Session: Automate Your Author Business to Increase Efficiency and Writing Productivity
Don’t waste time or money on book marketing tactics that are doomed to fail. Set up an author platform that attracts and engages readers on autopilot, so you can sell more books in your sleep. In this session you’ll learn:
- The mistakes authors make with their website and email list
- Content marketing & SEO strategies for FREE visibility
- The real reason nobody will buy your book
Audience: All Levels
This post is part of London Book Fair Self-Publishing Advice Conference (#SelfPubCon2019), an online author conference that showcases the best self-publishing advice and education for authors across the world — harnessing the global reach of the Alliance of Independent Authors’ network. Our self-publishing conference features well-known indie authors and advisors, for 24 sessions over 24-hours, in a one-day extravaganza of self-publishing expertise straight to your email inbox. We hope you enjoy this session. Let us know if you have any questions or input on this self-publishing topic. Visit our Facebook Group and join in the conversation there, or leave your questions and feedback in the comments section below.
Hey there, everybody. This is Derek Murphy. And in my session today we’re going to talk about your author identity. So this is kind of also about your author brand, but this is what people think of you or associate with you when they think about your books and something you really need to start thinking about. Because if you don’t focus on the relationship with your readers, all you have is the book itself and that might work for a while, but eventually when sales slow down, you’re really going to need to have your own author platform. So in my video I’m going to go through some things that I think are really important for reader funnels and author branding. And this is also known as How To Sell Books Without Talking To People. So if you feel a little bit uncomfortable talking about your book or selling your book or introducing yourself to people at events or conferences or whatever, then this is really for you. Cause I’m going to show you some ways that you can build an automated sales funnels so that readers just find you and they sign up on your list and they buy your books without you ever having to talk to them or try to pitch your book one on one.
So I used to say that there were only two things that really mattered with book marketing and that was conversion and visibility. So conversion is when strangers find your book or your website or your book cover or your description or anything on the internet somewhere. Do they click the link? Are they interested in enough? Do you hook their attention? Do they read your content and eventually buy the book? The longer you can hold the attention, the more chance you have at converting them into a buyer. So we talked about conversion. It just means when some stranger lands on your page, do they buy the book or not? And number two is visibility, which is how many people are actually seeing your content. So if you can just focus on your conversion, which is always the most important thing and conversion is your book cover, it’s the amount of reviews you have and it’s your blurb.
It’s basically those three things, so your book cover, your blurb or book summary, and the amount of reviews you have in your Amazon page. Those are the main considerations. People are going to weigh if they’re thinking about buying your book, so fixing those three things is how you boost your conversion. If your conversion isn’t good enough it doesn’t matter if you have more visibility. More visibility isn’t going to help sell more books, but if you first focus on the conversion, make sure that your book is desirable enough to the right audience so that when they see it, it’s completely obvious what this book is, who it’s for, what it’s about, and they want it because it communicates that this is the kind of book that they like to read. All of that stuff is the conversion. It’s super important that if you’re not selling books, that’s probably what you’re screwing up.
That’s what most authors screw up. They’re not selling any books because they can’t convert because they haven’t properly positioned their book to have the right audience and it’s confusing and readers don’t know why they should actually buy it. So that’s really important to get right, but I’m not going to talk about that in this video. Book visibility is once you’ve got the conversion down and you know it’s converting at a decent rate, then you can just scale up with advertisements or with content marketing and to try to get more visibility on your book. Those two things are really all you need to sell books. You don’t really have to build another website or an email list or anything like that. However, that’s what everybody else is doing too and there’s a lot of competition and even though a lot of people are getting it wrong, there’s still enough people getting it right that you’re not going to be able to weather the storms.
Maybe you do really well for a while, but then Amazon changes something in the algorithms. Suddenly you income plummets. I’ve seen this happen to dozens and dozens of my friends. They’ve been making tons of money on Kindle and then Amazon changes something or they’ve, you know, they get their account revoked or they get kicked off of Amazon for no good reason and all of a sudden, if they haven’t built their own platform, if they haven’t built their own audience, their own traffic, their own email lists, all of a sudden they’re stuck and they’re starting over trying to pay to access somebody else’s platform. So the third thing which can be really useful is brand loyalty. And that’s what I’m going to talk about in this video. So that means making a brand, starting a website, building up your own email list, controlling your audience, and there’s ways to do that well and all that has to do with building an author platform because it’s much easier to sell to a warm audience.
So instead of always pitching your book to a cold audience, trying to find new readers, paying to access other people’s platforms, if you were also doing all that stuff, but also putting people into your own platform, building a long term relationship with them so that they have feelings towards you. So they have some social kind of empathy or they know who you are as a person, if they like you as an author, if they’re willing to share you or review you because you know, your books matter to them. Those are all things that are going to have a huge payout. And it’s all something that a lot of authors really don’t focus on. Only recently I’ve seen a few marketing experts start to talk more about how to develop a relationship with your readers, like what happens after the book. So that’s what this presentation is going to be about, I’m going to talk a lot about things that are really important for building your author brand. And then I’m going to show you a case study of a website I’m working on and how I can put some of this stuff in a practical context so that you know how to set up your website and what kinds of things you should put on your website.
So I’m going to be talking about your author identity, and this is basically how other people identify you. Do they recognize your voice or your face or your writing style or your book covers. For example, I’ve gone to conferences where I’ve met an author face to face and I had no idea who she was, but I completely recognize her book covers because her brand was her book covers, and that’s something that’s probably going to be the case for you. People are going to recognize the book more than the author. And in a lot of cases, some readers may not even really want to meet the author or associate with the author. They may feel like they just want to write the books, sorry. They just want to read the books without really, you know, being concerned about who the author is. But that’s why you kind of have to step up and try to build this relationship. You want to give them the books that they want but you also kind of want to sneak in a little bit of a mood, a little bit of a feeling, a little bit of personality so that they can see the person behind the books.
