As if writing a book wasn't difficult enough, these days it's common for authors to also shoulder much of the responsibility for book promotion and marketing. Unless you're already a well-established author, chances are your publisher will do very little to promote your book. Also, if your book is self-published, obviously its entire success rests on your efforts. Creating a Web site to promote and even sell your book can yield great results, if you do it right.
Here are some tips for creating a Web site to successfully promote your book.
Tip One: Secure a clear, concise domain name
Your site will succeed only if people can find it easily. If your site has a short, intuitive, catchy and easy-to-spell domain name, people will be more likely to remember it and look it up when they have a moment. Book authors typically are interviewed on the radio more often than in print, so people should be able to guess your domain's spelling after hearing it just once.
Keep your domain short! The minute you start mentioning slashes, people will think the address is too complicated. Also avoid hyphens and confusing letter combinations (such as plateauaurora.com or littleengine.com). Get a dot-com domain if you can, since most people try that suffix first. Once you've secured a good domain and have set up your site, remember to always mention your domain casually but clearly during interviews, conversations, public speaking engagements, etc. Include it on your book jacket, all promotional materials and correspondence (including your e-mails and stationery).
Tip Two: Don't be shy; promote your book
Often, authors are wary of sounding too "promotional." Consequently, a common problem with author Web sites is that they seem to keep the book a secret! The site may appear to be about a topic, or about the author, but not specifically about the book. If people have to dig past your home page to learn about your book, it's less likely that they'll buy it.
Mention your book prominently and near the top of every page of your site, since people may enter it at a point other than the home page and not scroll down. They should learn about your book no matter where they arrive or how long they stay. You might put an obvious mention in a box near the top, something like "Now available: Stories from the Backwoods, paperback, Thurman Press, $14.95. Order now." The title of your book should link to the page where people can learn more, and "order now" should link to a page where people can make a purchase.
Tip Three: Intrigue your audience into a purchase
As you develop content for your book's Web site, keep this in mind: Your goal is to intrigue your online audience so much that they want to buy your book. You are not simply informing people that your book exists, or about the topic of the book, or about yourself—although your site can also accomplish all of these secondary goals.
There is no single right or best way to intrigue your audience. That depends on the nature of your book, the target market and many other factors. The best strategy is to examine every page on your site and ask yourself, "Will this page, by itself, whet the reader's appetite for my book?" The answer should clearly be "Yes."
Tip Four: Offer book excerpts and extras
Excerpts or sample pages are critical for effectively promoting and/or selling a book online. People will want to know what your book is really like—its tone, style, level of detail, whether it's well written, the quality of illustrations, etc. Choose a few key pages, or maybe a sample chapter, that are most likely to engage your online audience. Present enough material so readers feel drawn in, but not so much that you overwhelm them. By the time they're done reading those excerpts, they should be hungry for more.
Tip Five: Make that final sale—accept credit cards
All the hard work on your Web site will pay off only if people can immediately order your book with a click or two of the mouse. If you don't capitalize on their motivation, the opportunity may be lost forever.
If you sell your book directly, create an "order this book" page for your site that features secure online ordering using any major credit card. Provide alternate routes for accepting phone, fax and mail orders. Make sure your ordering system is coordinated fully with your fulfillment service, and learn about international transactions and fulfillment.
If you are not responsible for direct sales, make sure your book is carried by at least one of the major online bookstores, such as Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. Link directly from your site to your book's precise page within the online bookseller's site.
These five tips are only the beginning, but they will get your online book promotion off to a strong start.
From the September 2002 issue of Writer's Digest.