4 Tips for Optimizing Your Independent Author Website

Author WebsiteIt seems any kind of marketing and promotion these days requires a presence on the web.  One way to control all the different aspects of your author image is to have a website of your own.  Setting up a site is only the first step.  You also have to make sure it’s configured in the best way possible to be easy for your audience to use and to find on the World Wide Web.

Captains WheelEase of Navigation

Nothing pushes visitors away faster than a website that is hard to use.  Serious users will always muddle through but if you frustrate casual browsers, don’t expect nearly as much engagement.

  • Use common web conventions:  This means putting your logo or tag line in the top left corner, your main navigation at the top of the page, emphasizing important content, traditional link styling, and naming conventions.  For example don’t rename a search feature something else.  Call it search because that is what users expect to see.
  • Make logical categories: Organize the information and pages on your indie author website so things are easy to find.  For instance have an about section, a section for your title or titles, a section for your blog and so on.
  • Don’t orphan your pages:  If you have a page that is important for users to find, link it to the rest of the site through your main navigation or some other means.  Remember that a website is simply a compilation of documents linked together on a single domain.  If one is not linked to the rest, no one will be able to find it.

Make Your Site Search Friendly

Magnifying GlassTake some time to research keywords that your audience might be using to find content that you produce.  Google’s Keyword tool is a great place to start.  You can see search volume for terms that people use on its search engine.

Make sure those keywords are in the copy of your pages.  Ideally each page on your indie author website should be tailored to be about that specific keyword phrase.  Place your keywords in title tags, meta descriptions, and as file names of images you have on those pages.

You can also submit your site for free to Google Webmaster Tools in order to see how it is performing.  You can get suggestions for improvement, learn keywords that people are actually using to find your site and how well your site appears in search results.

Start a Blog

This a no-brainer for most authors but if you hadn’t planned on it, set up a blog as part of your site.  If you use one of the popular CMS (Content Management System) or web-based platforms on the market, blogs are typically built in.  For instance Blogger.com and WordPress.com are great options for both setting up a website and a blog all in the same place.

Not only is a blog an opportunity to create more pages on your site for more keywords, you can develop a following.  Share your journey with other indie authors, post snippets from your title or titles, and use it as a forum to build a relationship with your audience.

Make Your Site Social

This tip doesn’t necessarily take place on your site but it’s very important for exposure.  Share links to your site on social media networks that you’re active on.  These could be links to your blog, links to your pages or something else that would be interesting to your target audience.

There have been studies done by notable SEO companies on the correlation between social signals and rankings.  While it has not been shown that social signals actually influence rankings, there is a connection.

What tips do you have for making your indie author site perform better on the web?

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Tips For A Successful On-Site Press Check

Advances in digital technology such as portable document files have made the on-site press check slightly less necessary.  Print buyers with challenging titles to produce (or those who love to visit the factory) still need to come in for on on-site press check.

The Operator Must Be Prepared

Make sure all proofs, samples, and/or previous printings are press side. The operator needs to know in advance what is to be matched for color.  This may seem like a no-brainer but there could be samples or other materials not in the place they should be (with the pressman) because of a miscommunication or oversight.

Call your printer and make sure they have everything they need to complete the press check.  Your printer should also be following up with you but it never hurts to double check things.  Confirmation in advance can save time and money for everyone involved.

Ensure Adequate Floor Stock

Make sure there is enough paper on hand to complete the whole process.  You don’t want to stop early and then re-start later because you will not like the result.  Press tests can tend to have more make-ready than normal.

You also want to be sure that the paper being used is as you have requested.  The goal of a press test is to make sure paper can be printed the same or near the same as what the customer already has produced or what they are looking for.  Printing on paper other than what you requested could mean that you don’t get what you want.

Communication with Your Printer

It is important to plan and communicate when the test is to be completed and who are the parties involved. Press checks generally take a long time and any delay can cost more money.  If you have unforeseen circumstances that will cause a delay, call your printer and let them know.

The same is true for printers.  A good printer will communicate any delay or change in schedule so that both their time and the time of their customer is respected.  A press check is a very involved and time-consuming process with a lot of moving parts.  Lack of timely communication can make the process very frustrating.

The Operator should have the job on slightly earlier than planned.  Approximately 1 hour before the press check is enough. This helps ensure that any obvious problems are identified and allows for time to correct things before the customer arrives.  When the Customer gets to the press the operator should have a sheet that is very close to what is wanted.

Careful Oversight

Whoever is to give approval should closely inspect the printing and check all of the attributes that the operator should have already looked for. Registration, clean dot reproduction, content, and color are all core elements that should be closely scrutinized.

If there is coating of any kind on images, it’s good to talk about what the coating will do to the image. In some cases you can actually coat to see the difference that the coating makes. Film Lam is the only coating that we can do with wet ink and it is just to show the color difference. We normally wait for the ink to dry for 24 hours before coating to ensure best adhesion. Ink has to be dry before you can UV coat.

If everything is “good-to-go” the print buyer will sign-off and the run can move forward.  Sheets that are satisfactory to the buyer should then be saved for a later date.  Once the operator has the green light it is his/her responsibility to maintain the consistency throughout the run.  Many printers will save an un-coated sample to archive so we can use it each time we reprint.

What things do you look for in a press check?  Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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The Anatomy of an ISBN

“ISBN” stands for International Standard Book Number.  ISBNs were created so that book titles could be more easily identified and marketed.  The numbering system (as defined by ISO 2108 ) was formed in 1970 and became the international standard for the purpose of tracking books.

