Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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June 30, 2023

8 Mistakes You’re Making on Your Author Website

by Penny C. Sansevieri

The best author websites are often the most simple. You don’t need flashy fonts or expensive designs.

Overcomplicating your website with these pricey add-ons can often lead to the opposite of what you’re expecting: fewer sales.

Here are eight common mistakes authors make on their websites and how to avoid them to get better sales on your book.

1. Your Home Page Doesn’t Have a Goal

Yes, you want to sell books, but is that all?

Speaking events, media attention, online courses you’ve created, an upcoming second book, are all things you might wish to promote on a website.

Consider the toothpaste aisle at your local grocery store. Lots of options, lots of different tubes of toothpaste and you know what? It’s overwhelming.

This is decision paralysis, and it can cost you sales.

If you’ve written non-fiction that’s tethered to you or your business, then your primary goal for the homepage likely won’t be selling your book. The goal is probably to get people to use your company, sign up for your consulting, or book you for speaking.

If your book is fiction, then yes you want to have your book on the homepage, but selling your book from the homepage isn’t the top priority either.

Honestly, when was the last time you bought a book off an author website? Probably not recently unless you personally knew the author or are an extremely avid fan. For this reason, I’m going to suggest having a mailing list sign up front and center on your website.

You’ll convert more consumers into fans, followers, and newsletter subscribers and yes, this will also help convert buyers.

2. Your Text is Too Wordy

I’ve evaluated hundreds of sites and in almost 90% of the cases the reason a site isn’t converting a visitor to a customer is because of the copy.

How do you know if your copy isn’t working? Well, let’s look at some of the biggest issues.

Too much copy: Try to keep your copy between 250 to 100 words, or less if possible.. Make your pages, and your paragraphs, easily digestible and skimmable.

Unfocused copy: Cut right to it and tell your visitors what you have to offer. Be up front about it. Don’t waste precious webpage space on a full paragraph about your dog (maybe unless your book is about your dog). This is your first impression, and those matter.

Requiring the consumer to scroll: Consumers need a really good reason to scroll and even then, it’s pretty iffy. Maybe you have a big banner at the top of your website, and all the books you’ve written scroll along that banner – it’s so pretty, right? Well, sure it is, but now you’re asking potential readers to scroll to get to the good stuff. Sadly, most won’t.

3. Your Site Doesn’t Mimic Retail Sites

Notice how your eye scans the page on popular retail sites like Amazon

If you’re like 99.9% of consumers, you scan websites in a Z fashion. This means that your eye starts in the upper left-hand quadrant (so where your book cover is) then scans the book title and finally lands on the price, before the eye wanders down the page.

So what does this mean for your website?

Well, consider what’s in your upper left-hand quadrant, what’s across the top, and what’s on the right side. If there are no calls to action and nothing incentivizing your consumer to stay longer, learn more or sign up for something that benefits them in some way, then you’ve wasted a very valuable opportunity.

4. Your Site Isn’t Mobile Ready

Your last online purchase was probably made on your phone, right?

Google has even updated its SEO triggers to include mobile optimization. This essentially means if you don’t have a mobile version of your website, you likely won’t come up in search.

Keep in mind that even if you don’t care about being found on Google, non-mobile websites are much harder to read and navigate on a small screen. While it’s important to appease Google, it’s also important to make sure your consumer isn’t sent to something they can’t read or navigate through.

So I always pull up author websites on my phone when I’m doing evaluations, and I encourage you to do the same.

5. You Give Too Many Options

Ideally, you should have only 4-5 choices in your main navigation, and then drop downs under each if you really have a lot to offer people.

Author websites that give consumers too many options at the jump drive away sales. Visitors don’t want options, they want answers.

If you want them to spend time on your site, make your navigation easy, clear, and prioritize their time in smart ways. Don’t give irrelevant options that get them off track or drive them away entirely.

This goes back to decision paralysis. Don’t just promote everything equally and let your buyer choose, tell your buyer what they need.

6. You Don’t Have a Newsletter 

Even if you just opt for a basic site, you should still have a mailing list.

Why? Because readers turn into fans and fans love hearing about your next release and – in some cases – fans can also help you spread the word about your book!

So make signing up for your mailing list easy and worthwhile. Consider giving them something in exchange for signing up such as a free ebook or chapter excerpts.

And don’t bury your sign up at the bottom of your page - most won’t scroll far enough to see it.

7. You Promote the Wrong Things

It’s amazing how many times I see an author with social media icons that don’t link anywhere, or a bio that’s outdated, or copy that talks about your “upcoming book” that released 6 months ago.

It makes you look like you don’t take yourself seriously if you’re not maintaining what you promote, which isn’t a good sales strategy.

8. You Don’t Have a Blog

I get it. You already struggle to write your books, do the marketing, and stay current on the industry, and now I want you to blog, too.

Keep in mind that a blog isn’t just a great tool to get Google to love you, or a great way to get ranked higher in search engines.

A good blog is a communication tool between you and your reader. Let them get to know you, and like you, so they’re more likely to purchase.

I’m not suggesting that you write a blog post a week. Once a month will be fine.

Your Website Isn’t Set It and Forget It

You should review your website once a quarter, no exceptions.

I’m always surprised at things I find, or don’t find, even on my own site. And why is that? Because I’ve been doing this a long time, and my company has evolved, and the industry has evolved, and the reader experience has evolved – you get the idea.

What was the point of writing your book or creating your business if you’re not going to accurately promote it in the best light? A good website is key to not only (hopefully) making sells but to building a fan base of recurring buyers.

* * * * * *

About Penny

Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a bestselling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU. She was named one of the top influencers of 2019 by New York Metropolitan Magazine.

Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most innovative Amazon visibility campaigns as well offering national media pitching, online book marketing, author events, and other strategies designed to build the author/book visibility.

She is the author of 18 books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon, Revise and Re-Release Your Book, 5-Minute Book Marketing for Authors, and From Book to Bestseller. She also hosts the top ranking podcast Book Marketing Tips and Author Success.

AME has had dozens of books on top bestseller lists, including those of the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal.

To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, visit www.amarketingexpert.com

13 comments on “8 Mistakes You’re Making on Your Author Website”

  1. Hi Penny,
    These are all helpful suggestions.
    I see that I may have too many pages, so I will revisit that.

    I have the sign-up easy to see and on multiple pages.

    The one thing I didn't do was a pop-up for subscriptions. They annoy me. When I see a pop-up my first instinct is to close the page and move on. I might be an outlier though.

  2. This is a timely post, Penny.
    I'm currently revamping my website and have adjusted some of the content to be more in tune to the market I'm trying to reach.

    Thanks for these tips!

  3. Interesting critiques. I'm promoting and idea, not a book. I am about to open a web site. This helps. Thanks, Barbara

  4. Super useful info! I’ve been relooking at my website to see where I can enhance things. This is a handy checklist to start from!

  5. This article provides valuable insights into common mistakes authors make on their websites and offers tips for better sales. It emphasizes the importance of having clear goals for the homepage, concise and focused copy, website layout that mimics retail sites, mobile optimization, streamlined navigation, a mailing list, accurate promotion, and a blog for reader engagement. It's a comprehensive guide for authors looking to enhance their online presence and boost sales.

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