Helping authors publish

Tag: website

International Day Of Disabled Persons

It’s the International Day Of Disabled Persons, so here’s a short list of easy ways to make your web pages and social media posts more accessible.

When writing hashtags, use BumpyCase (also known as CamelCase). It’s better for screen readers and is less ambiguous (note the difference between #CarEbook and #CareBook)

On web pages, use headings to communicate the organisation of the page, not to make the text bigger. If you want bigger text, just adjust the font size. Again, this helps screen readers and accessibility tools. It also helps with SEO.

Use clear link text on web pages. The text in the link should describe what it links to, even if read out of context. Avoid link text like “click here”, that doesn’t indicate what is being linked to.

Always set alt text (“alternative text”) for images. In the alt text field, describe the image as well as you can. If you’re not sure what would be useful, remember that any alt text is better than nothing. If you forget to add alt text when adding images to Twitter, the Alt Or Not browser extension can help.

Use a website theme that has good contrast between text and background. Light grey text on a white background is much more difficult to read than black text on a white background.

If you use self-hosted WordPress, the AWS for WordPress plugin will automatically create audio versions of your posts.

For more information, see the Content Best Practices chapter in the WordPress Accessibility Handbook, or the Web Accessibility Initiative’s web accessibility tutorials.

Why do you need an author website?

Every author should have a website. Some think that a Facebook page or an Amazon page is a viable alternative. Both are certainly useful and worth having, but they should complement an author website, not replace it.

The reason can be expressed in a single word: Control. You have no control over your Facebook page or Amazon page. Facebook and Amazon control how they look and can advertise competing books on your page. They can even remove your access or take the page down at any time, with no right to appeal.

A website, by contrast, is owned and controlled by you. If you decide that you don’t like the hosting company, you can move it elsewhere. No-one else can advertise their books on your site. You can choose the domain that you want to use. You can choose how it looks. If you use WordPress (which we use and recommend) you can easily change how it looks whenever you wish. Most WordPress themes are responsive, which means that they adapt well to different screen sizes. A lot of web browsing is done on mobile devices these days, so this is an important consideration.

Domain name

Get a domain that is tied to your name if you can. Your name with a .com at the end is ideal if you can get it. If you can’t get your name, try adding something like “author” or “books” to the end. For authors based in the UK, a .co.uk or .uk is a good alternative. Robin’s pen name is Russell Phillips, and his website is at RussellPhillips.uk.

A web address like that is professional and gives a good first impression. You can set up an email address for the domain. This keeps your book-related emails separate and gives a better impression than a GMail or Yahoo address. If you prefer, have emails forwarded to your webmail. Always set your mailing list’s “From” address to be your domain address, not GMail, Yahoo, or whatever. Doing this will help your emails to avoid the spam folder.

Flexibility and selling direct

Having your own website gives you a great deal of flexibility. It should always have all the details of your books, with buy links. Beyond that though, you can include whatever features you wish. Some people blog, some have a podcast. We strongly recommend including a mailing list sign-up form, and some people use pop-ups too.

Websites can also host content that will be of interest to your readers. Including information for book clubs might help it get chosen by a club. If you are willing to do author talks, make sure that is clear on your site, along with information about how to book you.

You can sell books and/or ebooks directly, giving you another revenue stream. Many readers prefer to buy all their books from a single store such as Amazon or Kobo, but some will value the opportunity to buy direct from the author. You can set everything up yourself using a WordPress plugin like WooCommerce, or use a company like Payhip which simplifies matters. Either way, the money from any sales will be paid to you immediately, not sixty or ninety days later as is typical with other vendors. You can create discount vouchers to help promote direct sales, or sell a new release from your website before releasing it on the other vendors.

Introducing our Bespoke Publishing Package

When we first started Author Help, it made sense to create a complete publishing package so that authors could get everything they needed in a single off-the-shelf bundle. But every author needs something different.

We recognise that some authors may need help getting up and running on social media, some want their work only in paperback, and some have particular needs around images. Books of different lengths and complexities take different times to work with.

We have rewritten our package offering from the ground up. There are new services available, we’ve hammered out the calculations, and we’ve put together some internal processes.

By making our package modular, each author we work with can get the service – and the price – that’s right for them. Plus we’ve added a few little extra touches!

So go take a look at our new publishing package or contact us to book a free consultation.

Two WordPress Plugins For Authors

I’ve written two plugins for WordPress. They’re both free, designed primarily for authors, and available from the WordPress plugin repository.

