Your book is a car, your blog is the driveway (explaining your author website)

author website book marketing
I’m working with Laurie Berry Clifford to prepare for her book launch, and we’ve been discussing author websites. I think our conversation is worth sharing.
I’ve tried to research this myself but I can’t seem to find a straight answer. It’s about blogging. I’m going to start a blog called Buddha Frog Life. I have no problem understanding how to do this as far as the writing, but I know nothing about the mechanism. Here’s what I need to know: Right now, I’m set up to blog from my website, but I don’t understand the point of it as far as exposure. It feels like I am parking my car in my own driveway where only the people who come by house will see it. Is there a way for me to “park my car” at the mall where lots of people can check it out?

Great question.

Yes, basically you’re parking your car in your own driveway. Every time you post an article it’s like adding a little bit of art or decoration. Somebody may think it’s cool if they look closely enough. After you’ve done hundreds of them, the car will stand out even from far away… people who pass by will love it and share… eventually lots of people will come from far away to see it (success!).

But that takes a long time, so you can also:

1. Guest post on other blogs that already have a following.

2. Write about very specific topics.

For example, if you blog the title of your book and your name, anybody searching exactly for you already will find you #1 on Google. But that’s not very helpful (if they already know your name and the name of you book, that isn’t marketing or helping you sell more books).

What you want, is to write content that will appeal to people who will also like your book. People generally search for stuff they need to learn how to do. If they want entertainment, they’ll just go to Amazon or iTunes or whatever other big site they use and look for what’s popular (or search for keywords). Which is why you should really have a lot of little samples, short stories, essays and stuff also posted on those sites… a lot of serial authors giveaway the first book in the series for this reason.

That’s “parking your car at the mall.”

Guest posting would be like placing an advertisement on a billboard near the mall, pointing back towards your site.

Another tip… your blog is like your home; it may not be set up for a ton of strangers. If you put up signs around town and get them to come look at your car in your driveway, they might be turned off. You should set your blog up like a professional showroom – built to sell, with the proper lighting, professional design, everything gleaming. Otherwise, it’s better to just sell at the mall rather than inviting everybody to your house.

Most author websites are not bad, but not great either. Fine for a personal blog; but too personal – usually an author’s projection of their own personality, using fonts and colors and images they like. Unlike Facebook, which keeps everything ordered and clean, a blog is too much like MySpace used to be; it lets you go crazy until you have some jarring and ugly.

Most author websites don’t instill confidence/professionalism enough to sell books. And if it’s not better than the Amazon sales page, then there’s not much use in using it.

However, the reason to have a blog is to connect with readers in a way you can’t on Amazon, so it’s fine to have it be more personalized, but it still needs to be clean and stylish (simple, minimal, lots of space, not too many colors).

An Amazon page is just a sales page; a blog lets readers get to know you first, you can wine and dine them with your writing and personality. If they get to know you they may become fans.

A blog is also important so you can start building an email list or add people to your social media networks.

Great! I want to do that. So my personal house is not the best building to locate my professional blog. What is the best building and how do I rent a space there?

Ideally, you’d buy your own real estate and custom build your shop (get a domain name, pay for hosting, set up a WordPress site using a great theme). That’s more work, but is the most professional (if you use a good WordPress template and don’t mess it up), gives you more control and features.

If you don’t want to do that…Your Amazon book page / author page is like renting a little kiosk in the bookshop, but people will have to find you. Plus you already have that. If you do guest posting or advertising you could send people straight there, but people are unlikely to buy from you the first time they meet you… that’s the point of sending them to a blog, to warm them up first.

You could send them to a Facebook page, but after they visit and like your page, they’ll probably never see anything else you post, because Facebook controls what they see and only shows them big stuff with lots of likes. So that’s kind of worthless.

If you’re ready to pay for advertising, instead of writing guest posts (which is like ‘renting space’) you can put out ads on select websites, or that pop up whenever someone is searching for keywords, but that’s unlikely to be effective unless you’re only advertising in bookstores (like on Goodreads).

I suppose you could focus on your Goodreads Author profile and make that your main hub, it’s easy and professional looking, and you can run ads or giveaways…

And also, you want to set up simple profiles at all the main book hubs (LibraryThing, etc.). You want to be everywhere your readers are… but they won’t find you unless you’re active and posting content, asking questions, giving answers… and then when they find you, they’ll read your profile, but even then they’re probably not going to buy right away. They may still want to get to know you, or read some samples… which is again, what your blog is for.

It’s important to have your own blog to send them to.

Your other activities get their attention, the blog is where you make them feel comfortable with you. But it needs to be well designed, easy to use, and have great content. You should be getting them to take action like downloading a free sample or joining your mailing list.

Author Marketing 101

Set up a WordPress website. Pick a theme from ThemeForest… there are several other companies I recommend in my book but I can’t remember them right now. Ignore the big flash home page with it’s sliding header – click on the “Single Blog Post” page so you can see what it really looks like. You can change the fonts, so just look at the layout – the text, the sidebar, the header. Most of them will be pretty similar, but some are stylish or have cool effects or nice social media buttons. Buy one.

It’s important it looks good: clean, minimal, simple. If you want decoration, use nice images and get a quality header or logo made.

Use Google font replacement. Keep all the text dark gray except for links. Don’t use any bright, highlighter colors.

Hire someone on Fiverr.com to set it up for you (be careful with who you hire, make sure they have a lot of reviews.

Put up a few pages. Hire someone on Fiverr.com to critique your about page and book description.

Add links to your book. Add a free sample. Add reviews.

Add a mailing list and an offer (give them something for free so that they will sign up.

Write engaging, entertaining articles. It’s OK if not many people see them at first.

Write 5 incredible posts. Make them your best writing ever.

Then find the 10 biggest blogs in your field, where your type of readers hang out.

Think of a guest post that would appeal to their readers. Write it. Pitch it to them. Don’t stop until you have 5 guest posts published, that link back to your blog, which links to your Amazon page.

Set up profiles at Goodreads, LibraryThing, Twitter, LinkedIn. Join relevant Facebook Groups.

Don’t try and manage them all at once. Maybe check in on one platform once a week. Like stuff. Comment on other stuff. Share questions. Interact. You don’t need to be fake, just ask for help when you don’t understand something, or help someone else when you do.

Find ways to be helpful to people.

Write a new blog post once a week. Keep doing all the other stuff.

Do it all for six months and you’ll have a pretty powerful platform – you’ll have even found a few real fans who love your writing.

Keep doing all that, and finish another book.

If you’re looking for a place to guest post to get valuable backlinks, I just set up www.publishinginsider.net  for you, and I’m working on a few more. Posting will bring you more traffic.

You can visit Laurie’s blog here, I’m sure she’d appreciate feedback (the site will probably get redesigned though).

laurieberryclifford.com.

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
  • Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

    Love this entire site – everywhere I look, I find great content that is well-written, beautifully presented and incredibly relevant. I’m in the early creative stages of my novel (still working on the first draft), but have set up a wordpress site ( [w]rite of passage )and am hooked into social media (goodreads, twitter, fb, g+) to build the platform and just engage with like-minded people. Will definitely be following your blog to gain valuable insight as I continue to write, create and (hopefully) publish…

    • Thanks! Your blog looks good already, maybe just a bigger/cooler logo for branding and the rest can stay the same. Let me know if you want to write some guest posts to build your SEO quickly.

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