Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Special Guest DA Kentner on Making Websites Reader-Friendly


My guest is the talented author DA Kentner. He's got some great suggestions for authors to make our websites and blogs more reader-friendly. Plus KevaD has a new book out. Check out the great blurb and cover at the end of this post.







Catering to the Reader

Those folks familiar with my writing persona KevaD know he tends to get a little snarky and enjoys a bit of humor.

But today I want to be purely myself, David A Kentner.

Besides writing fiction in a variety of genres, as DA Kentner I interview authors for a national news service. In order to interview some of the authors I do, I have had to build rapport with a number of publicists – marketing specialists. These are the people who have to continually keep track of readers’ interests, reading tendencies, what is selling, what was selling, and what will be selling. If a publicist doesn’t stay at the top of their game, he or she soon finds their client list dwindling quickly. Authors pay publicists to sell their books. No sales – new publicist.

Part of a publicist’s job is to make their client marketable. This includes making suggestions for changes to websites and blogs in order to present the author and the author’s work in the most favorable light – one a reader can accept, enjoy, and ultimately become a fan within.

Logic dictates an author shouldn’t have political or religious rants splattered all over the author’s sites. Likewise, an author posting erotic stories of men having sex with men won’t attract the reader seeking sweet boy meets girl stories, even though the author writes both genres. Right? Wrong!

The times are changing.

In conversations I’ve had recently I’ve learned one thing – readers want quality stories.
Okay. That isn’t a news flash. Haven’t they always? Well . . . yeah.
It’s where they’re willing to look – and looking – that has shifted of late.

As authors who can’t afford publicists, we discuss with each other where to best market and sell our books. We see piracy sites giving away our hard work. Amazon.com seems to be wrangling to corner the entire book selling market. Millions of titles fill the sites of the booksellers. Authors try to figure out how to get their books seen by readers. Studies show readers tend to focus on the top one hundred on any site or list of titles. And the books keep coming in, saturating an already saturated market.

Fact is, the writers’ dilemma has also become the serious readers’ dilemma. Sensory overload is taking its toll. A new undercurrent is on the rise. Readers have begun reaching out to authors.

Yes, authors need to continue to worry about how to make their books visible on Amazon and other sales points. We need to continue to read and learn about pricing and all of the traditional marketing strategies. But we also must be aware of those readers who are branching out from the cacophony of book listings and looking for authors they can connect with.

While we authors seek the widest venue to sell our wares, some readers are tiring of the corporate sellers whose book offerings are reaching infinity. Some readers do indeed long for the neighborhood bookstore where the owners know their customers’ names, smile, and say “Hi, thanks for stopping by.”

Author websites and blogs are becoming the new neighborhood bookstore. How authors present themselves and their books does in fact matter. Certainly, the issue of how to get the reader to an author will continue to be the stuff literary nightmares are made of, but we must accept there are readers looking for us – writers with well-written stories, a smile, and a “Hi, how are you?”.

Obviously, blogs filled with whining about poor sales and how readers are incapable of understanding an author’s genius aren’t going to keep a potential buyer around for more than a click of the mouse. But that should be common sense.

According to some of the marketing specialists, readers who find an author’s website or blog they like want to buy the book directly from that author. It seems there is a growing tendency to return to the personal aspect of shopping even from the home computer. Some readers are enjoying the concept of “I bought my copy from the author.”

My point is, author websites and blogs now need to become points of sales in and of themselves. Your “landing place,” as publicists call them, have to be buyer friendly. Your site has to sell you and your books to the reader.

Now, some of you are shaking your heads and mumbling you already know all this. And maybe you do and have already embraced the idea. But the majority of us aren’t. This goes way beyond having a page listing our books, blurbs, excerpts, and clickable links to sales points such as Barnes & Noble or Amazon. We’re talking about a sale directly from your site – from you, the author – the digital version of handing the customer their purchase, smiling, and saying ‘thank you for shopping here.’ This isn’t about a one-page blog muddied with a throng of books that only serves to confuse the shopper. Get the idea out of your head that a reader wants to buy every book you’ve ever written all at one time. Reality check – they don’t. The reader is looking for that one book that will enthrall them and thusly return them to you in order to buy another book. It is our job to sell them that one book.

How do we do this?

Earlier I mentioned erotic MM can be sold alongside an MF tale of innocence without sending a reader screaming into the night. Yes, the best idea is to write different genres under different pen names and avoid the whole issue. But there are some of us who choose to write under one name. There are also MM readers who want stories where the bedroom door is closed, as well as those who revel in the throes of passion. We need to attract, and keep, both readers on our sites.

