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Google Analytics for publishers: What should you focus on?

If you are writing and managing a blog or website, you really need to get friendly with Google Analytics. Yes it can be a little bit of a head bend, BUT practice makes perfect and there are some simple things you can do to get more out of your analytics.

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6 essential online tools for self-published authors

In this blog post, Chris Singleton – director of digital marketing company Style Factory – highlights six tools that can help self-published authors handle the business side of being a writer.

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brand

4 steps for building an author brand


This is a guest post from Ricardo Fayet. Ricardo is an avid reader and startup enthusiast who has been studying the publishing industry with interest for several years. He co-founded Reedsy, to help authors collaborate with publishing professionals.

Branding is often an oversight for many authors. With so much else to focus on, creating a brand for yourself and your book can seem trivial, but creating a brand from the outset could be your key to success.

With so many books available, both in print and online, most consumers are only looking at your book for a few mili-seconds while browsing through an online or physical store. That’s where your “branding” comes in. If the customer immediately identifies your book as ‘yours’ and remembers having seen the pattern elsewhere, they’ll pay attention to it. Online retail search algorithms also make it easy for readers to see all the ebooks in a series (or by the same author) at once. If they all have the same strong visual identity, you will appear to readers as a professional and prolific author in your genre.

But what does ‘branding’ actually mean? Branding means creating a clear and distinct image for yourself (a “brand”) that differentiates your books and authorship from others. Communicating your brand successfully entails keeping consistency throughout your work. You are essentially making a promise to your readers. If someone enjoys one of your books they will look for more.

Here is a simple step-by-step guide that should get you started:

1) Decide what you want your brand to say

Essentially this involves determining who you are as an author and what you want to be known for. For example, do you want to be known for chick-lit, or young adult fiction? As this will be the foundation of building your brand it can be hard to reverse later on, so make sure you are certain.

2) Are you branding yourself or a series?

If you are writing a series of books then you may decide to brand the series. This is the easier option because it gives you a clear focus and audience to aim your brand at. If not there is the option to brand yourself as an author or brand your work around a niche genre, as indie author Ben Galley did with the ‘Western Fantasy’ genre and his Scarlet Star Trilogy series (read more about this here).

3) What if I want to write in different genres?

Choosing to brand yourself within a specific genre is a long term commitment. Some worry that creating a genre brand will limit them creatively but this is not true. If you don’t want to commit to one genre, you can use different pseudonyms to differentiate between genres. Similarly, with a series, you can use different names to make your branding easier. For example, Madeleine Wickham writes under ‘Sophie Kinsella for a specific series, and as Madeleine for her other novels. She uses similar style covers to create sub-brands.

author brand

Whether she is writing as Wickham or Kinsella, her work is instantly recognisable.

Alternatively, if that doesn’t work for you I’d recommend at least trying to find some consistencies within your work to use as a hook for your brand. This could be something as simple as setting all your of work in the same location, or always making reference to a particular animal or flower. Bear in mind that the more niche your genre, the easier it will be to build a brand and get recognised. Amish fiction is a very alternative genre and thus it has been easier for authors Beverly Lewis and Wanda E Brunstetter to build a brand and become ‘reference’ authors in that genre.

4) How to build the brand?

Once you have established what you want for your brand, it’s time to take action:

Aesthetics

The simplest way to start establishing your brand is through your book covers. This is easier with a series, as you can create extremely similar and interconnecting covers like the Hunger Games series.

author brand 2

If you are branding yourself as an author, the cover is still important. Using the same font, complimentary colours and similar layouts will make your brand recognisable. Self-published authors Bella Andre and Mark Dawson make their names the biggest feature on the cover, which draws the eye to their name, thus reinforcing their brand.

