sell more books

How to Set Up Your Author Website so Readers See the Best Stuff First

How to organize your calls to action.

How to organize your calls to action.

“I Want Everything At the Top”

Life is all about choices, and choices are hard. So many authors get stuck on their website designs because they can’t figure out which information is the most important. Or they forget that website visitors aren’t patient people who will read every word and patiently scroll through material to find what they need.

“So What Do I Do?”

Readers don’t just stumble onto your website. They visit for two reasons: 1) they’re responding to an invitation (a link in your newsletter or the back matter of your book) or 2) because they have a question that needs answering. IE “What’s the next book in the series” or “When does the new one come out?”

If you have a tight and sensible navigation, these questions should be answerable within one or two clicks. Easy peasy.

But there’s a difference between satisfying the visitor and getting her to do what we want. What we want, of course, is another sale. Once you realize that we have goals and an agenda, too, it gets easier to figure out how your website should prioritize its content.

The Hierarchy of Author Websites

This is what we want visitors to do, roughly in order:

  1. Click a buy link and purchase (or preorder) the book.

  2. Sign up for our newsletter, thereby granting us more chances in the future of grabbing this reader’s attention.

  3. Read about our backlist books (and then ultimately buy them.)

  4. Enjoy bonus content like blog posts and extras, thereby forming a tighter bond with our author brand. Bonus points for you if there are buy links in all these places, too.

  5. Follow us on social media.

Note the location of that last thing. Authors often ask me to put the social media links higher up on the page. But please remember that real estate on your website is valuable. If those links are front and center, your cover art will sink down the page.

And—really—if someone takes the trouble to visit you on your home turf, do you really want to bounce them to that distraction pit known as Facebook? Social media “follows” aren’t valueless. But I’d argue that they’re a little less valuable each year. So use your visitors’ eyeballs wisely. Keep them on your site or bounce them to a vendor site for their next purchase.

Once you’ve established your website’s goals, it becomes easier to know which content to promote first. Good luck out there!

Where eBook Sales Happen


You know how much I love data! I'm constantly trying to understand the mechanisms by which my books reach the hands of buyers.

Today I was peering at my January affiliate earnings when I noticed something useful. There were just shy of 2000 transactions on my US affiliate account this month. If you have an affiliate account, you know that you get paid not just for ebook sales but for other things that people buy within a 24 hour period. So I have sales for my books, other people's books, and crystal champagne glasses, software and the dust filter for someone's vacuum cleaner.

One of the data items provided in my report is the "Device Type" where the purchase was made: Mobile or Desktop.

Data alert! I've already written about how often my website is visited by mobile users. But I didn't know if mobile buying was catching on, too. Browsing and buying are quite different activities. (If they weren't, we'd all be rich, since data suggests that the conversion rate of an online shopper is something like 4%.)

Well. I broke my purchasers' data into ebooks and other. And the results were pretty interesting! 68% of ebook sales made on my affiliate account were done on a mobile device, vs. 32% desktop. However. All the other stuff people bought (vitamins, movie rentals, audiobooks, song downloads, software, toys. Everything!) looked differently. Those percentages were flipped: 64% desktop and 36% mobile. 

The data on ebooks is the most convincing, of course, since that's what my buyers clicked in the first place. But if we wanted to know: are ebooks usually purchased on mobile devices? The answer is HECK YEAH! 

What to do with that information? Make sure you have links to the rest of your catalog in the backs of your books, for starters. Hopefully that tablet or phone reader will click through to your next book and keep on reading. 

And when you're contemplating website changes, never stop thinking mobile. Mobile mobile mobile. It's what's for dinner. And breakfast. And lunch.