It’s always a little bit scary to put yourself out there. You know, your whole self, your real self, even if you’re using a pen name, you don’t have to necessarily use your face or your personality if you want to invent one. But you do need to have something because if you’re not giving readers something to think about in terms of the author, they’re going to make something up. So unless you’re deliberately controlling your brand, they’re going to feel something towards you anyway. The way that you write, possibly the mistakes you make, the things they like or they dislike about your books. You already have a brand, you’re just not controlling it. So you want to just make sure as long as you’re putting out content into the world, it’s inevitable that people will question or think about the creator of the content. And rather than just leave that a blank slate or a question mark for people to ruminate on, you want to kind of direct that process a little bit and put certain pictures in their minds so that they have a certain feeling towards you as the author. It doesn’t have to be a big evolved thing, but you do want to consider it. So that’s what we’re going to talk about here.
The good news is there’s really only four things that you want to be thinking about in terms of your brand. So I’m going to show you these four things. I’m going to tell you what kind of, what they’re about. I’m also using these four things throughout this presentation so you can kind of look and see what I’m doing to reinforce these ideas. And then I’m also going to show you how I’m going to include them on a website. So you kind of know how to use them in practice. So the first one is emotional relevance, or why should they care? This is really focused on, it’s gotta be about them. It can’t just be about you and your books and what you want. If you’re just talking about yourself all the time, it’s not going to matter to other people. You have to really focus on who your audience is and what they like and what they respond to, what they love, what they hate.
You have to put things in front of them that already match the emotional peaks and valleys of their personal existence. You have to know kind of what appeals to them, what resonates with them, and fill in those gaps in a way that they can latch onto so that they care, so that they care enough to pay attention. If they’re not paying attention, if they don’t care about you or what you’re saying or your message or your books, then they’re not going to listen and it doesn’t matter what you say because they’re not paying attention. So the first challenge is just getting them to care at all and there’s a lot of ways you can do that. It doesn’t have to be, you know, it could be even something simple, like pretty fonts or pretty colors just to get their, you know, their focus, to draw their eye. It could be talking about other things that they care about. If you’ve already gotten them to read the books and they care about your characters, that’s great. That’s a huge win. But you also kind of have to get them to care about you as an author by building rapport because we like people like us. So you want to be talking about things that they already care about. And then you want to be introducing small points of, similarity between you and them.
So you can be talking about things that you like, things that you enjoy. If you know that your audience also likes those same things. And you can also be creating content that they enjoy or creating books that they enjoy. If you can get them to care about what you’re saying and you can also get them to, you know, feel like they know you and they like you as a person, that’s a big win. The next part is just familiarity. There have been studies that show people like things more if they’re exposed to them over a long period of time. So the way to get used to something or get over a fear or a barrier is just to be familiar with the scary object. So if they say that you need to put your message in front of people about seven times before they even pay attention.
So for example, when I’m doing Facebook ads or something, or even when I see other people’s Facebook ads, I’ll probably ignore something on Facebook seven times, at least, maybe a dozen times, maybe 20 times until finally I’ve seen it enough that I’m like, what is that? And I look at the picture and I read the message. So you don’t want to just give up too quickly. And I know you don’t want to be like annoying or spammy and putting out the same stuff all the time, but you also need to be aware of the fact it’s not necessarily that people are deliberately ignoring your message or they’re not paying attention to you. They just haven’t seen it yet because you haven’t shown up with enough frequency. So you want to not be switching messages, you know, or like if you email once a week or once a month even, and every time it’s something completely different, then you’re not building up enough familiarity with repeated exposure. So you have to really show up every day consistently with your brand. And I’m going to show you some ways that you can do that.
And the last one is engagement or I’ve written micro commitments. So this just means that you’re asking questions. You’re not just talking about yourself or you’re not just on a pedestal announcing things to your audience. You’re engaging, you’re asking them questions, you’re asking them for feedback. Even little things in your content, if you’re writing copy and you ask, you know, this is good, this is bad, right? And you ask little questions that they verbally in their head, they’re like, “Yes, I agree.” That’s awesome.
You especially want to end, um, like Facebook posts or blog posts with turning it back over to your readers, asking them to comment, asking them for feedback, just to get them to take little steps to reach out to you.
So before we go deeper, I’m going to quickly introduce myself in case you’re not familiar with who I am. So my name is Derek Murphy. My brand is Creative Indy, although I’ll talk about how that’s not quite where I want it to be. I’ve actually been blogging for maybe seven years. I’ve written fiction and nonfiction and my problem has been boosting conversions. I put out lots and lots of free content. I get a lot of traffic now, but rather than putting out new content or creating new content, my big challenge this year has been to build automated funnels with my websites by boosting conversion so that I can focus on more creative work. So I can just focus on writing more books and my audience will just build by itself in the background. And I’m already kind of doing that, but I can be doing it so much better.
So this year I’ve really been focused on building reader funnels, which is like having a bunch of other mated content that promotes my books for me. I’ve joked around about having like a robot army because once you set these things up, you basically have a virtual assistant who’s, you know, going out and recruiting readers for you and, and talking about your books and selling your books for you. While you can just be focused on writing more books. That’s what I’ve been building. I’m really excited about that solution. And so I usually make things and then I turned it over to my audience and I, you know, give it away and teach other people how to do it. So I’m going to show you kind of what I’d been doing successfully to build these kind of reader funnels. I actually got started as a fine artist and I did fine art mostly in Taiwan for a while. I studied in Italy and then I went to Taiwan, did a bunch of like museum shows, but I was really an awkward person. I didn’t know how to talk about my paintings or how to sell my paintings. I hated, you know, getting involved with strangers and telling them what my works mean or how much they cost or anything like that.
And then it was also really hard with the physical fulfillment because I had all these really large canvases that I had to, you know, if we travel overseas, we have to take them off the frame, shipping or setting up in galleries. It was all just so much work and so stressful I found out I’m really much more comfortable behind the scenes online.
