By Sherry Ziegelmeyer
You may not have thought of it this way, but successful publicity for an erotic author starts with a website. Your website acts as the hub of all your marketing efforts. It’s where you have the greatest number of options to showcase your personality and your product, give your readers news and information and communicate with both dedicated readers and those who are just discovering your work.
Without a website, where are you going to send the consumer who is looking for a place to buy your books—Amazon or BN.com? While it may make sense to go that route, it’s not the most efficient way to get people to buy your books. Once a potential buyer is on a site like Amazon, they get distracted by the multitude of other options for spending their money. Your own website is where you have the best chance to intrigue a potential buyer into focusing directly on your book and convincing them to get out their credit card in preparation to purchase it.
Creating a personal website becomes even more important when you begin to expand your publicity and marketing efforts, because every press release you submit to the media, every appearance you make getting the word out on your books, every social media post you compose—they all need a link to more information focused on YOU.
Having your own website gives you a concise, easy-to-remember link to use in press releases and ads. There isn’t an editor in this world that will include an active link to “http://amazon.com/search+1990867/erotic-authorxyz/return=htm_book.html” with your press release. It looks just as bad on an ad as it does here on the WriteSex blog. It’s much better to use something like “IAmAnEroticAuthor.com” to direct would-be readers to a central location for your book synopses, bio and social media feeds, and—of course—a place to buy your books, be it directly from the site or via links to Amazon, BN and other storefronts.
Websites don’t have to be expensive to create and maintain. You can find very budget-friendly hosting in which to create your site and use free web building tools for design and content management. If money is a serious issue that prevents you from owning your own website (we all have money issues, so you aren’t alone), a free blog site (WordPress, Blogger and many others are out there) is an excellent and oft-used alternative.
Regardless of what form of hosting you decide on, you will want to purchase a good domain name—one that reflects who you are and what you do. Using your own name is fine; as an author, your pen name is your brand and you should claim that as your domain name before someone else does! However, you may also want to consider purchasing multiple domain names that go along with your books’ themes or the names of your series. You may find that something like “TwistedTales.com” is perfect to get your website ranked high on search engines and attract three times as many potential buyers as you might with your own name.
As you’re reading this, a web designer friend is trying to convince an author that a one-page website with no author bio or information other than his book’s title and synopsis is a money-wasting, bad idea. And I agree with her. You don’t have to create an enormous, comprehensive site, but you do need to include certain essential pages and elements in order to give your books the best chance to be seen, purchased and read. An inviting and serviceable author website will include the following:
The first web page: an introduction to you and your books.
The first thing your site’s visitors should see is copy that makes them want to stick around for a while and explore. It can be a famous quote, a couple of lines from your own book or a “welcome message” like Enter a world where your every fantasy is explored… . Whatever you choose, make sure it’s interesting and fits the tone and theme of your writing.
Also include a cover from your latest book on this page (directly linked to where visitors can buy it) with a synopsis and a release date. If the release date is “available now”, say so! You can also add glowing reviews of your books on this page, but keep those to two or three short reviewer quotes, not three-paragraph opuses.
Bonus points if you have a sample chapter and/or a video trailer for your book to go along with the synopsis and cover! The more interesting the presentation, the longer a consumer stays on your site. The longer someone stays on your site, the more likely they are to pull out the wallet and buy your book.
The second web page: your bio.
People want to know about you! You may not think it’s important for your readers to get to know you—but at this point in human history, the “Cult of Personality” is what sells product. Your books are your product, and creating a personal connection between yourself and your readers is as important as writing a great novel.
Don’t skimp on photos of yourself and personal information in your bio. For one thing, the internet is a visual medium and the average website visitor will expect to see images on your website. If you don’t have interesting images, it’s going to be hard to keep the viewer interested in staying on the page. Photo slideshows are always a compelling way to present visual content, and many of them are available as plugins for your site, so you don’t have to learn fancy coding to create them. Just make sure that you have a few “candid” photos along with your official portrait. In some cases, those candid photos don’t even have to include you—a photo of your writing area, your hotel rooms during a signing tour or a landscape view captured from your window will also work—visitors are just as interested in your life and world as an author as they are in your face or sartorial style.
Your second web page should also include some contact information about you, such as your email address or social media link—and, if you’re working with a publisher or several, don’t forget to include their name(s)!
The third web page: detailed contact information.
Please name this page/tab “Contact Info” or “Contact [Your Name]“, or just plain “Contact”, because otherwise you end up confusing people. If you stick contact information on a page labeled “News” or some other obscure title, readers won’t find it easily.
Include as much contact information as you are comfortable with sharing with the public. That means using a real email address (you can direct-link it to open an email client, if you don’t want to disclose the address online for some reason), include a P.O. Box or some other mailing address, list all your social media links and—again—if you’re working with a publisher, definitely include their full contact information.
You can fancy up the third page with more review quotes, linked to the publication that wrote the review, or information specific to media that might want to contact you. This is an excellent place to add contact information for any publicist or marketing manager working with you, or information on how a reporter can get a copy of your book for review.
The fourth page: some type of “blog”.
If you chose to use a content management system (CMS) to build your website (such as Word Press or Joomla, Blogger’s user interface), designate the fourth page as the link to your blog. If you choose to build your site from scratch with pure HTML, then you will need to create this page in such a way that it’s easy to update on a regular basis.
Placing a blog on your site is the perfect way to present your book, tour and personal news, as well as updating your readers on what is going on with YOU! Again, readers are interested in more than just the books you wrote; they want to make a “connection” with you, even if it’s just reading your blog and vicariously following your adventures.
One important note: All blog posts should have a descriptive title or “headline”, so readers know what each post topic is. Avoid titles such as “So, what do you think?” Some people think those kinds of titles will ensure readers, but they usually have the opposite effect because they’re too vague. By contrast, specific, to-the-point titles like “I Just Got an Amazing Review!”, or “All My Books Are $10 – Today Only!” will draw in your readers and pique their curiosity.
An easy-to-use site map or page listing: a MUST!
Regardless of whether you choose a CMS or an HTML-coded website, you should have a sidebar and page tabs or header links, which give the visitor one-click access to each individual page of your site, from each individual page of your site, so it’s impossible for them to get lost or confused. Include links to your social media accounts in that sidebar as well. If you can, add an RSS feed subscription button for your blog in the sidebar, as well as links directly to your newest posts.
You can also use the sidebar area to showcase your upcoming book releases, appearances that you are scheduled to make and direct links to buy your existing books. Just go easy on repeated mentions of books that are already on sale and that you’ve already showcased on your first page—nothing annoys a site visitor more than a “hard sell”. Definite and specific “calls to action” to purchase your books are a beautiful thing; hammering them with buy, Buy, BUY! is another entirely.
Sherry Ziegelmeyer is a professional publicist and public relations representative, who specializes in adult entertainment (in all its various forms). She resides in Chatsworth, California, affectionately known as “ground zero of the adult entertainment industry.” When not working on writing press releases, arranging interviews and putting together review kits for her clients (among dozens of other career related activities), she reads a LOT, loves cooking, appreciates beefcake eye-candy, and spends time with friends, family and her assortment of furred and feathered “kids”.
Do you have specific questions concerning how to generate publicity for your books? Please email questions and comments to Sherry; answers will appear as future WriteSex blog topics.