How to make an author website or book sales page that doesn’t scare away your readers

mybooksFor years I’ve been dancing around the idea of offering author websites. I’m a WordPress pro PLUS a graphic designer, so I’ve got the skills – and WordPress author websites are in huge demand and average around $1000 to build.

Why I don’t do it?

I don’t want to become the author’s life-long tech person who helps them change pictures and post new content forever.

When is web design “done”?

Also, I have done several author websites and while some are easy to do and look great (takes me about a day to set up), other authors refuse all practical design advice, eschew a decade of best design and layout practices for maximum userability and sales, ignore what’s current and trending and modern.

Instead they want to reproduce their own strange persona publicly, by micromanaging every aspect of design, from fonts to colors to layout. But the website isn’t about you. Unless it helps you sell your book, your website is a waste of time and money.

Should you build your own author website?

I’m a big fan of DIY. And I like WordPress because the learning curve isn’t that bad. It’s a lot like a word processor. You post pages and blog pasts, and organize them with the “menu” features.

While you can pay someone thousands of dollars to build your website, it’s nearly worthless unless you write and publish a lot of great content. (And why pay a lot for something that isn’t earning back your money).

You probably can’t hire a life-long IT consultant to help you post everything (although, actually, you could hire a cheap VA on fiverr to handle all posts for you). So the best thing would be to learn WordPress enough to install a theme and update the content.

The risks….

The risk of DIY designing anything is, if you aren’t a designer, you’re going to make something ugly. This is not an insult; children’s drawings my be precious but they’re poor workmanship. Likewise, you and your mom may think what you’ve built for your website is glorious, when it’s really crap, off-putting, disturbing. Paying a lot for webdesign will backfire if you take control.

Resist the urge. Buy a nice, pretty website that’s just perfect – get a theme from themeforest or elsewhere (search for “premium WordPress themes). Don’t change much – except maybe nice author logo/font.

Don’t hire a designer because it will give you too much power and control. That’s not good. Buy a theme that’s pretty and just use it, with a logo change, perhaps fonts as well. You can use a Google fonts plugin to style things but don’t go far… really, you are your own worst enemy. If a theme already looks clean and stylish, don’t wreck it.

Other Options / book sales page

Your author website is useful if you have several books around a theme or mission (and you should). It’s useful if you bring new traffic by writing related content, somehow connected to the theme or subjects of your book. But if it’s just a landing page meant to sell a book, you don’t really need a blog. In fact an empty blog with no content may be even worse for sales.

Your website will only do something if you promote it (people won’t naturally find your website if it doesn’t have a lot of rich content – but you can direct them to it). If the only aim of your website is to sell the book, or maybe get an email optin for a free giveaway (which longterm will be better for you), you may only need a “landing page.” A landing page is usually a one page sales letter. There aren’t any distractions; just a very well-written, psychological powerful organization of details, reviews and pictures to “close the sale.” They work, and they work well.

They work much better than inviting someone to your rambling blog with tons of links and lots of stuff to read but no obvious “Buy the book” button (aka the “call to actions.”) Longterm, a blog is much more powerful because it gives you authority, helps you develop a lot of content, brings in new readers all the time, and gives you the chance to build an email list to interact with.

But it only works if you post new content, around 500 words once a day (optimally). But a sales page can appear more professional and directly lead to more sales (ie a business card might lead to a sales letter, which is so well done and convincing everybody who visits it buys a book). As long as you’re handing out business cards, it will work – but strangers aren’t going to accidentally find your sales page, you need to be promoting. (As opposed to a blog, where you write about related subjects and people find you without looking for you.)

How to make a sales page for your book

I’ve been making landing pages with Optimize Press (such as www.diybookcovers.com). It’s pretty good, but there are others. Landerapp is one. LeadPages is another. Something new I’ve just discovered is www.Bookpag.es: It let’s you build a simple landing page – I made a test site for my book here if you want to see:

http://bookpag.es/bookmarketing

Some of these work with WordPress, so you could also have a blog if you wanted. There are also some useful WordPress plugins that can make call to actions or landing pages. There are also some cool-looking themes on Themeforest.com for selling books and ebooks, such as….

The trick is to remember you just want visitors to do ONE thing; either buy the book or sign up to get something free. Those are the two most important things your author website needs to do. (Personally, I’d send them to buy the book, then at the end of the book tell them to sign up to my list for something free. Although, if they sign up and enjoy the free stuff first, they’ll be more likely to buy your real stuff.)

By the way, a sales page may not work so well for fiction. Take a look at this page for a paranormal romance series: http://www.thecrystalwarrior.com

The page style is very clean and professional, but doesn’t match the dark style of the book cover… changing the fonts or colors could fix this. A landing page may also be best if you’re selling at a higher price off Amazon – for a PDF for example. You could then do a free Kindle book that leads people to your landing page with the “Full” version.

Conclusion

It’s nice to have control and host things on your own domain, but it’s also not a great idea to spend a lot of money on a website that isn’t going to do very much. So starting with a very simple landing page, that links to Amazon or the book sample and collects emails, may be the best way to go. Even if you have a blog, having a powerful landing page that converts browsers into buyers is not a bad add-on strategy.

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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