Outbox Online https://www.outboxonline.com Sat, 18 Aug 2018 15:33:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Integrating Instagram into Your Author Website Design https://www.outboxonline.com/integrating-instagram-into-your-author-website-design/ https://www.outboxonline.com/integrating-instagram-into-your-author-website-design/#respond Sat, 28 Jul 2018 00:02:14 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=50576

I recently wrote about How to Use Instagram as an Author, showing examples of what kind of content you might share, and why it’s valuable to you as part of your author platform. Today I’m going to talk about how you can integrate your Instagram feed into your website, and why you should consider doing
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I recently wrote about How to Use Instagram as an Author, showing examples of what kind of content you might share, and why it’s valuable to you as part of your author platform.

Today I’m going to talk about how you can integrate your Instagram feed into your website, and why you should consider doing it to extend your author brand:

1. Displaying your feed.
Your Instagram feed is the collection of images that make up your posts to Instagram over time.  And there are widgets you can add to your WordPress website that allow you to display them in multiple configurations.  Each time you post to your Instagram feed, it’s automatically updated on your website.  This is a great way to add visual content to your site, let people know you’re actively engaged in your platform, and to easily follow you on IG if they find your website first — all without having to do any extra effort once it’s in place.

Here’s an example for author Piper J. Drake’s website:

Instagram for Authors

And here’s an example from Madeline L’Engle’s website:

Authors Using Instagram

2. Embedding a post.
You can take any Instagram post and embed it directly on a page or post of your site.  This works well if you have a post about your book launch, a great award win or review that you’d like to share for awhile on your website.

Here’s an example of an Instagram post someone created about author Jill Eisenstadt’s book, Swell:

Which we added to Jill’s site on the Swell book page: http://jilleisenstadt.com/books/swell/

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Instagram for Your Author Website DesignSo, why do you want to integrate Instagram into your author website design? First, I’m a huge fan of taking advantage of any work you can do once, and then use multiple times over. If you’re already investing time in cultivating a great Instagram following as part of your author platform, then make sure as many people know about it as possible; not just via Instagram itself, but by sharing it to anyone who lands on your site.

Second, it shows that you’re engaged with your projects and willing to participate in an online community with your existing and potential audience, especially those under 40. Any author with a compelling social media presence is much more likely to stay in a reader’s mind than one who doesn’t have one.

And lastly, it’s visual content. Sometimes it’s less obvious what visual elements besides book cover art can be added to an author website, but since Instagram is a visual medium, it gives you the opportunity to display visual content that reinforces your brand without using the same image over and over again.

Some Instagram widgets come packaged with WordPress themes, and others you install separately as plugins, but all are relatively easy to use and integrate into your site.

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How to Use Instagram as an Author https://www.outboxonline.com/how-to-use-instagram-as-an-author/ https://www.outboxonline.com/how-to-use-instagram-as-an-author/#respond Fri, 13 Jul 2018 14:26:43 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=50481

If you’re an author and you haven’t yet started your Instagram account, it’s time! It’s still the fastest-growing social media platform, often used daily (if not multiple times a day) by its users. In addition, Instagram has hundreds of millions of active users per month, and fully one third of those users have purchased something
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If you’re an author and you haven’t yet started your Instagram account, it’s time!

It’s still the fastest-growing social media platform, often used daily (if not multiple times a day) by its users. In addition, Instagram has hundreds of millions of active users per month, and fully one third of those users have purchased something they first discovered on the platform. Those are some compelling statistics!

(Learn more here: http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/03/01/social-media-use-in-2018/).

Instagram allows you to reach more women, and younger women especially, but it’s used by everyone, everywhere.  That means it’s a wonderful way to find your readers by using it to share your story.  So how do you use Instagram as an author?  When you work with words, what does it mean to share photos instead?
How to use Instagram as an Author

  1. It doesn’t have to be photos of you!  Many authors are reluctant to share photos of themselves online.  Some because they’re introverts, and others because they want to maintain a little separation between their work and personal lives.  And that’s okay!  You don’t have to be taking selfies constantly to have a successful Instagram account.
  2. Make it about what you love.  Do you love giving advice to other writers?  Do you love going to conferences?  Do you love breakfast foods?  Or maybe hiking is more your speed?  No matter what you love there’s a way to tie it back to your writing career, and your audience will notice when you’re sharing something you’re passionate about vs what someone told you to post. So post photos of what you love as it happens, including images of inspirational quotes you’re finding helpful in the moment, or your fans at a reading, or a meal inspired by your book’s characters, or your new book on the shelf at a store or on a reader, or meeting other authors you admire. The possibilities are endless!
  3. Promote what you’re doing, but don’t make it about that exclusively.  The best author Instagram accounts absolutely share information about their latest projects.  They might share award wins, or photos from readings, or the proofs of their newest book, or information about a beloved character, but they don’t exclusively do that.  They also mix in posts that are about their process, or their lives, or their community, and those accounts are the richer for doing that, and better received.
  4. Leverage your author brand.  Whether your books are fanciful, or thrilling, or mysterious, or hilarious, make sure your Instagram posts follow suit.  Continuity between your writing and your author platform is important, and since Instagram is a visual medium, you want to make sure you have a plan for how to extend your author brand visually.
  5. Make it easy on yourself.  If you need to spend a bunch of time staging each photo and worrying about the perfect shot, let’s face it, you’re unlikely to stick with it on any kind of schedule that will get you traction.  I’m not saying you should phone it in, but I am saying that when you think about the kind of content you want to share, factor in that something easy for you to do is much better than something really complicated.

