Today I’m happy to welcome a guest post from Naomi Blackburn, founder of The Author CEO. Thanks for the lovely vote of confidence, Naomi!
Best Practice: (n) commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective. (Oxford Dictionary)
I love best practices. Being a HIGHLY competitive person with a sharp eye for what does well, I know I have come across a best practice when a business practice makes me go “WOW” because it is so brilliant, creative, and effective.
Achieving this trifecta as it relates to a best practice isn’t easy. Most businesses can get one, maybe two, but three is dang near impossible. Partner that with catching not only your spirit, but your brand and you are a downright genius. Larger businesses are really unable to do this. They are unable to give attention to the wide variety of audience or products they must highlight. So, the best practices I talk about in this article are mainly seen in mom and pop stores or small businesses.
Coming across many an author website, I hadn’t really seen true best practices in place until I visited the website of author Patricia Sands. Patricia writes women’s literature novels including a series set in the South of France. Provence, to be exact. I was amazed to find stunning photos of Provence and South France on the landing page. I wanted to dive more deeply into her site just by looking at the intro page. The site touched on the emotional part of me that is a travel enthusiast and wanting to make that connection with people outside my culture.
So to get this type of website, what does one need to do? The main thing is to get to know yourself, your passions, and your style. To do this, I developed an exercise to walk an author through the process. Let’s take a deeper look at it.
A Self Exploration Exercise:
Before doing this exercise, get a poster board with your picture in the middle of it. Bear with me, there is a method to my madness. At the top, write the genre you feel you most write in. If desired, you can put pictures of your book on there too, but it isn’t necessary.
- Who are you? What makes you tick? Outside of reading/writing, what makes you happy? I am going to call what you come up with your keywords. List them in no particular order. For example, I write The Author CEO. I have a love of reading. I am such an avid reader that I am a Goodreads top 1% reviewer. I absolutely love the power and entrepreneurial spirit that is the rock of independent publishing. I am a strategic, highly analytical thinker. Not to mention, I am an MBA with over 15 years’ experience in business development, sales and marketing. All of that coming together formed The Author CEO.
Think about the genre you write in. What are some of the genre keywords that fit into that genre?
- Compare the two key areas. Identify words that fit both categories. These become your website influences.
- Map your board with pages, images, text, etc. around those influences. What this means is that before you COMMIT to a website, i.e. have it go live, what does it look like? Play with this and be creative.
- Don’t forget to have the standard pages in there as well. Need a refresher? These are the pages that display a bio and, of course, published works. Don’t forget a contact page too. Make sure some aspect of the influence work you have done is included as part of the pages though.
This board symbolizes your personal brand. This board will help to flow into your website construction.
So, let’s go back to Patricia’s example again.
Let’s look at who Patricia is:
- An author of books set in the south of France
- A travel enthusiast. She hosts tours of the South of France with the Women’s Travel Network.
- She spends her summers in the south of France every year.
- A photographer
Now, let’s look at how she has infused her personal brand into her website.
- There are professional photos SHE has taken and copyrighted.
- A page dedicated to the tours she hosts every year, including engaging photos.
- Her standard book page, review page, and About Me pages are present and contain photos set in France, rather than a traditional studio professional photo.
- Links to her blog which, for the most part, are French themed. She even has a “If it’s Friday, it Must Be France!” theme.
- Instagram/Pinterest links all go back to her photos.
Patricia has mastered the art of visual connection for her readers. She brings her books to life. She then connects readers with South France as a way to live out her books, which, in turn, makes readers want to seek out her other works. The other piece that she has accomplished is to bring those who are attracted to her photography to discover her books and develop new readers through that pipeline.
A Final Note:
One of the most important lessons I learned in grad school is that the best companies are able to adapt another company’s best practice to their situation. While Patricia’s site works the best for her, her approach may not end up being your best practice. But learning from what she has done and adapting it to your needs—once you’ve done the exercise to really pinpoint your website influences—may lead to discover your own “success trifecta.” Doing the work isn’t easy, but well worth the effort.
A website that is only designed to make sales and lacks any personal influence is cold. Readers can tell and feel it. When a reader takes the next step to visit an author’s website, it’s because they want to know more about the author. They visit the site because they have made the all-important connection with the author. Let’s face it, if they only wanted to purchase the author’s book they wouldn’t have to leave Amazon or Goodreads. Readers love to know who their favorite authors are and develop a connection with them. A personalized website allows authors to have that window to readers without blaring BUY MY BOOKS!
Give readers what they want; make your site something that they want to come back to again and again!
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