children.

If you have extras to offer, like quizzes or short stories or videos, those will likely appeal to kids & you should absolutely include them, but remember they’ll most often get into the hands of kids via an adult in their life.

Children's Book Website Design

Set yourself up for site visits.

If you want to do school or library visits, make it really easy for people to find out how to engage you.  Make it easy to contact you (or the appropriate party), provide information about where you’re willing to go, and what (if anything) you’ll need when you get there.  You’ll also want to include information about what you can speak about, and the value of your work.

Children's Book Website Design

So don’t throw the rules of good design out the window just because you’re designing a website for a children’s author, just figure out how to adapt the rules so that you’re positioning children’s books in the best light possible for the right people.

And remember, a 3-year-old child is very different than a 9-year-old child — so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.  You need to tailor the visual & content experience to the audience you’re trying to reach.  Make sure to enumerate the developmental benefits of your work, and how much fun it is to read.  A parent or educator will want to know why your book is different.  Or, if it follows in the footsteps of old favorites, why it will tick those same boxes.

And above all else, even with the focus on the audience and message, have fun.  Nobody wants a website for a children’s book to be a downer.  This doesn’t mean you have to forego elegance & clean design, but immersing yourself in fun is what children’s books are all about, and you want the websites that support them to provide that experience too.

The post Children’s Book Author Websites: Designing for Kids, but Not Really appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>
https://www.outboxonline.com/childrens-book-author-websites-designing-kids-not-really/feed/ 0
Self-Published Author Websites: Your Website as Part of Your Platform https://www.outboxonline.com/self-published-author-websites-website-part-platform/ https://www.outboxonline.com/self-published-author-websites-website-part-platform/#respond Thu, 26 Oct 2017 08:15:54 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=46068

Self-published author websites have different needs than websites for authors with traditional publishers.  As a self-published author you might be looking for a traditional publisher, an agent, and/or to create a community of readers interested in your existing & future work.  Or, you might just want to go the indie route because it appeals to
Read more

The post Self-Published Author Websites: Your Website as Part of Your Platform appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>

Self-published author websites have different needs than websites for authors with traditional publishers.  As a self-published author you might be looking for a traditional publisher, an agent, and/or to create a community of readers interested in your existing & future work.  Or, you might just want to go the indie route because it appeals to you.  There are lots of reasons for self-publishing your work, but no matter your reason, you need a successful author platform to get (and keep) things off the ground.

With a traditional publisher, your publishing team will most likely guide you through not only the creation of your book, but also your marketing & publicity campaign.  They’ll manage distribution, book sales, appearances/interviews, and they might even manage the creation of your website, your social media platforms and your mailing list.  They have the connections & budget to streamline your release and make sure everything is in place how & when it needs to be ready.  When I am hired by a traditional publisher to create an author website, lots of decisions have already been made about the author brand and messaging.  But when I work with a self-published author, it’s only about half the time that my client even knows what decisions need to be made.  And this is part of what I love about my job … helping self-published authors determine what’s right for them and their book(s).

So what are some things self-published authors need to think about with regards to their author platform & website?  Here’s a quick list:

