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6 Tips for Designing Author Websites in 2012

In 1996, we launched our first ever website. It was for the NY Times bestselling author Sue Grafton. Not only was it an honor to design our first site for such an important author, but at the time it was such a big deal that the New York Timeseven wrote about it.

Today websites are common place and every author has a site. However, looking towards 2013 when forecasts predict that there will be 1.7 billion mobile internet users, authors need to make sure their sites are attracting the mobile and social readers.

Here are 6 tips for designing author websites in 2012
  1. All in the Name – Your website should be under your name. Even if you publish multiple books with multiple publishers, all of which have their own websites, you need a site in your name. You can link to all the other sites or better yet bring all the information under one umbrella site and redirect the other URLs to the new site. This is essential for a strong brand strategy.
  2. What the Heck is SEO – I know SEO (search engine optimization) is important but so is sounding like yourself. We live in a time where people expect authentic communication not marketing copy. I have seen sites that were so optimized for search engines, that they hardly read well. As an author, you need to make sure the text on your site reads well, represents your work, and sounds like you.
  3. To Blog or Not to Blog – I know most authors hate to be told that they need to blog. I even hate it. Who ever has the time? So my advice, don’t blog if you hate it. There I said it. You’re free, but… Yep there is a but. New blogs will bring traffic to your site from searches. If you don’t need or want unqualified search traffic, you can skip blogging. However, if you think people searching for vampires would be interested in your book, then you will have to write a few blogs about vampires to attract that traffic. Regardless of whether you blog or not, you should consider a site in WordPress as it makes it easy to update the site yourself.
  4. Mobile Friendly – More and more people are accessing sites on mobile devices so there are a few things to remember. If your site has Flash make sure you test it on different tablets and smart phones to make sure it is working well (Flash does not work on iPhones & iPads). It’s important to make navigation easy as people may be using fingers rather than their mouse to move around. Large graphics and dark colors are not ideal for mobile reading. On a positive note, most WordPress sites will display perfectly fine on mobile devices, making a mobile version unnecessary.
  5. Social Links – It’s important to have links to your social networks (which should also be in your name) and ways to share your site on social networks. Adding the Facebook and Twitter widgets to your home page might be a good idea as well because they display your recent posts. It’s an easy way to keep your site updated.
  6. Photos and Graphics – With sites like Pinterest gaining traction, try to add photos and graphics to your site. You can buy stock photos or better yet take them yourself.

Websites are a crucial link between you and your readers. It is the one place, the hub, of all your activities. Feel free to add extra content, reviews, maps, drawings, family tree, anything to connect with your readers in a personal way. Just remember you are dealing with a social and mobile reader, so plan accordingly.

If you are looking for ideas, check out ourportfolio.

Steve Jobs’ 14 Lessons for Book Publishers (Part Two)

Much of the discussion about Steve Jobs’s Walter Isaacson-penned biography revolves around his management style—or lack thereof. But after reading the book myself, I found a lot of information that’s relevant to the publishing industry. This is part two of my interpretation of Steve Jobs’ philosophies as they can be applied to book publishing. Part one ran last week. 

Part Two

  1. Impute
  2. Push for perfection
  3. Tolerate only “A” players
  4. Engage face to face
  5. Know the big picture and details
  6. Applied imagination
  7. Stay happy

1. Impute
Jobs’s early mentor Mike Markkula  wrote him a memo that urged three principles. The first two were empathy and focus. “The third was an awkward word, ‘impute,’ but it became one of Jobs’s key doctrines,” said Isaacson.

I define impute to mean that people use one element as a surrogate indicator to define the whole. For example, people judge a book by its cover. Pay attention to all aspects of your product offering. If the price is too low, people may think that its content is inferior to more expensive competitive products. Shelf presence at Wal-Mart will project a different image from the same book for sale at Neiman Marcus.

Appeal to the sense of touch by choosing the right paper. Gilt edges project a richer look and feel. Use deckled paper on your historical novel to give the foredge a rough appearance. A heavier-weight paper may increase the spine width and subsequently shelf visibility. Use all the marketing tools at your disposal to project the image you want prospective customers to have.

2. Push for perfection

Jobs sought perfection in almost every product he ever created. It happened at Apple and at Pixar. Isaacson said, “When [Jobs] was about to launch Apple Stores, he and his store guru, Ron Johnson, suddenly decided to delay everything a few months so that the stores’ layouts could be reorganized around activities and not just product categories.” His search for excellence certainly paid off.