And so I think in like 2013 I started a blog and this has been going okay. You can see this is the first logo I had a long time ago where I just crammed all this stuff in there. This is kind of what I was trying to do with brand. This was like a collage of brand and I have a couple different slogans up here. It’s a little bit too much. This is the much improved one that I’m using now. It’s a very clear value proposition and it’s also a little call to action down here with a button that links to an opt in download.
But even though I get quite a bit of traffic on this site, I haven’t structured it very well and I’ve been thinking about doing a reboot for years and I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. So I’m starting on that process, but basically out of all the traffic that I get, it would be nice if I had doubled the amount of people who signed up for my opt in and that can really just be done with organization, by organizing my website the right way. I will lead the readers to a certain point where they take action. I will, instead of just presenting a whole bunch of random stuff, I will lead them through the process of interacting with my website the way I want them to interact. You are the host of your website. They’re guests in your house. You have to show them around.
You don’t have to give them a tour. If you just kind of like let them wander on their own, they’ll probably feel uncomfortable and they want to know what to do and they’ll get lost. So you really have to be there as a guide. And there’s this quote from Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon, which I think is kind of the main thing. Like you don’t need to worry too much about what to talk about or what to do on your blog. If you make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love, you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. So that’s kind of the basic idea of content marketing. The problem is for most authors, most authors aren’t even sure what genre their book belongs into or who their audience is. And if you don’t know who your audience is, you don’t really know what to talk about. It’s not just about you and what you like because you have to know what the right audience is searching for, what keywords they’re searching for, what they’re looking for on Amazon or Google, what appeals to them.
You can’t just talk about anything or everything on your blog. You really have to be focused and organize it in a way that it makes sense to readers and they don’t get lost in all the content. I’ve actually taken this quote from Joanna Penn, which I think is really important and it says basically, you know, “We want to help people, we want to give them information or inspiration. If you consider marketing the same way, that’s great because it focuses on the customer, not on you. So think about your audience and what value you’re providing.” And I think the really important lesson here that Joanna says is it helps you to stop feeling self conscious because of you know, what your audience wants. If you know who your audience is then it’s so much easier to build content that you know will appeal to that audience. And if you’re deliberately creating the right content for the right audience, you don’t have to worry about is this going to be successful, is anybody going to like this now? And that’s why it can be really beneficial to build your own audience so that you know before you make something whether or not it’s going to be successful.
This is usually the point where some authors will say, I just don’t, I just don’t want to market. I hate marketing, I just want to write my books. Can’t someone else do it all for me? Can’t I just pay someone to market my books and I don’t think that really works well. I usually tell people, and it’s too bad because a lot of authors, they want to pay somebody to just take over and they’re willing to spend thousands of dollars on marketing, but most of the time that kind of marketing won’t work. It won’t work long term. They may be able to sell some books short term, but probably not by, they probably won’t make money. Like you can spend 10 grand and hopefully sell enough books to make your money back. But after that you can’t keep spending money and keep selling books because you’re probably not making a profit.
So I’ve really focused on helping authors spend less so that they’re making a profit faster because once you’re making a profit, it’s much easier to scale up. And unfortunately it’s difficult for someone else to do that for you. It’s difficult to someone for someone else to build an author platform for you because if you give up control and maybe they build your website and suddenly you know, they disappear and you don’t know how to update your website, you don’t know how to make a new blog post or post to social media. You really, you have to learn some of this stuff. And I know it’s frustrating to get used to all of this, online social media, website, blogging type stuff. But I’ve tried to make it easier.
There are systems you can learn. Once you figure it out, it might take you a week or two to get comfortable with things that you’re unfamiliar with. But over the long term, if you can handle little pieces of your other platform, it’s going to make it so much easier for you to show up and put out new content. If you’re afraid of your author website or you’re not really sure how to use social media because you’re uncomfortable with it, that probably means you’re just not going to communicate with your audience. And the less you communicate with your audience, the less that they’re going to see when you have a new launch or a new book release.
But also the really big problem with this kind of thinking is that they’re already going to finish the book. These authors, they finish the book first, they write what they want to write, they have no idea who their market is. They have no idea who their audience is, who’s gonna want to read it. So after the book is done, then they think about marketing. And that’s not really the way to write a bestselling book because if you really want to resonate with an audience, you have to kind of know who your audience is and where they’re like. This is a quote from Ryan Holiday’s book Perennial Seller that I really like. “The absence of an intended audience is not just a commercial problem, it’s an artistic one. So the way to create a wonderful book of literature that resonates with people is to some extent to know the audience that you’re writing that book for.”
And I know this can be really controversial. I’m not going to get into, you know, writing to market in this video, but it is a lot easier and you can write a more successful book with less agony and angst and frustration and doubt if you have an audience in mind and you know the value of your book. Most people, they don’t know how to pitch their books and don’t know how to talk about their book because they don’t know who wants it or they don’t know why they would want it. If you don’t find the value of your book, nobody else is going to find it for you. You can’t get an agent to help you sell the book if you don’t even know how to find or describe the value of your book. Why should anybody read your book? Who should read your book? What’s your book for? What benefits are people going to get out of it? You have to have this value in mind. It’s your job to find the value of your book and it’s not something that happens after the book is written. You really should do some research before you start.
So there are three big reasons to build your own platform and it’s not just about selling more books. There’s actually some others I’ll talk about later, but mainly these three are unshakable confidence, because if you know who you’re making your art for, if you know who is going to be reading your book, it’s a lot easier to write the book in a way that you know is going to satisfy them, which will also lead to better writing because you can get faster, shorter feedback loops, which means if you have an audience who’s the right kind of reader and they give you feedback on your book, you’re going to learn a lot faster. You’re going to get the right kind of feedback and be able to make changes, and also it lets you control your own author career. If you can directly communicate with your own readers instead of having to pay to access or pay to advertise to put your book in front of strangers, that’s all going to get easier. So the more you work on your platform, the easier it’s going to be to write good books.