  • You need a website.  If you’re considering whether you can just have a Facebook page or an amazing Instagram feed or a killer Amazon author page, the answer is no.  And here’s why: You want to own and control all of the information about your content and your audience as a self-published author.  From your domain name, to the links to your information, to your mailing list, to your images and text, you should be able to change anything at any time, and you should be able to count on it being there.  While it’s unlikely that a company like Facebook would suddenly fold, what if they make a new (stupid) rule about how Facebook pages operate?  What if the bit.ly URL shortener goes belly up?  What if you’re getting ready to release a new book and some service is down for maintenance?  You can create a great Facebook page & Instagram feed on top of  your website, and you can/should even integrate them into your website, but ultimately everything should funnel back to your site.
  • Turning visitors into fans.  Creating highly searchable content on your website is a great way to make new people aware of your work.  In addition to social media promotion that links back to your site, each site visit from a unique user is an opportunity to create a new fan.  So how do you do that?  You create value for them, and you capture their email address so you can let them know when something new is available.  You might create value by demonstrating (visually & through text) how entertaining your books are, how much they’ll learn from you, or how you can improve their lives.  And you can capture email addresses via a mailing list and/or a blog subscription.  And then you follow through — you share valuable information, you entertain, you alert them when exclusive content is available, you create extras like audio files or videos or short stories you can share with them.  These are the things that keep people engaged, coming back for more, and willing to share what they love about you with their friends.  Your goal is not just to sell books, but also to create ongoing marketing opportunities so that you have a sustainable business/career, not just one successful book.
  • Selling books.  As a self-published author, you are not only responsible for your author brand & reputation, but also for your book sales.  You might be using a service that packages distribution with creation (CreateSpace).  Or you might list your book with a behemoth like Amazon.  Or you might want to sell directly with a service (Gumroad) or your own e-commerce solution (WooCommerce).  Or, you might use some combination of these options.  But you do want to think of a working strategy for how to attract the right people to your book, and also get it into their hands.  Successful self-published authors generally don’t rely on only one avenue, they have many.  So as you move from book production into book marketing, consider format (ebook vs print) and retailers, but also consider how you might package your offerings.  Your fans should be able to buy your individual books, but what about selling a whole series?  That way you’re leveraging not only your new work, but also your previous work into sales.  What about partnering up with other authors in a similar genre and selling a collection?  That way you can share the cost of promotion & bring your books to a new audience.  What about packaging a seasonal short story with a previous release just before a new release & offering a coupon code?  That way an existing fan can read the short story, and share the previous book with a friend.  These ideas, and many others, will help get your work into the hands of new and old fans alike.  And your author website allows you to create a landing pad to centralize and promote information about these kinds of offerings.

As a self-published author, you have many hats to wear, and you want to make sure the time you’re investing in your writing career is going towards creating a lasting & successful platform.  Creating a successful self-published author website will not only result in making your current book a success, but also your future books, and the time in between books.  This is a long game that is really about the relationship between you and your readers, so set yourself up with a way to manage that relationship so that everybody wins.

 

The post Self-Published Author Websites: Your Website as Part of Your Platform appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>
https://www.outboxonline.com/self-published-author-websites-website-part-platform/feed/ 0
How to Make Your Author Website a Success https://www.outboxonline.com/how-to-make-your-author-website-a-success/ https://www.outboxonline.com/how-to-make-your-author-website-a-success/#respond Thu, 12 Oct 2017 22:27:05 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=45923

Success … everybody wants it, but few know how to get there easily!  I create author websites for a living, and at the start of each project I work with my clients to gather a bunch of information about what they’re looking to create, and most importantly, why.  This is because knowing what they’re trying
Read more

The post How to Make Your Author Website a Success appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>

Success … everybody wants it, but few know how to get there easily!  I create author websites for a living, and at the start of each project I work with my clients to gather a bunch of information about what they’re looking to create, and most importantly, why.  This is because knowing what they’re trying to achieve in a broader sense means that every decision we make in creating the site — visual, functional, or content-driven — is measured against whether it’ll help make their author website achieve their definition of success.

As an author building a website, or really, anyone doing anything, if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, then all your decisions will either be arbitrary, or even worse, based on someone else’s definition of success.

This isn’t to say that most people don’t have some definition of success in mind when they start on a project like becoming an author.  Most do, and it’s something like, “sell lots of books!” or “find a traditional publisher!” or “boost my consulting career!”  These kinds of very broad measures of success are important — they serve to point you in the right direction when you’re at the very beginning.  But as you approach milestones like what kind of information you want to include in your author or book site, and how it should look, you absolutely have to get more granular than that.  Otherwise, how will you know whether you’re on the path to success?

I recommend coming up with a list of goals. It might look something like this:

  • You generate over $1500/month in income from book sales and webinars
  • You save time doing something you don’t like, so you have more time for activities you do like
  • Your audience grows by more than 5% a month on average
  • Your mailing list reaches 2500+ subscribers
  • More people contact you about working with you

Obviously, your mileage may vary, depending on what you write about and how that fits into your overall career… but in essence you want to make a list of real, tangible milestones you can achieve.  Milestones that are smaller & more specific than, “become a best-selling author!” And you’ll adjust this list and add to it as time goes on.

The reason it’s important to have this list first, before you do anything else, is that it should help drive your research & priorities.  If you know of another author (and it doesn’t have to be an author, it could just be another professional) who has met, and/or surpassed your goals, you can take steps to discover how they did it.  Of course the fickle hand of fate will always be a wildcard, but you can glean tremendous amounts of information by just looking at how these successful folks present themselves:

  • What kind of design do they use? What’s the overall tone & feeling?
  • What kind of content do they have, and how do they present their most important messages?
  • Do they leave out anything you consider critical?
  • Do they include something you don’t consider important?
  • How do they help you believe what they’re saying?
  • What are their headshots and other photos like?
  • How do they seem to spend their marketing time? What’s their social media engagement?
  • Do they offer complimentary services like webinars or consulting?

