You want to sell your book. To do that, you need traffic that leads directly to your Amazon or B & N or other salespage. How will you get that? One way is if the tags you chose for your book are just so strong that search engine traffic will lead directly to your book's listing.
Or, you could go to all sorts of places on the internet and promote your book. Or you could try to get sale from people who visist your own website.
Is having our own website important? What sort of site should it be?
That would be true if our personal websites had any traffic of their own to speak of. I have a homepage, and two websites, but I still find that backlinks from shared sites drive traffic better than onsite SEO and social networking.
Aya, you don't have ayakatz.com, but it's available.
I did a Google on "Aya Katz" and got someone's website with your page as a plain gray subset on which there is a picture so dark I can't see who it is, plus a title line that says
"I'm a linguist who does ape language research." It does not say "I am an author" which I assume would be your message. I mean the ape research is a wonderful, unique calling card to bring attention to yourself.
But *ya gotta tell people what you want them to know.* Don't beat around the bush. Go for the throat. "I am an author--read my books. You like apes? I can give you apes..."
BAAA-WWWOOOOO-HAAAWWW!!! OOK! OOK! EEK! EEK! AWK! AWK!
I have a good friend who is a professional archeologist--her novels are relevant to that field, and she is getting attention from academics (and I think soon the public) for her rousing thrillers (Deborah Cannon, the Raven Series of archeology thrillers).
You can use your professional accomplishments and bio to set yourself apart from the other 211,000+ authors and books (2011 statistics from BEA and other sources).
I suggest you have a website of your own, ayakatz.com, that declares up front "I am an author" etc.
ayakatz.com is available. I just checked.
I agree with Peyton. Your question is a fair one, though. Having your own domain name and getting it hosted is to own a piece of first-rate Internet real estate. It's like owning a home. The rest is like living in apartments, trailers, underpasses, etc. The term "domain" is a good one, because you control it 100%.
It's no longer an end in itself, as it was 15 years ago. It's a lily pad among other lily pads in the pond of marketing. You must hop on all of them to get anywhere.
And they are fun to do, once you learn a little basic HTML I'd say it's easy, but the truth is that it's a bit like building a ship in a bottle--it can be frustrating. Web work is a definite time sink, and maybe you want to put your energy into writing the next book. But a domain name website is a mighty fine and useful thing to have IMHO.
All of that said, in today's publishing world -- if someone said to me: you can have one and only one tool. What would it be?
I would say I could get by with just the ultimate destination, which is the point of sale. That used to be the holy grail of the physical bookshelf. Today that's still good if you can get there (not as hard as people think) but the ultimate is just a good solid book for sale at Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, Fictionwise, etc. with a grabby cover, title, blurb, and opening page of the story.
If people like it, they'll tell others. That's what you need more than anything else in the world. Word of mouth. Worked for print authors, works great for digital authors. With luck, WOM turns viral, and you become The Next Big Thing. You get your 15 pixels of fame.
But on your own website, you control 100% what you say, how you say it, and how much you want to say. Given the mistakes made by the big retailers, that is often a real good place to fall back to.
PS I almost forgot: there was an article in the publishing news today that Kobo (formerly the primary platform associated with Borders) is going to kick off their own self-publishing (author-publishing, small press) website later this month. They are a Canadian company. Not the biggest player, but another iron in the fire. Or go with Smashwords, which takes your DOC file and puts it out, in a somewhat slow, cumbersome way, to at least 8 different platforms including Kobo, Nook, iPad, etc. They do not yet output to Kindle in any significant manner, but because Kindle is nearly half the digital market place, use Kindle Direct to publish a filtered HTML file and a jpg cover.
With your own website, you can post buy links to all major platforms/editions of your work.
Thanks, John. And interesting about Kobo. Some of my author acquaintances have suddenly started to notice that their books are listed at the Kobo site, not knowing how they got there. Apparently, they went through Smashwords.
Precisely! I'm frustrated that Smashwords doesn't (yet) export to Kindle, so I use Kindle Direct. Ideally, I would want to use Smashwords for everything (one stop shop) but the world isn't there yet. Smash gets me into B&N, Kobo, etc though.
John, beware of monopolies! It's good that more than one entity provides this service and there is still some competition left.
Great point, Aya.
So far, I think there is still healthy competition between Amazon, B&N, and a few other big players. As long as the little person can still publish their own work, using the most cost-effective means, and there are no gatekeepers who protect the monopoly from outside players, I think we'll be okay.
There is a lot of healthy jostling going on among technology platforms. Kobo, as noted elsewhere, is just positioning itself independently after losing its Borders conduit.