So you might be thinking, great, I want to build my platform. How do I actually do it? So I’m going to start talking more about the specific details. But before we do, I’m going to tell you a fishing metaphor. This is just something that I like to keep in mind. Basically if you are just marketing your book to cold traffic, you’re a fly fisherman. So you’re standing out there in the cold, in the rain with your wet boots on and you’re flipping that fishing rod, you know, a thousand times a day over and over and over again. You might catch a couple fish, you have to throw up, you have to cast your line, your single line, lots and lots of times. It takes up all your energy and your time to try to land a couple of fish. That’s what most authors do and that’s what you have to do.
If you don’t have a platform, you’re just casting a line out there and hoping there’s a fish out there somewhere as opposed to taking the time to build on that. If you actually build a net instead of standing out here in the cold, you know, forever repeating the same process. You can spend a few weeks building a net with lots of different strings so that you don’t have to send out their casting, your fishing line. You can just leave your net in the river and you can be writing more books. You can go back to work. You can put out more content. You can be creating things because you will have a net that catches your readers even if you’re not physically present. So that’s why this is really important. So these are the things that you’re going to need. I know you might get overwhelmed with, you know, all the stuff that has to do with building author platforms. I’ve kind of boiled it down to four basic things that you need in your system.
These are probably terms that you hear about when people talk about book marketing. So I’m going to kind of quickly introduce you to some of these terms in case you’re not quite sure how they work. And we’ll start over here with optin offers. An optin is when someone signs up for your email lists, they subscribe on your website, and that’s one of the reasons you really need a website is that if you have an email list, you’re going to have to build some kind of a landing page or a form where people can give you their email and be added to a list. And you really want some kind of email service provider because otherwise you’d have to collect thousands of emails and mail them out individual that you want some kind of provider that handles all that email stuff for you. The big ones are MailChimp, Convertkit and possibly Mailerlite. That’s the one that I use. Mailerlite is a bit cheaper and you can make really nice looking email broadcasts. Mailchimp, however, is free up to 2000 subscribers. So if you’re just getting started and you don’t want to pay for anything, that’s kind of an easy way to start. However, I think if you’re really building your platform, you should hit those first 2000 subscribers pretty quickly and you don’t want to get stuck with the platform. That’s not the best just because it was free when you started.
Mailerlite also allows you to build pretty nice looking landing pages. So sometimes, for example, using MailChimp, which I used to use, they don’t really have great looking integration. So you might need another plugin or provider to make a form that looks good. And with Mailerlite you can set up a landing page or an opt in form that looks pretty good. It saves you a step, but you still need to get people to go to your website to sign up for the thing. So there’s a couple of ways that you can do that. One is to have an offer in the back of your book, so when they finish reading your book, you have an offer for a free book or a free chapter or something else and they can click the link and go to your opt in form and give you your email to get that extra download. The problem with that strategy is that unless you are selling lots and lots of books, you’re not going to get that many people signing up for your free offer, which means your list is going to sell, your list is going to grow really slowly and you won’t be able to build your list faster to sell more books because you’re not selling more books.
So it’s a little bit of a chicken and egg problem. I think it works a lot better to set up a permafree book, which is probably a shorter book that you give away for free and you can set it up permafree on Amazon or on other ebook retailers. You can also sign up with Instafreebie or book funnel which are software or systems that allow you to give away free books to an audience and both of those platforms, Instafreebie and Book Funnel also have joint author promotions. So you can look for other joint author promotions in your genre or you can start your own promotions and team up with other authors to cross promote and they can be really effective to giving away a lot of free teasers basically. And they’re like little short books to hook your readers hopefully with the story enough that they signed up for the full thing to your real email list.
So I’ve also written down here lead gen, for lead generation. So getting more leads in your funnel, new readers in your funnel and a lead gen book is probably the book that you’re giving away on your websites. Like I said, it’s kind of tricky because if you don’t have any traffic to your website, then it doesn’t matter if you’re getting people to sign up, but you could be paying for advertising or you could be joining joint author promotions and getting people to download a free book to sign up to your email. So before they’ve actually read anything they’re signing up to your list to read something for free. And that only works if the free content that you’re giving out is good enough and it really piques their interest and they just have to keep reading or they love the story so much, they really want to hear from you and they want more stuff from you. But at least it gives you the opportunity to start a conversation with those readers. You’re also going to need your author website. And what most authors do is they don’t really know what to talk about or what you write about on their blog. So they don’t get any traffic. So I’ve heard people complain, you know, I’ve had my website for five years, but I don’t get any viable visitors so it’s a total waste of time. So I don’t want to, you know, spend any time or money on it. And that’s because they’re not writing the right kind of content.
Your website should be more than just a place that you send people by giving out a business card. Your website should work for you by attracting readers. When they search for things on Google, your content will show up and they will find your articles and they’ll appear on your website. The more you build good content that’s focused on readers and matches the keywords that they’re actively searching for, the more traffic you’re going to get. And that’s evergreen organic traffic that might, you know, follow you or is it up to email lists as long as you can get them to care about what you’re saying.
Once people start signing up to your email list, you can use it to send broadcasts whenever you want to so you can communicate directly. You can also boost traffic. So whenever you write a new blog post, which I recommend maybe once a week, and I’ll talk more about that later, whenever you write a new blog post, you can send out an email and say, “Hey, check out my new blog posts.” You’re not selling anything. Not every piece of content you write is to sell books. You just want to be providing value. And you also want to be, as long as you have an email list, you want to be reminding them to come back to your website. The more traffic you get on your website, the more Google or whatever search engine is going to trust that you have something worth saying. You have something people are listening to. So you always want to use your platform to re target them and send them back to your website. Just to give it a little bit of spike in traffic, especially when you publish a new blog posts that’ll kind of tell Google that that’s a good pulse for those keywords.
