by Lisa Norman
We've all heard that writers need a website, but why?
When I ask writers why they want a website, they say:
- so I can look professional
- so I can get a book deal
- to sell more books
- because my coach/agent/publisher said so.
When we don't know why we need a website, it is hard to use it effectively. A website isn't supposed to be something you put on a shelf and dust off occasionally. A website is a powerful sales tool that helps move an author toward success.
Let's start with an understanding of how marketing works. Most people show these stages as a funnel, but I'm thinking they work a lot better as a wheel.
Marketing Wheel for Authors
Marketing starts with discovery. No one will buy your book or become your fan if they don't know you exist.
Websites are only a tiny piece of the discovery stage of marketing, but they still play a role.
A potential fan is thinking, "Hmm. What should I read today?" They're probably a little bored, looking for something distracting.
Maybe they find a blog post you wrote on a topic that interests them. Maybe a friend shares something on social media. Maybe they see your ads.
However they find you, they either go out and buy your book directly from a vendor or they come to your website to learn more about you and what you have to offer. Either path can generate sales and a following for you.
Here is where your website starts to show its power.
At this stage, our fan is thinking, "I wonder if this writer is any good?"
They're looking for your style promise.
Your style promise is a key part of your author brand.
Something important: you want to show your style and your brand in all of your sparkling glory. If these folks aren't going to be your true fans, they should know it right away and leave. Don't waste their time or your marketing dollars on people who aren't going to be fans.
You don't need to appeal to everyone. You want your website to scream what you are about so that your people will be attracted and those that are not your people will be filtered out.
This consideration stage should lead them to your sales pages.
Conversion is a marketing term that just means they buy the book. Bonus points if they read it.
Conversion can also be signing up for your mailing list.
In this stage, the potential fan is becoming an actual fan. They are interacting with your writing and deciding that you are someone they want to know more about.
They like what they see in your writing, and they want more.
As a fan finishes your book and closes it, they are thinking, "Wow. That was really good. I wonder..." They will bring their questions to your website.
Hopefully, they'll find their answers!
Ideally, they'll find not only answers, but an invitation to connect and become a true fan.
You want to clearly invite these fans into a relationship.
Technologically, this means they sign up for your newsletter so they can be notified when your next book comes out. They may also follow you on social media, but don't forget to get them on your mailing list!
Your newsletter (also called your "list") is the most important sales tool you have.
Statistics show that more books are sold through direct emails than through any other channel. You want to fill that list with true fans. You want fans that will be so excited about your new book that they'll race to pre-order, tell their friends, and then eagerly leave reviews.
A side note about mailing lists: it isn't the size of the list that controls the power. A small mailing list with loud, true fans can outperform a huge list with bored people who aren't actually your fans. This is why giving away a Kindle or some other prize can build a list that then doesn't generate sales. You want true fans who love you on your list.
This is a relationship that you will honor and protect. Give gifts to your fans: short stories, drawings, sneak peeks. One of the most amazing gifts that you can give your fans is the connection to you. An email from a favorite author can make someone's day. If they reach out through comments or reply to an email, do your very best to respond.
Don't know what your fans want? With a relationship like this, you have the ability to ask them. Give them what they want.
Fans who feel respected and valued want to stay around.
Everyone is busy. If you send out a newsletter that doesn't have anything in it for a true fan, they'll unsubscribe and spend their time watching Netflix. Never bore your list!
Engage with these fans, build a following, and they'll want to interact with you and your books more. Better yet, they'll want to bring their friends to the party.
Want to find more fans? You want more people like the ones you have. You may not know those people, but your fans do!
Showcase fan fiction and fan art. Create polls to give your fans a sense of connection to your next book. Bring them into the process. Make them feel valued and cherished.
A fan at this stage is not just thinking, they're speaking. They're telling their friends, "Hey, I found this great author you should check out!"
And that is how retention leads back to discovery.
Get this wheel spinning and it will become self-sustaining.
Why your Coach / Agent / Publisher wants you to have a website
People who are invested in your career, especially those whose income is tied to yours, want to know that you understand marketing and are ready to become more than just a small part of the process. They want you to show them that your brand is going somewhere!
I was at a convention, sitting next to an agent who was drooling over the website samples I had on display. He said, "If I could convince my authors to do one thing, it would be to build a website like these."
Own Your Space
One last tip about websites. Only on an author's website do you have complete control over the content and your customer interactions.
Social media companies can change the rules and interfere with your interactions with your fans. Sales behemoths can control your access and ability to advertise.
But on your website, you are building a home for your fans, a gathering place. You can lock out the trolls. You make the rules because this is your home on the internet.
Make it welcoming. Make it entertaining. Make it yours.
Do you have an author website? What do you like and dislike about it? Do you have any questions for Lisa? Please ask them down in the comments! (And we hope you're as excited as we are that Lisa is one of our new regular contributors!)
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Lisa Norman's passion has been writing since she could hold a pencil. While that is a cliché, she is unique in that her first novel was written on gum wrappers. As a young woman, she learned to program and discovered she has a talent for helping people and computers learn to work together and play nice. When she's not playing with her daughter, writing, or designing for the web, she can be found wandering the local beaches.
Lisa writes as Deleyna Marr and is the owner of Deleyna's Dynamic Designs, a web development company focused on helping writers, and Heart Ally Books, an indie publishing firm. She teaches for Lawson Writer's Academy.
- August: Social Media for Authors
- September: Maximize your Crazy Easy Author Website (Advanced)
- October: Crazy Easy Awesome Author Websites (Beginner)