When one of indie kid lit author Cat Michaels’ books wins an award, she doesn’t just pose for a grip and grin at the awards banquet. Michaels, who has won four book awards in the past two years, makes sure her audience hears the good news, too.
For example, when her Sweet T and the Turtle Team was named the best environment category book for children by the Literary Classics Book Awards, Michaels documented her week at the organization’s conference and awards festivities through photos. The marketing-savvy writer turned the images into social media shares, a blog post, and even a video.
Winning is good, but it’s not enough
Michaels knows that it’s on her to make sure the book-buying world knows that her books are award-winners. It’s worth the time it takes, too, because an award lends a certain amount of prestige and cache to your book.
How can you follow Michaels’ lead and make the most of the awards your book will receive? Here are 13 ideas:
Few things give book buyers confidence like the phrase “award-winning.” Work this into your book’s description everywhere – including:
etail sales pages
3. Update your cover
For e-books and print on demand, incorporate the award seal into your cover design immediately.
If you have printed books in inventory and the organizer sells award stickers, buy a roll.
4. Ask what the contest organizer is doing to promote winners
There’s no point in duplicating efforts. Many will distribute an announcement press release and feature a list of winners on the competition website, but what else happens – anything?
Do they send a personalized press release to your local newspaper? If they do, you don’t have to. If they don’t, see number 5 below.
5. Send a press release
Using the organizer’s press release as a starting point, send your own press release to:
local media outlets
industry trade magazines (if that’s appropriate)
Change the organizer’s headline and first paragraph to focus on your connection to the media outlet (“Local author wins national book award,” “LSU alum wins national book award,” “Industry expert wins national book award”).
6. Announce it on your website
This good news belongs on your home page and the page that’s dedicated to book information.
7. Incorporate it into marketing materials
Michaels added award information to the bookmarks and tent cards she created for book signings.
We’re in the middle of a heat wave here in the Great White North as I write this. Temperatures “feel like” 107.6 Fahrenheit with the humidex factored in. When it’s this hot and humid all you want to do is find a cool spot to hang out with a good book because anything else takes too much effort, right?
In the absence of a good book, maybe read this week’s selection of articles instead—and don’t forget the lemonade.
There’s still time to submit your ebook cover to our e-Book Cover Design Awards contest for July. All the information you need can be found here.
Nate Hoffelder on Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris How to Waste Money When Self-Publishing a Book
“Self-publishing a book can get quite expensive. A good cover designer can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, and the editorial costs can set you back even more.”
Chris Syme on Smart Marketing for Authors Episode 135 – Welcome to the Marketing Rebellion [New]
“In this short ten-minute episode Chris talks about the new book by marketing wise guy Mark Schaeffer titled, Marketing Rebellion – the most human company wins. Schaeffer talks about the importance of adjusting to the new culture of buying: connecting with real humans.”
Dawn Field on BookBaby Blog Is your manuscript ready for editing?
“What you need from an editor depends on where you stand in the story development queue. Are you still developing your plot, characters, or setting? Are you on draft number 20? Just combing out the last typos?”
A mailing list is a great way for you to connect with your readers, but first you have to get them to sign up.
That’s where landing pages come in.
Landing pages don’t get a lot of attention in author circles but they are a topic of intense interest in the greater business community. A high-converting landing page (one that convinces a significant number of visitors to sign up) means better sales, which is why marketers will carefully:
A/B test landing page designs
analyze pages made by their competitors
read 3,000-word articles that explore the tiniest details
A badly written and designed landing page will silently cost you readers, while a well-made landing page can double or triple your conversion rate. The difference between a successful page and a failing page can be as simple as changing a few words, and I can tell you how to find the right ones.
In most industries you can expect a landing page to convert around 2% to 5% of visitors, but I have had considerably better luck. The landing page for The Digital Reader’s newsletter has a conversion rate of over 30%.
Yes, one in three people who visit the landing page ended up signing up for the mailing list. What’s more, that conversion rate is rising all the time because every so often I go back and tweak the language to make the page more effective. (The very first version of the page had a conversion rate of around 10%.)
And that brings me to the first secret I know about landing pages.
