Answers to the questions you have to spark engagements and sales
Most writers have a dream, a vision, to write a book or perhaps articles. We want to capture our thoughts, knowledge, or creativity for posterity and for others to read and enjoy. Only later do we hear the rumblings from others of all these distractions - websites, blogs, publishing, and marketing. We didn't sign up for that! We just wanted to write.
But oh yes, we probably did sign up for that. If we want to engage with others, share with others, spark others, then yes, we should consider websites and blogs. And if we actually want others to embrace our books or articles, we need to publish and market our books. We'll cover publishing and marketing in future months (subscribe to ensure you don't miss a month). This month we'll cover common questions regarding websites and blogs.
Why have a website?
Have you ever found yourself talking about your book project with others and they ask how they can find out more or keep up with your progress? Have you wondered how you can turn that conversation into a future book sale? A website is your home base. It's where you direct people to learn more and it's where you capture their email for future engagement about your writing, book, or future projects. Websites are also a place where others get to know you and your project on a more personal level, so you don't appear to be just someone pitching a book for profit, but that you are a real person filled with passion, drive, creativity, and information. People are much more likely to buy your book, and you are much more likely to enjoy the writing and marketing process, through engagement, authenticity, and a bit of vulnerability. Your website is the vehicle to do that both with people you know and certainly for people you will never meet in person.
What about just a Facebook or LinkedIn page?
Many authors merely create a Facebook or LinkedIn page for their business. It's pretty easy to create such a page and direct people there for engagement and information. Yet, we all know someone - perhaps yourself - who has run into issues with various social media platforms. They have free reign to freeze your account or kick you off. It happens frequently, usually without warning, and often for long periods of time. And since you haven't captured their email, you have therefore lost these followers. Social media is a mechanism for finding people interested in your topic and bringing them to your website. Social media is a conduit, not the endgame. Don't put all your time into developing a wonderful social media page and following, only to lose it all when Facebook freezes you out or MySpace shuts down or perhaps TikTok gets banned.
When should I start my website?
Now! Whether you are an aspiring writer considering various projects or already a published author, now is the time. Ideally, you start at least a year before your target publication date. That provides ample time to develop the website, work out the kinks, and drum up interest toward building a sizable following that may become Beta readers, Launch Party assistants, and book purchasers.
What is a "sizable" following and how do I get there?
Developing your website following or subscribers or membership is a long-term game. Most of us start out by drafting our family and friends into our website. It's a start. Don't get caught up in the numbers game. Yes, it's nice to have a large following but I'd rather have 100 dedicated members that connect with my message or topic, read my blog, occasionally share feedback, and are likely to buy my book than to have 1000 members that just haven't gotten around to unsubscribing. Building a following takes time. It happens one at a time...a person you meet, a Facebook post that sparks interest, a subscriber that shares with friends. Slowly your numbers rise and the engagement increases. Don't miss out on opportunities to help it grow. Include your website on your social media profiles, have a website signup list at all your speaking engagements, always carry cards touting your website features, consider influencers you know to help boost your visibility, and utilize SEO (search engine optimization) to be found through website searches like Google.
Do I charge people to be subscribers or members?
At least initially, I'd say no. Your goal is not really to generate money from your website but to build quality members. This will pay off in feedback, engagement, and book sales later. You may eventually charge for your membership, but I would suggest that you maintain a free level and offer more (perhaps classes or direct engagement beyond emails like Zoom calls) to tiers that pay for such access. You still want your free level to be valuable and interesting to the masses and then ensure paid members are getting their money's worth. Some will bring advertisers or affiliates (advertisers that pay you if they get new customers from your website) onto your website to generate revenue. This is usually reserved for websites with tens of thousands of followers. You should also be cautious of the presence of advertising on your website. Many readers will get annoyed with pop-ups and constant advertising and leave you completely. My website is purely for engagement and outreach so I've chosen not to pursue advertising or affiliates but that is a choice you may consider later.
What is SEO?
SEO is search engine optimization. I'm not an expert on SEO. You can find resources that will help you boost your SEO presence on your website. Basically, you want to have keywords in your titles and posts that people may search for when they are searching for something on Google. You would like your website and blog articles to show up on other people's websites too to increase your credibility, all of which helps boost your ranking on Google search etc. Ideally, you would like your website and blogs to be on the first page(s) of a Google search result. Better SEO definitely results in more traffic. It's worth investing your time or money in SEO once you establish your website.
