Does Your Author Website Have The Essentials To Attract Readers And Sell Your Books?

marketingYour author website is important, wherever you are on the author journey.

  • Your site portrays your author brand and gives a sense of your personality as well as your professionalism. It’s how people judge you online.
  • It’s the first place a journalist, publisher or agent will look if they are interested in you. They will click away if it’s not what they’re looking for.
  • You can attract your target audience with content that inspires, entertains or educates, and hopefully they will go on to purchase and join your email list.
  • It’s your home on the internet. You can list all your books, products and services and have buy links and information in one place.
  • Your website can be the engine of your business online. Yes, it can actually make you a living!

Of course, everyone has different aims for their websites and your needs will also change over time.

If you have just one book, you might only need basic information about the book, author and buy links. If you are an established author, you will need at least a page per book as well as more detailed information about you as the author. If you want to run a business from your site, you’ll need appropriate content to drive traffic to your site.

In this article, I go through the most important things that you need on your website, as well as what is negotiable, plus some technical setup that will help you optimize your author site online, wherever you’re at in the journey.

(1) Book covers and description

book coversYes, readers do judge a book by its cover!

You’re an author and primarily, you are selling books. So your book covers should be prominent on your website as an eye-catching way to entice readers into your work.

Of course, these should be professionally designed covers that resonate with your genre and target market.

You also need a sales description to go along with your book. Try starting with a tagline or a headline that entices the reader.

For fiction, open a hook that makes the reader want to answer the question. For non-fiction, you can include more details from your table of contents so the reader understands the benefits of purchasing.

(2) About the Author

Your About page is one of the most viewed on any website. People click on it because they want to know more about you personally. They are actively interested in learning more about you. They also want to know whether this is the right place for them. Do they resonate with you as a person?

So are you giving them what they are looking for?

Joanna Penn JF PennPeople connect with people so your face is one of the most important things to use on your About page, in my opinion. Of course, it should relate to your brand, so I use happy smiley on non-fiction and brooding thriller author for my fiction.

If you are using a pseudonym or protecting your identity, then you could use a cartoon avatar or a picture of something that still has meaning e.g. your cat :) Anything to make a personal connection with the reader who has arrived on your site.

If you’re worried about how you look, get some professional photography done. It’s an investment you will need as an author as your picture will go on the back of books, on marketing material, interviews and much more.

Be personal and interesting and include things about yourself and your life as well as about your writing. Of course, you can still draw that line to protect your privacy as well as that of your family, but sharing personal anecdotes and pictures will help people connect even more.

(3) Buy links to all the places your book is sold

buy linksIt should be easy to buy your book with one click if the customer is interested.

Use the icons per store so the customer recognizes where they can get your book in the easiest way for them.

Many authors complain about not making more sales at stores other than Amazon, but often, they are only putting the Amazon button on their site. Make sure you’re not one of them!

(4) A way to sign up for your email list

We all need to build our own email list of readers for the long term so that we can always tell buyers when our book is available.

giveawaysThis enables us to function independently of the big stores and social networks if (or when!) the rules change.

Giving something of value away for free is one of the keys to building up an email list. I use the free Author 2.0 Blueprint for non-fiction and a free novella, Day of the Vikings, for my fiction list.

You also can’t just email people from your own account, especially as the list grows into the thousands. You need to use a mail service that complies with anti-spam laws like Aweber (which I use) or Mailchimp.

For more in depth help on growing an email list, I recommend Nick Stephenson’s How to find your first 10,000 readers free video course here.

(5) Contact information

Your website might lead journalists to contact you, or agents, foreign publishers or people who want to pay for you to speak at a festival or event.

So make sure it’s easy for them to contact you and have a Contact link in an obvious place on your website.

If you don’t want to directly state your email address, then you can use a plugin like Gravity Forms as a way to collect the inquiry.

reviews(6) Testimonials / Review quotes

There’s a reason that Amazon uses reviews so prominently on their product pages.

Reviews are social proof, and they are critical to a reader making a decision about whether to try a book.

On your own website, you can also use reviews or testimonials to build trust. You can also use pictures and URLs so people know they can trust the reviews.

