Selling books is nothing like the Field of Dreams. The phrase “If you write it, they will read it” is false. If you plan on wooing publishers or self-publishing, building a group of avid followers is essential for gaining a broad audience that will read the book(s) you have written. The online “must haves” for a serious writer include a professional website, social media presence, and a search engine marketing plan.
Over the past 15 years of partnering with authors to help them build an online presence, I have heard repeatedly that “writing a book takes less work than selling a book.” If you are a first-time author don’t let this statement intimidate you; instead, it should encourage you to seek professional help from marketing experts like CelebrationWebDesign.com. We can help you with your marketing and branding plans.
If you have not already done so, answer the following questions to begin building your branding and marketing plan:
- Who are you?
Readers are interested. Defining “who you are” is vital. This information goes a long way in letting people know why they should listen to you and if your book is worth reading.
- What do you do?
Examples: a speaker with a book, a one-time author, a children’s author, a theologian, a fictional writer.
- Why do you write books?
Go beyond the thought “I have something important to say” or “I like writing stories.” Answer the question with your distal motivation. For example, “After a lifetime of working in steel mills, I learned that God uses people of every profession to share His love, and I have amazing stories of God’s faithfulness to share.” Sarah Bolme, the co-founder of CIPA, wrote a great blog about creating reasons for people to read your book: Overcome the Five Obstacles to Selling Your Book.
The answers to the above questions should be merged into a clear branding statement. These statements are often used as the opening on author websites. The following is an example from a former investigator turned author, Sally Jo Pitts: “You have found the site of private investigator Sally Jo Pitts whose sleuthing and other experiences in working with all kinds of people has led to writing sweet romance and private investigator mysteries.”
Directly after your branding statement on the website, blog bio, or even social media page, make sure to include an action statement. For example, “Be in the know, subscribe to my blog below and get the latest info on upcoming books and speaking events.”
Now that you know what to say, you need to know where to say it. Your website can become a central hub for putting information on the internet. Unlike restricted social media platforms and email blasts, websites can function as a home base for marketing that you have complete control over. To learn more about what an effective website looks like and how it should function, check out the blog, “The Anatomy of an Effective & Efficient Website.”
The next most important part of a marketing website is your blog. It takes time and dedication, but branding blogging is one of the most important ways authors can reach out to new readers and rank well on search engines. Keep your blogs focused on long tail keywords and key topics. Your blogs should be an extension of your branding statement and highlight different facets of your subject area. This should go without saying, but your blog should be on your author website, otherwise, you are giving your content value to someone else. Automation is the key to using your website as a central hub for marketing. Every author should set up the following services to automate publishing their blog via their website RSS feed (remember do not share the whole blog, instead provide a teaser of the blog to get the reader to link to your website):
- ifttt.com – lets you automate just about anything on the web. Post a blog and then use ifttt.com to post links on all your social media platforms automatically.
- mailchimp.com – add a MailChimp signup form to your website and use it to share news and blogs with your dedicated followers.
- amazon.com – Amazon offers author pages that can also feed blogs and link back to your website.
- goodreads.com – use the Goodreads “Author Dashboard,” click on edit blogs settings, and connect your blog there as well.
An often overlooked but essential concept on an author website is the “funnel.” No matter which page people link to on your site or which page they click on to start navigating in your site, you need to drive traffic through the “funnel.” The top of the funnel is the widest part. It includes every page and blog that a person might land on when they first click to your website. The bottom of the “funnel,” the part you want everyone who visits the site to go through, includes a mail list signup for authors with upcoming books and a purchase button for authors focusing on their already published works. This is the action statement identified above that should follow the branding statement.
Action statements do not matter unless people see them, so make sure to use the keywords on topics from your branding statement in your webpage and blogs. To make sure Google recognizes your topics, keep in mind the most important factors for On-Page SEO while creating webpages, by order of importance from most to least:
- Age of the page
- Keyword in domain name
- Keyword in title
- Keyword in “alt” tags
- Keyword in the beginning of the title
- Number of social shares
- HTTPS (having an SQL certificate for your website)
- Linking to high Domain Authority sites
- Keyword in subheadings
- Keyword in meta description
If you have a quality On-Page SEO, consistent on topic blogs, and a strong social media presence, then chances are your website is starting to rank well in search engine results. Even though your website is ranking well, however, Google may still not recognize you as an authority on your subject area yet. Google ranks your site based on its content, but Google also heavily relies on inbound links. You can build inbound links by guest blogging, asking your author friends to link to your website, doing interviews, and more. Just make sure to stay on topic and include a link back to your website, no matter where you or your content is published. Top 10 search results on Google usually have over 300 links from quality websites.
If you find this all overwhelming, learn more about Online Marking by visiting CelebrationWebDesign.com
About the Author
Jonathan Shank, M. Div, is a branding, marketing, and website engineering expert at Celebration Web Design with over 15 years of experience in SEO, CMS Development, Website Design, and Online Marketing Strategy.