I was just the other day reading an ad from Publishers Weekly, in which they promote their Select program in tandem with Vook, a publishing platform that charges a healthy amount of money to do what a canny self-pub can do for him or herself. The interesting thing, and why I mention it, is because it sounds like they are basically offering for several hundred (or more?) dollars the exact same service that Fictionwise has offered for over 10 years, and which Smashwords has now been offering for about 3 years. They take your input file (an RTF with Fictionwise, a DOC with Smashwords) and convert it to 8+ output formats heading to all the major platforms.
The unsuspecting author, not knowing about the wheel that's already invented, and is virtually free to use, may pay hundreds of dollars to get the same thing.
If you think "Oh well, it's PW -- they probably provide editing services..." Not so. They state that you provide them a camera-ready or 'finished' file. Garbage in, garbage out.
Trust me on one thing. I have sat and formatted, reformatted, and re-re-formatted dozens of titles for multiple authors into various formats...and hated the whole thing. From my perspective, one stop shopping is ideal. But as you say, if it ever becomes the only game in town again, like the Big Six, then we're all in trouble. A few people will make a lot of money, and most people will be left mowing lawns and raking leaves for a living.
Then too, there is this fundamental confusion about terminology. As I always like to point out, 'capitalism' and 'free enterprise' are 180 degree opposites. This is a point many people are confused about. See Teddy Roosevelt and the Big Stick. Monopoly capitalism kills off competition and gathers all power and wealth into fewer and fewer hands, until theoretically there is one monolith or cartel left (the Big Six in NY, and the entire closed system industry they have been implicit in for 40 years). Free enterprise means many smaller companies competing in a free and open market place -- hopefully, the New Publishing will continue along this path, though natural market forces will kill off many players while positioning a few in the direction of monopoly capitalism. As long as authors and readers are enabled to bypass these huge clots, and continue trading money for text efficiently and cheaply, we're not in danger of one player owning the market place again, as the Monolith did for 40 years.
The obvious footnote 1 is: Beware of Amazon, while enjoying the many good innovations they have brought for authors and readers versus the Big Six exclusion/monopoly model.
Footnote 2: it would be naive to think that other huge players wouldn't like to do the same thing that people fear about Amazon.
This process, IMHO, has evolved over the past 16 years since I began working online. At one time, a personal website was a real destination--there were relatively few of them, which has now grown to something over a billion. Things were much more findable back then. A website (or "home page" as it was so sheepishly called) was a real wow thing.
My conclusion is--the path that brings readers to your work most directly is through the big retailers who get many millions of visitors a month, or even daily. No personal website can compete.
But on a personal website, you control the information. Retailers often have errors, wrong blurbs, and other problems.
About a decade ago, the concept of a quickie website (Billboard or Business card) came about, pioneered I believe by Network Solutions. I think an author is still well served by having a personal author website, but it is no longer a sales point. At one time, sites like Red Room provided self-pubs a place to sell their work, because we were forbidden access to the normal retail channels. Note: we are still *banned* from membership in virtually all of the dinosaur writer's organizations (SFWA, MWA, HWA, etc) of the old monolith publishzilla industry.
But remember this: readers are notoriously non-loyal as far as publishers. If a reader has a loyalty, it is usually to two things: (1) an author or (2) a subject matter. Most do not even notice who the publisher is--whether it is Global Anaconda in NY City, or Purple Potato Press in your garage, as long as the package and product look professional.
I would guess that most readers will go first to Amazon or BN or the like. If they want to know more about a writer than they can learn there, they will go to Wikipedia. Wikipedia always tends to come up in the top two or three specifically targeted search results. As a last resort, they might Google your name and maybe, just maybe, they might click on your website if the result is on the first page of results.
Also, having a blog (something interactive that gets readers involved) will help a small number of authors. Most blogs nowadays are swallowed up among over 1 billion other websites. Social networking sites may help. But I am firmly convinced that the main exposure is at the point of sale (for selfpubs, especially on the digital side) which means the big retail websites or platforms. Today, a self-pub must focus on title, cover, blurb, and opening para first, and then find a group of potential interested readers, and hope for word of mouth or even viral to kick in.
In the end: it's the combination of everything that works together in getting an author's name out there. Most readers now turn to the big retail sides and go to the point of sale at that site. I may shop around to verify author, info, or pricing.
John, I think you're right. Point of sale is the clincher, but other things can and do help get people there.
You''re right. A website, blogs, networking, win contests, whatever you can throw at it. Everything helps. In your email signature, advertise your product to anyone who is communicating with you. And so on.
I dont think so. if people can be bothered to visit your website then they can find and buy your book