Mobile Banner WordPress plugin

Mobile Banner

The Mobile Banner plugin was written to address a client requirement. It adds a discreet banner to the bottom of the screen when viewed on mobile (not on desktop). This banner can have whatever text the users wishes, and can link to a any URL.

The client that it was written for used it to link to their mailing list sign-up page, and it is used the same way on this website.

The plugin is available from the WordPress plugin directory, or you can search for “Mobile Banner Robin Phillips” in the WordPress plugins screen.

Local Links WordPress plugin

Local Links

Authors need to link to their books so that users can buy them. Some online stores have a site for each country that they operate in. It’s not practical to list the link for each country, but users often have to use their own country’s site. Users in the UK, for example, have to buy from amazon.co.uk, not amazon.com.

The Local Links plugin automatically edits links so that they point to the user’s local store. The links are tidied up, to make them simpler and avoid tracking. It will work on existing links and new ones. Simply add links to your site as usual, and they will be rewritten on the fly to send your visitors to their local site.

Stores supported are Amazon, Apple Books, Apple iTunes (audiobooks), Kobo, Alibris, Google Play, and AbeBooks.

Amazon has different affiliate codes for the different country sites. If you have Amazon affiliate codes, the relevant country’s code will be added to Amazon links.

The plugin is available from the WordPress plugin directory, or you can search for “Local Links Robin Phillips” in the WordPress plugins screen.

How to Set up Local Links to Ebook Stores

Screenshot showing message that UK users get when shopping for Kindle books on Amazon.com: "Kindle titles are available for UK customers on Amazon.co.uk."
UK readers can’t buy Kindle books from the US store

It’s generally considered good practice to link to all the stores where a given ebook is available. What is not always understood is that users in different countries should ideally be directed to their own stores. For example, a reader in the UK should be sent to a UK store where the vendor has one, with prices in British pounds. A user in Canada, on the other hand, would want prices in Canadian dollars.

In some cases, vendors insist on readers buying from their local store. Amazon, for instance, won’t allow British users to buy from Amazon.com. So, if you link to your book on Amazon.com, your British readers will have to go to Amazon.co.uk and find it there in order to buy it.

Universal Book Links

You may be familiar with Draft2Digital’s Universal Book Links (UBL). If you have a Draft2Digital account, or create an account at books2read.com, you can create universal book links. These links take the reader to a page that lists all the stores where the ebook can be bought. A less well-known benefit is that when the user clicks on the link, they will go to their local site if the store has one.

Universal book links are useful in some circumstances, but they require an extra click on the part of the reader, and every extra click is a point where a sale can be lost. If you have space to list individual stores, you can still take advantage of UBL’s ability to send a reader to their local site.

Screenshot showing the right-click menu used to get the Amazon link from a Books2Read page
Getting the Amazon link from a Books2Read page

To do this, set up your book’s universal book link as normal, then go to the universal book link page. Right-click on the store that you want a link for, and click “Copy link address” or “Copy Link Location”. The link will have a “?store=” bit at the end, e.g.

https://books2read.com/u/bzppKZ?store=amazon

Use that link instead of a standard one, and your reader will go straight to the local version of the store, without seeing the universal book link page.

Kobo & Apple Links

For Kobo and Apple links, there is another way to create localised links, without setting up a universal book link. For Apple Books, simply insert “geo.” between the “https://” and “itunes.apple.com”, so that your link looks something like this:

https://geo.itunes.apple.com/gb/book/the-losing-role/id1058016165

This works with audiobooks as well as ebooks. The reader will be taken to their local Apple Books store.

For Kobo, there are two options. You can use a link like this, with your own ISBN at the end:

https://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=9781466105478

This works even if you didn’t use an ISBN when uploading the book. In this case, the Kobo book page will show an ISBN starting with 123, which can be used.

The other option is to remove the country and language code from your book’s link. This is an example Kobo link, with the country code (gb) and language code (en) in bold:

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/operation-nimrod

If we remove the country code and language code, we get:

https://www.kobo.com/ebook/operation-nimrod

This link will redirect the reader to their local Kobo site.

WordPress Plugin

This is, of course, all really quite technical, and if you have a lot of links on your website, changing them all could be time-consuming. I’ve written a free WordPress plugin that you can use to do this automatically. It’s available from the WordPress plugin directory, or you can search for “Local Links Robin Phillips” in the WordPress plugins screen. It will automatically edit your links on the fly, so all of your existing links will be localised, as well as any that you add in the future.

Introduction to Book Marketing

If you want to sell books, you will need to market them. This post will give you a head start on book marketing. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide, but just an introduction.

