Why your author website is your most valuable asset
And how to use it to find new readers
[READING ON A TABLET HAS NEVER BEEN MORE POPULAR]
Here’s my take on why having a professional author website is more important than ever — plus some tips on how to use yours wisely.
1. It’s YOUR platform and you’re in control
Your publisher will use your author page to add the email addresses of interested readers to their list and if you change publishers you will leave with nothing.
You need to own your list so that you can engage with your readers on your own terms. The place from which to build that list is your website
Relying on social media to connect directly with your readers, is an equally bad idea. Third party platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can and do change their rules of engagement and their prices at any time. Using them as the sole, or even the main way that you engage with your fans is foolhardy.
Social media will be a hugely important part of your book promotion mix, but you need to use it on your own terms with your eyes open. Use it to drive traffic to your platform, rather than being lulled into the false sense of security that your Page is your ‘place’ on the web and it’s all you need.
Reaching readers on social media is only going to get harder. Organic reach (the percentage of your Page fans who see your posts) on Facebook has dropped to between 1% and 6% and since Zuckeburg’s announcement on 4th January 2018, that figure is set to drop further.
So use the most powerful marketing tool at your disposal — an active website which gives readers exactly what they’re looking for and hosts your sign up form, landing pages for marketing campaigns and more.
2. Meet readers in the sweet spot
You made them a part of the world you created and now they’re bereft. It’s the moment you wrote the book to create and you’ve succeeded. It’s also the moment when they are most likely to search for your name on the internet.
This is your chance to meet them in the sweet spot. They want more, so give them more about characters, places and ideas. Extend the reach of the book for them and immerse them further in the worlds that you create. Tell them about what else you’ve written. Tell them about what you’re writing now.
If you can connect with them as a human being, not someone with a dry, distant biography, but as the thoughtful, inspiring person who just delivered them a great experience, then they’re likely to give you an ‘in’ to their world – their email address.
3. Host your reader magnet
Writing something that your readers will value — a sufficiently weighty short story for example — and offering to send it for free by email, is a powerful way to build your list. We’ve had some fantastic success with this, adding 700 new names in the first week of sharing a free story, just by exisiting fans sharing it with their friends.
Then you can go on to run social media ad campaigns to promote it — all with a view to finding new readers and introducing them to your work. Again, we’re getting some great results.
You’ll need a landing page on your website which hosts the free story (or whatever you’re giving away). This page may become one of the most important on your site, especially if you have a big back list that you can introduce these new readers to.
4. Create shareable landing pages
So if you’re running a competition, host the landing page on your site. If you have an idea for an article that going to generate a lot of interest on social media, don’t post the whole thing there — host it on your site and pull people in. You need to be getting people to share links to your website so that new people who click the link find the whole world of your writing beautifully displayed.
5. Promote pre-orders
As I write this (12th March 2018) hardback sales of 1041 charted at No.20 on the list and 1736 at No 10. These are not huge numbers and the difference between No. 20 and No 10 is small, so if you can achieve even a few hundred pre-order sales via your list you can have a significant impact on your position in week one.
Use your website to host a pre-order incentive. We’ve had some great results with these.
6. Behavioural Remarketing
This means that you have a second chance to connect with people who visited your site but may not have e signed up for your email list.
If you haven’t been using this capability then you’re missing out on an incredibly powerful marketing tool.
Facebook also offers you the opportunity to create Lookalike audiences based on the Custom Audience that you’ve collected via your website — similar people who like similar things. These Lookalike audiences can deliver as much interest as the orginal custom audience and they’re likely to be made up of new people who may not even have heard of you before. It’s powerful stuff.
7. Content Marketing
Rather than simply ‘pushing’ newsletters or advertising campaigns out to people, the idea with content marketing is to ‘pull’ people into the website — people who are looking for something related to your books. So if you write a fictional series about the Tudors, you would research the kind of things that people are searching for around this topic, see what pages are ranking well, and write something that will rank even better. Pull in large enough numbers of people and that some of them will ‘discover’ your work as a result.
We’ve had some great success with this, ranking on page one almost immediately, above some big players such as the broadsheet newspapers. Over several months, one article has drawn 10k people to the website and 12% of these have gone on to explore book pages and the author’s About page.
Your site has to be super-optimised for search engines and your articles have to be set up correctly, but it’s not rocket science.
It’s a slow burner, but as you build a repository of high ranking articles, you’ll start to see spikes in sign-ups for your email list every time a new article ranks and then a general upturn in website traffic. More traffic means more sign-ups and more sales, especially on backlist titles. We ran a campaign involving 5 carefully optimised articles on behalf of a historical fiction author recently and sales of a 15 year old backlist title have settled at 350% higher than before the campaign.