… and the list goes on.  But here’s the important thing: it’s important to recognize that just because someone uses a specific color, font, language, or layout doesn’t mean that if you do the same thing you’ll get the same result.  It’s simply not the case that you can take a component from one person, add a couple from another, and even more from a third, mix them up, and expect to be successful.  It just doesn’t work that way.  You might see some great ideas out there, but if the reason they exist is to meet a goal that isn’t on your list, it’s just a pretty distraction.  You want to notice things like, “oh, look, their mailing list signup is right at the top of the page and their content really makes me want to signup so I don’t miss out!” … rather than, “oh, look, they have a photo of themselves on the beach wearing red, so I need to do the same thing!”  You can easily make your mailing list signup the most prominent thing on your landing page and do a little testing to find out what kind of messaging makes people want to subscribe, but maybe the image you use has nothing to do with wearing red on the beach because your audience would respond better to something else.  The distinction can be tricky, but it’s very important.

And if translating your goals into a design seems impossible, even after you do your research & analysis, this is where you ask for help.  Good designers not only have the skill set to make things beautiful, but also to help identify how to translate your goals into a finished product.  And if you come prepared with your goals defined, it’ll make working together much more efficient (which impacts your budget) and they’ll be able to make decisions & recommendations that will help you achieve the success you’re after.  Letting someone else define your goals for you, even if they’ve got lots of experience & the best intentions, will always leave you feeling a bit of unease.  While someone else can help you clarify & articulate what you’re hoping to achieve, you want your definition of success to be your own, and you want to completely understand what it means to you.

Sometimes, if you’re not meeting your goals, in addition to adjusting the design of your author site to make sure it’s looking & working the way you want, you also want to look at the goals themselves to make sure they’re specific enough to be achievable.

The post How to Make Your Author Website a Success appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>
https://www.outboxonline.com/how-to-make-your-author-website-a-success/feed/ 0
Author Websites For the Busy Author https://www.outboxonline.com/author-websites/ https://www.outboxonline.com/author-websites/#respond Tue, 21 Mar 2017 06:35:08 +0000 http://www.outboxonline.com/?p=34057

Many of the author websites I create are for authors who write as a second career.  Sometimes it’s something completely different than how they earn a living and they love that it balances their day job — the financial advisor who writes historic fiction for example.  Other times it’s a segue to retirement and something they’ve wanted
Read more

The post Author Websites For the Busy Author appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>

Many of the author websites I create are for authors who write as a second career.  Sometimes it’s something completely different than how they earn a living and they love that it balances their day job — the financial advisor who writes historic fiction for example.  Other times it’s a segue to retirement and something they’ve wanted to do for a long time.  And for others it’s a part of their overall expertise — like the college professor who publishes nonfiction in their area of focus.

These folks have one thing in common, which is that they don’t have lots of time to dedicate to their author website.  They won’t be adding content to it all the time via a blog, they might not publish books that often so there won’t be teasers for their next book, and they don’t have time for lots of upkeep.  But they still need an author site to showcase their books, provide contact information, and tell people about themselves.

Lots of advice you’ll read (including here) encourages authors to take the job of book marketing seriously.  After all, if you’re not going to do it & you’re not going to pay someone else to do it, you’re not going to get very far in getting your book to a new audience.  This often involves spending lots of time on social media, being in the business of content creation, growing your mailing list(s), and mining your data to find out which of your efforts are most successful to guide you for the future.  But what if you’re okay with the audience you already have, or you want to get started simply with an eye towards investing more in the future, or you don’t want to become the next Stephen King, you just want to sell a few books?  That’s okay!  That’s the nice thing about websites, they can be one thing today, and another thing tomorrow — so don’t let it keep you from getting started.

