Author Websites: 8 Mistakes That Are Costing You Book Sales

by | Jan 24, 2023 | Author Branding

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I often talk about author websites being a must, anyone who is serious about succeeding and building a solid fan base needs one.

But what gets overdramatized is that author websites must be flashy or expensive. They don’t.

We tend to overcomplicate things when the best thing you can do is simplify.

So I want to break down some of the biggest issues I see on author websites when I do these evaluations, and some quick fixes for each of them.

#1 The Home Page Doesn’t Have a Goal

First and foremost, you need to determine the goals for your homepage – not just your website.

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.

Where do you begin? First, be careful how much you cram onto your homepage.

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. The confused mind either doesn’t choose or goes for the familiar.

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.

Deciding what your #1 goal is for your website will help you simplify the end-user experience, too.

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

#2 The Home Page is Too Wordy

Now that we know the importance of your homepage goal, let’s talk about the words consumers will read on your site, i.e. your website copy.

This is critically important and often overlooked.

Authors and business owners will write their own copy with little idea about how to create compelling verbiage or how to weave calls to action onto the page or to simply keep readers engaged.

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: We all fall into this trap, I know I certainly did when I launched my very first website 22 years ago. I had so much copy on the homepage it was astounding. How much is too much? Well, if your copy is more than 250 words, consider cutting it down.

That’s right, I said 250 words. And even then, if you can keep it to 100 words and say what you need to say, great. There’s no hard and fast rule that says you have to hit the 250 mark, but that should be your upper limit in terms of words on your homepage.

Unfocused copy: This harks back to the goal of your homepage, and you may know what your goal is and say, “My goal is to get newsletter sign ups!” or “My goal is to entice readers to want to know more about my book!” If your homepage copy doesn’t mirror that goal, you’re in trouble. Maybe your homepage tells potential readers about your dog, or your recent ski vacation, or something else you’re proud of in your non-author career.

But does that make sense as a first impression? Usually not. Stay focused on the core message of your book. Save the other tidbits about your personality for social media, or your blog, don’t throw everything at people at once.

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.

And I’m not telling you to burn that banner off of your website, but consider how consumers surf, which is next up on our list.

#3 Author Websites Don’t Mimic Retail Sites 

There is nothing accidental about Amazon and this includes their product pages.

When was the last time you looked at your book page and I mean, really looked at it? Notice how your eye scans the page.

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 Author Websites Aren’t Mobile Ready

More consumers are searching on their phones than ever before, it’s really amazed me how much our mobile hits have gone up in the last five years.

And that’s about the time that Google put into place a new SEO trigger (SEO = search engine optimization), which essentially means if you don’t have a mobile version of your website, you likely won’t come up in search – and 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, so 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.

If anything seems even slightly “off” then get it fixed, because it’s likely affecting your sales.

#5 There Are Too Many Options

Whenever I do website evaluations, one of the biggest offenders is the navigation.

Ideally, you should have only 4-5 choices, 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. Because 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.

No, we don’t need to see your gardening pictures unless it relates to your book. And I love that you are also a painter but deciding on the real goal of the website will also help you focus your navigation more. If you are a painter and an author, do you want to sell both paintings and books? Does that really make sense for your long-term goals?

Again, there are other ways to help people get to know you, smart ways, that DO help build fans. Check out the social media section on our blog!

#6 There Isn’t 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.

And don’t bury your sign up, don’t make a reader scroll – because most won’t.

Make sure your sign up and your reader magnet are up top, ideally on the right-hand side of your website.

#7 They Promote the Wrong Things

Maybe this sounds silly, I mean why would you promote something that doesn’t put you and your work in the best light?

But 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. If you haven’t updated your blog in months, don’t showcase it.

Just like anything else, when it comes to author websites, details matter.

It makes you look like you don’t take yourself seriously, which isn’t a good sales strategy either.

#8 They 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.

It’s a chance for the reader to get to know you – because we tend to buy things from people we like, especially when it comes to books.

I’m not suggesting that you write a blog post a week. Once a month will be fine and I’ve done a lot of posts on blogging and ideas for topics and such so I won’t spend time in this blog post discussing specific ideas, but a blog on your website helps to get the conversation going with readers, and a great author blog can help keep readers engaged and coming back for more!

Your Website Isn’t Set It and Forget It

Author websites should be reviewed 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.

Your website should be an accurate reflection of what you have to offer right now.

It’s all a part of your first impression and your chance to sell your book.

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