Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Keeping It Up

I've needed a website facelift for many years now.

Not only was it woefully outdated, but it had become a klugey Frankenstein monster with too much information, little of it relevant.

I was lucky to hire Maddee James of www.xuni.com (who does my friend Barry Eisler's website, among countless other terrific author sites, and she's in constant demand) to give JAKonrath.com a much-needed reboot.

Whoever has their name on the most pieces of paper, wins. I wrote that blog in 2010 when ebooks were just coming into their own, and I was right. The more places you're visible, the more likely you are to be discovered. Discovery leads to some sales, sales lead to some reads, reads lead to some fans, fans lead to some super-fans who buy everything.

All because they ran across you while searching for something else.

That last point is key. Anyone looking for you can easily find you. But you want people to find you who weren't looking for you.

I'm fond of saying that sales isn't about selling a book to someone who doesn't want it, rather it's making those who want to buy your kind of book aware it exists.

This is about visibility. And one of your main sources of visibility is your webpage.

Your webpage is a place where people who have casually heard about you can learn more about you. It's also a place where people have the chance to stumble upon you, or be referred to you.

Like your ebooks, your website should be clean, professional, and sticky; there should be enough there to make people enjoy their visit and stick around for more than a few seconds. Your website should inform and entertain. It should also be incredibly easy for a browser to instantly buy your books. The fewer steps between awareness and purchase, the better.

Years ago, I was of the idea that websites needed to be large and full of content. I had videos, reviews, free stuff, a forum, tips for writers, photos, games, and lots of stuff that kept people away from the point of the website: to inform them enough about me and my work to assist in their decision to buy.

Maddee has streamlined my website, and made it an attractive way to give readers the most amount of information in the quickest, easiest way possible.

And I'm very pleased with the result. The site is easy to navigate, my books easy to find and buy, and my FAQ reflecting the majority of the things that come up when people meet me or email me.

If you're an author, a website is one more way for people to discover you and learn about you. But it is more than just a discovery tool. I'm convinced that as the ebook revolution continues, success will be as much about reminding fans that you exist as it will about finding new fans.

If you're an author who has sold over 10,000 ebooks, you likely have fans who want to read everything you write. But only a small percentage of those fans will actively search for your latest material on a regular basis to see if anything new has been published.

Your website should be regularly updated to show what's new, and you should have a newsletter that reminds fans you exist, and lets them know what is newly available.

This is a no-brainer. But how many of you actually do it? And if you do it, how consistent are you?

Some people aren't on Twitter and Facebook. Some readers have so much content to choose from, they aren't looking for you even though they liked your previous books.

It's your job to remind them. Shoot for once a month if you're steadily releasing new work, or quarterly if you have less to update.

Name recognition and branding and fans aren't enough to support a career if people don't know you've just released a new book. Social media is used extensively by our secular writing community, but I've seen no evidence it is widely adopted by readers. Make it as simple as possible to let fans know you're still around and writing books.

I encourage everyone who hasn't to sign up for my newsletter on my new website. I'll be sending it out this week.

In the meantime, get your shit updated. You'll keep missing sales until you do.

I give Maddee and xuni.com my highest recommendation. It is a true pleasure working with her.


Unknown said...

The new site looks great, Joe!

I'm currently trying to build a mailing list. Any tips on getting new subscribers?

James said...

Your masthead looks nice! And the smiley face is a nice touch... ;)

billie said...

Love the new site. Also have a question - how to sell e-book downloads on author website via PayPal? I don't have the visibility you do by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think a lot of people who come to my site would buy direct from me if I had that capability...

James said...

@billie you might check out Payloadz to sell via PayPal. I haven't tried them but have always been curious to see how it would work:


JA Konrath said...

My ebook store will be up and running soon. I'll blog about it when it is live.

Anonymous said...

have you done any SEO on this updated site?

Stella Baker said...

I echo Jude's question: I've only captured a couple dozen email addys, which hardly makes much of a mailing list! Ideas?

Lyn said...

Like the streamlined look. Time to make some changes to my site now! :)

Anonymous said...

The page loads much faster. It looks great.

JA Konrath said...

have you done any SEO on this updated site?

No. Same URL as before. I haven't done SEO since probably 2006.

Can anyone here list pros/cons of paying for or using free search engine optimization sites? Can anyone recommend any and support it with evidence?

Unknown said...

I like the new look. The lineup of books is a really good example of "show; don't tell." I especially like that your photo on the header is a fuller one than the one on About Me. For whatever reason, you look more approachable. Bottom line, it's a great change. Congratulations.

Alan Spade said...

