Most authors dread the words “author platform.”
TikTok! Instagram! Websites! Email! Events! Podcast interviews! There’s so much to figure out when it comes to promoting your work that it can feel very far away from the creativity and fun (okay, Type 2 fun) that created your book in the first place.
But when it comes to building an author platform, you only need one thing to get started: Your website.
In marketing-speak, that looks like building a landing page, or a specific page on your website optimized and streamlined so more people buy your books.
Chad S. White, nonfiction author of EMAIL MARKETING RULES, uses his website as a one-stop-shop for his personal brand, blogging regularly about topics that relate to his research in email marketing. “I published the third edition back in 2017, and I’ve also written more than 3,000 posts and articles about email marketing trends and best practices on my website,” says White. “I’m publishing in multiple places, but everything makes its way to the website.”
For Stanford professor Katherine Rothschild, websites represent a creative extension of her work, pulling together her promotional strategy and building a community of readers. Her first YA novel, WIDER THAN THE SKY, debuted in 2021 from Penguin Random House. “It’s about two twin sisters who deal with their parent’s secrets coming out in the aftermath of their father’s death, and how they come back together,” says Rothschild.
Here’s how these two authors use their websites to build their author brand and drive sales.
What information should you have on your author landing page?
Your website is just that: Yours.
Some authors include sneak peeks of upcoming chapters, short stories set in the same universe, blog posts about their creative process, additional facts and figures that didn’t make it into their final book, or transcripts of interviews.
There’s no one right way to do it. For both White and Rothschild, their website serves many functions, not just as a way to sell books.
Rothschild is a full-time professor at Stanford, and also coaches writing. Her website showcases those services with all that information up front, so anyone can engage with her the way they want to. “It’s obviously a place for reader and trade reviews and where you can click through to Penguin Random House’s website to buy the book,” says Rothschild. “But I also include information about school visits, a press kit for my picture and the long version of my biography, and information about my research and writing services.”
White is a full-time marketer at Oracle, and his research is often cited in multiple publications, as well as several columns for well-known marketing resources like OnlyInfluencers and MarketingProfs. His website is primarily a home to pull all of his writing together in one place, since he sends a regular newsletter.
Keep your landing pages focused and simple
Just as there’s no one way to do your website, there’s no one way to build a landing page. The one guiding principle you should take to heart? Keep it simple.
That means one landing page per book, if you’ve written more than one. Keep the ultimate goal in mind (book sales, for example) and work backwards to make it as easy as possible for your website visitors to achieve that goal.
“I keep my landing page relatively simple, because for me, I’m trying to get people to click through to Amazon,” says White. “That’s where they can purchase and where they can see all of my reviews. On the landing page, there’s a summary and some praise, but it’s very simple, with a heavy focus on the Amazon link. That way they’re literally one click away from buying books.”
That means no frills, no extra explanations, and no blog posts! While your website can host all of those things, your landing page should be short and to the point. “You really want to get them to the place where they can buy your book,” adds White.
Solid author landing pages include three main elements:
- A compelling headline. Make sure it’s obvious what your book is about and why people should read it right away. Your headline could be the title of your book or the tagline and should be no more than one or two lines.
- Copy and visuals. Your author landing page should include a cover, your synopsis, and a few positive reviews, either from critics or pulled from Amazon or IndieBound. Just enough to give readers a sense of what they’re getting without distracting from…
- A single call-to-action. Make sure they can buy your book! You don’t have to choose one venue—link to Amazon, IndieBound, your favorite Indie bookstore’s website, or your purchase links if selling directly through ConvertKit.
Make your landing pages feel like you
Most of all, your website and your landing page should feel true to you.
Rothschild built her website and imagery to feel like how she wants her readers to feel when reading a book—a heartwarming, deep connection to one another. As a contemporary YA author, she’s writing for an audience that aches for exactly that.
“I deal with some heavier topics, especially for young adults,” she says. “Ideally I’m making everyone cry, but then that bit of laughter through tears, y’know? I wanted my website to feel like that.”
To evoke that heartwarming and bittersweet feeling, she hired a graphic designer and professional photographer to capture her brand with watercolors.
“My designer gave me a bunch of images and she created all of this original art for me,” says Rothschild. “She also built my newsletter template so everything really feels like me. We just looked at the visuals together to try to give people a feel for the kind of writer I am.”
How landing pages connect to the rest of your marketing strategy
With a website in place, you can do any kind of promotion that you need.