And here are some tips for posting:

  • The best time to reach the most folks tends to be during the commute home (5-6pm).
  • When you start your new account, tell your other channels about it and encourage your audience to follow you there.
  • Get to know your hashtags.  See which ones are commonly used by authors (especially successful authors), and what the search results are like for each.
  • If you have a Facebook page or Twitter profile as an author, connect your Instagram account to it so that your Instagram posts automatically end up there.  I suggest IFTTT to connect everything up: https://ifttt.com

So who are some authors who are doing a great job on Instagram? Here are a handful I really enjoy:

A post shared by Renee Ahdieh (@reneeahdieh) on

A post shared by Lauren Sams (@laurenssams) on

A post shared by Sarah Dessen (@sdessen) on

A post shared by Gayle Forman (@gayleforman) on

A post shared by Susan Dennard (@stdennard) on

A post shared by Angie Thomas (@angiethomas) on

A post shared by Ransom Riggs (@ransomriggs) on

These accounts resonate with me because they’re engaging with their readers in an honest way, sharing stories of their lives as authors, and allowing us to get to know them a little bit as people so when their next book comes out, we’re ready to read it. And that’s what every author wants!

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Author Websites: What to Include? Revisited! https://www.outboxonline.com/best-author-websites-what-to-include-revisited/ https://www.outboxonline.com/best-author-websites-what-to-include-revisited/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 14:11:31 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=50238

Back in 2012, I wrote an article for this site titled, “Author & Book Websites: What to Include?” Lots of things have changed with the internet with respect to author websites over the last six years, so I thought it was time to revisit the topic!  What do you include in an author website these
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Back in 2012, I wrote an article for this site titled, “Author & Book Websites: What to Include?” Lots of things have changed with the internet with respect to author websites over the last six years, so I thought it was time to revisit the topic!  What do you include in an author website these days? And how is it different than what I wrote about many years ago?

As an author website designer, I routinely create the following types of sites for authors:

  1. For an author of multiple books, I create an author portfolio website that features not only their newest release, but also previous releases.  The books may be a series, or not.
  2. For an author of a single book with plans to create additional books in the future, I create an author site that showcases their current book and is set up to add additional books in the future.  Again, the books may be a series, or not.
  3. For an author of a book that is part of a larger body of work (eg: a professor, or speaker, or service-provider) I create a site that showcases their expertise, and their book as part of that.
  4. For a showcase book, either for a celebrity author or as a stand-alone project, I create a book website that helps promote that book.

Each type of site has its own strategy, whether I’m working directly with the author or the publisher, but they also share many commonalities.  Before we jump into specifics, however, let’s talk about what I consider to be the biggest things to have changed with regards to author websites in recent years:

  • Website technology has changed.  More people are viewing websites on a mobile device, and that means your author website needs to be responsive.  You may have heard the adage “mobile first” — that means that, when thinking about your site, you need to first design with that experience in mind.  Larger displays give you more flexibility to create an immersive experience relevant to your book(s) — and the design should reflect that — but it needs to work equally well for smaller devices.
  • Site visitors are more savvy.  It used to be the case that you had to consider things like website visitors not understanding how to scroll down, but with the dawn of mobile, that’s no longer a concern.  Beyond that, people are more experienced with signing up for mailing lists, subscribing to blogs, and how they share their information online in general.
  • Publishers expect authors to understand the internet.  I used to have author clients who literally said things like, “I don’t actually use the internet all that much, but I was told I need a website.”  These days, authors not only need to understand the internet in general (How it connects people with content & the value of a web presence), but also know what it means to create an author platform with a robust following.  You also need to have a strong social media presence, on whatever platform works best for you, and integrate that into your website.
  • Transparency is more important than ever.  For better or worse, our lives are increasingly tethered to each other through the internet.  We use it constantly to communicate with each other, share our experiences, perform our jobs, and so on…   This means there are increasing numbers of people who expect to be able to get to know you through your author website.  This is done in a variety of ways, including the visual design, the language you use, the photos you share, and the stories you tell.  This isn’t to say that you need to give away your deepest, darkest secrets to your readership, but you do need to be able to meet them on a human level.
  • Community interaction is a must.  There are so many ways to go about this, whether it’s a blog, Facebook group, email newsletter, Instagram stories, or even video content… but gone are the days of just putting up a simple site with your book cover and some text on it and calling it a day.  You need a strategy in place for how you’ll keep in touch with an existing and potential audience over time, how you’ll keep them engaged, and encourage them to share with their friends.