One little tip: Don’t ask authors in other genres to review a book that isn’t suitable for their niche. Only ask authors whose own work resonates with your own.

socialable(7) Ways to share

Ideally, you want to harness word of mouth using social media so your book spreads.

There are some 1-click sharing tools and plugins that you can use on your website. For example, Sociable plugin will give you social sharing buttons on the bottom or side of posts and pages.

Make sure you always list your own social media accounts somewhere obvious. I will often find posts that I am happy to share on Twitter, but I won’t do it unless I can attribute it to the person who wrote it. If your twitter handle isn’t prominent, I will click away and share someone else’s article instead.

author brand(8) Portray your author brand

As soon as people arrive on your site, they will make a very quick judgement of whether it is the right place for them. Some people will decide it is not for them and will click away.

No worries at all.

Our aim is not to be right for everyone. Our aim is to be right for our target market.

Some people will stay and have a look at your books, hopefully sign up to your email list and maybe click through your pictures or your blog. We want to make sure the right people stick around.

The colors, words and images that you use will make a big difference to that immediate impression.

For example, my site uses dark colors, a black and white, brooding photo that match my darker books. A romance reader will know that it is not for them within a millisecond. My Creative Penn site is more smiley and welcoming, with red as a dominant color. Each will attract a different type of audience.

Your site also gives an indication of professionalism.

If you are using a free Blogger site, it is assumed you are a hobbyist and not taking your author life that seriously. If you’re using a free WordPress site with a standard theme that doesn’t set you apart, then you are probably not taking a long term view of your author career.

Both of those options are perfectly fine, but if you want to have a long term career as an author, you need to invest in your website as the hub of your online presence.

Of course, you will change the design over time. We all do. But if you are committed to being an author for the long-term, then make sure your site portrays this impression. Yes, there is a learning curve, as with anything, but it’s worth it for the long-term.

mobile viewed on iPhone

(9) Optimize for mobile and tablet browsing

I checked my website stats recently and found that 43% of my fiction audience view my site through mobile or tablets, and 30% for

That’s a lot higher than I expected, to be honest.

Google has also announced that from 21 April, 2015, they will include mobile friendliness as a criteria for ranking. So your site needs to be mobile friendly in order to be found in the search engines.

Mobile and tablet adoption are only going to continue growing over time as more people access the internet that way, rather than through desktops/laptops.

To cater for these browsers, your website needs responsive design.

This means the site adjusts size and design per browser, so that people can read it whatever device they are using.

There are a number of options for this, and we’ll get more into the technical side later.

(10) To blog or not to blog …

Whether you blog or not will depend on what you want to achieve with your website, with this particular book and your bloggingfuture books as well as with your time.

If you have a business that is more around speaking, back-end products and services that result in a higher income, then blogging, podcasting and other content marketing are brilliant ways to get traffic to your site.

This site, The Creative Penn, brings me income from professional speaking, from affiliate sales and also from sponsorship and advertising. I have a business model around the blog itself, so it is definitely worth doing financially these days.

Of course, when I started the blog in Dec 2008, I had no clue it would turn into the site it is now! I started blogging and podcasting because I wanted to share what I was learning on the journey – and I still do. So I would still blog even if it made me no money at all, because I love to share lessons learned and I love the community. I am an addicted blogger, and there are certainly other rewards for blogging other than financial.

You can develop your voice as a writer, grow a community around your site, as well as attract opportunity.

My blog has brought me international speaking events, new friendships and opportunities for promotional campaigns like the one that led to the NY Times and USA Today list.

So certainly for non-fiction, it can be gold.

For fiction, I do blog occasionally, but it is more around the research for my books, or interviews with other authors in my niche.

If you have to ask what to blog about, then probably don’t bother. It’s only worth doing if you just can’t help but share what you’re passionate about.

multimedia(11) Multimedia – video and podcasting

People connect with people, and humans have been communicating with body language, voice and facial expression for millennia. So if people can see your face or hear your voice or watch you on video, they will be able to connect with you much faster than through your written words.