1. Try, Try, Try Again
Landing pages aren’t like books; you don’t have to get a landing page right the first time you publish it. Instead, you can improve your landing page’s effectiveness bit by bit, improving the conversion rate by tweaking:
In fact, I tweaked my landing page in the middle of working on this post. (Analyzing my landing page so I could explain my decisions made me realize how I could do better, and there’s no time like the present.)
I changed the text on my landing page because I realized that the very first thing on the old landing page was a controversial claim. I said that authors no longer need publishers, and while I believe that is true, not everyone would agree. Indie authors would be nodding their heads, but traditionally published authors and those who work in publishing would feel differently. They might even be offended.
As a rule, you should seriously consider avoiding political, social, and other controversial statements on your landing page. They’ll turn off your potential subscribers, and this will harm your conversion rate.
2. Shorter is Better
Here’s the current text for my landing page.
Everyone knows that it can be difficult to keep up with the latest tech while also writing and marketing your books.
Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll share useful tech tips that will help you grow your mailing list, sell more books, and bond with readers.
Plus, I’ll give you a name generator you can use to invent colorful names for just about anything!
The first thing you probably noticed is that it’s very short–65 words. You might think that a longer text would give me more room to make a better argument, and that’s certainly what I thought earlier this year.
I made a longer landing page with prettier formatting, links to past newsletters, and a more detailed pitch. When I checked on the page a few weeks ago, I found it had a conversion rate close to zero. (I could not delete that page fast enough.)
I have found that short and sweet works, and I can explain why.
The first thing I did in the text was tell my audience something they knew to be true. This built a rapport with the audience, which is great because once they agree with you on something, it will be easier to convince them they should sign up.
At the same time, I framed that truth as a problem, and then pitched my newsletter as a solution. This made it clear to my audience how they will benefit from my newsletter. Telling them how I will help them achieve their goals made it more likely they will sign up.
I also took care to use magic words like “everyone knows” or “most people” or “you know how”. When you frame your statements this way, it will sound like you are repeating a common-sense truism that everyone knows.
And finally, I offered new subscribers a freebie as a reward for signing up. I offer a workbook on brainstorming names on the landing page. I have found that name generator to be the most effective freebie I could offer, and yes, the freebie does have an impact on the conversion rate.
3. Freebies Matter
Over the past few years I have made several different guides to give away to new subscribers. I had a checklist on speeding up a WP site, another on site security, and I’ve put together a few infographics. I also turned one of my blog posts into a workbook on writing social media bios.
I do not offer the guides or the infographics because I’ve found that my preferred audience, authors, did not find them appealing at all. Whenever I offered either guide as a freebie on my landing page, my conversion rate dropped to around 5%.
Also, for the past few weeks I have offered that social media bio workbook as a freebie, but I don’t think it is as effective as I would like. My conversion rate for the last few weeks was 22%, and I know I can do better.
These tricks are just a few of the reasons why people are three times more likely to sign up for my mailing list as they are for other mailing lists.
If you are not satisfied with your conversion rate, you should see how many of these tricks you can apply in your landing page; with a little hard work you might be able to raise your conversion rate as high as mine.
That said, I don’t claim to know everything about landing pages, and I would love to hear about the tricks you have learned.
You’ve heard it over and over and over again. Having a popular author blog can be a key ingredient of a successful author platform. A successful author platform can be key to being a successful author—translation: selling lots of books!
Dynamic Versus Static Content
A blog consists of blog posts and blog pages.
Blog posts are dynamic content which means they change, the content is fresh, and it keeps readers coming back to the blog.
Blog pages are static content. Pages are usually full of information that readers can and do reference, such as About and Contact pages, but their content doesn’t typically, or at least frequently, change.
Today I’d like to focus on what makes a popular blog post because a successful blog needs traffic, a large and loyal readership, and popular blog posts will help you find those readers and keep them coming back.
There are many popular blogs out there that I could use as examples but I believe in using what you know best and since I’ve been working as editor of The Book Designer blog for nearly 9 years, I’m going to use The Book Designer as an example. Chances are good, too, that if you’re here reading this blog post, you know this blog, too, so the examples I’m about to give you will resonate.
