How Your Online Platform Can Take You From Self-Published to Securing a Major Publishing Deal

2BE7EDDB00000578-3219546-image-m-9_1441198840264You may remember a month or so ago, a children’s book made headlines, claiming to guarantee sending your children to sleep at bedtime, and today, it has made headlines again, after it was announced that Penguin Random House have snapped it up, and is due for release in October.

Author, Carl-Johan Forssen’s story, The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, started its journey as a self-published book, which was translated into English last year, using Amazon’s self-publishing system, Createspace. After reaching No.10 on the Amazon book chart, it began at times outselling high-profile titles such as Go Set a Watchman and Grey.

Many writers now start out as indie authors, either consciously or not, hoping a major publishing house may pick up their work after the success of ‘going it alone’. Whether you admit it or not, it’s every writers dream to have their work read by a wider audience. Today’s news seems to reiterate the point that I make on a regular basis, that mainstream publishing houses are clearly listening to what the market is doing, even outside the bigger works.

The managing director of Penguin Random House Children’s UK, Francesca Dow, said in a statement: ‘We’re thrilled to be publishing The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep—a phenomenon that’s grabbing people’s attention all around the world.

‘We are excited now to be bringing this book to an even bigger audience here in the UK and internationally.

‘As a publisher we want to publish books that speak to people and have the power to support them.

‘This book is very clearly doing that.’

I have seen many authors wanting to achieve this dream, only to fall at the last hurdle for one reason or another. When speaking with authors at events, many are surprised to hear that agents and publishers may research them online prior to making any offers. It’s easier than you may think for publishers and agents to find your details and review how you interact with your audience. This can be done over social media, via interviews, or looking at your own website. This is a vital reason why your online platform should display outward professionalism and encourage the confidence of not just readers, but clearly industry professionals too. If you do not have a website or an online presence at all, publishers and agents can view this as a significant negative against your name. It will take more work in marketing terms to publicise you and your work if you refuse to embrace what is probably the least expensive, but most effective platform for publicity in today’s market.

It also means that publishers or agents may find it extremely difficult to even find your contact details in order to discuss future opportunities with you. The publishing industry is no longer simply about sending in submissions and waiting to hear back. This story demonstrates how the professionals are keeping their ear to the ground and seeking out future titles. If you cannot be easily found, you may be missing out on advancing your writing career.

If you look at Carl-Johan Forssen’s website you will see a very well presented site that immediately conveys legitimacy and professionalism in his field of work. We don’t know whether Random House took note of his online platform or not, but it would have certainly added to their confidence in him as a professional and an author if they had.

It’s never too early to assess whether you could present yourself more effectively online, and if you’re looking for advice or a friendly critique, please get in touch by email (contact@authordesignstudio.com) or via Twitter (@authordesigner).

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Five Must Haves for your Author Website

An author website is a central meeting place for you to contain the majority of your detailed information on yourselfYWP-T.-Umstattd-quote-300x219 and your books. Here is the place to convince your existing and future readers to connect with you and point them in the direction of purchasing your book/s. Turning potential readers into profit.

If you don’t have a website yet, you will certainly want to look into setting one up. If you already have a website, then now is the opportunity to ensure you have everything set up correctly and are using it in the best way possible. Below is a shortlist of ‘must have’ components to help you get started in making the most of your author website and maximizing your promotional success.

1) Your Books!

If you’re an author, whether that’s self-published or mainstream, you need to promote your work. One of the best ways to do this, is on a dedicated author website.

You also need to ensure that your book/s are displayed clearly and that your website is easily navigable. You will need a page dedicated to displaying your books with clear links to purchase, a copy of the cover and blurb and even the latest review. Don’t overcrowd this page. It is vital that it’s clear and concise. If you have a number of books, they can be sorted by release date or genre in order to make it clear to your readers what they can find.

2) Author Information

It’s well known that readers like to connect with author’s, and a page dedicated to a short biography is a nice addition to entice your readers further into your website. The key to this page is to let your readers learn a little bit more about you, but still keep it professional. It’s also great to include a professional photo of yourself as knowing what you look like is a great way for your readers to create another connection point with you.