@Billie and James : I do use Payloadz. There are two cases with them: either the customer buys directly from your website, Payloadz sends automatically the ebook file (epub or mobi), and it cost you just the Paypal commission, either Payloadz, having gathered your customers email with a precedent sale, send an email to them when you have a new work available with a link to buy it: then, if the reader use the link to buy it, you have to pay (automatically) a commission to Paypal AND Payloadz.

In this last case, what you earn is about the same as what you earn when selling with Amazon.

Anonymous said...

I love your new site! It looks great and easy to navigate. In particular I like how you simply explain how a person can get hold of your books. I recently discovered that some readers are plonkers when it comes to looking up your books on websites. If you don't have link for them, they become totally lost on the interwebs! lol

I revamped my website today, so I was very pleased to see this blog post from you. The main reason people visited my blog/website before was via random keywords they'd search. That generated sales I never specifically targeted to my usual chicklit and teen readers.

Slowly, over the years, I'm learning some tricks of this fluctuating publishing biz.

Mike said...

Love the new image and links on top.

On your home page did you purposely go with the spelling of "dialog"...? Don't see that version much, although I know it is correct.


Laverdad said...

Joe fyi I have tried to subscribe to your newsletter via your new site on two seperate occasions now, using two different email addresses, and neither has worked - i.e. I have not received the confirmatory email. yes, have checked all folders, etc. Note sure what is going on but thought I'd let you know in case there is a greater issue.

Anonymous said...

i like the look of the new site. Whenever i tell someone to go read your blog i always wish you had categories to make it easier to navigate and find great articles.

anonymous writer

Unknown said...

Newsletter confirmation came to me @4:58PM today within seconds.

Appreciate your huge effort on your website will pay many dividends. More sales, more friends. I quit going to it when it never changed. Good job and excellent example for us all.

Love Booklist and Bibliography. Spotted some I don't have but now want, will buy.

Thanks for keeping our needs ever present in your info sharing efforts.

Look fwd to newsletter...Jeff

Amber Dane said...

Love the new look! Great post and signed up for your newsletter :)

Rob Cornell said...

I second (or is it third) more info about getting folks to sign up for a newsletter. I have about 50 or so on mine now, but other than putting a place to sign up on my webpage and a link at the end of my books, I'm stumped on how to get more.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

The new site looks great, Joe! This is a HUGE improvement!

Mike Fook said...

The new site sucks. Just like the old site. Sorry, I must be truthful about it. If you're going to revamp a site, a presence, for god's sake, do something BIG. You're BIG - right? Make it look like it. This site looks like 2002.

Your website is a reflection of you. It is you. If this site is you, then I see you as a half-assed writer that doesn't know the difference between 2002 and 2014.

Thing is, you're a quite decent writer. I've liked a couple of your books. Your ideas are huge...

Your site is lagging behind by more than a decade.

Please up your game.

Steven M. Moore said...

Hey Joe,
Author websites (blogger/author websites?) represent one of those necessary conditions. I harp on that. There's no sufficient condition to generate sales. My blogger/website is an example. The number of visitors varies, but they don't seem to buy my books (or borrow them, for that matter, if I measure by Amazon Prime's borrowing facilities).
Self-pubbers like you who are well established will still do well in this flat market, but others (like me)can't even give our books away. It's depressing. I still keep writing, though. A new book is in final pre-release gyrations. Maybe it will take off.

William J. Thomas said...

Joe, the new web site looks great! Huge improvement over the previous version. This one is easy to navigate and find anything I'm looking for, whether it's the blog or your books or the FAQ's (the FAQ's really do answer most questions your fans would have, so kudos to you).

So yeah Mike Fook, I've got to disagree with your assessment of the new site, although you are certainly entitled to your opinion. I was definitely surprised how similar your own site is to Joe's in look and feel after you berated his new site so much, but then again, you never claimed yours was all that modern either, or better than Joe's for that matter. I'd love to be pointed to some other web sites you consider to be more 2014 oriented though.

Anyhoo Joe, I love the web site updates.

Anonymous said...

Is anything ever going to come of your by-gone beer diet that suddenly vanished?

Rick G said...

Hey Joe,

Nice new design. Very clean and loads fast. Only one odd observation. The favicon for your new site (the little icon that shows up in the browser tab) is the exact same as on Xuni's website. That looks like one minor detail that they might've missed.

JA Konrath said...

I have tried to subscribe to your newsletter via your new site

Email me. We'll figure it out.

JA Konrath said...

The new site sucks.

Can you give me an example of an author website that you think is good?

JA Konrath said...

Is anything ever going to come of your by-gone beer diet that suddenly vanished?


Anonymous said...

from the opinion as a graphic designer and web developer, I think you should take more advantage with your covers other than the scrolling image up top. I would consider splitting the bottom half of your home page in two, keeping the text on one side and on the other a space for a full-blown cover shot Then add a piece of javascript that swaps out the first cover shown with one of your other covers each time the page is reloaded.