Elements of a Popular Blog Post
I don’t have all the answers about what makes a blog post popular. Just as some books inexplicitly become bestsellers while other books on similar topics, written with equal skill, marketed with equal effort, do not, blog posts can sometimes become hugely popular, even viral, without obvious explanation.
I remember years ago when I had a person blog on WordPress.com where I wrote about a variety of unconnected topics, I wrote a blog post about killing chickens and how I’d opted out of visiting my aunt and uncle who lived on a farm on a particular day because they were going to be killing their chickens and how that went against my vegetarian sensitivities and wasn’t something I wanted to witness. That blog post was extremely popular compared to my other posts and to this day, I don’t really know why.
But, aside from random and unexplained successes, there are some things that we know will help to put a blog post on the path to success.
1. Frequency of posts
If you want readers to keep coming back, blog often and on a regular schedule so your readers want to come back and know when to do so.
Here at The Book Designer, almost without fail, we have been blogging on:
It is important that we provide that content consistently. We get many requests to publish guest posts on completely unrelated topics like:
real estate in Toronto
companies offering roofing services
I kid you not! We have been approached by companies to publish posts on these subjects. Those who approach us with these requests see a high traffic blog and their priority is to get their information in front of as many eyes as possible. They don’t care if you come back to the blog after reading their post. We do.
Think of it this way: If you go to McDonalds for a hamburger, you know exactly what you’ll be getting. Same thing if you come to The Book Designer. We don’t serve hamburgers of course, but I think you take my point? Don’t keep people guessing what’s on your menu!
3. Content of Value and Takeaways
If you want busy readers to spend their precious time visiting your blog, make it worthwhile. Don’t peddle fluff. Aim to provide content with substance so that when your readers are done reading your posts, they’ll leave a little wiser, and a bit more informed. Give them something that they can perhaps apply to their own situations.
If the goal of your blog is to entertain your readers versus to inform and/or teach them, then run with that and do it well.
Give them a reason to remember your blog posts. Make them think or make them smile but make them remember your article–and want to come back!
4. Keywords and SEO
Employing search engine optimization techniques can help you achieve higher search engine rankings so that readers can find your blog posts.
Think of it this way. There are undoubtedly many excellent books available for sale on Amazon which have not been marketed so aren’t getting readers because no one knows they’re there. You need search engines to know about your blog posts so that readers can find them.
These articles on SEO may help you understand how to do that:
Keywords are focused words or terms that others would use in a search engine to find content. If you use those specific and focused words or phrases in your content—titles and within your posts, readers can more easily find your posts through search engines.
5. Promote and Reach Out
Advertise your blogs posts on social media and through newsletter, etc. so that people will know about them.
Take an interest in other similar blogs and leave comments to make connections so that those people will know about you and will discover your blog.
It is also important to acknowledge and interact with individuals who comment on your blog posts. Don’t ignore your audience. Encourage their input and strive to continue the conversation.
Examples of Popular Posts
Here’s a list of the 10 most popular blog posts on The Book Designer in the last year. Take a look and consider whether they:
Stay on topic
Offer content of value and takeaways
Use keywords and SEO
Please note that page views, comments and shares were based on the figures available at the time I wrote this article. I expect that these numbers will increase over time.
How’s your weekend going? Hope you can find time to read this week’s selection of articles from some of the best self-publishing and writing blogs on the web. And, don’t forget that submission’s for this month’s Carnival of the Indies blog carnival need to be received by July 15th.
Nathan Bransford on Nathan Bransford How to write good jacket copy
“One of the most important tasks you’ll tackle when you’re self-publishing is coming up with a good description that will make someone want to buy your book. Here’s how to write good jacket copy.”
Nate Hoffelder on The Digital Reader Ten Free Online Image, Graphic, and Photo Manipulation Tools
“Image editing used to be something that required a dark room, expensive chemicals, and scissors. Later all that was replaced by expensive apps, but it is now 2019 and a lot of image editing can be done with free online tools (or free offline tools like GIMP).”
Dan Holloway on Self-Publishing Advice Center Self-publishing News: Who Owns Your Books?
