Authors tend to be far better at writing than they are at promoting. Often we feel uncomfortable with any communication that feels like self-promotion. But being a great writer isn’t the same as being a successful writer, which is why there four reasons even author needs a great website.
They say that to a hammer everything looks like a nail.
As you may (or may not) know, my experience and background is fairly diverse and to fuel all my passions I own four companies.
- Writers After Dark LLC, which I co-own with SK
- My author brand which I operate under Nightmirrors Entertainment
- Raymond Esposito Consulting, which focuses on “the darker side of employment”
- Ravens Pointe Marketing.
So, when it comes to branding, I’m pretty much a hammer.
In the corporate world, I spent significant time branding companies. Today, I spend a substantial part of the week devoted to brand building for my companies. So it both surprises and disheartens me when I find a company or a person that offers such great potential but that hasn’t set the correct foundation for growth.
Let’s face it, in a social media driven world, to sell anything you have to have a presence. Having a presence means you have communicated your brand. And every brand requires a home base. That home base is the foundation and it is built on a website.
With the explosion of social media, content marketing, viral videos, many people got the impression that websites were no longer necessary. They believe that being “on” Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, or Instagram or even just having a blog is enough. The problem is social media is like a big garden hose.
Now I love social media. It’s an excellent method to reach people and for a brand, these streams can provide enormous benefits . . . But as I said, social media is a large garden hose. A constant stream of forced water that you can ride, but that you can’t control.
And the first rule of a successful brand is to control the messaging.
You just can’t have much control when competing with fifteen second sound bites unless you have a very large advertising budget to keep you out of the riptides and undercurrents.
Being an author is no different. You are your brand. And if you rely on social media alone, you violate the first rule of branding – you can’t control the message.
Any commentator, troll, or competitor can derail your message, or your reputation, in one hundred and forty characters. Anyone can make an offhanded comment about you or your product and before you can respond that constant stream of water has moved everyone else on to the next thing.
And just like that, the final thoughts of you and your product belong to whoever spoke loudest and last.
Of course, that’s just the negative stuff. But even the good stuff can be missed. There’s a lot of noise and a lot of authors competing for a limited readership. The most successful authors practice the techniques of successful companies. No, they didn’t get lucky and no, your work doesn’t “speak for itself.” Branding is an art and a science, and the first step is to build your home base.
A website isn’t the “end all-be all” to better sales but it is the foundation for every effort made. But as we’ll reveal, a website’s real benefit is that it provides the four psychological principles needed for successful interaction and positive influence.
The Law of Attraction: Think about those people you’ve met who you were most interested in getting to know better. If we’re honest, the initial interest had a lot to do with finding that person attractive. Attractive isn’t just physical attributes and although each person has personal preferences, there are some universal attributes all people like. And we are all biological creatures programmed to want things we find attractive.
A website operates on the Law of Attraction. It’s the place we show off our sexiness. No, not your personal sexiness, your product’s or your brand’s. Effective attraction happens when we choose the color schemes, the fonts, the images, the words, and the layouts that grabs the attention of “our kind” of consumers.
The principle is the same one we use for book covers. How do we get the reader to want to learn more? We lure them in with a single image that communicates our genre in a unique way.
People also find credibility attractive. A professional looking website communicates that the author is credible and serious about his or her craft. It demonstrates that writing isn’t just a hobby or a past time, it’s a career.
An author can’t communicate the essential attractiveness on an Amazon Author or Facebook page, and they certainly can’t do it on Twitter alone. Those platforms are busy branding themselves, they limit your ability because the truth is they don’t want to compete with you on their own site.
We Like People Who Are Like Us: We’re not as open minded as we’d like to think. Studies and research on “who we like” demonstrate that we like (and we buy) from people we believe are similar to ourselves. The power of these similarities doesn’t need to come from the “big things” like politics, religion, or social or ethnic backgrounds. Little things can have an amazing impact on likability. A shared love of cookies, coffee, and pets. Or similar experiences or observations.
In other words, it’s all the small things that create a feeling of connection. A sense that “you get me” on some level and that “I get you.”
A website has the power to do that. It’s that first point of connection and the place where you and your reader can speak privately. It’s the place where you show them that for all the difference, you’re also the same and that you “get them.”
Approachable: To generalize, every writer is a least partially introverted. It would be difficult to spend the required alone time writing if one didn’t enjoy the alone time. Introverts tend to employ barriers. Things, actions, and attitudes that ensure a little space between themselves and others.
Some of the most verbose bloggers and active online communicators turn out to be quiet in person. Quiet because even in a room full of people, they enjoy falling deep into thoughts. Privacy is great, but for an author, communication and approachability is critical. Often the introvert can be mislabeled with adjectives and descriptions such as, “bitch,” “stuck-up,” “mean,” “standoffish” or “intimidating.”
A website, when done correctly can make even an introvert more approachable. And, we tend to like people more who we feel are approachable.
Available: Humans are hardwired to be social. In fact, brain scans demonstrate that saying “no” creates greater stress than saying “yes” even when the “yes” is not in our best interest. Humans as also good at communicating their availability for interaction.
We use subtle body language strategies, often unconsciously, to communicate our feelings, interests, and intentions. Things like how we stand, the direction of our feet in a conversation, our hand movements, length of eye contact, and posture all signal our availability. In fact, if you’re good at reading these signs, you never risk being rejected for a date because you’ll know those who are interested from those who are not.
As an author, you’re a bit of a player and you’re certainly not monogamous. You want to be in a committed relationship with every reader. You’re not taken and you want them to know you are available.
Your website is where you communicate that you are available. That doesn’t mean people will communicate directly (so take a breath, introverts) it just implies you are available if they’d like to talk. Because being available makes you more approachable, and being approachable makes you more likable, and being likable makes you more attractive which means you’ll sell more books.
Which brings us to a very bad trend in websites specifically and social media in general.
If you’re not a household name, New York Times Best-seller, celebrity, or CIA agent, then put your email address on your website. (You can spell it out if you want to avoid spam.)
There are few things more impersonal than being asked to fill out a form. And there are even fewer more off-putting than an author whose form states, “for media inquiries only.”
Really? Getting a lot of media inquiries are we?
It’s a misguided attempt to communicate some level of importance, but it comes off as self-importance and that is neither a likable or attractive trait.
A successful author brand desires an intellectually intimate relationship with its readers. You court them, you date them, and you hope they marry you. If your style in real dating or friendship building is to ask potential suitors to complete a form for consideration than fine, use a form on your website. If not, then be a normal person and put your email address on your contact page.
But what about blogs, don’t they work just as well?
If your blog can cover these four critical components then the answer is “yes.” But, since most people visits involve just the post page, you have to ensure your blog has the necessary web-like features.
Can you build these features into other social media applications? Probably not.
But the good news is that website pricing is low and design has become simple and easy. There isn’t any real time or money barriers to having a professional site in addition to your blog. So, no reason not to “check off” that box.
So what are the specific components that go into an author’s website?
Well, I can’t list them all here, but if you’d like, you can download The Writers After Dark Definitive Guide to Authors’ Websites right here. Just sign up with your email and enter our new Writers After Dark library.
Can you hire us to build it for you?
Yes just fill out the form . . . Just Kidding . . . Our email contact is at the end of the ebook and all over our website.