Remember when seeing a website address (URL) on a television or magazine ad sent a spark of curiosity through you? “Look honey,” you would say to your spouse waiting for your favorite syndicated program to end the laborious commercial break. “There is another one of those ‘www’ things.” It was foreign. It was unexpected. It shouted “cutting edge.”
Now, they are absolutely everywhere, spawning a new generation of people who can’t even fathom what life was like before the Internet. Open up any magazine, and you’ll be hard pressed to find an advertisement that does not include a website address. Purchase any product and somewhere next to the ingredients is a URL. The Internet has become a hub of activity, commerce and community. Most importantly, especially to the author seeking to connect with their public, the consumer expects to find information to help with their buying decisions.
Hopefully, I do not need to sell you on the importance of having a presence online. If I do, this article is not for you. But, if you are an author thinking about a website and have no clue where to start or even if you have an established website and want to build traffic and awareness, I strongly suggest you keep reading.
Below, I have listed ten ways for authors to market themselves online. These are easy to implement and most importantly, cost little to nothing to execute. They are ideas that will help you establish an essential presence in the online world that is so much more than just a website. Anyone can put up a page of information about themselves. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to make it enjoyable and worthwhile for your visitors. Hopefully, this article will be worth your time and you can use it as a great way to build your audience.
01. CLEAN HOUSE BEFORE INVITING THE NEIGHBORS OVER
Whether you have a site or are in need of a site, it’s always important to look at what you have before you begin to market yourself. Your web site should look contemporary, up-to-date and easy to navigate. It should present your work in a way that is both entertaining, yet professional. You worked hard to get where you are today. You did not settle for second best in your publications. Why settle for a sub-par website?
It can be a little frightening to start at ground level, especially if you don’t have a clue about the Internet. That is why it is extremely important to spend time selecting the right company for the job. If you already have a web designer, go to them with the ideas in this article and if they cannot help you accomplish them, find someone who can. Unless you are managing your own site, you are only as good as the person pushing the buttons for you. Make sure your site is ready for the flood of traffic that will come when you begin to focus on marketing it to the masses.
02. YOUR BEST BRAND IS NOT YOUR TOPICS, BUT YOUR NAME
Many authors make the mistake of branding their sites with their latest title or bestseller. This backs the author into a corner if they ever venture outside of the topic. Your best brand to build is your name, not your current theme, and your website URL should reflect this. This will give you the freedom to promote your latest titles and update the theme of the site with each release. It will also make it easier for people to find you through search engines, especially if you have multiple titles.
03. YOUR SITE MUST BE EASY TO FIND
As soon as you have an established site, make sure your publisher and publicists know that it is something you are serious about. Your URL should be in all future editions of your books along with links from the publisher’s site. They should also be including your URL in any magazine ads, press releases, postcards, etc.
Another way to help people find your website is to add a signature line to your email with your full website address (http://www.yourname.com). It’s a terrific marketing technique! One quick click and people have access to your site.
Your web developer should be submitting your sites to search engines along with configuring your pages with keywords and descriptions so that your site is search friendly. They should be providing this service as part of the initial design process.
04. BUILD A COMMUNITY AND MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE
Building community into your site is an easy way to connect you to your readers, and more importantly, to connect your readers to each other.
A great way to do this is to provide a message board. This is a place where visitors register to participate in ongoing conversations that they either start themselves, or jump into. When building your message board, first focus on the topics you write about and then provide areas for members to broaden their discussions. You are creating a gathering place for people to meet and talk who have a similar interest…your work! Once your community is established, spend some time each week and interact with your readers!
While there are hundreds of programs and various companies providing message boards, I have found PhpBB to be the best provider of software in this area.
Other ways to build community is by providing ways for readers to become a part of what you do. Depending on your genre, this can be accomplished by asking visitors to your site to fill out surveys about the topics you write about. You can also provide a Q&A section where readers can submit questions to you via email and you can post them along with your answers. Invite readers to submit reviews of your works and post them on the site.
Without a sense of community or some level of interaction, the reader will come to your site and leave without a compelling reason to return.
05. BUILD AN ONLINE MAILING LIST
The biggest kept secret that many authors have yet to grasp is that email marketing works. There’s no denying it. Its key advantage over other Internet marketing methods is that it enables you to contact your readers immediately instead of forcing them to contact you. This ability is especially useful when something that your readers need to know as soon as possible has happened. Whether you’ve just released a new title or simple would like to stay in touch with your readers, the fastest (and cheapest) way to spread the word is via email.
There are many ways to collect addresses. Obviously, having the ability for the reader to subscribe directly from your site is key. Another easy way to collect addresses is to hold contests. Give readers the ability to win a signed copy of one of your books, or partner with your publisher to give away something of high value like an eBook viewer. When visitors enter the contests on your site, you can capture their email address and automatically subscribe them to your newsletter. Just be sure to be upfront about your intentions by telling them that when they enter, they will subscribe. You can also give them the option to get more information from you.
Promote your online newsletter wherever possible. You should have a short sentence in your email signature that says “Get the latest updates direct from my site! Sign up for my newsletter here!” This will give everyone you come in contact with an opportunity to join without forcing the issue on them. Also, have a sign-up sheet if you do any speaking engagements, that way you can stay in touch with those who come to hear you speak.