“People who bought ebooks through Microsoft’s online library (apparently there were some!) lost access to them this week.”
So many authors launch their first book (or second) before building a list of readers and fans and THEN start working on attracting readers. They labor under the false idea that they need a book FIRST and then they can start building their readership. I mean, how ELSE do you build a base of fans and readers until you have a book?
Well, Nicole Evelina, the author of The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy did just that. While she was working on her first book she decided to start drawing readers into her online “web.” This self-published author is now so popular with readers that when she has a new book coming out, thousands of rabid fans crash into each other buying her newest release.
So I asked Nicole to share with me:
What were some of the early steps that she took and found successful to help draw and attract readers?
How did she get started BEFORE she had a book?
What She Did
The first thing she said was that she blogged frequently long before the first book was out.
She is a writer of historical fiction so, like many novelists, had a lot of research from which to draw for her blog. According to Evelina, only about 1% of the research that she does for any type of book actually ends up in the book because she doesn’t want to bore her readers with all the details and stuff that makes up the backstory and fills the characters personality and experiences.
So for her, a blog was a great outlet for that. And to this day, her most trafficked pages on her website are some of those early posts where she wrote about Celtic life. She wrote blogs about the 12 types of Celtic marriage and another about the weaponry that that the Celts would have used. Another blog covered the way the Celts would cook…
That helped attract people to her that who were interested in historical elements and readers. She found that those interested in what they used to call dark ages, now call early medieval history, were often also interested in Arthurian legend because that’s the time period where it’s set.
She also actively encouraged those readers and blog subscribers to join her online in social media. By doing that on twitter and Facebook, she was able to reach out to friends and connections of her current online buddies. Her reach grew a little each day.
What She Does Now
Just this week, I saw a post by Nicole where she said (in essence) “Hey folks, who’s got a blog, who’s got a newsletter, who can talk about my new book?” It was brilliant, she just ASKED! I watched a TON of people respond by saying YES.
Her book is now in the top 10 of historical fiction because these fans all jumped in and shared the posts, ads and recommendations she asked them to.
Because she has worked so hard to build a group of fans, she had a great response.
What We Should Do Now
We, too, can develop a team of readers who are willing to help us build our careers. This works for big-name authors and self-published authors alike…the key is ATTRACTION. There is no need to pound people over the head with a newsletter or offers to join a private fan group. It needs to be voluntary from readers. These readers/fans need to care about us and love us enough to want to support us.
Don’t be afraid of working this attraction angle…. I know every author out there has other authors that they love. If your favorite author asked you to read an early copy of their next book…. would you be willing to read it and post a review on, on a publication day or be willing to give it away on your blog, or share it on social media? Of course you would! So would your future fans. But they need to be ASKED.
We need to build our own team of fans and readers… even BEFORE our books are out. The reason this works for Nicole is because she is so genuine and real online. She spends 80% or more of her time online sharing truly personal items or asking folks about THEM. She genuinely wants to get to know people. I see her wishing folks happy birthday or offering condolences when somebody’s pet passes away… that’s a human connection, and it’s the stuff that builds fans. What does not work is pushing your book over and over.
You have heard me say this million times over: “Authors are not your competition. They’re your community.”
Join and build your community. If you do not enjoy social media, you have to figure out a way to build your community without it or learn to love it. And if you DO enjoy social media, you will enjoy a great deal of success. This is what it’s all about. Not hiding behind a typewriter or word processor. It’s about getting out there and being part of your community.
There you have it…. You CAN build your readership and fan base before you have a book. Honest. (And, you should!)
Although this blog is called The Book Designer, many of the articles we publish here deal with topics other than book design such as self-publishing, marketing and social media, etc. That is why it gives me great pleasure to welcome Andrea Reider. Today, Andrea explains some of the basics of book design. I think you’ll enjoy learning about the conventions behind these design elements that we tend to take for granted.
I graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A in English around the time that Macintosh computers were reinventing graphic design and “desktop publishing.” My first job out of college was managing a typesetting shop in Ann Arbor that was transitioning from the older generation of expensive phototypesetting computers (and pasting galleys by hand) to the Macintosh platform.