Another tool to include here is to include a Newsletter sign up form after your biography text. If readers find themselves interested in you as an author, it’s then there for them to very easily sign up.

3) Newsletter Sign-up Form

Whilst displaying static content on your books (and links to purchase the book) is imperative, having consistent visual impact with your reader can be a fantastic tool. Imagine your name appearing in their inbox on weekly basis. They may or may not open and read the newsletter every time, but your name is there, and when they think they are ready for a new book, your name will be prominent in their minds.

Connecting with readers (and potential new readers) on a regular basis is the key to keeping them informed with your latest work. If they don’t know your book is available to purchase, then how can the buy it!

You don’t need to spend money on expensive newsletter systems, although some are free. Another way of handling this, is to set up a blog on WordPress. It can act as a newsletter (as people can sign up for email notifications when you post) and acts as a regular blog alongside this.

Make sure that your sign up forms or links to any social media are easy to see, in prominent locations, and appealing.

4) The Sneak Peek

Offering your readers something that they won’t find elsewhere is a very ‘sneaky’ way of pulling them further into your website. Your design is the first key to appealing to your demographic, however offering something for free is the best way of keeping them there for longer. There are lots of options here. Whether you offer exclusive free sample chapters, competitions for free copies of your book or sneak peeks at your next release, everybody loves something for free! Changing the free offering from time to time will also keep them coming back for more.

One other thing to remember is when you mention ‘free’, ensure it is free. Don’t insist they sign up for your newsletter first or similar. Although this is a great way to gain visibility, it more than often puts people off these days. If they are genuinely interested in you and your work, they will sign up of their own accord. You have more chance of gaining said interest by letting your free sample chapter do the work. If you want to focus on gaining further sign up’s to a newsletter, offer them something such as an extra free bonus chapter.

5) Validating Reviews

If you are a writer or reader, or both, you will know that books are one of the most talked of products of all time. The extent of sharing and the recommendation of books is something no other type of product in the world gets to enjoy. Reviews are one of the best ways in validating why people should purchase your book, however overstepping the mark is easily done too. By filling miles of your website pages with reviews may seem tempting, the sight of so many words on a computer screen will seem like a daunting essay to your website visitors. By taking a selection of the best reviews to date, or snippets of them, much like headlines, you stand a much higher chance of visitors actually reading them, and therefore impacting them on their purchasing decision.

If you insist on sharing every review, then consider putting your reviews on a cycle so that you may display a handful at a time.

Tap into reader’s instincts to share their thoughts by having clear social media ‘share’ buttons on your website. Word of mouth can often be the most powerful sales pitch. If they genuinely enjoyed your work, make the process of sharing their thoughts easier.

 

I hope these points have made you think about your website and the power these tools can have over both selling your books and your brand. Authors are using these elements all the time for their website’s and now you have the knowledge to craft a fantastic website too – are you ready to take action?

Using Your Author Website to the Full – Part One

On behalf of myself and the entire team who put together The Self Publishing Conference 2014, I would like to thank any of you who attended. It was a brilliant day and we have all received a huge influx of positive feedback.

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As promised in my last session of the day, How to Use Your Author Website to the Full, I am blogging some of the points we discussed in a series of posts. We got through most of them, but with all of you taking part, you will know we run over by half an hour. At least you were enjoying it and taking away lots of useful tips!

I spoke about why an author needed a website in my first session of the day, which I have blogged about previously. Once you have a website as an author, there is a myth that it will just work and pull in thousands of new sales. To some extent it will work, but as with anything, people (most importantly readers) will need to know it is there to benefit from any sort of promotion, and this takes some time and effort. If your website isn’t pulling in as much attention as you hoped, here are a few elements you may wish to check your doing correctly.

 

Is Your Design Working?

The first question to ask yourself is whether your design is working. A website design, and in fact all elements of your book promotion should appeal to your reader in the same way your book cover needs to. It needs to be branded, professional and targeted to your market audience. Lack of branding can confuse a reader to believing they haven’t come to the correct website and lack of professionalism can damage your author image. It may be that if they see a badly edited or designed website, this may reflect onto your writing and books. If you put them off with your design, you are going to lose their attention very quickly. Professionalism creates a sense of legitimacy.

