One of your main missions as a successful writer is to be accessible to your readers and to create a community where they can interact with you and your work. So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to give yourself a permanent web presence. It’s time to delve into creating your own website. Here the term, ‘the simpler it is the better’, rings loud and true. At least until you have enough money to make it flashy! So today we are going to talk about not only how to physically set up a site, but what you MUST put on there to draw your readers in.
There are three main avenues to fashion your own website. You can create a professional one with a dot com web address yourself, or you can hire someone to do it for you, or you can use the free power of blogging. If you wish to create a simple website yourself, but you do not know how to work that Microsoft Front Page thingy, do not despair! There is hope. One simple tool available online is Big Pixie. Big Pixie will allow you to easily and simply put a website together and it will host your site for you. There are more tutorials then you can poke a stick at on how the program works, so there is no need to stare at the computer screen in a hopeless daze. Nor is there much chance of your head imploding from staring at html code for a minute longer then you should. If this is your chosen path young hero, you shall need to purchase a domain name (address) from a website like GoDaddy or NameCheap. You can purchase the rights for a name of your choosing for up to ten years (depending on how confident you are in your quest or how many gold pieces you have in your pouch). Big Pixie allows you to transfer the domain name to their hosting service so you can then design your portal (website). It costs $30/month for Big Pixie to host the site. Basically you are renting space on a server (known as a host) so that people can access your site. You must have a domain name and host before you can achieve your quest (for your website to work)!
Alternately, you can hire a trained assassin (professional) to build your portal (website). Elance is a fantastic place to outsource. You set up a description of what you want your website to do, how you want it to look, how many pages you would like and so on. Then website designers bid for the chance to work with you. So you can choose an assassin (website designer) based on their price, the experience they have, the interests they have, the websites they have done previously, and previous customer testimonials, so you get the best person for the kill, erhmm I mean job. In this instance you can use a site like hostgator to buy the domain name and host the site for as little as $4 a month.
Or you can take the free road (and the long website extension) of setting up your own blog. Blogs are great for two reasons, 1) they are free, 2) the more you post on them the more visible you become on Google. Google likes sites that continually add fresh content, and if you start getting traffic (people) to your website, Google likes you even more. Two major blogs are Blogger and Wordpress. From what I have heard (though you are welcome to argue) Blogger is easier to use, and as always all you have to do is search for Blogger tutorials on YouTube to figure out how to use the program if you are having trouble.
Right, so you have chosen the path you will take on your quest (whether it be self made website, professional website or blog). But the question remains, what needs to be present on this website to weave a spell around our potential readers and draw them carefully into our web? What we want to do is entice readers to buy. The best way to do this is to provoke an emotional reaction, because if someone feels emotionally connected to your work and can imagine how it relates to their own life and enjoyment, they will buy your novel above the masses. You just have to make that connection.
There are several great steps you can take to increase your connection to your visitors and in turn make more sales. Of course here is where you’re synopsis will come out again, that brilliant piece of writing chock full of all those keywords you have researched. But you want to add to that experience both visually and audibly. So when a person visits your site you want to greet them with a video or audio. A video you can record with the webcam on your computer or with your digital camera and upload the video onto YouTube. Then there are tutorials on YouTube that show you how to put your video onto your blog or website. Trust me when I say that barely anyone is doing this at the moment, but it is so powerful. People see you and hear your voice and they connect with you on a deeper level then they would through words on a page. In the audio/visual and digital age, this puts you a step ahead of the rest, and every step counts when you are self-published. If you believe you look like the troll under the Fairytale Bridge you can just record your voice and similarly find YouTube videos telling you how to upload your audio to your website.
The next thing readers should see is your headline. Not “This is Bob’s Blog” or “Welcome to the world of FrankenLou”. The headline needs to grab attention! It needs to offer a big promise to the reader. Technically what it needs to contain is a benefit to the reader for staying, and an element of curiosity. This is probably easier for non-fiction then fiction. For example, an appropriate title for my gap year travel novel would be, “Learn how easy it is to have the travel adventure of your dreams… with almost no money up front!” The adventure of my dreams is easy? And I need almost no money?? Please tell me what else! For fiction appeal to an emotion within the prospective reader, relate the story to their needs and interests and as with non-fiction, end with a curiosity. What we are aiming to do is excite the imagination. To use the reader’s imagination in relation to our book. They must see, hear and feel what it is they do or don’t want, and wonder about how their life will be changed (I hate to use a cliché but it needs to be strong) forever! For fiction this will be an extension of your synopsis, tapping into each of these senses. For a non-fiction author you can lists the benefits of your information, how it affects the reader and how it will change the reader’s life for the better after reading your novel. Basically, what that piece of information means for them.
You also want to hammer into the prospective reader what is unique about your novel. Because we place more value in things that are rare. “That rusty coin you see in the shop window? Might be dirty, but it’s the last of its kind. That will be $5000 thanks….” If you can make your novel unique then you are half way to making a sale and gaining a reader. If you can, try and make the offer irresistible. Offer several short stories for free based around the world you have created, or offer a free audio interview with an expert in your niche if they buy your non-fiction novel. Offer access to a reader’s only discussion board; make your novel an experience! Also, if you have any reviews or testimonials make sure you place them prominently. The best reviews provide some balance, remember reviews such as “this book is the best book ever” are hard to believe at the best of times…Your about the author section is another chance to show a reader the author credentials from your book proposal. Tell them exactly why you are the best person to write this book, what is your experience, how have events in your life lead you to the point where you have written this book for them. For your readers.
Because by far the most important part about your website? It is ALWAYS about the readers. It is in no way, shape or form about you. Ever. You can relate to your readers, and share similar experiences but your website is not an avenue for the Me Show. But then, when is it ever about the author?
TOMORROW: The Media Machine: How to give readers an opportunity to connect with you personally without having them take up your writing time!