I enjoyed everything about working with type and layout have been at it ever since, working my way from Microsoft Word 1.0 to the latest version of Adobe InDesign.
Publishing has changed in so many ways during my time as a book designer, but one thing remains the same: the basics of good book design and layout. The following are some of the rules and guidelines that I use to design and lay out books.
Part Opener Pages
Part opener pages usually begin on a right-hand page and feature a part number and part title. The title may be followed by a few lines of text, several pages of text, or no text at all.
The part number can be set in several ways:
Sometimes the word “Part” is omitted entirely.
One common way to distinguish parts openers from chapter openers is to use roman numerals for part numbers and Arabic numerals for chapter numbers: as in Part II, Chapter 5. They may also capitalize “PART” and use cap and lowercase for “Chapter.”
Generally the part number should be in somewhere between 12-point and 24-point type, though occasionally it can be much larger if it works for the design.
The part number is usually followed by a part title. The part title is typically, but not always, larger than the part number; between 20- and 36-point type, and set in any combination of bold, roman, or italic type.
Using all capital letters or distinctive fonts are other ways to distinguish the part titles from other elements.
Because part opener pages often don’t have any body text, they offer a great opportunity to be creative with the design. Designers often use:
even something as simple as a well-placed gray box to highlight the text
If the part opener ends on a right-hand page, it’s usually followed by a blank left-hand page, with the next chapter beginning on the next right-hand page.
If the part openers are designed as a two-page spread beginning on a left-hand page, it’s still customary to add the next blank left-hand page and begin the next chapter on a right-hand page.
Part opener pages generally have a drop folio (page number at the bottom of the page) if there is text on the opener page, and a blind folio (no page number) if there’s just the title without any other text.
Chapter Opener Pages
Chapter openers usually begin on a right-hand page for a number of reasons having to do with book production and ease of reading. It’s easier for readers to find chapter openers if they all begin consistently on right-hand pages, and it’s easier for authors to add or delete a page during book production without changing the left-to-right orientation of the entire book.
Books with more than twenty chapters can be an exception to this rule, when beginning all chapters on right-hand pages would add too many blank left-hand pages to the book and add substantially to the page count.
Books with very short chapters are also an exception to the rule, as starting all chapters on right-hand pages might distract readers more than it helps to indicate a new chapter. Using all right-hand chapter openers will add to the page count if you want to add pages to the book.
The design for the chapter number can be very simple or something more elaborate. The word “chapter” is often included in the design of this element, but not always.
The letters of the word “chapter” can be made into a graphic element and can be set in any number of eye-catching and attractive manners.
The typeface for the chapter title is often set in a similar manner to the part title, but somewhat smaller.
The type size for the chapter title can range from 18 to 30 points in size, and include the use of:
Page numbers are called “folios” in book production.
Chapter openers usually include a “drop folio,” with the page number appearing at the page. The drop folio is either centered or flush to the outside (left or right) margins of the page.
A 2- or 3-line drop cap is often applied to the first letter of the first paragraph of an opener page.
The first letter of the paragraph is “dropped down” and enlarged to the depth of 2 to 3 lines of text. You can also style the first word or two of the paragraph with capitalization or a complementary font to start off the main text in an attractive and eye-catching manner.
The type face for the main body text typically ranges from a minimum of 9–10 points to a maximum of 12–13 points, unless there’s a good reason to go smaller or larger.
There are many typefaces to choose from, but books are usually set with fonts that are familiar and easy to read.
The leading, or space between lines of text, should be set at least 2 points greater than the type size.
Using 11 point type with 14 points of leading is a good starting point to ensure readability.
The main body text is usually set in black even for books that are printing in full color.
Color can be used for titles, subheads, folios, bullet points, and other design and text elements.
Most books are printed in black and white due to the high cost of color printing, but e-books can be produced in full color.
Continuing Text Pages
Continuing text pages are usually set with running header or footer text, which almost always includes:
the page number and any combination of:
the book title
Some books include the last subhead in the text for the headers or footers as an additional guide for readers.
Part and chapter openers almost never include the running header or footer text, but often include a page number as a drop folio centered at the bottom of the page.