And you can also use it to launch books whenever you have a new book release. I’m not sure if I’m going to say this later, but generally when I launch a book, I do at least three emails. I’ll do, you know, the book is almost ready and you can get the book now and then this is your last chance to get the book. I’ll send those three emails and that’s fine. Although as long as you’re actually writing a book and you’re launching a book, I probably should email about seven times for every launch. So I should have several pre marketing campaigns and a few, you know, the book is out campaigns. If you, I think, I’ll actually make, you know, a list of those seven emails that I would send out for a book launch. But I’ll tell you more about later or you can ask me about those.
But people aren’t going to be listening to your book launch, so they’re going to unsubscribe really quickly if they don’t know who you are, if they don’t already like you or know you are. So before you start broadcasting with news, before you start broadcasting book sales or updates or whatever, first you have to get them to open your emails and like what you’re saying and that’s what you do with an email sequence. So your email sequence or your autoresponder sequence is something you can set up ahead of time and it’s probably going to be five or 10 emails that go out every few days so that you’re introducing yourself to your audience and they’re kind of getting to know who you are. I’ll also have an email sequence that I’ll tell you more about later. I tried to kind of mix in some, some extra giveaways and more free books, a lot of excerpts. They can start reading my content right away. And maybe also a few personal stories.
People ask how often you should email. I wrote down here once a week because I think you should write at least once a week. I actually don’t, I go silent for months at a time, and then when I build something new, I tell everybody about it. I don’t actually email as much as I probably should though. And that’s something I’m working on. And with my fiction sequence, I’ve been talking about email sequences for almost a year. I talked about it at a conference in London at the beginning of last year. I still haven’t built my fiction sequence very well and part of the reason I haven’t done that is because I needed to redo my website. And so if you build your website the right way and you set up the right kind of content on your website, it’ll be really easy for you to build this autoresponder series because you’re already have a bunch of content that you can share with your audience.
To keep things simple, I think there are basically four things that you can write about to your audience. The first one, of course, is your books. So these are the new releases, the excerpts, the things you’re working on, keeping them up to date on the writing process or any of that stuff. Also stories, personal stories, hopefully that talk about your brand in a certain way. So not just any random stories, but stories that have meaning, that are relevant to your content, that are relevant to the types of books that you’re writing. Also your favorite things. It could be a movie you watched or something that you bought, anything that you like or you appreciate that hopefully it’s something that you have in common with your audience. And then finally, giveaways. I talk a lot about giveaways using KingSumo, especially, to build your email list.
You can give away a copy of other people’s books. It doesn’t have to be your own books. It could be also something that your audience would want. There’s a lot of list builder giveaways where a bunch of authors team up together and they buy something really fancy and they give it away. People sign up to win the free thing. And that’s how you build your email list. You can also set up giveaways with Amazon. You can say, give away like anything that’s for sale on Amazon. So you’re really not limited. There’s lots of little things you can do. Or you can do a quick little Facebook giveaway to build engagement with your Facebook page. So even if you only email once a week and you do one of these every week, you’re doing one giveaway a month, you can set up a cheap giveaway for something under that $20 or less. But it’s a really good thing to offer to engage your audience and do it consistently so that your readers know every month they’ve got a chance to win something cool, just kind of an easy thing to do.
So with your author website, I’m going to go over a few basic pointers and then I’ll show you an author website that I’ve kind of been building and it’s been difficult. I’ve always kind of recommended authors just have a really simple, really clean author website because it’s hard to design a website if you don’t know code. If you don’t know how to build in html, it can be frustrating to get a website to look the way you want it, which is why I usually say just use a simple wordpress theme and don’t worry about it. I haven’t been a fan of site builders that let you kind of see what you’re building, for example, like Wix or Weebly, even though they’re really popular with authors because they’re easy to use, I don’t think that the best solutions. But recently I’ve been using Divi theme on WordPress, which really lets you do just about anything.
So I’ve been really happy with what I’m able to do, which means I’m allowed to build a much better looking website because I have more control. And the other really cool thing about Divi is that I can make templates that I can share so I can save the templates that I build and I can make kind of like a basic author website template. Then other people can upload to their own server or their own host and they can start building faster by using some of the models that have already set up. So I think that’s really cool. I’m excited about it. I’ll show you what I’m working on in a minute.
But first I’ll talk a little bit about the mistakes I usually see on author websites and the main one is that most other websites, they don’t really quickly communicate who they are and what they write and what audience they’re writing for it. You need a really clear positioning statement at the top of your website. And it could be like a branding statement. It could be a tagline, just something that makes it really clear what this site is about. Is this an author? Is it about what genre or topic? It could also be a really clear benefit headline. So something specific that will attract the right readers attention because it solves the problem that they’re trying to solve.
I will point out down here, and logos are not branding, so you don’t want to think too hard or too long about getting some big fancy logo made because logos aren’t really emotional. So they’re not going to have an emotional impact anyway. And they’re probably too cognitive, which means probably they’re all symbolic and they’re not going to be meaningful to readers. You might think they’re really cool and meaningful, but you’re not going to have the chance to explain to visitors what your logo means or why you chose certain elements or motives. So you really want to focus more on the colors and the pictures that have an immediate emotional impact.
After that, you want to keep it really simple, which means one fancy font, one color scheme, lots of spacing, no distractions or overwhelm. What a lot of authors do is they’ll just, because it’s hard to control the design of the website, they’ll just throw a whole bunch of stuff on that. I’ve seen a lot of other websites with, you know, five or six different colors on the headlines, a whole bunch of different fancy fonts. It’s basically just a mess. And that’s the problem with design in general. If you’re not a designer, it can be fun to play around with different stuff. And if you play around too much, it’s just going to look messy. And so it’s usually better to keep things super simple and to use a theme or a template. And just if somebody else designed a template you can use, just use it without screwing it up because the more stuff you add, the worse that’s going to look.