Of course, if you want to do videos or podcasting, you do have a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not that hard. And I have personally found that my podcast is one of the most brilliant things I could have done to build my own network, grow my audience and provide valuable information for people.

I have over 210 podcast episodes now, so many of the listeners have spent a lot of time with me over the years! I also get comments from podcast listeners who feel like they ‘know’ me, and in many ways, they do, as I share a lot in the introduction to my interviews every couple of weeks.

I also have a YouTube channel and I find that the audience for video differs to the blog audience and differs again to the audio podcast audience. You don’t have to try to reach everyone, but have a think about the people you are targeting and consider what might be most effective.

What are your options for your author website?

Of course, there are so many options for building your home on the internet and I am not going through them all. You can evaluate your own setup against the above criteria.

For now, I will give you a couple of options based on my own experience of running an online business as an author entrepreneur for 6 years.

(A) Just getting started? Try free sites

If you’re just getting started, then you can, of course, use free sites – but I would still advise that you use a professional looking option that is also optimized for mobile and tablet browsing and that enables you to use all the main functionality listed above.

book launch pagesIf you want to blog or use content marketing like podcasting or video, then you can use with a great looking responsive theme. If you get more serious with your journey later on, you can export the content and import into a site you own yourself, so it is an easy transition.

But if you just want a book page to send people to without the hassle of a full-blown site, then I recommend BookLaunch pages.

It’s free to set up for as many books as you like.

You just drag and drop the elements to the screen and you’ll have a professional looking, responsive book page in a few minutes. I am super excited about this tool, because it offers what authors need without too much effort and it’s free for the basic setup. Yes, I’m an affiliate :) because I also use it myself as below.

(B) Established author?

bookpageI have two sites and both are built on WordPress software that I host on Siteground. I have a responsive design: Genesis Studiopress with Beautiful Pro theme. You can find other technical tools I use here.

I’ve also started using the BookLaunch plugin to integrate the book pages from my own website because they look so professional and standardized. Click here to see Desecration (fiction) and click here to see Business for Authors (non-fiction).

This means I get professional, consistent looking book pages with all the links I need, as well as multimedia options like book trailers, actually integrated into my own website. There’s also email list integration, social sharing, and easily changeable branding options.

So wherever you are on your author journey, consider how your author website helps people find you and your books.

And remember, we are all works in progress, so don’t worry if you work on your site over time. I am still making changes after 7 years online, and I expect to continue changing into the future!

Please do let me know any questions or comments below.

Book Titles That Sell, Productivity For Authors And Marketing For Introverts With Tim Grahl

A wide-ranging discussion with Tim Grahl about writing book titles that sell, productivity and habits for writers, how to build a platform around you rather than your book, and marketing for introverts. Super fun!

In the intro, I mention the upcoming self-publishing conference,, which is a free event with some amazing speakers so make sure you register and check out the schedule. I also talk about my trip to Charleston for PubSense, some of the plans I have underway with my new agent, plus Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur, now available in audiobook format.

tim grahlTim Grahl is the author of Your First 1000 Copies: A Step by Step Guide to marketing your book and the founder of Out:think, a firm that helps authors make money with online marketing tools.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the interview on YouTube here or read the notes and links below.

  • How Tim started out in the more technical side of the internet and started helping authors with their marketing. He’s always been a big reader so working with authors was preferable to big corporates.
  • Tips for book titles. Authors are generally too close to the project to make a good decision. Your own fans know you so they aren’t the best either. You want to know what title will make someone new click to look at your book further. Tim advises using data to make a decision and talks about using to work out what gets clicked the most. It is unlikely to be what you think. You can do this with titles and sub-titles, which is how Tim ended up with his. You can also use PickFu for book covers as you can use images. [I talk about my own title change based on SEO reasons]. We also talk about fiction book titles – which are very difficult! It’s more about genre, reviews and author brand and the eco-system around the book than title.
  • On reaching 1000 readers. Most books sell around 250 copies (that includes traditionally published). If you get to 1000 copies, you’re doing something well beyond your own network. Measuring goals and moving the goal posts around numbers sold. Celebrating achievements and re-evaluating the next goal. I mention my own success journal that I got from Austin Kleon’s logbook idea. Tim mentions Autofocus productivity system.

