I've heard it said that an author's web site functions as a never ending commercial.
I agree, to a point. A homepage should have information about your writing and your books. But if that's all it does---advertise your products---then you won't get many hits, or generate much buzz. TiVo allows us to eliminate commercials... why would anyone intentionally go looking for them?
Which is why I suggest you have more on your site than four blurbs and a link to Amazon (which indy bookstores hate to begin with.)
But this blog entry isn't about how to make your site sticky (I go into detail on how to do that here.) Instead, I want to talk about how people can find your site on the world wide web. You've raised your shingle, now how do you get the traffic?
1. Search engines. NEVER pay to submit to search engines--the big ones allow you to submit your URL for free, and no one uses the little ones i.e. "submit your site to 700,000 engines for $29.95." When was the last time you used searchbunny.com to surf the web? Stick to Google, Yahoo, AOL, Hotbot, MSN, Altavista, Lycos, Overture, Dogpile, and Excite... but only if they don't charge. Don't pay per click... you think Stephen King does that?
My website is listed on all major engines, and I never paid a cent. They found me.
Make sure you have decent Meta tags on all of your pages, for the spiders to crawl (if you don't know what I'm talking about, pick up a book on web design.)
2. Publications. Your website address should be printed on all of your books, and included with bios for short stories, articles, and interviews. Every time your name appears in print, your URL should as well.
3. Business cards. Have two types made up; one with all of your personal info (phone, email, address) and one with just your website. I also put my URL on flyers, bookmarks, and even on my personal checks.
Give business cards to everyone you meet. I put them in bills I mail out, and drop them in check presenters when I go out to eat. Your motto: Everyone gets a card.
4. Email. Your email has a signature tag--put your URL in there. If you have more than one email account, make sure they each list your URL.
5. Newsgroups and List Servs. Google News and Yahoo have thousands of online groups discussing books. Join and post, making sure you always add your URL. The bigger online mouth you have, the more opportunities to pass around your link.
6. Blogs. I've been posting messages on other people's blogs, and I'm surprised how many people click through to my website.
As with newsgroups and list servs, contribute to the conversation. A non sequitur that does nothing but direct people to your website is spam. But say something smart or funny, and people will check out your website automatically.
7. Links. Trade links with as many folks as you can. Email websites and ask if they'd like to reciprocate, and swap business cards with author friends you meet at conventions. The more links coming in the better... all roads lead to Rome.
8. Google Adwords. I have some friends that swear by this. I haven't tried it yet, but you can find out about it here.
9. Print ads. Every time you, or your publisher, places an ad, it should have your URL on there.
10. Newsletters. If you have a print or email newsletter (and you should... collect names at signings and conventions and through your site), you should always have your homepage listed.
11. Amazon. For all the hoopla about Amazon, they don't seem to sell that many books. For example, I sold about 15,000 copies of Whiskey Sour in hardcover. About 2000 were through Amazon.
Still, you can focus some effort there. Amazon has many paid programs for writers and publishers to ensure better placement for your book. I've never done that, but I indulge in some of their free services; book reviews and lists.
I review books with the name "J.A. Konrath, author of Bloody Mary." People who click on my name are directed to my URL.
Amazon also lets you compile Favorites Lists. I've made a few lists of mega-bestsellers which also include my books. Hopefully people who like James Patterson or John Sandford will read the lists looking for similar authors, and then discover me.
12. Other. My publisher and Bookreporter.com are holding a contest for the release of Bloody Mary. You can enter the contest here. While I'm thrilled they're promoting my book, a quick read of the page shows that they forgot to ad my URL.
I hadn't known they were running this contest, or I would have commented on adding my web address. I could ask them to add it now, but I'd come off sounding like an ungrateful ass... "Sure, it's a nice contest, and I appreciate you being behind my books and all, but where's my website information?"
So that's a missed opportunity. An opportunity that hasn't been missed comes from buzzketeer M.J. Rose, who is linking 500 blogs to her vidlit page http://www.vidlit.com/mj/ to raise money for Reading is Fundemental.
Vidlits are visual commercials for books, kind of like movie trailers.
I think M.J. is a pioneer in new marketing ideas, but that doesn't mean her ideas work (lots of pioneers died in the woods.)
I love her, and she's certainly becoming known in the writing community, but so far her efforts haven't made her a bestseller.
Nor have mine, for that matter.
What do you folks think? Does her Vidlit make you want to buy her book? Did it make you click through to her website?
I know I'll be watching her Amazon numbers to see if they shoot up. She's currently at 42,000 rank on Amazon, and her promotion begins today.