For strictly MM or erotic books, we can do this by creating pages based on heat levels. I’m sure you’ve seen that done on web sites and blogs. “R” stories shouldn’t be standing alongside “XXX”. Contemporary, historical, thriller, and paranormal need their own campfires as well. On those pages should be the appropriate book covers and accompanying blurbs. The reader clicks on the book they’re interested in, and they are transferred to a single page totally devoted to that one and only book. By going to that singular book’s page the reader has shown interest. Sell them the book!

Here is where you convince them through your comments, excerpt, and reviews that this is the book they need to own and read. If they never buy another book in their life, this is the book they should buy. Sell them the book! Just as importantly, provide a buy button right there and then. Don’t make your customer go somewhere else to complete their purchase. Leave your customer satisfied that they were treated like the VIP they are to us.

I realize not all publishers allow an author to sell their books from the author’s website or blog. And yes, there are readers who will have preferences to the format of their book. In these cases it is best to provide as many direct links as possible to the places your book is available. But remember, the link should take the buyer to the one spot that one book can be purchased – not to a page listing all your books for sale. The reader has already decided on the book they want to buy – don’t change their mind or confuse them by throwing a bunch of other titles at them. Sell them the book! If they like your story, they’ll be back for the others.

Want to see an example of what not to do? Go to my web site http://www.kevad.net/ Even worse is my blog http://kevad-author.blogspot.com/. Those are buyer nightmares. Freaking abominations of salesmanship. Yeah, I really screwed the pooch with those.
I’m working on it. When I finish totally remodeling those sites there will be categories readers can browse in without having to look at stories they have no interest in whatsoever.

Here’s an example of an individual book page: http://adancewithbogieandbacall.blogspot.com/
It’s clean, simple, and designed to keep the reader’s focus on that one book. This particular story is a sweet MF ghost tale, so I designed the blog bright and airy. For my MM erotic horror serial Catherine’s Toys the page will be dark and brooding in order to enhance the story’s tone.
Note the Media Information link.


Media information should include a press release about the book, basically saying what you already did, but in a more formal format. A Q&A section is always good and readily suggested by marketing specialists. In the Q&A you are selling “you” to the reader – making that personal connection. Always keep in mind the reader came to your site to learn about you and your books. It’s your job to provide the reader with what they came for. And if you succeed, you’ll sell a book.

I’m David A Kentner, and I thank you very much for spending some time with me. By the way, KevaD has a new book out:


Desire Damned

Satan wants the warrior Taka to bow before him. But Taka bows to no one except his gentle lover Har.

For thousands of years the two men have been doomed to a life of torment. While one walks the earth, the other suffers under the devil's lash. Their only respite is an occasional night; a random, beautiful, love-filled night, knowing that with the dawn one of them must die in battle and return to Satan's wrath.

On the war-torn fields of Gettysburg the two lovers are reunited once again. But this time something beyond Hell's reach has happened. Something so wondrous, Satan may finally get his wish.




 Thanks, David. After reading this I'm inspired to make some changes to my blog. (And get a copy of Desire Damned.)

5 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for having me here today, Pender. I truly appreciate it.

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  2. David, the overwhelming use of social media has driven the stakes higher for websites and blogs. I agree wholeheartedly that relevant content is paramount. I know a lot of authors struggle with the amount of time it takes to promote their books. I do. But I feel like a politician, shaking hands, sharing my stories and myself with every buyer, blog reader, facebook friend, twitter tweep, etc that I meet. I always think how easy it would be to send out a blanket thank you for the week, but it reminds me of those who skip the thank you cards after a wedding, funeral, or some other event and opt for a newspaper ad or don't do it at all. Perhaps I'm a gifted enough writer to be rude and readers will flock to my website and blog just because they're ravenous for the next great Margie Church novel. But I doubt it. And I'm not going to risk losing a sale because I wasn't trying very hard to acknowledge that readers spent money and time with me and giving them something worth spending their time on and thanking them are the very least I can do. This subject is so near and dear to my heart. Thanks for reading my ramblings. I could go on for hours!

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  3. @Margie Church

    Hi, Margie.
    You are so right, and you do it all so well.
    Nothing can substitute for common courtesy.

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  4. David, I was holding my breath when I visited this blog. Oh no, I thought, I'm doing everything wrong I just know it!! Phew, after reading this all is not lost. I need to add a couple things to what I'm already doing. Tweak the way I do other things. I always learn so much from your insightful blogs! I'm also about to unsubscribe from another writer's e-newsletter. Sadly getting three, four even five daily announcements including an almost daily announcement from this writer has just gotten so overwhelming. I want to support as many writers as I can, but me-me-me promotions overwhelms. That said, I still wish I could be more aggressive and push out of my comfort level.

    I agree about political rants, too. Sometimes it's just too much, too ugly. I want escape, not reality :) I will be going a-Kindling this weekend for your new releases. Have a great weekend, David, I so enjoy your work!

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