Anonymous said...

@Joe: To really lose weight reliably and to become healthier, consider a ketogenic diet:


Although beer is fun and tasty, it probably isn't the best for dieting and losing weight (it's full of carbs and alcohol):


daneyul said...

Love the new site's look.

Any chance your record keeping allows you to see if web-site purchases improve compared to the old site? It would be interesting to get a ballpark on what a cleaner, easier to navigate site (with covers prominently displayed) does for sales.

Gary Cecil said...

I like the site, although, I hardly noticed as first, since I spend most of my time scouring through your blog on my iPhone. :)!

Jeremy Herman said...

In regards to a mailing list I use MailChimp for free and a plugin for my WordPress site to collect the list of subscribers. You have to be careful who you add to your list because if a certain percentage of people mark your email blast as spam then you can get blacklisted. To prevent this I would only add fans that really want emails from your site. You could ensure this by offering mailing list subscribers extra content that can't be found anywhere else.

For SEO I would not use either a free service or a paid service. How can you know they won't use Black Hat techniques like bots or spammy backlinks that will end up hurting your page rank? Instead I would do the SEO on your own. Choose the long tail keywords that you are shooting for and label things accordingly. Let me know if you have further questions.

Rex Kusler said...

Here's my idea of a good-looking website. Instead of the little guy running up in the left corner you could be drinking beer. If you had something like this, I'd come here more often. http://www.ultramarathonman.com/web/

zunair said...

To buy Facebook fans means you have to sit back and relax, and let the others do the work for you. When you buy Facebook fans, you will have more time doing other hobbies. However, you must spend some money to buy Facebook fans because you will be hiring people to do the job for you. Once you have negotiated with the buyers regarding the fee, it is up to them to find the appropriate sites on where to buy Facebook fans. You no longer need to ask yourself, “where to buy Facebook fans?” To buy Facebook fans means comfort and lots of followers at a very short time.

Iain Rob Wright said...

Great advice as always Joe. Think I may redo my own websites.

I know all you guys love seeing hard figures on the publishing industry, so you can see my self-publishing earnings for 2013 here, broken down by month:


Veronica - Eloheim said...

I'm looking to move my website to a new host. I currently use Arvixe and there is way too much downtime.

Anyone have a host they like?


Colin M said...


I like the new site and updated info. I agree with a previous comment that I'd love a section where we could search your vast blog via categories. As well, I don't know if it is possible, but it would be great if we could search the comments using key words. Sometimes I have looked back for things discussed and can't find where I saw it. By the way, I love your comment on going through life with one hand up and one hand down...I tried to find it in your blog but couldn't. Please repeat. I used it in a presentation I did this morning - it's a great image to remember and strive for.

I am presently researching the best way to update my website for my day job and have found that, as with health care, there are as many different opinions as there are different people asked. It is a bit frustrating and we can never be sure we've made the 'right' choice unless we first make 'some' choice. I personally don't find Mike Fook's site appealing and would love some examples of what he considers good.


Thanks for sharing. I also like your site and once I get home will check it out in more detail. I read Straight Up and enjoyed it. I have a couple of your books and will have to bump them up on the urgent read list. I personally found your numbers and post very encouraging and motivating. Thanks again.


Mario Jannatpour said...

I like your new site. Clean and up to date looking.

Jill James said...

Love the new look. Must get to work on mine.

Anonymous said...


Encouraging news about growth in ebooks.

Merrill Heath said...

Iain, thanks for sharing your earnings info. Very inspiring.

Adrian said...

Summary of an interesting article on ebook pricing: http://boingboing.net/2014/01/16/whats-the-most-profitable-pr.html#more-280522

Mike Fook said...

Re: Your site sucks.

Show you an example of a good author website. I thought it would be easy, but I just spent 10 minutes looking at my favorites and they all sucked. So, you're in good company I guess.

Thomas Harris - font is too small and too hard to read.

Suzanne Collins' is a nightmarishly amateur site that looks like a four year old put it together. In fact, if this is really her site, someone needs to tar and feather her.

John Grisham's site isn't formatted horribly, but the color choice is horrendous - J Grisham.

OK, here, here's one that's decent. Not perfect, but pretty damn nice considering the others: Harlan Coben.

Why not aspire to have the best site? The best presence online possible? Shoot for the stars, not for average or less than.

Anonymous said...


I visited your site for the first time recently. Wanting to see past blogs that might help me, I viewed about half a year of blog titles. Big disappointment. I have no idea who those guest bloggers are. I don't know what they are writing about. You can look at only so many meaningless blog titles before you move on to another site. Sigh!

You really ought to rethink that part of your site.


Bill Larkin said...

Site looks great, Joe!