Author Websites, Blogs, and Book Sales Pages

by | May 11, 2015

Last week Stephanie Chandler invited me to do a presentation for the Nonfiction Writer’s Conference, an online event featuring lots of speakers on topics of interest to self-publishers and nonfiction authors. The topic was “Essentials for Author Websites, Blogs and Book Sales Pages” and it was designed as a 40 minute teleconference presentation, so no visuals or slides like we would rely on in a webinar or live presentation. (Stephanie also interviewed me last month for the Nonfiction Writer’s Association blog, and I got pretty personal in the interview. You can read it here: Expert Interview: Joel Friedlander) For the last several years I’ve been giving talks, keynotes, and presentations to a variety of book industry groups and, to be honest, it’s one of the more enjoyable parts of my own platform building efforts. But that’s a subject for another day. Today I wanted to share with you the some of what went into this presentation, because thinking through your online strategy is never a bad idea. Because I use mind mapping to prepare many of my presentations, I’ll use the mind map for this event to illustrate the main points I wanted people to walk away with. Author Online Strategies 1

You Have a Strategy, Right?

Even if you start out online with a simple author website or blog, over time your online assets can easily proliferate and you might find yourself a couple of years down the road with a tangle of different sites and assets built up along the way. Many entrepreneurial authors end up owning a variety of sites, and that can be a good thing. One example is Joanna Penn, who has gone from nonfiction author to fiction author and published numerous books along the way. She has also offered training and built up a site for readers in her thriller niche. That second site was a clear strategic move to create an asset that had more appeal to her readers than to other writers. As far has how to get started thinking about a strategy, I presented two options for listeners to consider: the single-site strategy, where everything you do finds a place somewhere on your “home base” site; and the multi-site strategy, where each site gets its own domain name and the constellation of sites help to promote each other: Author Online Strategies 2

One Site for All

It may seem the easiest solution to just pile everything into one website, and there are plenty of examples of authors do that successfully. In this case the essential functions you need from your site will all be included on one domain. Author Online Strategies 3 This arrangement will simplify your life to some extent and save you money too, since you’ll only be paying for the domain, hosting, and software for one site. The downside is that you’ll have to get all the functionality you need from the platform and software on the one site, and you may end up buying more services or specialty software to accomplish that.

Separate Sites for Separate Purposes

As your publishing activities continue to grow, you might find it easier to simply register new domains and establish separate sites for different purposes. Each of the kinds of sites mentioned above could have their own domain, and I’ve largely followed this path myself. Author Online Stragegies 4 Although this is more expensive and a bit more complicated to keep track of, it also has benefits. Each site has a domain name optimized for the specific use the site was designed for. And different software can be used on each site depending on what’s best suited to what goes on there.

Site Requirements

No matter whether you treat your websites as static repositories of your content, or as a constantly updated blog, there are requirements you’ll need to address: Author Online Strategies 5 If your main site is a blog, it comes with its own requirements for you to think about and put in place: Author Online Strategies 6 Book landing pages can be hosted on your own website or blog, or on a specialty site like Booklaunch.io that makes putting one of these pages together much easier. Here are some elements you’ll need on your book landing pages: Author Online Strategies 7 Keep in mind that in the separate site strategy, there are quite a few different kinds of websites you can establish depending on what you have to offer and how you’ll deliver it. For instance, an ecommerce site needs to be accessible to anyone and easy to use to give purchasers of your products or services (like other books, related products, or training tools for instance) the best experience you can. On the other hand, a membership is restricted only to paid or invited members, and should be closed to everyone else. So understanding what your site is for will be the best way to plan it so it accomplishes your aims. Author Online Strategies 8 However you go about setting up sites, give some thought today to questions that will arise as you continue your publishing journey:

  • What other books will you publish?
  • Are all your books on the same topic, or different topics?
  • Can you envision products that would appeal to readers of your books?
  • Can you envision services that they would be happy to find?
  • Are you inclined to offer training courses to your readers?

Your answers to questions like these will provide you with guidance as your future life as an online author unfolds. What about you, have you started to spread your “empire” to different websites? How is that going for you? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.   Photo credit: arsp_021 via photopin (license)

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21 Comments

  1. amanda mctigue

    Hey Joel, it’s time for me to revamp my website(s) to accomplish a number of goals, chief among them to make sure it’s clear and attractive on mobile devices. I’m comfortable with WordPress Templates, but I’d love to do a consult or two with a pro to be sure 1) I’m planning this correctly; 2) I’m heading toward a template design that meets my technical needs; 3) for some help in modest customization. Who would you recommend for such a consult? Happy to take your thoughts via email if you’d prefer. Or maybe you do this? Let me know. Thanks. Man, we’re lucky to have you out here helping us!

    Reply
  2. lucasso

    I have started to collect book and ebook sales data. You may find these data interesting. Check them on my blog:

    http://infotenger.blogspot.hu/

    Thanks for your time.