So, how do you create an author website that’s easy to maintain?  What do you include and what do you leave out?  Here are some tips…

  1. Make sure your name is in the header.  This is an easy one, but unless there’s a very good reason, your author website should have your name in the header & it should also be your URL.  Don’t make things complicated for yourself by using a business name (that might change) or adding a tagline (that might become obsolete).
  2. Feature the book(s) prominently, but simply.  Include a cover image, the title, a short description, and a link to purchase the book on Amazon (and if you want, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, IndieBound & Books-a-Million).  If you have a great blurb, use that too.  Of course there are LOTS of other things you might include, but you might not have time to be generating PDF excerpts or audio clips or book trailer videos right now.
  3. Introduce yourself. As an author you want a good headshot (even if you’re just starting out), and some short bio text.  Focus less on things like whether you’re married and where you live, and more on why you like writing the stuff that you do, and (if relevant) what makes you qualified.
  4. Let people get in touch with you easily.  Provide an email address, and if you have a social media profile that you use regularly (like a Twitter account) link to that too.
  5. Use an easy & low-maintenance platform.  If you’re already familiar with WordPress, that’s a great fit because their one-click updates (like the apps on your phone) are super easy to do, and it gives you the option for easy growth in the future.  If not, look for one of the other long-standing, well-supported website creation platforms like SquareSpace — you’ll get fewer options, but fewer options means fewer things to think about.

And that’s it!  I tell my clients all the time: “The more complicated you make something, the more complicated it will be.”  It’s more important to get clear with yourself about what you do and do not have time for, and to spend your valuable time creating something simple & sustainable, than it is to create something with lots of bells and whistles that you can’t maintain.  Don’t forget — you can always change things in the future as you have more time to dedicate to it!

The post Author Websites For the Busy Author appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>
https://www.outboxonline.com/author-websites/feed/ 0
The Best Book Website Design – Bringing Your Book to Life https://www.outboxonline.com/the-best-book-website-design-bringing-your-book-to-life/ https://www.outboxonline.com/the-best-book-website-design-bringing-your-book-to-life/#respond Fri, 03 Feb 2017 23:56:00 +0000 http://www.outboxonline.com/?p=30086

Unlike an author website, which I’ve written about before, a book website features one book (or sometimes a series) and focuses on the world of that book.  Creating a book website allows you to optimize searchability throughout the site for the title & genre, and really allows you to create an immersive experience from top-to-bottom.
Read more

The post The Best Book Website Design – Bringing Your Book to Life appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>

Unlike an author website, which I’ve written about before, a book website features one book (or sometimes a series) and focuses on the world of that book.  Creating a book website allows you to optimize searchability throughout the site for the title & genre, and really allows you to create an immersive experience from top-to-bottom.

So what do the best book websites have in common?  How do they bring the book to life online?  Here are 3 tips…

1. Create a unified visual experience.

What do I mean by that?  I mean that the book cover art seamlessly coordinates with the website design, which is an extension of that design.  This creates an immersive experience for the site visitor, which is a wordless way to help them understand what kind of book you’ve written.  Is it dark & moody?  Is it young & playful?  Is it professional & forward-thinking?

Here are some examples:

Value of Water Book Website DesignThis project was created for a book about the value of water as it becomes a more scarce resource worldwide.   It’s a collection of essays by experts in their field, and written for an audience of business professionals, government agencies and the technology/engineering sector.  The site is clean, and visually is a clear extension of the brand.


Author Website Design for Kelly ParsonsThis book site for Kelly Parsons was created for the first in a series of medical thriller books. The site design pulls visual elements not only from the book cover, but also from hospital passageways.  It is dark & mysterious but still allows the book to be the star of the show.


Book Website Design for David PotterThis young-adult historical fiction series covers some critical parts of America’s history, but with a fresh time-travel twist for today’s YA readers. The site design borrows some patriotic elements, but presents them in a modern way. The beautiful color illustrations influenced the subtle background textures in use on the site too.


2. Add extras.

This might be videos, or additional images like photos or illustrations, or an audio excerpt, or character profiles — whatever makes sense for your book.  For prospective readers this gives them a good idea of what they’ll get out of buying your book.  For existing readers it gives them something to share with others, spreading the word about your book to their friends.  If you’re creating a site for a nonfiction book, featuring success stories or case studies is a great idea.

3. Feature blurbs/reviews.

It’s a proven sales technique that when you’ve got a prospective buyer looking at what you offer, telling them about other people’s positive experiences can help seal the deal.  Don’t hide these away on a reviews page, and make it a priority to get some ahead of your site launch.  If you’re lucky enough to get some from someone with name recognition, that’s great — it’ll allow you to leverage the “if you liked this, then you’ll also like…” sentiment.  If not, no worries — just keep them short & focused.  If you don’t have any and need to launch your site, then use a quote from you or from the book as a placeholder.  This is especially important for non-fiction, but critical for fiction as well.