"Good enough" is rarely good enough. Test your title, cover design, interior layout, price and promotion. Do not let your ego interfere as you make necessary changes. Progress occurs when you deliver what the market wants.

In addition, publish your books on your schedule, not according to an artificial deadline such as a distributor’s catalog or special marketing period (such as the fourth-quarter holidays). It may be better to wait for the next one. Create a timeline of mandatory actions and completion dates. Stick to it regardless of outside pressure to publish early.

3. Tolerate only “A” players
Jobs had a unique management style, but as Isaacson said,  “It was his way of preventing what he called ‘the bozo explosion,’ in which managers are so polite that mediocre people feel comfortable sticking around.”

There are many theories of personal management and personnel management that are beyond my area of expertise. But from my experience, if you hire people to work directly for you or as consultants (marketing, legal, financial) hire only the best ones available. It will generally cost less in the long run.

4. Engage face to face
Authors place a heavy reliance on social networking to communicate with prospective buyers. While not necessarily a bad thing, it should not replace connecting with people personally. Authors could conduct store events, seminars or personal presentations at corporate and association meetings. They can perform on TV and radio shows, with personal connection to the host and audience through call-in shows. They can attend or exhibit at trade shows and conferences. And personal selling to corporate buyers can yield sales in large, non-returnable quantities.

5. Know the big picture and details
Successful book marketers have to see the forest and the trees. By this I mean we have to perform in the short-term in order to make it to the long term. For example, dual distribution tactics through bookstores and other retailers may sustain current revenue while larger, non-returnable sales through corporate buyers run their lengthy course. In addition, some promotion is designed for consistent exposure (publicity, social networking, advertising, sales promotion) while others are for sales (direct marketing, trade shows and personal presentations).

The key is to have an assorted, yet concentrated mix of marketing activities. Apply these to generating sales today to individual consumers while seeking the greater opportunity in future, non-bookstore sales. 

13) Applied imagination
It is not enough to have a creative idea because creativity in itself does not lead to sales Creativity is simply the ability to find something new by rearranging the old in a new way. It is not necessarily a “bolt out of the blue” — although it can be. Implement your ideas, even if they seem unwieldy at first.

There are techniques you can use to stimulate your thinking to come up with new ways of solving marketing problems or seeking different directions. Creativity is …

… a tool, not an end unto itself. It is a technique you can use to stand out from the crowd in a positive way. It is a device that can make your promotional efforts more unique and perhaps more memorable and successful. Use this tool to plan new titles, implement a new pricing program or sell your books to different market segments.

… a different way of doing something. It is an outlook, an attitude, the ability to search for more than one right answer and the capacity to look at what everybody else sees but think something different. You apply your creative talents when you think of a new cover design for a book, or when you decide to sell your books in airport stores or to the military in addition to bookstores

… fun. Innovation can be as enjoyable as it is productive.  What if you, as an author, set a goal of writing three pages every day. You can still write your three pages on those days when your writer’s block is larger than a city block. Just set your computer to display your work in 72-point type.

Innovation is resourcefulness, the ability to look at a task and find new ways to perform it. It is a playful way of looking at ordinary events, stimulating your thinking and inventing new ways to accomplish results. New ideas are neither right nor wrong ― they are simply different. They are round pegs that do not fit into square holes.

14) Stay happy 
Negativity happens. Problems conspire to erode your enthusiasm and make it more difficult to remain passionate about your publishing venture. Yet the axiom for success in any business is to do what you love and love what you do. When you have reached this state, a sparkling effervescence exudes in everything you do and say. You will remain focused on achievement, excited about your circumstances and confident of your future. Believe in your ability to create more sales and profits, and attack each challenge enthusiastically.

Passion begets persistence. If you believe in what you are doing it is easier to perform all the activities that, in spite of everyday obstacles, will propel you forward. Persistence is tenacity in the face of obstacles, perseverance in conducting marketing activities and perpetual promotion in spite of resistance, rejection and returns. This resolution is supported by the knowledge that although ultimate achievement is not immediate you start your journey anyway and do what is necessary to reach your objectives. 

Steve Job’s career was as rebellious as it was successful. There are many lessons we can take from his philosophies and apply them to becoming more successful at book marketing. Choose those that fit your needs and personality and make them work for you.