Monday, 19 September 2016

Author Website - What should it contain?



General and widespread advice to author’s is to have a website even if you do not wish to blog. Whether you should have a blog or not is a different topic and one I do not intend to deal with in this post.

So, if you accept the advice and decide to set up a website, what should your author website comprise? Please note, as an author, I am writing from that perspective nevertheless, I suggest many of the aspects referred to here would apply equally to any other kind of website.

There is a considerable amount of detailed advice about but, for this post, I intend to primarily deal with the top-level aspects otherwise it will become endless. One thing to note: it is consistently suggested the home (front) page of a website should be static e.g. not change on a regular basis. The idea is for it to contain sufficient upfront information for a reader to quickly gain some understanding of who you are and what you do. After that there are ‘pages’ which contain a variety of additional information and details. As already stated, in this post I intend to deal with the general aspects rather than go into excessive detail. So here goes.

Author Biography - Many readers like to know something about the author as a person. Share a little about your background; where you come from; who your ancestors were/are; how you came to wright; your interests and hobbies; etc. How much you share is up to you; you may consider it desirable, for a variety of reasons, not to share all details. For example, for the protection of others, whether they deserve it or not, I retain anonymity (bear in mind a lot of my writing is autobiographical/biographical). You may also wish to steer away from topics which can be controversial or tend to polarise people e.g. politics; religion; ethnicity, etc.

Book Page(s) - Some recommend a ‘Landing Page’ for each and every book. I have to say, unless you really are a bestselling, well known author, I consider this to be a little over the top. For most of us, a single ‘Books’ page should be sufficient. This would contain the cover image for each of your books; a synopsis of each; extracts from any reviews; links to purchase sites or a ‘buy’ button if you intend to sale direct from your site.

Contact Details - An e-mail address reader’s may use or, if you have a more versatile site, a contact form. Remember this information will be publicly viewable so ensure any e-mail address you give will not compromise any you use for personal or other business purposes e.g. banking, legal dealings etc.

Call to Action - What is meant by this? In the majority of cases this is related to the utilization of an e-mail capture system. This enables readers to sign up for receipt of an e-mail each time you have something to share. Be sure to only use these for the communication of valuable, relevant information otherwise you may be accused of spamming. Please note this is different to the ‘follow’ option most website hosts provide. Having an e-mail capture facility means you WILL e-mail the individuals who have signed up as advertised e.g. you may have stated it to be a weekly, monthly or an ‘as and when’ e-mail.

Social Media Buttons - Buttons enabling readers to follow you on Facebook and Twitter, if you have them. It is strongly recommended by most you do. Of course you should also include buttons for other social media you may utilize e.g. Goodreads, LinkedIn, Pinterest; Instagram; Google Plus; the list can go on though you should try and avoid the temptation to spread your resources to wide. It all takes time of which no doubt you already have little enough of.

Interviews and Articles - If you have been fortunate enough to have been interviewed or have written or contributed to articles, provide links so your readers may enjoy them. These would also, probably, provide them with a greater insight into who you are. For some the more they know about you the better.

Calendar - Publication dates, if you are someone who sets these prior to actual publication. Dates and details of any public engagements. You may even wish to include dates for up and coming pre-planned posts. Of course, if you are not someone who pre-plans it would be best to omit having a calendar: it would not look professional to have one without any events in it.

Blog Page - I have already said I do not intend to discuss the topic of blogs in this post however, for many of us, blogging has been and is our primary channel for publicising our work. Of course you do not have to blog but if you decide it is for you then it makes sense to combine your blogsite with your website. Doing so will provide your readers, followers, fans with one comprehensive site rather than them having to remember or follow multiple ones, which, in these, for most, time constrained days, can be tedious. In fact, they may tire of it and cease following all or some of them.

Media Page - This sounds rather grand for most of us nevertheless, the idea may have merit for some. Again, I think this really more something for those who have been fortunate enough to be identified as a bestselling author. As the title implies, this page is intended to contain information the media may use. Among other things to include, if you do decide to have such a page, should be good quality images of your profile and book covers. It is highly recommended your profile photograph be ‘professional’ e.g. not a general, homely, family one. Other things recommended for this page: author bio (again) but preferably not too long, 150-300 words or less recommended; book descriptions and buy links; reviews; contact info (again); book trailer, if you have one e.g. iTunes; how your book(s) relate(s) to current issues; extracts/sample chapter(s). I could go on and on. As said, I doubt this page, at least in the full state suggested, is really appropriate for most of us. If I think it will be of interest to my readers, I may try and expand upon ‘media pages’ in a future post.

Conclusion

Without question I agree with all the advice recommending an author have a website. To date I have relied upon blogs for the purpose of communicating with readers and contacts but now appreciate I could do with something that will, hopefully, be more professional. Besides wanting to communicate with them I really do want my readers to have an enjoyable and informative experience.

