Why your author website is your most valuable asset

And how to use it to find new readers


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

There are still some authors who rely on their publisher’s author page or on social media to connect with their readers. Leaving such a crucial connection to a third party is a mistake — a big one. You need your own platform under your own 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

The Sweet Spot is that moment when a reader gets to your final sentence, closes the book, looks up and stares into space for a moment. They’re still connected to the world you created and they wish the experience wasn’t over. It’s affected them deeply, either you’ve moved them, scared them, inspired them, built and released tension within them, satisfied them intellectually by resolving something complex and challenging, or simply made them laugh.

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

Once you have a reader magnet you’ll wonder why you didn’t write one sooner.

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

It’s not only your reader magnet page that will become a heavily visited landing page. You can create landing pages for all sorts of other, highly-shareable ends.

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

If you’re in with a chance of getting your latest book on the bestseller list, an engaged readers’ list can make all the difference.

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

Placing the Facebook pixel on your website is a no brainer. It tracks site visitors and then uses that date to create a custom audience that you can send a Facebook Ad Campaign to.

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

If you’re writing non-fiction, historical fiction or any kind of book with a searchable topic, then you have to make the most of google search.

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.