Tuesday, May 08, 2012

ProTips for Published Authors pt 1: WEBSITE TIPS

UPDATED 5/9/12: The lovely Laura L. Sullivan has changed her website so it now features the info I highlighted in this post. So now the example doesn't work -- but you CAN now use her page as an example of what you SHOULD do! I'm leaving the post as-is because I think the info is still important, but the links won't show you what they used to now. Carry on. (And buy LADIES IN WAITING!) ;)


Time to put on my bookseller hat and give all you adorable published authors a couple of quick but IMPORTANT tips.

I'm going to pick on a certain blog/website, by author Laura L. Sullivan (LADIES IN WAITING, Harcourt 2012) today. Note, and edited for clarification: I don't know Laura personally, she isn't a client or anything. I'm only picking on Laura because I happened to notice it this morning, and it is something I notice ALL THE TIME on various author websites. There is nothing inherently "bad" about Laura's website, just a couple small points I noticed with my booksellers eye. On the whole, it's a good, simple and clean presentation, with a funny and informative blog. Her book looks awesome and I can't wait to read it. And... that's where the problem comes in.

Take a look at the page she's set up for her brand new YA book. It's neat, clean, has a nice description and a good image. It looks right up my alley, in fact! But... notice anything missing? I bet booksellers will...

I don't know who the publisher is, or what the ISBN is, or how to order it other than from A**zon, where I don't shop.

My first question when somebody tells me about a new book is almost always "who is the publisher?" (My second question, if I am sitting at my desk, is "what's the ISBN")
If I know the publisher, I know which sales rep to beg for a copy. I know how I'll be ordering it for the store. (If I have the ISBN I can order it right then and there and be sure I am getting the right book!) I'll likely have a good idea of the type of reader the book will appeal to, to be honest, because so many imprints really do have a "brand" -- a book about bawdy restoration teenage girls is probably going to be a lot different as a Simon Pulse book than as an FSG book. It just IS. I might order it either way, but I'd like an idea of what I am getting into. I know that the general public, average readers, don't know or care much about who publishes what. But booksellers, particularly buyers, and librarians care - they care a lot.

When you don't put the publisher name anywhere on your website, it makes it seem like the book is self-published. There isn't anything wrong with being self-published... but frankly, it makes it a lot more difficult for booksellers and librarians to get hold of your book, and a lot less likely that I'd pursue vigorously for author events and the like. Yes, I could click around a bit and find the pub info on A**zon (which is what I did in this case) -- but if I was on the run, or only had a second to look, I simply wouldn't bother clicking - I'd say, Oh, well, I guess I'll look it up again later, and then promptly forget.

A**zon doesn't hold author events, or host book fairs, or contribute to the community. It is really important to a lot of people (not just booksellers - but YES, BOOKSELLERS!) that you not just link to A**zon. I would strongly encourage adding links to B&N and IndieBound at least, plus it would be EXTRA nice if you also linked to whatever your personal indie bookstore is, and if you don't have one, someplace like Powells or Books of Wonder.

I was a buyer and events coordinator for a major bookstore for many years. I am still a bookseller in fact, and I still do author events! So please believe me when I tell you:

You are losing sales when you don't have publisher information immediately visible - and you are accidentally offending people when you only link to A**zon. Your website is for readers - but it isn't JUST for readers, it is also for people who get books into readers' hands. And it is easy-peasy to help them help you!

I like to see the TITLE (pub, date), as I did in the opening to this blog post, the first time a book is mentioned on a website (like, on the "about me" page for example). You don't need to KEEP mentioning it, but mentioning it once is nice. You can take the year out once it isn't "new" anymore, if you like.

And then this info would be great to see set in its own paragraph after the description on the book page:

by Author
Young Adult
Publisher, Year
ISBN 13:
Audio ISBN: (if applicable)

Available from [IndieBound], [B&N], [A**zon], and your local independent bookstore.

AND NOW, ladies and gentlemen, I'm gonna go get my hands on a copy of LADIES IN WAITING!

[ETA: Again, this is a UNIVERSAL problem, I notice it ALL the time - and I picked Laura's website because I think it is otherwise REALLY GOOD. And the book looks REALLY GOOD. This is not a ding against her personally - I hope a thousand people click on her website and think the book looks great too!]