The Best Author Website ContentWhat does that mean for your author website?  What kind of content do you need to include to help your author site be a success?  Here are my recommendations:

  1. An introduction.  Whether you’ve written only one book or multiple, without an introduction, you’re missing an opportunity to connect with (and remain connected with) readers.  Consider using a great photo of yourself and telling people what kind of author you are.  As the first thing people will see, they’ll immediately understand who you are and what you do.  Here’s an example: “Firstname Lastname is a historian who specializes in early 20th century farm life in North America by bringing American Gothic to life.”  Or, perhaps: “Firstname Lastname writes intergalactic romance novels where no galaxy is large enough to contain the passions of her heroine.”
  2. Your featured project.  This is where you’ll share your just-released book (or upcoming book).  If it’s part of a series, make sure to mention that and let people know what number it is in the series.  You’ll share a shot of the book cover, the title, a great blurb/quote about the book, some short description text, plus links where people can buy it.
  3. Your other work.  If you’ve written other books, you’ll want to include those.  If you’re a consultant or offer a service (such as speaking), you’ll share information about that.  You’re sharing your expertise and successes here, so include your best testimonial excerpts along with it too.
  4. Information about you.  This is your About or Bio info, and should include a bit of a story about why you do what you do, and what you love about it.
  5. News and/or events.  If you make appearances, list those; if you won an award, share that; if your next book has a release date, let people know — you get the idea.  If you have a blog, you might share this information that way, but it needs to live somewhere on your website.
  6. Contact information.  If someone wants to interview you or offer you an opportunity, make sure it’s easy for them!  Remember, an email address is only one way people might reach you — they can also use your social media profile.
  7. A way to connect.  This can be a blog, embedded social media content, or a newsletter, but you should have some way for your readers to keep up-to-date with what you’re doing.  This can also be a place they can ask questions, share their enthusiasm for your work, and feel connected to the community of your readers.

You can achieve this on an author website with multiple pages, or on a single page — what strategy is right for you will depend on your project.  Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list as your project might have other components worthy of sharing, but it’s enough to get you started!

 

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Author Website Design for Unpublished Authors https://www.outboxonline.com/author-website-design-for-unpublished-authors/ https://www.outboxonline.com/author-website-design-for-unpublished-authors/#respond Wed, 06 Jun 2018 13:39:33 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=50126

If you’re an unpublished author, do you really need a website?  Like so many things, the answer is, “It depends.” Here are three situations you might find yourself in, and strategies you may be considering: Are you looking for a publisher? If so, having a website will allow you to demonstrate that you understand your audience and
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If you’re an unpublished author, do you really need a website?  Like so many things, the answer is, “It depends.” Here are three situations you might find yourself in, and strategies you may be considering:

Are you looking for a publisher? If so, having a website will allow you to demonstrate that you understand your audience and that you know how to build a following. At this point you’re selling to publishers, not readers, so your emphasis should be on community building.  You might leverage a newsletter, a blog, social media, or some combination of all three to achieve the level of community you’re looking for.  There is no “right” answer for which social media platform to use, or whether a blog or a newsletter is “better” — it’s really about how you use them.  If you love writing newsletters and your following is increasing steadily, then that’s a great option for you.  If you find yourself constantly posting to Instagram and you’re gaining followers there, then that’s what works best for you.  At the end of the day, the number of subscribers or followers you have will influence whether a publisher wants to gamble on your first writing project, so study what your followers love the most of what you’re doing, and do more of that.

Are you going to self-publish?  An initial focus for many self-published authors is building an email list and encouraging subscriptions by offering great content.  A robust email marketing list allows you to connect directly with your audience and that’s a level of access you want in your back pocket.  Similarly, building a social media following gives you a chance to regularly remind your audience what you’re up to so you’re not too far from their thoughts.  That means when the time comes to let them know they can purchase your book, they’re not like, “Who is this again?.”  There is no “right” platform other than the one you’re committed to using regularly to engage with your audience.

Do you already have a publisher, but it’ll be awhile before your book is released?  Lucky you!  You still want to build your audience on social platforms and your email list, but you also want to build momentum for your book launch.  Your website should make it easy to get in touch with you to book appearances and events (even virtual ones), and show examples of gigs you’ve already done (if possible).

It’s unlikely that readers will purchase your book from you directly, but you certainly want to point readers to where they can easily pre-order your book from their favorite retailer (once that option is available).  Simultaneously, your website is a place you’ll start pointing people to where they can learn more about you and your book, so make sure to include information that both readers and press will enjoy.  A press kit for your book launch is a great solution to providing information that makes it easy to write about you, and your readers might enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at your pre-launch activities and some teaser content to get them excited.

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Even if you’ve established your email newsletter with new regular subscribers, and have a growing social media following, having a website allows you to be discoverable to a new audience through search, to curate and archive your content over time, and removes the barrier for readers who may not use the social media platform you favor.

Additionally, your website allows you to control your content and how its displayed.  If Twitter or Facebook have a PR disaster and are suddenly revamping how their platforms work, you don’t have all of your eggs in their basket if the end result doesn’t work for you.

For new authors there are many things that need to be done to grow an audience, and one of the smartest things you can do is to create a space you control with the flexibility to grow with you over time.

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How to Choose the Best Author Website Design Company for You https://www.outboxonline.com/how-to-choose-the-best-author-website-design-company-for-you/ https://www.outboxonline.com/how-to-choose-the-best-author-website-design-company-for-you/#respond Wed, 09 May 2018 02:02:47 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=49968

It’s a big deal to find the right person to build the best author website design for you!  You’ve worked really hard on your book, and also on getting it to the point of release. And you’re all set to work hard marketing it once it’s available to the world. If making a living as
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It’s a big deal to find the right person to build the best author website design for you!  You’ve worked really hard on your book, and also on getting it to the point of release. And you’re all set to work hard marketing it once it’s available to the world.

