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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Building an author website

Being an independent author is not only writing books I hope will appeal to my readers. I'm actually running a business. There's marketing and promotions, strategy and speculation, market analysis, and a whole lot of seat-of-my-trousers guessing. (I spent a summer among Brits. I struggle to say "pants" now without thinking of underwear.) I have also discovered a huge network of authors/business-owners who are incredibly generous with information-sharing and very helpful advice, some of which I've been acting on for the past couple of days.

I've been doing a little author housekeeping, if you will, and the following post is probably only useful to other authors and maybe a couple of small-business owners. Fair warning.

I signed up for the Amazon Affiliates program back in February. I got the cool little stripe on top of every Amazon page that I visit, and I immediately changed all by book links on my blogspot pages to Affiliate links. (For anyone who doesn't know about Amazon Affiliates, any products someone buys through an affiliate link registered to me nets me fractions of a cent. Some people actually make enough to cover their whole advertising budget from the affiliates program, which is awesome. I am very selective about what I recommend, so I don't really generate a lot of affiliate income). Recently I actually read the Affiliates rules and realized that I can only use those links from active websites, as opposed to static pages, which means I can't send affiliate links in an e-mail, or attach them to the back-matter of any of my kindle books, primarily because Amazon can't track where they came from. It does make me wonder how BookBub can do their affiliate links from their daily e-mail, but I digress.

Because it makes sense to use affiliate links to my own books in the back matter of my kindle books, I needed a way to do that which didn't break the affiliates program rules. My solution is to send potential book-buyers through my website to Amazon. It adds an extra click to their purchase efforts, and certainly might turn people off, but I'll take that risk. So, it seemed like a good time to build a proper website instead of the blogspot pages I've been using. There are several website builders on the market, some easier and better than others, but researching that can suck up days of writing time, so I picked a convenient one, roped a friend of mine in to help me set up content, and started building.

My goal with a website was to build something decent and professional-looking, with a "books" page that has affiliate links to Amazon, and a newsletter sign-up page to which I could entice readers. New readers don't usually troll the internet looking for author's websites, so I'm not going to attract them. But readers who find me on Amazon (where my books have the most reviews) or after a book promotion are only going to want to know more when they've read the first book. So those are the people I'm trying to target with my website.

Knowing my target audience is vital to building a useful website. They've already read at least one book, and have liked it enough to want to know more. That means I can direct people to different landing pages within the website, according to their interests. For people who want the next book in the series, I linked the "books" page to several places in the back matter of Immortal Descendants book. For people who've reached the end of book four and want news about the release date for book five, get in line. No, sorry, that was rude - I linked my newsletter sign-up page at the end of a new book five teaser that I just added to Waging War.

Newsletter sign ups are vital to authors. Those are readers who already know they want more, which makes them a target market. It's vital to keep them intrigued with just enough information to make them pay attention but not oversaturated to the point that they don't open your newsletters when they land in their inbox. Newsletters are the best place to put new release information, and a way to reward newsletter recipients with exclusive clips of new works. I say this all in theory, mind you, because as of now I've sent out exactly two newsletters. I do finally have a template, and I have grand plans for being organized enough to get serious about once-a-month newsletters, but as of now, I still feel too guilty every minute I'm not writing Cheating Death (this is me, writhing in guilt at the moment. I'll make it up to myself with an earlier morning tomorrow).

This has turned into a very long post about a thing that could probably be summarized thus:

Become an Amazon Affiliate.
Build a website.
Put pictures of your book covers on it.
Attach affiliate links to your books.
Add a newsletter sign-up (I use Mailchimp, which requires form-building and HTML code insertion, and is much easier and less painful than it sounds).
Add other things to entice, educate, and entertain visitors (sounds like a Paris salon)
Dress it up in a pretty design (I'm still working on that)
Add hyperlinks to the newsletter sign-up and your books page to the back-matter of your books.

Optional: blog about it. Post links to the new website on all your social media groups. Actually send an entertaining, enticing, and educational newsletter to the people who signed up. 

Required: Then get back to the business of writing.

Oh, and if you've made it this far without your eyeballs rolling back in your head, and you actually want to see what I've been working on, here's the new site.
It's subject to change without notice as I figure out more ways to use it.