They also have a clear visual identity for each of their series. This has several impacts:

  • It makes their name immediately recognisable in a sea of ebooks
  • It makes their series immediately recognisable as well

author brand 3 author brand 4

Using the same style of images, illustrator or photographer and keeping the layout consistent, can be an especially good technique. Judy Moody, for example, always uses the same illustrative style for her children’s books and her covers are instantly recognisable.

author brand 5

If you are struggling to come up with ideas, drafting profiles/personas of your target audience can help you gauge what will appeal to them visually. If in doubt, consider your favourite authors; what attracted you to them in the first place.

It’s not all about the cover, though! Think as well about the interior layout of your book, and, if possible, hire the same designer to both do all of the covers and all of the interiors in the same series. The interior design of a book doesn’t have the same “eye-catching” role as the cover, however it is vital to the reading experience, and works more subliminally in the reader’s mind.

Online Presence

author brand 6

Keeping font, colour schemes and layouts consistent throughout your website design and social media reinforces your brand. The aim is for your website to instantly show your brand. Coming back again to the example of Amish fiction, Wanda E Brunestetter’s website leaves nothing to the imagination when it comes to what her books are about.

If possible using the same handles across your social media makes it easier for readers to find you online. Another crucial element is to keep your tone and voice consistent on social media like Chuck Wendig. You’ll see him shouting, cursing, joking. And you know you can expect that from his books.

author brand 7

Hopefully these basic steps will get you started! Building up a brand can and will take time, and you won’t be able to see any results early on.  You will need to pair your newly formed brand with a killer marketing plan, to get your work noticed. But once you do,  it will be totally worth it, because readers won’t be just buying a book, they’ll be buying into your brand. They’ll keep coming back for more!

noticed

Getting a book noticed: 4 tips from the UK’s bestselling indie author

Rachel Abbott self-published her first novel, Only the Innocent, in 2011 through Kindle Direct. It reached the number 1 spot in the Kindle store just over three months later,held its position for four weeks and was the second highest selling self-published title in 2012. In August 2015, Amazon confirmed that Rachel is the UK’s bestselling independent author over the last five years. She is also listed at number 14 in the list of bestselling authors – both traditionally and independently published – over the same five year period. Here are her top tips for promoting a title.

The one question I am always asked by writers is “How can I get my book noticed?”. As we all know, it is possible to write the most brilliant novel in the world but, unless people know it’s out there, how are they going to find it amongst the millions of books available for the Kindle?

The tips below might help you to be noticed and to build and maintain a high readership.

1) Run an awareness campaign

Don’t only think about marketing activities that result in immediate sales – focus on making sure that people recognise your books, seeing them in as many places as possible. Display your covers: at the end of each email you send; in guest posts for popular blogs; in tweets or Facebook posts. Awareness is crucial to success. When readers see your book in a store you want them to think ‘I’ve seen that book before – it looks interesting.’

2) Develop a list of reviewers

Most bloggers post their reviews on Amazon and Goodreads as well as on their own blogs. Keep a list of the reviewers you like, and make sure you invite them to read the book before launch. Find other reviewers by searching similar authors, plus the word ‘review’. Send reviewers all the details they might need including what the book is about, the word length and genre. Good reviews create a desire for people to buy.

3) Build your mailing list

A perfect example of a marketing plan objective would be to increase your mailing list by 500 readers. Your actions might include putting a link to a sign-up page in the back of your books, running a promotion, creating a newsletter sign-up form for the author Facebook page, blog or website. Then you can send readers regular updates on the book launches.

4) Use social media tools to help you

It’s all so easy to get hooked on Twitter and be on their all day – but use scheduling tools to cut down on the time spent on social media. Remember the average Twitter user reads tweets for no more than 15 minutes per day and follows 270 people, so if you want to catch their eye, you need to tweet at regular intervals.