Ruthlessly cut out everything that doesn’t get you what you want out of life.

  • Social media is automated with MeetEdgar. Social media is fun, but it’s not moving the goals forward. Tim has a structured day and has specific creative periods. He focuses on achieving goals based on a systematized life. It’s much harder to procrastinate when you have structure. He mentions a Facebook news feed extractor so Facebook doesn’t become a time suck. Structure your life so it’s easy to make the right decisions. I mention Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better Than Before. It’s about your WHY. That will drive you to get up and create.your first 1000 copies
  • The difference between fiction and non-fiction marketing. Tim is also writing fiction, and is part of Apocalypse Weird. He talks about building a platform around you, the AUTHOR, not around the individual book. Think about building a platform around who you are and what you’re interested in. On permission, content and outreach for marketing – the underlying systems and strategies as opposed to tactics. We both agree that doing podcasts and audio is so much more preferable now to doing text based interviews or guest posts. Tim talks about driving people to email as his main marketing goal as it is the best way to stay in contact.
  • Marketing as an introvert. What suits introverts in terms of alone time and online marketing. Don’t use introversion as an excuse, and don’t confuse it with fear of rejection, which everyone has. Find what works but also push your comfort zone. How it all gets easier over time, and how we are STILL nervous – but you just deal with it.

You can get a free 30 day email course at and you can find Tim’s book, Your First 1000 Copies here on Amazon.Continue Reading

How To Use Audio And Podcasting Effectively To Promote Your Book With Viv Oyolu

One of the best ways to stand out as an author is to have some aspect of multimedia in your platform. With the growth of streaming audio through smart phones and soon to be implemented in cars, it’s time to learn how to incorporate audio into your book marketing. Today I interview Viv Oyolu, The Audio Marketing Expert.

In the intro, I mention that I am currently away in the US, speaking in Charleston at Pubsense Summit and then heading down to Savannah. I recommend a book I am finding useful: Better than before: Mastering the habits of our everyday lives by Gretchen Rubin.

99designs-logo-750x200pxThis podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to:

viv oyoluViv Oyolu is a radio presenter, podcaster and an audio marketing expert. She works with authors, businesses and entrepreneurs to increase online visibility and engagement with audio. Viv is now the author of How to use podcasts to promote your book.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the interview on YouTube here or read the notes and links below.

  • Viv has a marketing background but always wanted to be a radio presenter. Eventually she did make it on air with the Dream Corner show interviewing female entrepreneurs. When the radio station went offline, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She started interviewing guests around London and then online via Skype, starting her own podcasts and specializing in audio especially for book marketing.
  • How audio will continue to grow as a medium with the launch of Apple CarPlay and Google Auto and how this will make podcasting more mainstream.
  • Why audio enhances an author brand and helps you stand out. Humans connect through voice before words on the page. An audience will connect with you directly when they hear your voice or see your face. It’s a very personal aspect to be in someone’s ears for hours every month. It facilitates that ‘know, like and trust’ aspect which will lead to connection with fans – and ultimately will lead to book sales.
  • Audio can also expand the content in your book, and you can go deeper into aspects that you want to talk about more. Audio is sideways marketing, where you can give loads of value to the audience and people can buy or give if they want to. It feels good to podcast and share via audio. It’s authentic and possibly the least scammy way of marketing!
  • Getting over your voice and tips for performance. We all hate our voice and the way we look! You just have to get over it! Viv did some voice coaching to correct a high pitched tone, but I’ve never done that (although I have thought about it). We give some tips about performance – you need to use your energy in your voice, your passion. You need to smile and communicate expression that way. It’s a bit like speaking in public, you need to be 150% you.
  • Planning and pitching. Are you raising awareness of your brand? Or are you talking specifically about one book? Decide on your objective and then decide on the target audience. Break your book down into the various elements – either topics (for non-fiction) or themes (for fiction) and then research the various podcasts that cover these things. DON’T pitch podcasters who are not interested in your topic! Make sure you are targeting very well and offer the podcaster some talking points. It’s very unlikely that they will read your book – they may skim it, but you need to make it easy for them.