And what I’ve usually said in regards to websites is that your book cover should be the best looking thing on your website. So if people don’t see your book cover or if your book cover doesn’t stand out because you have so much other crap on your website anyway, that’s a problem. That’s why I really recommend clean white simple websites so that you can really focus on the content. And I’ve done that in the past and it’s working pretty well. I focused on the content I have. I focused on the keywords and the articles that I write, the type of post that I published, and I’ve gotten the traffic. And that’s great. The problem is now at this point, if I did have a better looking website, I would get more conversion. I’d be able to organize it better. And so I’ve said it over here, you need to have a few simple clean options and to steer them towards the action that you want them to take. And that’s something you can do with better design, which is why I’ve really been focusing on, you know, rebuilding all of my websites.
So here is the new website that I have been working on building. I’m just going to scroll through and kind of show you a few of the choices that I’ve made. I’m not going to show you how to actually build this website. I’m with Divi, although if you visit this website later, which is authoridentity.com, this is basically a fake website that I’ve made as an example. So I did put a few, like, of my real stuff in there and my real books, my real author bio, but it’s not actually a website that I use for my business. It’s basically a website that I can show an example of what I think an author website could look like.
So you’re noticing instead of saying, you know, this is Derek Murphy’s website, I focused on something that’s more content specific. So this website is about helping authors build an author website. That’s the value that this website provides. So I started off with a benefits driven headline, which is free book promotion. “Is Your author Website Ready? Find out.” Now there’s a call to action up here. If this was just a straight up other website, I would probably have either a big picture of myself or a row of books here. I’m actually really excited now that I have this template to rebuild it for real on my fiction site and make a really cool, really dark professional author website. Sso somewhere I’ll also have a link to that other fiction side if you’re curious about what a fictions website would look like. But it’s probably a good idea to have a call to action up on top.
Like the main thing, this would be like get my free opt in offer, get my free book now download my free thing. You also want to make sure, like I said earlier, up on top, you have a tagline that says what this website is, what it’s for. I haven’t really started off with a free book yet. I’ve started off with a benefit, but at least they know what they can get on this website and what it’s all about. If you scroll down a little bit, the first thing that I put in here is a link to an audio book.
And there’s a couple of reasons that I did that. Instead of just linking to my free book and my free offer, I link to an audio book because I have this one done already on Audible. And because when people sign up on Audible for the first time you can get a bounty for sending them to audible. So if I get some people on my website to buy the audiobook or to sign up to audible to get the audio book, I’ll get an extra bonus bounty just for sending them the traffic. So it can be a really easy way to boost your income a little bit by promoting your audio book first. It also let me add this little sample so they can just click here and listen to a sample. I chose a really specific little snippet, a little soundbite. So even if they’re just scrolling through my website, they get to listen to a little bit of content, which could be really good.
And if they like it or not, they could get the book for free on Amazon. This is one of my perma free books. Or they can listen to the audiobook and then I say free with a 30 day trial. So like I said, if I’m driving in traffic and they click on that link and they do sign up, I might get an extra little bonus there. So that’s kind of why I chose to set it up that way in the beginning. Then if you scroll down, there’s some little review boxes. There’s a lot of different ways to make testimonials. So I added a whole bunch of them. There’s also a really easy way to add customized fonts, which is kind of awesome. So I had to choose fonts that I liked for my brand and then I could just upload them in Divi and use any kind of font that I wanted, which gave me a lot more flexibility with the design.
I’ve actually already broken a lot of the rules for making an author website, but because I wanted this to be an example and I kind of wanted to show what is possible with the Divi theme, what’s possible to make. I included a lot more than I probably should have. So I’ve chosen actually like two basic fonts. There’s a kind of a color scheme with the blue and the white but it’s a little bit more fancy than what I would normally recommend. Down here I have opportunity, problem, solution. That’s kind of a neat little formula you can kind of offer if you’re doing any kind of sales copywriting. So this is what the site is about. You need to build an author website to build your own traffic to your own platform, which will make it more easy to sell books. That’s followed with common criticisms or complaints. Like, why should I even bother making a website if it’s not gonna work for me or if it doesn’t get any traffic? And then I have the answer to that objection. So before I even get into more of the content, I am answering the main objection that people might have with my main premise or my content.
I’ve also included a lot of pretty pictures that I liked a lot. You can get free stock photography on some sites like Pexels or Unsplash. There’s a bunch of sites you do want to be careful. You can’t just grab any images from the Internet and use them on your website. So make sure you get approved stock photography or you get them from a free stock photography site. Make sure it’s okay if we do use them on your website. Down here I have kind of a nice big text over picture mostly because it’s really cool. Again, this is a little bit too fancy, but I kind of wanted to show off what I could do. Here’s another call to action. Get started with my free resources. And then I have some of my books.
You probably don’t want to promote all of your books on the homepage of your website, but I think it’s kind of nice to give them a few options. So here are four of my books I have available. They could go buy them on Amazon. So I had this little button down here, but what I really want them to do is read every chapter. So if they click on this read now button, they would go to each book would have its own unique page and on that unique page there would be an excerpt, which would probably be the first chapter or at least the first few paragraphs so they can actually start reading, and then at the end of that I would have another buy button. So I don’t even really need to include these buy buttons. I think they look kind of nice. I’m going to leave them.
But the idea is this little thing here is not enough to sell the book. And even if they click over to Amazon right now, they may not be ready to buy the book yet, but if I can get them to read a free chapter for free, especially for fiction, this works really well. But even for nonfiction, because for nonfiction, your introduction or your first chapter should really still be the sales copy. It’s the what this book is about, why this book, why you need to read this book, who this book is for. That should all be in the introduction or the first chapter or the part that you’re giving away for free on your website. So even if they read it for free, all it does is convince them to actually buy the book. So by the time they finish reading the first chapter, they want to keep reading the rest, and for fiction should be the same. If they don’t want to buy the book after they’ve read the first chapter, you don’t have a strong enough first chapter. So that’s why it’s fine to give it away for free because if it’s doing its job, if it’s good enough, they will, they’ll need to buy the rest of the book to continue this journey that you’ve already started.
