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What Publishers’ Websites Can Do: Part 3

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(SEE ALSO: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

INTRODUCTION: In this final installment of our series on Websites’ many uses, two leitmotifs seem especially clear—one that might be summed up as Set Smart Goals, and one that amounts to Link Lots of Ways.

It’s useful, of course, to know what cool things you can make a site do and what pages are standard on publishers’ sites. But IBPA members testify that it’s even more useful to know what you want your site to accomplish.

As members’ reports show, defining those goals means focusing on the same questions that other aspects of marketing raise: Who is this for? What do they want and need? What do I want them to do? How does what I want relate to what they want, and how can I make sure they understand that what I’m offering is what they’re eager to have?

As for linking lots of ways, see below and the earlier installments of this series (which ran in November and December). Like goals that members set, links that they devise, use, and recommend are designed to provide value for particular populations, and they come in a wide variety, including internal, social media, and subject-based.

Many thanks to everybody who shared hard-won Website wisdom on these themes and others.

—Judith Appelbaum, Editor

Doing Triple Duty

Our site is an information center, a marketing tool, and a sales venue. We consider it our first line of contact with readers and potential new authors, and it’s definitely an essential marketing tool, since most of our readership accesses content online.

To supply information—and customer service—we offer contact information, an e-book FAQ designed to help readers who are new to digital content choose what formats to order for their devices, material about local bookstores that carry our titles, and tip sheets, plus  guidelines and FAQs for authors who want to submit their work to us.

To use the site for marketing, we provide links to a free monthly electronic newsletter that features author interviews and updates on new releases, links to our blog and to individual author blogs and Facebook pages, and a calendar of events.

To generate sales, we provide reviews and author bios, give visitors ways to find content similar to content they previously purchased, and make our entire list of 350 titles accessible. Our readers find out about new content via digital networking that starts with our site. Some 20 percent of our print and digital sales are direct to readers via our integrated Web store.

Len Barot
Bold Strokes Books, Inc

Seven Lessons Learned

Websites . . . can’t live with them, or without them. Briefly, here is what I have learned over the last 15 years or so:

  1. Have to have one! Has to capture the attention of the visitor in less than 10 seconds or they will leave!
  2. A poorly done Website will kill business; the site is an instant reflection of the business, owner, management team, entrepreneur. So many entrepreneurs’ sites are done poorly, and yet the owners of the sites are proud of them (and don’t know why they don’t get business).
  3. At best, a well-done site confirms for prospects that your company is worth pursuing further.
  4. You can sell books on your site, but sales on our site amount to only 5 percent of what we sell on Amazon and through our direct marketing and selling efforts. (public speaking, workshops, associations, universities, etc.).
  5. A Website is just one aspect of marketing, and not the primary one. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.
  6. People will come to a Website to learn your products and services, might buy if the price point is less than $50 . . . otherwise they will want to talk to someone.
  7. For most small businesses, less is more. Most Websites have far too much blah blah blah.

Jim Horan
The One Page Business Plan Company

How Connections Help

We discovered that we could add value to our Website by connecting information pages with our books. For instance, a book about abuse has a Website that lists dozens of help organizations. A book about pirates was linked to the author’s evaluation of pirate films throughout history (she is a film reviewer by day). She also linked those movies available on Amazon to our site and got associate commissions from the sales.

Our information pages became their own draws for Google searches, attracting people who hadn’t known about the related books (at each site, the book is always at the top of the page and/or featured as a resource in the body of information).

For nonfiction especially, we’ve found this a handy tool.

Jacqueline Church Simonds
Beagle Bay, Inc.

One for Each Important Audience

Month9Books, which publishes speculative fiction for teens and tweens, uses two separate Websites that link to each other.

Our trade site is designed to help partners and potential partners learn about our titles, view our rights guide, and contact the appropriate people about sales, permissions, and so on. It also lets reviewers and bloggers sign up to be added to our database. And it includes information about our mission statement and beliefs, company news, and our publication calendar.

Our consumer site features strong calls to action, especially calls to buy. Content about our titles has links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound. Visitors can watch book trailers, read interviews with our authors and staff, and even read first-chapter previews from titles not yet released. Bloggers and reviewers can access Blogger Central to find everything they need to conduct an interview, participate in a blog tour, and so on, from files only they can download and information available only to them. This site also has a list of staff with job descriptions, an events page with flyers that readers can print and hand out or bring to an event for autographing, and a link to the Month9Book merchandise store.

