Guest: Frank Anderson
I’m not an author, I’m a web designer and web hosting manager. I’ve never written a book, but I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands of websites created by authors to pitch their latest project. And it makes me cringe every time I see a book with so much potential ruined for the Internet user by a bad website experience.
In this article I’m going to discuss some of the biggest faults of authors for their personal or book-specific websites and give some practical solutions that will not only solve the problem, but will be a faster and easier solution than the one you probably went with in the first place.
When authors are first figuring out their web presence the initial step is often to buy a domain name. And because of this they are often exposed to many offers from the web host for all-in-one solutions for their website. Big mistake.
Web hosting companies are great for getting your domain and hosting set up, but they are not so great at building website templates. But that is okay because there are a lot of free template solutions that can easily be installed on any web server.
The solution that I am going to focus on is WordPress. WordPress has become the standard Content Management System for small websites. And because of this tons of third-party development has been done to give you any feature you could imagine and thousands of templates to fit any need out there.
After you have installed WordPress (many hosting companies can do this for you) you need to find a theme (website template) that fits the needs of an author.
Everyone has their own taste in what looks good, but with your website your main objective is to make it not look bad.
And as with any visual medium people become conditioned to expect certain design practices. There is a large industry built around studying the response website visitors have to a website, and the general rule is that you want your site to not be cluttered, keep the focus very defined, and the call to actions should be clear.
Luckily for you, there are a ton of great WordPress themes that are designed specifically with these needs in mind, and they are also geared towards people in situations similar to authors pitching a book.
Smashing Magazine has a great article every year with the best WordPress themes. In this years article check the themes at the top under the Portfolios category. You can also search the web if nothing catches your eye for portfolio WordPress themes.
These themes are designed with large areas for photos (think author photo and book overs) and provide just enough text space for your to give the reader some reasons to check out your book.
Call to Action
The biggest problem I often see with author websites is the confusion in how to reach the book. I fear that authors feel they have to add a lot of words to the website selling the book in order to get customers. But as often is the case, less is better.
Your website should have a big giant button somewhere that gives the visitor the option to support you by buying the book or whatever other system you have worked out to make money. This button should be persistent throughout your website; always in the face of the visitor.
It may seem disruptive, but online marketing studies have shown time and time again that regardless of how intrusive a call to action can be, they make sales.
Tracking is often overlooked, but quite important. You want to know where your visitors are coming from so you can better optimize your site to attract more visitors form those areas.
Tracking tools like Google Analytics can give you many of the metrics you need to see who is visiting your site. You might also want to have a middle-man service between your website and the purchasing of your book to track those clicks as well.
Frank Anderson works with exchange hosting and web hosting. His passions are marketing and all things Internet.