Naturally, when first setting up your website, it is not necessary to include everything at once. You have the facility to update and enhance your site over time. But I suggest you do include author biography and book(s) details as soon as you are able.

I must make clear many of the comments and observations above are my own. Yes, naturally, I have taken on board a lot of the advice given in various places nonetheless, I have made a point of including my own observations. I hope you have found this post of interest and assistance.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Should Authors have a Website?



For many years I have not bothered about having a website relying instead upon blogs to communicate with readers, authors and social media friends and contacts. However, increasingly I see sound advice suggesting a website really is a must for most authors. Nevertheless, my lack of resources have held me back as it appeared the finances required for a good quality website were considerable. I am about to publish a further two books, with work on others having commenced, and consequently consider it is time I opted for a more professional presence, if possible. I have therefore re-examined the potential for creating a site at minimal cost.
 
Many of you will probably already know some, if not all, of what I am about to share nevertheless, there may be new ‘starting out’ authors who will find the information helpful. I very much believe indie authors really should try and help each other.

My research has revealed there are a few companies who offer the facility to create reasonably attractive websites for free. Many also have the option for ‘premium’ sites, which offer greater functionality, at a sensibly realistic fee. Having said that, I must point out many professional, experienced advisors recommend a preference for self-hosted sites with a paid host provider who will look after a lot of the functionality and detail for you. However, these do come at a cost. One estimate suggested this could be anything from $2,000 to $6,000 plus a year. Certainly outside my budget. Off course these sites do provide all singing-all dancing capabilities. However, you really would have to have a high number of visits, and purchases, to recover your outlay. The other advantage to a self-hosted site is it belongs to you whereas the free and premium ones remain the property of the provider e.g. Wordpress, Blogger (Google) etc. However, with the premium services you may have your own domain name that omits the mandatory .wordpress.com/.blogspot.com etc. required by the free options e.g. one of my blogs is currently ‘trbooks7.blogspot.com’ with a premium site this could be ‘trbooks7.com’, which makes it a little more personal and probably easier for when someone wants to search for it.

Another drawback for me, at this stage anyway, is beside the cost you, with a self-hosted site, are completely responsible for maintenance and recovery should it go down. Added to which, you probably need some knowledge of coding, html at the least. Of course this may be learnt but it appears to be quite a steep learning curve.

You may now ask ‘But what about my blog? I still want to communicate with my readers on a regular basis.’ Of course you do. There are two aspects to this.

  • First, some authors really do not like blogging. They prefer to simply have a website that gives details about themselves and their books. Some of you will no doubt suggest that not to blog is missing out on publicity/marketing potential. That is as it maybe but we must allow for people to be themselves and to act as they wish. And it must be acknowledged some authors find just having a website is sufficient.
  • Second, we must not mistake a website to be the replacement for a blog. It is not, or at least should not be. A website is primarily a ‘static’ page where readers may find details about you and your books. Of course you should refresh it at times but in essence it should not be changing on a regular basis. However, as far as I can see, most websites provide the option for an attached blog page similar to the ‘About’, ‘Books’, pages etc. you no doubt have on your existing blog. Consequently, readers are able to find everything relating to you in one place including your daily/weekly posts. Certainly makes it easier for them and for you, from the maintenance point of view.


In this post I started out with the intention of discussing what an author website should have on/in it. Did I say I am seriously considering establishing my own website to replace my existing blogsites? To that end I have been reading up on what is required, or at least what content is suggested and wished to share with you what I have discovered so far. Well to carry on with that now would make this post far too long so I will hold back and share some of what I have discovered with you in next week’s post.

I hope you have found the above information helpful in making your own decisions about whether to create a website (for those of you who do not already have one).

Monday, 5 September 2016

Reader Purchasing



As an indie author I like to have an idea of how readers chose books to read. I am sure I am not alone. Publicity and marketing is always a challenge, especially in these days when hundreds of thousands of books are being independently published. Consequently, any information that may help us target readers is invaluable.

Before continuing there is one very important discovery indie authors really need to take on board: The majority of readers still prefer to buy physical books. Because most of us have difficulty getting an agent or traditional publisher we, by default, have to primarily rely on the internet for publication and marketing. This can become an all absorbing task and it is easy to forget there still remains a very large proportion of readers who are not digitally inclined. I know several people who have absolutely no on-line activity. May be hard to believe in these days of digital everything: tablets, smartphones, PCs etc. but it is a fact.

Some statistics

Please note the majority of the following is based upon the investigation of American readers’ habits. Nevertheless, I would consider the principles apply generally across the globe.

Only 73% of people read.
40% only read print books.
6% only read digitally. (This statistic is one we really need to take note of.)