Serving different populations, both sites help us build our mailing list and drive product awareness, and we aim to keep both up and running with continually fresh content and cross-promotion.

Georgia McBride

Freebies Pay Off

Because I believe that the old adage “You must give in order to receive” applies to authors’ and publishers’ Websites, I offer a free e-booklet on my site as a way to collect names and email addresses of potential customers and clients.

I also use my Websites as resource centers. Once I have attracted a client or customer to one of my sites, that person has the opportunity to learn about me, my services, and the books I offer. They can find out where I am speaking next, as well.

And I offer a daily blog for authors, a large resource list, and tons of articles on publishing and book promotion.

Statistics show that I am drawing more traffic since I began offering the free e-booklets. And my mailing list has grown tremendously.

Patricia Fry
Matilija Press
matilijapress.com, patriciafry.com

Getting (and Giving) Information

Readers’ comments on my blog are an outstanding source of information about my market, and we also use reader surveys with inexpensive tools like surveymonkey.com to get actionable market information direct from the source. Virtually all “complaints” come through comments, so we can address them transparently, in full view of the community, and I think that adds quite a bit to the trust readers have in what they read at the site.

Offering free information products online has let me grow a sizable email list quickly. My blog is a perfect tool for generating prepublication “buzz” for books (and other products). And just this month we added what amounts to a “store” for books, guides, and training programs to the site.

Joel Friedlander
Marin Bookworks

Friends Beyond Facebook

I’ve had a Website for many years that helped me sell many thousands of dollars’ worth of homes and lots, and I have written hundreds of articles for it. As a new indie author/publisher working on my first major book, I’m excited to have a way to give back by sharing the ways my site has helped my business.

We all want customers, so how do we get them? Just like we get new friends. Be available, be respectful, be helpful, be forthcoming, and most of all, just be friendly.

Easy to say, but how do we do this via a Website? Offer something of value in exchange for visitors’ contact information and tell them you respect their privacy. Be easy to contact (toll-free numbers, email addresses, forums for questionsand comments). Be sure to reply to everyone promptly and politely. Stay in touch on a predictable basis that people can count on (say, once a week with something of value to them).

Be interesting, be topical. Tie your content to news items, holidays, celebrity events. Entice people to access your site’s content with intriguing headlines. Then deliver the goods in each article, tidbit, audio, or video.

Soon, you’ll develop a following of friends who know, like, and trust you. Guess what? Friends buy stuff from friends they know, like, and trust. Remember the Tupperware parties?

Using the Word Press Platform (which even a novice can handle), I’ve built a list of over 700 devoted client friends who love me, but tell me when they don’t, so I can do better. Many of them have become in-person friends and clients to our mutual advantage. More and more of my sales are the result of referrals. Friends help friends.

In closing I want to thank IBPA for its wonderful site. I truly feel like a kid who has found a new candy store to explore.

Sid Grosvenor
Chapala Club

To Build a Brand

My Website is built around my blog, Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness, in support of my novel, The Guys’ Guy’s Guide to Love. Our goal is to build the Guy’s Guy brand, starting with this first book in a trilogy.

The site features a synopsis of the novel, author info, media coverage including interviews and reviews, promotional videos and our YouTube channel (with each video crafted to drive home specific information about our brand), our Facebook pages, contests, TV appearances, signings, book clubs, photos, reviews, Guy’s Guy favorite sites, a link to our Blog Talk Radio/Guy’s Guy radio broadcasts, ongoing contributions to ABC Radio on Slacker.com, more than 70 weekly blog posts and guest posts on other sites on all things Guy’s Guy, links to our Twitter feed, and more.

We will begin selling new Guy’s Guy products very soon, including Amazon singles and a nonfiction Guys’ Guy’s Guide.

Robert Manni
Author of The Guys’ Guy’s Guide to Love

Playing a Small Part

Although we don’t generally discount books sold through our site so that we don’t compete with our customers, and although all our books sell for less elsewhere through our trading partners, we still get a few orders a week.

When we discount on the site, it is usually for a special promotion to the member base and an organization that somehow relates to a book. The customer is contacted by the organization and directed to our site for the special offer, like a member discount, or a free book with purchase.

Overall, sales through our site represent about 1 percent of our billing.

Tom Doherty
Cardinal Publishers Group

Interrelated Actions

As a professional illustrator, I wanted to be able to manage an online portfolio myself. I did not have the budget to hire programmers and designers to create and update my site, so I used WordPress (which is “open source,” meaning owned by the citizens of the world and constantly improved and developed by all of us). A mentor (technology guru and generous teacher Jerry Turk) helped me become an expert WordPress Web designer. Now, a few years later we build, teach, and design sites for others and share developing resources as they become available.