If you have multiple series for fiction, I would also just put the first book for each series. And one of these could be if you, for example, if one of these is permafree, you might want to have something on here that says like, get this book for free or like a little tag or something that says, you know, this one is free. So if they’re having trouble deciding or they don’t know which one they want, make sure that they know that one of them, they can just sign up and get it for free. Scrolling downward a little bit more. I have some more reviews, which I like. You can change any of these images or the style or anything. I decided the background, that I have free video training. You may not have this if you don’t do videos. I actually have a Youtube presence, so I’ve added a few videos. I do think it’s a good idea to add videos to your site because it increases the chances that people will stick around longer. If you can get someone to stay a couple extra minutes to watch the video, that gives Google a signal that people are watching your content and they’re going to send you more traffic. So I think it’s a good idea, even if it’s not you talking about your book though, I think it should be, it could be a trailer that you have made. It could be some other video about something relevant, but I think it’s a good idea to have a little section with the videos, because I do do a lot of video done here. I have a big button to subscribe to my youtube channel.
And something I haven’t added here yet, I’ve seen sometimes people have a big page of free video tutorials and they just have a whole bunch of videos, like maybe 20 videos on that page. And at the end of the page they have a huge call to action or subscribe to my youtube channel. That’s something I think is really cool. So I’m going to make that for this site and if you visit the site later, you’ll be able to find that. If I scroll down some more, I have a couple of really nice big quotes, with this image background.
I said earlier there are probably like too many different kinds of styles and things going on here, but I wanted to show you kind of some of the different ways you can make testimonials just because they look really cool. I think one of the most important things for an author is having a lot of really nice reviews or testimonials for your books on your website. So having different ways of styling them, is a really good approach. Especially because I’ve often made the mistake of just dumping a ton of testimonials. I have over a thousand book reviews and it can be tempting to just put, you know, 10 or 20 reviews on your website, but you really want to single out a few good ones and make them really big and bold and centered. Because if you have just a whole bunch of reviews, readers aren’t, they’re not going to read any of the reviews. If you have too many options or too much content, they’re going to skim through all of it, but if you can get them to read, you know, two really nice big reviews that hit the biggest selling benefits or the features of your book, then that’s a big win.
Down here, we have a little blog section. I haven’t really finished setting up the blog yet, but later on if you check this out, it’ll go to a blog page that’ll have a sidebar and they’ll be some other stuff on the sidebar. One of the things I really like about Divi is you can set up different categories for your blog posts, so on the homepage I could have different categories. I can have one category that’s for recent events or for excerpts of my books or for anything else that I, that I want to highlight, I can divide it up into different categories and so I could have a section here that only shows one category and divided up that way.
Then on here I have a sneak preview. This is something I think is a good idea to have on your homepage somewhere is some of your actual writing, not just talking about the writing, not just you know, reviews from other people but a little bit of the actual content of some book so that people can get a feel for your writing style. And this can probably be something that you’re working on. So this is a book that I haven’t written yet. I only have like a very rough outline, but I’d like to get it done in the next couple of months. So this is just something, I put it on my website and they can sign up to reserve a copy. Basically, they’ll sign up for an email list and then I’ll let them know when the book is available. But just by having it here and by formatting it a little bit nicely with a drop cap, and then adding in a little rose down here, it draws the eyes. So when they’re skimming down, it’s just likely that something will, a new style, something that looks a little bit like real writing because of the drop cap, might catch their eye and they might actually start reading.
If you can get them to start reading your content and enjoy what you’ve written. And this is basically just a summary of some of the main features of this book. All creative fears based on two basic insecurities. Am I good enough? Is this worth it? This is going to be a really good book. I’m excited about it. So I just wanted to put out a little bit of content down here. I added another review section just to kind of show you this really cool little graphic images that you can make.
These are almost good enough to share on social media. So if you set them up the right way in Divi, you could actually just take like a screenshot of these images and then share them on social media, which would save you the time instead of needing to use some other app to design them really well. So by designing really well with a website builder, which is possible with Divi, that could kind of save you a couple of steps. I didn’t use my own quotes in this section. I took quotes from books that I really like from other authors that talk about building an author platform or building an audience to share your creative work with. So there’s some stuff by Jeff Goins. There’s some stuff by Seth Godin. This one’s Tim Grail and I decided to use the book titles instead of the author name. This one’s James Altucher. Anyway, these are just some of my favorite quotes. So I was kind of just sharing to show off another style that you could make. The background doesn’t look great with this green background. That’s something I would probably clean up. And then down here I finally get to an about the author section.
So what I have here is a very short bio and then instead of linking to my about page, which I probably should do, like read more about me, that’s what I had originally. I changed it to 39 things you don’t know about me. What I would like to have under here is three or four different really good short stories. Instead of just a typical about page, there will also be an about page they can click on the top menu to go to the about page. But rather than just giving like a summary of my biography, I’d rather they start reading more personal, more intimate, more vulnerable shares because that’s going to get them to feel things. And if they feel things are going to remember me, if I can get them to feel, if I can tell them a story, then they’re going to remember my brand or my platform.
And that’s a really interesting thing about storytelling is that you can’t picture information. So if you just give them a whole bunch of information about you, they won’t remember it because it’s not putting any pictures or images in their mind. If you can get them to picture anything, then it’s there. Especially if it’s something with emotion. If you can get them to listen to a story that has an emotional impact, they’re going to remember that a lot more because you’ve made them feel something. So that’s really what I want to get to make start happening down here. I put a really big “follow me on Bookbub” section. You may not actually know this, but Bookbub has it has made its own social media follow icon. So all of these icons down here, you can get a pack of different styles from Bookbub and just use them.
Divi also comes with like some built in icons and most websites will have some sort of icons, but they’re not going to have the ones that you need as an author. They’re probably not going to have the goodreads one. They’re probably not going to have the Bookbub one or I really should have a follow me on Amazon button. Also the more buttons you have, the less people are going to take action. So it’s always actually better to focus on just a couple of the platforms that you really want to build on. I actually would probably remove the goodreads one because I don’t think goodreads is a really good social platform for authors. It is really important to be aware of what’s going on with your goodreads profile. It’s important to have that stuff set up the right way, but goodreads is not the place that you want to be interacting with fans. It’s kind of a place for readers to interact with each other.