Statistics from a different source:

65% have read print books in the last year.
28% have read e-books.
14% have listened to audio books.

What may we glean from this information? Print remains favourite!

We should not allow this to discourage us too much but need to be aware our on-line target audience (many of who probably only read digitally) only forms a small part of the overall readership. That does not mean we should give up. Of course we have, and should avail ourselves of the POD (Print-On-Demand) facility which may help though many still appear to prefer purchasing from a bricks and mortar book shop.

Genres

Top fiction genres: (1) Romance; (2) Erotica (What does this say about our society?); (3) Young Adult and Teen; (4) Fantasy; (5) Mystery and Detective (It surprises me, bearing in mind the popularity of television detective shows, ‘Detective’ is not higher.); (6) Gay and Lesbian; (7) Science Fiction; (8) Historical; (9) Thriller and Suspense (Another surprise); (10) Adventure.

Top non-fiction genres: (1) Biography (As an autobiographical/memoir author this pleases me no end.); (2) Health, Wellbeing and Medicine; (3) Business and Economics; (4) Self-Improvement; (5) Religion and Spirituality; (6) Relationship and Family; (7) Sports and Outdoor Recreation; (8) Education and Study Guides; (9) New Age; (10) Computer and Internet (Surprised me ‘Internet’ should fall in the last category. In these days of increasing internet activity, I would have thought it more popular. Perhaps, most who use it consider themselves sufficiently knowledgeable not to need to read up more.).

Sell Techniques

Pre-Orders: Most of you will no doubt have heard a lot over the last year or so about the ‘pre-order’ facility most on-line retailers now offer. It appears this has proven a very successful means of marketing books, for those who have availed themselves of the option. I must point out I have never tried it nor it seems have many indie authors. Nevertheless, the statistics are impressive. I understand 2/3 of the 200 top selling books were launched as pre-orders. I am also given to understand these authors earn approximately 3.5 times more than those who have not utilised the pre-order option. Clearly this option/facility is something we need to seriously consider.

Free: In the early days of self-publishing giving ‘free’ books proved an effective means for gaining new readers; readers may have been reluctant to spend out for a book by new and unknown authors. Subsequently the ‘free’ option appears to be having considerably less success and the debate regarding whether we should or should not follow this path has raged across all social media for some time. Last year, I understand, there were 39 more downloads of free books compared to those for priced ones. This is markedly down from previous years: 91 in 2013; 100 in 2012. The primary area where free books still appear to have more success are the ‘series’ ones where the first in the series is often given free. These earned 66% more downloads than the one-off books. The above figures are off-set by comments from some authors who continue to find the ‘free’ option works well for them. One suggested they gained approximately ten sells for every free book. I have taken this statement at face value having no means to ascertain the facts for myself.

Book Length: Apparently longer books sell better than short ones. Again this surprised me; in these days when many use tablets and smartphones to read, particularly when commuting, I would have thought shorter books more popular. Goes to show that many are still interested in good quality full length tales. Caveat: this statistic may have been distorted by multiple-author box sets.

Pricing

Again this is a topic that has been and is constantly discussed.

$3.99 - appears to be the most successful price for full length fiction.
$0.99 - the suggestion is that this is similar to the ‘free’ option; designed to gain new readers.
$1.99 - the advice is to AVOID this price. No one is sure why reader’s do not like this but the facts support the notion they do not. If your book is priced at $1.99 you are strongly advised to change to the more successful $2.99 or $3.99 or $0.99 if you are out to gain new readers.

On-line Presence

It seems most, but not all, bestselling authors have Facebook and Twitter accounts and a blog. In view of the multiple sites available this appears to be a minimal presence but I would suggest highlights those that are considered paramount for attracting attention.

Conclusion

  • Remember, overall, a high percentage of readers still prefer print books.
  •  If your genre is one of the less popular you need to think of ways to draw greater attention. I would suggest this may be achieved through engaging synopsis’ and blurbs. Also by highlighting in posts, tweets etc. why it would be of interest to the reader.
  • Price your book, if you have decided not to give it free, at one of the optimum price ranges.
  • Seriously consider the pre-order option.


I hope you have found the above interesting, informative and helpful.

Sources:

2015 survey by Smashwords (I publish with them). Please see note below.
Recent PRC survey.
Individual comments and observations in LinkedIn discussions.

Note: Smashwords distributes to a number of retailers however, Amazon, though included, forms a very small part of the sales that show up in their statistics. This means books included in the KDP Select programme are not included in the figures. Most, but not all, Smaswords statistical sells are made through iBooks and Barnes and Noble. I appreciate Amazon is the world’s largest on-line retailer however, I think it worthwhile to gain insight from other sources and points of view, providing us with perhaps a more balanced perspective.