All other text pages should include the running header or footer, except for pages that are set with a horizontal alignment (a 90° rotation, also known as “landscape” and “broadside”).
Most publishers remove the running header or footer text from rotated pages—to avoid having the vertical running header or footer conflict with the horizontal text—although some books use the page number without the running header or footer text.
The first line of text after the chapter title is often a subhead if it isn’t a drop cap.
Non-fiction books typically have anywhere from two to four levels of subheads, but some have more.
The drop cap is typically not used when a chapter begins with a subhead.
The text following a subhead is usually set flush left (without the paragraph indent), but there are many exceptions to this rule.
Subheads are typically set a little larger than the main text. Readers should be able to immediately identify the hierarchy of subhead levels through the use of:
type size and face
other design elements
There are three main types of lists:
Lists should be indented in some way and include a line space above and below as a separation from the main text.
Bulleted lists can be:
any other shape, size, or color that works with the design
Extracts (quotations) are usually:
set in the main text typeface
a half or one point smaller
indented on both the right and left sides
separated from the main text with a line space above and below
The indents should match the main text indentation, which is typically just under a quarter inch, or 1p6 in printer’s measurements.
The book design templates at Book Design Templates are a wonderful resource to see the basics of great book design in practice. Authors and publishers can choose from a wide range of styles to find the one that is perfect for their book. Every book requires (and deserves) a certain degree of customization. I enjoy working with authors to find the very best way to present books to a wide or specific audience.
Andrea Reider has worked as a freelance book designer and typesetter for over 25 years. Her work experience with Addison Wesley, McGraw-Hill, and John Wiley & Sons taught her much about the finer points of book design and layout. Today she works with a wide range of publishers and self-publishing authors to produce books for print and e-books for print-on-demand publishers like Kindle Direct and IngramSpark, as well as traditional off-set printers. She can be contacted through Book Design Templates or Andrea Reider Books.
Submissions for July’s issue of Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies blog carnival will be accepted until July 15th. All the information you need to know can be found here. Our Carnival of the Indies post will run on the last Sunday of the month.
Our July e-Book Cover Design Awards contest submissions will be accepted until July 31st and all submissions meeting our submission requirements will be included in a post at the end of August. June’s submissions will be included in our post published on Monday, July 26th. Submission information can be found here.
If you have any questions about the Carnival of the Indies, the e-Book Cover Design Awards, or self-publishing, by clicking on the Contact page and filling in that form, or leaving a comment below. We always like to hear from you.
Stephanie Chandler on Nonfiction Authors Association 10 Ways to Boost Sales on Your Website
“If you are selling books and other products and services through your website, you’ve probably already learned that sales can ebb and flow. Here are some tactics to reduce the ebb and keep your sales flowing!”
Diana Hurwitz on The Blood Red Pencil Give Your Book a Listen
“Is the story on the page the same as the story in your head? When you finish revision and final proofreading rounds, it is a good idea to give your finished manuscript a listen.”
David Gaughran on David Gaughran Moving from Mailchimp to MailerLite: A Guide
“Mailchimp made some major changes recently which were received very negatively – causing many users to flee into the arms of alternatives like MailerLite.”
Gwen Hernandez on Writer Unboxed Revising Your Manuscript in Scrivener
“I frequently get asked how to use Scrivener for revisions. Obviously, the specifics will vary depending on your approach to edits, but I’ll cover my basic system and give you some ideas which features you might find helpful.”
From me to you … it’s time for an essential … ummm, sometimes uncomfortable moment—maybe one that never thought about. But should have. It’s about your website.
Do you have protection?
What happens if your webmaster decides to go tiptoeing through the tulips?
Or quits on you?
Or is in an accident?
Or you have decided to no longer work with him or her?
Do you have protection for your website? Odds are, you don’t.
It’s an “oh-oh” time. And yes, it deals with your website.
Are you really protected?
Do you know where all the details are backed up?
Do you have all your logins, passwords, codes and anything else that you need if you must access it immediately?
If you need help, do you know where to go? Who to ask?
If you have a webmaster, what if he or she gets hit by a bus? Decides to go smell the roses. Wants to pursue other things. Or yikes, dies?
It’s a come to Website Chat Time.