Summary

Bringing your book to life on the web doesn’t have to be complicated & costly. You just need to think through how best to leverage the visual assets you have at your disposal, and to reinforce the theme of your book in the design and content of the site. Keep it simple, and don’t try to do too much on any one page. And above all else, make it easy to buy your book. If you’ve done a good job and people want to read what you’ve written, make it really (really!) easy for them to do it.

The post The Best Book Website Design – Bringing Your Book to Life appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>
https://www.outboxonline.com/the-best-book-website-design-bringing-your-book-to-life/feed/ 0
4 Important Tips for Creating Author Website Priorities https://www.outboxonline.com/tips-for-author-website-priorities/ https://www.outboxonline.com/tips-for-author-website-priorities/#respond Tue, 17 Jan 2017 06:11:57 +0000 http://www.outboxonline.com/?p=8807

The thing I help my clients with the most, beyond actually designing & building their websites, is in helping them articulate why they want to have an author website in the first place.  Many people know they need to have a website for their business, and many have a general idea that they want it to
Read more

The post 4 Important Tips for Creating Author Website Priorities appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>

The thing I help my clients with the most, beyond actually designing & building their websites, is in helping them articulate why they want to have an author website in the first place.  Many people know they need to have a website for their business, and many have a general idea that they want it to attract more customers, but they don’t always know how to translate their brand into a website.  And beyond that, they don’t know how to determine what shape it should take to achieve more sales — otherwise known as their author website priorities.

The process of establishing and translating your goals into a website is a mixture of the following:

  • Identifying & understanding your target audience.
  • Knowing what you bring to the table for that audience and what makes your solution unique/desirable.
  • Figuring out the best way to help those people become your customers.
  • Knowing what not to include / keeping the message focused.

The problem is that as you start to think about this, you often come up with lots of ideas and lots of solutions — and if you implement all of them you’ll end up with a jumbled mess.  So how do you narrow things down so that you have a strategic plan for your site?

Let’s take the above points one at a time:

1. Identifying & understanding your target audience.

I often work with authors who tell me their audience is, “everyone who reads.”  While I admire their desire appeal to anyone who might pick up a book, it’s never actually true.  It’s too broad an audience, and therefore not valuable.  Audiences for fiction and non-fiction alike break out by gender, age, education, region, income, and other more specific guidelines like interests and communities.  And the more you dig in to understand who buys the kinds of books that you write, and most importantly, WHY they buy the books that you write, the better job you’re going to do appealing to those people.

The driving force behind their book buying might be entertainment, or education, or price, or some combination of all of those.  A fiction reader with an interest in military history is likely looking for something different than a fiction reader looking for a light romp for their summer vacation.  Sure, they both enjoy fiction, but it’s what else you know about them that will allow you to make decisions about how to design and create your website.  Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and really analyze what’s important to them.

If you need a starting point, look at authors who write comparable books — read their reviews on Amazon, look at their cover designs, analyze their marketing copy, look at their websites — take notes about what strikes you about how they communicate with their readership, and how those people communicate back to them.  Keep in mind, however, that while it’s valuable to know what similar authors are doing, you can’t measure your own success against someone else’s yardstick. You want to gather information about them to help you form your own strategy, not adopt someone else’s strategy in total.  If you don’t understand what you’re trying to do for yourself, it’s a sure way to waste time and money.

“Sometimes questions are more important than answers.”
― Nancy Willard

2. What makes your solution unique/desirable, or what will you do for them?

At some point I’m sure you’ve been shopping for something you’ve purchased before — maybe a new spatula.  You go to the spatula section of your local big box store and are overwhelmed with the choices.  Who knew there were so many spatulas?!  You take in how they look, maybe you read the labels explaining things about how they won’t scratch your pan or help you flip eggs or whatever else is important for spatulas to do, you look at the price & the brands you like — and then you make a decision and walk away with a spatula.  If you went shopping online, you probably also read reviews of other people’s experience with the spatula.

Maybe you took a chance on a brand you haven’t used before, maybe the lowest price won, or maybe you picked the one that you liked the look of best — regardless, you quickly took in a bunch of information and made a decision.  The same is true for your readers.  If you write cozy mysteries, you know there are lots of choices out there for readers to choose from — going back decades — so what makes your stories unique?  Do they take place in an unusual location?  Do you offer historical context, or romance, or time travel in the mix?  Figuring out this special selling point is critical to your success.  Not only does it give you something to focus on in your branding, but it allows you to better communicate with interested parties about what they’ll get out of choosing your book over someone else’s.  And that right there is your special sauce.  A hamburger was a hamburger until special sauce came along.