If making a living as a writer is a goal, you certainly want to set yourself up for success.  Having a website that achieves all of your goals is a critical part of that success, and you want an author website designer you can easily work with who will help you get there.  So how do you know who the right author website designer is for you?  Here are some things to consider:

  1. You see sites you like in their portfolio.  This advice takes for granted that there are lots of examples of their work for you to look at!  If you’re having trouble finding examples of author and/or book websites they’ve worked on that’s not a good sign.  When you have the ability to see their work, make sure it includes the kind of websites you’d be happy with.  All web designers have slightly different styles, and you want one whose aesthetic is a good fit for you.
  2. They’re going to build you something sustainable.  If someone creates a website for you that is time consuming, complicated, or expensive to update (Or all three! Oh no!), you’re going to be unhappy.  Only those with a massive surplus of time and money can afford to create a site without a reasonable update path in mind.  You want to know that your web designer is affordably available to you after the site has been built in case you need them, but you also want to be able to make simple site updates yourself.  This is where the designer being in business for awhile can be an advantage — if someone has only being creating author websites for 6 months, who’s to say they’ll even still be around next year when your next book is released?  Also, if there’s an unreasonable (to you) amount of time before getting a response from the designer, and/or they don’t address your questions/concerns in the lead up to the project, that’s not a good sign for their responsiveness down the road.  Sustainability for your website should also consider things like what happens when your next book is released, or when you offer a new service — you don’t want to have to start again unless it’s the right thing to do.  Ideally your web designer is asking forward-thinking questions to ensure you’re not creating something that won’t be easy to adjust as your career progresses, but if they’re not, this is something you need to be aware of.
  3. They understand SEO & web marketing.  Your author website designer doesn’t need to offer the same services and expertise as a web marketing firm, but they do need to understand how your website will fit into an overall content marketing strategy, and be able to set your site up so that it’s as searchable as possible.  It’s rare that a website exists these days without being connected to a social media profile, so they need to understand not only what your options are for how to integrate your social platforms into your website, but also how your website might support your social campaigns.  Preferably, they should additionally be able to tell you which of your website content creation efforts are worth it.  You might have all kind of ideas about content you could create for your site, but why waste your limited time on creating content that won’t benefit you in the end?
  4. They’re easy for you to communicate with.  Even if your author web designer knows lots of jargon and can conversationally spar with the nerdiest among us, they should still be able to communicate with you, no matter your knowledge level.  They should be able to explain things in a way you can understand, and not make you feel stupid for asking.  You should also feel comfortable speaking up and providing input and direction.  Your web designer should be seeking your input and direction at all steps along the path of the project, so look for signs that that’s their approach, rather than delivering a finished product that you either don’t understand or don’t like.  It’s totally okay for them to be in a different time zone, or even a different country, as long as communication is quick and easy.
  5. They’ve worked with authors before.  Lots of people have the nephew or cousin or neighbor who dabbles in web design, and can throw together a website quickly for next-to-no-cost, but that’s unlikely to be the right person to entrust your author website to.  The lifecycle of a book, the concerns of authors, and knowledge of your target audience of readers, publishers, and press coverage for books are all things your author website designer should be familiar with.  They should be comfortable jumping on a call with your editor, publisher, or publicist to strategize and ensure all project elements are being considered.  You want someone who can guide you in the right direction, and can support their decisions about how the website should look and what kind of content it contains.

Using these guidelines will help you be able to find the right author website designer for you.

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Secrets of a Great Author Website: 3 Tips https://www.outboxonline.com/secrets-of-a-great-author-website/ https://www.outboxonline.com/secrets-of-a-great-author-website/#respond Tue, 01 May 2018 01:44:00 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=49875

There are three elements that some author websites use that make all the difference in their web presence.  It may be surprising to you that none of these secrets have to do with how the site looks, how fancy it is, what its budget is, or what platform it uses.  All of them have to
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There are three elements that some author websites use that make all the difference in their web presence.  It may be surprising to you that none of these secrets have to do with how the site looks, how fancy it is, what its budget is, or what platform it uses.  All of them have to do with the content itself and how you use it:

SEO for Authors1. Be discoverable through search.  Use consistent keywords throughout your site, social media accounts, and on Amazon & Goodreads.

Before you think about anything else (what the site looks like, for example) you need to think about how people will find you.  Search engines don’t “see” anything on your website — they’re just robots behind the scenes that look at the code & text that makes up your site, how it fits into your overall web presence, and figure out where to rank you for words and phrases that they think are important to you based on how you use them.

If a word or phrase is important to you, and you want people to find you for it, here are a few things you should do:

  • Create a dedicated page of your site for that word/phrase. Make it the title of the page (including using it in an h1 tag), and use it in the body text on the page more than once (including the first paragraph).
  • Make sure the images on the page reflect the word/phrase (in the image filenames, alt and title tags).
  • Link to your dedicated page (see above) from elsewhere (internal and external to your site) using that word/phrase.
  • If at all possible try to use a word or phrase that isn’t too generic:  trying to compete for the phrase, “romance novel” is much more difficult than trying to compete for the phrase, “historic new england romance novel”, for example.

Your most important word/phrase should be used consistently, as a brand, everywhere you appear online.  So use it in your social media profiles, use it on Amazon, and add it to your GoodReads profile.  To go back to our previous example, all your profiles might read: “Firstname Lastname, Author of Romance Novels Set in Historic New England”.