What website host do I use?
There are a number of hosts including GoDaddy, WordPress, Wix, and many more including author-focused hosts like Site123. Do your research not just on cost but features and ability to update. If it's not user-friendly or you aren't tech-savvy, you'll either end up with a stale website or you'll be paying others to update. I use Wix for several sites and am quite pleased.
How much do they cost?
It depends. You may find a free host platform but you could expect to spend $20/month to hundreds per year on the host depending on the level of service and features; eg. if you want to sell books on your website and process payments you may need a premium plan for an extra few hundred or more per year. Again, do the research. Of course, you may also spend little (friends or family) to hundreds or even thousands for someone to create your website. I created my own and then a year later paid someone about $500 to make it smoother and shinier.
What kind of website do I want (author, book name, theme…)?
You should give this some consideration. If you have a website named for yourself, you could have all sorts of books and products available. However, it may not attract people if the title isn't more descriptive. If your website is your book's name, you will run into a problem if you write more books. I chose a theme (Beyond Introversion and Beyond Down Syndrome) so I could write multiple books or offer classes etc on these two main themes. I will say having more than one website can be cumbersome.
What about branding?
A website gives you an opportunity to consider primary/secondary colors, fonts, etc. These don't have to match your book colors but that is a consideration.
What tabs are usually on a website?
Start small. Have a Home tab where everyone starts and it has your theme, vision or objective, and contact details. Later, you may add a Blog (see below), a Contact tab, a Media or speaking engagements tab, a Book tab (about the book, endorsements, how to buy), and a Resources tab. The resources tab can be handy for readers and gives you an opportunity to build a reciprocal relationship with others in your genre (you note them on your Resource tab, perhaps write a blog about some/all resources every once in a while and they may do the same. This relationship can provide future endorsements, collaboration, SEO, and sales.
Should I also have a blog?
I love having a blog (actually two). I get to basically write a short article on a topic related to my book or theme or completely unrelated. I get to practice ideas and generally get some prompt feedback. It keeps my creative juices flowing, even when I'm not writing a book. However, blogs should be consistent (at least once every couple of weeks). If you don't have the time or inclination, don't get started at least not now. Blogs can be great at building subscribers too. Post your blog on your website so current subscribers and Google searches may find it. Post it to other social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc) and you will be discovered by new subscribers.
What should I put on my blog?
Don't make your blog a sales pitch. No one wants that. Delve into a topic related to your website's theme. Share a personal story to build rapport. You can blog excerpts of your book and yes you can mention your book and occasional sales, but this is more of an opportunity to connect with your current/future subscribers. Have fun with it!
How often should I post?
As mentioned above, generally once every week or two.
How long should a blog be?
Blogs can range from 1-2 minutes to 5-7 minutes or more. Just make it interesting and alluring. If you can do that in a minute great. If you are stretching it just to meet a length, it could be boring and people will stop reading it.
Where do I post?
As mentioned, to your subscribers and to social media. Most websites enable you to maintain a list of subscribers and emails and with a click of a button your blog goes to everyone. Many websites will also let you post to your social media sites quite easily. Next, you can copy your blog URL and paste it into other social media pages and groups (like Facebook and LinkedIn groups). Some of those groups don't allow such posts and certainly not brazen solicitations and could ban you. But a surprising number are happy to get good material. Then you are exposed to hundreds and thousands of people who are interested in your topic so new subscribers and potential book buyers start coming to you. This is the source of most of my current subscribers.
Many writers just want to write their book and that can be fine. But if you want to engage with others, improve your writing, and get your passion, thoughts, and book out to your target audience, a website and blog are highly recommended.
Keys to Success:
Understand your writing objectives
Don't rely upon social media to house your valuable contacts/potential readers
Start your website and blog early
Ideally, use a website in which updating is commensurate with your skills
Start simple and add tabs and shiny bells and whistles later, if you wish
Leverage your website and blog to practice writing, test topics, and build relationships
In June I will cover publishing options from traditional to hybrid to self-publishing.
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