“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.”
― Mary Kay Ash

3. Figuring out the best way to help those people become your customers.

To answer this question you need to look at three things:

  1. Where/how does your target audience buy and consume books?  You want to be where your customers are — if you make people work too hard, they’re going to bail.  Or worse still, they’re never going to find you in the first place.If your book is a series, make it easy for people to buy the next copy, like binge-watching on Netflix.  What about giving an incentive like a discounted price for buying a packaged series of books?  Can you partner up with other, similar authors to promote each other’s books or team up in a crossover?  Is creating a holiday story a good idea for a seasonal boost?  What about specially issued short stories between books released only to your mailing list or Facebook followers?  Or a discount code for friends to share?  These should not only be on marketed on your website, but also on social and your Amazon author page and all your other outlets.
  2. How easy it is to acquire your book?  Wherever you talk about your book, include a link to purchase it.  Eventually, everything you do online should lead back to buying your book — so don’t make that difficult for people.  Make it really easy on your site, on social, in your newsletters, on your blog, etc…  And if people liked reading your book and said a few nice words in a review, share that far and wide!  Endorsements from peers is a huge driver of sales, and can often get people of the hurdle of, “should I really spend money on this?”If you’re investing in things like appearances and events, make sure it’s easy for people to book you for those appearances — don’t make your contact information hard to find, for example.  And bring along not only books to sign, but perhaps also promotional bookmarks with a discount code on them.Also consider the best way for your audience to consume your book — perhaps you don’t need a hardback version and just an ebook will do nicely?  Do you want to be both on the Kindle & Nook?  If you are doing a physical book, what dimensions will work best for the lives of your target audience?
  3. Engage!  Successful authors engage with their readership — they don’t just publish a book and hope for the best.  Their marketing and messaging are targeted — they invest in discovering where their existing and potential audience spend time, and show up in those places to let people know about their book.  And I don’t mean just spamming them with advertising — I mean engaging in meaningful interactions to answer questions, or providing entertainment as a guest blogger, or hosting a giveaway, or sharing information on their characters, etc..If you don’t have a marketing team behind you to guide your efforts, that’s okay — just be strategic about spending your time where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck.  Don’t try to be everywhere all the time or you’ll burn out quickly.

“Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.”
― John D. Rockefeller

4. Don’t muddy the message.

There can only be 1 top priority for all things.  Trying to do everything at the same time isn’t a strategy, it’s a lack of strategy.  Websites that try to call your attention to too many things at the same time end up calling attention to nothing in particular.  Don’t worry so much about what you might miss by focusing on one thing above the others — instead think about what you’ll gain by being focused on what’s most important.

If your most important goal is to sell your book, strip away everything that gets in the way of that goal.  To do that you need to know what’s working and what’s not — so mine your Facebook or Twitter data, look at Google Analytics, and discover everything you can about what’s resulting in book sales — then get rid of  (or work on) what’s not working.  If your newsletter converts much more than your Twitter account, then you know where to spend your time.  Maybe a little more investment in something will pay off in the end, or maybe it won’t — but you won’t know unless you look at the data.

If your newsletter is your best sales tool, you can still write your author blog and spend time on social, but when you present your newsletter signup on your website it should be far more visually prominent than your Instagram profile link or your latest blog post.

Prioritizing your goals helps you have something to measure all decisions against.  When you’re faced with a decision about design or copy, whatever best serves your first priority wins.  Easy peasy.  If you avoid prioritizing, you won’t be clear, nor will your customers.

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”
― Bruce Lee

You can read more tips about how to figure out what you don’t need on your author website here.

***

And overall, keep in mind that goals aren’t about style, but about substance.  If you have a gorgeous website, but it doesn’t meet your goals, it doesn’t matter how beautiful it is.  Think about how it’s put together not only for your customers, but also for you to be able to update it easily, and for search engines to be able to search it easily.   Don’t be afraid to change — something you learn along the way might have you change course in the future, and that’s good — responding to a changing market is a large part of continued success.

