About a year ago I decided that I wanted to attract more readers to my website, so I used my mad researching skills on the internet to learn more. What I learned is that there are thousands of articles on the subject and very few that have any useful information or helpful advice.
There was write about what you are passionate about, but don’t write about writing. Readers don’t read blogs. Fans come to websites looking for more books and blog posts are not our books so they aren’t interested. Pick a niche or topic to blog about, however be aware that readers of our niche blogs might not be interested in our fiction or that our fans might still be uninterested in reading our blog.
After the initial shock of “What the He!!” are we suppose to put on our empty websites wore off. I started to think that either no one has found the secret to attracting readers or we’re all doing it wrong. I felt so confused and stressed I screamed. Yes, you read that right, I didn’t want to scream, I actually screamed in frustration. Think about it. We’re all told about what we have to have and what we have to do, etc., etc., etc. It’s enough to make a sane person go insane. And I’m not the most sane person to start.
All the research has led me to my newest question. Why blog? I haven’t really found a good, convincing argument for doing it. Changing a blog into a news feed and writing articles seems a better alternative that has all the pros of blogging. It also frees me up to write, post to social media, and update my website articles.
But this post isn’t about blogging so much as creating a friendly and enjoyable reader experience for your fiction author website.
Step 1: Keywords and Readers
Creating a website for fans to enjoy and prolonging the readers experience means that you’ll probably have to throw out all the misinformation you’ve learned over your career and start from scratch. Before you start throwing web pages together I want you to do this exercise.
On a piece of paper create three columns and label them keywords, topics, and readers. Now I’m going to ask you three questions and I want you to list anything that comes to mind. Don’t skip ahead. These are a very important questions that will aid in creating your website.
Column #1: What keywords would you use to describe you and your writing?
Column #2: What topics are you passionate (interested in) about?
Column #3: Who are your perfect readers?
I’m going to use my answers as an example:
1. What keywords would you use to describe you and your writing? rancher, mother, wife, speculative fiction writer, romantic, mythology, coffee and book lover, randomness and macabre, a seeker of knowledge, crafter, short attention span, and book cover designer.
2. What topics are you passionate about? Cooking, books, mythology, criminology, writing, coffee, ranching, publishing, business, book design, reading, random facts, psychology, religion, and my kids. While I could find people who would love to read about these topics, having them all on one website could make it chaotic. Readers would never know what to expect when they came. Most readers would leave and it would defeat the purpose of a website.
3. Who are your perfect readers? My readers would be women between 25 and 40 who like romantic and erotic speculative fiction. They like more of a plot with their romances. They are women who like mythology but are tired of the same old story being retold over and over with the same plot. They want to read a myth with a new twist. This is my target audience. I don’t always hit it, but it gives me an idea of who I’m writing for.
So when I combine the results of all three columns and narrow them to the keywords, topics, and reader characteristics common to all three, it means that my blogging topics and author brand should focus on speculative fiction, romance, sex, relationships, and mythology.Yeah, I can occasionally thrown in stuff about being a mother and rancher, my love of coffee, the latest romance or fantasy novel I’ve read, and writing. But focusing my efforts on my brand will bring quicker success.
Step 2: Goals and Brainstorming
Now that you know your keywords and target audience, it time to make goals for your website and blog. Please keep your readers and author brand in mind as you plan, otherwise you’ll lose focus of where you are going and you’ll lose your readership. Also, sometimes you attract the wrong readership to your blog because your talking about mystery novels you love but you write erotica. Unless it’s an erotic mystery, then it could work.
1. What is the goal of your website? Is it to draw readers to you? Is it to share your stories? Is it to sell books? Once you know your goals, brainstorm some things you can do to accomplish this goal. You can using the list of topics you are passionate about and keywords to enhance your goals. The goal is to draw readers to your website and you need to Brainstorm some ways you can draw your potential visitors to your website and reach your goals.
2. For those who have a website, what can you change to reach the goals for your website? Is there anything you could do better or add to help your readers find what they came to your website to find? Remember, you have seconds to catch and hold your reader’s attention before they click away from your site.
Step 3: Basic Pages for your Website
This can either be the easiest or the hardest part. Write down all the pages of your website you think you need. Blog? Book pages? Store? Links? Biography? Newsletter? Contact me? You can downsize or expand upon this list later.
The five most important pages are:
#1 is the Home Page: The landing page is one of those controversial pages that no one can agree if you need or not. My opinion, you need it. This is the page that should have a welcome message, newest releases, coming soon, and links to various pages on your site. This page is a call to action for your readers.
#2 is the Book Page(s): A page or pages that show your books are a must. You are after all selling a product and your books are that product. There are different ways to set this up. Some writers like all their books on one page. Others like individual pages. Or use some combination of the two.
#3 is Blog or News Page: Either, or, or both. It’s important to have some way for your readers to know what is going on. Periodic updates or insights into your writing helps them.
#4 is the Author Bio: Readers want to know the author behind the books and the blogs. So write a bio. You could do an official bio that is more formal as well as an informal bio that is more friendly. I use both on my website.
#5 is the Contact Me Page: Some readers like to contact writers and you should have a way for them to do this, even if it’s just a form they can fill out.
Step 4: Now its time to Create the “Enjoyable Reader Experience”
As interesting as the other pages are, they won’t be drawing in readers, unless you’re an exceptional blogger. I’m not. The hits on my blog in a year might equal the hits on one of my books in a month. You see readers seek out the author’s website because they want to know more about the book they read. They want to see inside the creation of that book. And I don’t mean a how you wrote the book.
I’m going to share a secret with you and I hope you tell all your writer friends about it. The best way to attract readers to your website is to pattern your website after movie website or DVD.
I don’t mean website design. I mean the content. I know it seems strange. But it works.
So I’ve already gone out and study some of the movie websites in various genre as well as the backs of every DVD in my collection. I found some common threads that I really think works for the websites and blogs of fiction authors and created a list of ideas that can be used as pages or blog posts to enhance the readers experience.
- About the Series: If you write a series, tell the reader about the series or the mythology. You can also place links to books in the series or covers to…
- About the book: this is your individual book page. Put more than the blurb and buy links on this page. Think of it like an about the movie page and put links to your special features.
- Deleted Scenes, Excerpts from the Book, and Book Trailers: these should be on their own pages and linked to the books they belong to. These are like the movie trailers.
- Behind the scenes, Inside looks, Author’s Notes: What was your inspiration for the book, the characters, and/or the world you created, why did you write a scene or add a character, the facts and fiction behind the story, etc. Think about questions The topics are endless.
- Freebies: Who doesn’t like a free stuff. Games, trivia, galleries, wallpapers, icons, screensavers, printable stuff, scrapbooks using Pinterest, etc.
- About the Characters, People, and Places in your world: Fun profiles about your cast of characters, or news updates from the characters posted, like cast and crew blogs for TV series can be fun as long as people know it’s for fun. Interviews. Information about the races in a book or series. A brief about the world it takes place in.
Word of warning, if you are doing behind the scenes/inside looks/author notes, be careful not to over do it. One or two per book is more than enough.
Alright, we’ve come to the end of my long post, still unsure of why I have to blog if no one reads it, and if you are still with me, congratulations, you deserve a reward. I think a Truffle Kiss will be mine, maybe two, I did after all write this long post and edit it so that it was half the size it was and less tangent-y.
To finish, I would like to say that making your website fun for you fans isn’t hard. Use your writing talent and recycle your book research by making it count double for you.Have fun creating your website and if you have a question, ask me. I’d love to help. Or you can tell me what you think in the comments.