For self-publishers, book marketing is a long-term activity. Your book will be available at online retailers for ever, unless you decide to take it off sale. You don’t need to make a big splash at launch.

Have a Good Product

Before you start, make sure that you have a good product. Your book should be properly edited, have a professional cover, and have a solid description. If you don’t have these three in place, time and effort spent on marketing will be wasted.

Write More Books

If you only have one or two books, the best thing you can do to sell more books is to write more books. It’s hard to hear, but it’s good advice nonetheless. Having multiple books means that you can experiment, and every time someone reads one book and enjoys it, they might buy all of your other books. This is especially true if you write a series — anyone that enjoys the first book is likely to buy the next one.

Set up a Website

If you haven’t done so already, set up an author website. Ideally use your name as the URL, but if it isn’t available, try adding something like “author” or “books”. Make sure that your website has a way for people to sign up to your mailing list.

I recommend WordPress, since it is easy to update, widely supported, and there are lots of themes, so you can make it look the way you want it to.

Set up a Mailing List

Use a service such as Aweber, MailChimp, or Seva to create a mailing list. Whenever you have news (a new book, a sale, whatever), email your list and tell them about it. These are people that have specifically chosen to hear from you, so they’re more likely to buy your next book.

Add an “About the Author” section

Make sure that your book has an “About the Author” section at the back. Include links to your website, mailing list, and your other books. When you release a new book, update this section in all your other books to add a link to the new book. When a reader gets to the end of your book, these links give them a chance to immediately buy more of your books. If they enjoy your writing, they’ll want to buy more of your books. Make it easy for them to do so.

Set up Your Page on Author Central

Log in to Amazon Author Central using your Amazon login details, and fill in as much information as possible. Make sure that all of your books are listed. If any are missing, use the “Add more books” button to claim them.

Set up a Facebook Author Page

Set up a Facebook page under your author name. This is not the same as your personal profile. It is designed for fans to follow, and allows you to post things of interest to your fans without having to let them see your personal profile and information. You will also need an author page to run Facebook ads.

Make the First in a Series Free or Cheap

If you write a series, make the first book in the series free or cheap. This reduces one barrier to people trying this first book. Because it’s the first in a series, the readers that enjoy it will buy the next book in the series and hopefully every other book in the series.

Amazon won’t let you set the price to free, though other retailers will. So to get it free on Amazon, make it free elsewhere, then contact KDP support and tell them that it’s free elsewhere, with links to the free book at large retailers (Apple Books, Kobo, B&N Nook). Ask them to match the free price.

Add an Excerpt

Add an excerpt from your next book to the back of the book, with a link to buy the next book. This is most effective if you are writing a series, and add an excerpt from the next book in the series.

Paid Advertising

You can buy adverts on Amazon, BookBub, and Facebook. These can get expensive quickly, so make sure you limit the maximum spend.

Google AdWords is also a possibility, but very few authors report success with it. On the other hand, many authors have had success with Amazon, BookBub, and Facebook ads.

Run a Sale

You can change the price of your book at the online retailers at any time. Take advantage of this to run a sale. Drop the price, then advertise the sale via social media, your email list, paid email lists, paid advertising, etc. After a limited time, put the price back to the normal price.

Email Advertising

There are many email lists that promote cut-price and free ebooks. These lists collect email addresses from readers, then email them links to discounted and free ebooks. You can pay to have your book included in one of these mail shots.

These sites all have minimum requirements, which vary from site to site. Most of them require a minimum number of customer reviews on Amazon, so check that you meet the criteria before applying. BookBub is the biggest, most expensive, and most difficult one to be accepted for, but the others can also have a significant impact.

There are many of these sites. This is a short list of ones that are generally recommended:

Bloggers

There are lots of book bloggers on the web, many of whom specialise in particular genres. Getting a book reviewed by a blogger with a large following can lead to more sales, and some bloggers will also leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Google “book blogger” and your genre to find book bloggers in your genre.

Before contacting a blogger to ask for a review, make sure that you read their review policy. If they don’t review self-published books or books in your genre, move on. When you write to them to ask for a review, be polite and courteous. Remember, you’re asking them to give up their time to help you.

Conclusion

Book marketing is a huge topic, and this is just a short introduction. There are more articles in the marketing category, and my weekly newsletter often has links to information and advice about marketing.

The Alliance of Independent Authors has a Self-Publishing Advice Centre, with lots of advice about all aspects of self-publishing, including marketing. If you join the Alliance, you can access a private members-only Facebook forum, where you can ask specific questions and get answers from experienced self-publishers.

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