Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns.
Penny successfully marketed her first book, The Cliffhanger, which was released in 2000. After a strategic marketing campaign, it soared up the ranks at Amazon.com and held the #1 spot for three months. Her most recent book, Red Hot Internet Publicity, has been called “an indispensable guide to leveraging the Internet for success.”
Penny’s diverse background enables her to bring a multitude of talents to the table as well as a myriad of marketing techniques. Penny generously shared some of those techniques with me in an interview about author websites and online marketing. Read on for Peggy’s tips on websites, social networking and other goodies to help you get published.
First things first. What are some of the essential ingredients of an author’s website?
The website should be a platform for the book and the author, so it has to convey the benefits and messages of the book.
I could talk about how many pages the site needs and what specifically needs to be on those pages, but it really all comes down to the benefits of the book. Creating a website is one thing, but creating a website that delivers a message – that’s a big difference.
Ok, so once I figure out my message, how do I get people to stick around my website long enough to read the message and hopefully buy my book?
First of all, I like to see a “sign up” link on the homepage of the author’s website. The reason is you want to capture information of the person landing on the site. So maybe you give them something like tips or a free chapter of the book in order to get their email address. Email capture is a big big big thing.
You always want to have a very clear call to action on the homepage, so put the latest book on the homepage with a buy it now button. You also want to have an “About the book” page.
And I also always recommend that an author have a blog.
A lot of writers debate having a blog. Some people think it’s too personal. How can an author use their blog to promote the book?
It’s all about the voice of the blog. For example, if the author’s written fiction, they could write in the voice of the character.
You can also blog about the book, the experience of writing the book and your publishing journey. 83% of americans want to write a book. So if you write about writing a book, you’re going to capture a large measure of the audience interested in what you have to say.
The other thing is, only write about what you had for breakfast if it relates to the book. For example, I worked with an author who’s book was about the experience of being a mom. So on her blog she writes about her daily life. It makes sense for her to do that, to even talk about the minutia of whatever deal she got at a grocery store because it dials into the book.
Once you figure out what your message is, you can get very creative with your message. You can review other books and products. You can review other experts in your industry. It just has to dial around the same topic.
A blog works as long as it circles around the book and enhances your platform.
You say a homepage should do just one thing and have a focussed goal. What should an author put on their homepage to reflect their goal?
The homepage can get very tricky. First off, you want to limit your homepage copy to about 250 words, so you don’t want a very wordy homepage. Don’t go on and on about yourself unless your book is a memoir.
A lot of authors say “Hi my name is…” No one cares about that besides your mother. When someone lands on your site, remember it’s all about them and how book is going to enhance their lives. Maybe it’s going to teach them, maybe it’s going to entertain them.
Take a look at some of the really well known author sites. For example, look at a fiction author who’s written in the thriller genre. The first thing you see when you land on their homepage is a creepy, thriller-like appearance, and they’re doing that to speak to their audience. You want to speak to your audience.
And obviously you don’t want a ton of stuff cluttering the homepage. I like it when authors have some kind of a signup. And you definitely want to have the cover of a book.
You say it’s important for people to network. After building a website, what’s the first step authors should take to network with other people and drive traffic to their website?
The first thing you should do is what I call “cybershmoozing.” Start networking with other people in your industry. Follow some blogs in your market. Leave comments. When you write comments you can leave your website address. That’s one real way to network and get people to your site.
This does two things. First, it lets you get to know your market and helps them get to know you. But it also creates backlinks to your site. You could also start a Facebook fan page, a Squidoo page, or use a Twitter account. All of these add incoming links to your site. If you already have a book out, you could even start sending that book out and pick bloggers to review the book.
Another technique is article syndication where you write articles and then syndicate them online.
A lot of time with freelancers this can get tricky because they have a lot of content they are selling to magazines. But if you have articles of portions of your book you can syndicate them to places like articlecity and EzineArticles. This will create more backlinks to your site.
Which is the most important social networking site for authors?
Facebook and Twitter are two of the strongest sites because they get really good link juice going to your author website.
Say I’ve written a book but it hasn’t been published yet. Should I bother with a website? How can I use it to market my book before I’ve been published?
Absolutely. I really recommend an author start working on a platform as soon as they can. You can still do Twitter and Facebook.
A lot of authors tend to fly under the radar screen until their books come out – that’s actually a mistake. You want to be marketing your book even before you have a book. Network with your market, go after bloggers in the market, cybershmooze with them, comment on their blog posts, get to know them before the book comes out.
When we’ve coached authors in how to do this, we have them network with 20-30 bloggers so they get known in their area. Then, when their book comes out, they mail a copy to the blog author and that person already knows who they are.
Thank you, Penny, for taking the time to talk to us about author marketing. To find out more about Penny, visit Author Marketing Experts, Inc. and be sure to check out her latest book, Red Hot Internet Publicity.