Even as recently as ten years ago, there was little chance for a reader to get involved in an author’s work except by writing to the author, or maybe showing up at a lecture or book signing. Thankfully, all that has changed.
In the age of digits and downloads, the author’s website is, well… electric, and even electrifying. Now it’s more like a hip coffeehouse, or a dinner of nouvelle cuisine at 10:00 pm. It’s become a busy hub for a wide array of content and media – interactive and highly actionable.
This shift in dynamic may seem obvious, but it’s overlooked more often than it should be – much to the detriment of the author. If you’re not sure where your own author website falls on the scale between humdrum and howling – between frog dissection and sautéed frogs’ legs – these tips may lend you just the clue you’re looking for.
Whisper – You Don’t Have To Shout
Does your website shout at readers with a dozen or more calls to action? You want to involve them, not confuse them. The adage from the advertising world is to direct a Visitor’s attention to just one thing, with one “Call to Action” message. Make sure your website is easy to use, with just the right balance between form and function.
Focus on content over design. You want a crisp, clean look with one clear call to action. Still, the substance of your message is more important than the look and feel, so keep the bells and whistles to a minimum. Don’t use Flash if you can help it (due to mobile phone limitations), and trim your images to a manageable size before adding them to your posts. Let the site load time be fast and light.
The intent of your website should focus on the reader, not on you. Yes, this is your website, but you’re not the one using it. It’s all about your readers and what you can do for them.
Use your About page for boasts, toasts, testimonials and kudos. Keep the rest of the site focused on your reader. Have a tab for book news and reviews, offer a newsletter, and make sure you’re easy to contact – things that show you’re not only aware of their presence, but you’re glad they came.
Think of your role as something like being the gracious host of a great party. If you just talk about yourself, you’ll only inspire a lot of yawns, and folks may decide to turn in early or head to the shindig down the block. Instead, present your guests with a scintillating array of topics to nibble on. Also introduce them to other personalities they may enjoy, and get the conversation going.
When someone shows up at your site, offer them exclusive unpublished content that they can’t get anywhere else. Give them juicy morsels they would gladly pay for, like a short video, podcast episodes, short fiction, white papers, explainers and sample chapters.
Create content worth sharing, something your readers might pick apart over coffee or happy hour with their incredibly interesting friends.
How To Keep Readers Coming Back For More
Be generous. Whose work do you read or recommend? Why is it worth anyone’s precious free time? Support your peers and your fans at the same time. Shine a spotlight on people and topics that might not otherwise cross your reader’s path.
Be human. Talk about your works in progress, and share the biggest triumphs and trials you have in the writing process. Are you stuck on one idea? Did you just shift the gender of your lead character and now you have to rewrite half your book? Did you suddenly realize that your magnum opus on finding happiness is really more about finding faith? Are you simply bored with the sound of your own voice and can’t wait to finish your manuscript? Let your readers peek behind the curtain.
Be social. Encourage your readers to promote your fresh content on social media, and make it easy to do. For example, you can use the free service at ClickToTweet.com to socialize your blog content. Summarize the topic of your blog post into about 100 characters, and include your ClickToTweet link. This will automatically post your headline, witty comment or quip to Twitter. For added link juice, use a hashtag.
Encourage comments on your blog and get involved with the conversation. In fact, why not encourage comments on the comments to build a real sense of community?
With a slight shift in focus, you can transform your author website from a dusty lecture hall into a roaring success. The career you wake up may be your own!
Bryan Heathman is the President of Made for Success Publishing. Bryan works with best-selling authors in the role of publisher and marketer, including the late Zig Ziglar, Chris Widener and John C. Maxwell. Bryan is the author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book that condenses knowledge on website conversion from 7-years running an online ad agency. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes running high impact marketing campaigns for Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.