Creating an author website is one thing, but getting it to convert and actually sell your books is a whole other skill. Today, the Alliance of Independent Authors AskALLi team welcomes partner member Thrive Themes to talk all about how to create an author website that converts.
Websites are critical for an author business. It's important you have more than just a brochure style website with book information. As an indie author, you should have a transactional website that allows you to both sell directly to your customers and also collect their information and email addresses onto your mailing list.
You want to be the first port of call for a reader when they go to Google or another search engine and type your name. You don't want to send them to Amazon or another store when you won't ever know who they are or how they're buying and interacting with your content.
5 Tips to Crafting a High-Converting Indie Author Website
Thrive Themes is the most advanced, yet, simple-to-use WordPress suite of website tools. We create truly conversion-optimized plugins and themes to give a real boost to your business. You can find out more about them on their website, Instagram and Facebook and YouTube.
We’ve all heard the advice that your time as a writer should be spent writing. Edit your latest draft. Start your next story. Expand your catalog so readers can get hooked on a compelling series or your brand as an author.
Write. Write. Write.
And to be fair, there’s a lot of wisdom in this advice – after all, we are what we repeatedly do. However…
If you’ve been writing for any amount of time – and especially if you’re self-publishing – you’ll know it takes MUCH more than just writing to be a successful indie author. You also need to build an audience, manage a website, and ultimately sell your books.
So until you have an agent or publisher to manage your online brand, you need to ensure that everything you do is effective and worthwhile. You need to make sure conversion is at the heart of everything you do.
In today’s article, you’ll discover 5 tips to crafting a high-converting author website to turn your visitors into readers and paying customers.
Let’s get stuck in…
Tip 1: Make it easy for people to buy your books
Sounds like common sense, we know, but you’d be surprised how many indie authors think their books are easily available while visitors are scratching their heads thinking “What should I do next?”
Whether you’re selling your books on Amazon, Scribd, Apple, Kobo, B&N, Smashwords, Gumroad, or any other online marketplace, you need to do more than just drop text links onto your web pages.
Where space is limited, you should feature branded buttons like these:
And where more space is available, you can add an unmissable call-to-action that features your book cover, a compelling title, and those aforementioned branded buttons:
These button and call-to-action links can be added anywhere on your website to give visitors the option to purchase your books, but we also strongly recommend creating a dedicated page for each book.
Individual book pages are a great place to craft a story-branded experience for visitors to learn more about a particular book. It should include:
- A beautiful book cover
- A compelling synopsis
- Your best reader and critic reviews
- A sneak peek at your characters, plot and world-building
- Easy-to-use, branded purchase buttons to various online retailers
- An opportunity to sign up for your email list
Tip 2: Collect and showcase amazing reviews to build social proof
You probably already know that reviews are an essential part of any indie author’s marketing strategy. There are tons of great articles already available on the ALLi blog about the importance of reviews:
- What’s the Best Way to Gather Reviews for my Book? (Member Q&A Podcast)
- The Ultimate Guide to Getting Book Reviews
- How To Get Your First 50 Book Reviews
But how can you maximise the value of your hard-earned reviews, and use them to gently nudge visitors who are on the fence about buying?
The following approach works for us: Make it EASY for new readers to leave reviews.
Don’t rely on Amazon (or any other online bookstore) to collect reviews for you. Remember they’re building their business, not yours. If you’re serious about building an independent author brand, you need a way to collect reviews from readers and critics directly.
The best time to ask for a review is immediately after someone has read your book. If you wait a week to follow up, you’ll no longer be front-of-mind. Their time and focus will be taken up by other things in their life, and it becomes exponentially harder to get a response.
So strike while the iron is hot and make the process as easy as possible!
In practical terms, this means 2 things:
- Provide an automatic mechanism for requesting reviews – usually a pre-written email that is scheduled for a few days after purchase, which includes a link to…
- A dedicated page on your website featuring a simple form, allowing readers to quickly submit their name, review, and even photo if available
Collect all your reviews in one, easy-to-manage place
This could be a low-tech solution, like a Google Doc or Dropbox folder.
Or, if your website uses WordPress, it could be a dedicated review plugin, like Thrive Ovation.
What you don’t want is a scrappy approach of keeping your only copy of reviews on emails or web pages. You need to be able to quickly access ALL your reviews at a moment’s notice to choose the right ones for each job.
Tag your reviews
Once you have a bank of 20+ reviews, it’s a good idea to tag them according to how you intend to use them on your website (and beyond). After collecting hundreds or thousands, you’ll be so thankful you did!
Here’s some great examples of helpfully tagged reviews:
- By book or series
- By quality of review
- Book vs. author-focused reviews
- Reader vs. critic reviews
- Reviews suitable for sales pages
- Reviews with or without a photo
The earlier you start tagging your reviews, the easier your marketing efforts will be in future.
Remember that tags are invisible to your website visitors (unless you choose to share them). They’re intended only for you to determine the best place to feature your reviews. Which brings us to…
Choose where to display each review for maximum relevance
Finally, it’s time to decide where to use your amazing reviews.
We recommend featuring snippets of your best reviews across your entire marketing funnel: your website, landing pages, sales page and emails.
Our tests have even shown positive results by adding a strong review to the checkout page itself. If you have control over your checkout page content (e.g. Gumroad or selling directly from your website), then it’s worth giving this a try too.
In carefully controlled tests, we’ve seen the power of reviews improve conversion rates by a whopping 25% for software sales. The exact same principle can be applied to book sales if you treat your indie author website as an online business.
Tip 3: Build an ongoing relationship with your readers via email
Conversion doesn’t always mean book sales. It refers to any positive action you want your visitors to take. The second most important conversion is undoubtedly email subscriptions, which we’ll cover now.
