Over the past year our fastest growing service to the self-publishing community has been the creation of professional independent publisher websites. This may come as a surprise to some, as a website for a book launch, or for authors looking to display their collective works, could seem over-elaborate, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Those who are most serious about giving their books the best chance of success recognise that readers are rapidly becoming reliant on finding their next read online. But, and as you may expect, there is not just one single reason for deciding to make your book available from your own online platform, there are many. Here, we are going to highlight three of the most compelling reasons for having your own self-publishing website created professionally.
The first thing to consider is how best to drive the sales of your books. People write books for many reasons. For some the process will be an enjoyable experience that is undertaken simply for ticking off a box on their ‘bucket list’. Others will be looking to pursue an ideal career path; whilst a greater percentage are only concerned with increasing their existing income. In recent years we have also seen a rise in the number of business owners and representatives seeking to produce books that underpin the values and enhance the desirability of their respective organisations.
As you’d expect, all approaches to writing are variable and valid; however, once the hard work of creating their books is complete authors must decide how to circulate them to their desired readership. For many authors the path to high street bookstores, such as Waterstones, can seem a little daunting and labour-intensive, so online platforms, like Amazon, have quickly become people’s first port of call. There is no doubting that the service Amazon provides for authors is of great value, and as such, the company has grown at a staggering rate over the last decade. The problem with this exponential growth is that authors often find that the competition for books to appear discoverable, among millions of other titles, is increasingly frustrating. This is where a website comes in.
A good self-publishing website is simply an online space dedicated to promoting your own books. Once someone arrives into this ‘space’ they are a captured audience presented only with your written works – this is when your website effectively becomes a portal that directs potential purchasers to a dedicated page on Amazon where they can buy your book. Immediately you have effectively removed the hoards of competition from other potential book purchases on offer, had your interested buyer started their search on Amazon pages.
How to get people to your website in the first place is a huge subject, and one that we will not go into with great detail here. However, in simple terms, once you have a website you will then own your own URL (the website’s name and link that directs people to your online pages). This URL is unique and will prove valuable for your book promotions, and once you have it, it is time to share it! In an age of connective empowerment via tools such as email and social media, the possibilities for sharing your URL with the world are almost endless, but once readers arrive to your website you have more than merely the opportunity to sell your book, you also gain the chance to win a dedicated reader for life.
Those who have had business involvement will most likely understand the loose distinction between a customer and a client. Although not strictly correct, the sentiment remains that customers are generally referred to as people who make random or occasional purchases, where as clients are prized with greater value because they are seen more widely as people who offer loyalty and ongoing custom. The same can be said of relationships between authors and readers, and having your own website provides you with a greater opportunity to cultivate a readership dedicated to your writing.
Of course there are other factors at play when considering how to encourage ongoing custom – they will have to like your books for a start! Serious writers will understand that the very best chance of success as an author is to write more books, and if you would like to understand why this is the case, we have shared more on this here. But even if you currently have just the one book, it will be hugely advantageous to start to build a fan base of readers who wish to invest time into your book, and future titles that you intend to release. Having your own website allows you to do this by employing a simple mechanism that will collate their contact details, such as a sign-up to your mailing list.
Once you have their details you can easily keep in touch with them, releasing promotions, launch dates for new titles, or even event details for book signings that you may be hosting. Further terms that are commonly used in business marketing are references to ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ audiences. Most of us have had the experience of being a cold audience, as we have most likely all received mail that is unsolicited or unexpected, and the reality is that whoever sent the mail is unlikely to get the healthy responses that they may be hoping for. On the other hand, warm audiences are those of us who have expressed an initial interest to the provider, and as a result are far more likely to engage with mail received from the sender.
As well as a sign-up to your mailing list, your website should also have any appropriate links that allow visitors to follow your social media postings. This is another great way of releasing your information, and this further engagement can help to raise awareness and expectation for titles that you wish to launch in the future.
Cultivating readerships through your website is also a sure way to increase the awareness of your identity as an author, because warm audiences who have decided to invest time into your books are far more likely to spread the word to friends, family and peers.
The final reason for having a professional author website may seem obvious, but it is powerfully effective none-the-less. It is perception. What will your potential readership think of you if they cannot find a website for you? Will they question your commitment as an author, or doubt the return of longevity when they are considering investing their time into your work? Equally, what would they think of you as an author if your website was dated, poorly designed or frustrating to use or poorly designed and programmed? Think for a moment how many websites you have visited but left immediately because you were presented with a site that was unappealing. That’s the power of perception.
What follows perception is judgment. When users enter a website during an online search and perceive that it looks dreadful, they then form a critical (and brutally quick) judgment that they are not going to find what they are looking for, and therefore leave. We are living in an age when perception is so important. We’re not suggesting that you can con people into joining your readership with a pretty website – ultimately the only reason they will remain longterm fans is because they like your books. However, if you do exude a level of visual confidence and expertise on your website you will ultimately be respecting your audience, thereby making the experience of partnering author and reader more joyful and engaging.
If you have a moment, why not gauge your own perception by viewing a handful of recent websites (below) that we have created for our self-published authors. Each client is a fantastic writer in their own right, and their writing has now been complimented by displaying their books in a way that builds their independent publishing brand, driving reader engagement and sales.