Surprisingly, few authors are doing this specific kind of branding, so it’s not difficult to stand out this way.  Also, for the journalists and bloggers putting together book lists for holidays (eg: Summer Reading Lists) you can call more attention to yourself as an author this way.  When journalists and bloggers are searching for who to include in their book lists they often want to distinguish their list by narrowing the focus — if they don’t already know about you and you’re a good fit for their list, make it easy for them to find you.

Building an Audience as an Author2. Engage with your audience.  Invite comments, answer questions, and share stories.

Sure, your website can be a static place where you put up some information about yourself and your books that you update periodically when a new book is released.  But you can also make your site a destination for your readers regardless of where you are in the book creation/release cycle. By doing this you’re creation a targeted, interested audience to whom you can announce news and information.

If you love sharing videos, then create a YouTube channel and share the videos on your site in a blog format and invite comments.  If you love getting feedback from your readers, then share short stories or have them vote on possible plot lines for your next project.  If you are constantly researching your topic and discovering new things, then share interesting resources that you come across and invite commentary.  Sure, you can do all of these things on a social platform, but then you’re not bringing people to your own website where they can discover lots more about you and your projects.

I suggest finding a way to use social platforms on your website where you can leverage work you’re already doing (like uploading a video to YouTube), but in a way that brings the audience to your site rather than only letting that content work for you elsewhere.  Let your community of readers be centralized around a site that you own and control, rather than somewhere else.

After all, you’re in charge of what your website looks like, its terms of use, and how long it sticks around.  But you’re not in charge of what other companies do with their platforms, so don’t risk your online presence by putting all your eggs in their baskets.

Sharing Resources on an Author Website3. Share something extra.  If your book is about a universe you’ve created, add something new. If your book is nonfiction, share new research or findings.

If a new reader finds you through search, that’s great, and basic content about your book will hopefully be interesting to them.  But what about an existing reader who wants to know what’s coming next?  Or a reader who wants to tell their friends about you?  Or a book club that wants to discuss your book?  Create a destination not only for new readers, but ideally to serve and build a community of readers.  If you create a space for your fans to interact with you and each other, that will benefit you much more over time. And providing supporting information to your work that promotes conversation among your audience is a reason for them to visit your site again and again. It also gives you a reason to create chatter about your work in a time between projects, when things my otherwise be slow.

A thriving online community is sustained by regular injections of new, relevant content, and especially content that gets them talking.  So think of creative ways you can do that for fiction and nonfiction alike.

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Remember, you can have a great website at any price point — whether you make it yourself or hire someone to help you — it’s what you do with it that matters!

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Website Design for Indie Authors https://www.outboxonline.com/website-design-for-indie-authors/ https://www.outboxonline.com/website-design-for-indie-authors/#respond Tue, 30 Jan 2018 15:47:14 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=48132

Sometimes you’ll hear people say things like, “the only legitimate way to be an author is to find a big publisher to get your book out there.”  This word, “legitimate,” has always been troubling to me.  It’s a bunch of baloney, most of the time.  Sure, the only legitimate way to be a physician is
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Sometimes you’ll hear people say things like, “the only legitimate way to be an author is to find a big publisher to get your book out there.”  This word, “legitimate,” has always been troubling to me.  It’s a bunch of baloney, most of the time.  Sure, the only legitimate way to be a physician is to go to medical school, but there are a whole host of professions where that kind of training and certification doesn’t apply and being an author is one of them.  You are a legitimate author as soon as you have written a book.  The only thing that distinguishes one author from another is how many people know about their work.

Large publishers have an advantage of a well-defined infrastructure, with a long reach designed to promote books, but as you’ve likely heard, they are no longer alone in that capacity.  Lots and lots of indie authors have found a variety of ways to get the word out about their work online. Maybe you’re aware of Joanna Penn, who is a prolific author and shares her amazing knowledge and resources on book promotion, self-publishing, and book marketing.  She’s just one great example of someone who created an extremely successful career for herself as an indie author of fiction & non-fiction alike.

So what does this mean if you’re an indie author looking for a website?  How do you capture the kind of success you’re looking for without a publisher in the wings?  Having worked on many indie author websites, here are my top tips:

  1. Define success incrementally, and celebrate all milestones.  Even large publishers take a phased approach when signing authors for a series; the first book is a test of the concept, and targets are set relatively low.  As an indie author, your first steps into publishing your work may not seem particularly exciting — perhaps your first book only gets into a few dozen hands.  But if your next book gets into a few hundred hands, then a few thousand, the trajectory is pretty spectacular.  If you set your goals too high, you’re bound to be disappointed, so I encourage my indie author website clients to look to metrics on their sites — like how many people sign up for their mailing list, read their blog, or download an excerpt — and watch how those metrics change over time.  For many people, initial book marketing efforts can seem like shouting into the void but with persistence and patience you will start to see changes for the better.  Becoming an indie author isn’t a quick way to wealth & riches — there are a lucky few (just like winning the lottery) who hit it big, but for most people, it’s lots of hard work over many years.  Celebrating smaller successes can help remind you that your efforts aren’t for naught.
  2. Don’t expect your website to do all the work for you.  Yes, it’s important to have a great on-brand website as an indie author. (An Amazon and/or Facebook author page is not enough — you can read more about that here.) After all, your website can be part of what separates you from the crowd, brings you a new audience, and helps them stay interested in your work.  By itself, however, it’s just like any tool: The magic is in what you do with it.  Even if you have an exquisitely beautiful website that has been optimized to the hilt for search engines, if people don’t know about it, it doesn’t matter.  The way people find out about your website is by marketing yourself, and by adding interesting content to your site over time. The wealth of content you add to your website draws people to it through search or by sharing it on social platforms.  Consider your site a repository for information about you and your work, and you want that repository to grow — maybe you write a blog, maybe you publish videos, maybe you write articles for other people that you link from your site but, no matter what, you want to be adding keyword-rich content to your site and pointing people to it over and over again.
  3. Treat your site like it represents a business, because it does.  Being an author is a long-held dream for many people, but even if you have a large publisher working with you on your book, you’re going to have to participate in lots of activities that aren’t anything like writing books.  These activities include marketing yourself & building an audience, just like any business.  While you can have an informal brand as an author, you should always take these efforts seriously.  Learn about your target audience: Where they hang out and how to reach them.  Make sure the content you include on your site is designed to reach that audience, and follow up with your analytics to see if your efforts are working.  Any business that’s run haphazardly is much less likely to succeed than one that is making strategic, informed decisions.
  4. Don’t cut corners.  This doesn’t mean you need to blow your budget!  I encourage folks with limited resources to simplify.  Rather than trying to do a bunch of different things poorly because you’ve seen some great ideas on other sites that you want to replicate, focus on your most important priorities and find ways to implement them simply. If you create an author website that has a bunch of bells and whistles but they don’t make sense for you and are executed poorly, not only will it be obvious to your site visitors, but it will do you a disservice by turning people off.  The same is true if you don’t fully understand something yet. For example, if you don’t have a plan for what you might do with a blog, even if you’ve heard it will help drive traffic to your website, don’t start one until you understand what your blog will be about and how (and when) you’ll use it.
  5. Set yourself up with a great web host. Price is most certainly a consideration when it comes to choosing a web host, but sometimes paying a little bit extra will have huge rewards.  A good web host is not only reliable, but also speedy and secure.  If you’re saving a few dollars a month by going with a less expensive option, but are losing out on site visitors — and therefore sales — because your site is slow (Google factors the speed of your site into search rankings!), or even worse, hacked, then you’re better off spending a little bit extra.  If your site will be built on WordPress, then choose a hosting plan designed for WordPress — it will be optimized for that platform to perform best.  If you need a recommendation for a great web host, I’ve provided a page of resources for websites here.

There are so many things to master as an indie publisher, and you can feel like you need to be great at everything before you even begin.  That’s not true!  Just don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Perhaps you need to give yourself more time to get everything ready.  Perhaps you need to simplify your initial plan.  Perhaps you need to better define your goals & priorities. Alternatively, maybe you need to add someone to your team to help you get where you need to go.  No matter what, getting started is always the best way forward!

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Small Business Website Design: Solopreneurs https://www.outboxonline.com/small-business-website-design-solopreneurs/ https://www.outboxonline.com/small-business-website-design-solopreneurs/#respond Tue, 23 Jan 2018 14:32:01 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=48131

I like the word Solopreneur. Obviously, it’s based on Entrepreneur, but the term distinguishes itself by suggesting that the subject works alone. True, not all entrepreneurs have employees but, increasingly, there’s a class of worker who not only doesn’t have employees, but doesn’t intend to have employees or to grow their business in a traditional sense. They’re
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I like the word Solopreneur. Obviously, it’s based on Entrepreneur, but the term distinguishes itself by suggesting that the subject works alone. True, not all entrepreneurs have employees but, increasingly, there’s a class of worker who not only doesn’t have employees, but doesn’t intend to have employees or to grow their business in a traditional sense. They’re happy flying solo, as experts in their chosen field, and can be hired as freelancers and sole proprietors to complete one or a series of tasks.

I would describe myself as a solopreneur; I run my business solo, doing everything from business development to outreach, client management, and design work (start-to-finish) myself. I love it. I’ve been asked many times why I haven’t brought on employees in the 10+ years I’ve been doing this, and it’s because, simply, I love doing everything myself, and that’s more important to me than growing my business in that way. I love knowing all the bits-and-pieces of my business up close, and having my fingers in multiple pies.  I like changing gears throughout the day because it means I’m never bored.

So, what does that mean when it comes to designing websites for solopreneurs? How do I take my own experience, and the experiences of my clients, and translate that into a website that helps meet their business goals?  There are a few things I consider essential when it comes to creating solopreneur websites:

  1. Make sure your expertise is clear.  People need to understand straightaway what you do.  And not in a vague way — you need to connect with actual potential clients by listing out specifics.  Here’s my intro, for example: “Designing & building great WordPress author websites for publishers, authors, and book promotion: Kate creates sites that are clean, easy-to-use and goal-oriented so that her clients have a successful platform to support what they love to do.” That’s a nice formula you can use for this: “I do _____, for _____, so that they can _____.”
  2. Give examples.  No matter what you do, whether it’s writing, photography, law, illustration, or something else, show examples of your work.  You don’t have to show everything you’ve ever done, of course, but pick out the best examples that back up what you do so that prospective clients can see for themselves.
  3. Back up your claims.  There’s little you can say for yourself that’s better than what happy clients will say for you.  Gather testimonials from your clients and use them on your website.  I recommend placing them contextually on your site, so that they are strategically placed next to examples of the kind of work they discuss.  For example, if someone’s given you a great testimonial about how easy you are to work with, put that on your About page.  If someone’s given you a testimonial about how what you delivered is world-class, then put that next to the description of your services.  When you work for yourself, building confidence in prospective clients about your skills is really important.
  4. Make your website work for you.  Maybe there are questions you get over-and-over again as part of running your business — consider putting those questions and their answers on your site, so you can direct people there.  If you can put your prices online, do so, so that you can rule in (or out!) prospective clients who would never be a good fit for you based on their budget.  Set up your site so that it’s working for you 24/7, saving you time and money.
  5. Make it super easy to get in touch.  If you want people to get in touch with you to kickstart the process of working together, don’t make them work for it.  Put your contact details — or provide links to your Contact page — throughout your website.  If there’s information you need from someone to kickstart your on-boarding process, ask for it on your Contact page, so you can jump right in with your initial communication.

