How to Launch a Book Website

in Strategy & Trends | by Ethan Lyon

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By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

Book publishers do not always develop a website for every new release. Meaning, the task is sometimes shouldered by the author. Though online stores, such as Amazon.com, sell the book, your website needs to tell prospective readers why they should pick it up.

A web site can be a tool for you to spread your message, engage and sell your book to larger audiences. It is a portal to purchase your text and find out more about your expertise. Furthermore, a website gives you a one-on-one interaction that often doesn’t happen when publishers are facilitating the discussion.

The most effective authors develop online communities around their area of expertise. Take example from successful authors like Seth Godin or Guy Kawasaki. Both have build a “tribe” of daily readers. Seth Godin has approximately 40,000 monthly visitors, while Guy has an estimated 150,000 monthly visitors, according to Compete.com. We will share insights from our own experience on the web coupled with authors making the best use of their digital real estate.

The Big Picture
In the digital world, the elevator pitch lasts only seconds. The splash or home page is a great way give your elevator pitch. Having a strong call to action upfront can grab your readers attention and have them wanting more. As the splash page is the first thing your readers will see when they enter the website, have it be thought provoking and engaging. Possibly offer a free chapter or excerpt in exchange for some of their basic information.

Publishing a Blog
A compelling blog can be the single most important element on your website. A blog can establish your authority in the marketplace, serve as a marketing tool, open lines of communication with your audience, increase your Google pagerank (i.e. improve your search position) and update your text. To effectively leverage a blog to market your book, you must be consistent.

Consider Seth Godin. He has many, many published books, but also publishes a post once a day. Whether they’re interesting tidbits or in-depth explorations, he is consistently updating his blog. The same is true for Freakonomics. Freakonomics takes seemingly unrelated pieces of data and connects them in an interesting way.  A blog can be a valuable tool to open your message to a large audience; however, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. If you’re going to start a blog, make sure you have a content schedule that’s constantly full. The more you put into your blog, the more you will get out of it.

Marketing and Social Media
Based on your area of expertise, you can contribute to relevant conversations in forums or other social community sites. Or, if you find an interesting, related blog post, you could add to the conversation in the comment box. There is comment etiquette, of course. A blatant self promotion will most likely be flagged as spam; however, a link to your site in your signature is completely acceptable.

It might be difficult to find all of those sites talking about your area of expertise. An aggregator can surely come in handy. You might want to consider an RSS reader (such as Google Reader) or you can search sites like Digg to help you find relevant articles. You can easily ask Google to fetch any article relating to XYZ and every time a website pings Google, the blog post is sent to your RSS stream. This strategy might make finding the blog posts easier and save some time.

If you decide to go the blogging route, your daily insights can be used to market your book on social media sites. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn are some sites you might want to consider. However, before entering any of the social networks, have a plan to engage audiences. Showing up to the party and expecting everyone to pay attention to you isn’t going to work. Giving a reason for community members to take an interest is essential. Often, brands fail on social networking sites because they do not have a compelling reason why anyone should care about them.

I Don’t Have Any Traffic
Everyone starts out with zero. In that way, the web is very democratic. Not everyone is clamoring to learn more about your book. To establish yourself in the marketplace, it’s crucial that you add value, either through insights or news updates. Through hard work you’ll find your website traffic improve. As you cultivate a sizable audience, you can then engage them in community-oriented tools such as Ning.

It’s important to stay humble and not give up. It takes a lot of time and effort to successfully build a compelling, valuable web property. The successful have kept with it and consistently added value. Ultimately, the more appealing you can make your book, either through your blog or social media, the more distribution opportunities you will have.

Photo by Nathan pawluck from Stock.Exchng