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Author Websites

Papi_SoñolientoPapi_Soñoliento Southern Escarpment Hill Country Librarian
I know several authors who use Lulu have their own websites.

Question 1: Do those websites pay for themselves as in are they cost-effective?

Question 2: Are they difficult to set up?

I've been researching a few ways to set up a website to hawk my wares, hence the reason for asking.


  • To answer your second question first, websites are fairly easy to set up. Most hosting services have templates you can use which let you lay out your data as you wish.

    Next, the $ 64 000 question. Are they effective? Hmmm. Obviously an author who is doing well needs one. But the trouble with websites and social media is that they need maintaining, sapping valuable writing time. You could easily spend more time blogging and liking posts than you do writing. Even the Lulu author spotlight pages are hardly likely, in all probability, to be seen by many people. Unless you have a way of driving traffic to your website it is hardly likely to generate book sales and finding a way of generating that traffic - in this age of millions and millions of websites - will be an issue.

    My advice would be by all means have a website if you can find a cheap hosting service. Failing that, write a blog; these services are mostly free. Keep the maintenance of these sites in perspective to your core writing. What sells books most is word of mouth.

    Also, if you have a blog it has to be more about building a relationship with people than simply pushing your work. A writer who is funny, generous, witty and wise is likely to generate more sales than one who simply tells readers that he published a new book last week.

    The key to selling though, is taking an honest look at how you do things. You have to let go of the 'I write for me' mentality and adopt one of 'I write what the readers want to read'. Encompassed in the latter can be the former, but without that shift sales can be elusive.

  • Papi_SoñolientoPapi_Soñoliento Southern Escarpment Hill Country Librarian
    Hmmm, to be honest I don't 'write for me', because I have a ton of other things to do, many of which I enjoy quite a bit more. Writing is somewhat akin to hitting your hand with a hammer, it's such a relief when you stop you have to do it again to experience that sense of overwhelming relief again.

    As for writing 'what the readers want to read', there are too many variables in play. Some want fan-fic, some want a variant of Harry Potter / Fifty Shades, and so on. The reality is some readers will only pick books from a narrow range of topics / genres.

    Instead I write the stories the characters have to tell me. If a TP editor told me I had a manuscript sale if I did X, I'd listen.

    Blogs, when I do that (which I haven't had time to do of late) it's not so much about plugging my books.

    As for relationship building, not so hard. I've had enough training I can counsel or passively-interrogate someone without much difficulty. It's almost humorous the number of times someone has stopped talking to me before commenting: "Why am I telling you all this?" That ability also helped me do market-survey work -- though I'd rather swim in a sewer than do that work again.

    Having done sales I also understand advertising and the value of word of mouth. I'll check the cost for a minimal budget to do the advert thing.

    Then there's the local comic-con next summer. Some of the art I've been working on will catch the eye, and is the secondary reason I started learning to make my own covers. Understanding a bit of human psychology I've had a few service personnel look at test images where the reaction was "d*mn that's a nice one."

    The question remains, do those authors who have their own websites find them to be cost-effective?
  • I have operated websites for myself, for "friendly competitors," and for some non-profits with which I was involved. The short answer, imho, is "no."

    BUT -- if you want to appear professional in what you're doing, and if you want an easy way to give people information, then a website can be a necessary evil. Consider the non-profit, for example. It operated on about a half-million annual budget, most of which went to employee salaries, none of whom were getting rich -- just to give you a sense of proportion.

    They published a new handbook once a year (PDF or DOC format) along with forms, timetables, schedules, calendars, fee tables, and other information. I would upload the new docs and delete the old. As a means to distribute this information to the 50-100ish clients who used the services of the non-profit, it was very effective. Some clients found the non-profit through the website, and this was very effective also.

    One drawback has already been mentioned: Maintenance. There were various times when I caught hell, often through no fault of my own, over documents not uploaded promptly (I was doing this as a volunteer, in my free time), links that pointed to old documents, stale calendars (if I didn't get a new one, the old one stayed up), and generally stale content.

    Once, after practically begging for current data and content, I stumbled onto a stack of photos showing the work of the non-profit. I uploaded and arranged the photos in an appealing arrangement (imho) only to hear that the photos were old, showed last year's events, showed people who didn't work with us or weren't clients any more, etc., etc.

    I say that to say this: Website maintenance is a thankless task. If you choose to make a website -- and I'd recommend getting your feet wet cheaply if possible, so that it's a small write-off should you decide not to continue -- use content that will not become stale -- No calendars, no dated articles. Make everything as timeless as possible. Also, simple is better. There's no need for an online store and a shopping cart; just link back to Lulu sales pages (which very effectively sell your product with no work on your part).

    Hope that helps.
  • On passive-interrogation: Ever read books by Joe Navarro?
  • Papi_SoñolientoPapi_Soñoliento Southern Escarpment Hill Country Librarian
    That would be a negative, never heard of him.
    Skoob_ym said:
    On passive-interrogation: Ever read books by Joe Navarro?
    On cost-effective, if a nominal cost helps make your offering more visible, it's a plus. I get that traffic does not equate to sales, but it does indicate interest.

    As for simple, I like KISS format, though with artwork that is easier said than done. I had intended to link both to Lulu and Amazonia, and perhaps to a couple of others venues.
  • Navarro was a long-time FBI agent, and specialized in body language. He's written a couple of books, including "What Every Body Is Saying" and "Three Minutes To Doomsday." Good stuff, well paced, easily readable.
  • Papi_SoñolientoPapi_Soñoliento Southern Escarpment Hill Country Librarian
    I'll have to check those books out. Body language is nice, as is feeding overconfidence and a few other techniques. I used to love the clock on the wall, perpetually set for 3:03 with the second hand bouncing between the 8 and 10 second marks -- drives people up the wall.
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