The last thing I’ll add is to emphasize how important it is to work smart on your website project.  If you’ve got multiple plates spinning, you don’t have time to be inefficient when it comes to planning your site.  Keep things simple, and don’t get distracted by website elements that don’t help you meet your business goals & are difficult to maintain.  I tell clients all the time, “The more complicated you make something, the more complicated it’ll be.”  That applies not only for the creation of the site, but also the maintenance; you don’t have to sacrifice beauty or functionality with a simple website, you just have to be a bit more ruthless with what meets your criteria for being included.

As a solopreneur, your small business website is a mainstay of your business.  It will help you attract new clients and make it easier to interface with existing clients, so consider the 5 tips above when developing your strategy for success.

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Author Website Design: Creating Author Websites for Celebrities https://www.outboxonline.com/author-website-design-creating-author-websites-for-celebrities/ https://www.outboxonline.com/author-website-design-creating-author-websites-for-celebrities/#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 15:11:12 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=47786

Throughout my career I’ve been lucky enough to create author websites for some well-known folks. In some cases, I’ve worked directly with the celebrity author and, in other cases, I’ve created a site for a new book release or specific writing project via their publisher. Regardless of who I’m working with, there are some elements
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Throughout my career I’ve been lucky enough to create author websites for some well-known folks. In some cases, I’ve worked directly with the celebrity author and, in other cases, I’ve created a site for a new book release or specific writing project via their publisher. Regardless of who I’m working with, there are some elements that remain the same across all author website projects, but some things are different about working with celebrity authors that all authors can learn from:

  1. Like everyone else, their time is limited & valuable.  Just because someone may have a large budget doesn’t mean that they have lots of available time to go along with it.  Most successful authors have their fingers in lots of different pies, so during the time they make available to work on their website, communication needs to be focused, and oriented towards getting the most out of every conversation.  For the most part, they’re prepared with a list of their goals & priorities so that everyone is on the same page from the outset.
  2. They rely on experts to make recommendations & give advice.  Just because someone might be at the top of their game in their chosen field, doesn’t mean that they know everything about everything.  I’ve found that celebrities are most often the clients who identify that they’re *not* an expert in my field and rely on me to do my job well to make them look good.  You may not have the budget to hire an arsenal of experts to handle everything for you in a professional way, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t find experts within your budget to handle the things you know least about.
  3. They have lots of great photos.  If you took the same website design and used mediocre photos as opposed to great, professional photos, you would be astonished at the difference.  I’ve written before about the power of great headshots on author websites, and while you don’t have to be a celebrity to have great headshots, it does seem to come with the territory.  Beyond headshots, if there are photos of locations or objects that would help set the mood for your website project, make sure those are of good quality too.  There are some wonderful, free stock photo resources online (eg: pexels.com) these days so there’s no excuse any longer to use lackluster photos.
  4. They understand the power of social media. I’m sure you follow famous people on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.  I regularly spend time analyzing what makes some celebrity profiles stand out above the rest, and it often comes down to the power of storytelling.  Whether it’s with photos or text, they (generally) do a great job of sharing enough — but not too much — about themselves in the context of why they became a celebrity to begin with (humor, acting, writing, etc.).  You want to follow their feed not only so that you can see what they’re up to (Meeting other celebrities!), but also because it helps you feel as if you’re seeing behind the scenes.  It’s compelling to feel like you’re in on something other people might not know about, and it makes you want to tell your friends about it.  This is true even if you’re relatively unknown!
  5. They exploit their brand in a variety of ways.  If you take book marketing seriously, you know that once your book is written, a new kind of hard work begins: getting the word out about it.  Just as when a movie is released, its stars participate in an endless variety of interviews, panels, and talk shows about it, authors should be trying to get as much coverage of their book as possible.  If you’re just starting out, it might be by submitting it for reviews for debut books, or awards for new authors, or contacting bloggers for whom your book might be interesting to their audience.  If you’re more well known, then you might go on The Late Show to spar with Stephen Colbert about your project.  Regardless, there is more to the celebrity author than just their book.  There are often videos available of them talking about it, or audio excerpts, or podcast interviews, or t-shirts, or giveaways on Facebook. Even if all of those options aren’t available to you, for longevity in the marketplace, I encourage you to think creatively about how what you are marketing, as much (if not more than) your book, is your brand, and how you can share that with the world.