So get out there and figure out who you’re selling to, how you’ll appeal to them, and stay focused on what’s working!  You can read more about figuring out your author platform here, and what pages you might include in your author website here.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
― Albert Einstein

The post 4 Important Tips for Creating Author Website Priorities appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>
https://www.outboxonline.com/tips-for-author-website-priorities/feed/ 0
Blogging for Authors 101 – How a Blog Can Help Bring New Readers to your Books https://www.outboxonline.com/blogging-for-authors-how-a-blog-can-help-bring-new-readers-to-your-books/ https://www.outboxonline.com/blogging-for-authors-how-a-blog-can-help-bring-new-readers-to-your-books/#respond Wed, 07 Dec 2016 09:35:15 +0000 http://www.outboxonline.com/?p=27277

I have a similar conversation with lots of my author website clients — it starts a little something like this: “Do I really need a blog? I have no idea what I’d write about!” Sound familiar? Lots of authors feel this way — despite choosing to be writers, they don’t see the value in writing
Read more

The post Blogging for Authors 101 – How a Blog Can Help Bring New Readers to your Books appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>

I have a similar conversation with lots of my author website clients — it starts a little something like this: “Do I really need a blog? I have no idea what I’d write about!”

Sound familiar? Lots of authors feel this way — despite choosing to be writers, they don’t see the value in writing for a blog, and don’t know what they might write about that people would care to read.

I think it’s important to reframe the question a little bit, and to do that you first have to understand what a blog can bring to the table for your exposure online:

our site is made up of a bunch of pages — the Home page, your About page, a Press page, a Contact page, etc…   and ideally you’ve considered what your keywords might be for those pages so that when people search for things online, and your offering is a good fit, your site comes up in search results.  It’s, of course, more complicated by things like how popular your site is, where it’s linked from, and how many people are searching for your phrases & how often, but that’s the gist of it.  As an author, one of your key phrases might be about your genre, like “Historical Romance set in WWII”, or it might be about your characters, like “book with strong female protagonist”, or it might be topical, like, “book about learning a new language in retirement”.  At the end of the day, those phrases are things that people are likely to search for, and search engines will match up searches with your site if they’re in place.  Where blog posts come in is that you’re only going to have a few key phrases that you can use on your site — one for each of your pages.  Imagine if you could have lots and lots, though — ones that are a little more specific, or for a subsection of your audience, or on a very particular subject?  Well, that’s what blog posts allow you to do.  Each blog post, just like the pages on your site, should have a key phrase (or topic) — and that phrase should be in the post’s title (and therefore URL), and in its text as well.  Over time, even if you don’t write blog posts that often, you’ll end up with a sizable repository of keyword-rich content that will bring more search traffic to your site.

ut what about the 2nd part — the part about, “but what do I write about?!”   The answer to this question has more to do with what you LIKE to write about.  If you like chatting with other people about the writing process, and your readership is interested in how you come up with your characters and what they’re based on, then write about that.  If you like researching your stories and find lots of interesting tidbits online that your readership would value, then write about that.  If you write nonfiction and there are interesting developments in your industry, write about that.  But no matter what you write about, make sure it’s something you’re interested in.  There’s little worse than reading a blog by someone who clearly doesn’t want to be writing it, or doesn’t put any of their personality into it at all.  And beyond writing about those topical things, make sure you’re also writing about events that you go to where you did a reading or signed books at a convention or met readers.  Share photos of those circumstances — people will be more interested in what you’re doing if they feel like you are including them in what’s happening.

There’s also commonly a follow-up question, which is: “Where does social media fit into this?”

If you think of your website as a repository of information that you can point people to, either directly via your URL or by search, then social media is the way you tell people about it and have conversations about it.  For example, let’s say you write about blog post about how you came up with a popular character — maybe you share the inspiration behind the character and some images you found that helped you flesh them out — once that blog post is published you then go to your Facebook page or Twitter profile or Instagram profile and you tell people about that blog post and link back to it.  If it’s a visual platform, like Instagram or Pinterest, maybe you share an photo of the inspiration board you created or some notes you took.  To encourage engagement (ie: comments) you can ask a question when you post, like, “what’s your favorite thing about this character?”.  Once you have enough of a following (because you’re sharing interesting content) then hopefully people are sharing and liking your posts to bring even more people to your books.

