You decided to self publish your book and actually made it happen. Formatting, cover design, the whole Amazon process, you figured it all out. The book you’ve been working on for months (or years) is officially available on Amazon.com. Congratulations. Now you’re wondering how to get people to buy it. You’ve done some research so you know promotion is critical but marketing isn’t really your thing. In fact, the idea of “selling” anything kinda makes you feel kinda icky.
We get it. Been there done that. But here’s the thing, marketing your book isn’t really about “selling” it’s more about developing relationships with people. Not just readers (although they’re definitely important) but fellow authors, bloggers, reviewers and just about anyone who can help you get the word out about your book. Think of it as developing your own neighborhood of book friends. Right now, you’re the new guy on the block so go ahead and introduce yourself.
Yeah, but how do I do that?
There are lots of ways to engage: GoodReads, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and SnapChat just to name a few. You don’t have to do all of them (not many people have that much time) but it’s a good idea to pick two or three and get started. Still, while all those channels can be useful, having your own web site is crucial because it will serve as the hub for all your other activity. Unlike those other platforms, you have complete control of the content. That can be a very powerful advantage if used properly.
Okay, you’re convinced. A web site is a must. But that still leads back to the original question: How do I do that? You don’t know the first thing about building a web site. You don’t know anything about web design and have no idea about stuff like domain names and SEO, whatever that is. (Note: SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization. It’s kinda important if you want to make sure people can find your web site.) Luckily, it’s not as hard as it sounds. You figured out how to write and publish a book so you’re probably more than capable of setting up your own site. The following five steps will go a long way to getting you started.
I know, it sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many people just want to dive in and get started without doing a bit of planning upfront. Think of it as an plot outline. Sure, it’s possible to write a book without extensive plotting but it’s generally considered a good idea to have at least a rough idea of the direction of events for your story. Same holds true for a web site.
Start with how you plan to use the site. Some authors have sites that are just a few pages about themselves and their book(s). These sites are basically just online billboards and probably won’t provide much help in engaging an audience or driving sales. Think about your site from the viewpoint of a visitor. Chances are, they found your site because they’ve either read your book or they’re thinking about reading your book. Once they get beyond the basic bio and book synopsis, what will they want to find? How about your thoughts on other books, other authors or heck, even what you think about Game of Thrones. They’ll probably want a way to contact you as well. Once you start thinking like your audience, the questions about what to put on your site will start to answer themselves.
You have a site structure planned out plus lots of ideas for engaging with your audience and integrating your social media posts. But now you’re back to that whole “I’m not a web designer” problem. No worries. There are lots of web site building services with attractive templates and user friendly interfaces. Among the most popular are Web.com, Wix, Squarespace and WordPress. Some offer free accounts but tend to be very limited in features. The good news is that almost all of them have relatively low-priced options with extensive features. Shop around. Compare features. (Hint: whatever service you choose, make sure they offer solid customer help/support.)
You did it! You have a real web site with pages, graphics and your very own web address. Now there’s nothing to do but hit “Publish” and you’re done, right? Well, not quite but you’re close. You wouldn’t publish the first draft of your book, would you? There’s proofing, editing and then more editing. Your web site needs the same attention. It represents you AND your book. Give it a thorough review and then have a trusted friend (or two) go over it as well.
Once you’ve done that, give some thought to HOW you want to launch. While it’s nice to fantasize about the world beating a path to your virtual door, in reality it’s probably going to take a little effort. Remember all those social media platforms we talked about earlier? Now’s the time to take advantage of all the those followers you’ve been accumulating while you built your site. (You have been working on your social media accounts, right?) Let them know how excited you are about your new site. Ask for feedback. Ask for retweets and likes. If people are kind enough to do so, make sure to respond.
Good news! Your launch was a success. But, just like your book, no one is going to know about it if you don’t do the work of promoting it. This is where those valuable social media platforms come in. Leverage the loyal followers you’ve collected by posting information whenever you update your site. Be sure to respond if your followers engage with those posts. Next, check with other authors and bloggers you know to see if they would be willing to mention your site on their site and/or social media posts. Finally, offer to do guest posts for other sites and blogs. Every time you do so is an opportunity to drive traffic to your site.
Wow, it’s hard to believe you’ve come so far. Your site is thriving. It’s driving sales of your books. You’re engaged with your site visitors and social media followers. Surely, now you can relax, right? Sure, you could kick back and just keep doing what you’re doing. But why stop now? Why not look for ways to take what you have and expand it even further. Perhaps you could start offering to do book reviews for other authors. There are options for monetizing your web traffic with Google Adsense. You could start a podcast, an email newsletter, a video seminar maybe even an entire online course. As the saying goes, the possibilities are endless.
Do you have a web site story you'd like to share? Are you struggling with putting one together? What's your biggest obstacle? Drop us a line and let us know. If you do have a site, send us a link. We'd love to see the results.