Example celebrity author websites:

Book Website Design for Zac Posen Author Website Design for Jenny Mollen Book Website Design for Bill Nye

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5 Tips for the Best Author Website Design https://www.outboxonline.com/5-tips-for-the-best-author-website-design/ https://www.outboxonline.com/5-tips-for-the-best-author-website-design/#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 15:10:55 +0000 https://www.outboxonline.com/?p=47675

The best author website design is different for every author.  That’s a tricky way to open this blog post, right?  But even if each author’s webpage design should be tailored to their project & their audience, there are a handful of things that should be kept in mind for ALL author websites. HERE ARE 5
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The best author website design is different for every author.  That’s a tricky way to open this blog post, right?  But even if each author’s webpage design should be tailored to their project & their audience, there are a handful of things that should be kept in mind for ALL author websites.

HERE ARE 5 CRITICAL ELEMENTS:

1. Navigation should be easy.  While that should be simple to implement, it can be deceptively complicated in practice.  You want to make sure people have an easy time finding what they’re interested in on your website, but those people might be new potential readers, journalists, your existing audience, and more.  To figure out what “easy” navigation is for all of those people, put yourself in their shoes, and make sure they can quickly find what they’re looking for.

If you’re a fantasy author, for example, sure, it might be cute to call your bio page “The Saga,” but it’s unlikely someone would click on it if they’re looking for a quick way to learn more about you.  How do I know this?  For more than a decade, I’ve been analyzing the analytics from author websites, and pages that are clearly labeled by topic perform better than those that aren’t.  People are in a hurry all the time, for better or worse, so do your best to make their lives easier and name your page, “About the Author” (or something similar).  A good experience on your site is what you want visitors walking away remembering, not frustration.

Also, there’s no need to reinvent standard website navigation practices.  If your goal is to sell more books and grow your audience, focus on that rather than trying to change the way that people use the internet.  It all goes back to people being in a hurry and not having to really think to use your site (That becomes even more critical when things are super-condensed on a phone), not to mention that complicated navigation designs will also be more complicated to update, should you want to change your site pages in the future.

Here’s a side-by-side example of what I’m talking about.  The bottom unnecessarily reinvents the wheel and makes you have to stop & think, while the top keeps things simple & usable:

The Best Author Website Design: Navigation

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2. Make your calls-to-action super clear.  What does that mean?  Any time you’re asking a site visitor to do something, like sign up for a mailing list, subscribe to your blog, or buy your book, that’s a “call-to-action.”  Each page should have a primary (ie: most important) call-to-action, and if your page has multiple sections, each section should have its own, secondary, one. For example, if the Home page of your site features your book right up-front, then the primary call-to-action might be to purchase the book, or learn more about it.  If you have a smaller section further down on the Home page about you as the author, that might have a secondary call-to-action to learn more about you or to connect on Facebook.

Any time you’re asking someone to do something on the internet, you want not only to call people’s attention to it, but also to make it really easy. You want to use stronger colors and images, and compelling language, but not in a way that gets in the way of the goal.  Here’s an example: Let’s say you want someone to sign up for your mailing list because that’s the primary way you engage with your audience, which of the examples below do you find more compelling?:


The Best Author Websites: Calls to Action & Mailing List Signups

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3. Be noticeable.  Many people think that, to get noticed, you need to throw everything — including the kitchen sink — into a website design. They use strong colors, large text, and lots of images, and the end result is a confusing design without focus. You don’t have to sacrifice clean, simple design to get noticed.  You can use color, typography, photography, or illustrations strategically to leave an impression in someone’s mind.  Whatever design or style you use, however, make sure it fits with your brand.  If you’re super outgoing and have a writing style to match, make sure that shows in your visual design choices.  If you’re an introvert who wants people to never feel overwhelmed when they visit your site, then factor that into your design choices.

Both of the following author website designs were created to leave a lasting impression and extend the author’s brand in a clean way, but with very different styles:

Best Author Website Designs: Be Noticeable

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4. Connect the cover of your latest book visually to the overall site design.  You don’t need to redesign your entire website each time you release a new book unless you really want to.  With the right design, maybe you could just change a few settings and the buttons throughout your site change color, or your headline font changes to coordinate with the new cover.  Not only will this create a more cohesive design without having to start again, but it establishes that you’re engaged with your website enough to keep it as up-to-date as your books.

Here’s an example of a relatively simple overall design, but with elements that echo the most recently released book which are updated for each new release:

Best Author Websites

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5 . Enough content, but not too much.  You want your website, all pages of it, to have enough content to attract search engines (which means 300+ words per page), but not so much that people are overwhelmed.  It’s a fine line sometimes, and it’s different for each genre (each project, even) for which you’re designing.  Some genres lend themselves better to text-based-content than others.  There are lovely sites out there that use a photo landing page with little to no text on it.  They can be super gorgeous, and help you achieve point #3 above (“Be noticeable”), but they often work better for someone who doesn’t have to worry so much about searchability, because they already have a huge following.  The idea behind that kind of design can still be used without ignoring your word count, of course; maybe you have an intro section on a page of your site that’s a prominent photo with only a little text over it, and then there’s more content down below.  It gives the same level of visual impact, but doesn’t sacrifice your ability to be found via search engines.

Here’s an example of how you might fit it into an author webpage:

Best Author Web Design

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Here’s hoping these five lessons are helpful! If you’re looking for specific suggestions of what you might include in your author website, I’ve written a posts on What Content to Include in an Author Website, What Pages to Include in an Author Website, and What the Best Author Websites Have in Common as well.

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