Something that often helps me better understand how I might take advice and put it into practice is to see examples — with that in mind, here are some examples of authors with great blogs:

The post Blogging for Authors 101 – How a Blog Can Help Bring New Readers to your Books appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>
https://www.outboxonline.com/blogging-for-authors-how-a-blog-can-help-bring-new-readers-to-your-books/feed/ 0
Authors on the Web – There is No One-Size-Fits-All Author Platform https://www.outboxonline.com/authors-on-the-web-website-author-platform/ https://www.outboxonline.com/authors-on-the-web-website-author-platform/#respond Wed, 24 Aug 2016 09:02:08 +0000 http://www.outboxonline.com/?p=22238

I give lots of advice on this blog to authors on the web.  It’s because I make my living building websites and recommending how to create successful author platforms, so I’ve seen lots of examples of what can be successful and what might not work as well — and I like sharing information for the
Read more

The post Authors on the Web – There is No One-Size-Fits-All Author Platform appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>

I give lots of advice on this blog to authors on the web.  It’s because I make my living building websites and recommending how to create successful author platforms, so I’ve seen lots of examples of what can be successful and what might not work as well — and I like sharing information for the sake of others.  Many of my blog posts are based on questions I’m frequently asked by my clients — and lots of them offer up recommendations preceded by “it depends.”

And this is because there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to author websites & platforms.  Yes, there’s often minimum criteria for the kinds of content you want to include, and yes, there are solutions out there that package “best of” functionality, but I often hear from author clients that they don’t fit neatly into these offerings.  So what’s an author to do?  Especially one who isn’t represented by a big publishing house with lots of resources, is just getting started, or has a limited budget.

My advice is two-fold:

1. Take everything you read about from experts (including myself) into consideration, and figure out what’s right for YOU.  I’ve written about strategizing your author website here — and the principle is the same.  If you hear/read advice and it doesn’t apply to you, or you’re working off of a checklist that someone else created and ticking boxes just to make sure they’re ticked, your not really considering the best strategy for what you want to achieve.  Absolutely there are lessons to be learned from the success of others, but like with everything else in life, everyone is unique.  Figuring out your own strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, goals and strategies (in a realistic way) isn’t something woowoo — it’s just thinking through why certain features or content might be utilized, then identifying the ones that are best for you.  If you need help to think that through and have someone give you objective feedback, you can easily hire consultants who will do that with you.

And even if you do hire an expert to help you, you’ll want to do the simple exercise of writing down your own checklist for what’s important to you for your project — here are some examples of what might be on that list:

  • Raise your author profile and enhance searchability
  • Connect with your audience to build community
  • Establish a speaking career associated with your expertise
  • Drive sales of your book
  • Find a publisher

And there are lots of ways to go about achieving those kinds of goals, and figuring out the best way for you make look different than someone else.  This may be because of the time you have available, your skill set, your budget, or where your audience is.  But if you know why you want to do something it makes it much easier to determine whether a potential solution is right for you.

2. When you’re evaluating a solution to figure out if it’s a good fit for you, try to identify the features you know you want to have and consider whether the way in which they’re presented is a good fit.  Here’s an example:  If you’re looking at an author template and you’re a big Twitter user — meaning you have a big following there and are regularly engaged with your audience — and all the theme offers is a the little bird icon in the header that links to your profile, then it might not be a good option.  This is because there are other templates that have a built-in Twitter feed that show your posts right there on the page in an attractive way and allow Twitter users to follow you without leaving your site.  So while the author template says it offers social media integration, it’s not the kind of integration that will serve you best.

And while flexibility with it comes to the visual design of the site — such as color theme options or font options — are nice, they’re less important than functionality that will serve you well.  So certainly don’t discount how a prospective solution looks, but don’t let that be your only consideration.

***

Figuring out your strategy involves putting on a marketing hat, which isn’t always a favorite activity for writers, so I encourage you to think about it the way you strategize the writing of your book — along the way you need to figure out how to create the desired outcome of your story by leaving things out or reordering or rewriting — all with an eye towards creating an overall experience that will resonate with your audience.  Everything that remains serves the story — you think about what you want the story to be, then you figure out how to get there.  The process of creating your author platform is no different.  Investing in the time & thought needed to create your strategy, and re-evaluating periodically, will never be wasted.  But moving forward into creating a platform that you don’t fully understand or that doesn’t serve you well is time that’s difficult to get back.

The post Authors on the Web – There is No One-Size-Fits-All Author Platform appeared first on Outbox Online.

]]>
https://www.outboxonline.com/authors-on-the-web-website-author-platform/feed/ 0