Authors marketing

When it comes to supporting authors in marketing efforts, no publisher has it right yet

It is my firm conviction that the biggest shortcoming of traditional publishers these days is their failure to help authors help themselves with digital marketing. In my opening remarks at Digital Book World earlier this month, I said this:

At the very least, every house should do a “digital audit” for every author they sign that includes concrete suggestions for filling in gaps and improving discoverability and engagement. To my knowledge, not one does.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that there are people in big houses, even some who view things from a high perch, who emphatically don’t agree with me. One senior executive told me I was “completely wrong”, and said their editors were very much up to speed with what authors do on social media. Another, a publisher from a different house, asked me if I really believed “landing pages were important”. Of course, if you don’t see the pay-off from creating and managing landing pages on an author’s website (or the publisher’s own!), you might make the mistake of thinking a robust social media presence obviates the need for an author website.

That is a mistake. And it is an increasingly common one.

Where publishers are going wrong

Citing the expertise of editors as the lead claim for a house’s expertise is a tip-off. I have never seen the publishing house where editors were more expert in digital marketing than marketers are. Most author websites are sub-standard but most editors don’t have the knowledge to know that. And, on top of that, neither editors nor authors fully understand the different roles of websites and social media in the marketing effort for a book and author.

If the feedback from these two executives were exceptional or unusual, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning. But it is typical. And both of these houses are making substantial investments to upgrade their digital understanding and performance. They don’t have their heads in the sand.

It isn’t just my imagination that there is a disconnect between big publishers and their authors on the digital marketing front. This shortcoming is real and it is going to really hurt the big publishers, far beyond the sales they’re losing, if they don’t fix it.

I recently tested this idea with one of the most digitally-ept literary agents. I asked him whether he agreed that publishers are failing in this regard. He did. Completely.

A gap to fill

If there’s a gap here, somebody is going to fill it. Just this week, the relatively-new Diversion Books announced a new initiative called Radius, a “full-service publishing services division” with distribution through their affiliation with Ingram. They are targeting “non-fiction authors with very specific and known audiences (consultants, experts in a field)” looking for help “with various aspects of the process–editorial, cover, production, marketing and publicity etc.”

In other words, they would like to partner with perhaps the most desirable category of non-fiction authors: those with a real marketing platform independent of any book publishing activities. Those authors often have pretty decent personal marketing already set up; if they don’t, they are delighted to have professional feedback about how to improve it. Radius will provide a powerful reason for those self-promoting authors to work with them rather than with an older and more established house.

It is worth noting that Diversion was founded by a literary agent, so it is highly sensitive to the author perspective. What they have built is essentially a customized front end to industrial-strength services provided by Ingram, with easy access even for individual authors through what is called Ingram Spark. Diversion is a new-era publisher. They created a service arm and community called EverAfter to serve romance authors; Radius will primarily serve non-fiction authors who have already built audiences. Undoubtedly, other entrepreneurs will build on-ramps to these Ingram capabilities for other segments of the author community.

Should publishers worry about this? Well, the ones who depend on authors can expect more and more services and fledgling publishers trying to make a more appealing offer to them. (And those that don’t depend on authors exist, but they are the exception, not the rule.)

Who should do what

The author platform question is further vexed by the way publishers are organized. Editors “own” the author and agent relationships. Marketers and/or sales departments “own” the marketing resources. To be good at their jobs, editors need to recognize commercial content, negotiate the many moving parts of a book deal, and help the author craft the most salable possible book. Knowing digital marketing or best practices for search engine optimization are not what editors are hired or trained for. Those are the bailiwick of marketers who are explicitly (in most houses) excluded from direct author contact.

Beyond that, there is the confusion in publishing houses, reflected in the question I got about landing pages, about what’s important and what’s not. I can’t tell how widespread this is, but I have heard too often for comfort that “author websites are a waste of time”, that social is more important, and that working Facebook effectively obviates the need for a web presence.

In fact, “search” is still the single most important component of discovery and author websites are crucial for Google to “know” who the author is and to have a contextual understanding of their expertise and their audience. Precisely how the website provides value depends on the author. For a non-fiction author, it can establish topic authority. For a multiple-title fiction author, it can provide definitive information for the order of books in a series or for the back story on the author’s characters (whose names, of course, can be important search terms for the book).