Start with creating your own SOS: Website Due Diligence Plan … to protect you and your website. I had the “come to webmaster meeting” not long ago.
13 Essential Steps for Website Due Diligence
Here are the essential steps that I came up with. Must have answers to in a short—very short period-of-time from whoever has the website strings that you rely on.
1. Ownership and copyright
Who owns your website?
Is the copyright in YOUR name?
That means NOT in your webmaster’s, a lawyer’s or someone else that helped you out as your started down your website journey.
2. Website Host
Do you know the name of the website host or server, its website and HELP phone numbers?
Do you have the logins to the accounts?
Does the host know you exist?
Who is your webmaster?
What is his or her email and phone number?
Do you have the logins to the accounts—all of them, meaning usernames and passwords?
Do you know:
what format was used?
if any special templates were used or created?
if images were purchased or apps?
Do you know what was purchased for the creation of your website that you paid for?
You may choose to leave your webmaster and what is yours, you want, and you want immediate access to it. Think of it as a divorce … it’s over.
4. Login credentials
Who has the login credentials to your website? Credentials start with YOU—you should be the primary.
You may have a virtual assistant or two who has access … but who? What is his or her phone number and email?
And, if you terminate anyone who has access or leaves your employment or confidence—CHANGE passwords immediately—better yet, do it before you terminate them.
5. Domain registration
Where is your website domain registered?
Make sure you check your name anywhere on the ICANN/WhoIs database registration for your domain. You need all contact information.
6. Website Theme
Your website has a theme.
Who owns it?
Was it a fee or free theme?
Do you have proof of allowability?
What is the renewal date and login information?
7. License Keys
Do you have any “License Keys” for plug-ins or themes?
Who is the provider?
Where are they kept?
What are the renewal dates?
What are the fees, if any?
8. SSL Certificate
Do you have an SSL certificate?
You should, meaning that your website is “secure” if you are selling anything off it. An image representing that you have it should be on the upper section of your website.
Who issued it?
Was there a cost?
Request contact info.
9. Shopping Cart
If you have a Shopping Cart (including PayPal) … which one is used?
What are the logins?
Are you getting regular reports … or even checking them online?
What about backup—is it being done?
Do yourself a HUGE favor and create a minimum of a monthly backup on both physical and online website locations that you can access in case of an emergency.
Who does the backup?
What is their contact information?
You have subscribers … excellent.
What service collects the emails?
Do you have contact information for help?
Do you know how to access their names and contract info?
Do you have a backup of names, addresses and how they opted in?
12. Start the conversation
If you have staff, start gathering ALL the above:
If there are any changes, get the updates done. Get them posted in a place that YOU know where it is and a TRUSTED backup.
13. TODAY … have a heart-to-heart with your webmaster
This is your publishing and authoring lifeline. It’s a must to have all the above information in a file on your computer—which should be backed up at least daily. And, it’s a must to have it printed out in a notebook or manual that your partner, spouse or trusted colleague can find instantly if something happens to you.
Stuff happens. Sometimes, not such good stuff. A key support person can become ill, have personal problems, start acting weird, quit or die. Stuff happens.
Your motto is: My business IS My Business.
You need a plan to take care of the “stuff happening” side of what every author deals with at the most inconvenient time at some point in their publishing journey. Maybe not all of it, but definitely “some” of it.
Your SOS: Website Due Diligence Plan is the way to keep your lights on before the switch is turned off!
What’s the one question authors ask me most frequently?
“How long do I have to market my book?”
I never deviate from this answer: “Only for as long as you want to sell it.”
Every author hates hearing that. By the time most get around to asking it, usually a few weeks from their launch date, they’re exhausted and broke. By then, it’s much too late.
To save you time, trouble and disappointment, I’ve collected the most frequently asked questions I hear about book publicity. But first, let me explain why you have to market your book only for as long as you want to sell it.
Authors publish more than 600,000 books a year in the United States. That’s 50,000 books a month! As many as half, or even more, are published by indie authors.
If only a fraction of those authors promote their books with blog tours, articles, book reviews, YouTube videos, print and online publicity, and social media content—and you’re doing nothing—your book languishes. And then it dies.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Now, then, here are the other nine frequently asked questions.
