The definitive indie author guide to author websites that attract and convert

Today we did an awesome live class on building a bestselling author website, including topics to writing about, content marketing, getting more traffic and email subscribers, and design and branding. One of the things I recommended was to write articles, then turn those into Powerpoints for SlideShare, then record yourself talking about it for YouTube, then breaking them into individual pictures so they can be posted to Twitter and Pinterest. So that’s just what I’m going to do.

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You need an author website to attract readers with great content and get them to sign up to your list (not to sell books – if you JUST want to sell books, set up a landing page or something or just send them to Amazon.)

 

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This is how traffic works. Most authors are ONLY doing number one. It’s a lot of work and demands constant effort. It’s SO much easier to put something short and free up on Amazon where people can read it automatically and find it easily. You should also put content out on big sites, YouTube, SlideShare, Pinterest, etc. So people find it, then click back to your site. Make something today – once – and it will bring in traffic for years.

 

 

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Common mistakes indie authors make with their author websites. Most authors write enigmatic posts about nothing. They write them really freaking well. But nobody can find them because they aren’t using obtuse and poetic literary phrases. They are looking for “best scifi books of 2015” or something like that. So write about that stuff. When they actually show up, you can entertain them with the more creative writing.

Pick what you want them to do (sign up or buy your book, probably), and REMOVE everything else. Everything else is just distracting them from what you want them to do! It’s like telling a four year old to eat his veggies but putting them in a bowl of Fruit Loops and making him sift through the mess.

 

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Most authors pitch to strangers. You can’t sell something to someone who doesn’t know you, unless they really want it (are already looking for it!). But you can get their attention with great content, then build trust. You can’t ask for favors, but you can encourage action. But it’s all 1000x easier if your shit is well designed. If you feel like you’re working too hard and nobody is paying any attention, you probably have zero traffic or bad design. (Pay $20 in advertising to get some traffic. Still no results? Your design sucks).

 

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You need content so people find you accidentally when they are searching for stuff. You need an offer to get them to sign up to your email list. BAD DESIGN is what sabotages that process.

 

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Authors are creative. But the first website you make is going to be god-awful, unless you’re a professional designer or website coder, or unless you use really safe tools that don’t let you go crazy. Don’t make something you think is awesome. It probably isn’t. Copy something beautiful and safe or go super minimal.

 

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It would be great if you could make a pretty, super author website that’s well designed and perfect… but if you aren’t a graphic designer AND a web designer (two very different skills) you probably can’t do that, so you’ll end up with something ugly, messy and hard to use. Almost always better to got with a minimal theme and don’t mess it up, so at least the content will show up and be readable and people won’t run away with their eyes burning.

 

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Use a title generator like the one above to make hundreds of clickable article title ideas. Pick out 50 of them. Write 50 a day, of 500 words each. Repurpose the content on a dozen different sites in different formats (powerpoints, images, etc). In 10 days you’ll get more traffic than the majority of other indie authors in your genre.

I’m writing a mermaid novel. I know my readers are searching for “young adult mermaid romance novels” or something like that. That’s a pretty specific thing. Ranking for “vampire romance novels” would be much, much harder. And if I write articles about “young adult mermaid fantasy novels set in Ireland” I’ll basically get all the traffic whenever anybody searches for that specific thing. Think of things your readers might search for and make it easy to be found.

 

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You need great content on YOUR site so people will link to it and you’ll get more traffic; you need traffic to get people on your email list. But you can do everything so much faster if you take that SAME content and turn it into image quotes, powerpoints, videos, and guest posts on bigger sites. Some bloggers spend 20% of the time on their own blog and 80% on guest posting at first to explode their traffic immediately. (I didn’t do that… but I’m ready now).

 

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The best and easiest book marketing in the world is to build a team of other authors in your genre so you can share readers (you never have enough books – readers read fast. Recommend them to friends and they will do the same for you.)

 

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These are opt-in ideas you can use: make something that appeals just to your ideal reader. For the the #1 best idea is “Signup for a summary of my favorite (genre) books each month” or similar – so you review bestselling books in your genre each month, write articles about them, then write a “best (genre) books of October, 2015″ and email that post out to your list. That’s the perfect kind of content to attract your ideal readers.

 

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You don’t have to give your book away for free. I get it, you spent a long time on it. But giving away free books is THE BEST way to find new readers quickly and give them a taste of your writing. So publish short stories, removed chapters, unfinished scenes from a book you could never wrap up, prequels or additional content. Think of MORE stuff you can write – 5000 to 10,000 words even – get a cover and publish it! Make sure to link back to your “real” books that you’re charging for.

 

 

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Getting someone to signup to your email list is just the beginning; you need to build that relationship by caring about them, teaching them useful stuff, sharing interesting content, and writing emails that are worth opening… consistently. Till they know who you are and look forward to hearing from you. It’s not easy… but you get better.

 

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Design matters a lot. Nobody can read your content if they close their eyes. Make the design get out of the way and the content easy to read. Wordswag can do all kinds of amazing things; Canva is good too but I love that I can use my ipad’s microphone feature to just say the words I want on a picture and it will all look beautiful.

 

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Your blog should make people feel the way you hope your books will make them feel. Happy? Scared? Intrigued? Use colors, fonts and texture to get that same feeling. But don’t make it ugly.

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About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me
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  • Taryn Bashford

    Love your work Derek but it really seems to be aimed at adult readers. I did a pile of my 15 year old daughters friends. They don’t have email addresses unless they are school ones they’re not allowed to use for signs Ng up to newsletters. They also don’t go reading blogs much. They’re on Instagram and Facebook and snapchat. How do you get them to sign up for a newsletter if this is the case?

    • Most teens have email. I built a list of about 10K teen readers by doing book giveaways; they don’t use email that much, but that only means you have less competition in their inboxes. You just advertise your giveaway on instagram/Facebook (I’ve ignored snapchat so far, there isn’t a good way to use it for sales, it’s not as powerful as having an email list).

      • Taryn Bashford

        Hi Derek. Thanks for your prompt response. You make a good point about competition in their inboxes. I think you’re right about snapchat too–as much as I want to use it, Instagram and Facebook are better so far. Hey, what do you think about twitter in terms of reaching teens? Giveaways there too?

  • Author Brenda Winters

    Nice article.

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