Exciting stuff! Technology is fluid and publishing to the Web is also fluid, especially with blog-based content-management systems. Of course, it’s important to create and manage Websites so that they will engage audiences and draw them to your books, images, products, videos, and expertise. But creating and managing Websites should also involve evaluation of business objectives, plans, and development.

Our slogan is, “It’s how the world sees you!” We favor effortless interaction with social media; for example, as new content is added to our sites, it is automatically shared as images and links on Facebook pages, profiles, Google+, LinkedIn—you name it. Also, we favor blogging; adding an email newsletter like MailChimp or Constant Contact; synchronizing everything on the site with social media, e-commerce, and beautiful dynamic image presentation; and using Google Analytics and other free site-traffic monitors to understand traffic, clicks, geographical locations, and so much more about who is looking at what (without getting swamped by the details).

Cathi Bosco
C and D Studios
CandDStudios.com, CBCmascots.com, bethekite.com

Multipurpose Now and Still Expanding

My Website is the way people find me, my books, and the services I offer. According to Google Analytics, the parts of the site that are clicked on most often and responsible for the longest visits are, in order, the parts that feature:

  • free art ideas from my more than 20 books
  • book sales and e-book sales
  • connections for hiring me to do keynotes, presentations, workshops, and articles
  • sign-up for my mailing list, which offers a free monthly newsletter full of art ideas, and
  • always a free book giveaway to list members

I use my site is to announce new books and special events, to share handouts for my workshops, to allow downloads of articles I have written, and for just about anything else you can think of. Selling books is a primary function, and e-book sales have taken off for me through the site. I will soon be adding a section offering my services as an agent to authors in my area of expertise.

MaryAnn F. Kohl
Bright Ring Publishing, Inc.

The Happy Birthday Benefit (Among Others)

I sell one series of read-aloud novels for kids aged 5 to 10, and I use my Website to get information about people in my market directly from them, to sell my books, to build my mailing list, and more.

We use PayPal to process the credit card sales. It’s inexpensive, and the impeccable records are accessible 24 hours a day.

I see many advantages to having my customers deal directly with me instead of channeling sales through a distributor or online booksellers. Because I create the shipping labels, physical addresses as well as e-mail address become part of our databank (and phone numbers are easy to get if I need them).

Also, I have a way to collect information about birthdays, so when a child with one of my books has a birthday, the main character, Pengey Penguin, sends the child an e-birthday card with a reminder about Pengey’s Fan Club and the like. This type of correspondence generates sales, but it’s just as important because it endears Pengey and the life lessons his adventures teach.

Along with our books, we sell T-shirts, badge buttons, and colorized reproductions of the illustrations in the books. It’s nice for parents and grandparents to have those extra items, especially when there are several kids in the house. And after they read about Pengey and his pals and his adventures, many of our customers can’t resist getting the T-shirts. They help our bottom line a lot.

In the six years we’ve been in business, we have had precisely two complaints (we responded quickly) and many little letters of thanks. We are proud of our customer service and proud that our customers talk to their friends about is. That, plus the fact that we have a genuinely good first novel for kids, tends to perpetuate sales.

John Burns
San Francisco Story Works

Defined Goals Bring Definite Rewards

When we relaunched QuirkBooks.com in 2011, we had a few goals in mind:.

  • Create an entertaining and informational content experience that matches what our books offer. We have done this through original blog posts (“A Guide to Pairing Your Comics & Beer”), original videos, book-derived content, bonus content not found in the books, author Q&As, and more.
  • Aggregate and communicate with our fans. Quirk publishes across many categories. While the people in our markets have some similar characteristics, they may also have diverse interests. With the site’s launch, we introduced communities for our pop-culture audience (Planet Quirk), cooking/crafting audience (Homemade Quirk), and parent audience (Raising Quirk). These communities offer a more narrow focus while still drawing from the full range of Quirk’s content base.
  • Showcase our books and drive consumers to retail stores. We do not sell books directly on our site. We are in the business of creating and delivering strikingly unconventional books and content. That’s what we do well. We choose to stay away from the logistics of sales, fulfillment, and distribution. Also, we want consumers to choose where they buy, so we and offer links to all the major retailers, including Indiebound, via our Buy Local button.

Measurements show increases in social media activity, traffic to our site, and click-throughs to retailers.

Brett Cohen
Quirk Books

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