1. A regular cadence of email marketing campaigns
“Obviously, you want to have as many people enjoy your work as possible,” says White. “That requires you to cultivate an audience, and to find ways to engage them. Email is really central to how writers connect with their audience, keep them up to date, and promote the next book. It’s inexpensive and it’s more reliable than social.”
Landing pages give you a key touchpoint for a strong email marketing strategy, because you need a place to send your readers once they finish your email. You want them to take action on an email, not just read it—every single email you send should have a link to a landing page, ideally on your own website.
If you’re a writer, sending a newsletter is an easy way to engage your readers and build a community around your books. Create a specific landing page for your email campaigns based on the goal—for example, a blog post, the way White runs his newsletter.
You don’t have to overthink your email newsletters. It doesn’t have to be a missive, or even a full story. White recycles his existing blog posts or compiles links to several new articles to promote them. For him, it’s about getting the most out of each piece of content he writes.
“When I have a new blog post or something new to promote, that’s when I send a newsletter so my subscribers always get the most recent thing very quickly,” he says. “I’ll start promoting that same content on social, usually with a single post on LinkedIn, and then multiple posts on Twitter over a period of six weeks.”
That cadence works for White’s audience. Email marketing is always changing, and they look to him to understand new trends, major industry events (we see you, Apple Mail Privacy), and more.
“I want to make sure that I have something important to say. Sometimes that means I’m sending the newsletter three times a week, and sometimes it means I’m sending it once. I definitely would advise a minimum cadence of once a month,” says White.
2. A quarterly newsletter for all the big news
For Rothschild, it’s about teaming up with other authors and featuring other members of the community, the way they show up for her.
Congratulations to all the 21der MG/YA debuts today! @bb_alston @TheRealSaraFray @LBergreen @kath_rothschild @swift_dana May our stress levels be low and our sales figures high! Take a moment to enjoy it. You did this.pic.twitter.com/PqjjbxkjI9
— Cathy “Carotid Artery” Carr (@CathyCarrWrites) January 19, 2021
“There’s so much self-doubt as an author, the only way to combat that is to have the community support you, and you support them in your marketing efforts,” says Rothschild.
She partners with other debut authors (finding them using the hashtag #21der on Twitter) to guest post on their website, and they post on hers. She also sends a quarterly newsletter with anywhere she’s been published recently, and highlights upcoming debuts or releases from other authors.
“I think there’s a lot of small ways that we publicize within the community, and that forming a really good community with your debut group is a great way to create content,” she says. “Then you have people on your team, so to speak, who are willing when you have good news to blast it to their people.”
3. A set of automations to keep readers engaged
The third aspect of any strong email marketing program is a set of automated campaigns readers can sign up for on your website. Your landing pages anchor these campaigns.
Use automations to build a few email flows and introduce yourself to your readers. This doesn’t have to be elaborate—a welcome email for any new subscribers to your newsletter is a great way to start.
“For authors, having a welcome email, what is the tone you want to set?” says White, who runs a simple one-email welcome that introduces himself and EMAIL MARKETING RULES. “It’s an awesome opportunity to promote your most popular content or the content that’s really going to welcome people and the universe that you’ve created.”
Don’t wait to create your author landing page
You don’t need to wait to create a website or landing page, even if your book isn’t out yet. Your landing page can include links to pre-order or tease an upcoming launch.
ConvertKit offers a Coming Soon template that you can use without needing to code. Setting up a Coming Soon landing page helps you gauge interest in your new book, build momentum for your launch, motivate you to keep going, and create a “first in line” experience for your dedicated audience.
Rothschild recommends finding key dates to peg to your book, before and after launch. Build your promotion around those dates as milestones to help you get to the finish line.
“You want to look at what’s going on and when to see where there’s an opportunity to speak to this book,” she says. “For me, one of those dates is World AIDS Day,” she says. “So that’s a big day for me, plus anything connected to twins, and of course, my paperback debut will be a great opportunity to try to seek out connections and publicity.”
The sooner you build out your website, the sooner you can use it as a hub for all of your marketing efforts as you get closer to pub day.
Your author landing page sets you up for the long game
That said, being a successful author is a long game, and one that takes time. Your landing pages are the first step in building a personal brand that makes an impact in your author community.
Whether you’re a nonfiction author diving deep into a niche topic, a poet putting together a new collection, or a fiction author building a new universe to explore, your work sets the tone for your marketing strategy as you look to become that voice.
“I know I’ve got more books in me, and I’ve already signed deals for three more,” says Rothschild. “This is a long game, and it’s about creating a community and becoming somebody who people look to for advice.”
That’s exactly how White feels, too. “For me, it’s not all about selling books. It’s about becoming a voice and furnishing my personal brand.”
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