My livelihood revolves around self promotion and networking. When I moved to Washington state in September 2011, I was the new girl in town and I had to hit the ground running. I got out there and got involved with as much of the local writing community as I could, and I have met a lot of fellow authors and made a lot of friends in Bellingham and even Seattle. When they find out what I do, I often get requests for website evaluations. Some are in need of complete overhauls and tips on basic design, others are pretty good but need more advanced marketing tips to make them the most effective book promotion components of your platform that they can be.

There are lots articles around with tips on basic website design. This article gives you three advanced marketing tips to make your author website that powerful sales tool you desire.

1. A weak front page is a missed opportunity, shoot for the moon:

A weak front page is ok but not great–you could leave it as it is, and it’s not a big deal. But that in itself is the problem–the front page is no big deal.

A weak front page is like a weak first line in a book. What you should do with your front page is capture the visitors attention, inform them what they can expect from this site, and do it in as simple a form as possible.

Most people who visit websites only ever glance at the front page and then leave without seeing the rest. This is often your one and only chance to hook them in. Your front page must contain two things: the most important information that you want your visitor to know, your main message, and a “call to action” telling them what they are supposed to do next (e.g. – Buy my books!).

You want your front page to be simple and clear. You want to hit all the important details: brief bio/background information, what you have to offer (e.g – books you have written), and any significant details.

Also, you want to have your significant social media pointed to from your front page. Some people don’t like websites, they come to your front page and immediately look for a link to your Facebook or Twitter. I prefer small sleek icons with outbound links, feeds just distract from the main message you want to get across on this page.

A call to action is critical. You cannot be passive. Serve up your books on a platter, and then tell them to EAT! Otherwise, they might just look at it and play with it a bit and then wander away. “My books are available” is not enough. You are selling something, so don’t be shy about it. Shoot for the moon!  The phrase “Buy my book” should be in your vocabulary. Don’t go overboard, but a few subtle and key placements on the front page, directing the visitor to your sales page, are an essential component to a great author website.

On your website it is expected that you will be selling your book, so you are allowed to make good use of the phrase “Buy My Book.” And if you don’t use it, you will miss opportunities to sell your book.

2. Without a call to action and way to follow through on that action on your sales pages, the cows cannot come home:

When people browsing the internet their actions mirror cows plodding along in a herd. They go where the barking dogs tell them. If they don’t have any instruction or direction, they will mill about willy nilly munching on whatever is in front of them at that moment. It’s true a lot of the time! I admit I do it, don’t you?

Your sales pages have a singular purpose: to inform about your books and encourage sales. Nothing should distract the visitor from that purpose. You should have a decent sized image of your book cover and this image should link directly to the place where your book may be purchased. A call to action should head that image: Buy my book, click the image below. This should be followed by all the information and stuff that tells the visitor: what your book is about, and why they want to buy it. You may, if you want to really have a strong sales page, finish up with a second call to action and another link to the place your book may be purchased.

Reviews are great additions to the information part of your sales pages, but if you have reviews they should be captions and sources, but should not have outbound links. For example, “Awesome Book Review weekly said: ‘…a wonderful treat, full of exquisitely crafted characters…truly a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.'” But you should not give an outbound link to that review here.  The only links leaving your sales pages should be to a shopping cart or checkout!  You can make a separate page for reviews, and collect them all there, under book titles, with outbound links.

3. Outbound links are pits that you need to provide easy escape from, like a rope or something:

Okay, not really a rope–all outbound links that leave your main page should be set to open in a new tab/window. That way your visitors never truly leave and remain trapped for ever…, that is clicking a link does not mean they leave your page.  Most people who click an outbound link on a website intend to go back, but the Internet is so distracting they never do. The “Be-back Bus” is a one way trip–once that bus leaves, it never comes back. When a link opens in a new tab instead of the current one, your visitors get on the bus, and have a good look around, but it never left the station. They can close the new tab, and your page is still there.

Making new friends and meeting new people is fun. It often gives me great new ideas for blog posts like this one, but most importantly, it gives me new business. But there is only so much I can do, in the face to face medium, to generate new business for myself. Having an effective website that leads people to my services is one of the essential parts of my platform which allows me to extend my reach.  Without it I would have to work 10 times as hard. The same is true for your author website.

You can go out and talk to people about your book, do readings and book signings, but you can’t limit your book promotion to the people you can physically interact with in your lifetime–and you can’t afford to be shy about selling. The three advanced marketing tips I have given you are an important step toward making your author website the effective marketing and sales machine you need it to be.