But what is always true is that the website is the one piece of digital real estate the author can actually own, which is not subject to some change in rules or process that will affect its discovery in search or the ability to use it for any purpose of the author’s choosing. Ideally, a publishing house will evaluate an author’s own website as part of an overall digital audit and make constructive suggestions for improving it. If the author doesn’t have one, the house should provide a simple placeholder site that gives fans a place to land or link and can be the ultimate authority of facts about the author and the book.

And only by controlling a website can an author or publisher control the single most powerful tool there is to promote an author through search: landing pages. Best practice is to optimize a landing page on the author’s site for each of the most commonly-searched terms that could lead to real interest or the sale of a book. Anybody who really knows SEO knows that. That’s why the failure to grasp the significance of landing pages high up in a big publishing house is so disturbing.

Collaborating with authors

It really is terrific that so many publishers these days have a high-level executive with the word “audience” in their title and job description. It is a sign of real progress that many of the big houses have invested in vertical sites to build audiences they can tap at any time.

But they’re still missing the most important boat. The real focus needs to be on marketing collaboration with authors and giving them the support they need to maximize their effectiveness. Doing that requires tackling a lot of tricky questions because authors own their names and careers and publishers, at best, have a long lease on one or more specific books they’ve written. But both book sales and author retention depend on publishers taking on this challenge as an essential component of their offering.

I did a post for BookMachine some months ago spelling out a strategy for authors who were marketing themselves.

The author marketing checklist

  • Here’s a quick checklist of what a useful publisher audit of an author’s digital footprint might be looking for:
  • A robust author website to anchor an author’s complete digital presence and act as the central hub and source of authoritative information on everything about the author, her books, her work, and life
  • Complete author and book information at book cataloging and community sites like Goodreads and LibraryThing, as well as at all online retailers (especially an Amazon Author Central page)
  • Google+ to signal to Google who an author is, what she writes about, and all of the things connected to her
  • The right social media mix, which can vary — and evolve — depending on the author, the type of books she writes, and the interests and demographics of her audiences
  • Mechanisms to collect, manage, and effectively use email addresses
  • Ongoing efforts to maintain accuracy and relevance across all of these
  • Effective cross-promotion (across titles and authors)

Mike Shatzkin has been in publishing since 1962. Since 1979, Mike has been an independent consultant (The Idea Logical Company) with clients that have included most major publishers in the US and UK, retailers including Barnes & Noble and Borders, wholesalers including Ingram, and a host of tech startups. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeShatzkin. This post was originally posted on The Idea Logical Company blog in March 2016.

website

Commissioning an effective publisher website

Simon Appleby is the Managing Director of Bookswarm, the only digital agency in the UK dedicated to delivering projects for publishers, authors and others in the world of books.

I’ve been working on websites for publishers since 2007, and I’ve delivered projects for publishing houses large and small. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I can safely say that the most important decisions for publishers all need to be made long before any work is done on design or development.

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Digital Marketing insights

Digital Marketing insights from Katie Sadler [HARPER COLLINS]

This is a guest interview with Katie Sadler. Katie is Senior Marketing Manager at Harper Collins and focuses on HarperVoyager (science fiction and fantasy) and HarperImpulse (romance) lists. Follow @katiemorwenna for more.

1. You have been at Harper Collins for over 3 years now. What’s been the biggest development you’ve seen in how you run digital marketing campaigns during that time?

I think when I started, there was a sense of “if you build it, they will come” – a lot of micro sites and games and videos. People were spending their budget creating incredible content, but there wasn’t any cohesive strategy of how to actually get people interacting with it, and converting people to buy the book. Today there is still amazing content being produced to support a book launch, but I think we try much harder to make sure that it isn’t just released into a vacuum.

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