Thursday, July 31, 2008

Widget Alert

Okay, so you've got your website. And your blog. You've got a Facebook and a MySpace page. Maybe you even Twitter--I just joined Twitter for those who want to see what I had for lunch.

You're pretty web-savvy. Congrats. People can find you on the Internet.

But once they find you, how easy do you make it for them to buy your books?

I drone on incessantly about things you can do to attract traffic. But once people show up, it's obviously in your best interest to direct that traffic to somewhere your books are sold. The easier, the better.

The smart folks over at have got it covered. Author Kristy Kiernan turned me on to a widget that considers this other end of the spectrum, and is pretty cool to boot. You'll notice in my sidebar (and also on my website) there's a list of my five Jack Daniels novels, plus the These Guns For Hire anthology I've edited. If you click on one of the covers, something neat happens. A window opens that lets you find a myriad of places on the net that sell and/or refer to that book. These links are instant, well organized, and current. Go ahead and play with it. I'll wait...

All done? Pretty wild, huh? I liked it so much I contacted the company that makes it, wondering how much they charged for this service. Fraser Kelton, director of business development responded:

Fraser: We love when authors contact us about our free widgets. Yep, they're free :) In fact, we'll create a free widget for any author that contacts and says that they found us through this blog.

The widgets can be easily installed onto your various websites, blogs, and some social network pages. Unfortunately at this time we're unable to support MySpace pages.

The widgets help support your online marketing and promotion - they allow fans to buy the book directly from their preferred store, they can save the book to book social networks such as Shelfari or LibraryThing. Additionally fans can find out more information about you via the widget.

JA: So how can you do this for free? Don't you need to make money somehow?

Fraser: We make money via affiliate revenue - each book within the widget contains links to a large number of online retailers. By default all affiliate IDs are ours. If the individual who installs the widget wants to enter their own affiliate information they can, and they enjoy 100% of all affiliate revenue generated from that ID.

Additionally, we work with publishers and media companies to provide them with the technology (i.e. and

Through these methods we're able to provide the technology for free to authors, bloggers, and book groups.

JA: I checked out the website, and the term "Semantic Web" is used. Can you give me a quick definition of what this is?

Fraser: Right now the web is built around 'dumb' pages and neither the computer nor the browser knows what the user is looking at. It's up to us to infer that we're looking at a specific book, a particular music album, or any other item. The semantic web is about introducing meaning and understanding to the current web so that the computer and browser recognize what you are looking at.

JA: What are SmartLinks, and how do they enhance a web surfing experience? (These are the little squares you see next to These Guns and Kristy's name.)

Fraser: SmartLinks recognize the unique object - the noun - that the user is interacting with. Once recognized, a SmartLink presents a list of the most relevant links - the verbs - for interacting with the unique object. When it's a movie you can read reviews, rent it, watch a preview. When it's a book the verbs are different and the SmartLinks accommodate for that. By presenting all of the relevant "next steps" in a contextual way, the user experience is great.

JA: With so many websites trying to attract (and keep) visitors, what is the advantage to making it easier for people to leave your site and go someplace else?

Fraser: You mentioned the benefit to authors - to sell books from online stores. But for other websites the benefits are just as strong. People are savvy enough to know that there is other content out there on the web, content that can compliment what's on the current page. By not linking directly to it you're limiting the experience that people have on your site. You're forcing them to go find the information on their own. By linking to relevant information, sites provide a positive experience and strengthen the relationship with the readers. They'll be inclined to return to your site because they know that you'll not only provide good content but you'll compliment it with links when they want more information.

JA: What are some of your other popular widgets?

Fraser: The book widgets are our most popular widgets. Hundreds of authors, publishers, and book groups are using them to highlight and promote their books on the web. We offer a Netflix Widget that is popular as well. Individuals can highlight their personal queue on their site in a widget - and it updates automatically. Also popular is our Amazon Wishlist widget.

JA: I'll be honest here. I love playing around with widgets, and the only thing I like about Vista is that I've got widgets on my desktop that make things a lot easier. But your widget is the coolest I've found, and I really can't see why any author with books for sale wouldn't want to use it. I probably sound like a paid endorsement here, but I expect to see this popping up on many author websites and blogs, especially since you folks have kindly offered to create the widget for us. One final question: If people wanted to add some custom links to the widget, or edit some of those you've provided, is there a tutorial?

Fraser: In the current release of the product only the top title link and corresponding thumbnail image are editable. These can point to any page that you would like. This pair of links are one of the most frequently clicked link in the group (people like to click on images). In future releases of the product we're exploring a way to make it easy to customize and configure the links.

JA: Thanks for letting me pick your brain, and thanks for the widget. And a reminder to those reading this: It's free, and they'll create it for you. Tell 'em JA sent you.

So what do you folks think?