You probably know about the importance of social media and blogging when marketing your self-published book, but what about the rest of your website? While your blog posts might be designed to keep people coming back to your site, folks are going to get pretty frustrated if they can’t figure out how to buy your book once they’re there.
You would be surprised at how many writers go to the trouble of plugging their book without making the Call to Action (CTA) — what you want the customer to do; in this case, Buy This Book — explicit and providing a streamlined way for buyers to do just that.
Choose Your Platform and Domain
Unless you’re a tech wiz or you specialize in a niche genre that requires fancy visuals, animation, or interactive features, you’ll probably be fine going with an ever-popular open source (vs. proprietary) platform like WordPress or Drupal, or a WYSIWYG (“What You See Is What You Get,” pronounced wiz’-ee-wig) web editor like Wix.
When choosing a domain name (your URL), you should consider the scope of the website. What does this website really cover; what is it about? Is it a temporary or promotional site for your latest book? Great. The book’s title, or something related, should be perfect. Or is it your general author website? If so, here’s to hoping you have a unique name. If your name is Joe Smith, you might need to get a little creative to land an appropriate URL that’s not taken. Use your middle name, initials, business name, or some other derivation, as long as you make the URL as easy to remember as possible.
Avoid symbols in your URL, and don’t get pulled in by alternative top-level domain extensions like .info, .net, and .co. If you want to buy these domains (which are usually a lot cheaper) in addition to your .com address and direct them all to your primary URL on the host server, then by all means do so, but your .com should, in most cases, stand as your primary domain.
Keep it Simple
Think of your website as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. This doesn’t mean that it has to be sparse. Put as much effort into creating a robust and beautiful interface (all the things on the site that communicate with the user, including copy, images, videos, links, buttons, CTAs, etc.) as you like, but keep in mind that writing on the page is not like writing on the web. People read differently online, so adjust your style accordingly. Short sentences, short paragraphs, and punchy headlines are the name of the game.
Keep your navigation and the names of your pages crystal clear. A nav bar is not the place to show off. Save that for blog posts, or even your book! If your home page is a blog, name it “Blog.” If you have a page for events or booking, call it “Author Events” or “Book a Reading.” If you are featuring multiple books on the site, create a page for each one and add them to a dropdown menu titled “Books” or “Works.” If the order information lives on those pages, let people know right in the nav bar. A simple “Order Books” is a great way to go. Or maybe you prefer to designate one page for all sales and call it “Orders” or “Buy.”
No matter what you title your pages, deliver exactly what you say you will on them. When a user clicks on “Buy,” imagine them with credit card in hand. Don’t usher them through some virtual labyrinth and link them to yet another page on your website. User attrition increases exponentially every time a user has to click or enter information. Don’t confuse them — keep them on your site.
On the other hand, if your book is only available on Amazon or GoodReads, it is fine to use your Order page to link to external websites, but take the user directly to your book’s page on those sites — not a general page where they have to conduct another search. And, as always, make external links as clear as possible. A simple “Buy on Amazon” is hard to misunderstand.
Master the Soft Sell
If what you’re really trying to do is sell your book, why have a blog at all? Why not just set up a pretty page that tells people how to order when their credit cards are in hand?
Simple. Most of the time, their credit cards are not in hand. Not yet. Your blog gives users something to engage with, follow, and read for entertainment and information, without immediately realizing that they are being pitched to. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not all that underhanded. Presumably, your blog still provides worthwhile, interesting content people want to read. Those entries still take valuable time to write, and you provide them to your users for free! It’s perfectly acceptable to use that space to promote your book and direct your user to the sales page.
But be careful not to harp on the sale in the blog. This is a fine line. You want to keep your followers engaged and provide them with information that stands on its own merit. That’s why the soft sell — a casual or subtle invitation to visit your sales page — is usually advisable in blog posts.
Go to Sales, Go Directly to Sales
While you want to be friendly and organic in your sales pitch, there is no need to be timid. It should surprise no one that you’re trying to sell books here. When you do employ your CTA, do it clearly and directly. If you are putting your CTAs on buttons (e.g. Buy, Order, Add to Cart, etc.) make sure that your wording is consistent across the site. If you’re incorporating this message into the body copy of your blog entries, you can vary up the wording, but always be clear that you’re leading the user to the place they can buy the book.
Just remember this: All roads should lead directly to the button, form, or external link that allows users to make that purchase when their credit cards are finally in hand. That’s when all that free content and useful information you provide on your blog pays off.
To save time and ensure an intuitive, professional user interface for your website, you can also always enlist expert services for your site’s design and development. What website strategies have paid off for you in boosting sales?
Kimberly C. Steele is a freelance writer and small-press publisher living in Philadelphia and New York. When she’s not working, writing short stories, or reading manuscripts, she is researching the next big trends in copywriting and indulging the guilty pleasure of tech blogs.