If you feel your design isn’t as professional as other authors that write in your genre, spend a little time on some design research. It is likely that as an author, you read in the genre you write, so take some time out to browse popular authors to see what they are offering from their websites, and how their design is pulling in your readers.

Another question I come across a lot is authors who write books in two genres. Do you really need two websites for each market? The answer depends really on what the genres are. If they compliment each-other, then it’s possible that you will be offering books to readers that read both styles; for example historical fiction and historical non-fiction. However if your books are polar opposites (I’ve seen websites offering sweet historical romances and modern erotica), then you need to consider using separate sites. You want to avoid deterring readers at all costs. You also need to ensure that your brand is represented, and it may be that this isn’t consistent over your two different genres.

Remember, statistically you have three seconds to convince your website visitor to stay on your website. I will give you a few tips on how to do this, other than having the correct design, in a later post.

 

Is Your Content Working?

After looking at the design, you will want to concentrate on exactly what your author website contains. Is your existing content offering visitors something they are looking for? As I just mentioned, it’s down to the three second rule. You need to immediately let you visitor know they are in the right place (design), where you want them to go (content and design) and how to get there (content). 

Assuming you have covered the first point of design, you then need to let them know what you want them to do. You can do this by ensuring your content is clear and not overwhelming. Your book/s should have prominence, with an immediate link to ‘find out more’ and purchase links. You also need to provide a clear navigation to other pages. This can be done through a menu, making sure the links are clear and concise. Don’t name your pages with quirky titles – you may know what it means, but you readers may not. In other words, the page that contains information on your books, should be labelled in your menu as ‘Books’, NOT ‘My Library’, ‘My World’ or ‘Offerings’. Keep it simple, so that people can easily navigate around your website. You will also want to ensure that any references in your text to your book are linked to the Book page. That way, if people are reading, they don’t need to scroll to the top of the page to find the menu again. I know this sounds particularly lazy, but any encouragement is essential.

When it comes to the amount of content you provide in your website, this can vary enormously between author’s websites. Some have thousands of words on each page, which quite frankly, unless you’re JK Rowling, people aren’t going to read or take that much of an interest. You want them to read your book, not pages and pages of content on your website. Remember that your website is ultimately a selling tool, and a place for current readers to find out more about you and your other works. People get very bored, very easily, so keep what you write shorter (around two to three paragraphs is ideal) in order to keep their attention. I will be talking about exactly which content you want on each page in a later post (exactly so as not to overwhelm you…and keep you coming back – I do practice what I preach!).

It’s not just the amount of content you need to consider though, you will also want to consider the quality. Does your website offer something that readers can’t find anywhere else? People love to believe they have found something exclusive, so offer just that on your website. For example 43% of readers agree that they will return to a website if it offers free short stories from an author they like, and 33% admit to wanting a free sample chapter prior to buying a book. Both these can be offered on your website.

Another way to bring people back to your website is via Newsletters and Blogs. If you have the time, you can spend a short while on a daily, weekly or monthly basis writing a few hundred words to let your followers know that you have something new to offer them, some news to share, or an interesting discussion on the topic of your work. It is important again not to overwhelm them with too much information, or too frequently. A newsletter does provide visibility, but people will all too quickly delete a newsletter emailed to them without reading it if it lands in their inbox too often. A blog on the other hand allows them to drop in when they have the time. There are obvious advantages to both, and some authors will use both for assurance that they’re reaching as many readers as possible.

I will reiterate the point that if you keep your website updated (no reader enjoys an out-of-date website), then you have more reasons to pull in visitors to your website. And of course, a website is one of the best promotional tools, which you can update as often as needed, so take advantage of it! It doesn’t need to take very long, but can have a big effect.

I hope this initial lot of information has been useful. I will update you with the next section of ideas and tips to offer your readers in the next post, so watch this space! If you want to get updates of when these will appear, follow this blog or keep an eye on my Twitter and Google+ feeds. You can of course also find some information at www.authordesignstudio.com or email me at contact@authordesignstudio.com

 

Until next time,

Aimee