Once you have an established list, make sure to use it. There should be no reason not to send out a quick monthly update. Even if you don’t have anything to say, there is always information you can dig up that your readers would love. Press releases, reviews of your latest work, sneak-peaks on future releases, sample chapters and site updates make great content for email newsletters. Don’t let them forget about you! Stay in touch with your readers as much as possible.
Whatever you do, make sure you are following good email etiquette. Never add addresses to your list unless they have specifically asked to be included and make it easy for people to unsubscribe.
06. THE IMPORTANCE OF NETWORKING WITH LINKS
A link is simply a connecting point from one site to another. Clicking on a link will take you to another site. Networking is the cornerstone of any successful business or author. You are in the business of selling books, and without connecting with established readers that are already online, you are missing huge opportunities.
But where do you begin? There are billions of websites online. The task does initially seem daunting, but the solution is simple. First, you have to figure out who your public is. Then, surf the net to find websites that reach your public. Find sites that cater to your target audience. Offer a place on your site to link to resources and offer to trade links with these sites. Google.com is a great search engine to use when doing this type of research. Your web designer should be able to help you identify key sites to be a part of.
More than likely, you have met a few authors along the way. Offer to trade links with them and present these authors on your site as ones you endorse to your readers.
Again, your publisher should be using every opportunity to help promote your site via advertisements, postcards, press releases, etc.
The fact is, the more sites that link to your site, the better chances you have of showing up higher in search engine results.
07. POST EXCLUSIVE CONTENT AND INFORMATION ABOUT YOU
For the majority of your readers, your website will be the only place that they can follow your actions and learn more about you including future releases. Without varied content, it’s very easy to loose interest and frustrate your readers. View your site as a way to get the person who has read and enjoyed your site more engaged with what you do. How will you make sure they will purchase your future works? You must present more information than what they have already read and enjoyed.
Online journals are a great way to connect to an audience. A short 3-4 paragraph update a month will do wonders in keeping your site active and looking fresh. Also look at adding an extended biography while listing your favorite books, movies and music. Ask your publisher for permission to post sample chapters from your works and republish articles that focus on your latest interest.
This additional content will help add some depth and personality to your site. Best of all, it will help establish your site as a destination point to get information about you. People will return again and again.
08. PARTNER WITH AN ONLINE RETAILER
If you have yet to make a connection to an online retailer, I strongly suggest you find one that is willing to partner with you. While it may not be your job specifically, speak with your publicist about running a few promotions with retailers. Your two goals should be to drive awareness of your products, and your site.
There are many ways to partner with online retailers, but you need to make sure you remain open to suggestions. Be willing to write original content or even share what you already have. Offer contests that the retailer can run on their site or even offer to provide signed copies of your book for giveaway.
Whether you are a new author or an established author, online retailers will be looking for traffic in return, so offer them a prominent link on your home page pushing people to your site. In return, ask for a link to your site. You should be able to put together three to four 3-month promotions every year with various online retailers.
09. MAKE A COMMISSION ON YOUR OWN PRODUCT
First of all, if you are not giving guests that come to your site an opportunity to purchase your own product, you are missing sales left and right. Secondly, if you are not making any money by pushing your guests to make their purchases at a specific online retailer, you are letting go of dollars that could be in your pocket.
It’s safe to say that everyone who visits your site either has read one or more of your books or is thinking about doing so in the near future. You need to be giving everyone an opportunity to purchase your products. It’s too expensive and time-intensive to set up your own store, so therefore, it makes sense to link to a well respected, established online retailer. Set up a buy link prominently on your home page. If you would like, link to multiple retailers or link to one exclusively for a short period of time and go for partnerships like I explained in tip #8.
When you choose an online retailer to link to, make sure they have what is commonly referred to as an “affiliate program.” The concept of an affiliate program is simple. The online retailer will supply you with a traceable link and you will get a percentage of any sales made by guests who visit your site, click on one of these links and make any purchase. You will get a commission from whatever they buy, even if it’s not your book! This is pure money in your pocket, simply by selling your own products! The percentage of sale varies from site to site, but find a program that best fits your needs, will give comfort to your target audience and if possible, work with a retailer that will help you expand your site.
10. UPDATE, UPDATE, UPDATE
I can’t stress the importance of maintaining your website enough. It is vital to your relevance online. I would almost suggest that it would be a complete waste of your money if you are thinking about a website and planning to forget about it until your next project comes out. At the same time, a static site (meaning one that does not change) does have some value, but only to first time visitors. After that, you will lose touch with people as soon as they close your site.
The power of the Internet is amazing. The ability to interact with your readers on a monthly, weekly, daily basis is at your fingertips. To not utilize its full potential would be the same as not realizing your own potential.
I hope these ideas have sparked some excitement and curiosity to get moving on marketing yourself online. It is extremely elating to be able to call a website your own. If you have any questions about the information about, please do not hesitate to ask.
Kevin McNeese owns and operates KMWeb Designs. He has worked in professional web design and online marketing since 1999 and currently manages sites for various authors, artists and small businesses. If you have questions about anything covered in this article, please contact KMWeb Designs.No comments