Bonnie S. Calhoun
the Founder and Publisher of Christian Fiction Online
Magazine . She is also the Owner and Director of the Christian
Fiction Blog Alliance which is the parent organization for
Five Secrets of Amazing Author Websites
I met Thomas Umstattd at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference last year and I was immediately impressed with his WordPress skills. I am personally a Blogger person. But WordPress is more than just blogging. It is a great Content Management System for running a website, and Tom is the master at that. Take it away Tom!
Secret #1 People Don’t Care About You
This is a painful truth. People care about themselves. They care about you to the degree that you can make their lives more enjoyable. This is the hardest secret for many authors to grasp because they want their websites to be all about them.
Each author’s website looks pretty much the same. They all have the same pages: Bio, Books, Contact, and Store. They also don’t get much traffic. Even best-selling authors often get very few website visitors because they don’t know the secret that makes Websites successful.
The secret? Provide value.
Your website has to help the visitor in some way. Answer the question “What is in this site for me?” Authors need to face the reality that no one wants to come to their websites to see photos of their children. For anyone to visit your Website, it has to be the most interesting thing on the entire Internet . . . for that person at that time.
How you can provide value depends on your book. For nonfiction books, providing supplementary materials for the book such as fact sheets, tips, and guides often works well. A good blog on the topic can also get a ton of traffic.
For fiction books, podcasts can often work well. Think about copying movie Websites instead of other author Websites.
Secret #2 Be Remarkable
Seth Godin has an interesting definition of “remarkable.” He says that for something to be remarkable, it must be worth making a remark about. Is your author website remarkable? Do people start talking about it on Twitter and Facebook after they visit?
There are many ways to be remarkable and one way to be unremarkable. To be unremarkable, all you need to do is be normal, fit in, and copy other authors.
To be remarkable, you need to be different, edgy, and unique. A website can be remarkably bad or remarkably annoying. You want your website to be remarkably helpful, funny, or insightful. How is your book remarkable? Expand on that for your website.
At AuthorTechTips.com, our goal is to be remarkably helpful. We want authors who read our articles to be so pleased that they tweet a link to the article to their Twitter followers. Right now we average about seven tweets per article.
Secret #3 Have a Mission for Your Website
Whom is your website for? Many authors think their Websites are for themselves. This thinking is a shortcut to obscurity. Successful Websites are for their readers, not their owners, but who are your readers?
Knowing whom you are not targeting is the key to thrilling the people you actually want to reach. If you are writing romance, don’t try to target men. Remember, for anyone to visit your website, it must be the most interesting thing on the entire Internet. You won’t become that interesting by trying to please everyone. But you can thrill a few.
Successful websites have a clear goal. I often ask my clients, “What does the ideal visitor outcome look like? What do you want people to do after visiting your site?” Why do you have a Website? Guilt is a bad reason to start a website.
Secret #4 Integrate Social Bookmarking and Social Media
Okay, so now you have a remarkable website that provides value to a specific target of readers you can thrill. Now you want to make it as easy as possible for them to share your website with one another.
The best way to do this is to integrate social media into your website. Buttons like “Share on Facebook” and “Share on Twitter” are key to growing your traffic. If your website is run on Wordpress, there are some great plugins that will do this automatically. I use Sociable for my clients.
Another way to integrate social media is to incorporate your blog into your site. You want to blog on yourdomain.com, not blogger.com or wordpress.com. Why? Each blog post is a chance to get Google points to rank high in searches. When you blog on Blogger, you give all your Google points to Blogger and get nothing in return. Integrating a blog to your site can easily double or triple the amount of traffic your site gets.
Secret #5 Focus on Content Over Design
A pitfall many authors fall into is that they keep redesigning their Websites instead of adding value to them.
When they first get their websites, they are the most beautiful site on the Web. Like the mother of a newborn, they can’t see the flaws and only see the beauty. After a while of staring at the site, they begin to get tired of the design and start to nitpick. After a couple of years, they hate it and want to start over.
They forget that their visitors don’t spend hours looking at their sites like they do. Your visitors don’t notice the subtle “problems” of your site.
In my experience most author websites look fine.
Think of the design as a picture frame and the content of your site as the picture. My recommendation is to spend ten times more time and effort creating a good picture (the content) rather than a good frame (the design).
Creating a valuable and remarkable site takes time and effort. It takes months and even years to rank well on Google, so don’t let how your site looks distract you from making it excellent.
This is not to say that design is unimportant. You want your site to look professional. But once you get a professional look, stop fiddling and start adding valuable content.
About Thomas Umstattd Jr.
Thomas built his first Website at the age of thirteen and has been helping people with the Web ever since. He runs www.AuthorTechTips.com, a Website that helps authors use technology to sell more books and build their online platforms. He also is the CEO of Umstattd Media, a company that builds websites for authors and helps them create an online strategy.
About Umstattd Media
Umstattd Media is a company that specializes in helping authors who are not comfortable with technology. They build Websites that are easy for authors to update themselves and that have blogs built in for top placement on Google and other search engines.