For many publishers, obtaining a number is a part of doing business and the string might have little meaning.  In fact, each set of numbers in an ISBN serves a specific purpose:

The parts of an ISBN number

Prefix Element

This number allows the ISBN to be integrated into the broader global identification system.  The three digit prefix was created by GS1, a not-for-profit standards organization .  Prefixes consisting of 978 and 979 are relatively new and allowed systems to contain both ISBN-10 and ISBN-13.

As the supply of 10-digit numbers was beginning to run out, the 978 and 979 prefixes were added to the 10-digit numbers, lengthening ISBNs to 13 digits and creating new numbers.

Registration Group Element

This number refers to the geographic location, language area, or country of the publisher.  This element can be up to five digits in length.  It identifies the region in which the publisher is located.  For example a 3 denotes a German language area.  So, 978-3 means a publisher in a German language speaking area in the prefix group 978.

Registrant Element

This number refers to the specific publisher (or imprint of a publisher).  These numbers are assigned by national ISBN Registry Agencies.  The length of the number also varies and can be up to 7 digits.  Registrants (publishers or imprints) register with the group responsible for ISBN management in the country in which they operate.  After that, they can be assigned registrant elements.

Publication Element

The publication element references a specific publication by the publisher or imprint.

Check Digit

The last number in the 13-digit ISBN serves as an error check for systems using the ISBN model.  It is automatically calculated based on the other numbers in the ISBN and is used as a “check” for the systems receiving the number.

Do I need an ISBN for My Book?

The short answer to this question is yes.  If you want to sell your title via a retailer, wholesaler, online or offline, you’ll need an ISBN.  This serves as the unique identifier that tells your book apart from every other book on the market.  It is the element that helps associate all the information about the title with the various computer systems used across the industry for the distribution and sale of books.



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Tips for Building Your Personal Brand as an Author

A Branding IronAs an author, promoting and selling a title is a lot like starting a business.  You have to build awareness of your book but you must also start to build a brand that your following can trust and relate with.

Building a personal brand is something that authors don’t always focus on.  As a writer, it’s easy to rely on the fact that your readers will start to know you through your work.  The reality is, building a personal brand will help develop a narrative that people will recognize.  Doing this requires organization, a concerted effort, and a little creative thinking.

Define Who You Are

When a company or other organization sets out to create a brand, some of the initial steps are to determine who they are.  What is their mission, what are their values, what is their purpose?  Defining who you are and how that will be reflected in your personal author brand is a very similar process.

Think about how you want to be portrayed.  How do you want your audience to see you?  Why do you write?  Who are the people you are writing for?  In a way you are building a persona of yourself around which you can build a narrative.

Come up With a Marketing Strategy

Come up with a goal and then outline the broad steps you will take to reach that goal.  Many self-published authors don’t have a lot of money to throw at marketing their titles.  In fact most are working professionals who are producing content in their spare time.  When you don’t have the backing of a huge publishing house with tons of resources or aren’t a well-established self-made author who has already experienced success, use what is available to you.

social iconsSocial

In the age of social media, sometimes all you need is a good idea and word-of-mouth will do the work for you.  Develop a presence online using social networks where your readers hang out.  Hit all the usual suspects like Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and Twitter but also listen for where your readers might be on other networks.


If you are publishing a book odds are you already have a blog but if you don’t, set one up.  You don’t have to be a super web master these days to build a blog.  There are a variety of web-based platforms available like wordpress.com and blogger.com where you can customize and add content very quickly.

Learn how to leverage your blog, too.  Here are some ideas you can use to generate interest in your title or titles before they are released:

  • Post snippets of your book as blog posts.
  • Serialize your book to get readers wanting more.
  • Have a call-to-action at the bottom of every post that leads to a sales page for your book.
  • Submit your blog to local directory sites such as Best of the Web for blogs or Bloggeries.
  • Get other websites in the publishing and/or printing industry to build links to your blog on their pages.
  • Share links to your blog posts on social media sites that you are active on.
  • Network with other bloggers and get them to post links to your blog.

Print and eBooks

We’ve heard that to be taken seriously you should probably have a printed version of your book at some point in your plan.  That doesn’t mean you can’t start with an eBook version of your title in order to generate buzz in the beginning.

You will find that it is cheaper in the beginning to do your own eBook conversion and promote your title online in that way first.  If you start seeing some interest develop, you can then move to a print version of your title.

Learn from Others

Don’t be afraid to look at what other authors or even small publishers are doing in their promotional efforts.  We learn by watching others and sometimes there is a tendency to want to go at it all alone.  Network with other authors that you know, share best practices, find out what works and what doesn’t from other’s advice instead of on your own.

Be Consistent

This is an important one because if you aren’t consistent in the image you portray, people will have a hard time taking you seriously.  In any kind of new endeavor where the road to success isn’t very clear, it is easy to lose sight of your goal.

Set up profiles online and construct them all as the persona that you are building.  If that is as a self-published author, then so be it.  Whatever you are calling yourself, make sure that message is consistent anywhere you have publicly available information about yourself.

If you want to have a social profile that isn’t representative of your personal brand that’s fine, just be sure that you keep it as locked down as possible.  Promote the profiles that have your author brand on them.

Building a brand as an author can be simple as long as you stick to your messaging and make a consistent effort.  You don’t have to use a lot of money either.  You can leverage the internet to get a lot of exposure through social media, blogging, and networking with other authors.

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