2. “When do I have to start my publicity?”
Ideally, one year before you launch, especially if you don’t have a social media presence. But few authors do that.
If you’ve stalled and can’t meet that schedule, start from 6 to 8 months before launch. You can complete the following tasks you don’t want to put off until later when you’ll be slammed with last-minute marketing to-do’s:
Create social media accounts on a few sites where your target audience can be found, and start sharing content tied to your book and your expertise.
Write your author bios in various lengths: a two-liner, a short bio, medium-length and long.
Plan the PR elements of your website’s book page(s).
Solicit blurbs and endorsements from experts.
Pitch story ideas about your topic to major magazines which have long lead times.
Research media outlets, blogs and podcasts where you want exposure.
3. “Should I use a free or paid press release distribution service?”
Until recently, I was dead set against using any of the dozens of free services because most don’t distribute anything. They simply park your release at their website where it might or might not be found by the search engines. Even worse, your press release might be next to a paid ad from one of your competitors. And if you find a typo in your release after you’ve published it, you probably won’t be able to correct it.
Two things made me change my mind:
A story I discovered at Sandra Beckwith’s blog about how author Judith Marshall used PR.com, a free press release service, to get a movie option for her book Husbands May Come and Go But Friends are Forever. Read about it here.
4. “I paid more than $300 to publish my release to one of the paid services and no one has reprinted it. What should I do?”
Be patient. The main reason you’re publishing your press release isn’t so media reprint it. Few if any will. You’re publishing it so it pulls traffic to your website and serves as collateral material for a well-written, customized pitch to a journalist, reviewer, influencer or someone else who can help you.
5. “What’s the difference between a press release for my book and a pitch?”
A press release is a digital file that explains the main information about your book such as the topic or storyline, the genre, price, ISBN, publishing company, why you wrote it and where people can buy it. Most authors only write one version of a press release. They link to it from a customized pitch to a specific media outlet or journalist.
Let’s say your book is a romance novel. You can send a short email pitch of three paragraphs to an editor of a woman’s magazine and pitch your quiz called “Are You Dating the Wrong Men?” Within the pitch, link to the press release at your website or elsewhere online.
6. “I can’t afford those big media databases of $1,000 or more. How can I get names and contact information for journalists?”
Those expenses databases are used mostly by PR firms and publicists. You don’t need them. Besides, I don’t recommend pitching dozens or hundreds of media outlets because you won’t have the time to send a customized pitch to each one.
Need radio shows? Try Radio-Locator.com, which has links to more than 15,300 radio stations’ web pages and more than 11,000 station’s audio streams from radio stations in the U.S. and around the world.
If you’re pitching TV stations, start in your own community first and get experience in a smaller market before you pitch big shows or stations in major markets.
7. “Where can I find readers in my target market?”
They’re probably in your own community and all over the Internet. Here’s a partial list:
In MeetUp groups.
In special interest groups in your community. Did you write a business book? Speak to Chambers of Commerce, Rotary groups and entrepreneur roundtables.
In special interest groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.
8. “I don’t know my target market. Can you help me identify it?”
If the author asking this already has published the book, I feel like crying. How can you write a book if you don’t know who you’re writing it for? I usually suggest a consulting session so I can learn more about the book and why the author wrote it.
9. “If a journalist gives me publicity, is it OK if I send a thank you gift?”
No. Many media outlets have ethics policies that prohibit journalists from accepting anything of value, including free meals. If you’re dealing with a blogger or a podcaster who has featured you, however, the same rules don’t apply. I simple thank you is all that’s necessary.
10. “I received fabulous publicity from (newspaper, magazine, TV station, radio station). What can I do to get extra mileage from it?”
Finally, if you’re lucky enough to afford a publicist, you can learn more about how to choose one in my article How to Hire a Book Publicist Before You Sign an Agreement. Realize, however, that the publicist will concentrate on bigger media outlets. You can work alongside her pitching smaller outlets and doing other publicity tasks. Also, you’ll have to do your own publicity when her contract expires.
What questions do you have about book publicity? I’ll answer them here.