    Reply
  3. Carolyn Beauchamp

    I’m already getting more info than I can assimilate, but you sound friendly, so I’ll risk one more question. I own KidAdBooks, a very small co. – only one book (48pp.) self published. I pay Homestead $8.99 per mo. to maintain my website. I have edited it a little, but do not know the ropes. Can I do better for no too much cost?
    Thanks for any help you can offer,
    Carolyn

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi Carolyn,

      That’s not too bad, but there are better deals out there if you look. For instance, on Bluehost.com (where this blog is currently hosted) you can get a 1-site hosting package for $3.49/month. Here’s the link if you want to check it out: https://www.bluehost.com/shared

      Reply
    • Joe Jacobson

      Carolyn,

      One thing that doesn’t get covered too much for new authors is the option of using someone’s else’s hosting and author templates. For the tech-challenged author, this may be a good choice, rather than having to figure out hosting, software installs (like WordPress), installed themes and plugins, configuring everything and then customizing the theme. Then there’s the ongoing updates, security and backups to consider. Try Googling “author website prebuilt templates” and you’ll get some suggestions. And, BTW, be sure your website is mobile-friendly now that Google has recently made updates in this regard. Good luck on your writing.

      Reply
  4. Greg Strandberg

    This is a really good visual representation of how you need to layer your website, both for users and for SEO purposes. I think these diagrams you have are a lot better than:

    Homepage -> My Books Page -> Book 1 Page

    That’s pretty much what it is, though. And each of those pages will get indexed by Google, and that means you’ll have a higher chances of coming up in the search results.

    I wish I would have known more of what’s in this article when I started my website two years ago. Would have saved me a lot of time.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      The problem is that the more established you get online, the more resistance there is to completely revamping existing sites. I’m working on this now.

      Reply
  5. Alexis

    I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Joanna Penn is the anomaly and that for most authors, having a single site is the best strategy. Why? Because building any sort of domain authority or readership is immensely challenging and time consuming. Sure a small % of people will have the time, passion, and let’s face it, luck to accrue a significant enough readership and authority to expand to multiple domains, but that’s a tall order for most.

    Additionally having things like social proof, online communities, etc. actually strengthen your domain authority so then creating an off-domain book landing page fails to take advantage of this fact.

    My book (one and done) isn’t yet available but I’ve accrued a pretty significant readership and recently looked into the cost/benefit of expanding my digital empire to have separate sites (blog, book, author) and have come down overwhelmingly on the side of having one – that expansion is an unnecessary time-suck that doesn’t help and fails to take advantage of my key digital asset – a high authority domain with brand recognition and readership.

    Hope that helps.

    Reply
    • Claude

      Mostly, I’ve had the same experience as Alexis. I’ve tried both strategies and found that my main site has contributed far more to my success than my special focus sites. Google gives a lot of weight to the age of a site and (supposedly) can interpret a network of sites as a link farm and count that against you. I haven’t encountered anything overt from Google, yet. Has anybody else had any experience with losing rank when cross linking a group of sites?

      Claude

      Reply
      • Joel Friedlander

        I’ve never had that happen, Claude, that I know of. I don’t do a lot of “network” linking among my various sites, but where the links make sense, I’m not shy about using them. Maybe as search continues to improve, it will increasingly make referral choices based on the overall quality and reliability of the information found on your site.

        Reply
        • Websites

          Having multiple websites makes sense if you know you are able to manage them and grow them. If this is what you do for a living there is no reasons why someone shouldn’t be able to manage multiple websites.

          There are many companies out there willing to help manage them and grow them… including ours…

          Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Great points, Alexis, and Joanna is definitely out of the ordinary. And I agree that for most authors concentrating on one site is far the best strategy. This really applies to the entrepreneurial nonfiction author most of all, and it was a presentation prepared exactly for that audience.

      Reply
  6. Nicole

    Great Article. This has been one of my biggest dilemmas. I’ve started off with Activepatience.com for my non-fiction and self help articles for writers but now I feel I need a author site as well especially when I start launching my fiction. It’s a hard decision to decide where to start building your brand but I think they key is make a decision and stick with it because your audience will go on your journey with you.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Exactly, Nicole. Pick the site that has the best bet of engaging the readers you’re looking for, and use the resulting traffic to help populate the other “satellite” sites or when you’re running a promotion of some kind.

      Reply
  7. Carol Fragale Brill

    Joel, thanks for the very complete and simple to follow breakdown. Love the visuals

    Reply
  8. PRAKASH TALEKAR .

    hi

    it is good information

    thanks .

    Reply
  9. Philippa Rees

    All about good thinking! I have three sites but integrating them is a constant headache. I clearly must slim each down or abandon. The problem seems that where one begins (Author site with some followers) becomes Book site ( specific to Book One with relevant blog) and then Publisher site ( mostly ignored but in case I publish different kinds of books) net result. None streamlined! But chance of more books minimal, since time is spent peddling like a Skinner rat.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Always a problem with multiple sites, Philippa. The way I’ve worked with this is to concentrate on one site (the blog) and then send traffic from there to other sites when appropriate. It’s simply too difficult for one person to maintain and promote multiple sites (in my opinion).

      Reply

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