Your website visitors are busy people with short attention spans. On average, they will only spend around 1 minute on your website before moving on. Aside from your most hardcore fans, few people will return for a second chance. This is just the reality of online behavior given the abundance of digital media available today.
That’s not much time to get them excited about your books, and even less time to encourage them to buy them.
You need a way to continue to communicate with potential readers even after they’ve left your website. You need to encourage them to subscribe to your email list, so you can send them interesting and valuable content straight to their inbox.
If you haven’t yet started your email list, there’s no better time than today!
Here are some helpful, actionable strategies get the most from your email list:
Make it easy for visitors to subscribe
Almost every page of your website should include an opt-in form to allow visitors to sign up to your email list: your homepage, book pages, reviews, blog posts, even your about page. You really never know which pages or content will resonate with each visitor, so be sure to make it as easy as possible for them to subscribe to your newsletter.
Almost every website these days tries to bribe, coax or beg visitors to share their email address, so it’s understandable that people are reluctant to do so without a compelling reason.
Luckily you have something that no-one else does… your writing.
Instead of simply asking visitors to subscribe, why not offer them a free chapter, book or collection of short stories as an exchange of value? In marketing terms, we call these opt-in offers or lead magnets, and they’re incredibly effective at improving email subscription conversion rates.
Take a look at the example below to see a compelling email opt-in offer:
Offer value before you promote your offer
Remember that your subscribers have given you permission to send them emails in exchange for valuable content and relevant offers – a privilege that can be quickly revoked if they feel you’re not holding up your side of the deal.
It’s absolutely fine to promote your latest book or series to your subscribers, but it should be accompanied by other valuable content, or you risk squandering a great channel for staying in contact with potential readers.
Save time by pre-writing and scheduling a series of emails
You’ll be relieved to hear that you don’t need to craft a new email each week, unless you have timely news to share. Instead, you can pre-write an amazing series of emails and schedule them at regular intervals.
Each new subscriber will then receive these emails based on the date they personally subscribed to your email list.
It’s a great feeling knowing that you already have 5, 10 or more emails already written and automatically sending without requiring additional work.
Almost all email marketing services offer this feature, but often under different names: automation, an autoresponder, a series, a schedule, etc. Be sure to check with your email service to learn more.
Tip 4: Always be testing
When it comes to building a conversion-focused author website, testing is what really makes a noticeable impact on growing email subscribers and sales.
Sure, we can share advice (based on research and experience) for improving conversion on most websites, but every brand, industry and audience are different. Even within the same literary genre, two writers can see wildly different results from the same actions.
We encourage you to always be testing to make your website as effective as it can be, and to give your books the attention they deserve. Even small improvements of 0.25% can translate to many more book sales and higher revenue.
Here’s some suggestions to try:
- Test radically different book covers. Yes, people do judge a book by its cover!
- Test the placement and prominence of reviews on your book pages.
- Collect data on which links are being clicked. Perhaps no-one ever clicks through to B&N or Smashwords.
- Test offering a free chapter to your email subscribers, along with a limited discount offer.
- Test a book-focused homepage instead of an author-focused homepage.
- See what happens if you offer a discount on an entire series when purchased as a bundle
Here’s a good example of testing an author-focused homepage against a book-focused homepage…
You don’t have to be a scientist to improve conversions through testing, but you do need to keep the following rules in mind:
- Test just one thing at a time.
- It’s better to swap out big elements such as book covers, titles and reviews to see improvements faster. Don’t waste time testing subtle or cosmetic changes like button colors.
- Don’t meddle during your tests – every little thing can affect the results.
- Tests need time and visitors (data) before real patterns emerge. Be patient and resist the urge to make early decisions.
- Testing is an iterative process… Once you’ve identified something that improves conversion, start testing something else. Rinse and repeat.
Tip 5: Use your blog effectively
Perhaps understandably, many indie authors woefully underuse their blogs. Blog posts demand yet more writing on top of your daily wordcount, and it often feels like the real conversation is taking place on Twitter or Facebook.
Other authors publish self-indulgent posts, perhaps believing they are more interesting than the needs of their readers.
But if you’re serious about growing your audience and encouraging them to take action, you need to see your blog as a tool in your writing business. Of course, you’re free to express yourself on your blog, but everything you publish should also provide value and entertainment to your readers.
- Updates on your latest work-in-progress
- New release information
- Author event announcements and recaps
- Exclusive shorts and sneak peeks
- Illustration and cover previews
- Author interviews
- Advice for new writers
- Anything that gets you involved with your reader community via comments
All of these blog posts can help to grow your email subscribers and book sales by including relevant calls-to-action. Here’s a great example of an eye-catching call-to-action that can be added to the end of your blog posts:
But who has time to run an active blog and finish their current book draft?
Well first, valuable blog posts can also be short. Very short, in fact. Microblogging is perfect for keeping your readers informed of quick updates, holding yourself accountable, and even publishing a NaNoWriMo log so you feel motivated to hit this year's 50,000 word target!
Secondly, as with writing, it helps to schedule the time you spend on your blog. Try committing to 2 short posts a week and instead cut down on a less productive activity. Each new post is an opportunity to attract and convert new visitors, so it can add up quite quickly.
Are You Ready to Give Your Books the Website They Deserve?
Crafting a conversion-focused indie author website isn’t hard, but it does require some mindful planning if you want to grow your audience and book sales.
You owe it to yourself – and the hard work you’ve put into your books! – to implement just a few tips from today’s post, and create a more effective website that helps you to reach more readers.
If you’re using WordPress, we’d love for you to check out Bookwise, our own conversion-focused WordPress theme designed for indie authors and writer-preneurs. It comes packed with stunning page templates and features to showcase your books, reviews, events and more.