Continue Reading

Optimizing Kindle Categories, Email List Building And Facebook Marketing With Nick Stephenson

Sometimes one little tip can help you tweak your book pages or your author business to become more successful. I’ve learned some cool things from Nick Stephenson recently and in today’s show, we go through a whole load of things you might find useful. [But remember, the most important thing is still … write more great books!]

In the intro I mention my lessons learned on my 40th birthday, how excited I am about Oculus Rift and the rise of VR, Apple CarPlay and Google Auto for audiobooks and the power of Inbox Pause.

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets kobo writing lifethrough the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.

Kobo’s financial support pays for the hosting and transcription, and if you enjoy the show, you can now support my time on Patreon. Thank you for your support!

nick stephensonNick Stephenson is a bestselling thriller author with the Leopold Blake series. He’s also the author of Supercharge Your Kindle Sales and creator of the fantastic Your First 10,000 Readers free video series and course.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the interview on YouTube here or read the notes and links below.

  • How Nick got into writing novels via a law degree, how he moved into marketing and online business and then decided to help authors apply marketing skills to the book business. We talk about longevity and writing until the day we die!
  • Tips on sorting out your Kindle categories and keywords. We’re aiming for advanced tips here! How to get into browse categories, using keyword phrases instead of keywords, look at books that are similar to yours to discover new sub-categories, the importance of the right categories for getting good reviews, using an Author Q&A in your book description to add value for the customer as well as add additional keyword juice. I also mention a Kboards thread on keyword stuffing that we mention but don’t personally recommend.
  • 10k readers

    Click to get Nick’s First 10,000 Reader video series and ebook

    Email list building and management. How email marketing has been around internet marketing for many years, but it’s still a relatively new concept for authors who just aren’t used to direct contact with readers. The importance of owning the relationship so you aren’t reliant on another company for sales long term. Build your own BookBub! On transforming marketing from spammy to building real relationships.

  • On traffic and conversion. We discuss the changes that Nick helped me make to my fiction email list. This included changing the offer to something of higher value, using a more obvious visual for signup rather than just text. Capturing reader interest as opposed to directing everything to the book sales pages. On personality types and cultural differences in feeling happy with sales. Hope marketing vs being in control. Here’s the rollercoaster of being a writer post I mention.
  • Facebook pay-per-click advertising. Paying for traffic can be a good idea if you want to spike readership. Facebook advertising has become incredibly well targeted over the last few years. You have to test your adverts so you don’t waste money – be careful! We also discuss Amazon’s new pay-per-click advertising that is available for KDP Select authors. As of today, people haven’t had great results but we postulate that it will be improved over time, as Facebook’s has been.

You can get Nick’s (fantastic) free video training at

Continue Reading

Marketing Vs Sales With Jim Kukral

We spend so much time as authors being concerned with marketing or discoverability, but we also need to keep an eye on how that actually relates to sales. Today I talk about the difference between the two, and much more, with Jim Kukral.

In the intro, I mention David Gaughran’s post about B&N NOOK and Author Solutions, as well as updating on my own creative work. (You guys keep me accountable!)

99designs-logo-750x200pxThis podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to:

jim kukralJim Kukral is an author, professional speaker and consultant at the Author Marketing Institute. He’s also the co-host of the Sell More Books Show with Bryan Cohen.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the interview on YouTube here or read the notes and links below.

  • How Jim & Bryan designed the Sell More Books Show to fill a niche in a crowded market. A great marketing tactic!

Why marketing is not the same as sales – and how the two are related

  • Marketing is everything you do to reach and persuade prospects. It’s warming up a lead. Getting people interested in you. Sales is everything you do to close the sale. The tactics to get people to actually click the button. People buy from people they know, like and trust – which is part of what is driving your marketing.
  • It’s really important to consider the point in everything we do. Don’t lose sight of the fact that your marketing should lead to the close of a sale.

Continue Reading