Then down here I added just a story. It’s a story about the time I saw an Easter bunny when I was a kid. It’s kind of a little bit of a cliffhanger and then they can keep reading. So the idea is just to start telling a story, same as up above if you can get them hooked on a story and get them to click and keep reading something, you’ve got their attention. So by telling a story rather than just dumping information, there’s a better chance I could actually get them to lean in and pay attention to what I’m saying.
So down here, I have one more big call to action. I know this is actually a little bit hard to read. I think it looks cool, but I should probably have chosen a clearer font. And also this isn’t a great call to action because it’s not very clear what they’re actually getting when they sign up. What’s to freak out about? Ideally you’d probably have like a picture of the book or the free guide, but this is a chance to give kind of a different offer you want to make. Like you want one big call to action. The more things you ask them to do, the less they’re going to do any things. But you also want to give them a couple of different options because if one offer doesn’t appeal to them, you have an opportunity to give them another different offer that might catch their attention.
Then down here, the bottom, I say, ps, here’s some of my favorite books. And I haven’t really done this section very well, but there’s a few reasons to do this and it has to do with your also-boughts. It’s also because I want to be helping my friends sell more books. I want to be sharing good content with my readers. This website is all about building an author website or book marketing or selling more books. So I’ve included some of my favorite books about self publishing or writing or book marketing because I think they’re useful for other people, but also because these are the other books that I want in my also bought on Amazon under my own books. If people buy my books and they also buy these other books, then there’s a good chance that these books will show up under my also bought.
And the more that my book shows up next to these other books, the more my books are going to be shown organically on Amazon’s platform. So if I can drive some traffic, if I can say, you know, these are my favorite books, if they click any of these links of really if I was doing it right, I would do a book review of each of these books. So each cover would click to a different article where I would review the book and add a couple of excerpts. And that just means I have, you know, if I have 10 favorite books, which I think is a good idea, that means I have 10 new pieces of content where I can talk about a whole bunch of stuff that’s all relevant to my audience and it’s all good keywords because now I have all this content about book marketing and writing with all these good keywords in 10 different articles.
That’s going to make it easier for my blog to get more traffic. And also it gives my readers and my audience more things to read about or more valuable advice. I’m also doing a favor for the other authors that I’m promoting. I’m basically promoting all these other books for free. Because, I mean, it’s a little bit good for me because it’ll help me sell more books, but I’m also doing it because if I can leverage my audience’s traffic and help these other authors sell more books then maybe I can make friends with those other authors and they might do something similar to my own books. One of the things I’ll usually do, actually if I was building a new platform, is I would start with a giveaway of all of these favorite books. So I would write down like my favorite advice for writers from my favorite books. I would do book reviews, I would actually do video reviews and put the video reviews up on Youtube. And then I would set up a kingsumo giveaway with these books and I’d advertise it to people who like writing or publishing and I would say, you know, win a Self Publishing Starting Library here, my favorite books about writing and book marketing, sign up to win a free copy. And that way I’ll be building a very targeted list of writers who are interested in all of these topics and are probably going to be interested in the type of stuff that I write about also.
This slide’s about authenticity. You already have a brand, is it the one you want? Everything you do online is already sending a message. You just want to make sure you know you’re telling the right story and communicating your real self, your cool authentic self as much as possible. And finally, you want to introduce yourself as what you want to be known for. The first person you have to convince is yourself. So don’t worry so much if you think you’re not good enough or you’re not famous enough. S lot of authors when they’re starting off, they just feel like, you know, why talk about myself at all? I just want to talk about my books.
The other really important part of your author platform is it’s not just about you, it’s about your network or the relationships you make. So making friends with other authors in your field is really important. And you do that by providing value and not by asking for favors or you know, begging them to share your book. But by offering first and starting with a position of power. And that’s why your website, it’s not just about how many books you can sell with your audience. If you have an audience that gives you some bargaining power with other authors in your field or genre. So you want to be hanging out with authors who are further ahead of you or further along that you can learn from. But you also want to associate with other authors who are doing things well because you’ll learn how to also do things well and to build relationships or friendships with those people.
You have to be thinking about what I can provide, what I can offer, be the organizer who is putting things together, who’s doing the work. And it can take a long time to build up these relationships that don’t just start off like sending private message and asking people to promote your books right away or don’t just start off asking for a quid pro quo kind of arrangement. You really just want to be hanging out on social media. That’s why social media is so good. It’s not just sell books, it’s to build relationships with readers and other authors.
I will end on this slide which is a launch plan. Like I said earlier, I’ll make a different video with some more stuff and I’m going to finish that author identity website as an example. So you can look around that website and see kind of how I chose to put things together. And if you want to redo your own or other website or if you haven’t build an author website yet and you’d like to use Divi I’m going to have a lot of resources and instructions on how to use Divi and wordpress to build an author website like the one in the example. And I will also have some, not only the video tutorials, but I’ll also have some templates that you can just download and upload to your WordPress installation, so that you’re not starting from scratch. So you can just start off with some basic templates and tweak things with your own information.
It’s already going to look really good, so that’s something I’m really excited about sharing. I hope I said some stuff in this presentation that was useful for you about branding and author websites. I do have a whole bunch of free resources and books and materials and tutorials. I have mostly been doing book design, so on DIYbookcovers or DIYbookformat.com I get a lot of traffic for book design or book formatting templates. But right now I’m really focused on this author identity, building author websites, author branding, just because I think that’s something that a lot of people need help with. So thanks a lot. Let me know if you have any questions. If you’d like to reach out on Twitter or Facebook, you can find me @creativity or by searching for Derek Murphy. And also I will be building a fiction website on urbanepics.com, with a lot of the same stuff, but for fiction. So if you write fiction and you’d like to see how that all plays out, you can visit me on urbanepics.com and kind of see what I’m doing over there. Thank you so much.
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